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Hands-on Gear Review
Columbia Mission Air Interchange Review
Cons: Limited insulation
Bottom line: A versatile, minimalist jacket for the warmest winter climates.
The Columbia Mission Air Interchange and The North Face Arrowood Triclimate are close competitors in the midst of jackets that are quite different from these two. All the other jackets we tested are warmer, and these two are only for winter in the warmest of winter climates. They differ in just a few small ways. The Columbia is less expensive and has a smooth sleeve lining that significantly aids in comfort. For these discerning reasons and the fact that it is truly unique from the remainder, we granted the Mission Air Interchange 3-in-1 our Top Pick award.
RELATED REVIEW: The Best Winter Jackets for Men of 2018
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
We all love versatility in our possessions. A product that promises the attributes of "three in one" is bound to light one's fire. The Columbia Mission Air does indeed deliver three jackets in one. For all four seasons, in milder climates, this jacket is an excellent choice. As a niche product that performs well and has significant appeal, we grant it our Top Pick award. It is not nearly the warmest jacket we tested, but it is likely the absolute best value in the review, provided it is truly appropriate for your weather and cold tolerance. Because it is way less insulated than basically any other jacket we assessed, we couldn't grant it a Best Buy award. Its appeal is too narrow. "Narrow appeal" is part of the description of our Top Pick award.
Overall, the Columbia Mission Air tops the bottom quartile of our selection. It just isn't warm enough to fully enter the fray. Nonetheless, this may be good for you. If your winter climate is on the mild and wet side, and you wish to have a jacket that will serve all your seasons, the Columbia is a contender. For the coldest of an Atlanta or San Francisco winter, the Mission Air is just the ticket. The rest of the year, pull the parts apart and use the fleece when it's chilly and dry, and just the shell when it's raining. Of course, this design has its drawbacks. Read on for our tempered but authoritative review of this award-winning product.
Tied for the least insulating jacket in our test, you don't choose this one for the coldest of conditions and climates. The insulation afforded by the Columbia's fleece liner is adequate for only the mildest of winter climates. It'll work for winter along the Mediterranean and in the lower latitudes of the USA. Winter in Nashville is even a little cold for the Columbia. This is a niche product, with limited insulation.
Even the product with the most mediocre overall score is more insulating than the Mission Air. The REI Co-op Down Hoodie has more protection from radiative heat loss than the Columbia, whie the Columbia is the same exact insulation and configuration of The North Face Arrowood Triclimate. For a more "normal" level of warmth, we'd recommend a high scoring award winner. The Best Buy Marmot Fordham is twice the cost, but more than twice the warmth of the Columbia. The Editors' Choice Arc'teryx Camosun is quite a bit warmer than the Mission and offers similar, if not better, protection from the elements.
This is a waterproof and windproof jacket. Columbia has a long history of making weather resistant jackets at an affordable price point. This continues that tradition. The sealed seams, proprietary waterproof/breathable fabric, and the cinching cuffs and hood keep out wind and water equally well.
Overall, for the type of consumer this jacket will attract, the Mission Air offers no compromises in weather protection. Others will protect better in the worst of conditions, but most users will not notice this difference. It protects better than some of the super-warm jackets like the Best Buy The North Face McMurdo III and the Canada Goose Chilliwack Bomber. The softest, "sweater" style jackets, like the Best Buy Marmot Fordham, the Patagonia Jackson Glacier and the REI Co-op Down Hooded don't protect nearly as well as the Mission.
On the other end of the spectrum, the Gore-Tex fabric and licensed construction of the Arc'teryx Fission SV and Editors' Choice Arc'teryx Camosun are more protective than the Columbia. The primary difference in these latter two is the durable water repellant. In our shower testing, the Arc'teryx products beaded up water more effectively than the Columbia. Once the outer fabric of any of these top performers is saturated, they all function about equally.
We have a mixed bag of comments on the comfort of the Mission Air Interchange. Three in one jackets are inherently versatile, but there are also comfort compromises. First, the extra layers and interfaces and the nature of fleece fabric make this jacket more confining than its warmth should suggest. We expect warm jackets to be stiff and confining like we expect less insulated jackets to be more free moving. This is true. However, the Columbia is more confining than we would expect given the insulating value.
The way the two layers connect into the warmest configuration also leaves a gap in insulation right up the center of your torso front. You can reconfigure the zippers to close this gap, so we don't penalize the Columbia for this in warmth. However, this reconfiguration is a pain. It is in comfort that we note this. In its favor, especially as compared to the other 3-in-1 jacket we tested, is the smooth sleeve lining that makes donning and doffing this model, especially over knit type layers, much more relaxed.
The closest comparison, across the board, is to the Arrowood Triclimate. In this comparison, these two jackets are almost identical; until you get to comfort. Concerning comfort, the Mission Air shoots way ahead. This advantage is significant and due entirely to the sleeve lining of the Columbia. A jacket like this you might put on and off a few times a day. The fleece lined sleeves of the Arrowood grab your shirt sleeves, and things get bunched up. The Columbia's smooth lining mitigates this entirely. It may seem minor, but the effects are exaggerated by the modular construction. Trust us when we say it is significant.
Three-in-one construction is a feature of its own. The versatility of literally having three jackets in one is a great feature. Beyond that, the hood and pockets configuration of the Mission Air is good enough. We found little to complain about.
The feature set and score of the Mission is practically identical to that of The North Face Arrowood Triclimate. Only the dizzying array of pockets on the Top Pick Canada Goose Expedition Parka edge it ahead of these versatile products. The Best Buy (for maximum warmth) The North Face McMurdo III Parka also has a ton of pockets, an exceptional hood, and little details that earn it good feature scores. All the rest of the jackets we tested have fewer features than the Mission Air.
There is nothing notable about the style of the Mission Air. That is a good thing. Brand snobs will scoff, but from far enough away you won't tell the difference.
Largely, our selection of jackets was rather unobjectionable. Only a few products deserved passionate mention. The smooth lines of the Editors' Choice Arc'teryx Camosun elicited compliments, while the blue-collar bomber style of the Canada Goose Chilliwack was the most polarizing. Many disliked it, and few were ambivalent.
Of the major insulation types, fleece is near the top, durability wise. There is little you or time can do to compromise the insulating value of fleece; down is more insulating and maintains its loft longer, but its casing is the weak link. Fleece maintains its minimal loft longer than synthetic insulation. The shell material of the Mission Air gave us no trouble, but we didn't test long enough to elicit a failure. Overall, the durability of the Columbia is pretty good. Especially when you consider the low cost of entry, the Columbia will outlast the time when you say "I got my money's worth out of this product".
Only the super-polished and wicked expensive exceed the durability score of the Mission air. The Editors' Choice Arc'teryx Camosun and Top Pick Canada Goose Expedition Parka are both many times more expensive than the Columbia and both will maintain their performance attributes longer than the Columbia. The remainder of our test roster is either the same or less durable than the Mission Air.
We can recommend this jacket for the minimalist value seeker in the warmest climates that still have "winter".
With adequate performance in some climates, versatile "3-in-1" configuration, and a bargain-basement price, this is an excellent value. Just be careful if you live in a cold climate. You will still need a truly thick jacket anywhere north of Washington DC, Little Rock, or Sacramento.
Choose the Columbia Mission Air if you live in the mildest of winter climates, value versatility, and appreciate humble style.
— Jediah Porter
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