Columbia Benton Springs - Women's Review
Cons: Not breathable, thicker for layering, pills after a few washes
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Columbia Benton Springs is the classic fleece at a great price. This award winner is perfect if you're seeking a comfy and cozy layer that'll keep you warm through the coldest nights of the year. Wear it while hanging around the house or while lounging around the park on a Fall Sunday afternoon.
If you're seeking a fleece to curl up in after a long day on the slopes, this is the one! Featuring 250-grams of polyester fleece, this jacket is designed for warmth. It was a go-to when the house felt cold on especially blustery days and our favorite for basic chores around our country home.
The jacket itself features a wind-blocking collar that wraps around the neck, preventing both wind and cold from seeking into the jacket. We tested it on blustery Fall days and cold nights, while camping, lounging, and hiking.
In all cases, this jacket always felt warm. It's best for the coldest months of the year and worn alone during cooler days in both the Spring and the Fall. Is it warm? Yes!
Cozy and comfortable? Indubitably! This fleece is constructed with a midweight in mind but feels a little heavier than other midweight fleeces in this review. These materials are thick and protective, wrapping you up like a cozy blanket. If you're looking for a fleece that offers well-priced comfort, this is our top recommendation.
The jacket has two large fleece-lined pockets that'll keep your paws warm on cold days. The jacket itself is pretty roomy and allows for easy movement, which inherently adds to the comfort of it.
Unfortunately, you can't access the pockets if you're wearing a backpack or a harness.
The cuffs are thick with an elastic band, that doesn't really hug the body, but offers a relaxed fit, perfect for relaxing at a chalet or lounging at home. If cozy and comfortable is what you're after, this soft fleece has your name written all over it.
Designed a little thicker than most of the technical fleeces in this review, this jacket doesn't offer the best in breathability. The materials do offer some heat exchange, but for the most part, are good at capturing heat and keeping it close to the body. Aside from the zippers and pockets, it doesn't have any specific areas for ventilation.
We tested it while hiking and canoeing in the Fall. When hiking uphill, we got very hot and had to take the fleece off. Most technical fleeces will vent heat efficiently, not causing us to overheat, but in the case of the Columbia Benton, we had to. The same happened while canoeing. After a few minutes of paddling a little bit of warmth on a cold day, we were forced to strip down to our next layer. Other testers, wearing thinner and more breathable jackets, didn't need to do this. While you can absolutely wear this jacket while hiking, we wouldn't recommend it for any activity where you might find yourself sweating. It's simply too warm and not very breathable.
Wearing the Benton Springs on its own is no problem. The jacket offers a lot of roominess and doesn't hug the body tightly. As a result, you can layer any type of baselayer or t-shirt underneath without an issue. However, layering overtop this fleece isn't as comfortable as other thinner base layers.
When trying on different layers, we appreciated the larger and relaxed fit of this fleece. Wearing a t-shirt or heavy baselayer proved to be no problem. However, when trying to layer it underneath jackets with interior liners that aren't frictionless, we had more of a problem.
The sleeves on this fleece are quite roomy, meaning that when trying to put them under a tighter jacket, they bunch. It doesn't have any thumb loops, which meant we simply had to grab the cuffs with our hands to layer properly.
Some of our tighter fitting jackets simply didn't work, and we had to switch the fleece out so we could move. We didn't want to be left feeling like the kid from 'The Christmas Story' who "Can't put their arms down!". Aside from tight-fitting jackets, this fleece layers well overtop other layers, and underneath looser layers.
Ease of Movement
The relaxed fit of this fleece allows you to move easily without restrictions.
The arms are the regular length with a regular length torso. Some of our taller testers mentioned that the arms weren't long enough to cover when putting their arms up. However, regular movements were not restricted in any way. Overall, our testers could move easily in this jacket, which is another reason it's one of our favorites for lounging around the house in comfort.
While no fleece is designed to be completely weather-resistant, the Benton Springs provides a minimal level of resistance to the elements. When hiking and exploring during Fall conditions in Northern Ontario, we were presented with some windy days. When wearing just the fleece and a baselayer, the wind did not cut through the layers, and we stayed warm. The hi-pile, thicker fleece, provides some level of wind protection, as it does the same for water.
During our water tests, we found ourselves in a small rainstorm. The fleece did a great job at wicking away light drops of rain; however, when the downpour came, our jacket got soaked and absorbed this water.
During our water tests, we noticed the same effect. When pouring water onto the face fabric, the polyester wicked away and repelled the water droplets until it was too heavy. Then it absorbed into the fabric and through to the interior. Of the other jackets tested, this performed at an average level, offering some wicking power of water, but far from a being "good" at repelling water. As a result, we'd recommend using this with a shell in bouts of poor weather if you plan on hiking or exploring while using this fleece.
The best-valued fleece that we've seen thus far! Most fleeces retail at a higher price, offering lots of technical features and comforts. This jacket retails for a mere just under a third of that cost, making it one of our highest valued options in this review. During our testing, the only wear that we've seen in the fleece pilling on the interior is breaking down slightly after three months of wear every single day. According to many online users, this jacket has lasted for years and is a solid goto. With this history, price, and performance, we'd say the value is pretty stellar and a great deal.
If you're seeking a fleece that you can yourself into and looks good at the same time, the Columbia Benton Springs is a great option. Its price tag makes it our highest value fleece, earning our Best Buy Award. It's perfect for lounging or hiking around while checking out the Fall colors. As one of the warmest fleeces, it's a go-to for cold days and nights hanging out in the chalet.
— Amber King