Reviews You Can Rely On

Columbia Whirlibird IV Interchange - Women's Review

A decent deal for two jackets that can be worn in three combinations, this is a great intro ski jacket
columbia whirlibird iv interchange for women ski jacket review
Credit: Backcountry
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Price:  $230 List | $200.80 at Amazon
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Inexpensive, three jackets in one, warm, comfortable
Cons:  Not very stylish, hood not helmet compatible, two layers don't work well when zipped together
Manufacturer:   Columbia
By Betsy Welch ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Mar 23, 2022
Our Editors independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Learn more
62
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#11 of 13
  • Weather Resistance - 20% 8.0
  • Comfort and Fit - 20% 6.0
  • Warmth - 20% 8.0
  • Ventilation - 20% 4.0
  • Style - 10% 5.0
  • Features - 10% 5.0

Our Verdict

The Columbia Whirlibird IV Interchange is a decent jacket at a low price point. This is the sixth iteration of the Whirlibird that we've tested, and Columbia continues to make improvements to its form and function. We like how the layers perform individually but found that they don't work in combination quite as well we would hope. Columbia has upped the Whirlibird's game by including pockets in the inner jacket layer as well as the shell, but it still lacks the ski functionality of the other jackets we've tested. It did keep us protected from the elements in all but the most torrential of storms, and is warm and toasty with the insulating layer. If you're not after a very ski-specific jacket and want something that provides reasonable value at a low price point, this is the jacket for you.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards  Best Buy Award Best Buy Award   
Price $200.80 at Amazon
Compare at 2 sellers
$299 List
Check Price at REI
$308.91 at Amazon
Compare at 2 sellers
$299 List
$299.00 at REI
$219.95 at REI
Compare at 2 sellers
Overall Score Sort Icon
62
71
66
64
63
Star Rating
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Pros Inexpensive, three jackets in one, warm, comfortableRelatively inexpensive yet high-quality, breathable, great mobility, great ventilationWarm, three jackets in one, well-constructed with thoughtful features, versatileWater resistant, inexpensiveStylish, good hood and neckline, no frills, inexpensive
Cons Not very stylish, hood not helmet compatible, two layers don't work well when zipped togetherNon-insulating, thin shell material, not for most casual skiersSlim fit, heavy, poor ventilation when both layers are wornClunky, not breathable, not the most flatteringFeels cheap, not many ski-specific features, lacking in weather resistance
Bottom Line A decent deal for two jackets that can be worn in three combinations, this is a great intro ski jacketAn excellent value for a high performing technical shell that serves inbounds or in the backcountryThis jacket is versatile and has all the necessary ski features for a long day on the hill, all at a reasonable priceThis inexpensive shell keeps you dry with its Gore-tex material and helmet-compatible hoodWe got lots of compliments on this jacket's looks, but found it lacking in durability and full functionality on the slopes
Rating Categories Columbia Whirlibird... Outdoor Research Ca... The North Face Ther... REI Co-op First Cha... Burton Jet Set
Weather Resistance (20%)
8.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
7.0
Comfort and Fit (20%)
6.0
9.0
5.0
7.0
7.0
Warmth (20%)
8.0
2.0
8.0
5.0
6.0
Ventilation (20%)
4.0
9.0
4.0
6.0
5.0
Style (10%)
5.0
8.0
8.0
6.0
7.0
Features (10%)
5.0
7.0
8.0
8.0
6.0
Specs Columbia Whirlibird... Outdoor Research Ca... The North Face Ther... REI Co-op First Cha... Burton Jet Set
Main Fabric Legacy Dobby 72% Nylon/ 28% Polyester. 100% Nylon 100% Nylon Recycled polyester Polyester, nylon
Insulation Thermarator None 100% Postconsumer recycled polyester None 80g Thermolite
Waterproofing Omni-Tech 3-layer Pertex Shield 2-layer DryVent Gore-Tex DryRide 2L
Pockets Shell: 5, Liner: 3 2 zippered chest, 2 zippered hand, 1 zippered arm, 1 internal mesh, 1 internal zippered chest 2 zippered hand, 1 zippered chest, 1 zippered sleeve, 1 internal goggle Liner: 2 zippered hand 2 zippered hand, 2 zippered chest, 1 zippered pass, one internal mesh, 1 zippered internal 2 zippered hand, 1 mesh, 1 media
Weight 2.4 lbs 1.2 lbs 2.0 lbs 1.5 lbs 1.6 lbs
Hood Option Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Pit Zips Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Cuff construction Velcro Velcro Velcro Velcro Velcro
Powder skirt Yes Yes Yes, behind insulating layer Yes, snap away Yes
RECCO No No No No No

Our Analysis and Test Results

We love the three different options of the 3-in-1 model and found that the Columbia Whirlibird IV Interchange actually functioned better as two separate jackets rather than one. The jacket covers other necessary requirements, like zippered hand and chest pockets, but misses the mark on a non-removable powder skirt, non-helmet compatible hood, and clunky design. Fortunately, it's adequately weatherproof and impressively warm.

Performance Comparison


columbia whirlibird iv interchange for women ski jacket review - the whirlibird iv got the job done, but we found it lacking in a few...
The Whirlibird IV got the job done, but we found it lacking in a few categories.

Weather Resistance


The Whirlibird proved relatively water-resistant during our test. It uses OmniTech waterproof shell materials, and we were impressed with the bombproof seam sealing. This jacket had velcro attachments on the flap covering the main zipper, which was a feature that came in handy when the weather was windy and wet. Unfortunately, the hood is small and ill-fitting, which meant that we had a hard time zipping the jacket up enough to protect our chin and face.

Comfort and Fit


The Whirlibird is pretty comfortable and allows for good mobility while carving turns on the ski hill. Although Columbia's sizing is usually more relaxed, this year our smaller testers fit the size medium better, and it felt snug on our normal size medium folks. Consider sizing up if you like the extra room (or like to stuff your pockets full of snacks!) The 3-in-1 nature of the jacket tends to feel bulky while skiing, but is quite comfortable with less exertion.

The small fit our tester more snugly that she liked.
The small fit our tester more snugly that she liked.
It was hard to get the jacket to zip up fully and use the hood over...
It was hard to get the jacket to zip up fully and use the hood over our helmet at the same time.

Style


This jacket doesn't win rave reviews in the style department. It's fairly basic both in design and options. We did appreciate that the inner insulated layer was basic black in the version we tested; however, the inner lining of the insulated layer was a crazy disco-patterned silver. Not quite the style we're looking for in a ski jacket, but slightly forgivable since it was located inside the jacket.

columbia whirlibird iv interchange for women ski jacket review - the whirlibird iv wasn't wasn't the most stylish of the bunch.
The Whirlibird IV wasn't wasn't the most stylish of the bunch.

Warmth


The Whirlibird has a removable interior synthetic jacket that uses Columbia's unique Omni-Heat reflective technology to keep you warm. We were skeptical at first because it looks like a flashy gimmick — but it seems to work. We stayed very warm in this jacket.


The inner jacket is made from synthetic insulation and is lined with tiny aluminum dots that are designed to reflect your body heat back in towards you, similar in function to a foil space blanket. Heat loss through radiation is not the significant method of heat loss when skiing — convection through wind and conduction through sitting on a chilly chairlift are the most likely ways to lose heat. That being said, we are not sure if it was those reflective dots that kept us warm, or if it was the combination of the thick synthetic insulation and the wind-resistant outer shell, but either way, we stayed toasty.

columbia whirlibird iv interchange for women ski jacket review - the whirlibird has decent ski performance and is comfortable out...
The Whirlibird has decent ski performance and is comfortable out there on the slopes.
Credit: Scott Rokis

Ventilation


The Whirlibird is somewhat breathable, although we still worked up a sweat occasionally in it. One point of frustration with this jacket is that it has pit-zips for ventilation, but you cannot vent the interior jacket. We do like that you can always remove the inner insulating layer on warmer days.

columbia whirlibird iv interchange for women ski jacket review - the whirlibird's pit zips helped more if we were only wearing the...
The Whirlibird's pit zips helped more if we were only wearing the outer hard shell.

The Omni-Heat system's tiny dots are supposed to allow moisture to move out between them for breathability (so it is more breathable than an actual space blanket!). We are not sure if the silver dots facilitated moisture transfer or not, but the synthetic material seemed to wick moisture away sufficiently.

columbia whirlibird iv interchange for women ski jacket review - the fun, flashy inside of the insulated layer of the whirlibird iv.
The fun, flashy inside of the insulated layer of the Whirlibird IV.

Ski Features


The Whirlibird has some decent ski features, but they get lost in the 3-in-1 construction. The non-removable powder skirt on the outer shell is covered up by the insulated layer. There is only one interior zip pocket on the inner layer, but there is not a goggle pocket in the interior jacket. Columbia has moved the Whirlibird's goggle pocket to the interior of the shell, which doesn't make sense if you're wearing both layers.

columbia whirlibird iv interchange for women ski jacket review - we liked the velcro flap that protected the main zipper.
We liked the velcro flap that protected the main zipper.

We think that its layers work well separately. The shell is a fantastic wind and water-resistant layer to wear on a warm day, and the interior layer is a warm and cute jacket to wear around town for apr├Ęs-ski activities, but together they make the jacket less functional. When the internal layer is zipped in, it makes the powder skirt impossible to use. We think that Columbia probably had to sacrifice some ski-specific features given the inherent heft and bulkiness of the 3-in-1 design.

columbia whirlibird iv interchange for women ski jacket review - the jacket performs well as two separate pieces.
The jacket performs well as two separate pieces.

Value


The Whirlibird is a good value for a warm and basic ski jacket. It's not great for someone looking for something super ski-specific, however, because it can't be everything to everyone. We do think it's a great value if considered as two separate jackets.

Conclusion


For an inexpensive ski jacket, the Columbia Whirlibird IV Interchange will keep you warm and dry in a simple and straightforward package. We felt that its two layers work better individually than they do together, and that the jacket felt clunky when both were worn together. Nevertheless, for the price, this jacket performs well and is a great entry point for someone just starting out who's not quite sure what's most important to them in a ski jacket.

Betsy Welch
You Might Also Like

Ad-free. Influence-free. Powered by Testing.

GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.

Learn More