Columbia Wild Card - Women's Review
Cons: Not the most water resistant, runs a little small, not very breathable
Our Analysis and Test Results
With a bright color block design and trim athletic silhouette, the Wild Card stands out on the slopes or in the streets. When you factor in its low price point, it really shines. We love the supple stretch of the Omnitech shell and the warmth gained from insulation and design that did not feel or look too bulky.
The Wild Card did not have the most weather resistant shell of the bunch, but we did find the 10,000mm rated, DWR treated Omnitech waterproof/breathable material to be adequate in most conditions. In heavy rain, very wet and heavy snow, or a hard fall, this material can begin to allow moisture to permeate. Additionally, the zippers are not taped, providing an edge where moisture could begin to creep in. The fully taped seams provide an additional level of moisture protection in the exterior fabric.
We are impressed by how the synthetic insulation, combined with Omnitech fabric, kept harsh, cold winds at bay. We were surprised by how cold it felt outside when we went to take off an extra layer. We appreciate that the insulated hood and fleece-lined collar adequately kept the storm outside our jacket. The two drawcords on the hood allow for a custom and snug fit to battle harsh weather.
Comfort and Fit
A benefit of the thinner Omnitech fabric of the Wild Card is that it also has a supple two-way stretch construction. This is a nice change from some of the more rigid hardshell options, and it allows for increased mobility and a tighter performance fit. Columbia describes this jacket as an athletic performance fit, but we found the cut to be a little too tight. We suggest sizing up, especially if you want room for an extra layer or pocket snacks.
The insulation in the hood adds an extra level of comfort to this construction. The fleece-lined collar stands separately from the hood, allowing the collar to fit snugly around the back of the neck while the hood maintains mobility. We find that the hood fits comfortably over a helmet, zippering easily without pulling too tightly. The fit could be a little more refined, as the narrow part of the hood prevents it from sitting flush on the helmet, leaving a little hollow cap at the apex of the helmet.
The Wild Card is equipped with Columbia's 60g Omni-Heat Synthetic Stretch insulation. It feels like a lightly insulated jacket, but we were surprised by how much warmth it provides. The Omni-Heat reflective lining is claimed to reflect body heat back to you. Maybe we were just hypnotized by the flashy design, but it seemed like this technology really got to work once we began moving just enough to get a little body heat flowing. Additionally, the insulated hood helps keep your body heat from escaping from the jacket.
Either way, the insulation combined with the waterproof/breathable Omnitech warded off cold winds, and really felt like it was working with our body heat. We did not experience any drafting through the zippers or material, even where there are built-in gill-like heat vents built into the back panel of insulation.
The Omnitech fabric does not seem to have the same breathability as some of the other products tested. However, the Wild Card has a few features to combat this. Most notable are the gill-like vents built into the back panel beneath the shell. These allowed for excess heat and moisture to more effectively between the synthetic insulation, which is necessary since this jacket's materials don't breathe well.
Additionally, the Wild Card has pit zips that slightly increase airflow, although they are lined with a dense mesh that does a good job of keeping snow out, but keeps some air in.
The Wild Card scored high marks in this category, and our testers received many compliments on the bright color block pattern. While not the most comfortable, the slim athletic cut and slightly shorter hem were flattering and stood out on the slopes and in photos. Additionally, the bright white taped zippers were a subtle and stylish touch to an already streamlined look.
This jacket had numerous features to keep your ski essentials organized. It features five pockets on the outside, plus one unzippered mesh and one zippered inner pockets. The internal zippered pocket works well to keep your phone warm and its battery high. Between the many pockets, there's plenty of room to keep your pass, phone, and cards separate and safe for apres. We like how the powderskirt can be clipped to the inside of the jacket, neatly stowed away for use on the next powder day.
We did find there were a few features we could do without or could be improved. We found the mesh lining on the pit zips unnecessary. While it kept snow out, we think the cost to airflow is too high to stand. Also, while the stretchy wrist gaiters are a nice feature if you forget gloves on a quick walk through town, or you frequently find snow packed around your wrists, we found that they pulled on our thumbs uncomfortably when worn inside gloves over time.
It can be challenging to find a higher quality insulated ski jacket that won't break the bank. When you add in trying to find one that fits your style, it's even harder. Luckily, we think the Wild Card can do both quite well. Between its appropriate weather resistance, warmth, and style, it's a great value.
If you are looking for a jacket with a little extra warmth built-in, but don't see the appeal in spending many hundreds of dollars on outerwear, the Wild Card is a great option. It can keep you adequately warm, keep nasty winter weather at bay, and make a stylish statement on the slopes. For a stylish and warm jacket that is not too financially committing, look no further than the Columbia Wild Card Insulated Jacket.
— Jacqueline Kearney
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