Columbia Air Chamber Review
Cons: Palm isn't very tough
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Columbia Air Chamber was one of the more average scoring products in our dexterity testing. While the Air Chamber didn't have anything fancy going on with distribution of insulation to reduce much of the bulk, it did have just a solid and well designed articulated shape which helped it for dexterity among the more price pointed gloves. The Air Chamber could perform many of our basic and moderately difficult tasks like buckling boots, unlocking a car door, zipping jackets, taking photos and even tying shoe laces. It started to struggle however with more complex tasks during our side-by-side comparison while doing things like writing with a pen on paper. It is around the same dexterity as the Black Diamond Squad and was a little better than the DaKine Scout. It was however a little behind the OR Southback.
The Omni-Tech waterproof, breathable fabric was below average in both our side-by-side bucket of water comparison and in real world testing. We did think it was more water resistant than the similarly priced DaKine Scout and a lot more water resistant than the $30 FlyLow Gear Tough Guy, but didn't perform as well as the Outdoor Research Southback ($85) or the Black Diamond Squad ($90).
Warmth and Breathability
The Columbia Air Chamber is one of the few contenders that didn't claim to use thinner insulation on the palm side as compared to the backside. Columbia used 150g of their own proprietary insulation to keep the wearer's hands warm. While this was slightly more insulation than several other models we felt it was rather average in warmth. We think that most users will be happy resort skiing and snowboarding down to around 15F in them, but will wish they had something warmer if the temperature gets much lower. We thought the Air Chamber was a little warmer than the Rab Guide Gloves and close but not quite as warm as the BD Squad or the OR Southback. We did think it was noticeably warmer than the super price pointed FlyLow Gear Tough Guy.
One of the main down sides of the Columbia Air Chamber is the durability. It was one of the least durable in our review. The polyurethane palm wasn't as long lasting as any of the other leather palmed models we tested. After several days of use we did think it was a little tougher than the similarly priced and Rubbertec palmed DaKine Scout. We also felt the insulation packed out quicker than several other models we tested. We didn't think that it was near as tough as the Outdoor Research Southback which was $35 more. The Air Chamber offers enough protection for casual skiers would get out about a dozen days a year.
Features and Ease of Use
The more price pointed Columbia Air Chamber is a relatively simple design but it does have a few of the more common features that are found on several of the more expensive options. It features a basic yet effective nylon webbing wrist closure strap and soft nose wipe on the thumb. It also has a respectable gauntlet closure that's easy to close with one gloved hand but more difficult to loosen.
Value and The Bottom Line
A great product for someone who doesn't want to spend more than $50 on their gloves, than look no further. We would certainly choose it over the similarly priced DaKine Scout because of superior water resistance and durability. Though if you didn't want to spend more than $50 and got cold hands easily then we would recommend the Scout. For $35 more the OR South is more weather resistant and allows for greater mobility.
— Ian Nicholson