Current Retail: $197.54
Historic Range: $180.00-$400.00
The Columbia OutDry Ex Diamond Shell is an extremely waterproof shell that uses an innovative design to keep you dry by putting a waterproof-breathable membrane on the outside of the shell instead of the traditional method of sandwiching it in between two layers of fabric with DWR on the top layer. The Columbia OutDry Extreme is the first series of rain jackets to have a membrane on the outside of the jacket. While I am not crazy about the texture of the jacket, the concept is a really innovative idea.
- Completely waterproof
- Very durable
- Doesn’t lose waterproofing over time/doesn’t wet out
- Fits well
- Dries very quickly
- Hood doesn’t cinch down enough or easily enough
- Hood is not helmet compatible
- Expensive ($400 retail price)
- Feels like a rubber rain slicker
As I mentioned earlier, the Diamond shell uses Columbia’s OutDry Extreme external membrane, which is basically an inside-out version of a typical waterproof-breathable shell. Most membranes used in today’s industry would be too delicate to put on the outside of a jacket, but in order to make this jacket work, Columbia designed a very durable, abrasion-resistant membrane.
The result is a permanently waterproof outer shell that rain rolls right off of. There are no chemicals (or DWR) to wear off the outer layer, therefore it never wets out and you never have to treat it. Not only is the OutDry Extreme membrane extremely waterproof, it also has miniscule pores in it to allow air to pass through it, making it very breathable for its weight.
With its visibly taped seams, shoulder patches, flashy logos, shiny zipper pulls, and bright color, I would describe the Diamond shell to look “techy.” I would be hesitant to wear this out on the town because it is so loud. However, there are some other color options that aren't so bold.
The Diamond shell has pretty much all of the features you would expect out of a waterproof-breathable shell, such as pit zippers for ventilation, pockets, adjustable hood, and adjustable drawcord hem at the waist. It also has re-enforced shoulder patches to reduce additional wear and tear while wearing a pack, which is something I’ve never seen before.
My women’s medium sample weighed 14 oz, which is pretty reasonable for the strength of the shell and all its features. One other noteworthy design feature is that it has an extended rear section (my test sample measured 28") to cover one’s bottom.
The Diamond shell has two mesh-lined hip pockets, one mesh-lined chest pocket. I found all of the pockets to be sufficiently sized and placed. Some may wish that they are higher to make access easier when wearing a pack, but they sit at about the same place that most pockets on shells sit. Some of the pocket is still accessible with a pack on, so that’s good enough for me.
Water-resistant two-way pit zippers for ventilation
I am not the biggest fan of the hood. I feel that it didn't cinch down close enough to my head/face. It uses a very simple pull cord with a stay for the facial area adjustment and a Velcro tab stay in the back. It did not cinch down close enough nor did it stay in place enough for my liking. Not only that, it wasn’t exactly easy to adjust either.
I was also disappointed that it wasn’t helmet compatible. During testing in high winds and rain, the hood did not stay in place and I had to use my hand to secure it.
The inside flap of the chin area has a ventilated microfiber patch for extra comfort and wicking. I thought this was a nice touch of added comfort.
The chin area of the hood is tall and provides adequate facial protection when necessary.
Reenforced shoulder patches
Shoulder patches help protect from wear and tear when wearing a pack.
The waist hem features a toggle for adjustability and silicone grip to ensure the bottom of the jacket stays securely in place.
The interior of the Diamond shell is lined with a very breathable, wicking fabric that greatly increases the comfort level of the jacket. It added a very necessary softness to the jacket and felt comfortable against the skin. In addition to the wicking fabric, the core is lined with mesh to keep the jacket from sticking to you and keep you cooler.
The OutDry Ex Diamond is as waterproof as any rain shell I’ve ever used. In their marketing material, Columbia accurately described the Outdry Extreme to be a “force field” to water. When the water touches it, it just rolls right off of it, like a force field.
Here, you can see the sleeve of a Gore-Tex shell soaking through, but the OutDry Extreme Diamond shell doesn't absorb the water.
There is no option for water to soak into the fabric, even if it is sitting for a while. Even the best Gore-Tex shells have vulnerable spots that can wet out if exposed long enough because they are made of fabric that can absorb water. The rubbery Diamond shell does not absorb water, it only repels it, making it dry very quickly.
If you scratch the surface of a shell treated with DWR, you can actually scrape some of it off and that spot will be vulnerable to getting wet. Since the OutDry Extreme membrane doesn't use chemicals, you can scrape it all day and it will still perform the exact same. This is a really important feature for the backcountry, as hikers are constantly exposed to trees, brush, and even rock.
I found the Diamond shell to breathe well for its weight. There is no doubt that Columbia had breathability as a top priority when they designed the Diamond shell. It has pit zippers under the arms to dump heat, the interior of the jacket is lined with a wicking fabric that doesn’t stick to the skin, and the front core/pockets section has additional very light mesh lining.
Not only that, but the shell fabric itself is very breathable. I’ve worn it through winter, spring, and summer. While it is very breathable for its weight, don’t give it unreasonable expectations and think that you can go hiking in 70-90 degree weather and not sweat up a storm. It is not meant for those conditions, it is more for spring, fall, and winter activities.
Fit and Comfort
I found the fit to be a “regular” cut and it fit me well. I am in between a medium and a large in most jackets, but the medium fit perfect. Because it is a generous cut, there is adequate room for layering. I was able to fit a Patagonia Capilene 2 baselayer and my Arc'Teryx Atom LT Hoody underneath it while I snowboarded in West Virginia.
The overall length was appropriate and the length of the sleeves was perfect for me. As for comfort, I can’t say I ever really felt comfortable in the jacket because I really had a hard time getting used to the rubbery feeling of the shell.
There was one feature that did improve the overall comfort and feel of the jacket, and that is the inner wicking fabric. A lot shells of have a rubbery/vinyl feel to the inner liner and so I was really appreciative to see the soft, wicking lining. The interior fabric is smooth and it did not cause any hang ups when layering underneath.
Just in case you are wondering, I found the Diamond shell to be just as packable as any other shell in its weight range. It doesn't have a stuff sack or stuff into its pocket, so I just roll it into its own hood.
I’ve tested the Diamond shell from February through September. I had a very hard time finding rain in the backcountry during my testing, but I feel 100% confident in my assessment due to wearing it as an everyday rain shell because it kept me dry in some insanely rainy conditions.
One of the times that I was most impressed with it was when it was pouring rain at my work one day and I stood under a roof drain with a constant flow of water dumping on me (just for testing purposes). I came out bone dry where the jacket was, but my shoes and skirt were completely sopping wet.
Since I couldn’t find rain on a weekend in the backcountry or on my two-week Rocky Mountain excursion, I opted to test it out while paddling the Saluda and Congaree Rivers in Columbia, S.C. I was very pleased with the results. I went through several soaking rapids and my upper body stayed completely dry. I honestly liked the jacket the most when paddling. It felt very natural, like that’s what I should be wearing.
I also attempted to test it while snowboarding in 7 degree weather in West Virginia, but it just felt weird wearing a rubbery shell snowboarding, so I took it off and put on my regular shell. What I can say about that test is that I get very hot when snowboarding (I fall and get back up a lot), and it did breathe very well on the runs that I wore it on.
The Ex Diamond was tested in temperatures ranging from 7 degrees all the way to 95 degrees. I personally liked it best in temperatures below 70 degrees, but that would be consistent with any non-ultralight shell for me. What I found most impressive over the testing period is that through seven months of regular wear, it is still as waterproof as it was the first day I wore it.
Hurricane Matthew came to my home state of South Carolina over the weekend. We had a lot of heavy rain and very strong winds at around 35 MPH and gusts over 50 MPH where I live. My puppy decided he had to go out to relieve himself during the heaviest part of the storm, so I wore the Ex Diamond out there with him. I stayed completely dry except in the head and face area because the hood would not stay in place. I wore it more throughout the day when the rain and winds calmed down to less than 20 MPH to give the hood the benefit of the doubt. It still wouldn't stay in place and I had to use my hand to secure it.
I rated the Ex Diamond Shell at 3.5 stars because the waterproofing technology is so impressive and it kept me dry at all times, but I did not find it to be comfortable. If I were to rate waterproofing and performance alone, I would have rated it 5 stars, but I deducted a star and a half for lack of comfort and for the hood not cinching tight enough.
If you are looking for a very durable, breathable, and extremely waterproof rain jacket, this one is definitely worth considering. However, I highly recommend you try it on in a store before buying. I had a hard time getting over the rubber rain slicker feel, but you may not.
Source: received for testing via the Trailspace Review Corps
(Sample provided by Columbia for testing and review)
All OutDry Ex Diamond Shell Jacket versions
In addition to the 1 women's review above, there is 1 review for another version of the OutDry Ex Diamond Shell Jacket. Read all reviews »