Columbia Powderkeg Parka
The Powderkeg Parka has been discontinued. If you're looking for something new, check out the best component jackets for 2024.
This is probably a 3 star jacket performance-wise and feature-wise, but when taking price into account it earns the extra half-star. I had an older version of this style, which lasted me about 5 years before the front zipper gave out.
One of the things I didn't like about that the shell was that it was water-resistant, not waterproof, and wet through fairly quickly. That issue has been fixed on the Powderkeg. I haven't taken it out in a full-fledged storm yet, but it's held its own in a light San Francisco drizzle, and I have tested it by wearing it in the shower for a good 15 minutes and stepped out completely dry, except for the wrists, where the velcro cinch allows bunching and consequently some water to sneak through.
The shell has excellent windproofness; however, I am reluctant to use it as merely a windbreaker when hiking, as it lacks pit zips, and while the fabric breathes decently, it doesn't breath enough that I'd want to wear it stand alone unless it was raining, in which case I wouldn't be opening pit zips anyways.
The torso portion of the shell is lined with some kind of soft wicking fabric, which adds a bit to the jacket weight, I'd suppose, but also adds to its stand alone warmth, if it's not quite cold enough to zip in the fleece.
The shell hood does a good job keeping the rain off. It is 3-way adjustable via drawstrings, in the hood and collar, and a velcro strap that makes it somewhat fitted to your head, doing a good job of keeping out the wind. A helmet, bike or otherwise will not fit comfortably under it. It is removable and rollable, attached by snaps and velcro, whereas I'd prefer a zip attachment. It also extends an inch or two out from my forehead, presumably to keep the rain off your face, but they didn't go the simple extra step and make it at least a semi-stiff brim, so heavy rain just pushes it down. I prefer a rain hat anyways for the extended coverage and added peripheral vision.
The fleece itself is about 200 weight, and pretty warm, but not windproof at all, except for a couple patches on the torso. If I wanted cold arms, I'd just wear a vest. The fleece also lacks pit zips.
Together they make a pretty warm parka, probably too warm to wear around San Francisco in 50 degree weather, but good when I'm home for the holidays in Chicago and it is 30 degrees.
Overall, it is an excellent value for the money, if you are on a budget. I'll probably get the most use out of it as a rain shell, (where it performed as well in the shower test as a Marmot Oracle), but it will definitely be adequate as a ski parka as well.
Price Paid: $120
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