Historic Range: $49.99-$80.00
Historic Range: $39.73-$79.95
A lightweight, breathable/waterproof jacket, durable enough for three-season use. Ideal for the budget conscious.
- Hand pockets serve as vents and feature clean, low-profile Light Rail zippers
- Inexpensive when compared to other waterproof/breathable jackets
- One-hand hood adjustment
- Cuffs are too wide
- Hood is somewhere in-between big and helmet compatible
I received this jacket in late November 2014 and have worn it whenever reasonably possible: multiple light rain hikes with a pack; three ~2-mile hikes in heavy rain (one with day-pack, two without); a full day of consistent, moderate rain while hunting; and even in warm winter days (40+°F) with no rain but where a light jacket was needed to break small amounts of wind.
My hope was to get this jacket out even more, but this winter has not relented from the cold temperatures, thus all precipitation lately has been snow. With that said, and because this is not marketed as a full-on expedition jacket, I feel as though I have enough time in the field with this jacket to give an insightful review.
Fit, Comfort, and Adjustability:
This jacket fits as well as any jacket I’ve owned. To me a good rain jacket fit means there is room for layering, but not so much room for air/water to creep in and it should not noticeably restrict any movement. A size Large fits me very well (note: I'm 6’2,” 190lbs) and comfortably allows for a base and mid layer underneath. I’ve even comfortably worn it with a puffy vest underneath.
I have yet to need to cinch the bottom hem with the drawcord as it fits well as is (note: 32" waist) and features a slight drop tail. I haven’t noticed any stickiness of the sealed seams on the skin, which I know can occur in some sealed jackets. However, I haven’t used this much without a layer between me and the jacket.
The attached, adjustable hood seems a bit big for me (and I have a very big head), but the plus side to this is that it has enough room for a helmet. The only helmet-wearing activity I’ve used this for has been cycling, but it is a little tight. To me, this hood comes across as not quite large enough to be fully helmet compatible, but a little too large for everyday non-helmet wearing use.
The best feature of the hood is the one-handed adjustability. While the adjustment cords look fairly odd when cinched down (see photo), they work well and that’s what matters most to me. No fidgeting required with the adjustment, just one hand and a little finger dexterity and you have a tightly cinched hood.
The cuffs are my least preferred feature of this jacket. The adjustment on them is velcro, which my experiences tell me can wear over time, and are too wide to begin with, thus causing me to use the velcro adjustments even more. In short, slimmer cuffs would be welcomed as there is plenty of room to slim them down, while still giving enough room for a layer underneath.
Because this is a light rain jacket and I’ve tested it during the coldest months of the year, layering ability has been key for me. Most often, I’d wear a long sleeve base layer, fleece mid layer, Patagonia Better Sweater Vest or my old-yet-still-reliable thrift store down vest, and this jacket. The Sleeker Jacket has enough room to adequately layer, but not so much as to be baggy or drafty.
Lastly, there is no hinderance to the performance of the jacket with a loaded pack on. The pockets are still accessible with a pack’s hip belt in the way, but it does slightly reduce the ventilation from the pocket areas. The packs I've used this jacket with are the Osprey Atmos 65 and the Osprey Talon 22.
Breathability and Waterproofness:
This rip-stop nylon shell is one of Columbia’s proprietary Omni-Tech breathable, waterproof jackets. While I haven’t taken this jacket through the Amazon rainforest or even through a multi-day trip in a wet place like the Pacific Northwest, I have had it out in considerably wet conditions for as long as seven continuous hours. The waterproofness has been as advertised, with no issues thus far. No noticeable wear in the shoulders due to pack and gun straps.
The breathability is all in the large hand pockets that are long enough to adequately vent some of the pit area. Because this jacket has no pit-zips, this pocket ventilation is a must. I'll be particularly interested to see how this jacket handles a rainstorm on a humid, summer afternoon — the true test of a rain jacket here in the eastern U.S.
As for wind, this jacket does an okay job, but nothing particularly outstanding. Being that I’ve had it out in some pretty cold and windy conditions (i.e. <25°F with 10mph+ winds) I haven’t relied solely on it to break the chill. That’s where layering comes in handy.
One of the more surprising characteristics about this jacket has been its ability to handle more than just rain. I wore it on a hunting trip in late November on one of those consistently wet, late autumn days. Because of the rain, we knew we had to get the deer moving so we hiked through thickets and dense patches of mountain laurel, where the deer tend to bed down in the rain.
I was nervous this jacket was going to show signs of wear and tear from the vegetation, as many jackets that cost less than $100 might, but this withstood the test. All other times I’ve worn it haven’t been nearly as tough on the jacket.
The most marketed feature on this jacket is the new LightRail zippers on the hand pockets. These zippers were first used nearly one year ago in the 2014 Sochi Olympics, as Columbia designed gear for three countries (USA, Canada, and Russia). The zipper is meant to be low-profile and flexible. While I don’t usually make a big fuss about zippers, and won’t pretend to be any sort of expert on zipper technology, I can say that these zippers work very well, the pull is consistently easy to find, and the zipper itself is very low-profile.
It is important to note that only the pocket zippers feature the LightRail technology. I’d like to see the main front zipper upgraded to this zipper style in the future.
While this jacket has its limitations — wide cuffs and odd hood size — it also has many well-executed features that usually are not present in rain jackets for less than $100. I would recommend this to someone who is expecting to stay dry (inside and out) in moderately wet conditions, whether that be on the trail, on the bike during the morning commute, in the woods on a hunting trip, or even just walking around town.
Compared to 9-year-old Columbia rain jacket:
Since I’ve owned a <$100 Columbia rain jacket for nine years now, I figured I would add a little section on how I think this particular Sleeker Jacket compares to another of its own kind. This new jacket is a better fit, meaning it is less box-shaped and more trim fitting. As well, it adjusts much better, with easier to maneuver hood and hem adjustments.
Lastly, and most noticeably (and most importantly to me) is that the new jacket vents far superior to the old jacket. I guess all that to say, Columbia has done a fine job in utilizing new technologies to create better products.
Many thanks to both Trailspace and Columbia Sportswear Company for allowing me the opportunity to test this new product.
Source: received for testing via the Trailspace Review Corps
(Sample provided by Columbia for testing and review)