I’m possibly the biggest fan of Columbia Sportswear clothing and gear*, so I was delighted and excited to test a small collection of the Montrail line of running apparel. There are a number of major high quality sportswear companies on the market, but Columbia Sportswear is the only homegrown Oregon one. There’s something to be said for buying locally, especially when the local company makes innovative clothing.
* Disclosure: I love Columbia Sportswear so much that I own a small number of shares of COLM stock.
Kelly Barten and I each received a jacket; I received a Out-Dry Ex Light shell, while Kelly got the Titan Lite windbreaker. We also both tested a Titan Ultra Half-Zip shirt and an Omni-Freeze Zero shirt, and Kelly got a pair of shorts. The shirts, shorts, and trail running shoes will be the subject of a separate review, but they’re all part of their new Columbia Montrail collection. Here’s what Columbia Sportswear has to say about this product line:
Welcome to our brand new collection of trail running shoes and apparel, coming Spring 2017. As the original trail running brand, Montrail has been making award-winning footwear since 1982, and partnering with Columbia since 2006. Now Columbia’s relentless pioneering spirit merges with Montrail’s iconic fit, construction and technologies, ushering in a new era of world class trail running gear.
And here are Kelly’s and my thoughts about the jackets:
Out-Dry Ex Light shell (retail $200)
My thoughts: This is a relatively lightweight but heavy-duty rain shell suitable for easy running or hiking. I tested this for the first time on a late afternoon when it kept alternating between drizzle and rain.
When I first took the Out-Dry Ex Light shell Out-Dry Ex Light shell out of the plastic bag, it felt stiffer than I expected. My only point of comparison is a lightweight Brooks running jacket that I received as a birthday gift a few years ago; that jacket feels a lot more flexible. Of course, with flexibility comes reduced waterproofing. The Out-Dry Ex Light shell kept me so dry that when I got home, I decided to see what would happen if I stuck my arm underneath a running faucet.
Answer: the water sloshed off the shell completely, and my forearm inside remained completely dry.
On top of that, this shell comes with a hood that covers the head completely and sticks over a bit to provide more facial shielding. You can zip the enclosure up past your mouth to just under the nose for almost complete upper body/head rainproofing. I’m not used to that feeling of the mouth being covered by fabric (if it’s raining that hard, I tend to go to the gym to use the treadmill), so I left it zipped lower. As a result, I don’t envision racing in this shell, but it makes for useful cover for easier runs, or even better, hiking in the rain.
Women’s Titan Lite Windbreaker (retail $120)
Kelly’s thoughts: When I received my box of gear, I assumed the box contained only a shirt. So I was surprised to pull out two shirts, a pair of shorts, and this windbreaker. The weight of this paper-thin jacket is under 4 oz; when holding it up to check how the size looked I was shocked at how little it weighed.
Fortunately for me, that weekend I was signed up for the Three Capes Relay, an amazing one-day relay on the Oregon Coast. Talk about a good place to test a windbreaker!
My primary issue with most jackets that repel rain is that if they do a good job repelling the rain, they create a sauna around your already-warmest body part: your core. And then if they don’t do a good job keeping you dry, they basically turn into runner saran wrap … not a great feeling.
My hopes were high that this jacket’s Omni-Freeze ZERO cooling technology would prevent that sauna-effect. I own three other Columbia jackets that have the Omni-Heat feature, and I rely on it to keep my kiddos warm at the playground. But this was my first encounter with the Omni-Freeze ZERO technology to keep cool; and it works. My leg at the Relay started out with a long uphill, and this jacket stayed on all the way up the hill – I didn’t overheat and trust me, it wasn’t from lack of effort.
While it didn’t rain on me at the relay, it did rain on me while wearing the Titan Lite Windbreaker on another run. I found that it is indeed water repellent, yet didn’t stick to my skin on a 4.5-mile run at tempo pace.
The jacket has one zippered pocket that’s roomy enough for two pairs of gloves (mine plus a pair I found on the road that I took to lost & found during the relay), but you wouldn’t want to put keys in that pocket because they would bounce. There is a pull cord at the bottom of the jacket, and it can pack into a self-contained pocket. My favorite feature of this jacket is that the back is slightly longer than the front, which is long enough to keep your stomach covered even when your running tights don’t stay put.
I ordered a size L, which I felt ran very true to size with a little extra room. The cut of the jacket is slightly contoured – it didn’t ride up anywhere and hung nicely without being too roomy. The jacket comes in white and “zing” – white has a light grey detailing and the zing color (which is a burnt orange) is offset with a light yellow. There is a small reflective strip near the zipper; if wearing at night you would want to wear reflectives with this jacket when running on road; but both colors are very bright; perfect for trail running. If you wear this jacket during a race, definitely bring a race bib belt or pin to your pants; or, as I did, pin your bib underneath the jacket. It’s think enough that the bib can be seen through the material – maybe not read, but at least you won’t look like a bandit. The material is so thin that I don’t think a safety pin would be nice to it.
Every runner’s inner thermostat and comfort zone is different, but this is the jacket to wear instead of throwing on a long sleeve over your short sleeve. It blocks the wind and will hold your body heat in long enough for you to warm up; and keep you from overheating on days that any other jacket would end up tied around your waist by mile 2.