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Review: Columbia Sportswear’s new spring gear gets innovative

A couple of weeks ago, Columbia (Canada) sent me a few items from its 2012 spring line for a “rigorous testing”.

Included in the beautiful package (from this PR person’s point-of-view, it was nicely done), were several new clothing items to check out.

Having patiently waited for some above 5C weather, I finally had my chance to do some of this “rigorous testing” to see if the technology claims were accurate. Going for a very brisk walk, I had a chance to test out the Compounder Shell, Solar Polar SS top and the Powerdrain Shoes.

I wasn’t disappointed. Columbia has come up with some pretty sweet-looking and cool gear.

Here’s the breakdown:

Columbia SportswearThe Compounder Shell
Retails: $349.99
Tested women’s version
Technology: Omni-Wick Evap & Omni-Dry

Love this jacket – it’s my new favourite for hikes and tourist activities requiring lots of outdoor walking.


  • Extremely light and packs well. Definitely great for travel and will be going with me on my upcoming trip to the UK.
  • Zippers under the arms let you air out if you get a bit too sweaty, while still keeping your body core warm and dry. The material is air permeable, so it doesn’t make you feel like you are encased in plastic.
  • The new “moisture management technology” works well at wicking away sweat and moisture from your body.
  • It’s waterproof – I tested it by flinging water droplets on the material and it easily kept the moisture from seeping in. A quick shake of the jacket had the water droplets fly off.
  • Pockets galore, including one with a clasp so that you can ensure your keys don’t fly out. Pockets at the chest allow for additional storage such as kleenex or lip balm. Deep interior mesh pockets allow you to hide a few more items at the waist.
  • Nicely positioned soft material on the back of the neck where you sweat the most keeps the jacket from chafing you, particularly when you have a camera strap around your neck.
  • While the hood is not detachable, it rolls up easily.
  • Fitted nicely – it’s not bulky and follows a slight hourglass shape. You don’t lose on fashion.


  • The material makes lots of noise when you walk and swing your arms – not useful for stealth situations or to wear while visiting a museum or art gallery.
  • The zippers under the arms can be difficult to zip up once unzipped. You have to contort your body occasionally or ask somebody to help you out.


Columbia Sportswear

Solar Polar Short-Sleeve Top
Retails: $59.99
Tested the women’s version
Technology: Omni-Freeze ICE

Perfect for hot conditions – I tested this top while indoors (due to current cool outdoor conditions in Southern Ontario), by doing an exercise routine for about 15 minutes.


  • Despite sweating profusely, the material managed to keep cool and wicked away my sweat. LOVE this technology.
  • Antimicrobial: after a few hours of wearing this top, it still smelled somewhat fresh.


  • Venting in the upper back, while perfectly placed for the spot that gets sweaty the most, has a plastic-like material that sticks to the skin.


Columbia SportswearPowerdrain Shoe
Retails: $100

Tested women’s version
Technology –TechLite & Omni-Grip

Super light, comfortable with good arch support. Can be used as a walking shoe on a rainy day when puddles are expected.


  • Very light. You barely feel that the shoes are on your feet, which makes them perfect for days when you know you will be doing lots of walking.
  • Comfortable cushioning makes walking distances easy on the feet and body.
  • Thin elastic cord with clasp gives you opportunity to customize fit to your foot.
  • Upper is a comfortable mesh, soft lining around the ankle area reducing any annoying chafing or rubbing against your skin despite a close fit.
  • Toe cap reduces scuffing and tears at the tip of the shoe.
  • The sole has drainage and ventilation holes on the sides of the sole, not at the bottom. This makes it ideal to keep dust from entering the shoe and covering the bottom of your sweaty foot.
  • Stylish – can easily be paired with jeans or comfortable hiking pants.


  • There’s not much support for the ankle with this shoe as there is a dip in the material before a rise in the heel.

Overall, Columbia has put much effort into meeting the comfort needs of active people with some cool innovations. Worth every penny! All items reviewed will be available in-store by mid-March.

One comment

  1. I like the look of the last pair of sneakers … I need ankle support, though.