>> The membrane Columbia Omni-Dry. Viewed under a microscope, this air-permeable polyethylene (PE) membrane looks like coral (see below). It’s highly porous like other air-permeable membranes, but PE is considered an ultrahigh molecular weight (UHMW) polymer. Translation: In its raw form, it’s extremely strong for its weight (a typical jacket uses 80 to 100 grams of membrane; the same amount of PE weighs only 14 to 18 grams). PE membranes are relatively new to the world of shells; it took Columbia several years to set its factories up with the right equipment and procedures.
>> The claim Columbia contends that PE is more hydrophobic than other membranes, so it doesn’t absorb water when infused with humidity (even for long periods), and breathability remains constant even when the garment is damp or humidity is high.
>> The jacket At $40 less than the nearest competitor, the price on this full-featured shell is a little easier to swallow. While testers deemed it the third most breathable of our favorites, it beat out many others and impressed us as a big improvement over past Columbia rainwear—and superior to some traditional Gore-Tex shells. “I wore it almost every day this winter guiding trips in the Wasatch, Antarctica, and the Alps and was super impressed with breathability,” says one tester. “In temps under 45°F, I can hike in it all day with just a baselayer underneath.” Our sweatiest tester reported that it got humid inside during a three-hour ski up White Baldy in the Wasatch Range with temps at 25°F, but “my midlayers were dry by the time I cranked off 50 turns.”
The fabric is a 50-denier polyester (poly doesn’t stretch when wet, and is more resistant to UV than nylon, but nylon is tougher). The Peak 2 Peak stood up to ruthless mountain treatment, like chimney climbing, yet is light and packable enough to use as a three-season backpacking shell.
Articulated elbows boost mobility, but the roomier cut, designed for more ample waistlines, caused our climbers to complain: One says that the extra fabric prevented him from being able to see his feet during a climb of the Great White Icicle in Utah. Testers were mixed on the wire-stiffened hood brim, which sheds rain well for trail use, but interferes with helmets and upward vision. Pockets are high for pack compatibility, and zippers are waterproof yet operable with one hand.
>> Same technology/costs less Columbia Tull Creek ($240, 1 lb. 2 oz.)
> Price $350
> Weight 15.7 oz.
> Sizes men’s S-XXL; women’s (Peak Power) XS-XL
> Info columbia.com