Photo Credit: Caveman Collective
Even the best hard shells have a weakness. Eventually, the durable water repellent (DWR) on the fabric’s exterior deteriorates. Instead of beading off the surface, water soaks in. And while the fabric doesn’t actually leak—you’re still protected by a waterproof/ breathable membrane—you’ll feel chilled, clammy, and generally uncomfortable until you take steps to revive the chemical DWR treatment.
Not so for the EX Diamond. Columbia’s new OutDry Extreme technology solves the problem of disappearing DWR by skipping the DWR altogether. How? The shell’s waterproof/breathable membrane is on the outside, so the surface needs no extra waterproofing (a polymer overlay protects the membrane). It has the durability of a rubber rain slicker without the sweat—testers found the shell plenty breathable. Columbia says the spaces between the overlay’s tiny diamond shapes enhance breathability.
After seven months of testing in pouring rain and wet snow from Alaska to Yellowstone, precip still runs off the Diamond like mercury. And in our controlled laundry test, a typical DWR-treated shell wet out after 12 wash cycles, but water still dripped off the Diamond like it was brand-new. (That’s still true after 22 total cycles, and counting.)
The fabric’s thick, rubbery feel turned off some testers at first, and ultralighters will scoff. But if staying dry and comfortable in the worst weather— without futzing with DWR treatments—is your top priority, this is your jacket. The Diamond (the most technical of 19 new OutDry Extreme styles) features slight stretch, reinforced patches on the shoulders, and a wicking treatment on the interior fabric; get the same OutDry Extreme technology for less with the stripped-down OutDry EX Platinum ($250) or OutDry EX Gold ($150 to $175).