Columbia OutDry Ex Nanolite

The most breathable shell of 2021.

Photo: Matthew Stacey

Our take Columbia’s OutDry Extreme fabric helped rewrite the playbook on waterproof/breathable technology when it debuted five years ago (we gave it an Editors’ Choice Award at the time): Unlike every other textile out there (with the exception of Gore-Tex’s Shakedry), Columbia places the membrane on the outside of the shell, sans face fabric and DWR, which means water beads on the surface but never passes thorough. The Nanolite leaves even its predecessors behind, retaining OutDry’s breathability and long-lasting waterproofness while ditching the heavy, rubbery feel and packing down to grapefruit size. “When climbing 13,132-foot Mt. Flora in the 40s I wore this as a windbreaker, and avoided overheating by adjusting the huge, 8-inch-long pocket vents,” says one Colorado tester.

The details The Nanolite doesn’t sacrifice durability for weight. “On the Jim Creek Trail near Winter Park, Colorado, I scrambled through the thickest deadfall I’ve ever seen,” notes a tester. “The jacket had every opportunity to snag on broken limbs, but it didn’t suffer a scratch or tear.” The cut is on the roomier side (a puffy fits nicely under it), and the sleeves were long enough for lanky-armed testers. Adjustable cuffs extend over the back of the hand, the drop tail protected our backsides when bending over, and the hood snugs tightly around the face. Bummer: The lack of a bill means water sometimes runs off the hood directly onto your face.

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