We’ve been big fans of Columbia’s OutDry Extreme since it came out a year ago. The fabric uses a revolutionary two-layer system with a waterproof, PU-based layer on the outside and a wicking liner on the inside, eliminating a face fabric completely. The result is a garment that’s fully waterproof but doesn’t need retreating since it doesn’t use a DWR treatment—which also makes it more environmentally friendly. We’ve given it two Editors’ Choice Awards to date. Make that three.
The latest iteration of OutDry Extreme is even greener. To truly understand, you need a quick primer on PFCs. Traditional waterproof fabrics repel rain by incorporating perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs), which have one of the strongest bonds on earth. That’s great for your shell, but PFCs build up in the soil and water (and humans and wildlife), so gear manufacturers are trying to minimize their use. By eliminating a DWR coating, the original OutDry Extreme had already eliminated more PFCs than a typical garment.
Columbia went a step farther with ECO. The wicking liner of each shell is made of 21 recycled plastic bottles—so no PFCs there, either. And the shell isn’t dyed—hence the white color—which saves more than 13 gallons of water per jacket compared to standard manufacturing techniques, according to Columbia. “The white color looks a little goofy,” Destinations Editor Maren Horjus confessed after a wet, three-day section of the Tour du Mont Blanc, “but it’s a statement piece that says ‘I love exploring the earth enough that I’m going to do what I can to save it by wearing this shell.’” In other words, OutDry Extreme ECO Jacket is the most waterproof/breathable/sustainable jacket we’ve tested.