Gear Review: Columbia Heat Elite Jacket

Columbia's "Omni-Heat" increases insulation by 20 percent over standard fill.

[low-bulk warmth]

Old way to trap body heat: a thick layer of insulation. New way: a thin, shiny, heat-reflecting liner. Columbia claims the “Omni-Heat” liner increases insulation by about 20 percent over standard fill. And while our tester can’t vouch for the exact number, she does report feeling the heat boost while performing chores around Camp Schurman during an ascent of Mt. Rainier. “On one chilly (20°F) night at 9,400 feet on Rainier,” she says, “I stayed toasty while my companions, wearing standard puffies, shivered.”

It has a light layer of synthetic fill (50-percent-recycled polyester) as well, plus a waterproof/breathable membrane (though seams are not taped). With all that protection, 12-inch pit zips are a welcome addition for venting. Fleece-lined handwarmer pockets goose the cozy factor, but we wished the pockets sat higher, above a hipbelt. Fit is efficiently trim, with enough room for layering underneath. Gripe: The DWR-treated polyester shell wetted out quickly on a drizzly morning on the Oregon coast. Best for cold, dry conditions when you want warmth without excess bulk. $170; 1 lb. 5 oz.; m’s S-XXL, w’s XS-XL;