Test: Heat Elite Jacket


Negative wind chill and 50 mph blasting gusts are things I typically avoid. But in early December I had the fortune of spending five hours in these conditions at Soldier Field in Chicago. The venue was football, the Bears vs. the Patriots, and I couldn’t think of a much better setting to put the new Columbia Heat Elite Jacket to an objective, sedentary test.

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Columbia Heat Elite Jacket’s ‘Omni-Heat’ interior

Marketed as a super-warm fleece, the Heat Elite has Columbia’s proprietary Omni-Heat Technology, which is a shiny interior sheen of metallic dots akin to a radiant barrier you might find in your attic. The dots help retain body heat by bouncing it back at you, Columbia touts.

If the fleece-like jacket could stand up to the conditions of the football game, I’d reasoned, surely it would handle the more moderate weather I’m accustomed to for camping and backpacking. So in conditions more suitable for a big parka, I sat and did the test at Soldier Field.

I wore a couple thin, non-insulating layers under the jacket, including a base layer and an Under Armour turtleneck. As the Bears and Patriots battled, I watched the action and took note of my body temp and comfort as a sedentary spectator. It was about 18 degrees F with big winds.

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Heat Elite Jacket

The short story on the jacket: Throughout the day, my upper torso was the warmest part of my body. Indeed, it took about four hours before I started feeling cold in this jacket, and I suspect if I had Omni-Heat pants and gloves, I would have lasted longer.

Snow was coming down all day and the jacket remained dry and comfortable. It blocked wind, too. If you’re looking for a ridiculously warm jacket without the bulk of a big parka, you can’t go wrong here. $170, www.columbia.com

—Josh Turner is a founder of CampinggearTV.com.

Posted by MattK @ GearGuide - 02/03/2011 01:09 AM

Great review. I continue to be impressed with Columbia’s latest offerings. I just tried the Deep Ghyll shell and — although not Omni Heated — it’s a great product. My review for that jacket is at GearGuide.

Posted by FoxShadow - 02/03/2011 11:18 AM

Columbia’s latest stuff seems more like Arc’teryx or Marmot than it does Columbia. They still have some brutally ugly stuff, and some clunky stuff, but their higher end stuff is impressive. The zippers, sealed seems and style is different than it used to be, and their waterproof breathability technology is better than everyone else.

Posted by Josh Turner - 02/04/2011 10:50 AM

Thanks for the good comments guys. No doubt that Columbia has introduced some real beasts of late. Not your grandpappy’s Columbia anymore. FoxShadow – I hear you on their waterproof/breathable technology (Omni-Tech). Saw a demo at OR, and have been testing one of the shells recently. This stuff is leading edge. – Josh

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