Retro To Future Tech… Columbia Sportswear Outerwear Preview 2015

We got a first look this past week at several pieces from Columbia’s spring 2015 line. From a new kind of zipper to a color-changing shirt, these items stood out. —Stephen Regenold

Retro Windbreaker — Direct from a 1992 catalog, Columbia pulled this design and made it new again. I tested the windbreaker for a few days and liked the fit and basic function of keeping you warmer in the wind.

1992 Columbia catalog served as motivation for retro line

The Flashback Windbreaker is not a high-performance piece and is not made to be waterproof or very breathable. But at just $39.99, the Flashback is a fun jacket. I like the “kangaroo” pocket on front and basic wear-anywhere fit as well as the retro look for 1990s nostalgia’s sake if nothing else.

Flashback Windbreaker includes pouch pocket and old-school look

‘Future Zipper’ On Rain Jacket — We covered the Columbia LightRail zipper in an article earlier this year. (See our article “Never-Before-Seen Zipper Created For Olympic Outerwear.”)

But while it debuted on an Olympic shell Columbia decided to bring the zipper to the masses in 2015 with this $80 raincoat.

Columbia’s super low-profile LightRail zipper

The Sleeker rain jacket comes in men’s and women’s models. It’s a lightweight and waterproof jacket that fits nice. The LightRail zippers worked well in our test — they slide easily and are so low-profile as to hardly be there.

Sleeker rain jacket

When you sit down the jacket does not burst out like many shells can — the super flexible zippers act like seams in fabric, allowing the body of the jacket to flow comfortably as you sit, hike, or stand.

Fishing Shirt Has ‘Solar Camo’ — It’s sold as “sun-activated camouflage,” and what this fabric does is change color and pattern when hit with UV light.

Before the sun: Shirt has subdued pattern

Columbia is marketing a shirt called the Solar Camo to “help anglers blend into their surroundings while fishing” by breaking up the pattern and making a person standing in water with a pole less seeable by a passing fish.

After the sun heats the fabric: White blocks pop out of pattern

We’ll need to get in the water with a rod to test out the theory. But we did try the camo function, heating the shirt with a hair dryer and watching as the solid blue turned blocky and “camouflage” before our eyes.

The Solar Camo comes in men’s and women’s designs and costs a hefty $140. Beyond the color-change feature the shirt is a performance wicking piece with 40UPF sun protection. It is made of polyester and good looking enough to wear out of the water as well as hip-deep casting a line.

Women’s Solar Camo shirt

‘Loch Lomand’ Shell — I wore this uber-raincoat on an hour-long hike in a downpour. My shirt was dry underneath after I got back, and the breathable shell managed sweat and heat buildup from the walk.

Shower test! (We also used it outdoors)

Columbia made the Loch Lomand to be a top-shelf spring/summer/fall shell. It costs a premium $275. It fits and looks like a winter jacket, and it has a three-layer material build with a breathable membrane.

Loch Lomand is a burly rain jacket

But despite the alpine-shell look, the jacket is thinner and lighter than what most people wear in the snow. It rolls up small for carrying on a hike. Once on, you’re going to stay comfortable and dry no matter the rain.

—Stephen Regenold is editor of GearJunkie.

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Stephen Regenold

Stephen Regenold is Founder of GearJunkie, which he launched as a nationally-syndicated newspaper column in 2002. As a journalist and writer, Regenold has covered the outdoors industry for two decades, including as a correspondent for the New York Times. A father of five, Regenold and his wife live in Minneapolis.

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