Does a "3-in-1” jacket seem like a gimmick that can't possibly deliver on all fronts? 3-in-1 jacket means that the inner insulating layer and the outer jacket shell can each be worn individually, or they can be worn together for a third dual layer option.Columbia shows that both layers can be excellent and that paired up the whole is as good as the sum of its parts with the Ultrachange.
The Ultrachange's outer shell is ultralight with a longer cut for maximum coverage to keep you warmer on cold or blustery days. Its breathability is on par with other high end ultralight shells, with full seam sealing, and so far, good durability (we’ve been wearing it to resort ski without a pack for four months). The outer jacket has a chafe-preventing abrasion chin guard that wraps from the zipper around the back of the neck to make you feel warm. And the hood slides easily over a helmet.
The insulated liner proved warm, even on sub-zero Vermont days, and it's good looking enough to wear alone. Breathable stretch panels under the arms kept testers from getting sweaty when hiking out of bounds, while silicone grippers at the hem acted like a snow skirt. We never bothered to reattach the pieces—they mated well layered. If you're looking for two coats in one that'll take you through all four seasons, it's more than worth considering.
Available Fall 2012, $450, columbia.com.