For years, outdoor companies made shells the same way: they’d sandwich a waterproof membrane between a tough, durable exterior fabric and a softer next-to-skin layer.
This technique works great, but it has two major downsides: the face fabric on the outside can wet out (retain water), making the jacket feel cold and clammy; and gluing three layers of fabric together reduces breathability.
Enter the OutDry Extreme Diamond rain jacket. Columbia managed to ditch the exterior fabric entirely by layering a thin, diamond-patterned film over the waterproof membrane to protect it from abrasions and boost durability. They also did away with the glue, instead using heat and pressure to combine the membrane and interior fabric.
The result: a supremely breathable yet still perfectly waterproof slicker that won’t get shredded by errant branches or rocks.
So how’s it work in the field? We were exceedingly impressed by the shell during an initial two-month test in Vermont. With a hood and drop hem, it’s best suited to hiking it wet conditions, although we’d love to see a version cut for biking.