Columbia Ampli-Dry Waterproof Jacket review: excellent shell for day hikes

This brilliant budget-friendly waterproof shell is built to protect you in all but the most biblically diabolical downpours

T3 Platinum Award
Columbia Ampli-Dry Waterproof Jacket review
(Image credit: Pat Kinsella)
T3 Verdict

The Columbia Ampli-Dry coat is an affordable, unfussy, highly functional waterproof jacket that keeps the elements at bay without sacrificing too much on breathability. For the price, this is an excellent option for those who mainly stick to day-length dawdles in non-alpine environments.

Reasons to buy
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    Four-way stretch

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    Underarm vents

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    Adequately waterproof and breathable

  • +

    Flexible and quiet

  • +

    Easy to clean

  • +

    Great value for money

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    No interior pockets

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    No reflective elements for walking on lanes at night

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With the arrival of the soggy season, people start looking for lightweight, waterproof jackets to keep them dry during day hikes, dog walks, and weekend outings to the woods and parks. It's easy to go down the rabbit hole of waterproof jacket specs, but all you really need is a lightweight, easy-to-carry and reliably waterproof, windproof and breathable jacket – and this is exactly what the very reasonably priced Ampli-Dry jacket from Columbia is.

It does boast several extra features that genuinely improve comfort and functionality levels, which is a bonus. In essence, this is simply a great waterproof jacket for day walks in all sorts of weather, especially for days on the trails when the weather is wet or uncertain, thanks to the excellent venting options and a decent adjustable hood. Well worth an inclusion on T3's best waterproof jacket guide!

Columbia Ampli-Dry Waterproof Jacket review

Columbia Ampli-Dry Waterproof Jacket review: price and availbility

The Ampli-Dry Waterproof Jacket from Columbia is available now, in a large selection of colours for both men and women, with a recommended retail price of £145 in the UK, and $150 in the US. Some colourways and sizes are being sold directly by Columbia for a discounted price of £101.50 / $89.99.

Columbia Ampli-Dry Waterproof Jacket review: specifications

Columbia Ampli-Dry jacket

(Image credit: Pat Kinsella)
  • Sizes: Men’s: Small–XXL; Women’s: XX–XXL
  • Weight (Men’s large): 422g / 15oz
  • Materials: Ampli-Dry (100% Nylon)
  • Centre Back Length: 73.7cm / 29in
  • Waterproof rating: Not published
  • Breathability rating: Not published
  • Colours: Men’s: Black / Warp red / Metal / Collegiate navy / Stone green / Light raisin; Women’s: Dusty pink / Black / Nocturnal / Key west / Sunset orange

Columbia Ampli-Dry Waterproof Jacket review: design and materials

Columbia Ampli-Dry Jacket

(Image credit: Pat Kinsella)

A classic shell jacket, the Ampli-Dry is reasonably generously proportioned, so you can easily fit it over the top of a mid-layer, such as a good fleece jacket, which will help keep you warm. It has a good hood with a three-point adjustment system, so you can pull it tight around your head and face when conditions are really awful.

The cuffs can be tightened with a single Velcro strap, and the hem at the bottom of the jacket can be pulled in and secured with a cord and toggle. The back panel extends over your bum, keeping drafts out, and there are underarm vents on both sides.

There are three pockets on this jacket: two deep hand pockets and a vertical chest pocket on the left breast, all of which have zips complete with cord pulls, so you can easily operate them with cold hands or while wearing gloves. Unfortunately, there is no inside pocket.

Columbia Ampli-Dry Jacket

(Image credit: Pat Kinsella)

The Ampli-Dry jacket is made with Columbia’s original nylon-based Omni-Tech multilayered waterproof material, which sandwiches a breathable membrane within a weatherproof shell. As a public-listed company, Columbia does not publish the results of technical testing on their garments or the fabrics used, so we don’t know the true hydrostatic head rating of this jacket, but third-party sources quote figures of HH: 10,000mm for Omni-Tech and give the material a breathability rating of 10,000 g/m2/24hr. 

While there are jackets out there with higher figures than these, such ratings are similar to the flysheets of many backpacking tents and easily sufficient for a jacket to be considered fully waterproof and comfortably breathable (see below for our on-test real-conditions findings for these factors). The seams of the garment are fully sealed, the main full-length front zipper has a PU coating, and the Ampli-Dry has been treated with a water-repelling substance.

Columbia Ampli-Dry Waterproof Jacket review: performance and comfort

Columbia Ampli-Dry Jacket

(Image credit: Pat Kinsella)

I first used this jacket during a hut-hiking adventure in Les Contamines Montjoie, walking in the Haute-Savoie, around the Mont Blanc massif amid the Auvergne Rhône Alpes in France. However, despite it being autumn, the weather was relentlessly lovely and sunny while I was there, and although grateful for the protection from the evening breeze the Ampli-Dry supplied, I had to wait until returning to reliably rain-strafed Britain before putting the jacket to a real rain test. And then Storm Ciarán obligingly arrived.

Suffice to say, I have now had plenty of opportunities to wear the Ampli-Dry in truly wet and wild conditions, and although (as noted above) Columbia declined to make the technical results of their lab testing public, I can report that this Omni-Tech garment genuinely kept me dry during multiple downpours. The surface of the jacket is water-repellant, so initially, raindrop beads on top and roll off, but this is only the first layer of the defence against dampness, with the membrane keeping moisture out during more sustained soakings.

I also found the jacket to be decently breathable and didn’t work up too much of a sweat, even when tackling steep hills. This could, however, be thanks primarily to the large vents found under each arm, which are one of my favourite features on this coat. For my money, when it comes to comfort and heat management, pit vents are far more important than claimed breathability stats on waterproof shell jackets because they allow you to quickly dump excess heat without letting in rain or snow.

Columbia Ampli-dry jacket

(Image credit: Pat Kinsella)

There are three other important things to mention about the Omni-Tech material, which make it a really attractive alternative to Gore-Tex (aside from the cheaper price). Firstly, it boasts a four-way stretch, which allows you a full range of movement when you’re doing activities such as scrambling or even climbing over stiles. Secondly, it’s really easy to wipe clean when you inevitably get mud and trail juice splattered on your clothes. Thirdly, it’s malleable and quiet, so you don’t get a load of irritating rustling every time you move while wearing the Ampli-Dry, and it’s easy to fold up and stuff into a pack or bag when the rain stops.

Another thing I love about this jacket is the massively generous proportions of the pockets. On a recent urban outing during a heavy downpour, I managed to get three standard-sized books in the side pockets, two of them hardbacks, and not a single page got wet. You can easily fit a sheet map in these pouches and plenty more besides, which is really handy when you’re on day walks in particular, and you don’t want to carry a large hiking backpack.

In terms of quibbles, while the range of colourways this jacket is available in is impressive, I would have liked to see some reflective flourishes on the back of this jacket for safety reasons when I’m walking along roads and lanes shared with vehicles after dark. I also think the peak on the hood could be a tiny bit bigger.

Columbia Ampli-Dry Waterproof Jacket review: verdict

Columbia Ampli-Dry Jacket

(Image credit: Pat Kinsella)

An excellent shell jacket available for a brilliantly budget-orientated price, the Ampli-Dry coat from Columbia is lightweight, reliably wind- and waterproof, comfortably breathable and boasts some fantastic features for the all-weather year-round day walker.

The pockets are massive, the hood is good, the pit vents are sensational for effective on-trail temperature control and the Omni-Tech material used is quiet and very easy to fold up and pack, as well as providing proper protection from the elements. Unless you’re regularly bagging high peaks in apocalyptic conditions, this jacket is all the shell protection you’re really likely to need, and it’s accessible and available in a range of good-looking colours.

Columbia Ampli-Dry Waterproof Jacket review: also consider

If you want to spend a load more money, and/or you genuinely do venture out to places like mountaintops in really biblically bad weather, you could invest in the (admittedly excellent) Mountain Equipment Makalu Jacket, which has a huge hydrostatic head rating of 28,000mm (minimum).

If you’re more motivated by being seen in top-end outdoor brand logos, the Arc'teryx Beta Jacket is a head-turning beauty (which comes at an eyebrow-raising price).

And if ultra-low weight is your priority, then the svelte Montane Spine jacket might be for you. But you will struggle to find a better jacket for a more reasonable price than the Ampli-Dry from Columbia.

Pat Kinsella
Freelance outdoor writer

Author of Caving, Canyoning, Coasteering…, a recently released book about all kinds of outdoor adventures around Britain, Pat Kinsella has been writing about outdoor pursuits and adventure sports for two decades. In pursuit of stories he’s canoed Canada’s Yukon River, climbed Mont Blanc and Kilimanjaro, skied and mountain biked across the Norwegian Alps, run ultras across the roof of Mauritius and through the hills of the Himalayas, and set short-lived speed records for trail-running Australia’s highest peaks and New Zealand’s nine Great Walks. A former editor of several Australian magazines he’s a longtime contributor to publications including Sidetracked, Outdoor, National Geographic Traveller, Trail Running, The Great Outdoors, Outdoor Fitness and Adventure Travel, and a regular writer for Lonely Planet (for whom he compiled, edited and co-wrote the Atlas of Adventure, a guide to outdoor pursuits around the globe). He’s authored guides to exploring the coastline and countryside of Devon and Dorset, and recently wrote a book about pub walks. Follow Pat's adventures on Strava and instagram.