The Columbia Basin Butte Fleece employs some clever technical fabric to deliver a serious bump in warmth over most of the best fleece jackets on the market. It's designed to be worn as a light outer layer for three season use, or a robust mid layer, perhaps beneath one of the best waterproof jackets, for winter adventures. With a UK RRP of £65, it sits in the upper-middle of Columbia's wide range of fleeces, and it's a new model for autumn-winter 2021. So does it deliver on its promises? Read on for our full Columbia Basin Butte Fleece review.
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Columbia Basin Butte Fleece review: design
The Columbia Basin Butte Fleece build is a blend of the conventional and somewhat less so – essentially a standard fleece jacket in mid-weight 225gm Anti Pill Solid Microfleece with a surprise attached. The standard fleece has two hand-warmer style pockets and a raised collar for extra warmth, along with neat finishes like lined cuffs.
The less usual part of the design comes hidden around the top of the torso, where you'll find a quilted area that contains added insulation. That insulation is 40g Microtemp XF II 85% Recycled Polyester / 15% Polyester, not a huge loft, but a decent bump in heat. Inside the real techno happens though, with a Columbia Omni-Heat thermal reflective surface backing the quilted insulation layer. It looks pretty spangly – but does it add warmth?
Columbia Basin Butte Fleece review: comfort and performance
The Columbia Basin Butte Fleece is certainly comfortable, the multiple panels coming together to deliver a good mid-layer fit. With the arms and lower torso being decent-quality mid-weight fleece, there’s not much to complain about... or indeed get excited over.
The upper panels of extra insulation and Omni-Heat are a different story. No less comfortable in the main – although ever-so-slightly more 'crinkly' – the insulated section makes this feel a much more technical proposition, as well as looking reminiscent of Elton John’s waistcoat when worn unzipped.
Anecdotally, the panels do add quite a bit of warmth, and as they’re positioned around the upper torso, they trap the maximum amount of heat possible for their size, as well as deploying the heat-reflective powers of Omni-Heat. The latter certainly has physics on its side, and immediately feels warm to the touch, making a warm fleece design even warmer.
Indeed, the only practical criticism is that this is a very warm fleece indeed, especially if worn as part of a layering system. The additional issue with that warmth is that the insulated, quilted section isn’t as breathable as straight fleece, trapping heat and moisture quite effectively when zipped up – a double edged sword. This can lead to a slightly damp experience, although that’s always a subjective experience based on activity, humidity and ambient temperature. As a lightweight three season outer layer that is all much less of an issue, and the slightly-more wind-and-weatherproof quilted areas offer some extra protection if the weather turns.
Columbia Basin Butte Fleece review: verdict
Overall, the Columbia Basin Butte Fleece is an interesting and useful twist on a standard fleece, and delivers much more flexibility than a stock item. The extra insulation and windproofing adds an extra dimension of warmth, and the Omni-Heat even more. The latter adds no weight at all either, so hard to get upset about. The only question is whether you need a fleece this warm. As an outer layer it’s a good multi-purpose workhorse, but as a mid-layer it’s almost too warm for anything short of proper big mountain adventures and winter snow sports.