It’s immediately obvious that the Columbia OutDry ex Reign waterproof jacket is in a different class from the moment you clap eyes on it. The silvery exterior material is a world away from standard Gore-Tex, which may be a very good, or a very bad thing. How does it compare to the rest of today's best waterproof jackets? Read on for our full Columbia OutDry ex Reign waterproof jacket review.
Columbia OutDry ex Reign waterproof jacket review: design and build
That silvery exterior is indeed the big talking point here, a cunning plan by Columbia to deliver internal comfort and superb waterproofing by flipping the usual membrane position to the outside, backed by a softer, fabric style interior. The membrane is the company's own OutDry EXTREME waterproof, which claims to be both breathable and very waterproof.
Aside from the membrane, there’s lots of attention to detail here as you’d expect from Columbia. Fully taped seams look robust enough, zips are reversed YKK numbers, with the main zip backed by a stiffened storm flap and topped by a little garage. All adjusters are concealed, and the hood ones particularly ingenious, being a simple tube with a tapered slot in the top, which grabs the shock cord and locks - at least in theory. The hood is enormous, with plenty of room for a helmet, although there’s no peak left on the hood when you’re wearing a more robust winter helmet.
The Columbia OutDry ex Reign waterproof jacket has two hand pockets, both backed with mesh to aid breathability, and there’s no internal stitching to limit the height, so stuffing a map inside is entirely possible - a big tick. Speaking of breathability, there are also two pit zips to help out on this front, certainly a bonus as the OutDry EXTREME fabric is pretty solid stuff.
Overall it’s a streamlined, slick look that won’t seem out of place in any situation, from city bar to weekend walking escapade.
Columbia OutDry ex Reign waterproof jacket review: performance and comfort
One drawback of the comfortable fabric interior finish is that it grips fleece very firmly indeed, making the donning or doffing of the Columbia OutDry ex Reign waterproof jacket quite a process if you’re needing an extra internal layer. Worn without a midlayer, the OutDry EXTREME fabric certainly feels robust - quite a benefit in cooler conditions - and much more rugged than mere Gore-Tex as a result the soundproofing is very good indeed. The internal finish adds quite a bit of warmth too, making the overall experience a snug one.
That snug performance is inevitably obvious when taking on more energetic activities, and although the mesh panels over the pockets and the soft internal finish wick sweat away pretty well, it does get steamy relatively quickly. Carrying a rucksack this was particularly obvious, although any waterproof fabric struggles to breathe in similar conditions. Elsewhere, the hood is certainly roomy, and adjusts down relatively neatly, but the lack of stiffening, especially in the peak does leave it a little baggy. This isn’t too much of a challenge much of the time, thanks to the robustness of the OutDry EXTREME fabric, which holds shape quite well, but in windy conditions it can all get a bit floppy.
Columbia OutDry ex Reign waterproof jacket review: verdict
The challenge of putting the membrane on the outside of the fabric is that it’s much more exposed to damage from relatively casual brushes against rocks, for example, as well as being the first thing to get abraded on high-wear locations, such as around the hips where the rucksack waist belt sits. Admittedly, there are compromises to be made with the membrane on the inside too, so arguably swings and roundabouts.
The Columbia OutDry ex Reign waterproof jacket is certainly waterproof, make no mistake about that, and even a few casual scuffs on the outer membrane seemed to make little difference. However, under more energetic testing things got steamy pretty fast, bringing the pitzips into play regularly. Overall, it’s a fantastic jacket for low-intensity activities in really heavy downpours (but in relatively sheltered situations), and around town the eye-catching grey material and robust build work perfectly.