Columbia Basin Butte Fleece review: take one standard fleece and add extra warmth

When a standard fleece isn't enough cop, the Columbia Basin Butte Fleece promises to be extra-cosy. Here's our review

Man wearing Columbia Basin Butte Fleece
(Image credit: Columbia)
T3 Verdict

The Columbia Basin Butte Fleece gives your standard fleece a technical upgrade to pack in extra warmth... and on this front, it delivers. Whether you need a mid-layer that's this warm is another matter.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Comfortable

  • +

    Very warm

  • +

    Easy to maintain

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Slightly crispy fabric

  • -

    Perhaps a bit too warm for general use

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.

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.

Columbia Basin Butte Fleece

(Image credit: Mark Mayne)

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

(Image credit: Mark Mayne)

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. 

Man wearing Columbia Basin Butte Fleece

(Image credit: Columbia)

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. 

Mark Mayne
Mark Mayne

Mark Mayne has been covering tech, gadgets and outdoor innovation for longer than he can remember. A keen climber, mountaineer and scuba diver, he is also a dedicated weather enthusiast and flapjack consumption expert.