Published on October 25th, 2009 | by Greg0
Columbia Keeps You Warm and Your Items Safe
We hear that winter is approaching. Granted, in San Francisco, this means basically the arrival of more tourists rather than snowstorms. But some of us herald the change of the seasons because it means a chance to enjoy some snow, ice, skiing, hot chocolate, fireplaces… basically, all of the things that are great about a truly cold winter climate. Alas, writers are frail beings, accustomed to creature comforts, and Columbia has us covered in many weather types. We’ve got three different options to keep your upper body warm, and one bag that, according to Google at the time of this writing, doesn’t exist.
We’ll hit the bag first- the Rogue Runner Messenger is part of Columbia’s Titanium line, and so new that we couldn’t even find a picture or link. The name doesn’t indicate the presence, as far as we can tell, of any actual Titanium, but is their high-end technical apparel label. They’ve offered a Cyberpack for some time under the Rogue Runner name, and the two look somewhat similar- the messenger bag though is much, much wider and quite a bit shorter than it’s namesake. In fact, this bag was a bit too wide for us, with plenty of space for two netbooks able to sit side by side, or any laptop we tried. The material is great, durable and water and stain repellent thanks to the Omni-Shield finish, but should be more reflective for safety. Padding on the rear of the bag and shoulder strap was good but not great, and the regular top handle was tiny, uncomfortable, unpadded, and seemed like an afterthought. Internal padding, though, was pretty good; laptops seemed well protected. Weatherproofing as well was excellent, we had some electronics in the bag during a storm and they came through perfect. All in all, we didn’t like it as much of some other bags we’ve tried; the width is just too extreme to be comfortable. But at under $150, it is a durable, solidly-constructed bag that can fit any laptop you imaginable.
Next up is the Columbia Elevation Half-Zip, and like the bag above, we had trouble finding pictures or links, probably because it is a new item. Ours was a men’s medium, and ran quite large in terms of sizing. The color was a mild yellow, with grey-colored stitching and fleece-lined collar. The Elevation is 100% polyester, and featured the same Omni-Shield coating for weather and stain protection. It was certainly warm, and reasonably comfortable, but paled in comparison to the half-zip we are looking at next. The material is simply not quite as cozy or soft, though it did offer a single pocket instead of none at all. Sleeves aren’t adjustable or particularly elastic, and feel too loose. Also, though the zipper looked and felt better on this one, it didn’t zip down quite as low, unfortunate when temperatures change and you want to let some more air circulate. At $50-$75, it might be better to consider the next fleece instead.
Back to the Titanium label, with a half-zip that is as soft, comfortable, and lightweight as you could ask- without sacrificing much warmth. Also 100% polyester, the Titanium Micro Advantage Fleece is available in several colors and styles, including both Big and Tall versions. Ours was a two-tone black with a nice grey, but the Moon Dust version looks pretty great. The normal version runs fairly slim- great for those who want something a bit more tight-fitting, which can help keep warmth trapped in. We really liked the zipper and chin guard, especially at the neckline where a zipped-up fleece can often rub against skin and become pretty irritating. Not here; and the fairly tight sleeves and neck line ensure that wind doesn’t get inside. We didn’t love the lack of pockets or slightly billowy waist fit, but the Omni-Dry coating did it’s job well and dried quickly when wet. At $50-$60, it seems like a great fleece for the price, one of the best we’ve tried, though with room for improvements.
Finally, we’ve saved the best for last. The Columbia Titanium Ice Wave Softshell is the perfect outer layer for a guy in need of a more serious jacket. Yes, it features the Omni-Shield, so we couldn’t stain it when we tried. And it has pockets, four of them, two big voluminous ones that will fit your gloved paws at waist level, and two smaller ones at mid-chest. Zippers could have been larger, but each included a nice tie that made them fairly easy to use when wearing mittens. The hem on the waist is nicely adjustable via elastic straps, and the lining is a smooth fabric they correctly call Chamois Touch. The wrist cuffs are excellent, with a tight elastic liner that works extremely well. The hood could have been better- a button or clasp perhaps, and the chin guard that we got used to on the fleece would have been a good addition. But the color and style were quite attractive, especially in the slick Cordovan Gradient Stripe, and even high-speed winds were stopped, er, cold. Breathable, versatile, able to be easily worn under another shell for use in sub-zero conditions, we look forward to finding some snow to play with in our Ice Wave. $130-$150, available online and in stores.