SNOWSHOE MAGAZINE GEAR REVIEW:

Columbia’s Reach the Peak Down Hybrid Jacket Mixes Form and Function

One of the newest trends in outdoor adventure clothing design is the hybrid down. Perhaps inspired by the hybrid car, the new version of down offers the same amount of warmth in a trimmed down sportier model. Columbia Sportswear is leading the charge with its new Reach the Peak down hybrid jacket.

I like to think Columbia looked to the automotive industry for inspiration but ultimately followed JD Rockefeller’s advice: “If you want to succeed you should strike out on new paths, rather than travel the worn paths of accepted success.” Think of the hybrid down as a new and improved version of an old favorite – your big down puffy. Only this new adaptation successfully mixes form with function.

A closer look at the hybrid jacket.

If you hate the look and fit of your traditional down jacket but are unwilling to give up its luxurious warmth, a closer glance at Columbia’s Reach the Peak hybrid might be in order. This is not your traditional big down puffy.

Columbia’s hybrid down is designed with cold weather and activity in mind. This jacket goes much further than just keeping you warm during a momentary stop to refuel or as your go-to when you reach your destination. The soft side panel cuts a narrow path from waist to wrist and is made of thermo-stretch fleece for mobility while still offering protection from the cold and the elements. It also delivers breathability where you need it – the armpits – allowing you to regulate heat without having to ask that awkward question: “Hey dude, can you unzip my pit zips?”

The down part of the jacket covers your entire front and back torso – not only keeping you warm but dry. The exterior sheath is made with Columbia’s advanced water repellent Omni-shield fabric. The thoughtful construction doesn’t end here. On the inside is the super reflective Omni-heat which leaves you 20 percent warmer and 100 percent happier. In between the two is 700 fill down.

With a shield on the outside and heat on the inside the only thing missing is the signature bulkiness of a big down puffy. Columbia figured it out and serves up a warm down in a slim stuff-able package. Yup, the stuff sack is included and compresses the jacket to a eighth of its size.

Reach the Peak is perfect when a big down puffy is too much. In fact, my partner Scott gave Columbia props for design, “It fits more like a jacket and bridges the gap when you want something in between a big down and a thin shell.”

What also makes Columbia’s hybrid down offering cool is its attention to what women prefer versus what men like. For me, it was two-fold: the compactibility and the cute styling. The jacket stashes away easily but unfolds to fit my curves. It’s true: women still want to look good during outdoor adventures. While keep up with the boys and get to the summit, we also believe we should be able to reach into our packs, pull out a warm down, and look just as cute as we did at the trailhead.

For Scott, his desires were more about utility and less about vanity. While he liked that the jacket came with a stuff sack, he was partial about the ability to synch it down and keep his core warm. The men’s version offers comfort cuffs which protect the palm and back of the hand. It also has a draw cord at the waist to trap heat and man-sized hand warmer pockets.

Putting it to the test.

I took Columbia’s Reach the Peak hybrid down on a late-March snowshoe to the top of Charlton Peak in Southern California’s San Bernardino Mountains. After a four hour hike that covered six miles and 4,000 feet of elevation gain in total, I pulled out the Reach the Peak hybrid a thousand feet from the summit.

Temps ranged toward the mid-forties but a breeze pushed the chill 20 degrees cooler. I felt the interior reflective material immediately go to work – maintaining the heat I was generating from my efforts. While my big down puffy is warm, it takes a bit of time to heat up the interior and does little to protect me from wind or regulate heat.  

Columbia’s hybrid is also built long. It dips towards the mid-hip level keeping the lower back covered and protected. I liked this feature and felt comfortable in the detail while pushing to the summit. Overall I applaud the Reach the Peak hybrid down jacket and felt it was a good option for any adventure in a cold environment. I would recommend sizing up for a better fit. I felt the jacket ran a little small.

Scott took his jacket to Valdez, Alaska for some heli-skiing. The jacket did well to keep him warm in the moist cold air while walking around Valdez’s waterfront and also served him while riding deep powder in chilly glacier valleys. He felt the down and side panel combination enabled him to stay warm at the top but provided breathability to prevent him from sweating on the long descents.

The variable elements found in Alaska tested all the technical aspects of the jacket too: wet snow and mist didn’t leave him wishing he had a shell. Overall Scott gave the jacket high marks.

Find out more.

The Reach the Peak hybrid down jacket comes in both a men’s and women’s version and is available fall 2011. For more information about the Reach the Peak hybrid down jacket and for a sneak peak, visit Columbia Sportswear on YouTube.

For the women’s version, click here and for the men, click here.

To purchase the Reach the Peak jacket for women, click here.

This entry was posted in Gear Reviews, Jackets by Cathleen Calkins. Bookmark the permalink.

About Cathleen Calkins

Cathleen Calkins is a California-based writer and award-winning photographer. After 15 years in the corporate arena, she opts for the quiet of her office and works with national consumer and trade magazines, newspapers, online publications and custom print and web advertorial communications. Her specialties include adventure, sustainability, travel, health, fitness, lifestyle, tourism, and branding.