Gear Review: Titanium High Alpine Parka

One of the more frustrating things for a snowshoer is marrying performance with function. When it comes to being prepared on the trail, no detail can be overlooked and you want your equipment to complement your experience. The new High Alpine Parka from Columbia not only takes care of the basics like keeping you warm with optional layering, but it also provides ample pockets for everything from keys to cell phones.

The High Alpine jacket is more like two jackets in one. The inner layer is made of 100 percent polyester fleece and fits in any Columbia jacket with the Interchange System. This allows you to mix and match the liners depending on the weather and activity. I have found the liners easy to interchange involving an interior zipper and then an additional snap at the wrist. Both do a good job of keeping the liner in place.

The outer layer is made of a 100 percent nylon two-layer GORE-TEX Ripstop with 100 percent nylon two-layer GORE-TEX Alpine Taffeta reinforcements, and 100 percent polyester Ultra-Wick Mesh lining. In addition to being a wind blocker, rain and snow simply bead off the GORE-TEX. One shake of the outer shell and the moisture falls to the ground. The GORE-TEX material is breathable allowing body heat and moisture to escape keeping you warm and dry.

There are several pockets inside and outside of the jacket – most are what you would expect on a Columbia jacket. Two outer pockets have zipper closures while two inner pockets do not. Both parts of the jacket have pockets giving you many options for storage. Perhaps the most exciting pocket is the radio pocket designed to hold a two-way radio. In addition to the obvious safety benefits, I use this pocket to keep in touch with my friends and family when we decide to explore in different directions. All of the outer pockets have a rain guard and zipper to keep them safe and dry.

Another important component to this jacket is its versatility. With articulated elbows and radial sleeves, the jacket allows for a full range of motion. You can wear this jacket for a variety of activities from snowshoeing to cross-country skiing. Columbia has even included a lift ticket D-ring to secure lift tickets with easy access. I think you’ll find this jacket provides ample flexibility for a wide range of outdoor sports.

The Radial Venting System provides maximum air circulation for those uphill climbs and strenuous workouts. It is as simple as pulling on the velcro and unzipping the vents. This can be performed with one hand, even when wearing gloves. The side vents allow body heat to escape easily keeping you comfortable throughout the day.

Zipper pulls are long and thick making them easy to find and manipulate even in cold weather. For windy days, there is an attached hood with volume control and control storage tab. These features can be manipulated quickly, even when wearing gloves. The hood does not have a liner, so an extra wool hat may be necessary.

When it comes to buying a jacket I have two pet peeves. The first is a cold zipper touching my lips on a cold day, and the second is sleeves that are too long and in the way of my gloves. For the first time, I have a jacket that solves both of these problems. For that cold lip there is an extra layer of fleece that covers the cold zipper on the liner. On the outer shell is an additional chin guard to keep out wind and moisture. Together my face stays much warmer. This alone makes the first few minutes outside more enjoyable for me.

The wrist guards have elastic and velcro to help cinch them closed around my gloves. In the winter snow can’t sneak up my sleeve and my gloves are secure. When I’m ready to come in, one pull of the Velcro and my gloves are ready to come off.

With a suggested price of $300 this jacket is for serious outdoor enthusiasts. The price may be high, but you are buying the convenience of a zip out liner, full arm movement, and the flexibility of arm vents and versatile pockets. The High Alpine Jacket is a strong addition to Columbia’s Titanium line. While not inexpensive, this jacket offer flexibility and function whether on the slopes or on the trail.

About the author

Judy Nugent

Judy Nugent is a freelance writer and outdoor enthusiast from Chicago. In addition to snowshoeing, Judy enjoys hunting, fishing, hiking, and exploring the Wisconsin wilderness. Her articles and photography can be found in several regional publications.