SNOWSHOE MAGAZINE GEAR REVIEW:

The Omni-Dry Truth: Columbia Peak 2 Peak Jacket

The Columbia Peak 2 Peak Jacket has power to pack against the likes of GORE-TEX and other company’s proprietary water/windproof and breathable materials.  According to Columbia, the almighty GORE-TEX material isn’t entirely air permeable.  Columbia’s Omni-Dry technology – as the Peak 2 Peak’s foundation – is more air permeable than GORE (and 75 percent lighter).  Unlike most hardshell jackets on the market, the Peak jacket touts an ultra breathable membrane.  It didn’t come with a softshell jacket and a powder skirt dually zipped within its total structure, similar to a 3-in-1 product.  Nope.  It was just the lonesome hardshell … a lightweight gear phenomenon just waiting for a hardcore snowshoeing test.  But is that enough?

To offer a solid study of the Peak’s performance, I waited for a sunny but severely cold day to plan a snowshoe adventure.  These conditions should offer exactly what I was hoping for when putting the Peak 2 Peak through the appropriate trials.  I needed an opportunity to exert some energy (with the sweat that follows) and discover if the frigid air could permeate the jacket.  

GORE-TEX has always been the cornerstone technology/material in most of my snowshoeing apparel.  Similar to a security blanket, I’ve never left my house without some kind of GORE-TEX gear.  Boots, jackets, pants, gloves, are often GORE-laden.  And to be honest, I love GORE-TEX.  It has a rich history in the snowsports industry and will continue as such.  However, it’s time for companies like Columbia, Mammut, and others to offer a true competitive total winterproof material.  Omni-Dry is certainly a step in that direction.

I first tested the Peak 2 Peak jacket in Denver’s miserable chilly January rain that has mysteriously appeared in the past couple weeks.  Rocky Mountain National Park was more than happy to host my snow experiences.  

Rain in the dead of winter is never a good sign for Denver, but it was the best way to prove Omni-Dry’s waterproofing effectiveness.  While moisture from perspiration gathers inside an “average” jacket, outdoor moisture invades, and then likely leaves a person feeling damp.  This uncomfortable situation is often a snowshoer’s worst nightmare.  Simply due to intense aerobic activity, perspiration and moisture gather more and more over a period of time.  This dampness cools quickly if the snowshoer doesn’t continue physical exertion.  Cold and damp don’t go well together.  In an extremely cold environment, wearing wool-enriched base layers and a jacket that allows moisture to escape is the only answer to this problem.

The Peak 2 Peak’s Omni-Dry technology solves this annoying dilemma.  Says Columbia: “This extremely air permeable waterproof fabric transfers the moisture vapors you generate out of the garment at an extremely high rate, while still shedding the elements in the worst conditions. Omni-Dry is the ultimate in waterproof technology for the outdoors. During physical activity, increased body temperature can cause perspiration. In garments with low breathability, this results in condensation causing the wearer to feel damp, clammy or even wet. This is often mistaken for leaky or faulty construction, and is always uncomfortable. With Omni-Dry, air is able to circulate through the fabric, helping to regulate the conditions in the garment and keep excess moisture from collecting inside, while still maintaining its wind blocking properties.”

For more information on Columbia’s Omni-Dry technology, click here.

The Peak 2 Peak is perfect for snowshoeing.  It’s light enough to shove in a pack or strap it to the side for quick access.  The shell is fully seam-sealed, guaranteeing that water will not enter through unexpected areas.  Throughout my battles with winter rain/snow mix (big time unpleasant nowadays) the Peak 2 Peak performed flawlessly.  Waterproofing is certainly the primary feature to be desired.  That’s no joke.  

Additionally, the pockets – two located on the chest and one on the arm – offer what’s called Invizzip.  The zipper “floats” over the jacket’s material to seal the pockets to add more watertight benefits.  It also prevents from forcing Columbia to build bulky zippers into the pockets (an annoyance on some winter jackets).  Smaller, nimble zippers are easier to work with: Snags aren’t a problem, and the zipper is stiff enough to stay in place.  Did I mention the Peak 2 Peak’s zippers are waterproof?   

More Peak 2 Peak features:

  • Attached, adjustable storm hood
  • Underarm venting
  • Drawcord adjustable hem
  • Drop Tail
  • Security pocket
  • 14 oz. Weight
  • 100 percent polyester 3L 50 denier plain weave

For protecting from the cold, I used one Icebreaker base layer (a trusted and proven product) with the jacket.  If the cold air and dry snow combination offered any conflict to my day of shoeing, I wanted to see if the Peak 2 Peak would break under the pressure.  While I could feel the cold blasting at the Omni-Dry material, it didn’t create enough resistance to alter my plan on the trails. 

In some cases I was knee-deep in snow – hiking in a wind-blown environment – and my body’s exertion kept me warm.  Nonetheless, the Peak 2 Peak did its job – allowing moisture to escape and keeping warm air near my body.  

Rocky Mountain National Park never disappoints.  However, it’s my suggestion that an additional base layer is needed with the Peak 2 Peak jacket or a thin softshell that can be shed quickly.  This would be for a slower-moving recreational snowshoer.  Overheating is a problem if too many layers exist.  Remember, wear layers that can be discarded quickly so the cold air can’t have the upper-hand.  

I’m proud to say that the Peak 2 Peak jacket is a permanent addition to my gear arsenal.  Not to “dumb-down” its usefulness, but I’m wearing it on a daily basis.  Cold days in Denver deserve a jacket that performs as advertised in weather that can change quickly…and sometimes without warning.  

For more information on the Columbia Peak 2 Peak Jacket (men’s), visit http://bit.ly/fXaqHI.  For information on the Columbia Peak Power Shell (a similar Omni-Dry product for women), visit http://bit.ly/fZBuC8