What’s in a name? Sometimes everything. To double-back is to return to a place or an activity you’ve seen or done before. And, as the name attests, all good things do come in two. Like fish and chips or gin and tonics, this jacket follows in kind. Columbia’s Double Back Parka is not one but two distinct jackets that easily combine to form one highly functional sheath.
A longer, full-coverage exterior shell is made of 100% polyester reflex stretch twill. Which basically means it will move with you – whether you choose to carve your way down a double black or walk across a forested slope.
The exterior is both waterproof and breathable. More dual features: Omni-Tech sealed seams and Omni-Shield repellency liner. Together they keep you warm and dry. Another thoughtful pairing: a chin guard that doesn’t rub and removable parts: powder skirt and hood. Being able to get rid of or add back a feature on a piece of technical outdoor apparel earns twice the points in my book.
Finally, there’s adjustable cuffs and articulation at the elbows. Both give plenty of mobility – whether you’re waving goodbye as the pilot maneuvers the heli away from the landing zone or you’re trudging uphill toward some distant summit that spoke to you at the trailhead.
Even better, the bonus is the interior soft shell hoody that zips into the shell. It warmly completes the package and keeps you twice as protected from the nastiest winter weather. A silver polka dot thermal liner made with Columbia’s signature reflective Omni-Heat, ensures the hoody maintains warmth on the inside – up to 20% – and cold, well, on the outside.
The soft shell gets two warm thumbs up for what Columbia calls comfort cuffs but what I refer to as thumb holes. Twin pits zips provide cooling when you need it and pockets–two of them-offer more than just a space to warm hands. Stick cold fingers in to these compartments and they’ll be toasty in no time.
Even the color options expand on the double theme. The zipper stands in stark contrast to the shell’s hue. I am particularly fond of the color combo I tested: red on light metal stripe.
The Double Low Down
I took this jacket on, you guessed it, two trips: first to the resort for some groomers and glades and then for an adventurous romp in my local wilderness.
I admit, at the resort, my sophisticated testing measures were more about style and comfort rather than function. Like how it looked and felt descending a steep line, connecting mogul after mogul, or relaxing fireside at après ski. This jacket held its own. The style wasn’t an issue but comfort initially was: while the long length at 34” kept me warm, the zipper was a bit stiff out of the box. This didn’t impact my skiing or use during moments of upright activity but was noticeable when I sat on the chair. I am pleased to report, after a few uses, the zipper became supple and didn’t bulge when I sat for a stretch.
In the wilderness I fell in love with this jacket for its duplicity. Hard efforts to gain altitude made wearing just the soft shell a cool idea while a break at the summit made donning the shell the warm ideal.
Overall, this jacket delivered on what I suspect was Columbia’s dual promise to keep me warm and dry regardless of application. While the Double Back Parka’s suggested retail price at $280 may seem spendy, this is no ordinary shell. The Double Back Parka provides two jackets for the price of one.
Columbia likely named this jacket the Double Back Parka to refer to its inventive construction; which makes me think that perhaps their commitment to thoughtful design is an alter ego for building a jacket that you reach for again and again.