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Columbia Powder Lite hooded jacket review

15 Mar 2019

The Columbia Powder Lite Hooded jacket uses some neat tech to pack in a lot of warmth for its weight and bulk

Cyclist Rating: 
• Insulative • Lightweight • Stylish • Weatherproof outer fabric
• Doesn’t pack down particularly well • Omni-Heat fabric isn’t ideal as a next-to-skin layer

The consistent development of synthetic insulation over the last few years has given rise to myriad types of down jackets that are lighter and slimmer, yet more insulative than their traditional feather-down counterparts.

As Rapha recently showed with its Explore Down jacket, a take on the insulated jacket design can be successfully applied in cycling.

Columbia’s Powder Lite design shows that a contemporary insulated jacket doesn’t necessarily have to be cycling-specific in order to function in a variety of applications both on and off the bike. Done well, the insulated jacket is a versatile garment that is as useful in daily life as it is for casual cycling.

The Powder Lite Hooded jacket uses Columbia’s Storm-Lite DP II outer fabric, which in use has proven durable and being water-resistant, shrugs off light rain showers easily.

This is a nice advantage over other insulated jackets without a weatherproof layer - in those designs water can easily penetrate the jacket’s face fabric then saturate the insulation, weighing the jacket down and undermining its insulative properties.

Columbia’s Powder Lite jacket beads off water for a surprisingly long time, causing me to posit that the only way the jacket would be succumb to weather would be after prolonged exposure to very heavy rain. That isn’t an occurrence likely to happen often.

I think the jacket’s design would benefit from including some reflective detailing - being dark in colour, any elements that improve visibility would be a useful and welcome addition no matter whether I was riding a bike in the evening or walking down a dark street.

Columbia uses as lightweight, polyester-based insulation to fill the jacket which, despite not being particularly bulky, proved to be very effective at helping me retain my body heat in cold conditions.
I would partly attribute the Powder Lite’s insulative abilities to its proprietary Omni-Heat technology.

This is comprised of silver beads that line the internal fabric of the jacket, which Columbia claims reflects body heat to better retain warmth in a similar way to the foil blankets that get draped over marathon finishers.

The jacket was certainly uncommonly warm for its amount of insulation, so I can only suggest this technology genuinely was of substantial benefit.

I did notice the Omni-Heat reflective layer did make my arms a little clammy when worn as a next-to-skin layer, so I’d suggest pairing the Powder Lite jacket with a longsleeve garment underneath.

The jacket provided such effective insulation I found a longsleeve t-shirt or light sweatshirt was all that was required in a wide range of weather conditions and temperatures, suggesting although not ideal as a next-to-skin layer, the Omni-Heat technology and jacket as a whole does breathe well enough to keep the user comfortable.

Although when worn the jacket is comparatively slimline, it doesn’t pack down all that well, proving a little tricky to compress into spaces within bags and backpacks. I have come across designs in the past with integrated bags or loops with which to hold the jacket in a folded state and I think the Powder Lite jacket would benefit from the inclusion of a similar feature.

The Powder Lite’s fit is something to take into careful consideration. I wouldn’t exactly label this as a negative point because it is subjective, but I found the Medium to be baggier than ideal around my chest and back. Conversely, the size Small fit nicely on my upper body but was tight around my hips.

It is entirely feasible that this issue will not be experienced by another user, but it is worth bearing in mind that it may be prudent to try multiple sizes in order to determine which fits best before purchase, as you may experience the same quirks as I did.

Overall, the issues I have with Columbia’s Powder Lite Hooded jacket are minor and don’t detract from the general performance of the garment. It has a robust build quality, it insulates well, protects from the elements and looks suitably stylish. When compared against other jackets of a similar quality it looks to be good value too.

If Columbia were to change a few small details it would be hard look beyond the Powder Lite Hooded jacket as a staple in your winter wardrobe.

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