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Columbia OutDry Extreme Mesh Waterproof Shell Jacket review

You want an ultralight rain jacket that will keep you dry in a downpour when you're out for hiking or backpacking. Time to try Columbia's strikingly different-looking OutDry Extreme Mesh Jacket?

Our rating 
4.5 out of 5 star rating 4.5
Red waterproof rain jacket for hiking and walking

Our review

Ultra-light, highly waterproof and breathable, but with quirky looks
Pros: Ultralight
Extremely waterproof
Highly breathable
Cons: Appearance may put some off

Columbia have been making mould-breaking, highly waterproof and well-priced rain jackets for a few years now, and the latest is the lightest and most functional we’ve tried.

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For years, rain-proof fabrics have tended to comprise a waterproof inner membrane, bonded to a textile outer layer. The textile – flexible and scrape-resistant – protected the membrane. And, it was thought, would look more appealing than the synthetic membrane.

Like some other brands (eg Gore’s ShakeDry technology – see also below), Columbia been experimenting with waterproof fabrics that omit the textile outer layer, so that the waterproof membrane forms the garment’s outer surface.

That reduces weight dramatically – in the case of the OutDry Extreme Mesh jacket, to a startlingly low 225g. Yet Columbia reckon the fabric is tough enough to cope with scrapes without springing a leak.

The loss of the textile outer layer also gives the OutDry Extreme Mesh jacket a highly distinctive appearance. Slightly shiny, it’s unmistakably synthetic; segmented by pale lines over the externally taped seams. This gives it a pared-back, functional look that may divide opinion.

It’s great to wear though. Even in heavy rain, water beads up and runs straight off – and it will never need reproofing. It’s also highly breathable, allowing heat and moisture to permeate through tiny micropores, so despite the lack of under-arm ventilation, it felt pleasant to wear on a warm, wet June day.

Next to skin, it’s perfectly comfortable, thanks to the softy, wicking fabric inner layer.

The two hip pockets are big enough for OS maps. And there’s also a big improvement over earlier past versions of Columbia’s OutDry jackets: the hood. It’s not perfect; the peak could be stiffer – but it is pretty decent, fitting close to the face and turning neatly with the head.

Facts at a glance:

  • RRP: £225
  • Weight: 225g
  • Fabric: OutDry Extreme, 100% nylon Titanium
  • Vents: None
  • Hood: Dual adjustment; not helmet-compatible
  • Pockets: Two map-sized hip pockets

Also consider…

Haglöfs Breathe GTX ShakeDry LIM Jacket

This ultralight jacket weighs just 204g (men’s large). Like the Columbia jacket above, the Gore-Tex ShakeDry fabric drops the textile upper layer commonly used in waterproof jackets. Instead the outer layer is made of a waterproof polyamide, both stretchy and – says Gore – durable. Water beads up on it; just ‘shake dry’ to remove them. A smooth and dry-feeling lining is fused to the outer. The normal functional details of jackets like this are pared back: either tiny and ultralight, or omitted altogether; for example, there are no drawcords on the hood, cuffs or hem. But this will appeal to fans of ultralight and minimal gear, mainly for fast-hiking and trail running.

Read our detailed review of the Haglofs LIM Breathe GTX ShakeDry Jacket 


Montane Pac Plus Waterproof Jacket

If you’re looking for something with more conventional looks, but also extremely lightweight and waterproof, look no further. Montane’s Pac Plus is made from Gore-Tex’s excellent new(ish) Paclite Plus fabric, with a textile outer. It’s so breathable you that vents are omitted, but reliably waterproof. The hood is excellent. Great for hiking in spring, summer and autumn.

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Read more reviews of lightweight rain jackets for hikers