My last two waterproof shells were not good long-term investments. Both were from popular and otherwise reputable brands. Both were sold as technical outdoor shells. Both cost a lot. One leaked at the seams right from the start. Not sure what the problem was exactly – the seams looked good and were taped. Darn thing leaked like a sieve in even moderately wet conditions. My second choice didn’t leak, but it didn’t fit or adjust well. If I ever found myself in wet and windy conditions, the hood would catch and partly blow off. Even when synched down, the rest of it tended to flap around more than I liked. And for a shell, oddly enough, it was heavy.
The time was right to try something new so I researched the options. The Arc’teryx Beta AR Jacket caught my eye. Lightweight, bombproof construction, all the features I’d look for in a technical shell. A product for the serious alpinist. I haven’t had a chance to test it as of yet, but it looks promising.
However, I noticed another contender that, feature for feature, I believed might stand up under the most rigorous conditions. The Loch Lomond Omni-Dry® shell from Columbia Sportswear is a wind-proof/water-proof breathable shell for: Hiking, backpacking, alpine climbing, skiing, or anywhere else a trim fitting, adjustable, breathable, extremely waterproof shell is needed.
- Highly breathable, highly waterproof
- Brimmed adjustable storm hood
- Abrasion resistant chin guard
- 2-way pit-zip vents
- Articulated sleeves
- Adjustable cuffs
- Waterproof, packable, smooth zippers (designed for the Olympics)
- Top down / bottom up center front zipper
- Drawcord adjustable hem
- Drop tail
- Reflective details for visibility
- Weight: 16.4oz
- Backpack compatible pockets / zippers
I’ve taken this jacket out skiing, hiking, and backpacking. On a dry day skinning up Mill Creek Canyon, the Loch Lomond’s breathability was put to the test – I was dry and warm no matter how hard I pushed. The pit zips were easy to get to and adjusted nicely to match my BTU output. On another day I purposely went out in a torrential downpour. I stayed bone dry in the midst of a biblical deluge. With no “mad flappy,” the adjustable hood made sure my head remained dry even when I was taking it right in the face.
On two occasions, I’ve had the chance to wear the Loch Lomond under my Osprey Variant alpine pack. A feature that I truly appreciated is that, even with my waist belt and sternum strap cinched down, I could easily get to all my pockets and adjust the pit zips. Especially nice for accessing items like liner gloves, energy shots, or a handheld device while still on the move. It fits amazingly well over a base and mid layer.
One caution though: unlike other Columbia jackets I’ve owned, this series is definitely cut for trim athletic builds. So if you’re a stockier build or want to fit a puffy down layer under it, you probably want to size up. Ounce for ounce and dollar for dollar (MSRP $275) the Loch Lomond is an attractive technical shell that delivers high performance materials, technical detail, and functionality at price that will also leave you smiling.