New lightweight down insulation with added warmth from an Omni-Heat reflective lining.
Just arrived is Columbia's new for winter 2012 Powerfly Down Jacket, a lightweight winter insulation top that uses the brand's Omni-Heat thermal reflective lining to increase warmth, it's claimed, by some 20%.
From the outside it looks like any other micro-baffled down jacket with simple, Lycra-bound cuffs, a full-length zip and two hand-warmer pockets, but take it off, or just unzip it and fling it open flasher style, and you're dazzled by the shiny reflective lining.
In essence it's just good old space blanked technology designed to reflect your body heat back inwards rather than some weird black magic thing, but where the Ciolumbia take on it differs is that the reflective surface, viewed up close is actually a series of tiny polka dots rather than a continuous reflective sheet.
That, we're guessing, means that the fabric retains a reasonable level of breathability through the areas between the dots.
We've used the technology before, in a base layer top, and while it didn't feel as odd against the skin as you might imagine, there was still a little clamminess when you got hot and sweaty. That should be less of an issue with non next-to-skin layer like the the Powerfly.
Otherwise the jacket is a pretty conventional, micro-baffled down top. It uses Columbia's highest loft 800 fill-power US down insulation housed in stitch-through, horizontal microbaffles. In other words, the stitching goes right through the garment, so there are cooler areas between the baffles, but that's pretty standard for lightweight down clothing and sleeping bags.
The Nylon shell fabric isn't as light as some - think Pertex Quantum GL - but still feels pretty fine and is treated with Omni-Shield water-repellent technology to cope with the shower or spill - a good idea as down hates water with a vengeance.
Weight For It
Weight isn't cutting edge for this sort of garment, we measured it at 395g compared to a claimed 340g for the Rab equivalent, but then it does have that separate Omni-Heat liner.
Of course the obvious question is whether that slight increase in weight pays for itself with a noticable increase in warmth from heat reflected back from the lining? Subjectively, worn back to back with a similar jacket, we'd say that the Powerfly appeared to warm up slightly more slowly, but then did feel a little warmer. And that 800 US fill-power down does seem to loft decently and fill out those baffles.
We suspect it would also pack down pretty small - grapefruit sized we'd say in the fruit packing analogy hierarchy - but the stuff-sac (12g) supplied is on the big side, like a jumbo pineapple maybe. However it can also be rammed into one of the handwarmer pockets, which will be handy when you inevitably lose the stuffsac.
We're always a little skeptical of slightly gimmicky seeming innovations like Omni-Heat, but our experience with Columbia's base-layers using the same technology and our initial impressions of the Powerfly Jacket suggest that those little reflective dots really do work and the jacket feels slightly warmer than we'd expect.
It's still more of a three-season warm-up garment than a full-on, extreme cold number, but that's what we'd predict for any jacket of this type and as with other down clothing - with the possible exception of the Berghaus hydrophobic down range - we'd also caution that it needs keeping dry to perform at its max, or at all...
But as a cool to cold and dry conditions, stashable insulation layer, it seems to be right on the money. Talking of which, the price is a steep-ish £160.
More information at www.columbia.com