Some travel gear brands appeal to those with plenty of money to burn, people who won’t flinch at paying $700 for a jacket. When you buy something from Columbia Sportswear though, you can usually be sure you’re getting a great value. The company makes quality travel clothing that can hang with the best of them on the slopes or on the water, but you won’t have to pay the equivalent of a month’s rent to get their best technology.
For close to a decade I ran a site called Practical Travel Gear, first as a solo operation on Blogspot then as a group WordPress blog. (I sold it in 2015.) So I checked out a lot of travel clothing. Since I’m also on the road an average of once a month, I also get plenty of chances to see how this apparel holds up in the real world, sometimes in tough conditions on adventures.
So far I haven’t worn out many Columbia items and it’s a brand I recommend a lot for people setting off on a journey that’s going to last months or years. I would also recommend their winter jackets that have the Omni Heat reflective dots inside because they really do keep you warmer. I have been happy with their pants and shirts too over the years.
I got my hands on two new items of theirs recently that I’ve been trying out in my travels.
Columbia Stretch Underwear
The first is an item from their entry into the underwear space. These travel skivvies are supremely comfortable, even when I’m wearing them for 24 hours straight like I was on a recent trip of taxi-bus-taxi-plane1-plane2-car ride home. They’re nice and stretchy and the flat stitching means they feel good against the skin all over.
They also have the key travel component for light packers: they dry quickly. They’re moisture wicking while they’re on you too. Made of polyester and spandex, they only take a few hours to dry after a sink washing. If you have to wear them two days though, there’s another useful feature: the “odor-resistant technology contains an antimicrobial agent to control odors.”
All these things are true of other quality travel underwear though, so what makes this version special? Well, they’re half the price (or better). As is typical for Columbia, you get similar quality without paying similar prices. Instead of 20-some dollars for one, you get two for $22 or $23. See some examples here, including briefs. Search the same store and you’ll see women’s versions, plus sports bras and camisoles.
The OutDry EX ECO Jacket
That’s not me modeling the underwear above—it’s been many decades since my stomach was that flat. But that is me at the top wearing the Columbia EX Eco rain jacket.
This is a performance rain jacket that will keep you nice and dry, but as the name implies, it’s also good for the planet. It is made from all recycled materials, with 21 plastic bottles saved from a landfill for each jacket. The manufacturing process also uses less water compared to the usual, like 13 gallons less (51 liters). I’ve seen jackets before that are touted as environmentally friendly, but this one goes all the way: even the zipper and eyelets are made from recycled materials.
You don’t give up anything in terms of performance though. This has the OutDry Extreme technology baked in that lets your warm body vapor escape. Just understand that like any jacket with this kind of membrane, it won’t work in the hot tropics where the humidity is high—that’s just physics. If you’re in a cooler climate though, you’ll stay dry underneath. You’ve got flat sealed seams, zipper pockets covered with a flap, adjustable sleeve cuffs, a cinch at the bottom, and a cinch hood.
You’ve gotta like white though. Thanks to this jacket being completely recycled and keeping the water use down, there are no dyes used. As you can see from the shot above, the women’s version is more contoured in the fit.
Follow this link to go direct to the jacket page on Columbia’s site and if you poke around their clearance section you’ll find the inventory they’re trying to move out priced for less. Since this is a well-known brand with wide distribution, you’ll also find them on the virtual clearance rank at places like Sierra Trading Post and Backcountry.com.