This jacket is great for those in need of a waterproof layer for casual hikers and wet dog walks, but it lacks the breathability for more aerobic adventures
Three zipped pockets
Not the most breathable
No inner pockets
Limited color options
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Columbia Ampli-Dry Waterproof Shell Walking Jacket: first impressions
Lots of waterproof jackets these days are growing increasingly technical, coming in a stiff package that will keep a howling gale in the background, but won’t pack down small or come at a budget-friendly price. Sometimes, however, what you really want is a light and packable jacket that will fend off the worst of the weather but doesn’t add the weight or bulk needed to protect you in a blizzard and that’s what this jacket does well.
The Ampli-Dry Waterproof Shell is relatively lightweight and, with four-way stretch, easy to pull on and move in if you’re taking off your backpack or scrambling. With fully waterproof material and taped seams, the rain won’t get past this jacket, especially if you cinch it tight at the adjustable hem and hood.
• RRP: $160 / £145
• Gender specification: Men’s and women’s sizing available
• Sizes: Men’s / Women’s XS - XXL
• Weight: 10.9 oz / 310 g
• Materials: Shell: 100% Nylon; Lining: Fine Mesh 100% polyester
• Colors: Nocturnal, Black
• Best use: Hiking
It’s built to have a slim fit when you're wearing it and to pack down small when you’re not, which means it’s easy to load up as an emergency layer. Three zipped pockets will hold your gear, though we’d love an inner pocket for our phone. Our main sticking point with this jacket, however, is the amount of condensation that builds up on the inside when we tested it on a challenging hike, suggesting it’s not quite as breathable as we’d like. That said, since it’s built for more casual hikes than serious mountaineering endeavors, it will still fit the bill if you use it for its purpose and the pit zips go a long way in aiding breathability.
For the price, you get great waterproof protection for day hikes in a portable package and the design is smart enough that you might make this your go-to waterproof layer for daily life as well as wilder adventures.
Columbia Ampli-Dry Waterproof Shell Walking Jacket: in the field
Living in Scotland, I’m always game to test a new waterproof jacket, however I originally received this shell to wear on a hut hiking trip in the Alps, during which the weather was unseasonably warm and dry so I didn’t get to test it out properly until I returned home. I’ve been wearing it on hikes in Scotland and the Lake District for the past couple of months, mostly as a shell in drier weather but also on a few windy and wet descents.
Here’s how it performs:
Sizing and fit
I often find Columbia gear runs large, but this is an exception and fits true to size. It has a reasonably slim (and flattering) fit, and I’ve been able to layer it over a fleece jacket no problem without any extra material flapping around. It’s got a slight drop tail which means it just covers my bum which always helps for windy and wet days. That said, if you tend to push the limits with sizing, you might find your regular size is too small for comfortable layering and consider sizing up.
Waterproofing and breathability
When it comes to keeping me dry, there’s no question that this jacket gets the job done, with rain beading nicely and rolling off, plus I can just give it a good shake when I take it off and it’s nearly dry. The hood is snug and doesn't block my vision, especially when cinched, and I haven’t had any issue with it blowing down in the wind or letting too much water in when it’s raining sideways.
The breathability, on the other hand, could be a little better in my opinion. I mainly noticed it when I was hiking up a steep (38 degree) slope on a cold but dry day. I was wearing it over a microfleece mid layer and a wool base layer, and I wasn’t surprised to be working up a sweat. I unzipped the underarm vents and I felt pretty comfortable, but when I got to the top of the hill and took the jacket off, I was surprised at how much moisture had built up on the lining.
Of course, waterproof jackets will never be fully breathable no matter what the manufacturer tells you, and fortunately I was wearing it over fleece which dries in a flash, but in an ideal world I’d be looking for more moisture control.
Comfort and storage
Though it’s described as a shell, there’s nothing stiff or rustly about this jacket; instead it’s soft and comfortable. The four-way stretch is a little unusual in a waterproof jacket, but it does make for easy movement, especially when I’m poling and it no doubt helps with layering too.
I’m also pleased with the amount of storage: two large hand pockets big enough to hold my map, plus a chest pocket for my phone. An inner pocket and two-way zips might make for perfect, but for the price I can't quibble with this.
Though I have my complaints regarding breathability under certain conditions, I still think you get a decent waterproof jacket for the price here. It won’t do you for a glacier trek necessarily, but for regular day hikes, it will keep the rain off, pack down small, and isn’t so sporty that you won’t want to wear it around town too.
Columbia Ampli-Dry Waterproof Shell Walking Jacket: the bottom line
A reliable waterproof jacket for those on a budget, this jacket is more than enough for casual hiking. That said, if you’re willing to spend more for a similarly lightweight and good looking jacket that boasts better breathability, consider the Montane Phase Lite instead.
Julia Clarke is a staff writer for Advnture.com and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.