Columbia Men’s Outdoor Tracks Hooded Technical Fleece Jacket review: keep toasty on the trails

The warm and versatile Columbia Men’s Outdoor Tracks Hooded Technical Fleece Jacket is armed with Omni-Heat technology

Columbia Men’s Outdoor Tracks Hooded Technical Fleece Jacket
(Image: © Manon Guenot)

Advnture Verdict

The Outdoor Tracks hooded fleece top from Columbia is, in many respects, the ideal mid layer, being warm, highly breathable and trim fitting, so it comfortably works underneath an outer shell. I’m not completely convinced that the thermal effectiveness of the Omni-Heat technology quite matches the marketing hype around it, but – for its weight – this hoody does provide good protection from the cold, and the adjustable hood and range of pockets and pouches make it a very functional garment.


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    Good warmth-for-weight ratio

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    Extremely breathable

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    Highly comfortable

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    Adjustable hood

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    Full zip

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    Excellent as a mid layer

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    Three pockets


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    No thumb hoops

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    No water repellency

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    No recycled content

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    No chin protector on the top of the zip

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    No zip on the hand pockets

You can trust Advnture Our expert reviewers spend days testing and comparing gear so you know how it will perform out in the real world. Find out more about how we test and compare products.

Meet the reviewer

best fleece jackets: Artilect Halfmoon Bio Pullover
Pat Kinsella

Pat has hiked all over the world, his adventures taking him to Mont Blanc, the roof of Western Europe; the Norwegian Alps; the highest peaks on Australia; and New Zealand’s Great Walks – among others. He’s an experienced tester of hiking footwear and gives each pair a thorough thrashing before reviewing.

Columbia Men’s Outdoor Tracks Hooded Technical Fleece Jacket: first impressions

The first thing to say about the Columbia Men’s Outdoor Tracks Hooded Technical Fleece Jacket is that the fluffy polyester fabric finish is fantastically comfortable to wear next to the skin – as well as being an outdoor-active garment, it’s definitely a fleece jacket I enjoy wearing while lounging around the house and for casual social occasions. 


• List price: $85 (US) / £110 (UK)
• Fabric: 100% Polyester with Omni-Heat Helix
• Gender availability: Hooded version is available in men’s only
• Sizes: XS-XXL; regular fit
• Center back length: 71cm / 28in
• Weight (large): 498g / 1lb 1.6oz
• Colors: Shasta & Collegiate Navy / Black / Night Wave & Metal

And, on the face of it, the Columbia Outdoor Tracks Hooded top is just a straightforward, albeit fairly stylish, fleece with a lid. (Note: the hooded version of this versatile jacket is only available for men, but there is a very similar version for women, sans lid.) Look underneath that hood, however, and you will discover a design element that lets you know there is a lot more going on here. 

On the inside of the main body of the fleece, and along the interior of the sleeves, are a series of cellular, closed-cell dots that are almost imperceptibly raised from the surface of the garment. These are the hexagonal-shaped hallmarks of Columbia’s Omni-Heat Helix system, and they’re designed to work by creating an air gap, which enhances airflow and moisture control, and also traps some body-warmed heat inside the garment. 

In theory at least, this means that, while you’re wearing this fleece, you won’t get too hot and sweaty when you’re hiking and scrambling up the steep sides of hills and mountains, and will subsequently avoid becoming too cold when you stop at the top and during the descent. 

This all sounds impressive, but does it actually work, and how does Columbia’s Outdoor Tracks hoody compare to the best fleeces on the market? To find out, I’ve been testing this top in Les Contamines-Montjoie, hiking in the Haute-Savoie around the Mont Blanc massif in the French Alps, and subsequently on trails closer to sea level in the southwest of Britain. 

Columbia Men’s Outdoor Tracks Hooded Technical Fleece Jacket: on the trails

Columbia Men's Outdoor Tracks Hooded Technical Fleece Jacket

Columbia Men's Outdoor Tracks Hooded Technical Fleece Jacket is ready to rock (Image credit: Manon Guenot)

I first donned the Outdoor Tracks Hooded top during a three-day hut hiking adventure on trails that wend around the ankles of Mont Blanc, scrambling through the passes and around the peaks of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes in France. 

After starting fairly low down, at the gorgeous alpine village of Notre-Dame de la Gorge, we traced the route of an old Roman road, ascending to spectacular Le Refuge des Prés, a hut that hugs the hillside at 1,935m above sea level. Over the following days we ventured higher too, trekking trails and exploring the Réserve naturelle nationale des Contamines-Montjoie, France’s longest and highest nature reserve, which extends cloudwards to 3,892m spike of l’Aiguille Nord Tré la Tête.

It was fall in the Alps, and the days were clear and fresh: chilly in the early mornings, very warm in the middle of the day and then close to freezing in the evenings. These were ideal conditions for testing a versatile fleece such as the Outdoor Tracks hoody.

Columbia Men’s Outdoor Tracks Hooded Technical Fleece Jacket

Fall in the Alps, with chilly morning warm days and bitterly cold evenings, was perfect for testing the Columbia Men’s Outdoor Tracks Hooded Technical Fleece Jacket (Image credit: Manon Guenot)

Each morning I was thankful for its thermal properties as we set off along paths before the sun had hit them. Thanks to the top’s excellent breathability, I didn’t get overly sweaty during the climbing sections, especially as the full-length zip meant I could dump heat quickly when I wanted to. And once we reached the snow line and stopped putting in the hard yards I was once again grateful for the warmth it offered.

Back in Britain I’ve been wearing the Outdoor Tracks hoody during late-fall and winter day walks, short cycling trips and while doing everyday activities such as walking the dog. I’ve found it comfortable, functional and usefully versatile for all of these purposes.

It is difficult to scientifically assess the claims that underpin the Omni-Heat tech used in the Outdoor Tracks hoody. Is it really warmer than other fleeces of a similar material thickness and weight thanks to the rash of closed-cell dots on the inside of the garment? Objectively speaking, having tested it alongside tops such as the Artilect Halfmoon Bio Pullover (which is actually a bit lighter, but doesn’t feature a hood) I’m not sure it is, at least not when worn as an outer layer.

Columbia Men's Outdoor Tracks Hooded Technical Fleece Jacket

There’s no zip garage at the top of the zip, so be careful when you get near that beard (Image credit: Manon Guenot)

I’ve been wearing a large version of the Columbia hoody, as per my usual sizing, and while the fit is trim, it’s not particularly body hugging. It’s very comfortable, but I think if I were trying to maximize the thermal properties of this top, the Omni-Heat tech might be more effective if I sized down and went for a closer-fitting medium.

Having said all of that, the Outdoor Tracks hoody comes into its own when worn as a mid layer, over a quality base layer and beneath a good wind and waterproof outer shell jacket, when it really does supply some serious warmth.

Beyond the material tech, the Outdoor Tracks hoody features three pockets: a pair of open hand pouches and a small zipped vertical pocket on the left chest, which is only really big enough for a credit card and/or some cash. Inside the fleece there are a couple of large pouches that could be used to hold a map.

Columbia Men's Outdoor Tracks Hooded Technical Fleece Jacket

We’re not convinced that the Outdoor Tracks Hoody’s Omni-Heat Helix actually makes the jacket much warmer than comparable fleeces when worn as an outer layer (Image credit: Manon Guenot)

There’s a full-length zip, but no chin-protecting garage, so watch out for trapping beard hair or skin. The hood can be pulled tight with a couple of toggles, and it fits underneath a helmet to keep your ears warm when you’re cycling or climbing.

The hem and the cuffs are elasticated to keep drafts out, but there are no thumbhooks, which is a shame on a fleece that’s so perfectly weighted for use as a mid layer. Neither, it seems, it there any recycled material in the mix, which is disappointing (especially in the fleece category, where fabric recycling basically began in the outdoor world).

Columbia Men's Outdoor Tracks Hooded Technical Fleece Jacket

There’s no recycled material used in the Outdoor Tracks Hoody, which is a shame (Image credit: Julia Clarke)
Pat Kinsella

Author of Caving, Canyoning, Coasteering…, a recently released book about all kinds of outdoor adventures around Britain, Pat has spent 20 years pursuing stories involving boots, bikes, boats, beers and bruises. En route he’s canoed Canada’s Yukon River, climbed Mont Blanc and Kilimanjaro, skied and mountain biked through the Norwegian Alps, run an ultra across the roof of Mauritius, and set short-lived records for trail-running Australia’s highest peaks and New Zealand’s Great Walks. He’s authored walking guides to Devon and Dorset, and once wrote a whole book about Toilets for Lonely Planet. Follow Pat’s escapades on Strava here and Instagram here.