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Columbia Powder Lite hiking gilet review: a highly impressive warmth-for-price ratio

Fabulous warmth and a great price make the Columbia Powder Lite a sure thing for your shortlist

Columbia Powder Lite Vest
(Image: © Columbia)

Our Verdict

A big hug of a body warmer, which doesn’t pack down as small as other gilets, but does deliver on warmth.

For

  • Super warm
  • Water-resistant outer
  • Good pockets
  • Excellent value

Against

  • Bulkier than some others
  • No stuff sack

Columbia Powder Lite: first impressions

The Columbia Powder Lite’s combination of generous synthetic insulation and Columbia brilliant Omni-Heat thermal-reflective lining (we’ve previously admired this technology in Columbia’s down jackets) help to make it a super-warm vest / gilet, with a zipped hem trapping as much heat as you want. 

The thick baffles make the Powder Lite look as if it’s down-filled, although it’s actually a practical, fast-drying synthetic filling that keeps you warm. As such, don’t expect it to stuff into a pouch or pocket as small as some of its rivals, but it scores in other areas – not least of which, its price – which is why it features in our best gilets buying guide.

The polyester outer is water resistant and there are two decent-sized zipped pockets either for your valuables, or more likely, your hands. It’s also likely that your wallet will appreciate the Powder Lite, too; shop smartly and there are savings to be had in the already competitive price of the Powder Lite.

Specifications

• RRP: $110 (US) / £75 (UK)
• Insulation: Synthetic fill + Omni-Heat thermal-reflective lining
• Gender availability: Men’s / Women’s
• Sizes: XS / S / M / L / XL / XXL
• Colors: Harvester / Collegiate Navy / Stone Green & Collegiate Navy / Red Jasper / Shark

Columbia Powder Lite: on the trails

Out on the hills, the Columbia Powder Lite is every bit as warm as it looks, it’s heat-trapping qualities as impressive as its generous size. 

The large-sized option absolutely swamped my six-foot frame in the chest and the length, so if you find yourself on the borderline of two sizes, choose the smaller of the options. Its bulk also means it’s more of a squeeze under an athletic-fit waterproof shell than slimmer alternatives.

Columbia’s official description mentions an internal security pocket, but I couldn’t find this on the test sample. There are, however, two generous internal open pouches, both of which have proved handy for swallowing an Ordnance Survey map. 

There is not, however, a pocket large enough to stuff the Powder Lite into, so you’ll either need to wear it all day or buy a separate stuff sack. 

After spending a decade as editor of Country Walking, the UK’s biggest-selling walking magazine, Jonathan moved to edit Outdoor Fitness magazine, adding adrenaline to his adventures and expeditions. He has hiked stages or completed all of the UK's national trails, but was once overtaken by three Smurfs, a cross-dressing Little Bo Peep, and a pair of Teletubbies on an ascent of Snowdon. (Turns out they were soldiers on a fundraising mission.)