Foam pads line the inner of this lightweight fleece jacket in a hexagonal pattern to trap body heart and allow moisture to pass through, leaving you warm and dry when you’re climbing high in cold temperatures
Great warmth-to-weight ratio
Plenty of storage
Elasticated cuff and hem
No thumb holes
Helix lining not quite as soft as some fleeces
Napoleon pocket a bit small
No recycled materials used
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Columbia Women's Outdoor Tracks Technical Fleece Jacket: first impressions
When you spend a lot of time outdoors in all conditions, you’re always looking for that perfect, breathable mid layer that delivers serious warmth when the sun drops but isn’t too bulky. This fleece jacket comes pretty close to perfect in the warmth-to-weight and breathability department, and is great for layering under a shell jacket in cold weather and as an outer layer for cool spring and summer days.
Made using Columbia’s innovative OmniHeat Helix technology, insulation is delivered via small foam pods which dot the lining in a hexagonal pattern everywhere but under your arms. These pods harness the technology used in the construction industry’s closed-cell insulation to trap your body heat, but thanks to the pattern arrangement, you can also work up a good sweat and moisture vapor can escape, leaving you comfortable and dry.
• List price: $75 / £90
• Gender specification: Women’s
• Sizes: XS - XL
• Weight: 340g / 11.9 oz (women’s small)
• Materials: 100% Polyester with Omni Heat Helix
• Colors: Faded peach / Dusty pink, Nocturnal / Dark nocturnal
• Best use: Hiking, camping, winter sports
The Helix technology means this jacket manages to be ultra warm without bulk, so it’s easy to layer and has a streamlined, flattering fit. It’s a bit longer than some we’ve tested, meaning your hips and bum get a little added warmth, and the hem and cuffs are elasticated but not adjustable. There is plenty of storage, though it could perhaps be improved upon – the hand-warming pockets aren’t zipped, so they’re not great for valuables, while the Napoleon pocket is a bit small for a phone, but there are two deep inner mesh pockets and overall there’s tons of space for bits and pieces.
This particular model is women’s only, but if you're looking for men’s fit it comes in a hooded version. There aren’t any thumb holes, which can make it a little more tricky to pull a jacket on over the top, but the cuffs are elasticated which helps. It doesn’t contain any recycled content, so there are some refinements that can be made, but if you’re looking for a technical fleece that delivers toasty conditions without weight or bulk, you’ll want to check this out.
Columbia Women's Outdoor Tracks Technical Fleece Jacket: in the field
I got to go to the French Alps earlier this fall to get a sneak preview of the new Columbia lineup including this fleece jacket. We were adventuring at altitude, so even though the weather in general was unseasonably warm, the temperatures dropped the moment the sun got low so I had ample opportunity to test out the toastiness of this jacket.
Here’s how it performed:
Sizing and fit
This garment fits true to size. I am typically a small and that’s what I tested even though I do find Columbia gear often runs large. This fits me perfectly with enough room to wear it over a base layer. The sleeves are the right length (not too long) and it comes down just a tad lower than some of my other fleeces for a bit more warmth. The only thing I’d change regarding fit is that while the hem is elasticated, it’s not adjustable, and on my hips I could maybe use a drawcord to cinch it in strong winds, but it’s a minor detail and I think on most bodies won’t be an issue at all.
Warmth and breathability
When it comes to fabric technology, it’s always hard to scientifically validate claims, but just based on my experience, I was warm and not sweaty when I wore this on a night hike in the Alps. The slope was steep and the temperatures were low, which is ideal for testing out a layer that you want to provide warmth and breathability and of course you can unzip easily when needed. It’s somehow a perfect blend of pretty light but warm, and the lack of Helix pads under the arms help avoid overheating.
Weight and packability
This isn’t the absolute lightest fleece I’ve tested, but it’s one of the lighter ones and because the Helix pads cut down on the need for bulk, plus it has no hood, so it’s slightly more packable than nearly all of my other fleeces, meaning it would be feasible to roll up and put in a daypack.
Odor control and durability
I can’t imagine that you’ve been reading all of my fleece reviews with bated breath, but if you had, you’d know one of my main issues with fleece is the stink factor. Amazingly, I wore this over a few sweaty days in the Alps and somehow it didn’t need a wash afterwards. I can’t tell if it’s the fit or the venting armpits or a magic fabric but so far it’s not been as smelly as my other fleeces.
Construction-wise, it’s a good, sturdy piece of gear. I’m sure the outer fabric will show a bit of pilling with wash and wear over time, but I don’t see any major weaknesses that would point to this not holding up to the test of time. The Helix pads seem to be integrated into the fabric, not glued on, so I don’t think there’s any chance of them falling off.
Columbia Women's Outdoor Tracks Technical Fleece Jacket: the bottom line
In recent years, Columbia has gone after the next generation of hikers with fashion-forward gear, but with this fleece, they’ve managed a streamlined but classic look that houses innovative technology for straightforward but effective temperature control.
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.