Columbia Element Blocker Interchange Jacket
Indiahikes trekker Bratin Mallick, employee at TCS, Bangalore reviews the Element Blocker Interchange Jacket by Columbia. Bratin has the experience of four high altitude treks including the twenty thousander Stok Kangri. He tested the jacket on the snowy Brahmatal winter trek in Uttarakhand earlier this month.
Columbia Sportswear is a 76 year-old American brand that is primarily known for outdoor apparel. It opened its first South Asian flagship store in New Delhi in 2013. It is one of the largest outdoor brands in the world, present in 100 countries with over 13,000 retail stores.
The Element Blocker Interchange Jacket features Columbia’s 3-in-1 interchange system, with Omni-Heat™ technology . This gives the wearer an option to wear it in three different ways; the outer shell as a waterproof rain jacket; the linter alone as an insulated jacket; or both zipped together as a fully waterproof insulated hooded jacket.
I’ve always been impressed by Columbia’s range of efficient jackets for trekkers. Columbia’s Element Blocker Interchange Jacket took me in immediately with its versatility and well-thought-out design.
I loved the two layer system – the inner worked as a warmer and the outer shell made it water and wind-proof. Worn separately the jacket was an all rounder in every weather condition. I tested the jacket on a recent trek.The weather was bad throughout, with howling winds, snowfall and minus 9ºC – which gave me ample opportunity to find the merits of the jacket in harsh winter.
- The inner layer is a winner. It is soft, light, warm and easily compressible. Weight and space are two big worries for me while trekking. The inner layer passed the test on both counts easily.
- The fastening systems (velcro and drawcords) at the cuffs, zip front, sides and hood kept the jacket in place. They were particularly good when the winds were high. I didn’t feel the biting cold.
- I liked the easy to reach pockets on both sides and the detachable hood.
- For me the jacket’s insulation was a high point. The jacket held its own even at minus 9ºC. I added only a nylon track jacket under to give me extra warmth. Other than that I had no other layers. Other trekkers with me had four or five layers to protect them.
- The jacket with the two parts together weighed at about 1 kg, making it an ideal weight to carry around. Anything more, I would have cringed.
- I was not too happy with the polyester outer. They scratched easily on thorny bushes and beside a campfire I was afraid to get a flying ember landing on me.
- There were no underarm vents unlike other Columbia jackets. This bothered me quite a bit when I was under direct sunlight and sweating.
- The jacket was missing the Omni-Heat Reflective inner lining that I was used to in other Columbia jackets. This is breathable material that reflect body heat.
- The bright red of the jacket made me rather conspicuous in the crowd. After a while it was not fun anymore. But I guess there are other colour ranges, so I am not worrying too much.
- The jacket is expensive. At Rs 11,999 retail price I am going a bit hmm on it.
I loved the jacket. It saves me trouble of carrying multiple layers on treks. It is well designed, looks classy and really protective from wind, water and the cold. It fits neatly into my backpack. I just wish it was priced lower.