My first foray into ‘Trying Stuff’ – testing out Columbia Sportswear’s newest outdoor gear

When I received my first package from Columbia Sportswear as part of their inaugural OmniTen team, I was immediately overwhelmed by a box full of gear that beckoned me to get outside and put it to good use. All this mountainous gear delivered to my doorstep while I’m stuck in flat Florida? Absolute torture.

Unable to contain my excitement, I immediately jumped into my Powerdrain shoes, a sneaker-style water shoe that promises to keep explorers trudging onward through even the wettest terrain. Unfortunately, the forecast was sunny and clear the day I received my package, so I decided to test out my shoes with a bike ride to Tally Rock Gym.

Having not owned a proper pair of sneakers in years, I was immediately pleased with my Powerdrains. They are extremely comfortable, feel very light, and yet offer great protection and stability. The grip on their sole is impeccable; I initially struggled to get my feet fully into the bike pedal clips because the soles kept catching the little metal arms. Plus, I totally love the easy cinch lace system; makes it super convenient to tighten or loosen.

The true test came when I took my gear out during my climbing excursion to Little River Canyon in Alabama. As soon as we approached a sputtering cliff that leaked water all over the trail during our hike to the climbs, I was in heaven.

The shoes served ideally as boulder field romping sneakers. I’ve grown accustomed to slipping and sliding all over slick rocks and steep dirt inclines in my faulty footwear, but this time I bounded from boulder to boulder without a moment’s hesitation. Perhaps these Powerdrains improve balance too?

I found a small creek in which to splash around and get my gear wet, and learned that Columbia’s hype about the extreme draining power of these shoes is no joke. Even after fully submerging my feet in water, they were instantly drained as soon as they touched dry land. Impressive.

My only qualm? I totally thought they were going to also have some sort of Omni-Dry technology – but they don’t. So as blissful as I was to get my shoes soaking wet and see the water rush out, I then had to let my shoes sit in the sun for an hour to let the materials dry. But you know me, getting my toes dirty while I hung out barefoot for a bit was no biggie.

On the other hand, my Compounder shell jacket passed the waterworks test with flying colors. I stood directly under the small waterfall with my hood up and my zipper zipped – and stayed completely dry. Except for my leggings, which were definitely not waterproof. (Hey Columbia, help a climber lady out and make us some warm, water-proof leggings!)

My lower half was drenched, but my upper half was perfectly dry thanks to the shell. It’s light, easy to shove in a pack when it’s not being worn, and it’s rather comfortable. When the shaded cliff line grew a bit cold with a brisk breeze, the shell provided protection from the chill, but I wouldn’t say it did much to warm me up (but that’s to be expected, it’s a shell for a reason).

* There may or may not be a video of me standing under the waterfall – and I may or may not upload it to YouTube, depending on how many people ask me nicely to make a fool out of myself.

Overall, I have been quite pleased with my Columbia Sportswear gear this far. Aside from a snowboarding jacket that I snagged at a thrift shop for $12, I have never been particularly aware of the brand, nor have I had the budget to allot for the investment of a $300 dry shell – but I am now a woman converted. While I have no doubt that my shoes will quickly be worn until their death, I truly believe that my Compounder shell is an item that will remain in my wardrobe for decades. I guess it costs $300 because it gives you $300 worth of use, wear, tear, and general grooviness.

I most recently received this package from Columbia Sportswear, featuring their Peakfreak trail shoes, which I do believe offer the Omni-Dry technology I was looking for in my Powerdrains. These modified hiking boots were named “Best Trail Shoe” by Outside Magazine, so I’m really looking forward to taking them out for a spin when I head to climb at Red River Gorge in a few weeks.

Stay tuned for the next gear review upon my return!

Katie Boué lives and breathes the outdoor lifestyle. She is an ardent advocate for fresh air, muddy boots, and clean eating. After spending a 365 days living in a van during a yearlong climbing road trip, she continues to document and share the everyday adventures of life.

Comments

  1. I know there are some out there with elitist opinions on gear and brands. But Columbia has served me well in several products of theirs I own. Two jackets plus a REALLY good cold weather pullover for runners. It could by 15 degrees outside and that thing would keep me toasty. Good bang for the buck with Columbia as well.

    • I agree! There’s a lot of brand name favoritism for sure, but I’ve honestly found that most of the ‘top’ brands I trust put out top products. I’ve never been disappointed with a Columbia, Patagonia, or La Sportiva purchase.

      • Yep, that’s all good stuff. I was a North Face snob for a long time, but guess what? They’ve got good products too. And I’ve had nothing but good performance from the Kelty gear I own. Sad, however, to see the demise of Lowe Alpine. Quite simply the best pack I own.

        • I’ve only got one secondhand North Face jacket, but it’s one of the warmest I own – and my Kelty tent is wonderful. Not familiar with Lowe Alpine, but I just snagged an old Dana Design pack, and it’s SWEET – too bad they don’t make them anymore.

          • No doubt! Lowe Alpine made really simple but totally bomber backpacking and mountaineering packs. I’ve taken mine on all my multi-day trips, and it serves as a de facto suitcase. I can get a lot of stuff in there. I also own a Kelty tent — Teton 2. Had it for years, and it’s every bit as good as 3-season tents twice the price.

  2. Nice work, Katie. If I can manage to get more paddling time in I might have to get a pair of the PowerDrains. Can’t wait to hear about the PeakFreak shoes! I do like Columbia’s gear…my biggest problem with them is finding the gear in stores to try on! The stores out here just don’t carry much from Columbia for some reason.

    • You know, I guess that’s really the culprit behind my lack of exposure to Columbia products – Floridian stores just don’t really carry it as much (except for those fishing shirts, I’ve seen about a million of those down here). Thanks for the kind words Dave!

      • Yeah. I think the ski and snowboarding stores carry more of their winter gear, but I just don’t usually shop in those specialty stores much. I see a lot more North Face, Arcteryx and Patagonia stuff around (which is probably why I have a lot of North Face gear). It seems like Columbia is getting more aggressive in the outdoor market now….so maybe we’ll see more of their year-round gear in stores!

      • Trey Bass says:

        I just wanted to add that Simms Fishing sells the RipRap shoe and the StreamTread sandal. Both have excellent water and rock grip qualities. I use the RipRap in many streams fly fishing. On your way up i75 stop off just west of Ocala, FL and check out Flint Creek Outfitters. They have got most of Columbia, Patagonia, Orvis, NF, Mount Khaki, and Mountain Hardwear line. While your at it, stop off in Gainesville at Devil’s Millhopper Geological State Park. Promise it will be worth your time. Hope this helps as I personally don’t like wasting time with shoes that aren’t made for or being around/in the water.

  3. I haven’t used Columbia gear a lot. However, I MUST have waterproof shoes. Can’t stand not having that. I will have to check out some Columbia gear when it’s time for me to update my stuff. Just bought a new fleece pullover for the Fall and can’t wait to wear it (not that I want summer to go by quickly)!

  4. Excellent! I’ve always been very happy with my Columbia gear. The Powerdrains look groovy! I’m going to have to put them on my gear-dar.

    • I am love, love, loving the PowerDrains – but the Peak Freaks may be a clear winner for outdoor excursions. The PowerDrains are awesome everyday shoes though!

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