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.