Today is a gear review on one of my most-used pieces of clothing while hiking: The Columbia Arcadia II Women’s Shell Jacket. This is my favourite hiking jacket, and I consider it very flexible. Sorry guys, this particular jacket is for the ladies- but I have put a link below to the men’s jacket! This jacket is the same price as the women’s, also a light shell. It has the Omni-Tech™ system by Columbia. I’ve never tried the mens jacket out myself, but it is an has all of the same features! Enjoy reading!
Columbia Arcadia Shell: Best Versatile Hiking Jacket
This is my favourite jacket to wear while hiking (or just on the go). I have had it in 2 colours, pink and black (I lost the black one). I am also considering a “stormy blue” as well for some variety in colour (I like colourful things!) and to cover me for the fact that I wear this jacket almost every day.
As a hiking jacket, it is waterproof and extremely durable. I am known to be a bit hard on my clothes (although I’m getting better) and this jacket has been with me for over a year without any wear and tear. I also find it to be flexible on season- I have hiked in the rain, snow and heat with this jacket, and I now consider it to be an essential when I am outdoors and active. Your best bet for a lightweight outer layer is something that repels precipitation- but allows for sweat and moisture ventilation.
Features of the Jacket
The Arcadia Shell Jacket features a waterproof system known as Omni-Tech™. Any piece of clothing with this system is guaranteed by Columbia to be waterproof and breathable- two hugely important features for your outer layer to have! ( I go over why in the next section!) The hood and hem have cords so you can tighten and adjust these areas to fit. The pockets are zippered for keeping everything secure while on the trail (useful for me in particular, I can assure you). The jacket can also be easily folded small for easy storage when not in use. The jacket costs $99 from either Columbia or Sportchek- a great price for how flexible it is!
Why You Need an Outer Shell
When hiking in any weather, a layering system is important so that you don’t overheat during the day. Your outer layer should be waterproof or at least water resistant- water is one of the most invasive challenges one should encounter outdoors. I use my jacket as an outer layer in both cold and warmer weather, but there are others who prefer a heavy technical outer layer. My own preference having many light layers- I can strip them off in movement as my body starts to heat, and put them on again when I am stagnant.
I find that this lightweight shell offers more protection for a typical day hike, short backpacking trip or scramble. In these instances, you will be moving and will want to avoid overheating- a heavy outer layer would make this difficult. Overheating causes sweating, which could dehydrate you. In addition, sweating infuses your body with moisture- you want to avoid becoming wet in any way, especially in the cold. Many rain jackets aren’t extremely breathable, and most will find that they sweat in their rain jacket. This is why many carry one with them and just put the jacket on when rain comes. The Columbia is more all-day due to to its breathable qualities, and is useful in rain or shine.
This nylon jacket is easily breathable. There is no additional ventilation (such as armpit vents), and I could see how this would be a benefit. As I warm up, I prefer to keep it on top because it protects me from the wind, so I remove a layer underneath. Alternatively, if there is no wind or rain, this jacket is easily fold-able, and fits in small places. If you choose to do this, make sure it is in an easily accessible location should the situation call for it! Ultimately, your comfort is most important while layering- some people cool or heat faster than others. You will have to do some experimenting with different layer systems, and see which one works for you.
Cons of the Arcadia
This jacket isn’t great with cold when worn alone. It definitely protects against windchill, which offers warmth. However, due to its lightweight properties, it offers very little insulating value. This is why layering with warmer synthetic layers underneath is so important in the wintertime.
In addition, the hoods ability to adjust is limited. I have never had problems with the hood myself, but I would imagine some would have issues keeping the hood up, which would defeat the purpose in the rain. When completely cinched, the hood is still somewhat loose around the head.
Other reviews of the jacket have stated that the fit of the jacket is small. This is true, as I wear a size XL in this jacket. However I love the fit- in cold weather I can wear a long sleeved shirt and sweater underneath if I need to. It
still gives me room to breathe. If you plan on layering like this, I would recommend ordering the next size up.
Where To Get It
As you can likely tell, I would definitely recommend this as a hiking jacket. The one I have has been with me for over a year now. I would not hesitate to purchase another one. It is versatile- I wear it to work on rainy and sunny days alike, and I wear it always on the trails. It is flexible enough for use as a lightweight shell, or a layer underneath a heavy technical shell in very cold weather. Ultimately it is up to you, and your “trail personality”. Make sure you always test your layers before embarking on a long term backpacking trip.
What is your favourite outer layer when out and about? Comment below!