Sure Winner: Columbia's OutDry Extreme ECO Shell

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Columbia's new OutDry Extreme ECO Shell takes a huge leap toward sustainable outerwear.

Columbia's OutDry ECO Shell has no dye - or PFCs.

Columbia's OutDry ECO Shell has no dye - or PFCs. Photo: Columbia

For years, technical apparel makers have been searching for a way to produce a rain jacket that’s PFCfree but will still keep you dry in extreme weather. (PFCs are perfluorinated compounds or fluorocarbons--manmade chemicals commonly found in waterproof/breathable jackets. PFCs do not easily break down in the environment and have been found in humans and animals across the globe.) Progress has been made to create more enviro-friendly Durable Water Repellents (DWRs), but performance and durability is always the tradeoff. Columbia made a big leap forward last season with it's OutDry Extreme collection, but the latest version, the OutDry Extreme ECO Shell, takes green performance to the next level.

Columbia’s banking on the fact that you like white, because, for starters, this jacket uses no dyes whatsoever. This alone saves over 13 gallons of water per jacket. Plus, 21 recycled plastic bottles get spared from the landfill with each one.

And, just as they did with the OutDry Extreme collection, Columbia puts the waterproof/breathable membrane on the outside and the textile on the inside, eliminating the need to treat the fabric with chemicals, because the exposed membrane is naturally waterproof.

Maren Horjus, assistant gear editor at our sister magazine, Backpacker, wore the new jacket during some challenging conditions in the Italian Alps last month and came away impressed. "We trekked through near-constant mist on Aiguille du Midi and periodic downpours in Courmayeur and the ECO shell kept me just as dry, aka totally, as the regular OutDry," she reports. "And even though it is made with zero PFCs, even down to the inner membrane, it doesn't sacrifice on features you want in wet weather, like sleeve cinches, hood cinches, and mesh-lined pockets (that double as vents)."

By virtually eliminating harmful chemicals without sacrificing technical functionality, by saving a significant amount of water and essentially keeping a big garbage bag full of plastic from the dump, this jacket really does represent a major breakthrough in sustainable performance outdoor apparel.

Learn more about the tech here.

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