Sunday, December 14, 2014

Turbo Launching my Winter with Columbia Sportswear

We've all heard the saying, "If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy."  Bad grammar aside, it's a pretty fitting statement and can be extended to this one as well:  "If Mama ain't warm, ain't nobody staying outside for long" - even if the kids are feeling toasty and would happily play outside for hours in the snow.

I wasn't moving fast, but I was toasty warm in my turbodown jacket

Parents make the best gear testers

Sports wear companies always show hardcore athletes modeling their gear and clothing, and rave about the kinds of adventures you'll be able to do while wearing their product.  Personally, I think they should show photos of parents wearing the company's clothing, gloves and boots while standing in a playground for an hour, inactive and freezing our butts off!  

I make a great winter gear and clothing tester because I'm outside every weekend all winter in the Rockies moving at the pace of a five year old.   If I can spend two hours snowshoeing at a snail's pace and have warm feet the whole time, it means my boots have passed the ultimate test in warmth.  2 hours at preschool pace = 4 hours at an adult pace doing a bigger and more challenging adventure (often in way colder temps.)

Snowshoeing at a child's pace requires warm gear!

Omni-heat technology from head to foot

Omni-heat reflective technology works!

Over the past few years I've been trying different pairs of boots, gloves and coats along with layers of clothing and long underwear.  What I've discovered?  I LOVE Columbia and I'm a complete and total believer in their omni-heat reflective technology.  If you are unfamiliar with this technology, the Columbia website describes it best below:
"This breathable warming technology helps regulate your temperature with little silver dots that reflect and retain the warmth your body generates."
On one recent trip I realized that most of my body from my ankles to my neck was covered or wrapped in little silver dots.  My long underwear (bottoms and top,) my turbodown jacket, and my gloves were all lined with omni-heat dots. - And yes, I was super toasty!  (if not slightly too warm at times - something I'll never complain about.)

What I'm trying out this winter

This is my second winter of trying stuff with Columbia, and this year I am one lucky girl because I received a new Women's Diamond 890 Turbodown Hooded Down Jacket to try out and review.  I have warn it on 80% of my outings (if not more) since receiving it and can say with 100% confidence that it is one of the warmest jackets I've ever been fortunate enough to own.  The only other jacket that compares is the Women's Whirlibird Interchange Jacket, also from Columbia, that I received last year.  The only big difference between them is that the Whirlibird is more waterproof and I would choose to wear it on snowy or rainy days.  Otherwise, one could not go wrong with either jacket in terms of warmth.

Snowshoeing in the Whirlibird Interchange Jacket on a very cold day!
The new Columbia Turbodown Hooded Down Jacket

What I love about the Turbodown Hooded Down Jacket

Below is a quick summary of what I love about this jacket (and why you should add it to your Christmas list:)
  • It's toasty warm and I have yet to feel cold in it
  • I've been hot in the jacket but never felt like I was sweating or uncomfortable.  I think the omni-heat technology helps with this.  Just make sure you wear a good base layer under it to help with temperature regulation.
  • It's stylish, fitted (read - slimming,) and I love the color.  Bright colors in the backcountry are imperative when I choose a new coat. 
  • It's so so so comfortable!  I've started wearing it around the city everywhere I go because I feel like I'm wrapped in a cozy blanket.
  • It's not bulky.  The hood lies flat rather than puffing out behind me and the jacket doesn't look like a balloon on me. (I do not want to look like the Michelin man in my down coat!)
View of the back side (while riding my son's ski bike)

Suggestions for future models of the TurboDown Jacket:

If Columbia is taking Suggestions for future models of this jacket, I would add an inner pocket because my cell phone keeps freezing.  First world problem maybe but I use it to take photos and can't have it frozen after 10 minutes.

Also, I don't know if this is common or not with a down jacket, but I would love to see underarm zippers (pit zips) on this jacket.  It would help with temperature regulation.

Other than that, the jacket is perfect!

The perfect indoor jacket for cold cabins and hostels
 Shopping Tips:

The jacket fits on the small size and while I'm fairly petite up top, my small jacket is snug.  There is no way I could wear another layer underneath other than a heavy base layer shirt.  I'm ok with this because it's more slimming, but it's something to consider when buying a jacket for yourself or your girlfriend/wife.  Maybe go up a size if you want to layer.

This is definitely the only Christmas gift you need to give your girlfriend or wife

Other gear I'm testing

In addition to the down jacket, I received a pair of gloves and a pair of mittens.  I haven't had a chance to really try out the Inferno Range Gloves yet because I was waiting for a nice warm day to wear them for their first outing.  I've had bad experiences in the past with gloves and have since become religious about wearing waterproof mittens instead. Almost losing a few fingers on a cold day quickly converts you to being a lover of mittens.  The weather is super warm now though so I need to get outside with the gloves and give them a fair chance.

In the meantime, Columbia generously sent me a pair of the omni-heat Whirlibird Mittens and they are the main reason I haven't tried the gloves yet.  I've fallen head over heels for these mittens.  They are the warmest mitten I've ever tried out and I think it would be impossible to have cold hands in these amazing mitts! I dare you to try getting cold hands in them. 

The warmest mittens you'll ever find!


What I love about the Whirlibird Mittens

The better question might be, "what don't I love about them." - and the answer would be "nothing!"
They are absolutely perfect.  I feared at first that they would be too stiff to use while skiing, hiking with poles, operating a camera, or helping a child with a zipper or button.  That has since proven for the most part not to be a concern.  They were pretty stiff at first but they softened up.  I've warn them a few times now and they are already a lot softer than when I first tried them on. 

As far as being able to take a photo while wearing them, you can't.  They aren't gloves.  You'll have to take them off to take photos or help your children with zippers and buttons.  However, you can take your hands out of them and keep your hands out for up to ten minutes on a cold day, and your hands will warm up again within a minute of putting the mittens back on.  They are that warm!

Whirlibird Mittens getting wet - and they are 100% waterproof

Best Features of the Whirlibird Mittens
  • Warmth (as mentioned above)
  • They fit over my down jacket because they are slim at the top
  • They cinch at the top with pull straps to keep snow out
  • They have buckles at the wrist that you can tighten to further keep snow out and help with warmth
  • They are still easy to get on and off when the straps at the wrist and arm are both tight
  • 100% waterproof

Columbia Clothing and Winter Gear for the Winter Win


And my feet??

You can't do this in the Minx boots

As many or most of my followers will know, I am pretty devoted to my Keen footwear so it would have to be a pretty exceptional pair of boots to get me to switch teams so to speak.  However, my love for Keen aside, I was extremely curious about the Columbia omni-heat Minx boots because unless you've been living under a rock, you've probably seen advertisements for them absolutely everywhere!! I know that I was seeing ads for them almost daily for a while on Facebook alone.  Fortunately for my curiosity, I was sent a pair of the boots to try out. 

The verdict:  They are fabulous slippers.  Unfortunately, I can't recommend them for much else.  My feet feel moist in them much of the time, I've had extremely cold feet in them (on days in the plus temperatures when I should not have had cold feet,) and I almost fell down in the middle of the street taking my son to school the other day because they have very little grip on the bottoms. 

The Minx boot is fashionable and works great as a casual boot to wear in the city for grocery shopping or running errands.  They are the most comfortable pair of boots I've every tried, and I even wore them to a party over leggings with a matching sweater.  However, I'm afraid that I'm going to have to stick with my Keen winter boots for mountain activities, snowshoeing, and winter hiking. 

Ending on Base Layers

Finally, for base layers, I always wear the Women's omni-heat heavyweight half zip top along with the Women's omni-heat tights from Columbia.  I should have actually put both on my Christmas list because I only like to do laundry once a week and definitely need a second pair of both!  I've tried a lot of base layers and there's no going back to other brands or styles now that I've found this combination that works for me in every situation from cool-weather backpacking to downhill skiing. 

It should be noted that the heavyweight shirt is warm enough that I don't have to wear a mid layer.  I wear the base layer shirt with my jacket over top and that's it! I always have cold legs so I do have to wear more layers on the bottom but it would be worth it for me to try out the heavyweight bottoms as well because I'm sure mine are light to mid weight.

My favourite base layer shirt - and it has finger loops which I love!
Winter is too awesome to stay inside the whole time

Questions?  Let me know.  Many thanks to Columbia for outfitting me for another winter.  I can assure you my husband is jealous and thinks it is unjust that I get pretty new clothing every winter while he wears the same old jackets year after year.  :)  

Disclaimer:  While Columbia generously sent me gear to review and try this winter, I was not paid to write this story and all words are my own.

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