Preview: OutDry Extreme
Columbia Staff

Columbia Staff


A totally new approach to rainwear.

Rain happens. And depending on where you live, it can happen quite often. As an outdoor company born in the often stormy and grey Pacific Northwest in 1938, we’ve had ample opportunity to get to know the rain on a very personal basis. Whether it’s a multi-day hike or a trip around the park with your favorite four-legged friend, we know better than most that nothing can ruin an outdoor adventure more than a poorly performing rain jacket.

That’s why today, we’re excited to preview a new rainwear technology that will be available next Spring. We call it OutDry Extreme.

Rain Jacket History
For a piece of gear that nearly every person has in his or her closet, the pace of innovation in the rain jacket category has been glacially slow. Bear with us here as we take a brief walk along the rain jacket history trail:

• Before the 1800’s people made do with waxed cotton or animal hides that protected them from the rain. While sadly we couldn’t track down anyone from the 1800’s to confirm as much, it’s safe to assume that being out in the rain was pretty miserable…and probably smelly.

The first major technological leap came in 1824 (according to our friends at Wikipedia) with the invention of the rubber rain jacket. Compared with the pre-existing options, this was a moonshot advancement. Rubber rain jackets were (and are) undeniably waterproof. The obvious downside is that they’re heavy, stiff and not at all breathable. When you sweat, that moisture doesn’t escape the jacket, which can make for a no-fun-at-all experience, especially if you’re at all active and prefer not to be in a portable sauna.

After that…crickets. It took over 100 years for the next major leap forward in waterproofing. This came with the invention of ePTFE (expanded polytetrafluoroethylene. Say that five times fast!) in 1969, better known by the brand name Gore-Tex. ePTFE is a microporous membrane that allows water vapor to pass through membrane, while remaining waterproof. This is where “waterproof-breathable” rain jackets were born and was an important advancement in rain wear technology.

Columbia was the first brand to use Gore-Tex in a parka way back in 1975. In the decades since this introduction, many new membrane technologies have been introduced by various brands, but fundamentally the conventional waterproof breathable construction approach hasn’t changed.

Conventional Waterproof Breathable Construction
The traditional approach to waterproof breathable shells is to take a thin waterproof membrane, cover it with a durable fabric treated with DWR (Durable Water Repellent), and line it with another fabric/print that is next to skin. Layers of fabric “sandwich” the waterproof membrane for durability and for comfort. This is the method that Gore developed 45 years ago and this multilayered construction remains the de facto standard to this very day. Yet this construction has some flaws.

The dirty secret in typical waterproof products is that light abrasions, dirt, and even body oils degrade the DWR, especially when the jacket is wet…which sort of defeats the purpose of having a rain jacket that you can actually wear outside. The DWR coating must be maintained and retreated to avoid wetting out (see: soaking through). The other issue is that, once wetted out, this multilayered approach to rainwear restricts breathability and quickly becomes clammy. We’re sure you’ve been there before. Your jacket is soaked and it feels clammy and uncomfortable next to your skin.

And really, why does it matter if your jacket is keeping you dry from rain if you end up soaked from your own sweat?

Introducing OutDry Extreme

With OutDry Extreme, we’ve turned waterproof breathable jacket technology inside out. This patent-pending technology is a totally new approach to rainwear. OutDry Extreme is the first waterproof ultra-breathable jacket with a waterproof membrane on the outside of the jacket for permanent water repellency and durability. By putting an abrasion-resistant membrane on the outside where it’s in contact with the rain, there is virtually no risk of the jacket “wetting out” like others do when their DWR wears off. This is a durable, permanent waterproof layer that actively repels moisture and rain. Think of it like a forcefield to rain.

“People will be shocked at the way it looks and the way it works.”

But does it breathe? OutDry Extreme is ultra-breathable thanks to microscopic perforations in the membrane that allows moisture to escape while keeping rain at bay. The interior lining is a wicking textile that enables even more breathability and next-to-skin comfort, as opposed to a plastic-feel next to skin. This patent-pending technology is an enormous jump forward in keeping dry and comfortable no matter what Mother Nature throws at you.

The OutDry Extreme technology even “looks” waterproof. In fact, the jacket’s look reminded several of our early testers of those rubber rain jackets we referenced in the history primer. But once they had a chance to test it in brutal weather, they understood the critical difference in breathability that OutDry Extreme offers over traditional jackets.

Testing & Development
OutDry Extreme technology was in development and testing for over a year and a half. We regularly work with guides, professional outdoors people, and ordinary outdoor enthusiasts from around the world (on every continent including Antarctica) to test our gear before it’s ready to be released. These “beta testers” – who are unpaid for their unfiltered feedback – spend most their lives in the outdoors and don’t hesitate to give us their unfiltered feedback. They have zero tolerance for stuff that doesn’t work.

In total, OutDry Extreme has been tested by 147 people around the globe; from our own rainy corner in the pacific northwest to Ireland, and from New Zealand to Germany. It’s been through the paces in nearly every soggy, wet, humid and chilly environment we could find.

Availability
That was the good news. Here’s the bad news: OutDry Extreme won’t be on store shelves until early in Spring 2016. You’ll need to suffer through one more rainy season before you can experience it for yourselves. But when it arrives, you’ll have your choice of 19 styles of jackets and pants in several colors, priced from $150 to $400.


It rains an average of 154 days per year in Portland, Oregon, so we take our rainwear very seriously. We can’t wait for you to see and feel OutDry Extreme in person. And when you do, you can give a big “one-finger salute” to rain.

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