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Hands-on Gear Review
Columbia Watertight II Review
Cons: Bulky, warm, limited hood adjustment
Bottom line: An excellent price on a jacket that keeps the wearer dry is hard to argue with, but it didn't offer near as many outdoor activity oriented features as other models we review
There's a place on a many consumers' coat racks for a simple, affordable, entry-level rain jacket and the Columbia Watertight II is our favorite of the simple, 2-layer models we tested. It fits well, looks sharp, provides good mobility and — most importantly — will keep you dry. For those seeking protection for high energy or more demanding activities, our Editors' Choice winner, the Arc'teryx Beta SL offers much better range of motion. It also does a better job at keeping the wearer dry.
Our OutdoorGearLab Top Pick Outdoor Research Foray, also offered superior storm-worthiness, as well as excellent ventilation for aerobic outings or for folks who simply run on the warmer side. Meanwhile, the affordable 2.5 layer Marmot PreCip which won our Best Buy award, is an overall more versatile option, offering better ventilation, a more breathable shell fabric, and superior overall weather resistance for active outdoor fun.
The PreCip, which costs only 10 bucks more than the Watertight II, won our Best Buy award because it's far more versatile and high performing. It's a much better choice for active endeavors like hiking, backpacking, and cycling. The Watertight II, built for the budget conscious, is great around town, but not as well suited to high energy activity.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
We consider the Watertight II on of the better entry-level rain jackets on the market. Constructed with two-layer fabric technology and a mesh liner, it's comfortable and waterproof for around town and a good option for cool weather work and casual hiking or a day of resort skiing every now and then.
This jacket kept us dry during our side-by-side shower tests and kept the rain out while working in it. The hood is quite simple and doesn't offer any cinching feature on the back, meaning it feels floppy and loose, and doesn't offer particularly great peripheral vision; however, it works well enough as far as keeping the wearer's head dry. The Watertight II offers a fairly large brim over the brow, mostly keeping the rain off the wearer's face, but it is not stiffened.
This hood fits really well over a baseball cap, though not as well over a lower-profile bike helmet, should either of those items ever end up being part of your regular rainy day costume. If you plan to climb or bike with a helmet regularly, we'd steer you toward the Marmot PreCip or Patagonia Torrentshell which feature bigger hoods that work better with a helmet. The wrist cuffs have a simple Velcro tab for cinching them down, which is nice for gardening or working in the rain. Finally, this jacket beads water well, but the DWR will need maintenance over time. After a few hikes, areas that are vulnerable to wear — primarily the forearms and shoulders — were losing their DWR and beginning to wet out.
DWR can be restored or reapplied as it loses its effectiveness. See our Buying Advice article for information on care and maintenance of your rain jacket.
Breathability & Ventilation
This product uses Columbia's Omni-Tech waterproof breathable two-layer laminate. This is an entry-level fabric technology that doesn't breathe as well as many other 2.5-layer fabrics we tested. That said, during low energy and cool weather activities, many folks will find the mesh liner (which protects the two-layer fabric on the inside) to be very comfortable. Besides being slightly less breathable, this jacket doesn't feature pit-zips, meaning its not that great for more aerobic activities like hiking and backpacking.
For users on a budget who want a jacket for those activities, we recommend The North Face Venture 2 or the Marmot PreCip, both $100. For gentle hikes, walking the dog, or working out in the rain, the Watertight II's level of breathability and ventilation was fine.
Comfort & Mobility
We found this model to be very comfortable; it was also form-fitting enough for around the town use. The smooth nylon taffeta lining feels nice on the chin and brow when the hood is snugged up. The hood moves okay when looking around and the athletically cut jacket allows reasonable freedom of movement for the arms without exposing your waist; however, while reaching up, the wrist area of the sleeve did pull back.
All the zipper pull tabs on this rain jacket have small strings attached to make things easier, especially when wearing gloves. Additionally, the simple cord that locks at the hood and waist hem is easy to tighten or loosen with one hand. However, it is difficult to adjust the hood once the collar is fully zipped. Instead, it's necessary to adjust the tension before zipping the collar. While this is inconvenient, the design keeps everything inside the hood away from the water.
The Watertight II features two hand-warmer pockets, one of which is a stuff pocket with reversal zipper allowing for a nice tight little package. These pockets do get in the way while wearing a backpack because the waist-belt ends up directly on top of them, rendering them unusable. Our testers found the zippers would bite into the wearers' hips with heavier loads or on extended outings.
This rain jacket weighed in at 13.5 ounces, which despite its two-layer construction, is comparable to many of its closest competitors. It is barely heavier (0.5-2.5 ounces) than the Marmot PreCip, The North Face Venture 2, or the Patagonia Torrentshell.
The nylon face fabric on this model is thick, but it does not have a ripstop weave. If you're planning to bushwhack or prune your berry bushes, The North Face Venture 2, Patagonia Torrentshell, or Marmot PreCip is more resistant to snagging and rips.
This model is one of the bulkier ones we tested. On the plus side, it does stuff into and stow in its left hand pocket. It fits well, is easy to stuff, and the zipper is easy to operate.
This is a great entry-level rain jacket, especially for cool weather and around-town use. It is a perfect everyday cool rainy season option for short hikes, drizzly early morning dog walks, and yard work. The Watertight II is light enough for longer hikes and backpacking trips but will perform best in cool weather when ventilation isn't as important. The Arc'teryx Beta SL, our Editors' Choice winner, is a better choice if you want a rugged 2-layer rain jacket for outdoor work.
The Watertight II has mesh-lined pockets for ventilation, but no pit-zips. If you're looking for a jacket with excellent ventilation, be sure to check out the Outdoor Research Foray.
Priced at $90, and often on sale, this is a killer deal for a simple, effective rain jacket. If you want a more versatile jacket for warmer weather and high energy activities, a well-ventilated 2.5-layer jacket like the Marmot PreCip or the North Face Venture 2 are a great value at only $10 more.
This rain jacket has a simple hood with no brim stiffening and only a single elastic cinch cord around the face. The cord locks are located on the inside of the hood and must be tightened before the collar is zipped up; there is no back adjustment to change where the brim falls on your brow. Being of two-layer construction, the nylon taffeta lining fabric of the hood and collar touches your face.
There is a hang loop back of the collar, but it's important to note that this jacket does not have pit-zips. It has two hand pockets that have traditional zippers covered by storm flaps and the wrist cuffs have elastic on the inside of the wrist, as well as a Velcro cinch tab. The elastic hem cinch cord has one cord lock on the right side.
Conclusion and the Bottom Line
Of the three 2 layer, mesh-lined jackets on the market, the Columbia Watertight II is easily one of our favorites. It's great for for casual and around-town use and is simple and effective. The price is also right. This jacket will keep you warm and dry around town, on the trail, and during weekend adventures. If you want a jacket for more aerobic actives but dont want to spend a lot of money, we'd recommend checking out The North Face Venture 2 or the Marmot PreCip for only $10 more.
Columbia Arcadia II - Women's
— Ian Nicholson
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