Full Disclosure: This jacket was provided to me at no cost by Columbia. I requested a bright blue one but all they had was “Breen,” aka brown.
I’ve finally had a chance to take this jacket out enough times to get a good feel for it, which took a while due to the warm temperatures we experienced through late autumn. I wasn’t so sure about it when I was offered the jacket, for two reasons: first, I already have a couple similar puffies – the First Ascent Igniter hoody, and the Stoic Luft Down sweater; second, I’ve never had a great impression of Columbia products, as they tend to target the low-end of the product range. The Igniter is rather similar to the Shimmer Me Timbers, and has mostly served me well in the past.
The Columbia jacket is quite a bit warmer, too. I took the Igniter to Alaska this summer, and though it wasn’t very cold, I sometimes had trouble staying warm hanging out around camp in it. My first real use of the Shimmer jacket was in sub-zero temperatures, leisurely walking Scout to the post office, and I was very warm. I took it on the hut trip, where it was too warm most of the time to wear (largely in part due to other people in the hut keeping it painfully warm inside), and I’ve used it as a “belay jacket” for longer breaks skiing and climbing.
The cut is actually rather athletic, in contrast to most of what I’ve seen from Columbia in the past. The torso isn’t as roomy as a tent (as an old jacket of theirs I owned several years ago did), and the sleeves are long. It’s pretty average weight-wise for its class, and decently compressible. If you try to use it while working hard (or really at all), you’ll overheat – so don’t get it if that’s your intention. Though it’s hard to say this early in to its life, it seems to be well-built – I intentionally take it through tight trees to see if branches would tear the fabric, and so far it’s holding up well. It doesn’t feature any holes from the chest pocket for headphones, if that’s something you’re worried about.
All things considered, I’m fairly impressed by the jacket. It seems that Columbia’s purchase of Mountain Hardware several years ago is finally resulting in some trickle-down in terms of quality. I wouldn’t have purchased it on my own as I already had similar jackets, but now that I have it I will continue to use it when I know I’ll be taking occasional breaks on cold days. It’s not the lightest or most compressible jacket in the category, but it’s certainly one of the cheapest.