Many people consider hiking to be the best outdoor activity there is. Not only is it extremely beneficial for one’s physical health, but it can also help you clear your mind, combat anxiety and depression, increase your problem-solving skills, and many other outcomes. There are also social benefits, as well – hiking means meeting new people and forging bonds with family members and friends.
However, just like numerous other outdoor activities, hiking requires the use of proper gear. And when it comes to outdoor gear, people often think about things such as trekking poles and huge backpacks – most tend to overlook something as simple as getting yourself a quality hiking jacket.
Related: How To Layer for Outdoor Activities
However, with numerous brands in today’s market, it can be quite difficult to determine which one of them offers clothing that suits your needs. This time, we’ve decided to compare Columbia and Patagonia. These are famous and renowned American brands that design some of the best technical garments money can get today.
How do these reputable brands measure up against each other? Is one better than the other? Without further ado, here’s our comparison of these two brands, together with short overviews of their most popular products.
Table of Contents
- 1 Patagonia
- 2 Columbia
- 3 Patagonia vs Columbia – The Verdict
When someone mentions the best winter jackets, at least one person will think Patagonia make the best winter jacket – that’s how famous this brand is. Originally known as Chouinard Equipment, the company was founded all the way back in 1973, in California.
Due to bankruptcy, Chouinard Equipment eventually split into two brands, one of which became the Patagonia brand we know today. While it started out as a climbing gear brand, it is now among the world’s best-known manufacturers of outdoor clothes. It is often recommended to individuals looking for high-performance and high-quality jackets, vests, and sweaters.
Just like its main competitors, including Columbia, North Face, Salomon, and others, Patagonia is a brand that is immensely involved in sustainable manufacturing. One of the company’s main goals is to minimize its impact on the environment as much as possible, and that’s always a big plus in our book.
Patagonia is a member of numerous activism movements and organizations that strive to protect nature and remove unethical means of sourcing and production. In fact, Patagonia ensures that wool and down used in their jackets and other clothing products are sourced in the most harmless and ethical ways possible.
Materials & Technologies
As we already mentioned, almost all of the materials used by this company are recycled and sourced in ethical ways. However, this doesn’t mean that the fabrics found in their products aren’t of the highest quality – they absolutely are. This is often reflected in the price tag that accompanies them.
Similar to competitors such as North Face or Arc Teryx, Patagonia is a brand that uses the Gore-Tex membrane in a lot of its garments. However, they have also managed to develop their own proprietary water-repellent technology – H₂No. This fully-waterproof fabric comes in several different versions, depending on the layer construction.
The DWR treatment used in many Patagonia-made products is also worth mentioning. Its full name is the Deluge DWR coating and it’s well-known for its impressive longevity. As such, it doesn’t require as many reapplications as DWR treatments utilized by other brands.
Apart from using only premium-quality materials, the brand Patagonia is also well-known for its testing process called “24 Killer Wash”. As the name suggests, this test consists of water-testing and trashing fabrics in a simulation that mimics real-life harsh weather conditions.
Patagonia is a high-end brand – there’s no question about that. As we already mentioned, the quality of their materials and the overall craftsmanship is often reflected on the price tags that accompany their jackets and other clothing products.
And are these garments really worth the high price? Once we consider that they sport an excellent, highly functional design, that they go through an extensive testing process, and that they’re made out of high-quality materials, the answer is clear – yes, they’re a worthwhile investment.
Check out my Patagonia vs Outdoor Research comparison if you are interested in other brands similar to Patagonia.
Patagonia Nano Puff Hoody Jacket
The very first Patagonia jacket we’ll be taking a look at is also among its most popular offerings – Nano Puff Hoody. While not the highest-performing jacket out there, it’s certainly very durable and quite stylish. Read also our review Nano Puff vs Micro Puff.
First things first – the warmth. For insulation, Patagonia Nano Puff Hoody uses PrimaLoft Gold Eco. The stitching between the quilted squares that hold this insulation in place does let some air pass through, which means that Nano Puff Hoody isn’t that great when it comes to blocking the wind. Still, it’s a fairly weather-resistant jacket thanks to the DWR treatment on the model’s outer shell.
In terms of comfort, Patagonia Nano Puff is very lightweight and functional. It provides an excellent fit, with its micro-fleece patches forming a sort of “zipper garage” when the model is fully zippered up against the user’s face. The model’s hood, on the other hand, sports a non-adjustable, snug-fitting design – you’ll be able to easily fit it under your climbing helmet.
Just like most jackets of this type, this model comes equipped with two hand pockets. There is also an internal chest pocket, and the entire jacket can be stuffed into it. Pretty convenient, wouldn’t you say? All three of the model’s pockets are equipped with straightforward easy-to-grab zipper pulls.
A true classic, Nano Puff Hoody looks very stylish and can be obtained in five different colors. While it comes at a relatively high price and it certainly isn’t flawless, we think that it provides great value for the money. It’s an excellent cold-weather layering garment for skiing, hiking, and backpacking.
Patagonia Torrentshell Jacket
Comparing Patagonia vs Columbia in terms of popularity is an easy task – Patagonia is a clear winner. This is mostly thanks to jackets such as Torrentshell, which is considered by many trekkers to be the best jacket of its type on today’s market.
While it doesn’t look overly fancy, Patagonia Torrentshell is undoubtedly a stylish jacket – who wouldn’t want to wear something as sleek-looking as this? Fortunately, the excellent design of this outdoor garment is not the only great thing about it. In our opinion, Torrentshell strikes an ideal balance between toughness, functionality, and stylish looks.
Besides being warm and comfortable, this jacket is also fully waterproof. Using the already-mentioned H₂No membrane, it’s a great choice for someone looking for a storm worthy jacket. Its 50D outer fabric, on the other hand, is very durable and provides fantastic weather protection, especially once we consider the model’s relatively affordable price.
Another of Torrentshell’s amazing features is its large hood. To stop the cold from reaching your neck, you only have to tighten the hood by using the elastic cord. The model also features two standard handwarmer pockets, both of which are sitting surprisingly low on the jacket. If you’re serious about mountaineering, you may want to look for a model with pockets that are slightly raised. The ones found on Patagonia Torrentshell can be hard to access when you’re wearing a backpack with a waist belt.
For the price it comes at, this jacket is a great choice. If you’re looking for a model that successfully retains body heat while keeping the rain and cold at bay, you’re bound to find this fantastic Patagonia product to your liking.
Patagonia R2 Fleece Jacket
People who call fleece a miracle product aren’t wrong. Made from petroleum, fleece is synonymous with comfort and coziness – it is both breathable and warm. Here, we’ll be taking a look at one of the best Patagonia-made fleece jackets – R2.
Those looking for a warm and lightweight mid-layer will find Patagonia R2 to be a fantastic option. The Polartec Thermal Pro fleece used in this product traps heat very well – the jacket does a very good job at keeping the warmth during lighter winter hikes. However, Patagonia R2 has no elastic at its hem, which also seems to be its only major downside.
In terms of breathability, this fleece jacket seems to be a hybrid of R3 and R1 models made by the same company. In other words, the fabric used in R2’s manufacture doesn’t only trap heat well, but it’s also very breathable. So, besides being great at regulating temperature, the lightweight fabric of the Patagonia R2 Fleece Jacket is also good at ventilating your body and wicking away moisture.
Although it’s certainly among the best fleece jackets on today’s market, R2 doesn’t do well as a standalone layer in the rain and wind. Without any special insulation or DWR-treated fabric, the jacket will allow water to soak all the way through to your skin. Still, it dries a lot faster than we expected.
In our opinion, Patagonia R2 is a great option for chilly autumn and spring days when you don’t really need a jacket with a hood. It’s a good all-around model that is going to keep you warm and cozy during your lighter outdoor adventures.
Comparing Columbia vs Patagonia in terms of “who’s been around for longer” is a battle with a clear winner – Columbia Sportswear. Founded all the way back in 1938, Columbia started out as a family-owned hat company run by German immigrants.
A company with genuinely enthralling history, Columbia Sportswear is among those brands that are devoted to constant improvement wherever possible. “It is perfect, now make it better” – this is the company’s motto that speaks volumes about their approach to business practices and product design.
Just like Patagonia, the North Face, or Salomon, Columbia Sportswear is a globally renowned brand. However, a lot of hikers choose to go with it due to its “family-owned business” image, which makes it look a lot more reliable and trustworthy in many people’s eyes.
As you probably already know, well-known brands such as The North Face or Arc Teryx value product quality above anything else. However, few test their jackets and other products like Columbia does. In addition, their apparel is accessible to almost everyone due to a wide range or prices – more on that later.
Materials & Technologies
Much like its main competitors (Patagonia and the North Face), Columbia Sportswear is a brand that strives to reduce its impact on nature as much as possible. For that matter, the down insulation used by Columbia is RDS-certified and almost all of the polyester they use in their products is recycled.
Comparing Columbia vs Patagonia in terms of proprietary clothing technologies they’ve developed is a difficult task. As it turns out, Columbia is a brand that has collaborated with a myriad of different companies to develop a number of incredibly efficient solutions. Most of these are included in the Omni-Tech technology range.
Their Omni-Heat technology, for example, is a well-made, special type of insulation that works great when it comes to retaining heat. Omni-Heat Reflective, on the other hand, is capable of reflecting the wearer’s body heat. Besides Omni-Heat, Columbia also uses Omni-Shield, Omni-Wind, Omni-Shade, Omni-Freeze, and Omni-Wick technologies, all of which enhance the quality of their products in a number of different ways.
If you are interested in outdoor technology, read our comparison Omni-Tech vs Gore-Tex and find out which is better.
When it comes to DWR products, Columbia has opted for coatings that aren’t as dangerous – the DWR coatings they use are comprised of short-chain PFCs. In addition, the OutDry technology utilized by this brand deserves a special mention. This is a fully waterproof membrane with a flawless performance due to its ability to bind the heat to the fabric.
Comparing Columbia vs Patagonia in terms of prices gives a clear answer – Columbia is a significantly more affordable brand. They provide a wide range of well-made jackets and other products that are very reasonably priced. In fact, some of their best models may cost half as much as premium-made jackets offered by the North Face or Patagonia.
Columbia Watertight II Jacket
Sporting a stylish design and being both affordable and comfortable, Watertight II is one of Columbia’s best offerings. If you’re looking for a functional, budget-oriented rain jacket, you’ll find that this one has all the features you need.
As a Columbia-made rain jacket, this model does a pretty good job at keeping its user dry. Its outer shell uses Columbia’s proprietary Omni-Tech technology we’ve mentioned before. However, the model is not as breathable as we’d like it to be – if you’re someone who wants to buy a jacket for aerobic activities, Watertight II shouldn’t be your first choice.
However, this Columbia jacket is a great option for less-demanding hiking trips and around-the-town use. It is form-fitting, comfortable, and will provide your arms with reasonable freedom of movement. In terms of pocket design, Columbia Watertight II features two standard pockets, and one of these can be used to stuff the entire jacket into it.
While not of the best quality, the nylon face fabric of this jacket is pretty thick and durable (as well as waterproof, as we already mentioned). However, keep in mind that in the battle of Patagonia vs Columbia jackets the first ones usually win when it comes to durability. Columbia is, after all, a more affordable brand. For those who would like to save some money, it’s undoubtedly among the better brands on the market.
Other features worth mentioning are the elastic hem cinch-cord, zippers with storm flaps, and a simple but functional hood. If you’re looking to save some money, this stylish, waterproof jacket made by Columbia is undoubtedly one of your best options.
Columbia Whirlibird IV Jacket
A lot of people tend to overlook jackets when they’re shopping for outdoor gear. And once you find yourself in the middle of nowhere, feeling how the cold creeps beneath your cheap vest, you are going to ask yourself – “Why didn’t I buy a quality winter jacket?”. Comfortable, inexpensive, and very versatile, Columbia Whirlibird IV is all you’ll need to stay warm and make the most out of your outdoor adventure.
Even though it certainly can’t compete with more expensive jackets, Columbia Whirlibird IV provides a great fit and is among the better snow jackets in its price category. The model’s outer shell is breathable but also moderately weather-resistant, thanks to the Columbia-engineered Omni-Tech waterproof membrane. The model’s zippers, on the other hand, are not waterproof.
While it’s sufficiently warm, you’ll want to combine Whirlibird IV with additional layers if you decide to wear it on a really cold winter day. Still, the model is going to get the job done on chilly autumn days by itself, as it features Omni-Heat – a thermal reflective material and yet another proprietary clothing technology engineered by Columbia.
In terms of pockets, the model has a sleeve pass pocket, an external chest pocket, and two handwarmer pockets. If you want a feature-packed winter jacket, you’ll be pleased to know that Columbia Whirlibird IV also has a powder skirt and an adjustable hood. While the pricier jackets may sport more refined features, the ones found on this brand-made model certainly earn our stamp of approval.
All in all, Whirlibird IV is an excellent buy if you want a versatile jacket with a waterproof outer shell and a comfortable fit.
Columbia Evapouration Rain Jacket
The next Columbia-made garment in our Patagonia vs Columbia comparison is the Evapouration Rain Jacket. Behind this peculiar name hides one of the lightest and most affordable jackets of this type – but is it really the kind of outdoor gear you need?
Let’s get the bad stuff out of the way first. The only major downside of this product is that it isn’t as breathable as we’d like it to be. Even though it does ventilate via the mesh-lined pockets and pit zips, Columbia Evapouration can get steamed up pretty quickly. This can be advantageous, though – the model is among the warmest rain jackets in its price category.
One really good thing about Evapouration is how durable it is. Its 70D nylon fabric is going to withstand wear and tear no matter where you decide to wear this jacket. In fact, we think that it’s pretty safe to say that, with proper care, this affordable brand-made garment can last for years.
In terms of water resistance, Columbia Evapouration is one of those jackets that do a great job of sealing out the rain. Its wrist cuffs, for example, seal pretty good thanks to the adjustable Velcros. The model’s hood, on the other hand, isn’t really that great when it comes to facial protection – its brim is soft and rain can easily find its way around the wearer’s cheeks.
One thing we particularly like about Columbia Evapouration is that it’s really light. As it weighs only 11.7 ounces, it proves that Columbia is a brand that knows how to make jackets that are both lightweight and functional.
Patagonia vs Columbia – The Verdict
So, that’s it – our Patagonia vs Columbia comparison comes to an end. Which brand is better? Should you buy yourself a Patagonia-made jacket, or should you opt for one made by Columbia?
Both of the brands we’ve compared here make fantastic trekking garments. Most of these are very durable and can last for years – even decades – with proper care. They also make jackets that wear great and are warm enough to use even on the chilliest of days. And, as we’ve mentioned in the intro, both of the brands strive to make their garments in the most ethical and sustainable ways possible – just like North Face, Salomon, Marmot, and other famous outdoor-wear brands.
However, all things considered, Patagonia seems to be a better brand. The performance and quality of their jackets are very hard to match. This, however, comes with a downside – to buy one of their jackets, you’ll have to reach deep into your pocket. If you are interested in Patagonia jackets check our comparing synthetic down jackets.
If the price tag that accompanies most of Patagonia’s jackets doesn’t suit you, Columbia’s got your back. It certainly isn’t among brands you can just write off – you’ll find that Columbia’s jackets wear great and are really durable despite their lower price.
So, in summary, Patagonia is the undisputed winner when it comes to technical wear – their garments are extremely comfortable and can last for years. However, Columbia’s jackets use impressive insulating technologies and can be obtained at much more reasonable prices.
In other words, the match Patagonia – Columbia has no clear winner: it all depends upon your personal preferences and your budget.
I love hiking. From the Camino de Santiago to the West Highland Way in Scotland or simply a great day hike on the weekend. Hiking refreshes me, my mind, and keeps my body reasonably fit. So far I have walked three Camino routes and many other long distance hikes in the UK, Canada, and around the rest of Europe. One of the best was my hike up Ben Nevis.