Columbia Sportswear Zonafied Softshell Jacket $180, Columbia.com
The Good: Columbia’s Omni-Heat technology keeps you extra warm and the little silver dots look cool, even though they’re on the inside of the jacket and no one ever sees it unless you’re wearing the jacket inside-out.
The Better: Little features like the drop tail and curved sleeves make this jacket uniquely awesome.
The Awesome: It’s basically a vest with sleeves, for all of those times you’ve said, “man, if only this vest had sleeves!”
Getting dressed for aerobic activity in cold weather can be a challenge. Too many layers means restricted movement and sweating while too few layers means you’ll be cold and uncomfortable. With the Women’s Zonafied Softshell, Columbia packed three of their proprietary technologies into a jacket that will keep you protected like a thick winter jacket would, but won’t restrict your movement. I wore my Zonafied softshell in temperatures ranging from 20 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit and in a variety of situations in eastern Pennsylvania and central New York to see how it performed both as a layering piece during activity, and for general wear.
Right out of the box, it was obvious the Zonafied softshell was different from other similar jackets I’d tried. The body of the Zonafied is insulated, but the sleeves are not, which makes it easy to move freely when you’re wearing it. There’s nothing worse than feeling like this guy every time you go out in the cold. As temperatures dropped in the Northeast this year, both Columbia’s Omni Heat and Omni Wind Block technology came in handy.
The Omni Wind Block membranes allow your skin to breathe while they protect you from the wind. On many a gusty walk around Philadelphia this autumn, I could feel the wind through the sleeves, but Columbia’s Omni Heat technology and the extra insulation in the body of the jacket kept me warm enough. Omni Heat helps reflect, retain, and spread the heat your body generates, which means you’ll stay warmer than you would in a standard softshell. After two seasons of wearing various Columbia apparel with Omni Heat, I’m a believer. I was even too warm in temperatures above 40 degrees, but comfortable down to 20 degrees.
In addition to the fact that the jacket functions exactly how I expected it to, it fits better than most softshells I’ve tried. The shape is tapered, which makes it flattering, and the zippered pockets are in just the right spot for my hands. They’re big enough to hold the beefy gloves I wear around in the winter. The third pocket, a chest pocket, is ideal for things like lip balm, which I always seem to need this time of year. The hood cinches down tight and stays in place, which helps when you habitually forget your hat like I do, and the abrasion-resistant chin guard keeps the zippers away from your skin. The sleeves are slightly longer on the top of the wrist, giving your hands a bit more protection from the elements.
The bottom line? The Zonafied Softshell is more than a vest with sleeves. It’s a great addition to any outdoorsy woman’s cool weather wardrobe, and luckily, there’s a men’s version available too.