Gear Review: Columbia Women's The Compounder Shell

Staying warm and keeping the waterfall
spray away at Glen Onoko Falls. Patrick Gensel)
When it comes to making new and innovative pieces of outdoor adventuring apparel that guarantee you'll be seen from miles away, Columbia has it down to a science. I've never been one with a penchant for standing out when it comes to color choices in my wardrobe, but with the Women's Compounder Shell, I didn't have a choice. As part of my participation in Columbia first-ever #OmniTen team, I got to test out a whole ton of new and innovative pieces of gear last spring and summer. The Compounder was among the first pieces of clothing I received, and as soon as I pulled it out of the box, I could tell it wasn't a typical shell. The bright yellow fabric with gray and purple accents isn't my typical style, but boy does it brighten things up.

The Compounder is a super lightweight jacket designed to keep you completely dry and comfortable in adverse weather conditions. If you find yourself on a hike in a rain storm with whipping winds, Columbia's Omni-Dry construction and full seam-sealing help keep the water out. I took the Compounder out for a day with the Wissahickon Restoration Volunteers this spring and stayed complete dry despite Mother Nature's best efforts to drown us all with rain.

The sticky main zipper.
But keeping the water out isn't usually the problem. One of the biggest complaints I have when it comes to waterproof shells is that when I'm working hard on the trail, the jackets just don't breathe. Columbia attempted to solve this problem with Omni-Wick EVAP technology, which is deigned to wick moisture away from your skin and to allow for faster dissipation of perspiration through the membrane. Columbia even claims it's more air permeable than Gore Tex. However, testing in the humid Pennsylvania weather revealed the same result I've experienced with other waterproof shells in - I ended up damp with sweat, despite being able to keep the rain out. Regardless of the typical results with respect to breathability, the Compounder features full side zips I found helpful for ventilation.

One of my favorite features of the Compounder is the hood. It's helmet-compatible and easy to tighten, so it stays put even under windy conditions. And the zippers are waterproof, which helped me keep my phone and wallet dry on a recent run home from the grocery store during a random downpour. Closing up the pockets quickly was easy, but the main zipper is tougher to use. Even after seven months of wear, the jacket doesn't zip smoothly, which makes it hard to get covered up quickly.
Love the red pit zippers on the
"mirage" colored jacket.

When I do get the jacket zipped, it fits perfectly. There's plenty of room for a long-sleeved mid-layer underneath and the sleeves are long enough for my uniquely long arms. The cut is flattering, not boxy, and the drop tail construction covers more of your...tail...which I love. The coverage was much welcomed while I was wielding shovels and bending down to pull invasive species during my WRV volunteer day. The Compounder is also easy to shove into my pack for any adventure, given how light and packable it is. The material seems sturdy enough for use in the winter, too, and I'm excited to take it out ice climbing and skiing when the weather gets colder.

The bottom line? I do recommend the Compounder as a rain shell, but don't expect to be able to sweat like a maniac in humid weather and stay dry on the inside. It's figure flattering, comfortable, and comes in three other color schemes if the "chartreuse" version pictured at the top this post is too loud for you. Other shots are of the "mirage" version, which is also awesome.

As of this posting, the Compounder is currently available from Columbia and Altrec's online stores. And gentlemen, don't' despair! Columbia made a Compounder for you too, currently available through their online store and Altrec, though I make no claims about the men's version of the coat.