With the awesome summer of 2018 behind us and winter emerging, this was a good time to switch from leather to textile and review Merlin’s jacket offering.
The Merlin Columbia Outlast jacket features a combined thermal liner and waterproof membrane with a temperature-regulating Outlast material teaming up with a Salida membrane.
When temperatures plummet or the heavens open, it provides both warmth and waterproofing, while removing the liner means it becomes light and airy for when Mr Sun puts his hat on.
The outer is made from a combination of polyester and ripstop, with triple-stitched seams for added durability.
With the liner removed, a fixed breathable mesh lining enhances comfort while the neoprene collar helps to prevent neck chafing.
Optional air circulation comes through intake vents on each side of the chest while an additional vent runs across the rear of the shoulders.
As well as the ripstop shell to limit tears, there’s impact protection from CE-approved elbow, shoulder and a CE Level 2 back protector that’s included as standard.
Improved night-time visibility comes from reflective detailing on both the front and rear of the jacket, as well as on the sides of the arms.
The jacket has an abundance of pockets and apart from one wallet-sized offering in the liner they all easily swallowed my Samsung S9 phone.
The jacket has a very smart cut and from day one the fit was so comfortable it felt like I’d been wearing it for a year.
Despite knowing that this is going to be a warm jacket, it doesn’t feel bulky in any way. The only area in which it could feel tight would be if you had a large neck, but for me the collar gives a comfortable seal thanks to the use of neoprene.
The collar also has a hook to allow you to pin it back out of the way if required, but I did find it would occasionally jump off.
The main closure of the jacket is by zip with a storm flap secured in place by five Velcro pads, plus two stud fasteners at top and bottom. I think one large Velcro strip would be easier, but using five separate strips may offer more scope for adjustment.
I started wearing the jacket at the tail end of summer and with the liner removed and vents open, it kept me a degree cooler. It’s not as effective as a pure adventure jacket, which has extra venting, and additional arm vents would be a nice touch.
The combined thermal and waterproof liner is zipped into the torso and then into the sleeve bottoms, with stud fasteners acting as a failsafe to keep it in place.
Having the sleeves zipped into the cuff is an improvement on the usual drop liners that can twist or occasionally end up sitting out of the sleeve.
For me though, this does present a bit of a double-edged sword. I have pretty long arms and for me the sleeves are just slightly on the shorter side at full extension.
The issue is nothing to write home about but, with the waterproof liner zipping in some four inches above the cuff and the sleeve being quite narrow, I found that in heavy downpours coupled with strong wind, water was able to get inside past the storm cuff and soak its way up.
While I was still very much dry inside, the material would be damp the next morning and wasn’t too pleasant to wear until body heat shifted it.
I should point out this was during cloudbursts of nigh-on biblical proportions; during normal rain it has been fine.
I’m pretty sure the outer pockets are waterproof. While it doesn’t state this in the product description, I kept a wodge of kitchen roll in both pockets to check for leaks and I didn’t find any sign of water inside them.
On colder mornings, this jacket keeps me lovely and warm. My commute is roughly a 20-mile ride each way and to test it recently, I wore just a t-shirt underneath on a day that was at most 4°C and still arrived nice and warm. Although I wouldn’t ride 100 miles like that, it gave me a good idea of what to expect during winter.
This is the first Merlin jacket I have had the pleasure of reviewing and it’s been a positive experience. It’s comfortable, smart looking, waterproof and warm – a good versatile jacket.
The Columbia Outlast’s other party trick is that it has been designed to accept the Merlin airbag system. Although this is an expensive set-up at more than £300 for the airbag, it is impressive that a jacket in this price range offers this option.
Fit & Comfort
Great fit, comfortable from the off, but personally I could do with longer sleeves.
Appears to work to a degree, but increased venting would be nice.
Always kept the water out, but the length and narrowness the sleeve caught me out in monsoon conditions.
It appears to have been put together very well.
The only item it lacks is the luxury of a removable storm collar for deep, deep winter.