In review: 3-in-1 jackets

12 September 2014



Words & Photos: Marthinus Esmeyer


There was a time when I was not a fan of the average 3-in-1 jacket, since they mainly catered for travellers and were not very functional as an outdoor jacket. The water-proofing layers also never seemed to last long. In recent times, however, 3-in-1 jackets have become much more durable and functional, making them a good choice for outdoor pursuits, while giving you the extra option of an inner layer that can be zipped out as the weather conditions dictate.

3-in-1 jackets review.

When it comes to choosing a weatherproof jacket, there are many choices and brands available in South Africa. We chose five quality brands to review and give you a comparison of what each jacket offers in terms of waterproofing, insulation and breathability, to make your selection easier. I've kept the review simple so as not bore you with too much detail and technical phrases.

Four of the brands chosen are the most commonly seen and freely available on the South African market: First Ascent, Capestorm, K-Way and Columbia. The firth brand is a new and imported 3-in-1 jacket called Metis, a company that is looking to enter the SA outdoor jacket market.

Testing criteria
The jackets were all put through the same conditions and rough outdoor tests (including mountaineering, rock climbing, backpacking, canyoning, camping, trail running, travel and adventure racing), to give you an account of how they performed over a two-month period.

Capestorm - Entrada

This jacket took me a bit by surprise being so different to the other jackets I tested. It is fashionable, looks very smart and is far more ideal for a cold night out on the town than the bush. This jacket got the most compliments whenever I wore it, it really is smart looking. The cut is more body hugging than the other jackets, which makes it restrictive. The sleeves crop up if you get to active or, say, want to take your kayak off the roof rack. The tight cut also limits the numbers of layers you can wear when it gets really cold.

The outer material tends to make 'creaking' noises (for lack of a better word), even when you're sitting still. It did not bother me too much, but this could be irritating to some.

The stitching was not finished off well, and I found myself having to cut away a number of loose strands, mainly on the inner fleece.

Final verdict: A quality, fashionable jacket to buy for travelling and city use, but not for any outdoor pursuits.

Columbia - Evergreen

This is an awesome multifunctional jacket you can take anywhere and do anything with. The jacket fits well, is very comfortable to wear and doesn't restrict your movement at all.

The thermal-reflective technology used inside the inner fleece makes this fleece warmer than other fleece linings. The outer shell material was my favourite of the jackets. I also found it to be the most abrasive resistant and breathable of the jackets tested.

Final verdict: It's a great jacket and can handle whatever the weather throws at you; it’s my first choice as a multipurpose outdoor jacket.

First Ascent - Avalanche

As advertised, this jacket is meant for the slopes. It looks good looks and has a number of cool features for convenience on your ski holiday.

The jacket sits comfortably without restricting your movement. After a cold day out kayaking or canyoning, it was great to put on as it warmed me up really quickly. I am not sure how durable the material will be long term if used for other mountain sports and further testing over a longer period is needed for me to give a more accurate account.

I will say that I do notice things most people don’t and for such a nice looking and detailed jacket, I was a bit disappointed with the stitching not being finished off neatly and there were some strands unravelling in a few spots. This jacket also showed early signs of wear, which does not bode well for long-term durability.

Unlike the other jackets tested, this is a one-piece jacket without a removable inner fleece. Avalanche does have a 3-in-1 with a removable inner for R1,499.

Final verdict: This jacket was the warmest of the lot, with good looks to match.

K-Way - Romulus

This jacket is great for anything and can be taken anywhere. The lightweight outer layer rolls up the most compact of the jackets tested, so on a mountaineering trip, where weight and space is a factor, it's ideal.

This jacket is also at home in snow environments and features a snow skirt. The soft shell that comes with the Romulus is a nice change to the regular fleeces most 3-in-1 jackets come with.

I often went rock climbing in it on the cold winter days as it has the most functional inner layer.

Final verdict: I was very impressed by this jacket and consider it a great all rounder. This jacket comes in a very close second choice to Columbia's Evergreen.

K-Way jacket

Capestorm jacket.

Columbia jacket

First Ascent jacket

Metis Tech

I found this jacket to be a hardy, everyday outdoor working jacket and very reasonably priced.

The outer material’s specs feature a high waterproofing/breathability rating and you can feel it is a quality outer layer that will be very durable.

This is the only jacket I had to wear in a medium though, so make sure on the sizing if you order online. The arm lengths are shorter than the others tested and this is one area where I found the jacket to be restrictive when getting very active, as the sleeves kept on cropping up on me. The cut is not very body hugging on me, but will allow for more layers to be added if needed. It comes in a number of color options to suit all tastes.

Final verdict: This jacket is good value for money, with quality material that competes well with the more expensive brands.

Care tip: With new outer fabrics, all the jackets were well waterproofed, but this could change depending on hard use, care and how much each one's material could resist abrasion. All waterproof breathable fabrics have a durable water resistant coating that aims to stop the external fabric from becoming saturated with moisture. When a fabric becomes saturated the breathability is compromised. All these coatings eventually wear out due to abrasion, dirt and use.

Therefore, keep your jacket clean and restore its coating regularly in order for it to last you and stay waterproof.

Metis jacket

Summary of 3-in-1 jacket reviews

Brand Capestorm Entrada Columbia Evergreen First Ascent Avalanche K-Way Romulus Metis Tech
Retail Price R1,899 R2,599 R2,499 R2,199 R1,000
Pros A good looking, stylish jacket for the city. Best outer shell material, most breathable. Great all-mountain jacket. The thermal reflective lining of the inner provides a good warmth/weight ratio. Warmth, design and comfort make this the top choice for your next snow-filled holiday. Lots of well-designed ski features. Looks good anywhere. Very versatile. Functional soft-shell inner, great on it’s own. Outer shell is the most compact. A nice overall package. Best price. Hardy, every-day work jacket. The outer fabric cleans easily and can take a beating.
Cons Limited outdoor use. Restrictive cut. Fleece elastic cuffs are too loose around the wrists. White material on outdoor gear is not the most practical, but looks nice anyway. The material showed early signs of wear, which does not bode well for long-term durability. Inner shell fabric hard to clean but still prefer above a fleece inner. Short arms on sizing, especially on the fleece inner. (only jacket I used meduim)
Best Uses Travel, cold/wet day out in the city. Mountain pursuits, snow sports, all purpose outdoor use. Snow sports,travel Mountain pursuits Snow sports, all purpose outdoor use All purpose outdoor use
Water Resistance/Breathability ** **** *** *** ***
Warmth ** **** **** *** ***
Versatility * **** ** **** ***
Style **** *** **** **** **
Compactness *** *** *** **** ***
Comfort *** **** **** **** ***
Hood design ** **** **** **** **
Overall Impression *** **** *** **** ***
Weight 1,070 g (small) 1,220 g (small) 1,145 g (small) 1,220 g (small) 1,150 g (meduim)
Outer Shell Fabric 3,000/3,000 Polyester taslon - Waterproof Breathable Omni-tech Waterproof Breathable 100% Nylon Microtex Vapour-Tex 5,000 mm of waterproofness 5,000 g/m /24 hours Breathability. Waterproof Breathable K-tech fabric W/R Breathable MVP 5,000 & W/P 5,000 mm Armadura shell construction, 10,000 mm Waterproof and 10,000g/m²/24 hour breathability
Inner Shell Fabric Anti-pill fleece Omni-heat lining, 100% polyester thermal reflective microtex Thermo shield Softshell, 94% Polyester 6%, Spandex Omni warm thermal fleece
Hood Yes Yes (removable) Yes (removable) Yes (removable) Yes (removable)

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