The Columbia Heat Elite Jacket is a lightweight insulated fleece, perfect for cutting out the cold on those windy, chilly winter days. Featuring Omni-Heat technology, the Heat Elite keeps you 20% warmer than a regular insulated jacket.
The Heat Elite jacket is made from wind resistant fleece with breathable side stretch panels. For added heat retention, the fleece jacket is lined with Columbia's Omni-Heat Thermal Reflective and padded with 60 grams of insulation (50% recycled polyester). A water repellent Omni-Shield coating helps to keep the jacket dry in light rain or snow and also resist stains.
I have been wearing my women's Heat Elite jacket that I was sent for chilly morning hikes or midnight dog duty over the past few weeks where temps have been in the 30s and 40s. During hikes, I found that once you really start to exert yourself, the jacket was not the most breathable, though the 12 inch pit zips helped. For times of strenuous activity, a regular wind resistant fleece or a non-insulated softshell would probably be a better choice if your wool base layer alone won't suffice.
I found the Heat Elite jacket invaluable, however, once I hit the shade or was hiking back down, as it allowed me to cool down and wick away sweat without actually getting cold. The insulated fleece jacket was also comfortably warm for lighter activities such as walking my dog or even standing around out in the cold. For those really cold days, this jacket would probably be a nice lightweight, non-bulky alternative to wearing a puffy coat.
The two fleece lined pockets (3 on the men's) are great for keeping your hands warm or for stowing your sunglasses when not in use. The stretch fabric on the end of the sleeves makes a fantastic nose wipe as well!
In terms of sizing, think closely about ordering a size up from what you normally might wear as these insulated fleece jackets run small. My medium size fits great through the body with just a base layer underneath but the arms and shoulders are fairly tight. I was not able to take advantage of the thumb holes as the sleeves ended just at my wrists.
Bottom Line: Even though it's not the most stylish of insulated fleece jackets, the Heat Elite offers a great way to stay warm during periods of light activity or to keep you from freezing during your cool down between periods of high exertion. The Omni-Heat Thermal Reflective makes you feel like you could be snuggling up to your dog or a water bottle, without the added bulk of a puffy coat.
The Columbia Heat Elite Jacket comes in both men's and women's versions and retails for $170.