Columbia Whirlibird Interchange Jacket Review

While it’s not for extremely serious skiers, the Whirlibird Interchange is an affordable option for more casual riders looking for warmth and versatility.

Quick Summary

  • Where to buy: REI, Amazon, Backcountry
  • Best for: Lighter days or easy rides. More casual skiers will like these, as will those on a budget.
  • Pros: This jacket is one of the most versatile on the market. It’s also affordable, which is appealing for those who want to save money, and gives you a lot of warmth. The shell does a nice job in lighter conditions as well.
  • Cons: The fit and styling are both a bit awkward. The jacket is also too bulky and is definitely lacking when it comes to premium weather protection.
  • Alternatives: Spyder Chambers, Orolay Waterproof Fleece, Helly Hansen Alpha

Why Trust Me

I’ve been hitting the slopes since I was a kid. I enjoy getting out in the snow and have hands-on experience with a wide range of different skiing items. I spent ample time researching this jacket, analyzing its features, and talking to people who have worn it over time.

Detailed Review

The Whirlibird is a versatile 3-in-1 jacket that offers decent warmth and comfort without breaking the bank. It’s well insulated and does its job in many different conditions. The modular design adds depth to the entire package and will hold up on lighter or easier days. You shouldn’t expect premium weather protection or a slew of additional features here, but the jacket serves its purpose for those who don’t go out a lot.

A Warm, Comfortable Package

The Whilibird’s warmth cannot keep up with premium down jackets or more expensive insulation. Even so, that doesn’t mean it’s useless. This model has good warmth, mainly due to the impressive “Omni-Heat” thermal reflective material on the inner layer. The hanging mesh lining and extra padding also do a lot in terms of keeping you toasty.

A big part of this jacket is its multi-layer design. It adds to the versatility and allows warm air to get trapped inside the clothing and provide extra warmth. I am greatly impressed by this, especially because you typically don’t get a lot of insulation with more affordable jackets. You can also wear the inner puffy layer on its own, but that only holds up on warmer days.

Unfortunately, I didn’t find the Whirlibird’s fit to be as impressive as the warmth. The look is a bit plain, and the entire package is a bit boxy. The 3-in-1 construction is something I like, but it adds a lot of bulk and causes some friction as you move. If there’s one bright point, it’s the fleece chin guard. I always value such additions that cut down on discomfort.

Versatility and Ventilation

Though the 3-in-1 design comes with certain setbacks, it has a range of bonuses as well. Most notably is how it allows you to adapt to your surroundings freely. Rather than trap you into a hot shell or leave you out in the cold, the Whirlibird enables you to either shed or add on layers depending on what’s going on outside.

That also gives the jacket a decent amount of ventilation. You can mix-and-match the layers to allow for more or less breathability as you need it. In addition, the outer shell has a lot of ventilation when worn on its own. Just know you won’t get that if you wear it with the synthetic sweater layer, which doesn’t breathe well at all. Even so, the versatility means you’ll always be as ventilated as you want to be.

Durability and Weather Resistance

Another area that has both pros and cons is the Whirlibird’s weather resistance. The jacket doesn’t hit the highest marks in this area, but you’re typically not going to expect that when getting a budget jacket. For the price, it does a decent job at holding out the wind. The materials should last a while, and you can cinch the hood for extra protection.

Unfortunately, the zippers aren’t waterproof. That’s a big issue for me. The DWR treatment here isn’t quite as useful as one’s noted in other premium jackets as well. Though the shell doesn’t let in a lot of water, it will get wet and bogged down. That can be a particularly big issue in harsh conditions.

Storage and Extra Protection

The biggest stand out feature of this jacket is the intuitive 3-in-1 system. However, that’s not all it offers. You get two hand warmer pockets, as well as a large external chest pocket and a sleeve pass pocket. You’ll never have any issues storing small items or snacks, which is always something I appreciate. The handwarmer pockets also give you an extra layer of warmth.

That storage is then backed up by a few great protection features. That includes an adjustable hood, powder skirt, and velcro cuff closures. All three of those help ensure you stay nice and warm in tougher weather conditions. Nothing here is particularly new or innovative, but each upgrade acts as a nice addition to a solid piece of clothing.

Price and Value

While there are some definite cons to the Whirlibird Interchange, the value isn’t one of them. The 3-in-1 design is incredibly versatile and provides you with both as much strength or ventilation as you need. The three layers don’t work great on their own, but together they give you a lot of bang for your buck.

What I Like

The Whirlibird’s stand out feature for me is the 3-in-1 design. I know that does come with the setback of added bulk, but overall I found the different pros to greatly outweigh the cons. There’s a lot to be said about versatility in your ski clothing, and this jacket gives you a ton of options. You can throw on a lighter shell when the weather’s nice, or utilize the heavier layers when things get cold. It’s all about options here.

Going off of that, I also appreciate the lengths the Whirlibird Interchange goes to keep you warm. Even if the weather and water resistance could both be better, the hood, cinch, and powder skirt all ensure your body never gets too cold. The many different pockets are also worth a special mention. There’s nothing wrong with being able to easily bring extra items out to the mountain.

What I Dislike

The biggest issue for me with the Whirlibird Interchange is the fit. It’s a pretty bulky clothing item and has a boxy feel. When skiing, I want to ride without worrying about my clothes getting in the way or holding me back. Though the Whirlibird isn’t quite that bad, the weak fit is also restrictive and uncomfortable if your sizing isn’t dead on.

I also wish the jacket held up better in inclement conditions. Everything seems to get bogged down pretty quickly, and the lack of waterproof zippers is an issue when things get really wet. You’re not going to see a lot of leakage into the shell, but I’d want something a bit tougher. The hood is also small.

The Alternatives

The Whirlibird Interchange is a decently affordable ski jacket. However, if you want something similar but different, or are looking for an item with other characteristics, these all work well:

  • Spyder Chambers – Going into a price range just above the Whirlibird is the Chambers Jacket from Spyder. This slick option comes with Gore-Tex to provide you with ample water protection and offers plenty of warmth. It might not be as well-rounded as some other jackets, but it still insulates you without overheating.
  • Orolay Waterproof Fleece – If warmth is your primary concern, this offering from Orolay is a good way to go. This waterproof jacket is strong, sturdy, and will keep away the chill in colder environments. It’s particularly good at fighting the wind, which is something I personally enjoy. It comes with plenty of pocket storage as well.
  • Helly Hansen Alpha – While much more expensive than the Whirlibird, the Alpha comes from one of the most trusted brands on the market. It’s extremely flexible and has a unique 2-ply construction. The snap away powder skirt gives you extra protection and the adjustable hood is a nice touch.

FAQ

Is the hood helmet compatible?

No. However, depending on your head size there may be room to wear the hood with a helmet.

Is the hood detachable?

No. It is fixed onto the jacket.

Does this jacket get stuffy?

The Whirlibird features multiple forms of ventilation to ensure you never get too hot on the slopes.

Does this come with a snow skirt?

Yes. The Whirlibird Interchange Jacket does have a powder skirt to keep out the elements.

Final Words

The Whirlibird is a decent jacket with a few strong characteristics. It has good warmth and works hard to keep you dry on the slopes. However, it doesn’t quite have the extra features, style, or comfort as other options on the market. That’s to be expected considering the affordable price, but it may be a problem for skiers who want something more modern.

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