One of Columbia's new slogans is "Trying Stuff since 1932." Great things come from trying stuff.
Among the stuff that Columbia is trying is their Omni FREEZE Ice line, which is designed to cool off when it gets wet. Unlike most clothing, which cools off initially, then warms right up, this stuff has a treatment that chills the fabric and keeps it cool until the moisture evaporates. At Columbia's Spring 12 preview last month, I received the Solar Polar, a long-sleeve half-zip shirt made up of the Omni Freeze Ice material that's slated for release for Spring 2012.
Since I live in a spot where triple digit temperatures are the norm, this fabric is right up my alley. Yesterday I took the Ice shirt out for a trail run, an eight mile loop up Kanaka Peak and back down the face. It was a morning run, so the temperature capped out at about 80 degrees, but it was definitely hot enough for some first impressions.
It didn't take long to start sweating, so my first observations came in pretty quickly. Long story short, this stuff works.
The shirt is lightweight and breathable, so even without the Omni FREEZE tech, it's (literally) pretty cool. The areas of the shirt under my pack and right below my neck were the first to get wet, and they cooled off noticeably. As the moisture spread, the shirt cooled even more. It wasn't the arctic chill that I was anticipating, but more of a subtle cooling that I found really refreshing. I wasn't overheating; now all I had to worry about was the 50-degree incline in front of me. It's funny-the shirt wicked away sweat and dried quickly, as well. That's a mixed blessing with this shirt, since the fabric's so much cooler when it's wet.
I was bummed that they gave me a longsleeve shirt, but as I waded through fields of poison oak, I quickly learned to appreciate the extra coverage. Therein lies the genius of Omni FREEZE-you get the coverage of a longsleeve shirt without the accompanying heatstroke. I'll be giving it a try in some 100-degree weather pretty soon and see how well it holds up.