Columbia are really heading down the less travelled path with this clever self-cooling top and all the technology jammed into it.
Columbia area a brand not afraid to try out different technologies and despite the rather confusing names; Omni-Heat, Omni-Shell, Omni-Dry, Omni-Tech, Omni-Shade, Omni-Wick, Omni-Freeze, Omni-Freeze Zero all serve a particular niche in the outdoor world.
This time around we tested the Omni-Freeze Zero technology that has been used in the new new range of summer gear built for running and general fast moving in the heat. The (not so basic) premise is that the fabric has a unique in-built technology to actively reduce fabric temperature in the heat. In use, what you see is a fabric covered with faint small dots, as they get wet they swell in size and become more visible. What they do is draw moisture away from the skin and push it to the outside allowing quicker wicking of moisture as well as creating a cooling effect on the skin. It’s certainly out there and not something you are likely to see from many other brands (aside from sister brand Mountain Hardwear who are calling it Cool.Q ZERO)
When in motion the Omni-Freeze Zero is not particularly noticeable. The polyester fabric used in the shirt is so lightweight and breathable that there is little time for moisture to build-up too much. Contact points around the collar did pick up a fair amount of moisture and were the first to start the cooling effect. The overall impression is much the same as pouring water onto a cotton t-shirt although in a slightly more pleasant way. The Omni-Freeze material manages the make the sweat moisture bleed out into the fabric and you can feel a cooling influence as air is pushed through the wet material.
Once stopped or slowed down in areas without much wind, the small blue dots soon begin to go into overtime. It doesn’t take long for the effect to spread across most of the top and the dots to appear all over. That in turn can make the cooling effect almost too much and it doesn’t take long for the fabric to become saturated with sweat, which in turn clings to the body.
We can see this being really useful on longer runs or when out when it’s really hot and the fabric’s cooling properties really work their magic. In situations where it’s not too hot, the saturated feeling can feel uncomfortable.
This moisture saturation does also mean that the fabric took longer to dry than we anticipated it might. Weirdly, after washing and hanging on a line, it actually seemed to take longer than a regular lightweight polyester base layer to dry.
Leaving it stuffed in a kit bag straight after use is not a good idea therefore. Even with an anti-microbial treatment our test sample began to whiff a little bit after a couple of uses.
Looking at the top aside from the Omni-Freeze Zero technology, the top is actually a tidy running top, with a form-fitting, yet not too clingy cut and a silky soft, stretchy feel.
Great for long runs on really hot days. You’ll probably want to strip it off shortly after finishing though.
↑ The Good
- Great silky, stretchy feel
- Lightweight and airy on the move.
↓ The (not so) good
- Cooling can be a bit too much when you’ve stopped moving.
What Columbia say: All-over Omni-Freeze® ZERO technology reacts with sweat to lower the temperature of the material, while UPF 50 protects you during intense activity in the heat.
Model: Total Zero Short Sleeve Tee
Used for: trail running
Available to buy from www.blacks.co.uk
Weight: 135g (men’s medium)
Fabric: Omni-Shade, Omni-Freeze ZERO, Omni-Wick 92% polyester/8% elastane ZERO jersey
Sizes Available: S-XXL
Colours: Wham (green), Black, White, Hyper Blue
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