We snagged a sample of Columbia’s new Freeze Degree t-shirt back in March; things back then were a little too chilly to do any testing outside of the gym, but now summer has hit the Pacific Northwest with all of its pollen-y glory. Columbia’s R&D wizards have come up with a new technology, appropriately dubbed Omni-Freeze Zero, that’s designed to take garments from passive evaporation to active cooling.
Columbia Freeze Degree Tee Features:
- Omni-Freeze ZERO fabrication lowers the material’s temperature
- Omni-Wick EVAP technology inserts at high sweat zones under arms and at center back provide breathability and moisture transmission
- Omni-Shade UPF 50 provides premium protection from the sun
- 4-way comfort stretch
- Anatomical construction
- MSRP: $45
I’ve been happily sweating away in this shirt as I’ve mountain biked, jogged and backpacked around Spokane. The shirt is loaded up with three Columbia technologies, Omni-Freeze Zero, Omni-Wick Evap and Omni-Shade, all of which work together for a pretty awesome package. It’s also antimicrobial, which means it takes longer to stink up. Additionally, Omni-Shade is especially valuable for high-altitude pursuits; most of my mountain biking in Nevada takes place above 8,000 feet, so having that UPF 50 rating is crucial for any shirt that I want to buy.
The real magic lies in Columbia’s Omni-Freeze Zero technology. If you were to pick up this shirt at a store, you would notice a pattern of little blue rings covering the inside of the fabric. Those little blue rings are actually a hydrophilic polymer that Columbia sprays directly onto the fabric; since it’s hydrophilic (the opposite of hydrophobic, which you’ve probably been hearing associated with DriDown lately) it literally draws the sweat off of your skin and into the fabric.
Recalling your high school physics classes, you’ll remember that evaporation from a surface transfers heat energy from that surface into the environment. By drawing all that water into the fabric, surface area for evaporation is greatly increased and, as a result evaporation happens. As evaporation increases, you dump more heat into the atmosphere. It’s really a brilliantly simple concept and right now the only comparable offering is Mountain Hardwear’s Cool.Q Zero – Columbia has owned Mountain Hardwear since 2003, so this overlap makes sense.
Technology is all very well and good, but how does the shirt do when you get out and sling mud at it? Very, very well. I’m impressed by just about all of the shirt’s performance factors. The fabric is incredibly soft next-t0-skin and it doesn’t have that static build-up that sometimes happens with athletic shirts. As you’d expect, the fabric is light and flexible in all directions – you’d have to be an olympic gymnast to ask for more range-of-motion. Tiny details are here too: there’s no neck tag, the seams are comfort-welded and, as I said, the shirt handles odor like a champ.
My particular unit is a pre-sale model and Columbia has altered their processes a little since I received the shirt. My particular unit had quite a few loose threads, which should be largely eliminated in production models. Addiitonally, a danger with the spray-on hydrophilic rings is that they tend to wear away on high-sweat areas. The blue rings on the chest and armpits have virtually disappeared, but Columbia informs me that they vastly improved the application process in production models. We will be testing more Omni-Freeze gear throughout the summer and we’ll comment more on the durability of those little blue rings.
- Omni-Freeze Zero technology really works
- Excellent base fabric, flexible and static-free
- Antimicrobial treatment minimizes shirt odors
- UPF 50 rating is important for high-altitude adventures
- The hydrophilic rings on our pre-production model wear off too easily
- Lots of loose threads on our shirt, but that should be fixed on production models
The Bottom Line
Even if this shirt wasn’t treated with Omni-Freeze, I think I’d be pretty happy with it as an athletic shirt. It’s a great base fabric that is very comfortable and provides UPF protection. Omni-Freeze is a very sound principle and it definitely works: Columbia imaged treated versus untreated shirts with a thermal camera and there’s solid proof that this technology really does lower temperatures. I’m excited to see this technology expand into more and more products, and I’d love to see it applied in hiking shirts like Columbia’s Silver Ridge line. For heavy sweaters or people who need a little help cooling off, Omni-Freeze is a great solution.
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