When people hear Nevada the last thing that comes to mind is cold and snow.  I grew up in Northern Nevada and I can tell you one thing – our winters are harsh.  The high desert is a place that tests adventurers and their gear; soft dry powder dozens of inches deep coat the Ruby Mountains and make them a paradise for backcountry skiers and deep-pocketed heli-skiers.  This is harsh, fragile country and it’s a perfect climate to test Columbia’s Omni-Heat Extreme Fleece base layers.

Columbia Extreme Fleece Features:

Tops:

  • Omni-Wick inserts keep you dry and comfortable
  • Omni-Heat thermal reflective lining for lightweight, breathable warmth
  • Performance fit
  • Antimicrobial
  • Ergonomic seaming
  • Thumb holes

Bottoms:

  • Omni-Wick gusset and waistband keep you dry and comfortable
  • Omni-Heat thermal reflective lining for lightweight, breathable warmth
  • Compression tight, mid rise
  • Antimicrobial
  • Ergonomic seaming
  • Inseam length: 30”
IMG_2905

Omni-Heat receiving scrutiny from the resident Test Corgi, who appeared dazzled by the technology.

My Experience

I’ve tested Columbia’s Omni-Heat baselayer in a wide variety of conditions these last few months.  I took an overnighter to Lamoille Lake (9,740 feet) earlier in the season with about two feet of snow at the lake.  I’ve also spent several day skiing s at resorts with temperatures varying between the low teens and high twenties and the typical blasting Sierra Nevada wind, and a few trips of nordic skiing in single-digit temperatures.  My experiences with Omni-Heat convinced me of two things: it’s very warm but it doesn’t wick well.  Beyond that, the Extreme Fleece baselayer is a comfortable next-to-skin option that exhibits all of Columbia’s design expertise.

DSC_0200

The top features a half-length zipper for temperature control along with lightweight armpit panels that provide breathability and improve range of motion.  The top is tight-fitting but feels exceptionally comfortable – the fabric is stretchy and the the pit panels allow for totally unrestricted motion.  Thumb holes in the sleeves are a welcome touch but I frequently found them uncomfortable; the seams in the thumb holes form a sharp edge that digs into your skin.

DSC_0204

The bottoms are everything that I’d want in a baselayer – they have a textured waistband to help stay in place and Omni-Heat everywhere except for the groin.  My legs don’t sweat as much as my upper body and Omni-Heat excels when there’s not a whole lot of sweat to manage.  Columbia touts ‘ergonomic seaming’ in the Extreme Fleece baselayer, but I found that the seams caused mild irritation between my thighs when I was doing an activity like nordic skiing for more than two hours or so.

Lastly, a little more about Omni-Heat:  I’ve used three Omni-Heat products (the Triteca softshell, Mountain Monster gloves, and the Extreme Fleece baselayer) and I’ve been able to get a pretty fair idea of what Omni-Heat really is – it’s a fabric that’s remarkably warm for its weight and provides the sort of heat that I thought could only come from trapped air insulation.  That being said, it doesn’t wick moisture as well as it should. When I used the Extreme Fleece baselayer for moderately aerobic activities that worked up a sweat, the fabric simply held the moisture and didn’t do enough to wick it away.  When I took off the baselayer it seemed that the silvery dots were coated with a sheen of sweat.

I don’t want to overplay the wicking issue – it’s only an problem if you’re spending a night outdoors after wearing this baselayer and you’ll have to deal with all that moisture so that you don’t freeze to death.  For just about any activity in very cold weather, though, Omni-Heat is awesome.  You may find more sweat buildup than other baselayers, but it has to be said that the Extreme Fleece is a lot warmer than any other baselayer of its weight.  You may be a little sweaty, but you’ll be really warm.

The Good:

  • Top is well articulated with great range of motion
  • Armpit and groin panels handle the worst sweat buildup
  • Omni-Heat is very warm
  • Waistband keeps bottoms firmly in place
  • Feel great next-to-skin
  • Legs are easily pulled up above ski boots without cutting of circulation

The Bad:

  • Omni-Heat laminate could breathe better
  • Thumb holes grew uncomfortable over time – edge was too sharp
  • Seams in the pants caused mild irritation with friction
  • Tend to absorb body odors

The Bottom Line

Columbia’s Omni-Heat is a total winner and it’s an ideal technology for a baselayer — the silky-soft feel and surprising warmth/weight ratio make for a great next-to-skin option.  Moisture control is lacking, but I have total confidence that Columbia will continue to improve this fabric as more people grow to love the silver dots.  I would recommend this baselayer to anyone who lives and plays in very cold temperatures, but if sweat management is a priority over warmth this baselayer is not for you.

Buy Now: Tops and Bottoms Available at Columbia.com

About Author

Kevin Glover is an outdoorsman living, climbing and biking in Spokane, WA. Originally from the Nevada high desert, he moved to the PNW for its mild winters and allergen-free summers. He has guided throughout the Cascades and Enchantments for Peak 7 Adventures.

Leave A Reply

Complete this question: * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload the CAPTCHA.