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Friday, May 31, 2019

Pack and Go! or Hell No! - Columbia Omni-Freeze

It's 92º in central North Carolina. The brutal heat is unrelenting and it is starting earlier than normal. I have a long hot summer of teaching and learning to sail ahead of me, so with that in mind I went ahead and made a purchase.

Last year I replaced a very used shirt that I got from REI, it was called the long sleeve tech T and it was my primary hot weather paddling shirt. After extensive "testing" - meaning I tried on about a dozen shirts - I decide on a replacement and it was the one shirt I didn't want it to be. I chose the Patagonia. I didn't want to go with the Patagonia because it seems cliche for an outdoor instructor to wear Patagonia, but I went with it, because it fit the best, and some really cool features, like thumb loops to keep the sleeves in place. I wore it for a year and was very happy with it. It offered great sun protection UPF 50, as well as being very quick dry. Additionally, for the past few years I have paired UPF 50 shirts with a UPF 50 buff to protect the back of my neck. This has been my go to system for paddling in the heat.

But last week, seeing the unbearable heat, and realizing it was early and here to stay, I decided to try something else out. An option I didn't have when I tried on all those shirts last year. I reached out to Columbia Sportswear and ordered two products.

The first was from the PFG (Professional Fishing Gear) line, and its called the Zero Rules cooling long sleeve shirt ($45.00). By touch it feels exactly the same as any other quick dry shirt, but this incorporates the Columbia Omni - Freeze Zero technology. Here is a video describing Omni - Freeze Zero




Yeah, I watched it twice and I still don't understand how it works. The shirt also has Omni Shade (UPF 30) and Omni Wick (which means it wicks moisture.) It also has an antimicrobial coating to keep it form getting smelly. Anyone who wears synthetic tech fabrics knows that they get ripe sooner than organic materials.

Partnered with the shirt I ordered The Freezer zero II neck gaiter ($30.00). This also has Omni-Freeze, Omni-Wick, Omni-Shade (UPF 50 this time) and Omni-shield (which is a water repellency.)

For the record, Columbia is a little out of control with the Omni naming conventions, and let's be honest, these two items - which would hopefully replace my Buff and Patagonia shirt - have really stupid names.

Today I put them to the test.

The gaiter fit a bit tighter at the top, but was cut with a nice taper on the bottom. That tightness should keep it up on my face should I choose to use it that way. It also has laser cut holes so if I pull it over my nose and mouth, it won't fog my glasses, which is a nice touch. The shirt fit me well, but lacks the thumb loops, a feature I really like. It is also only UPF 30 instead of the UPF 50 for the shirt it is replacing. But really, this comes down to two questions. Does it work? Does it do everything that the Patagonia Shirt does? And while it's doing that does it also keep me cooler?

So question #1, does it work. It does almost everything the Patagonia shirt does, with the exception of the UPF 30 which I think is probably okay. It wicks moisture well, and fits well. It feels good against my skin, and I would have no problem wearing it.

Question #2, does it keep me cooler? Well, actually, it does. It gets this weird cooling effect going on that I am at a loss to explain. At one point I put the gaiter on my head like a hat and it was much cooler, and when you touch the sleeve of the shirt you can feel that it is cooler. I don't fully understand how it works, but it definitely works.

One down side, it takes significantly longer to dry, and I think that is part of the cooling process. It seems like Omni freeze prolongs the evaporative heat loss process. The funny thing is, the inside feels dry, but the outside surface still feels wet. It's bizarre.

Compared to other, similar shirts, it is a little more expensive. However the neck gaiter is almost double the price of my Buff.

But despite that, both of these products are Pack and Go! I will use them both on Saturday when I teach back to back paddle classes in 90+ degree weather!

Check back at the end of the season and I'll tell you how that antimicrobial stuff works. Why isn't it called Omni - Stink? or Omni-Fresh?

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