The human body uses sweat to let heat escape from the body and, in doing so, attempts to prevent us from overheating. Sweating can range from the effective ‘glow of perspiration’ to the ‘dripping’ stage, where the body is battling to control its temperature. Unfortunately, as one of life’s larger runners, I tend to find myself at the dripping end of the scale more often than not. It’s not a comfortable place to be, especially when exerting yourself for any length of time. I’m sure many of you will have experienced that really uncomfortable moment when you put a rucksack back on to an already sweaty back. Clothing manufacturers have attempted to address the problem, with varying degrees of success, by producing clothing that wicks the sweat away from the body. Most manufacturers have adopted the same approach, viewing sweat as a problem, something that needs to be removed. Columbia have turned this approach on it’s head with their range of Omni-Freeze Zero products, t-shirts, shorts, and accessories that actually seek to put your sweat back to work. When I first heard about this, I will admit to being sceptical but I was fortunate enough to receive an Omni-Freeze Zero t-shirt to test and, I have to admit, by the end of testing I was suitably impressed.
Omni-Freeze Zero technology is intended for running and other fast paced activities. The tshirt material contains visible blue rings of cooling polymer and it is these rings that create the cooling effect. When exposed to moisture, the rings swell, letting air pass around you as if you had goosebumps, resulting in the cooling sensation. Given that my tshirt was the same blue colour, I hadn’t actually noticed the composition of the fabric but, as my run progressed, I could see more and more of the rings contained in the fabric. When you stop sweating, the material soon dries, and the cooling effect stops. As such, you should never find yourself getting too cold. Columbia are so confident of their product that they believe it’s cooler to wear an Omni-Freeze Zero top than taking your top off entirely. According to Columbia, the cooling effects will last for the life of the garment.
Scotland has actually seen some consistently hot weather for the first time in years (to the point that people were actually starting to complain about the heat – what’s that about!) It gave me the perfect opportunity to try out the Columbia Omni-Freeze Zero tshirt. Not only did I test it out and about on the roads and trails. I put it to the ultimate test, running on a treadmill at midday in the sun-trap conservatory at the back of our house where the temperature hit 30C!. I’ve never been a fan of running in the heat, largely due to my bulk, but this year I was determined to do something to address this, and I was taking the Columbia Omni-Freeze Zero shirt along for the ride! The tshirt offers UPF50 sun protection, is antibacterial, and has ergonomic seams, for comfort on the move. I found it to be form fitting, not as loose as I would normally wear my tshirts but, thankfully, not overly tight as required by some wicking garments for full functionality. So, how did it fare? Well, I actually felt nothing, but in a good way, if that makes any sense at all! I end up pretty sweaty at the best of times, with my tshirt clinging uncomfortably to me, and that’s in normal temperatures, not the summer temperatures experienced these past few weeks. However, when wearing the Columbia Omni-Freeze Zero tshirt, I found that my upper torso was some kind of neutral zone – I was never too hot or too cold. I just didn’t have to give any thought to my temperature, leaving me to focus my attention on the run in hand. What was surprising was the extent of how wet the tshirt was by the end of my exercise, and, perhaps more surprising, that I hadn’t noticed this whilst wearing it. Going by the success of my experiment, it’s definitely time to invest in some more of the Omni-Freeze Zero tshirts. I’m also keen to try the Omni-Freeze Zero bandana. If it’s anywhere near as effective at cooling as the tshirt, it will soon replace my standard Buffs as my favoured headgear for running. Update 26th August 2013: Given the success of the aforementioned testing, I packed the Columbia OMNI Freeze for a holiday in the Scottish Cairngorms, where I knew I would be doing a fair bit of running. The weather overall wasn’t too bad for August and certainly far better than I have experienced in the past at that time of year. However, there were a few days with some significant wind, especially as my runs took me higher up into the mountains. Two days in particular stand out, where I was being blown left, right and centre by the wind, to the point of making little headway. However, the Columbia OMNI Freeze kept me from feeling the worst of the chill, despite being soaked in sweat from my exertions. Again, very impressed and glad to have packed the OMNI Freeze for runs up into the mountains. RRP: £35
- 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
Columbia – Trying stuff since 1938: Columbia Omni-Freeze Zero Explanation: There’s also a ‘slightly’ tongue in cheek video to promote the Omni Freeze Range: