A Summer In Columbia

I’d love to tell you about a summer spent trekking in the Andes mountain range, or in the Amazon rainforest. However, the slight deviation in spelling, ‘Columbia’ rather than ‘Colombia’, may already have given it away.

The Columbia that I am referring to is, of course, the outerwear and sportswear company, who were kind enough to kit me out at the start of the summer with the Zero Rules Short Sleeve ShirtSilver Ridge Convertible trousers (shorts/trousers), Insect Blocker Long Sleeve Shirt, and Conspiracy II OutDry shoes.

My summer was spent firmly in the UK and, it has to be said, it was excellent. Most importantly, I got to spend loads of time with my son Harris (quickly approaching his second birthday) and wife Leanne, with an added bonus being that we spent a good portion of our time in the Cairngorms, my favourite Scottish location.

Back in mid 2013, I was sent a Columbia Omni Freeze t-shirt for review and, to quote myself, “was blown away at just how well it helped me maintain a desirable body temperature, from the extremes of keeping me cool while running on a treadmill in our sun house in 30°C+ temperatures, through to keeping me from freezing while being buffeted by winds at altitude while out on a trail run high in the Cairngorm mountains.”

I had high hopes for the gear on the basis of my previous experience and, to cut a long story short, I wasn’t disappointed.

Now I would be lying if I was to say that I had spent all day, every day in the provided Columbia gear, but the truth of it is that I have actually spent the majority of summer and autumn dressed in Columbia.

Last year I described my Columbia Omni Freeze t-shirt as “without a doubt, one of the stand-out items of kit for me this past year” and, it has to be said, that same t-shirt still is.

It has, however, now been joined in the clothing rotation by the Zero Rules Short Sleeve Shirt that Columbia sent me and this garment has also gone down a storm, to the extent that I have purchased a further two Zero Rules t-shirts.  That alone should speak volumes with regard to how I rate the garment.

I will admit to having worn the Silver Ridge Convertible Trousers as trousers on only a handful of occasions but have worn them as shorts on an almost daily basis.

This was always likely to be the case as I am firmly a shorts & t-shirt kind of guy, through pretty much most weather conditions. People actually do pass comment on the rare occasions that they see me in long trousers, either in person or in photographs!

On the occasions that I have attached the handy zip-off legs to the Silver Ridge Convertible Trousers, the additional protection afforded has been most welcome, most notably in the face of continued ‘tick attack’ whilst walking amidst ferns in the Cairngorms.

Coming back from one particular walk, a thoroughly recommended trek up Torr Alvie and the Duke of Gordon Monument, I removed no less than 10 ticks of varying size. This was enough to make me reconsider my preference for shorts, especially given the potential for Lyme disease. As such, I made sure to carry and attach the lower leg portion of the Silver Ridge Convertible Trousers whenever I ventured into potential tick hotspots. Thanks to the mild winter of 2013/14, the tick population has apparently thrived.

The versatility of quickly and easily being able to swap between trousers and shorts is a bonus, with obvious implications for travelling and packing light.

As a fan of minimalist shoes, I was initially slightly unsure about the Conspiracy II OutDry shoes, with considerably more cushioning than my normal shoes. However, putting the shoes on for the first time, it soon became apparent that they offered a supremely comfortable fit, with a spacious toe-box that was roomy even for my wide feet. Aesthetically, the grey/orange colourscheme is a real winner, that also works well for casual wear.

Superior traction meets waterproof-breathable construction for an ultra-lightweight shoe that will keep you nimble, comfortable and dry during all kinds of outdoor activities. The mesh upper is fortified with a protective rubber screen-print to maximize durability while the Fluidframe midsole provides ideal underfoot support for a lively, responsive ride.” (http://www.columbia.com/mens-conspiracy-ii-outdry-BM2580.html)

After a good few months of considerable use both the upper and the sole are in as new condition, other than accumulated dirt. I’ve used the shoe mostly for walking/hiking, especially where I anticipated spending long days on my feet, but have also used them for both trail and treadmill running.

I will admit to initially being slightly sceptical of the waterproof and breathable claims but have to admit that the Conspiracy II OutDry actually does pass both claims with flying colours. If you have any doubts, stick them on and stand in flowing water. It’s quite remarkable just how dry your feet remain. Obviously, as is always the case with footwear, once water levels are sufficiently high, any water will be up and over, seeping into your shoe around the ankle. However, I’ve found that the shoe soon dries.

Further, I’ve found in the past that waterproof shoes generally aren’t breathable but, even on the hottest days I have had no problems with the Conspiracy II OutDry and my feet have remained sweat free.

Of all the items, the Insect Blocker Long Sleeve Shirt has received the least wear. As mentioned previously, I’m a shorts & t-shirt kind of guy and, thankfully, we were blessed with a pretty good summer, which looked favourably on my preferred clothing choice. However, as the temperatures continue to drop, I do expect to get more use out of this garment.

All of the items provided were generously sized and extremely comfortable. I did find that the Silver Ridge Convertible Trousers were slightly long for me when used as trousers and, as a result, they did tend to ‘collect’ water on wet days. However, they are used as shorts rather than trousers approx 90% of the time so this rarely has any effect.

With regard to the items of clothing, I’ve found that everything washes well and dries quickly, facilitating a quick turnaround. As anyone with a toddler will tell you, this is a godsend, but, on a more serious note, it’s also perfect for travelling light and packing minimally.

Thanks to Columbia for providing me with the opportunity to test out their product, which I have absolutely no hesitation in recommending to others. I’m certain that I will still be wearing these items for many months to come.

Product Details

Zero Rules Short Sleeve Shirt

£25, Available at Blacks

A super-cooling tech tee with stretch and sun protection, this soft and lightweight men’s shirt sports Columbia’s industry-leading cooling technology, which reacts with your sweat to lower the material’s temperature and keep you cool during dynamic aerobic activity in the heat.

Construction:

  • Omni-Freeze ZERO™ sweat-activated super cooling
  • Omni-Wick™
  • Omni-Shade™ UPF 30 sun protection
  • Modern Classic Fit
  • Comfort stretch
  • Antimicrobial treatment protects this product from bacteria growth

Fabric:

  • 100% polyester ZERO interlock

Silver Ridge Convertible Pant

£55, Available at Blacks

These durable, quick-wicking pants feature built-in sun protection and plentiful storage making them the perfect choice for active days in warm weather.

Construction:

  • Omni-Wick
  • Omni-Shade UPF 50 sun protection
  • Partial elastic at waist
  • Gusset detail
  • Pockets with hook and loop closure
  • Zip-closed security pocket
  • Mesh pocket bags

Fabric:

  • Omni-Shade Main Body
    100% nylon Silver Ridge ripstop
  • Omni-Wick Mesh Panels
    57% recycled polyester/43% polyester mesh

Insect Blocker Long Sleeve Shirt

£50, Available at Snow+Rock

This versatile button up features Insect Blocker™ technology to ward off bugs, UPF 30 wards off harsh UV rays, and Omni-Wick™ advanced evaporation keeps you cool and dry during dynamic activity.

Construction:

  • Insect Blocker
  • Omni-Wick technology actively breathes and pulls sweat away from your body to keep you dry and cool
  • Omni-Shade UPF 30 provides premium protection from the sun
  • Pocket with hook and loop closure
  • Mesh pocket bags
  • Rollup sleeves with tab holders
  • Sun protection collar
  • Vented

Fabric:

  • Omni-Wick, Omni-Shade 100% Insect Blocker nylon basketweave

Conspiracy II OutDry

£80, Available at Blacks

Superior traction meets waterproof-breathable construction for an ultra-lightweight shoe that will keep you nimble, comfortable and dry during all kinds of outdoor activities. The mesh upper is fortified with a protective rubber screen-print to maximise durability while the Fluidframe midsole provides ideal underfoot support for a lively, responsive ride.

Construction:

  • Upper
    • Protective rubber screenprint over mesh
    • OutDry waterproof, breathable construction
    • Synthetic toecap
  • Midsole
    • Techlite™ lightweight midsole, superior cushion, high energy return
    • FluidFrame™ multidensity underfoot support
  • Outsole
    • Omni-Grip™ high traction non-marking rubber
  • Weight: US size 9, ½ pair = 10.3 oz/294 g

Kirkhill Forest & Columbia Gear Testing

“Explore the forest at Kirkhill. There’s plenty of space beneath Kirkhill’s trees for walking, running, cycling and horse riding. This working forest has a mountain bike fun park too, where you can practise those technical skills. There are great views all round from the Tappie Tower, a Victorian folly. See if you can spot the Mither Tap – the hill at Bennachie forest away to the north.” (http://scotland.forestry.gov.uk/visit/kirkhill)

“The paths in Kirkhill vary from fast fire-track / land-rover paths to a few testing climbs through the trees as well as a lot of good technical single track sections with various downhill sections as well…

A ‘Fun Park’ has been built next to the Forestry Commission car park for Kirkill Forest. The fun park is a series of small jumps and tabletops which have been constructed in an otherwise smooth ‘kitty-litter’ type surface. This serves as a good introduction to jumping for novice riders, and can still be a bit of fun for more advanced riders, but it doesn’t have the ‘flow’ needed to compare favourably with other similar tracks in Scotland (e.g. Glentress, Laggan, Golspie, etc.).” (MTB Trails Info)

It’s been too long since I last ventured to Kirkhill Forest, for so long an almost weekly destination for me. But then, that was back when I was mountain biking on a regular basis, before ultra running came along and took up all my time, and before Harris came along and took the time back all for himself!

Having done a bit of research about Kirkhill Forest online, I see that the fun park opened way back in 2005, and I was cycling around Kirkhill quite a bit before the park arrived. That just makes me feel old lol!

At 16 months, Harris is of an age where he is more than happy to sit in the Croozer or, as was the case this weekend past, in the WeeRide, giving him an even better view of his surroundings.

Given the precious cargo we were carrying, with Leanne and myself alternating cycling with Harris, we stuck mostly to the wider trails, other than the brief foray to Tappie Tower, right at the top of Kirkhill.

It’s a location best known as ‘Kirkhill Forest’, but it also includes Gorehead Wood, Gueval Wood, and Standingstones Wood, all of which you may cycle through depending on the route options that you take.

Located between Blackburn and Dyce, it offers a variety of route options and a fun park. The following information from Cycle Grampian provides some idea with regard to the kind of routes available:

MTB Fun Park

“Officially opened in March 2005, this short section of trail (about a mile) was purposely built to provide a range of technically challenging features – jumps, bumps, berms, switchbacks and more. It’s designed specifically to help you perfect your offroad biking skills. Be aware however that it is best suited to intermediate and advanced riders as it is tricky in parts.

It begins with an easy uphill ride through mature conifer forest to an open area, from where the descent back to the start takes you through all the classic mountain biking features you would expect. It finishes in the main car park giving you a great chance to show off to your mates and the other riders getting ready to hit the trails.”

Kirkhill Loop

“The 6¾ mile Kirkhill Loop, way marked by a red bike icon, starts from the MTB fun park and climbs steadily along fire break roads to Tappie Tower at the summit of Tyrebagger Hill. Tappie Tower offers good views to Inverurie and Bennachie to the north. From here the trail drops slowly for the remaining 4 or so miles back to the car park. The relatively easy gradients make this trail suitable for all, although the first few hundred yards are uphill.

For the more adventurous there is a choice of 3 single tracks leading from the tower back on to the Kirkhill Loop.”

South Spur

“The short (½ mile) south spur also begins (or ends?) next to the Fun Park and cuts off a corner of the Kirkhill Loop – follow the white markings. This is steep, rough, rocky and criss crossed with roots making it ideal for experienced riders, and adrenalin junkies.”

North Spur

“Its not single track, and its not fire break. It’s the North Spur. This slightly narrow trail, shared by horses, walkers and cyclists leads slightly uphill from the East Woodlands car park to the Kirkhill Loop. White markings guide the way.” (http://www.cyclegrampian.co.uk/mtb/routes/kirkhill.html)

Kirkhill Forest Links

Cycling approx. 10 miles, it was an excellent start to a lovely, sunny Sunday, even if it did feel predominantly uphill, somehow disputed by the GPS! Given the close proximity to Ellon (no more than 30 minutes drive from us, assuming traffic conditions are favourable) and the fact that Harris appeared to enjoy it so much, it looks like Kirkhill will once again become a regular haunt for us :o)

Columbia

It was also an excellent opportunity for me to put my new Columbia gear to the test, including my Conspiracy II OutDry shoesSilver Ridge Convertible trousers (worn as shorts) and Zero Rules Short Sleeve Shirt. A review of all of the above, and the Insect Blocker Long Sleeve Shirt, will follow upon my return from the Cairngorms in August.

Columbia Gear

Back in mid 2013, I was sent a Columbia Omni Freeze t-shirt for review and was blown away at just how well it helped me maintain a desirable body temperature, from the extremes of keeping me cool while running on a treadmill in our sun house in 30°C+ temperatures, through to keeping me from freezing while being buffeted by winds at altitude while out on a trail run high in the Cairngorm mountains. It has been, without a doubt, one of the stand-out items of kit for me this past year. Further, as one of my most comfortable t-shirts, I have turned to it on a daily basis as well, not just when I require the technical aspects of the garment.

As such, I was delighted to be presented with the opportunity to review some 2014 Columbia kit, including the Zero Rules Short Sleeve Shirt,  Silver Ridge Convertible trousers (shorts/trousers), Insect Blocker Long Sleeve Shirt and Conspiracy II OutDry shoes.

Since I received the Columbia product last week, I have made a point of wearing each item as much as possible and have to admit to liking the versatility of being able to turn the Silver Ridge Convertible Trousers from trousers to shorts and back again, simply by zipping off the lower leg portion.

I will admit to being a shorts & t-shirt guy outside of work hours, regardless of the weather, to the extent that family and friends are genuinely shocked on the rare occasion when they see me in long trousers!

Unfortunately, when I am out and about, I appear to be the equivalent of a ‘happy meal’ for clegs, midges etc, and I also tend to react badly to any bites, turning red and blotchy and often requiring the use of antihistamines and creams to calm inflammation.

A few years back, a bite to my leg resulted in it swelling to the point where I had no choice but to elevate it for a week. This was bad enough. However, it was also 2 weeks before the 53 mile Highland Fling ultramarathon, hardly ideal race preparation! (I didn’t have the easiest of races but I did make it to the end)

On my most recent trip to the Cairngorms, I found that I appeared to be equally appealing to ticks, ‘helped’ no doubt by my tendency to seek out new routes on pathways that were often fairly overgrown.

As such, it makes sense for me to forego the shorts & t-shirt approach where necessary and to cover up a bit more. With approx. 3 weeks until I next return to the Cairngorms, I am already counting down the days and I am looking forward to putting my new Columbia gear through their paces. Full reviews to follow upon my return from the Cairngorms.

Product Details

Zero Rules Short Sleeve Shirt

£25, Available at Blacks

A super-cooling tech tee with stretch and sun protection, this soft and lightweight men’s shirt sports Columbia’s industry-leading cooling technology, which reacts with your sweat to lower the material’s temperature and keep you cool during dynamic aerobic activity in the heat.

Construction:

  • Omni-Freeze ZERO™ sweat-activated super cooling
  • Omni-Wick™
  • Omni-Shade™ UPF 30 sun protection
  • Modern Classic Fit
  • Comfort stretch
  • Antimicrobial treatment protects this product from bacteria growth

Fabric:

  • 100% polyester ZERO interlock

Silver Ridge Convertible Pant

£55, Available at Blacks

These durable, quick-wicking pants feature built-in sun protection and plentiful storage making them the perfect choice for active days in warm weather.

Construction:

  • Omni-Wick
  • Omni-Shade UPF 50 sun protection
  • Partial elastic at waist
  • Gusset detail
  • Pockets with hook and loop closure
  • Zip-closed security pocket
  • Mesh pocket bags

Fabric:

  • Omni-Shade Main Body
    100% nylon Silver Ridge ripstop
  • Omni-Wick Mesh Panels
    57% recycled polyester/43% polyester mesh

Insect Blocker Long Sleeve Shirt

£50, Available at Snow+Rock

This versatile button up features Insect Blocker™ technology to ward off bugs, UPF 30 wards off harsh UV rays, and Omni-Wick™ advanced evaporation keeps you cool and dry during dynamic activity.

Construction:

  • Insect Blocker
  • Omni-Wick technology actively breathes and pulls sweat away from your body to keep you dry and cool
  • Omni-Shade UPF 30 provides premium protection from the sun
  • Pocket with hook and loop closure
  • Mesh pocket bags
  • Rollup sleeves with tab holders
  • Sun protection collar
  • Vented

Fabric:

  • Omni-Wick, Omni-Shade 100% Insect Blocker nylon basketweave

Conspiracy II OutDry

£80, Available at Blacks

Superior traction meets waterproof-breathable construction for an ultra-lightweight shoe that will keep you nimble, comfortable and dry during all kinds of outdoor activities. The mesh upper is fortified with a protective rubber screen-print to maximise durability while the Fluidframe midsole provides ideal underfoot support for a lively, responsive ride.

Construction:

  • Upper
    • Protective rubber screenprint over mesh
    • OutDry waterproof, breathable construction
    • Synthetic toecap
  • Midsole
    • Techlite™ lightweight midsole, superior cushion, high energy return
    • FluidFrame™ multidensity underfoot support
  • Outsole
    • Omni-Grip™ high traction non-marking rubber
  • Weight: US size 9, ½ pair = 10.3 oz/294 g