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 Shirt, Silver 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.
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.
- Omni-Freeze ZERO™ sweat-activated super cooling
- Omni-Shade™ UPF 30 sun protection
- Modern Classic Fit
- Comfort stretch
- Antimicrobial treatment protects this product from bacteria growth
- 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.
- 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
- Omni-Shade Main Body
100% nylon Silver Ridge ripstop
- Omni-Wick Mesh Panels
57% recycled polyester/43% polyester mesh
Insect Blocker Long Sleeve Shirt
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.
- 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
- 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.
- Protective rubber screenprint over mesh
- OutDry waterproof, breathable construction
- Synthetic toecap
- Techlite™ lightweight midsole, superior cushion, high energy return
- FluidFrame™ multidensity underfoot support
- Omni-Grip™ high traction non-marking rubber
- Weight: US size 9, ½ pair = 10.3 oz/294 g