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The Columbia Omni-Freeze Zero Shirt

A Hot Running Weather Accessory that Increases Endurance

© 2013 ; all rights reserved; content may not be copied, rewritten, or republished without author’s written permission. Author’s Google profile

The Columbia Omni-Freeze Zero Shirt; photo © 2013 KSmith Media, LLC

I first saw this Columbia PFG Freezer Zero Shirt advertised on the back of a fly fishing magazine I subscribe to and knew that if it was effective, it would be perfect for running in the hot south Texas heat. This article is my review of this product.

Our summers being what they are, overheating is a major concern even when we start a run before the sun comes up. I knew I would have to give this shirt a try to see if it could live up to all the hype that Columbia was lavishing on it.

Is This Technical Fabric Shirt Affordable?

I can’t lie and say this garment is cheap; at Academy it was priced at $65 for the short sleeve although it rang up at $49.99. The long-sleeved version adds another $10. Steep? Yes, but less than what the damage would be for entry fees at two or three 5Ks at today’s prices.

I surmise that the rationale here is just like with any other new product; the company must recoup R&D costs and manufacturing ramp-up.

The Technology Behind the Columbia Sweat-Activated Shirt

The cooling rings on the Columbia Omni Freeze Zero shirt; photo © 2013 KSmith Media, LLC The key factor in this tech material is the embedded blue rings.

The rings (see the close-up picture above) contain a proprietary cooling agent that is activated when experiencing contact with the wearer’s persperation. Since the sweat-soaked fabric clings to the skin, the effect is instantly transmitted to the runner.

Testing the High-Tech Fabric

  • Day 1; Mile 1. I conducted this test from Clear Lake Park in Seabrook. This gave me an opportunity to run straight up Nasa Road 1 and back. Mile one was, as most of my runs, an easy warm-up. No sweat, so no activation; the temperature was 78°.

  • Day 1; Mile 2. During mile 2 I was able to come up to training pace and begin working up a sweat. There was a slight tail wind (maybe 5 MPH) and the humidity was at about 70% so there was little evaporative cooling effect.

  • Day 1; Mile 3. During this mile I pushed the pace a bit and got thoroughly drenched. The shirt was clinging completely and the cooling effect was obvious. Not at all “freezing” (the picture in the magazine ad had frost on the shirt; ha!) but pleasantly cool nevertheless.

  • Day 1; Turnaround and Return. Since the run down Nasa Road 1 is basically a straight run with a slight curve, my former tail wind became a head wind. This really intensified the cooling effect. Still no freeze, but I had a much cooler core than I would have with cotton.

  • Day 2 Observations. I hand-washed the shirt when I showered on day 1 and then hung it up to air dry. This run was from Bay Area Park (on Bay Area Blvd.) up Bay Area Blvd for a couple miles and then return.

    As before, this is basically an out and back route so wind played a role. On day 2 the cooling effect seemed a little more pronounced, perhaps due to the hand-washing and “breaking-in”?

Notes to Ponder

I feel that quite a bit of the effectiveness of the cooling effect in my case was compromised by the very high humidity in my area. The shirt is said by Columbia to, “accelerate the wicking process.”

Of course, this wicking and evaporation is a cooling process in itself, something I call the radiator effect. All well and good if you live in Denver, but down here with the humidity as high as it is, this is a negligible factor.

Readers living in low-humidity environments that have tried this shirt are welcome to chime in on how that affects the cooling experience. Either the comment section below or the “gear” topic section of the RAT Forum would be good places to comment.

Follow-Up Notes

In an attempt to experiment with the shirt in a “lower humidity” environment, I spent an hour on the treadmill at 24-Hour Fitness this morning. I wasn’t under one of the AC blower vents but the HVAC system still lowered the humidity level compared to outdoors.

Did it help? Yes, it seemed so to me. Running on the treadmill is not exactly my favorite thing, but a run is a run, right? And, every shower I take at the gym is one more utility saving at home.

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