TEST SERIES BY JUSTIN POTTS
November 05, 2012
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Sapulpa, Oklahoma, USA
5' 8" (1.73 m)
180 lb (81.60 kg)
When introduced to the backpacking community I immediately fell in love with it, and I fell hard! Not a weekend goes by that I am not out in the wilderness somewhere. I have roughly 2,000 mi (3220 km) of hiking/backpacking experience mostly in Oklahoma's Wichita Wildlife Refuge. I like to pack light, with a base weight of 15 lbs (6.8 kg) but I also like to be comfortable. I hike hard and fast to reach a destination, and explore after I make camp. I shall see what this turns into as I keep backpacking.
PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS
Manufacturer: Columbia Sportswear Company
Year of Manufacture: 2012
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.columbia.com/
MSRP: 55.00 USD
Color Tested: White (also available in Compass blue, and Black)
Size Tested: Men's Medium (available in size Small-XXLarge)
Materials: 90% polyester/10% elastane
Listed Weight: None listed
Measured Weight: 5 oz (142 g)
The website above lists several generic baselayer features such as:
-4-way comfort stretch
But they also list two specific features that I am much more excited about:
Omni-Freeze ICE advanced cooling: which the manufacturer defines as "using a naturally occurring chemistry to start actively cooling you the moment sweat hits the surface of the garment."
Omni-Wick advanced evaporation: which, from what I have gathered from the website, is a specially designed fabric to generate moisture flow away from the skin and off of the shirt.
I will be going into more detail on these features in the Field Report after I experience them first hand.
This shirt is packaged in a neat little plastic tube. It seems like a waste of space and material, but I must say it is very eye catching. The packaging alone would make me want to pick up this shirt and look at it.
As listed above the website lists that this shirt is made of 90% polyester and 10% elastane. But after inspecting the tags I found a discrepancy. The tags list the shirt as being 91% polyester and 9% elastane, and I might add that it is listed in seven different languages. I have never seen tags this big on any baselayer I have ever used. Either way this combination of polyester/elastane gives it a super soft feel to the skin and makes it stretch enough to give free range of motion.
I really like the care and thought that went into the construction of this shirt. All of the seams have what looks to be heavy duty stitching while still keeping the seams flat and smooth. I hope that it is as sound as it looks to stand up to some abuse on the rough trails here in Oklahoma, I will be making a note of it in later reports. However, one thing that does bother me about the seams is that the website states that it is "a sleek, no-sew construction in high chaff zones" but it has extra seams due to all of the stitching around the mesh panels. Hopefully the extra seams will not be noticeable, and I will also report back my findings on this detail.
On to the mesh panels, Columbia has put in mesh panels from shoulder to shoulder and around the neck (pictured below), as well as underneath the armpits. This is a neat feature to create airflow in high sweat areas. I do find it concerning though as it is very thin across the top and it is not listed as Omni-Shade (Columbia's sun protective fabric). Seeing as it is a baselayer though, I may just have to wear it as an actual baselayer instead of a t-shirt as I normally would.
I wear a medium in just about everything, sometimes a small for baselayers. I went with a medium since I was unable to find one locally to try on. It is a form fitting athletic cut and the medium fits snug, but not tight. I am pretty broad across the shoulders, so it is tight across the shoulders, but most shirts are on me and that is how I like shirts to fit. Even though it is tight, it has enough stretch to give free range of motion, making it a good fit on me.
As I mentioned above, the care label is printed in seven languages, which takes up two 4 in (10 cm) tags front and back. The instructions are fairly generic, and are the same as my other polyester and polypro garments:
-Machine wash cold gentle, with like colors
-Do not bleach or use fabric softener
-Tumble dry low, remove promptly
-Iron low, do not iron over decal
-Do not dry clean
Even though it has instructions for tumble drying, I do not tumble dry my polyesters and polypros, I prefer them to air dry. And I thought it silly to include ironing instructions... It could be that I am still just a kid, but polys do not wrinkle readily, and I do not think the wildlife or trail buddies are going to mind to much if my baselayer is wrinkled.
All told I am stoked about this shirt. I am excited to get it out and start testing as soon as possible!
This concludes my Initial Report.
FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
My first trip was a two-night hiking/climbing trip to the Wichita Wildlife Refuge. The distance traveled per day was undetermined.
My second outing was a three-night backpacking trip in the Wichita Wildlife Refuge in late spring. We covered 15-20 mi (24-32 km) per day. It was fairly warm, so packs were light. The terrain was relatively flat in the backpacking area compared to other parts of the Wildlife Refuge.
And finally, a five-day, four-night trip in the Sangre De Cristo Mountains in August. Elevation ~13,000 ft (4,000 m) with somewhere around 5,300 ft (1,600 m) gain from the base. Covering somewhere between 10-12 mi (16-19 km) a day.
|Drying out after a storm.|
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
Even though this shirt is classified as a base layer, I primarily wore it alone, except while in Colorado because I had a fleece or a rain jacket over the top of it. That being said, it performed wonderfully at keeping me cool and dry in the heat.
Materials and Moisture Management:
As mentioned previously in the Initial report, the shirt is a combination of polyester and elastane. After wearing it for awhile I do not even notice that I am even wearing a shirt at all. The combination of materials provide a soft to the touch, very comfortable shirt. The elastane also gives it enough stretch so that it does not restrict movement at all. And since the Omnifreeze is a snug athletic fit it just became a part of my body.
While being thin and soft, the shirt proved to be tough. There is no noticeable wear showing from where my pack rides, and only one small mark from some thick brush I was tromping through in Colorado.
Before talking about moisture management, let it be known that I sweat... A lot! So, I had some reservations before wearing this shirt this summer as to whether or not it could keep me dry. However, it did remarkably well. No, it did not keep me completely dry in the 105+ F (40+ C) temperatures, but it did manage it well. The Omnifreeze does this by wicking moisture away from the skin to the outside of the shirt so that it can evaporate quicker.
I mentioned in the Initial Report that I had concerns about the extra seams around the mesh panels. I had thought having seams in weird places might irritate the skin a bit, but it was not noticeable. On the down side, across the top of the shirt from shoulder to shoulder is a mesh panel. I did find out that this fabric is NOT sun protective. After caring for a pretty bad sunburn on my shoulders I made sure to put sunscreen on my shoulders before wearing this shirt.
In summary, the Columbia Omnifreeze has performed very well. It keeps me cooler and relatively drier than other base layers that I have used. There is no noticeable stretching which I have experienced with other similar tops. And the only fault I have found is that it is not completely sun protective.
LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
First, a 15-day, 14-night trip in Colorado at the Sangre De Cristo Mountains in late September. Elevation was ~13,000 ft (4,000 m) with somewhere around 5,300 ft (1,600 m) gain from the base. We covered somewhere between 10-12 mi (16-19 km) a day. It also rained in the mountains every day at 4-6 PM like clockwork.
Second, I took this shirt on a three-night backpacking trip in the Wichita Wildlife Refuge Oklahoma, U.S. in September. We covered roughly 5 mi (8 km) per day. In the Refuge the terrain is relatively flat, and on this particular trip it rained hard all four days/three nights. It would probably be best described as a swamp trudge vs. a backpacking trip...
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
As well as wearing this shirt backpacking I have been wearing it on my morning rides as a baselayer underneath my jersey. This was mostly just to get more use out of it, plus it works very well wicking moisture and keeping me dry.
As the weather has started to get cooler the OmniFreeze found its way to the bottom of my polypro drawer until just recently. I put it on underestimating how chilly it was outside and actually found an unlabeled use for it. Columbia promotes it as a baselayer to keep dry and cool. But I have been using it to keep me slightly warmer since it wicks moisture away from my skin and keeps me dry so that I don't get chills from sweat cooling while riding in the mornings.
One more thing I did discover is that this shirt dries very quickly, which could probably go without saying considering what this shirt was designed for. But still yet I was surprised by how fast it dried after getting caught in a rain shower that soaked me to the bone.
Aside from this new found use, everything has remained relatively the same. The OmniFreeze is an extremely comfortable baselayer. The shirt has a snug athletic fit while at first feels a little too tight and uncomfortable but shortly after putting it on I forget that I am even wearing a shirt.
The construction of this shirt is still solid, I have not had any stray threads coming undone in the stitching, and no spots of serious wear worth mentioning. I did snag it once pretty good in Colorado, which created a small hole, but it has not spread/become larger even wearing it many times since then.
All in all, this is a wonderful year round baselayer to keep dry, cool, and warm. It is comfortable enough to wear all day long and does not chafe at all. I am just as excited about this shirt as I was the day I received it, and I plan to continue to wear it as my primary go-to baselayer...
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.
Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.
Finally I would like to thank Columbia Sportswear and BackpackGearTest.org for this opportunity. This concludes my report for the Columbia OmniFreeze baselayer SST.
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