IMG_5282As part of the welcome package to Columbia’s OmniTen program, the company sent me a blue Omni-Freeze Ice Solar Polar t-shirt to test out.

If you’re at all familiar with outdoor or sports clothing, you’ve already seen an enormous amount fabrics that aim to keep you cool in hot weather – from natural merino wool to synthetics, wicking fabrics and semipermeable membranes like Gore-Tex … but Columbia’s Omni-Freeze has a little something extra working in its favor.

The Ice utilizes two Columbia technologies – Omni-Freeze and Omni-Wick (they’re really going all-out with this Omni prefix this year). Omni-Wick is Columbia’s wicking fabric, made of flat fibers that claim to come in contact with about 35% more surface area of your skin. Wicking is a term you’ve heard before – it just refers to any fabric that can take moisture away from your skin and transfer it to the outer layer of clothing for evaporation, which is important both for keeping you from becoming too hot in the summer and from getting clammy and cool in the winter.

What makes the Columbia garments special is this Omni-Freeze feature – a chemical treatment of the garment’s fibers that literally lower its temperature when it’s wet – either from sweat or humidity in the air (Columbia says this treatment should last between 50 and 70 washes). Engadget got a piece of test fabric last year and took a video with some thermometers so you can actually see the temperature dropping – or you can see a similar demonstration on Columbia’s Omni-Freeze subsite under the “learn more” button. That’s Science, people!

Other than that, the shirt also has some nice reflective stripes, ventilation areas, and an antimicrobial treatment that will help keep the funk off the shirt if you can’t wash it.

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So, the big question is – how’d it hold up?

Pretty darn well, actually.

Over the weekend, I threw the Ice on, hopped on my bike, and participated in my second CicLAvia – a day-long festival where L.A. closes down 10 miles of city streets to cars and turns them into a sprawling cyclist / pedestrian / whatever public space. It’s got architecture walks and downtown tours for urban hikers, too, but I did the full circuit on my bike, then rode back to Echo Park from the Bicycle District when I was done. It really is one of my favorite things about living in L.A. and you should definitely try to do it when the next one rolls around in October.

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But back to the Ice … here’s the thing about me and biking – I sweat a LOT when I’m doing it. Sunday wasn’t an especially hot day, but it was warm and sunny and I spent a good three and a half hours riding my bike around L.A., so I definitely worked up some body heat – but, instead of being covered in sweat like I usually am after biking home from work, I was pretty dry and definitely much cooler than I was expecting to be. When I was done with the ride and took the shirt off, it was only damp in a few choice spots, mostly where it was covered by my backpack. And I didn’t have a Columbia Logo sunburned into my upper back from that venting area either!

All in all, I was fairly impressed with the Ice, and may even spring for a tank-top version on my own dime when I start hitting the trails in the summer heat.

More CicLAvia pics here.

The shirt I reviewed retails for $60. Omni-Freeze Ice is available on a variety of garments, including hats, baselayers, jackets and pants ranging from $25-100. They are available at Columbia.com as well as retailers like Backcountry.com.

Columbia Sportswear provided me with this item free of charge for review.

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