Does Columbia’s Omniheat Technology Really Work?

Whenever we see a new breakthrough technology, we consider it, but also question the true novelty of it. Well, Columbia’s Omniheat technology was no different.  At the beginning of the ski season, Columbia offered us some new coats and baselayers to review, all made with their Omniheat technology.  After a few months of crazy trials, we’ve finally come to a conclusion about Omniheat.  Let me explain.

The Omniheat Technology is hundreds of little metallic dots attached to the inside of the garment. Almost like hundreds of little sequins.  Columbia promotes this product as “the ultimate body heat management system for the outdoors“.  So does it work or is it really just a way to market coats?

I tested the men’s Melting Point Parka and Jessica tested the women’s Triple Trail Shell while we both tested their midweight baselayers (top and bottom).  We tested the coats and baselayers extensively and consistently came up with the same results.  The coats are great, and the puffy liner quickly became my favorite coat.  The base layers do not perform like I would expect one to. 

The base layers are made out of a thin polyester, almost spandex like material.  The funny thing is that as soon as I put them on, rather than getting warmth, I feel cold.  The thin layer doesn’t help hold heat, even if the Omni Heat does (might).  It felt like the material was simply too thin to trap any of our body heat.  As I would lounge around in the house with just the base layer on with the heat set around 60, I actually felt colder with the baselayer on then without it.

Now let me give Columbia a little more credit by saying that they do seem to work fine if they are covered up.  So if that is your full intent, to always cover them up by a sweater, pants, coats, etc.—hence the name BASE layer—then it does work fine.  I walked around Anchorage in -4 degree weather with just the base layer and a pair of jeans and didn’t have much of a problem with the cold. So does it work?  Depends on how it’s used.  If your intent is to have something that keeps you cool in the summer and warm in the winter (if it is covered), these could be a good option.  Jessica loved how hers were tailored to fit her body  (instead of just a smaller mens version) and they are all quite comfortable.  As far as the omniheat, the base layer material, it is too breathable to hold the heat in making it so the reflectors don’t work.  When I get a base layer, I think of insulation, or if I put it on, I expect that I will feel warmer, not colder and I just couldn’t get over the initial reaction of, wow, this actually feels colder.  It consistently happened, so I do not recommend the Columbia Omniheat midweight baselayer.

On the other hand, the coats are great.  Honestly, Columbia has really stepped it up in the coat department.  When I think of Columbia, the first thing that comes to mind is the 3-in-1 coats everyone had in middle school, while although they were popular, do not make me think of high performance.   The Melting Point Parka I received, also has the 3-in-1 system that Columbia is so popular for.  The liner is a synthetic coat and is so warm that I wear it every single day.  It is a coat that is very versatile and warm.  The liner has the Omniheat technology and the shell does not, which makes sense.  I wanted to tell whether it was the Omniheat or just a good coat, so I did a little experiment.  I went out on a cold night with the coat on inside out (so that the Omniheat wouldn’t be reflecting my body heat).  Yes, I probably looked like I was from outer space, but I did feel that there was a difference in the performance of the coat with the Omniheat in vs out.  By the way, zipping a coat up an down with the zipper on the inside can be a little tricky. :)  Overall, this is a fantastic coat that I would highly recommend.  It performed great in all conditions from recent 60 degree Colorado days, to -10 degrees in Ankorage AK.

Here’s what Jessica had to say about the Triple Trail Shell that she received:
Honestly, I’m not typically a big fan of shells on their own.  I’m kind of a whimp about the cold, so I tend to like lots of insulation in addition to my layering and most shells don’t cut it.  The first time I really put this coat to the test was skiing with only my baselayers and Icebreaker wool top on underneath.  Initially, my lift ride was really cold.  However, as I started to wrangle Mason and Chloe down the hill, I got warm, and stayed that way.  The heat lasted much longer than I anticipated, probably due to the Omniheat.  If you’re looking for a shell, this one really is fantastic.  One of the first things that I noticed is how incredibly well it was constructed.  Since I love to sew, I could quickly tell that this was a coat that was made with a lot of precision.  I mean seriously, it’s sewn so well, you can barely even see where the pockets are.  I also loved that it was tailored to fit a women, complete with bust darts!  All of the seams are taped and zippers are sealed so well that even in the rain, everything stays out, just as it should.  I’d recommend this coat in an instant!

At the Outdoor Retailer show, we were able to see a great lineup of all the Omni- technology that Columbia is working on.  Keep an eye out for it, because there will be lots of new things hitting the market soon.

Thanks to Columbia for providing the coats and baselayers for this review.  All opinions we expressed are our own and we didn’t receive any payment for them.



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