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Note: This post was originally posted in 2012 when Columbia’s Omni Heat technology was fairly new. It has been updated in July 2019 with our current experience.
Whenever we see a new breakthrough technology, we consider it, but also question the true novelty of it. Well, Columbia’s Omni Heat 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 Omni Heat technology. After a few months of crazy trials, we’ve finally come to a conclusion about Omni heat and are here to tell you what you really want to know:
Does Columbia’s Omni Heat Really Work?
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“. Omni heat technology can be found in Omni Heat Pants, Omni Heat Jackets, Omni Heat Base Layer, and even Omni Heat Shoes. So does it work or is it really just a way to market coats?
Columbia Omni Heat Base Layers
I tested the men’s Melting Point Parka and Jessica tested the women’s Triple Trail Shell while we both tested their midweight base layers (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 base layer.
However, a lot of this comes down to the weight of the base layer. I was sent a midweight base layer which in my opinion are almost always worthless – I need a heavy weight base layer to insulate me. In the years since we originally wrote this review, we’ve tried thicker base layers by Columbia that have worked good, although I wouldn’t say that they’re significantly warmer than any other base layer.
Best Columbia Omni Heat Base Layers
|Columbia Titanium Baselayer (Heavy Weight Pant) Brushed Fleece Tight with Fly. Size Large|
|Columbia Omni-Heat Stretch Baselayer Mens Midweight Long Sleeve Shirt (L)|
|Columbia Men's Midweight Half Zip Omni Heat Top Black Shirt (L)|
|Columbia Womens Omni-Heat Midweight Baselayer Long Sleeve Shirt Blouse (L, Black)|
|Columbia Women's Heavyweight Half Zip Baselayer Omni Heat Top (Black, M)|
Now, we want to talk about Columbia Outwear for a bit and how the Omni Heat technology performs there. First of all, you need to know that Columbia really does stand behind their products. In fact, most outerwear with the Omni Heat technology has a limited lifetime warranty. This is almost unheard of in the outdoor industry. After years and years of use, our jackets are still performing excellently. If you want to learn more about their warranty, go here.
Columbia Omni Heat Parka For Men
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.
Columbia Omni Heat Jackets for Men
|Columbia Mens Crested Butte II Omni-Heat Jacket, BLACK (L)|
|Columbia Men's Rural Mountain II Interchange Jacket-Black/Black-Large|
|Columbia Men's Crested Butte Omni-Heat Hooded Jacket (XL)|
|Columbia Men's Crested Butte II Omni-Heat Puffer Vest Jacket (L, Teal)|
|2017 Columbia Sports Mighty Lite Omni-Heat Thermal Reflective Mens Jacket Grill Small|
Columbia Omni Heat Waterproof Shell Jacket
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 Omni Heat. 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! Now, 7 years after our initial testing, I am still wearing this coat. It’s easily the highest quality coat that I’ve ever owned and I fully anticipate getting 5+ more years of use out of it (the waterproofing isn’t performing as well as it once did, but I consider that normal.
Columbia Omni Heat Jackets for Women
|Columbia Womens Morning Light Insulated Omni-Heat Jacket (Pink (637), Small)||Buy Now|
|Columbia Women's Morning Light II Omni Heat Long Jacket Coat Puffer, BLACK (L)||Buy Now|
|Columbia Women's Discovery Peak III OMNI HEAT HOODED PUFFER Jacket (XS, BLACK)||Buy Now|
|Columbia Women's Frigid Flight Long Interchange 3 in 1 Jacket OMNI HEAT, Black , Small||Buy Now|
Columbia Omni Heat for Sensitive Skin
Our oldest son (now 12 years old) has a pair of Columbia baselayers. And while he really loves how buttery soft the fabric is, he says that he can actually feel the metallic Omni Heat dots and it really bothers him. However, the softness of the material more than makes up for that, since he still wears those baselayers, just inside out (thankfully he usually wears clothes on top of them so he doesn’t look like a space man and blind me with how shimmering he is!)
Columbia Omni Heat for Kids
While I mentioned that my son with sensitive skin doesn’t like the omni heat reflective dots, I also need to mention that the material that the kids omni heat base layers is made of is hands down the softest base layer material I have EVER FELT! No joke. If you have kids who love soft layers but you don’t want the bulk of a fleece, than I highly recommend these baselayers. They also wear incredibly well and I’m anticipating that all 5 of our kids will be able to wear this set (it’s 2 years old and still looks brand new even with weekly wear 9 months out of the year). Here are some of the top performing Columbia Omni Heat kids pieces you should consider.
|Columbia Youth Kids Midweight Crew Omni Heat Long Sleeve Shirt Top (M 10/12) Black||Buy Now|
|Columbia Youth Kids Unisex Midweight Tight Omni Heat Leggings Black (L 14/16)||Buy Now|
|Columbia Girls' Youth Minx Shorty Omni-Heat Waterproof Snow Boot, Deep Blush, Bright Peach, 2 M US Little Kid||Buy Now|
|Top||Columbia Youth Boys/Girls Arctic Trip II Insulated Omni-Heat Snow Ski Pants (M (10/12), Grey camo)||Buy Now|
|Columbia Youth Girls Morning Light Omni Heat Hooded Jacket (L 14/16) Mint||Buy Now|
|Columbia Girls' Youth Minx MID III Waterproof Omni-Heat Snow Boot, Black, Iceberg, 7 Regular US Big Kid||Buy Now|
|Columbia Unisex Youth Loveland Omni-Heat Snow Boot, Bright Red, Ancient Fossil, 7 M US Big Kid||Buy Now|
Columbia Omni Heat Footwear
The area where I think the Omni heat technology has the biggest opportunity to really keep people warm is with footwear. In our family, we get cold feet REALLY easily, and from all our Omni Heat testing, those little reflective dots perform their best in small spaces where the heat can be well preserved…just like you would find in a boot or a shoe. This sort of technology does best at certain things so it’s a great fit for winter shoes and boots where you know that warmth is an important factor. In the last 8 years, Columbia has noticed how effective this technology is in footwear and there are really just so many options available for omni heat boots and omni heat shoes. And with so many options, it’s really just a matter of finding a style that you like. Here are some of the top rated omni heat boots on the market:
|Columbia Women's Buga Plus III Omni Heat, Shale/Aqua, 8.5 M US|
|Columbia Men's Fairbanks Omni-Heat Ankle Boot, Graphite, Dark Adobe, 8 Regular US|
|Columbia Women's Heavenly Omni-Heat Snow Boot, Black/Kettle, 8 Regular US|
|Columbia Men's Bugaboot Plus IV Omni-Heat Mid Calf Boot, Black, Phoenix Blue, 9|
|Columbia Women's Heavenly Slip II Omni-Heat Ankle Boot, Black, Silver sage, 10.5 Regular US|
|Columbia Women's Meadows Shorty Omni-Heat 3D Mid Calf Boot, Ancient Fossil, Bright Copper, 9 Regular US|
|Columbia Men's Peakfreak Venture MID Waterproof Omni-Heat Hiking Boot, Cordovan, Caramel, 8.5 D US|
|Columbia Women's Heavenly Shorty Omni-Heat Snow Boot, Black, Kettle, 10 Regular US|
|Columbia Men's Bangor Slip Omni-Heat Mid Calf Boot, Black, Graphite, 8.5 Regular US|
|Columbia Women's Meadows Omni-Heat 3D Mid Calf Boot, Black, steam, 9 Regular US|
|Columbia Women's Heavenly Shorty CAMO Omni-Heat Ankle Boot, Marsala red, zinc, 9.5 Regular US|
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.