Testing Columbia’s Omni-Freeze Zero…

Being #OmniTEN has it’s perks.  One of the awesome parts of this experience has been the opportunity to dig a little deeper than usual into a brand’s technology.  Usually, I get to test one or two pieces from a company and give my opinion.  Columbia has sent us a pretty wide sampling of pieces hosting a collection of technologies.  The big focus for us, as Spring/Summer Omniten, has been on the OmniFreeze and Omni-Freeze Zero fabrics that are featured this year.

Columbia Omni-Freeze Zero Technology

Omni-Freeze Zero Products I’ve used…

Between the products that I’ve received as part of the OmniTEN welcome package, pieces I’ve asked to test and a couple of pieces I’ve purchased I have quite a collection of Omni-Freeze Zero products.  Here is the list of what I’ve worn:

Omni-Freeze Zero Technology…

Columbia Omni-Freeze Zero TechnologyOmni-Freeze ZERO is the culmination of a four-year development effort including Omni-Freeze, the short lived Omni-Freeze Ice and now Omni-Freeze Zero.

The basis of the technology is to use the sweat (moisture) we produce during exercise or in extreme heat to cool the fabric.  Omni-Freeze Zero fabric is embedded with thousands of little blue super-absorbent polymer rings that trap up to 300% more moisture than normal fabric then use that moisture to physically drop the temperature of the fabric for an extended period of time.

Excerpt from Popular Science Magazine about the technology:

“The human body already has a highly efficient cooling system: As perspiration evaporates, it draws heat away from the body. Wicking fabrics facilitate this process by distributing sweat evenly over the fabric, so that it dries more quickly. Despite devising cheats, such as menthol-like chemical coatings added to fabrics, companies have never actually improved upon the body’s natural cooling process. Designers at Columbia Sportswear have now made a fabric that does.

Omni-Freeze ZERO shot with a thermal camera

image taken with a thermal camera that displays, when it was moistened with steam, darker blue areas signify colder temperatures

The wicking polyester base of the Omni-Freeze ZERO T-shirt is embedded with thousands of 0.15-inch hydrophilic polymer rings (a men’s medium has more than 41,000 of them). As the base spreads sweat, the rings absorb moisture and expand into three-dimensional doughnuts. In order to swell, the rings require energy, which they gather as body heat. In tests, the shirt was up to 10 degrees cooler against the wearer’s skin than shirts made from any other material.”

Typically coupled with complementary technologies like Omni-Wick EVAP and Omni-Shade, these new garments are tailor made for adventures in the heat.

Omni-Freeze Zero Performance…

It’s hot in Phoenix, there’s no getting around it.  A clothing product that can cool itself sounds like a desert dweller’s dream.  So when Columbia sent me the first batch of Omni-Freeze Zero stuff I was anxious to try it out.

I decided to do the first test mid-day on the bike with a brisk 20 mile ride in the Trail Dryer Hat and Freeze Degree 1/2 Zip long sleeve shirt.  I didn’t sweat.  This told me two things: I need try harder and the light, breathable fabric with Omni-Wick kept me pretty dry.  Halfway through the ride I poured a little water on the headband of the hat and did feel some cooling, but it wasn’t significant.

Columbia Omni-Freeze Zero TechnologyLater, I took the Terminal Zero shirt out for a hike.  It was over 100 degrees and I did 6 hot miles on a rocky, exposed trail to work up a sweat.  I could tell that certain areas where the sweat was accumulating I could sense the cooling in the fabric.  I never really built enough sweat to get larger sections of the shirt to cool so I sprayed some water on my neck, shoulders and arms to give the fabric a little boost.  BAM…there it is.  Initially, there’s the immediate natural cooling effect you would feel in any shirt when you splash it with water, but then the fabric cools down and goes well beyond anything water would do alone.  Even spraying it with warm water, the fabric cools below the temp of the water.

There is a tipping point where the fabric saturates enough to activate the cooling of the material.  I decided to see if more water meant more cooling and later put on the Freeze Degree Long Sleeve shirt and jumped in the pool.  It was well over 100 degrees in full sun.  I got out of the pool and sat in the sun with the shirt on.  The shirt didn’t seem to significantly cool until it had dried out a little, then the technology kicked in and I felt a significant sensation of cooling where the shirt was touching my skin.  This cooling effect slowly dissipated as the fabric dried out.

Coupled with complementary technologies like Omni-Shade (50 SPF UV protection) and design features like a vented back panel (in some shirts), the clothing performs well outdoors.  I do feel like I was more comfortable on my warm weather hikes in the Columbia clothing I tested.  Like most technical fabrics, it doesn’t take much use to build up some stink, there’s something about tech fabrics that really amplifies body odor. The Omni-Freeze Zero materials are best used next to the skin so wearing something underneath defeats the purpose.

Room for improvement…

I’ve heard some complaints about Columbia having inconsistent fit and sizing with their garments.  That makes it difficult sometimes to order things online especially when you’re sort of in between sizes like I am.  I don’t think it’s so much that the sizing has been inconsistent as much as they sell different cuts and some styles are more fitted than others.  I found most of the sizing true to convention.

It would be nice to see Columbia develop an Omni-Odor Block technology of some kind.  All of the tech fabrics in athletic wear seem to amplify body odor and these shirts are no different.

Other than that, I like the styling, fit and weight of the garments.  I do wish they made the Terminal Zero in a black or dark gray color but I seem to be in the minority lately about acceptable clothing colors…and I like the blue.  There’s not a lot I would suggest beyond what they’ve done.  I think Columbia does a pretty thorough job in designing clothing that works well in the outdoors.

Bottom Line…

It works.  If you’re like me and you don’t sweat buckets when you’re exercising, you might need to add a little moisture to activate the cooling but the fabric works.  We did get free samples to test as part of OmniTEN, but I felt confident enough in the products after using them to purchase more pieces with my own money AND buy some for my wife.  A little cooling help in Arizona means an extra month or so of enjoying the outdoors before even Omni-Freeze Zero can’t compete with the heat.

 

More from The OMNITEN…

For more Columbia Omni-Freeze Zero talk…check out the reviews from fellow #OmniTEN bloggers Kristie, Eric and Erika.

Kristie:

“I decided to put my long sleeve 1/2 zip top on myself and throw Rainy in my Freeze Degree short sleeve top.  We then took a dip in the water, and it was instant relief and disbelief for me.  I felt unbelievably cool in the water, but once I stepped out of the water (after dunking my Trail Dryer hat in the water), I stayed cool for a couple hours without going back into the water!”

Eric:

coming soon!

Erika:

“Here is the main reason I’m in love with this shirt, it adapts to the temperature of my body, avoiding those too hot, too cold, moments so common in spring. I can put the Omni-Freeze ZERO long-sleeve shirt on and wear it all day comfortably from sun to shade.”

 

A Good Run…

I didn’t want to run today.

I haven’t really been out on a real run since the wedding in October.  My failure to complete 30 Days of Running coupled with all of the travel from the wedding/honeymoon, then the stress and fatigue of moving in November.  I just haven’t felt good enough to run.

My wife and I have developed a tradition of running on Christmas and Thanksgiving.  I didn’t run on Thanksgiving, but I did bike.  This Christmas I knew we’d be running and we did a decent cold and windy 5 mile run.  That’s not a lot of miles for most of you “runners” but it’s a fair amount for me after 2 months of no running and dealing with pain.  So it took a toll.

Then we did another short run two days later.  Still sore but we did it.  And then there was today…

Getting ready to run at Memorial Park

I really didn’t want to run.  My feet were sore, my quads very sore and I just didn’t feel like it.  I lobbied heavily for No-Run, she almost bought in but ultimately didn’t and we left for a run.

The Memorial Park Loop was busy, people everywhere.  As we started our run my feet settled in pretty quick and the pain went away.  It was a nippy 34 degrees but the sun was out so it was nice, just the way I like it.  As we passed more and more people I started feeling better and could feel my body settle into a solid stride.  For once, I was setting the pace on this run (Merelyn usually sets the pace as I struggle to keep up).

The more people I passed the more people I wanted to pass.  I started getting the race mentality and looking for stronger runners along the trail that I could chase down and pass.  Soon, we were passing nearly everyone and my stride felt easy and natural and I pushed it on.

I didn’t make any new PRs or break any records but it was a good run and, more importantly, it felt good.

I’m glad I ran today.

Suunto Ambit mapping vs. OpenGPS…

Side by side comparison of the map and stats of the track recorded on the Suunto Ambit and simultaneously tracked using the OpenGPS app on my 4G phone.

Ambit

The data from Movescount.com and the data stored on the watch says 2.38 mile total distance. But when I load the GPX track in to Google Earth (via GoBreadcrumbs.com) the track distance is 2.8 miles.

OpenGPS

The actual stats from OpenGPS show a total distance of 2.9 miles AND you can see in the map below it shows MUCH better accuracy of the route. If you zoom in on the map you can see the THIS track actually follows the trail indicated on the map very closely. The track above from the Ambit does not perform as well.

My biggest problem with this comparison is the Ambit’s distance tracking. I don’t mind a sloppy GPX track, especially if I’m just tracking fitness runs. But the half-mile difference in distance (especially considering the total hike route was less than 3 miles) is troublesome.

Speed Tracking

This is another place where the Ambit advertises superiority. The Suunto speed tracking software us supposed to be super accurate and sensitive to stops and starts. Looking at the speed charts below, I think you can see that the Ambit does perform better when tracking overall speed and variations in speed.

Ambit

OpenGPS

Has anyone else experienced similar issues with the Suunto Ambit? I’d really like to test it against Garmin’s new Fenix if they’d let me.

30 Days of Running – Failure…

Well, it started out with the best of intentions…

The last update was day 8 and it was a good 3 mile run.

Day 9 we were swamped with wedding guests and as they continued to pour in, I took time to myself and got in a decent 2.5 mile run.

wedding party

Day 10 was our wedding day, I still managed to get a short run in, but didn’t track the distance.  I would guess it was somewhere around a 2 mile run, but I was focused on a mission and didn’t track time or distance and stopped several times to investigate stick-piles.

Day 11, the day after the wedding, we had time scheduled with our photographer to do the “trash the dress” shots in the lake.  We casually hiked a mile or two to get some of the shots, but there was no running on this day.

trash the dress

After Day 10, there was no more running.  We endured marathon-level air travel to get to Costa Rica which left my wife and I exhausted.  We intended to do some trail running at the resort in Costa Rica, but what passed for “hiking trails” there were not what we expected.  Very short hikes to small vistas, certainly nothing that we could really run.

Then I spent most of our second night and third day there sick.  Really, it was 24 hours of abdominal interval training with 2-3 minutes of intense ab work at 1-hour intervals.  Good times.

36 hours awake and still going....kinda

The next two days after my, um, “Interval Training” were filled with tours.  These did included some hiking, but for the most part were nothing I would consider exercise.  I will get in to the disappointing nature of Adventure Tourism in another post.

After that, more travel back home, another couple of exhausted days of recovery and then catching up on work after being gone for two weeks.  30 Days of Running died…

Now I knew I was taking on something that would be difficult, if not impossible, to stick with through a wedding and honeymoon.  It was just something I did NOT want to keep putting off.  It was a now or never sort of decision.

So now the decision to make is: do I resurrect 30 Days of Running and start from scratch?  Was it annoying to see the daily running reports on my blog?  Should I find a better way to report the runs and stay accountable?  What do you guys think?

30 Days of Running – Day 8…

Writing this one a day late, things are really starting to get busy up here in Tahoe.  So much to do to pull the wedding together and now people are starting to show up fast and furious!

We did manage to sneak away for a bit yesterday to get a run in.  We did the same 3 mile loop around the casinos and back to the hotel.  This time it was mid-day and warm (but still way more pleasant than running in Phoenix).  I’m starting to feel a little better on the hills and finishing strong.

Running in South Lake Tahoe

Today’s Run…

Left the hotel at 3:24 PM.

Weather was a warm 75 degrees.  Ran on pavement.

Total run was 3 miles in 29 minutes 30 seconds.  Felt good and finished strong.

My foot is feeling much better today!  YAY!

 

30 Days of Running – Day 7…

This morning my foot was killing me!  This is a bunch of crap, it’s SO sore.

Best thing for it?  A run…sure, why not!

I have to get the run in right?  So let’s do this thing.  We picked a route that dropped down the road from the hotel to the lake, then along the lake for a bit before curving back up the hill and across the border in to Nevada.  The hill was rough, especially at about 6,500 ft, but Merelyn and I busted it out.

It was actually a pretty nice run once I got used to running with the pain in my foot.  Ouch.

Morning run at lake Tahoe...

Today’s Run…

Left the hotel at 8:24 AM.

Weather was a nice, chilly 40 degrees.  Ran on pavement.

Total run was 3.05 miles in 33 minutes.  Felt good and finished strong, despite the fighting the thin air.

I really want my foot to stop hurting!  Stupid foot!

Followed the run with a nice protein shake.

30 Days of Running – Day 6…

Day six was a very busy day!  Saturday was spent all day traveling to Tahoe.  By the time we made it up to South Lake, we were both exhausted and I really wanted to spend a night getting used to the elevation change.  So instead of going for a late run, we decided to walk to dinner.  It wasn’t a run, but it was something…

South Lake Tahoe

Today’s Run…

Left the hotel at 7:30PM.

The weather in Tahoe last night was AMAZING!  Nice, clear, cool, slight breeze…perfect.  Walk (mostly) on pavement.

Total run was 4.2 miles.

My left foot is a mess since I got here.  I don’t know what is going on with it this time, but it really sore.  The walk helped.

30 Days of Running – Day 5…

Today’s run started late and I was a little worried about the heat, but it turned out to be pretty nice.  After the shorter run yesterday, my legs and feet felt great and the run finally felt easier.  I kept an easy pace that didn’t feel too sluggish, my breathing was pretty controlled and it didn’t feel like a struggle.

At about 20 minutes in I decided to push a little harder and up the pace some.  Still not breaking any records, but my time is improving.

Neighborhood Running on pavement

Today’s Run…

Left the house at 8:40AM.

Weather was a sunny 78 degrees with a clear sky.  Ran on pavement.

Total run was 3.25 miles in 29 minutes 45 seconds.  Felt good and finished strong.

I’ve still got some random twitchy thing going on in left leg above the ankle.  The bottoms of both feet are sore and tender too, but I am chalking that up to the trail run.

Followed the run with a dip in the pool and a protein shake with banana and peanut butter.

30 Days of Running – Day 4…

I treated today as a rest day.  I was still feeling the effects from the trail run in my ankles this morning and felt like I could benefit from something a little different.  So I did a much shorter run today and focused on trying to open up a little bit and run faster.  I think this proves I still have a long way to go to get back even to where I was before Summer.

Pavement Running...

Today’s Run…

Left the house at 7:50AM.

Weather was a sunny 77 degrees with a clear sky.  Ran on pavement.

Total run was 1.5 miles in 12 minutes 30 seconds.  Felt slow at first but I finished strong.

Left ankle and foot are sore but muscles feel good.  I’ve got some weird twitchiness the tendons just above the ankle joint, not sure what to do with that.

Followed the run with a cup of coffee and water.

30 Days of Running – Day 3…

When my buddy sent me a message last night asking if I was up for a hike/trail run in the morning I was excited at the opportunity to get off the pavement!  I prefer trail running over pavement running any day of the week.

I got up earlier than usual to make sure we could hit the trail before 7AM.  The weather was amazing this morning and the trail wasn’t very crowded at all.  I strapped on the GeigerRig 500 and we hit the trail.

View from the summit of Thunderbird Mountain

Today’s Run…

Left the house at 6:30AM and was on the trail by 7AM exactly.

Weather was a nice 74 degrees with a clear sky.  Ran/hiked Thunderbird Mountain trail.

Total trail was 3.6 miles and we probably ran close to 3 miles of it.  Total time on the trail was 51 minutes.

Run was slow, but felt good.  My legs were not as sore or tired as I expected them to be.  My left ankle felt weak but I’m sure that’s due to running pavement and will improve with more trail running.

Followed the run with a protein shake with peanut butter and banana.