I never made my love of Columbia gear a secret – I then never hid my excitement when they reached out to me to be a part of the #OmniTen program. Over the past 3 years I have been given or purchased just about every piece of gear Columbia offers and I have put it through the most extreme tests.
Fat Biking in negative 20 degree temps? Check
Climbing mountains in torrential down pour? Check
Rafting in the summer? Check
Rafting in the winter ? Check
Racing in the mountains? Check
Racing on snowshoes ? Check
Sitting around a camp fire? Check
“Skiing” in Utah? Check
The list goes on and on. So I am going to give a brief run down of what I have considered to be the best gear they have offered, some things that could have been improved, and what I wish they would bring back!
There is a lot to choose from here but there are two things that stand out to me as “Best Gear”.
The first being “Omni-Heat”. I was so skeptical when they introduced this technology. I was like “look at these dots! What a joke.”
Then I put the jacket on and actually over heated using it.
On a trip to the Adirondack High Peaks, Sheila’s hands got so cold she could not even grip her hiking poles any more. I gave her my gloves to put on and within minutes she was telling me that her hands were back to normal. The stuff works.
My best bets:
Anything with TurboDown – The coats were a game changer in the industry!
Next comes “OutDry”, A technology I was the most excited to try. I have used so many pieces of gear that claim to be waterproof only to wet out within minutes of being out in the elements. The first opportunity I had to test this I did, spending a 12 hour shift volunteering in the “great flood” at the Virgil Crest Ultra Marathon. I had an outdry jacket, hat, and shoes. I stayed dry under. Bone dry. Everyone else was miserable – I was dancing in the rain.
Columbia makes OutDry for coats, pants, gloves, hats, and footwear. I have used it all and I trust it. I stay dry when others get soaked. I can literally stand in a creek and nothing gets in. I can hike through puddles with no worries. I have grown to love challenging weather because I know I have the gear to take it on.
My best bet:
The Peak Freak XCRSN XCEL OutDry – I use this as a multi-sport shoe. Hiking, mountain running, and snowshoe racing. Water stays out and the shoe performs well on all terrain.
So what about stuff I didn’t like? It’s not all rainbows and unicorns over here
Gear I didn’t like – The tech t-shirts we are way to “fitted” for me. I like a shirt that is loose and breathes well and I don’t think when gear is tight on my skin in the heat that things breathe as well.
I also had a pretty big issue with the “OmniFreeze” tech. The idea is that the shirts will act as a cooling agent. It’s a great idea if you are in a very hot or very dry climate. I found however in humid climates or when you might be going from a warm zone to cool zone (mountains) the shirts don’t dry well and then the technology can become a negative when you suddenly become cold. The biggest draw back to me is that when this gear gets wet, it also gets pretty heavy.
Price – Columbia offers many of the products they make in different price points. Even when they do not, I have found a good chunk of gear they offer to priced below other top end competitors. This is important to me – I would never put Columbia gear in my “Frugal Friday” series but they do a decent job of making some of the new and top end stuff affordable.
Customer Service- I don’t have to always utilize customer service because I am lucky and get to call up people who work there if I have an issue – I did however give it a try one time and they were wonderful and got me squared up within minutes.
Gear that works – When they bring something to market – the gear works as promised. OutDry stays dry – OmnitHeat stays warm – The shoes hold up to the rugged running we do here on the east coasts rooty,rocky, gritty, muddy trails.
I am going on 400 miles of running in my VentFreak OutDry and they are still waterproof. I tested them on Saturday.
What about some negatives – The Zippers. for 2 years they struggled to get zippers correct. I replaced the zipper on one coat because I loved the coat and it didn’t make sense to send it back and get a new one when nothing was wrong with the coat. In my most recent purchase (and one for Sheila) They seem to have fixed the problem with the zippers. I have a feeling it was a source issue and I am glad it was resolved because a tricky zipper is the worst!
What I buy for others – Anything with Omni-heat. Gloves – jackets – boots – The base layers saved so many runners last winter when we spent weeks at below zero temps. I can’t tell you how many people who are normally “cold” told me it works.
What I stay away from – “Fashion clothing” Otherwise known as casual. If I want a flannel, or a button down – I go elsewhere. That sort of stuff makes more sense on a Frugal Friday post to me.
What they made and I loved and want back –
The Reactor Sleeping bag. – They managed to put the Omni-Heat in a sleeping bag. Then they managed to make it soft and comfortable. The bag is so warm and so soft that Sheila has staked a claim to it and I haven’t seen it on my side of the tent since I came home from Oregon with it.
This Pack –Columbia Treadlite 22L – I was given it at the #OmniGames in Salt Lake City. I love it. I think I can get one more season of hard hard use out of it. I have climbed mountains, swept races, marked courses, overnighted and even run with the thing on. It is the most comfortable pack I have owned and I am not excited about the idea of replacing it someday.
So there you have it – Some of my favorite gear from Columbia – and the hopes that they bring this pack and bag back so I can continue to adventure in my favorite gear. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out and let me know or hit them up on twitter or Facebook, they have a great social media team and will get you answers quick.