Kelly Barten and I previously got to test Columbia Sportswear’s new Montrail collection of running gear, but we can’t get enough of the local apparel manufacturer’s offerings, and now we’re here to report on the not-yet-available Omni-Shade Sun Deflector shirt. The timing couldn’t be better – even staying a few degrees cooler in weather like this makes a huge difference.
This is the latest heat protection “tech” shirt, and you can see in the photograph, the top half of the shirt is shiny. That’s because it’s covered in reflective dots whose purpose is to reflect sunlight away, not unlike the reflective shades for vehicle windshields. Meanwhile, the inside of the shirt incorporates the Omni-Freeze Zero cooling technology (tiny metallic rings that expand when they get wet from sweat, using body heat to power the expansion).
You’ll notice that unlike many “hot weather” running shirts, neither the men’s or women’s is a tank top. That’s because the fabric is so efficient at cooling you off – especially when it’s humid and evaporation won’t cool you down very much.
Tung’s thoughts: I’ve gone running wearing this shirt five times – four times in Portland and once in Los Angeles, each time in bright, sunny weather with the temperature from the high 70s to the high 80s. As with the Omni-Freeze Zero tech, the cooling effect is generally a subtle one. If you’re expecting that this shirt will make ambient temperatures in the high 80s feel like a Pacific Northwest fall day, your expectations are unrealistic. What the shirt did do is make the high 80s feel tolerable. It’s hard to disentangle the placebo effect and other heuristic biases that I might be subject to, given that this was not a double-blind test, but I would estimate that the shirt makes it feel like it’s 5-10 degrees cooler.
If you’re concerned about the zipper, let me allay your concerns. I’m not a fan of zippers for T-shirts, as I worry about whether a zipper will chafe the skin. The zipper on this shirt, however, did not bother me at all on any of my test runs; and as it doesn’t unzip completely, there’s much less chance of a zipper malfunction.
Finally, in terms of sizing, as is typical, Columbia Sportswear apparel runs true to size. I’m 5’10” and thin, and the medium shirt fits me ideally; it’s not skintight, and it doesn’t sag with excess fabric. It hangs about six inches below my waist (which is a length that I like).
Kelly’s thoughts: The timing of this wear-test couldn’t have been better. I got the Omni-Shade shirt just a few days before leaving for a trip to Iowa for my 20-year high school reunion. If you’ve never been to Iowa in the summer, here is a quick description: it’s hot, and it’s humid. In other words, it’s gross. I took this selfie 2 miles into a run that started around 8a and I was already dripping sweat, despite most of the first mile being in shade.
The Omni-Shade top definitely helps in super-hot temps, especially in direct sun. I wasn’t instantly in love with the design before I tried the shirt on because I thought it looked more like a cycling jersey, but the cut is very flattering. I like my shirts a little big, and the size L was perfect for me (I’m 5′ 8″ and a chesty 155 pounds). The hips, chest, and arms had plenty of room without fluttering in the wind.
The zipper – the main reason I was skeptical about the look – turns out to be one of the more useful features. When you’re facing into the sun, you keep the zipper up and let the Omni-Freeze technology do it’s work. When you’re running away from the sun, you can unzip to allow for additional cooling through evaporation. The zipper has a little garage at the top that keeps it from rubbing against the neck and I experienced no slipping.
Columbia-Montrail gear is lightweight and well-made, and this is one more great addition to their line-up of useful differentiated gear. If you hate running in the heat, you’ll want to check this gear out! The Omni-Shade Sun Deflector Shirt will be released in 2018 – we will let you know when it’s available!
Thank you to Columbia Sportswear for providing us with samples. Please read our transparency page for info on how we do our reviews.