Late last spring, I flew to Alaska for a top-secret preview and gear test of Columbia Sportswear’s latest thermal technology innovation. Soft pods made of closed-cell foam called Omni-Heat Helix are placed inside the garment to keep you warm, dry and comfortable in the cold. Debuting in a baselayer and midlayer collection this fall, his Omni-Heat Helix is the latest evolution of the Oregon brand’s decades of thermal innovation.
Over ten years ago, Columbia introduced its first generation Omni-Heat thermal technology. The original heat reflection technology was based on NASA’s space blanket concept. It uses an aluminized material lining on the inside of the jacket to keep body heat back to the body to keep you warm. But the challenge for Columbia was finding a way to keep the garment breathable.
According to Dr. Haskell Beckham, Senior Director of Innovation at Columbia, [solid] The aluminum film on the inside of the jacket keeps moisture out, and eventually it will burn and start sweating,” he said. The idea was to attach it to the fabric in the form of dots, the dots themselves reflecting heat and the spaces between the dots having the same properties as regular fabric and allowing them to breathe.”
After the huge success of the original Omni-Heat collection, Columbia continued to refine the technology. In keeping with the mantra of the brand’s late founder and One Tough Mother, Gert Boyle, he said: Please improve now. ”
Since the first Omni-Heat jacket was released ten years ago, new and better versions of thermal technology have hit the shelves. Omni-Heat 3D, for example, added pods of vertical fibers next to the skin to create a warm, trapped layer of air. Omni-Heat Black Dot has heat absorbing dots on the outside of the jacket. And last year, the Omni-Heat Infinity launch relied on a combination of large and small gold reflective dots that allow for a larger coverage area for heat reflection without compromising breathability. One of the biggest advantages of the is the ability to produce lightweight yet warm jackets. The Platinum Peak Hooded Jacket is the latest to incorporate such technology.
For the upcoming Fall/Winter 2022 season, Columbia looks to innovation in base and mid layers. New Omni-Heat Helix technology applies a closed-cell foam pod inside the knit and fleece. Closed-cell foam is known to be a good insulator (used, for example, in insulated Sleeping Pads), but this material cannot completely cover the body because it is not breathable. To avoid that, the pods are applied in a discontinuous pattern inside the garment, allowing the underlying fabric to breathe.
The pods work by retaining heat longer than the underlying base layer material, adding dimensional texture to the garment’s construction, trapping air for added warmth and breathability. is great for cold-weather sports like skiing, hiking and climbing, and is very active during rest times. It retains heat when you need it and releases it when you don’t, so you won’t get wet or cold. .
How did Omni-Heat Helix perform in the Alaskan wilderness?
Our destination is Spencer Glacier, a short scenic rail journey south from Anchorage, the state’s largest city. Rising 3,500 feet from a royal blue iceberg-dotted glacial lake in the Chugach National Forest, the glacier served as a proving ground for Columbia’s new collection of gear, including apparel and footwear.
The challenges for the next few days were to hike brush-covered plains to glacial moraines, kayak across lakes (and swim!), hop in and out of floating icebergs, put on your helmet and crampons, and glacier. was to venture towards Sleep under the stars each night and enjoy wild salmon and a glass or two of whiskey.
My outfit consisted of a Bliss Ascent Long Sleeve Shirt and Titan Pass Helix Leggings, an Outdry Ex Mesh Shell and a Platinum Peak Hooded Jacket. Daytime temperatures ranged from 40 to 50 degrees for him, with only a base layer and shell to keep him warm. By dinner time, the sun had started to set and the temperature had dropped below freezing, so I put on my puffy jacket.
As a next-to-skin garment, the base layer plays an important role in wicking moisture away from the body and trapping air to keep you warm. What I have noticed is that, unlike Merino wool, which tends to absorb moisture, the OmniHeat Helix baselayer does not retain sweat. , meant that the core was kept warm because the body was not damp.
The soft foam pod felt soft against my bare skin, like a layer of fleece. This is a huge improvement over his original Omni-Heat baselayer from a decade ago, which was a little sticky every time you stopped moving because of the silver dot lining.
Polyester baselayers are notorious for getting stinky quickly, but Columbia added something to the fabric to help trap and neutralize odors. , you can get away with wearing the layers multiple times before washing.
Columbia’s new Omni-Heat Helix thermal technology can be found in a variety of base and mid layer styles for both men and women, with prices ranging from $55 to $90. I would like to wear it for the coming cold season.