A year later, my thin Columbia Omni Heat jacket is still the go-to coat whether I’m conquering black diamonds at a ski resort or walking the dog.
“It’s gear, not fashion.” I must have said that at least a zillion times to my kids while prepping for outdoor adventures. “Warmth trumps looks,” I advised while donning my long, black Michelin Man coat. It wasn’t pretty but it did the job.
Did the folks at Columbia Sportswear hear the lament behind those words? I will never know, but one day, out of the blue, they contacted me with a special request.
As your adventurous spirit will more than likely take you out into some cold weather this season, we’d like to invite you to participate in an exclusive field test we’re conducting this fall for our revolutionary new thermal technology… Omni-Heat.
Dave, at Columbia’s Marketing Team, was asking if I would like a free Omni-Heat Reach the Peak jacket in exchange for honest feedback. Would I? You bet I would. And this was before I even saw the coat.
A thin ski jacket? It was love at first sight.
Not because it was warm, although it was; no, I fell in love with the Columbia ski jacket because it was pretty. The coat makes me look good, like I lost 50 pounds without dieting. (Compare the photo below to Snowfall Happy Dance to see what I mean.)
I love everything about this coat. It’s formfitting, with sleeves that are roomy enough for comfort but tailored to make arms look skinny. Fine construction, well-placed stitching, and buttons at the pockets create the illusion of an hourglass figure. Even the shiny lining of the thermal reflective Omni-Heat is attractive; and since it’s so warm, it allows me to shed bulky sweaters too.
The attention to details that help retain heat is impressive: high neck, fitted hem with an adjustable draw cord, and even stretchy cuffs at the sleeves.
I feel pretty, oh so pretty, in my Omni Heat jacket.
For the first month, I loved this jacket so much that I didn’t want to risk getting it dirty on outdoor sports.
Instead, I wore it to business meetings and museum visits. It worked well because I could wear it over a thin top and skinny jean, without fear of getting cold. And it was so light that I could easily toss it over an arm as I went about my business. Although, eventually, I realized that I had been missing a brilliant feature.
Hidden in a pocket was a small, silky bag that I discovered on a visit to the American Museum of Natural History in New York City – just when I realized that, as light as the coat was, it would interfere with taking photos. No problem. I packed the jacket into the bag, and stuck it into the exterior pocket of my purse. And, as small as this was, I think I could have compressed it even more.
Omni-Heat Jacket – It’s not just another pretty thing.
I might have kept it as my “good” coat, never to be used for schlepping or other messy pursuits, but I had promised to give the jacket a fair field test.
It was time to test the Omni-Shield’s advanced repellency on the messy, dirty business of being a ski team mom. Over the holiday weekend, while my children trained at Jiminy Peak Ski Resort, I helped them haul their gear to and from the lodge. I loaded and unloaded dripping wet skis onto a dirt-encrusted Chevy Suburban, often wiping the car with my coat. At the lodge, I dribbled and splattered hot cocoa, with not a single stain to bear witness to my sloppy eating habits.
Omni-Shield held its own against stains, and when snow flurries hit, I didn’t even notice any impact. However, the real test was on the ski slopes.
On frigid ski days, when temperatures drop below 10 °F, I usually wear a North Face Mountain jacket over a SmartWool shirt and a Norwegian Olympic Ski Team insulated wool sweater. It’s a toasty warm ensemble, but I typically look like I’m ready to give birth… to an elephant.
I took a risk and shed the sweater layer under the Omni-Heat jacket this weekend when I hit the slopes, even as temperatures hovered near 0 °F. It was great. I was comfortably warm the entire time, and the jacket must have been doing a good job of providing breathability as I never noticed any excessive heat or dampness. But when I returned to ground level, I did have to unzip because I was getting hot.
The Omni-Heat jacket could be better.
Like any jacket, it is possible to get too warm when temperatures rise. I’ve taken to leaving my car seat warmers off when wearing the Omni-Heat jacket as it does get almost sizzling hot. But I consider that an asset.
There is just one improvement that I would like to see in the jacket. It needs an interior pocket, perhaps in a thin mesh material so that it doesn’t add bulk, but big enough to pack my Chapstick and inhaler.
The Columbia Omni-Heat Jacket is my go-to coat.
After testing it on the slopes, I believe that I’ll be using this jacket more often for my outdoor adventures, in addition to using it for everyday activities. With Omni-Heat, I can look and feel fabulous too.
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Sandra Foyt | Sandra Foyt is a storyteller, photographer, and road trip junkie. A veteran of six cross-country road trips, she drove Route 66, the Lincoln Highway, the fossil freeway, the extraterrestrial highway, and even “the loneliest road in America.” Find her on GetawayMavens.com, an award-winning destination guide to extraordinary travel in and from Northeast USA, on her portfolio site at SandraFoyt.com, and in freelance gigs on Family Travel 411, Minitime, Huffington Post, and Matador Network. Email: email@example.com, Twitter @SandraFoyt.