Columbia PFG OMNI-FREEZE ZERO Neck Gaiter ($30), Long Sleeve ($75) and Powerdrain Shoe ($90)
The Good: Surprisingly effective cooling; just add water or sweat.
The Bad: Weak stitching on the rear hook of the shoe.
The Ugly: The PFG triangle logo.
Columbia’s new sweat-activating cooling technology, OMNI-FREEZE ZERO, has been added to the Pro Fishing Gear (PFG) line, including the Freezer Zero Neck Gaiter, PFG Freezer Zero Long Sleeve and the Powerdrain Cool PFG Shoe. The OMNI-FREEZE ZERO line utilizes small blue rings in the material lining to lower the temperature of the material when wet with sweat or water.
Testing of the OMNI-FREEZE ZERO line was performed over 2-months in the hellish Redding, California heat (90 – 110°F at ~10% relative humidity) while swinging emerging caddis patterns on the Sacramento River. From head to toe:
Freezer Zero Neck Gaiter
On the Lower Sacramento River you see more and more guides in the past couple of years ditching the massive straw hats in favor for the neck gaiter/ball cap combo. What’s behind this shift? The neck gaiter stays out of your way when casting, provides far superior sun protection (UPF 50) and transforms you into a ninja.
The Freezer Zero Neck Gaiter comes in six colors and provides plenty of OMNI-FREEZE ZERO cooling fabric to cover your ears, nose and neck without creeping up or falling off the crown of your head. Though some will wear the neck gaiter as a face mask, I found the pressure (stretchy material; 92% polyester/8% elastane) on my face to be annoying and my sunglasses had a tendency to fog up. The neck gaiter is extremely packable and can be easily slid down and out of the way when off of the water. I did not experience a great difference in cooling utilizing the tested neck gaiter versus other competitor’s products. This may be due to the nature of neck gaiters to bunch up at the base of the neck, thus minimizing the surface area available for the blue dots to effectively shed heat.
PFG Freezer Zero Long Sleeve
Out of the various products tested that utilize the OMNI-FREEZE ZERO lining, the lining performed best in its application to the long sleeve shirt. I felt like I was going nuts (and my fishing buddies face said the same) when I pulled the long sleeve over my head prior to our 20-minute hike to our favorite fishing spot in the in the 105°F heat. The shirt wicked away my sweat and a slight breeze cooled me down. The lightweight long sleeve fit loose and did not cling to my body while casting. When compared to wearing a cotton t-shirt or going shirtless, I prefer wearing the long sleeve, especially if wind is present to strip the heat away.
As with the neck gaiter, the long sleeve comes in six colors, is slightly stretchy and affords the wearer UPF 50 protection.
Powerdrain Cool PFG Shoe
The Powerdrain Cool PFG shoes are lightweight (Size 9; 10.1oz per shoe), super-fast draining water shoes lined with Columbia’s OMNI-FREEZE ZERO lining. 3D single layer mesh uppers, screened footbeds and large drain ports in the heel and forefoot convey water from the shoe to the environment quickly.
The OMNI-GRIP OUTSOLE stood out to me in the testing of the shoe. The non-marking sole has small triangular tread and upon closer inspection, each tread has been individually siped (slitted). The siping (1) gets rid of the direct water to slick surface interface by allowing the water to freely drain away and (2) provides additional grip when the shoe is flexed and the individual slits open up.
I hiked a total of 2 miles (500-ft elevation change) in the Powerdrains while soaking wet and received no hot spots or blisters. I continued to wear the shoes for the remainder of the day (now dry and still sockless) and I experienced no swamp foot or funky smell. The only downside I could find on these shoes was the weak stitching on the rear hook that I yarded out when trying them on for the first time.
Columbia’s new OMNI-FREEZE ZERO liner is no gimmick. Add sweat and a bit of a breeze and you cool right down.