Wearing a vest sucks. Yes, body can save your life, and I will always wear one when in uniform. But they are still stiff, heavy, and hot. If you work in places like Texas and Florida, they can get blistering hot in the summer.
There have been a number of things done to try to make vest wear more tolerable. I think most officers are wearing some type of sports t-shirts that help wick away sweat. They help, but they are not miracle fabrics. Columbia Sportswear, however, may have a new product that could just be a God-send for anyone donning body armor.
Omni-Freeze Zero is an amazing new product that can actually be cooler than wearing no shirt at all. In the shirt material are these little blue circles which absorb sweat. As they absorb the sweat, they expand and “create an instant and prolonged cooling sensation.”
If I understand the technology correctly, the absorption of sweat by the rings is an endothermic reaction, or a reaction that draws in heat. By pulling in heat, a cooler temperature is left behind. However, my understanding may not be completely accurate, as the process is mechanical in nature, not chemical.
The press release makes reference to the rings expanding when they absorb sweat. This expansion pushes the shirt material (and the sweat) away from the body, which would allow for greater airflow across the body. This would also create a cooling sensation. However, the way the press release reads, I get the impression that there is more to the cooling process than simply better airflow.
Blind attempts to explain the technology aside, I really hope these shirts offer an improved measure of comfort for law enforcement and military servicemen. Body armor is exceptionally hot, and anything that can help cool us down is worth exploring.
You can read the Columbia Sportswear press release here:
COLUMBIA SPORTSWEAR PREVIEWS OMNI-FREEZE® ZERO
New and unique visual apparel cooling technology to be released to consumers in Spring 2013 and to select athletes much sooner
PORTLAND, Ore. — June 11, 2012 — Columbia Sportswear, a global leader in active outdoor apparel, footwear and accessories, today announced the upcoming Spring 2013 availability of Omni-Freeze ZERO, the company’s latest groundbreaking apparel technology.
Omni-Freeze ZERO is the culmination of a four-year effort to develop a new, revolutionary line of apparel that becomes cooler in hot, moist conditions. Distinctive little blue rings, embedded and visible in the fabric of Omni-Freeze ZERO apparel and footwear, contain a special cooling polymer. When exposed to sweat or moisture, these rings actually swell (similar to goose bumps) creating an instant and prolonged cooling sensation.
“Historically, outdoor and athletic brands have looked at sweating as a problem…something to be wicked away with so-called ‘technical,’ decades-old polyester fabrics,” said Mick McCormick, executive vice president. “Omni-Freeze ZERO is an entirely new approach, and unlike anything the industry has ever seen. We see sweat as a renewable resource that will allow athletes, outdoor enthusiasts or anyone that spends time in hot, humid conditions to sweat smarter, staying more comfortable.”
Columbia will release the new technology to consumers in the spring of 2013. Omni-Freeze ZERO will be integrated across a line of 40 styles that will include men’s and women’s shirts, performance layers, headwear, sleeves and other accessories. Columbia will also add Omni-Freeze ZERO to its Powerdrain footwear models to keep the shoes cool in hot weather. The full line is designed to keep consumers and athletes comfortable from head to toe, even as temperature records continue to rise.
Omni-Freeze ZERO is the latest in a string of new technologies developed by Columbia’s Performance Innovation Team (PIT). The PIT is the research and innovation division of Columbia Sportswear Company tasked with developing revolutionary consumer solutions for the company’s entire brand portfolio, which includes Columbia, Sorel, Mountain Hardwear, and Montrail.
“We see Omni-Freeze ZERO as a real game changer in terms of how people think about performance and comfort in hot weather,” said Woody Blackford, vice president of innovation and head of the Performance Innovation Team. “In general, people remove clothing layers to stay cool, but sponsored athletes using Omni-Freeze ZERO have noted that in hot humid conditions, this is the first technology that feels cooler and more comfortable than wearing nothing at all. We’re continuing to test the properties of this new technology in our lab and are sponsoring independent laboratory research.”
Thanks to Gear Scout for tipping us off on this potentially great product. You might want to check out their explanation of the technology.