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Columbia Whirlibird with Omni-Heat

“But Mom, I don’t get cold in my jacket.” The words my daughter spoke to me are the words every Fairbanks, Alaska mom would like to hear from their children when asking about how this years winter jacket is holding up. My daughter spoke these words to me regarding her Columbia Whirlibird Parka with Omni-heat at the end of a -25 degree F school day. (That -25 is not a typo; we get many winter days like this in Fairbanks.)

Columbia has launched an extensive marketing campaign over its new insulating textile, Omni-heat. The Omni-heat lining is a black breathable fabric with silver reflective dots that send your heat back to your body while allowing moisture to escape. Columbia claims that it has the highest heat retention in the industry, while being lighter in weight and breathable.

That is a pretty big claim for cold-weather clothing.

Often, heat retention comes with a loss of breathability. This means that when you get warm, you will sweat and then the moisture trapped near your skin will cause you to get cold. Layered systems that are designed to keep you warm often wind up being very heavy, using a combination of materials to insulate and pull moisture away that adds pounds and bulk packed over your body.

When I saw the videos for the Omni-Heat products, the one that I really paid attention to was of a guy in a testing facility who works up a sweat and then stops in the cold. Thermal imaging shows that he is able to retain his body heat. After watching this, I thought it would be worth trying one of these jackets out for my daughter’s winter gear this year.

Children can be great testers of outdoor clothing. They run around and stop a lot. They like to know about all of the little features on their clothing. They are also brutally honest about what they think about their gear.

My daughter tells me she does not get cold wearing her jacket. Ever. I wore it for a day during zero degree F temperatures when doing outdoor chores and found it to be far warmer than my Columbia Bugaboo. I also did not get cold when I stopped being active. This is huge for winter gear.

In addition to the new Omni-Heat lining, the Whilribird parka offers several nice features. It is a three in one jacket, where the inner puff jacket can be removed from the water repellant shell. Both can be worn separately. The shell has pit zips and a technology pocket. The colors are stylish. I washed it a few times according to the manufacturers instructions, and the jacket retained all of its insulating warmth.

The inner jacket alone is also very warm, if you find you need to remove the outer shell.
I am really satisfied with this purchase that I made with my own funds for my daughter. It is money well spent. I am strongly considering getting one for myself, as well. Columbia has a winning combination with the Whirlibird parka design and their new Omni-Heat.


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