Sweltering sunshine and long sleeves may seem like a counterintuitive combination, but the Freeze Degree earned high marks from a tester who wore it on the 168-mile Grand to Grand Ultra in Arizona and Utah. “Despite the fabric’s relative thickness, it felt amazingly cool against my skin,” he says. Credit the combination UPF 50 sun protection and two proprietary Columbia fabric treatments that have some weird science behind them. One, Omni-Wick EVAP, a hydrophobic surface treatment with a molecular charge opposite to water, makes H2O molecules break into smaller bits that can move through fabric more easily and quickly, thus speeding up the evaporation process. Omni-Freeze Zero, also a surface treatment, consists of tens of thousands of tiny rings on the inside lining of the shirt that swell and cool when they’re exposed to moisture, lowering the actual temperature of the fabric.
All of our testers could feel the difference if they got the garment wet at home, but field results varied. Some claimed the effects were barely noticeable, while others became zealots and swore they would never go back to their old performance shirts again. Either way, everyone agreed that the soft polyester material is top-notch. “The buttery-smooth feel and four-way stretch of this fabric turned this into my go-to top, and it was more comfortable under a pack than any I’ve tried,” says one tester. The fit is trim, but loose enough to allow airflow underneath the shirt. Standard synthetic tee gripe: It gets ripe after a couple of days of use. $75; 6.9 oz. (m’s M); m’s S-XXL, w’s XS-XL; columbia.com