It isn’t easy finding the perfect base layer. It has to feel comfortable – in fact ideally it has to feel like nothing at all next to your skin. It has to keep you sweat free, dry and warm. And I like my base layers to be multi-purpose – as useful on the run as the hike, worn under a jumper when I’m out and about on cold days, and even on occasions worn as my only top layer.

Every training clothing company worth its salt produces base layers, and every season sees new entrants to the market. What can this year’s products offer that last year’s couldn’t? Well, Cotswold Outdoor sent me the new Columbia Womens Omni Freeze Short Sleeve Top to try. Is it all the base layer you’ll ever need?

 The Columbia Womens Omni Freeze Short Sleeve Top is predominantly white. While the web site image shows it with blue trim, my review sample lacked this embellishment. I think I prefer it without the blue, so that’s OK.

It has to be said, though, that white is not the ideal colour if your chosen sport is something like orienteering. I spent a Sunday recently on a very muddy run that involved plenty of wading through mush and sliding down slippery slopes. At one point I had to find a stream in which to wash grunge off my map so I could actually read it. At the end of the run my clothes were filthy. Too much of that treatment and whites become greys very readily.

Still, this base layer isn’t likely to be worn with nothing on top. Some are able to be worn in this way, but the rather flimsy material used here leaves little to the imagination, and I suspect few ladies will want to wear it as an outer layer.

The design is good, though. A bodyhugging shape is drawn in by some mesh on the front, there are further mesh areas under the arms and a long mesh strip down the back.

The neck is not too tight, and the length just about right. If you are overly tall you may find the length a bit of an issue, but for me it was unproblematic.

Among the features on offer is what Columbia calls ‘ergonomic seaming’. This, I suppose, means there are no chaffing seams. I certainly didn’t experience any chafing.

The key feature, though, is Columbia’s Omni-Freeze technology. To be honest it doesn’t sound that encouraging as a product name. It gives the impression that it freezes everything in sight – which is not, I am sure, what Columbia intends. It does, though, make sense when you realise what Omni-Freeze does. Apparently, as you sweat inside the shirt its fabric temperature lowers, creating an immediate cooling sensation. On the garment itself Columbia calls this ‘sweat activated cooling’.

Now, I only wore the shirt on a couple of occasions, but I always felt comfortable in it, and even though it was wet with sweat when I took it off, I didn’t feel clammy. Nor did I feel to warm or too cold.

The top is wicking, of course, and I guess it’ll be at its best with another wicking layer on top as I used it rather than worn under a cotton T-shirt. In fact, anyone training in a cotton T-shirt could do with treating themselves to a much more comfy modern wicking top.

There’s an antimicrobial element to the material, and after a couple of wears and washes it had none of that dank smell that some base layers can acquire.

Conclusion

The Columbia Womens Omni Freeze Short Sleeve Top has a very long name – it’s hardly catchy and I’m not sure it lends itself to being specifically asked for in a shop. But its ‘sweat activated cooling’ system seems to work well, and the general quality of the garment is high. Like lots of rival base layers this one scrunches up very small, so you can carry it in a sports bag just in case you might need it.

My only real complaint is the one of not being able to wear it as my only layer. But then I guess that’s not its reason for existing.

Pros:

  • Very light
  • Comfortable to wear
  • Good fit

Cons:

  • May be a little too revealing for some

Manufacturer:  Columbia

Sample supplied by: Cotswold Outdoor

SRP: £45