The Columbia Titan Ice Short Sleeve is a light, cool…
Source: received for testing via the Trailspace Review Corps (Sample provided by Columbia for testing and review)
The Columbia Titan Ice Short Sleeve is a light, cool shirt for running in warm weather (not recommended for hiking).
- Light in both weight and feel
- Good wicking and drying properties
- Odor resistant
- Fabric can wear and pill under pack straps
- Loose fit not as described
- High price
Here’s Columbia’s description of this wondrous shirt:
“Keep cool in this short-sleeved performance shirt featuring sweat-activated super cooling technology. A crew neck and bonded seams create a [sic] active silhouette whilst elastane fibers ensure a perfect fit for all activities.”
If we can dismiss the hyperbole, Columbia is offering a shirt that will help users stay cool when active in warm conditions and that has a good fit for active use. This shirt delivers reasonably well on the first front but, even accepting that fit depends as much or more on the wearer as the wearee, maybe not so much on the second. Having said that, it’s a very nice shirt that is light and comfortable and seems to allow relatively efficient evaporation through a combination of breathability and wicking.
Columbia has clearly decided to prioritize lightness and cooling in the design of this shirt, and to some extent it has succeeded. But it is also just a shirt. Its cooling technology is sweat-activated in the same way as any other shirt: when sweat evaporates, it transfers heat way from the body. This is facilitated by treated polyester as compared to cotton fabric, and the porous weave of the fabric also helps, but “super cooling” may be rather overstating the case. An accompanying video describes "sweat activated blue rings" in the fabric, but I have no good way to verify this other than to just wear the shirt and see how it feels.
I have worn this shirt on numerous runs of varying length in spring and summer conditions, a few day hikes or overnight backpacking trips, and for nine days straight on a backcountry canoe trip that included two to three portages a day of up to about a mile in length. In other words, it has seen a lot of sweat.
I received my usual size large and found the fit to be rather loose, which I don’t mind, but I wouldn’t describe it as having an “active silhouette” or “perfect fit”. I am a skinny guy, but I'd suggest that anybody that fills up the lower half of this shirt may need to work a little harder to achieve an active silhouette. I have a favorite shirt that came with the entry fee to a marathon that fits much better.
The shirt is very well-made, with flat seams joining the sleeves and body panels.
Both the blue polyester fabric and the gray accents on the shoulders and side panels have a porous weave that enhances breathability. This gives the shirt a light and cool feel, especially under hard exercise. Columbia describes both components as mesh, but I think of mesh as having a much more open weave than at least the blue fabric.
In a passive drying test of five different tee shirts, this shirt dried at essentially exactly the same rate as a low-cost polyester shirt of the same weight. In the figure below, the Titan Ice is the "Blue tech" shirt shown in purple, and the cheap tech shirt shown in blue is a closed-weave, rolled-seam shirt that cost about $20.
The drying properties may be different when the shirt is on a warm body, where the hydrophobic and wicking properties of the fabric come into play. I have not objectively tested this, but I think it does stay a little dryer during a long run than a light cotton or low-cost polyester shirt under similar conditions. It will soak up some sweat, but when moist doesn’t feel as clingy as a cotton shirt, and feels a little cooler than the closed-knit "cheap tech" shirt. There is no magic here, but the shirt does seem to stay relatively dry and comfortable when running in warm conditions.
(Immediately after a 13 km, moderate intensity run in 18˚C (65˚F) weather), wearing a water bottle fanny pack.)
The product description does not highlight any anti-odor treatments, but I can say that the shirt passed the nine-day odor test: after a lot of paddling and slogging about with a canoe on my head, it didn’t smell too bad (especially in comparison to my buddy’s shirt…).
I noticed some pilling of the fabric in areas that were rubbed by pack straps, so the shirt may not hold up well, at least in appearance, under any kind of abrasion.
On its website, Columbia has reduced the asking price from a breathtaking $65 to a more reasonable $44.90. I think the specialized fabric, cooling properties, and flat seams do make it worth more than “average” polyester shirts at half the (lower) price, but just how much more is up to you and your wallet.