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Columbia PFG Freezer Zero Short Sleeve

rated 3.0 of 5 stars
photo: Columbia PFG Freezer Zero Short Sleeve short sleeve performance top

A high quality, well built shirt that claims to keep you cooler by incorporating a special polymer in the weave that holds moisture which causes fast evaporation and cooling. Best for runners or bikers where you get some breeze.


  • Well made
  • Light and comfy
  • Does not hold odor
  • Drys rapidly


  • Expensive
  • Sized a bit small
  • Does not work as claimed when there is no breeze

I live and hike mostly in the desert, so when I got the opportunity to test and review a product that claimed to keep me cooler in the desert heat, I jumped on the chance.


The Columbia Freeze Degree and Total Zero short sleeve tee shirts claim to keep you cooler by incorporating a special coated polymer, which they call "Omni-Freeze" for "sweat-activated cooling" in the weave.  The idea behind this is that the polymers act like little goose bumps that swell when they get wet, which facilitates evaporation and, in turn, cooling.

The round pattern is the special polymer that is sewn
into the weave of the shirt.


I recently tested this shirt on two trips; one to Death Valley National Park, CA, in April and the other to Zion National Park in June. 

While in Death Valley I took two long day hikes on separate days. Temperatures on both days were in the mid to upper nineties with very little shade. Both hikes were out-and-backs, and to compare the cooling effect of the Columbia shirt to a regular shirt, which was an REI Sahara T-Shirt, I wore one on the hike in and the other one on the way out.

In Zion National Park I wore the Columbia Omni-Freeze Zero Tee Shirt on a 10-mile, 12-hour canyoneering trip through a technical slot canyon called Fat Man’s Misery. Again, the shirt was comfortable when worn under a heavy pack. Temperatures during the hotter part of the day – and while we were hiking across four miles of open slick rock – was 100 degrees with no wind.

While in Zion National Park, I really put this shirt through its paces.  I subjected it to some pretty hard canyoneering, scrapping it on sandstone while down climbing in the tight slot. We did six or seven rappels while wearing a backpack. The shirt got wet several times throughout the day while hiking in water. The exit route was hard and steep with many climbs and scrambles, often through brush. And finally, the hike out was long and exposed to direct sun.  The Omni-Freeze handled all this admirably. It looks and feels brand new after it was washed.

The Omni-Freeze held up well to abrasion.

I found the shirt to be well made, very comfortable, light, and breezy. The fabric is also very stretchy. The seams did not chaff when worn under a loaded CamelBak, weighing in at about 15 pounds. I found the fit to be a tad small for the stated medium size, but not uncomfortably so. Personally, I like my shirts a tad looser.

Columbia claims this shirt has both Omni-Shade UPF 50 sun protection and is antimicrobial. After two days in the desert sun (Death Valley) I did not feel the effects of the sun on my torso (no sunburn), but it should be noted that I did already have a tan. I was very pleasantly surprised that the shirt still smelled fresh, something that the REI shirt could not boast.

Another view of the shirt material.
The darker spot is wet.

As far as the cooling effect of this shirt / material is concerned, I'm reluctant to say that I'm not overly impressed. I noticed absolutely no difference in the Columbia and REI tee shirts. In fact, I even had to look down several times to be sure I had actually changed shirts.  

On my first hike in this shirt, I was hiking up-grade on loose gravel for over six miles. I felt as though I was working hard, albeit not overly so. Still, it was 95 degrees and in full sun. I should have felt some cooling. In fact, the only time I did feel any cooling whatsoever was when I stopped half way and took off my day pack. My back was sweating and it was then that the tee shirt felt quite cool.

Very comfortable, but I did not feel any substantial
cooling effect.  

From the reviews I've looked at online, people seem to really like (and feel) the cooling effect of the Columbia Freeze Degree shirt. Most of these people were either runners or mountain bikers. I can only assume that their experience was different than mine due to the speed of their travel. More breeze would mean more evaporation, and, consequently, a cooler feel.


The Omni-Freeze Zero Tee Shirt is comfortable, stylish – albeit a bit small in sizing, light and airy, handles abrasion, dries rapidly when wet, and does not hold odor.  It does not, though (at least in the conditions I used it in), offer any more cooling than a much cheaper alternative.


A nice-looking, comfortable, and stylish shirt that falls down on its claim to cool, which makes it an expensive alternative to other lightweight synthetic shirts on the market.

Source: received for testing via the Trailspace Review Corps (Sample provided by Columbia for testing and review)

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