If you read any outdoors magazines you’ve probably seen an ad for Columbia‘s Omni-Heat Technology. The reflective liner is designed to increase warmth in a variety of garments. I was sent a Grade Max Full Zip Sweater to test the thermal insulation. This could be used as a stand-alone jacket for around town or a mid-layer for more technical pursuits. My review will focus on the use as a mid-layer.
Unfortunately the jacket didn’t arrive until after my ice climbing trip to New Hampshire, so I was unable to test it while doing that. However, I was able to bring it home to Idaho where I spent quite a few days skiing. The jacket was layered with a capiline shirt underneath, and a softshell on top.
First, the warmth. This jacket is very warm. While skiing in -7C (20F) weather, I had to swap it out for a lighter mid-layer so I wouldn’t sweat while skiing. This jacket would be excellent for layering in temperatures below -10C. I wasn’t able to test a lower limit as the mercury never dipped that low.
The fit.. I am typically a medium or large, depending on the manufacturer. Since I was intending to use the piece as a mid-layer for outdoors pursuits I ordered a medium. The torso was a bit tighter than I expected. Wearing anything more than a capiline or t-shirt underneath would probably make the garment a bit tight. The length of the torso and arms was a bit longer than usual. For the arms this was fine, but the longer torso led to the jacket bunching up in activities which require articulation at the waist.
As for mobility, the jacket was slightly disappointing in this respect. It is rather bulky (enough that it is a bit uncertain which dominates the added warmth, the bulk or the omni-heat liner). Also, the mobility in the shoulders is somewhat limited. This jacket would be suitable for hiking or skiing where you aren’t required to lift your arms above your head. It probably wouldn’t work as well for an activity like ice climbing though.
In summary this is a nice warm jacket which is suitable for layering and use around town or in activities which only require limited mobility. The jacket is a bit bulky though, and probably isn’t the best choice for a climbing activity.