Throughout the holiday season you’ve no doubt seen the various television commercials from outdoor gear company Columbia. The spots tout their new Omni-Heat material which they say is up to 20% warmer than similar fabrics. I recently got the opportunity to put those claims to the test by trying out their Grade Max Sweater which features an Omni-Heat inner lining.
I’m actually hesitant to call this product a “sweater” but that’s what Columbia classifies it as. In reality, it actually more like a light jacket then a sweater in both design and fit. Speaking of design, this jacket looks very nice and I can’t tell you how many compliments I had while wearing it around town. It is cut to fit a bit snugly, but is comfortable none the less, and it actually has a very classic look about it that makes it feel like it’ll never go out of style. In fact, the jacket looks so good that I was actually reluctant to wear it on a trail. It seems better suited for hanging out in camp or for grabbing a bite at your favorite post hike eatery.
That said, the Grade Max Sweater definitely lives up to the hype regarding how warm it is. The interior of the jacket is lined with a shiny, multicolored fabric that received nearly as much attention as the exterior when it was spotted by friends. I joked that it was part of Joseph’s Technicolor Dreamcoat when they inquired about the strange looking material. In reality, this is Columbia’s Omni-Heat on full display. The fancy looking material is designed to reflect our own body heat back on us helping to keep us warm in the inclement weather.
So how does it perform? Remarkably well actually. The jacket kept me warmer than similarly weighted coats from other manufacturers in the same temperatures. In fact, I’d often throw this jacket on while heading out the door in the morning only to find that it was too warm later in the day when temperatures increased.
That minor complaint aside, I was very impressed by Grade Max. It looks great and is plenty warm for winter nights out on the town. I’ll leave it up to you to decide if you want to wear it on the trail. I’m sure it’ll perform quite nicely there as well, especially as part of a layering system, but it seems to look too good to take it to the backcountry.
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