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Outdoor Retailer, Salt Lake City, UTAH
Words/Images Judith Ecochard

Well, we did come off as a tad whine-y in our reply e-mail--- when we made an appointment with Columbia Sportswear…a premier outdoor performance wear/footwear brand.

BECAUSE: The rechargeable battery Bugathermo heated boot for men that launched in August 2009---with custom settings, Omni-Tech® (waterproof), Omni-Grip® (multi-terrain traction) and Techlite™ (lightweight performance that’s also shock absorbing and stabile)…just seemed more suited to our needs than the female equivalent…the Snow Hottie™…that’s perfectly urban friendly stylish…but we need the heat in the backwoods!

WELL: We were dazzled with the new attire and kickers set- to launch in the mid-summer…all designed to keep humans warm…even gals like us with no body heat to trap in a manner of speaking…we need it as an added feature.

The night before our appointment with Columbia…we attended a runway show featuring the latest looks from this outdoor apparel/footwear brand. We particularly perked up with the separates that featured the new Omni-Heat “revolutionary suite” of technologies…that took actual shape via form fitting, stylish (yes) attire--- with some showing off the inside, silver reflective lining.

So we got educated at our meeting. Apparently there are three components to the new OMNI-HEAT™ embedded Columbia sportswear.

Thermal Insulation---that impacts the bulk/warmth ratio ---a change from usual Michelin Man silhouettes. It’s a down-like synthetic that’s 20% warmer ounce per ounce-- than the real insulation made from goose feathers (“heat retention per gram”). And often made from 50% recycled materials.

A reflective lining (Thermal Reflection) that had us thinking space blankets that we always swath ourselves in after finishing a marathon. Columbia’s- is a proprietary dot matrix application on a breathable and moisture wicking membrane of base layers- that tricks out more wearable pieces…and can retain heat when you need it (on a chair lift, on a break at a mountain summit)…but can dispel excess heat during bouts of exertion. No wonder the Canadian freestyle team is outfitted with uniforms for the 2010 Winter Olympics with this ground-breaking textile treatment.

And what we were most keen on checking out…the MO of Thermal Electric…in the battery/electric powered boots. In this category we were thoroughly jazzed to get the 411 on the new rechargeable battery boots for M/W with a wiring system…snaked throughout the footbed--- that’s a simpler wiring system, super lightweight (we know, we lifted!!!), has great flex, and works at the push of a button.

The removable battery pack boots- with Omni-Heat™ lining (that silver, heat reflective lining aforementioned)…can be charged via a USB or electrical outlet…and dialed up or down for comfort.

BONUS POINTS: Gals get a heated boot that can be used with snowshoes…the Snowfall Thermo™…plus the new for dudes’ Bugathermo Techlite™. The original, utilitarian heated styles are still available too.

Of course, the above boots are primo priced ($250-$300)…but we think consumers will get it…as “the technology is visible”---and needed.

For outwear…the Kaleidascope Jacket with insulation of 50% polyester and 50% recycled
polyester…”boosts body heat without the bulk,” via OMNI-HEAT™ and features a 3-point interchange system (removable lining etc).Pictured-the inside scoop.

The new Heat Elite jacket (M/W) was getting good buzz from retailers at the show too. Hammering in the theme, warmth without the bulk, via OMNI-HEAT™ Thermal Reflective and Thermal Insulation technologies…the polyester fleece shell has the features we expect (underarm venting, comfort cuffs, security pockets), is water repellent (Omni-Shield Advanced Repellancy™)...and supposedly rivals “parka” type warmth in a sweater weight jacket.

We also previewed a collection of women’s work ready clothing that references the DNA of the brand ---while the design bumps up the fashion-y elements.

Layers are always the way to go for active lifestyles, and Columbia serves up good looking, pieces with techy performance features-- like quick dry, moisture wicking and stain repellancy.

WHAT ELSE: Ladies apparel is fashioned for all body types, with compression fitted and comfy loose (but NOT SLOPPY) options.

Case in point- yoga pants that’ll work as casual wear, anywhere. We also saw styles- with the thoughtful flourishes missing from similar attire conjured up by more mainstream lines…like back pocket for keys, and reflective tape trim (helpful for night rides/runs).

Our top pick: the drawstring hoodie tunic/dress…with handy pockets, easy pack/easy care, versatile functionality. We can wear this with our boots that work to protect against the elements…as well as with a pair of urban savvy pumps and blinged out---for a night on the town.


FYI: E–Commerce Ready…and also widely available.