My new Omni-Heat® Heat Elite™ Jacket from Columbia: Part 1

Screen Capture from Columbia's Omni-Heat® lineIt's 17° in Greensboro this morning. So when I leave here later today for a meeting, I'll be wearing my new Omni-Heat® Heat Elite™ jacket. In fact, today is the perfect time to tell you about this awesome gift that Columbia sent to me.

First, the back story for complete transparency. On Nov. 8, someone from the Columbia Marketing Team searched "going camping" through the Google blog directory, and found this site. That wasn't long after I'd been writing about my big idea to go camping alone. (Those familiar with this blog will also recall that I had already realized I wasn't yet ready for a solo camping trip.) Still, Columbia found these posts and learned that there should be some camping in my future... presumably cold-weather camping! They were looking for people to take part in their field test and thought I would be a good candidate. Sadly, my friend told me a couple of days ago that she and her family won't be able to join me for our planned December 20 trip, after all. So if anybody's reading and wants to join me for a little adventure, hit me up; maybe we can make a new plan!

After taking about 27 careful steps to ensure that this guy was legit, I wrote him back with my own questions regarding expectations. I wanted to know just what I would be signing up for. His response was thorough, but the gist was "Tell the truth." I like to tell the truth so I gave him my address and he agreed to send me a free jacket!

Screen capture from Omni-Heat® Heat Elite Jacket from ColumbiaHow cool was it, then, that my Omni-Heat®, Heat Elite™ jacket arrived The Night Before Our Very First Snow Of The Season? I know, right? Having just returned from a super-cold downtown adventure in which I'd kept thinking "My new jacket would be awesome at this festival tonight!" it did arrive, and so the next day when I took my foray out into the freshly laid white stuff, I was wearing Heat Elite™.

While I already have several fleeces, this is the only real fleece "jacket," and is my softest one yet. And sure enough, it has thousands of tiny little "silver" dots imprinted on the liner fabric that reflect body heat back, while the spaces between these dots allow your body to breathe. And? My jacket is warm. I'd come and go, running my errands all over town that first day, and most definitely while walking around inside, had to unzip it. (In fact, in a half hour jaunt through Target, I almost had to take it off!)

The next day, snow stretched out all around me, I realized that I wanted to get outside and try my jacket in the cold air. Even for a little "hike through the hood," on a day like that, I was curious to see if Omni-Heat® lived up to the hype.

Oh babies.

Having decided I'd plug in my earbuds and listen to music while I was out, I peeked around to figure out the best way to hook myself up. As you'll read over here in this thorough description, the Heat Elite™ comes with "underarm venting." What does that mean, exactly? Well, that means you get this tidy, tucked-away zipper along the underarm region of your jacket! So basically if when you start to get warm, you'll have the option of unzipping both sides for these handy little vents! Since I'd discovered the vents while looking for the best way to listen to my music on my walk, I had put my iPhone in the right pocket, run the earbud cords through one of these openings so that the cords could come up through the collar area, and right into my ears. Not only did this work like a charm, but once I was well into my walk and I realized I'd gotten pretty warm, I decided to unzip the other side too. People, this is not a feature to be overlooked. Definite perk. It's like they thought of everything.

This jacket also boasts thumb holes, which had my girl-type roommate all in a flurry. Her favorite thing In The Whole Entire World is thumbholes. Me? Not so much. I mean, I like them in theory, don't get me wrong. And they're kinda' cozy, if you're wearing your jacket inside for a while. But generally if I'm bundled up in a jacket meant to keep out the cold, I'm also wearing gloves. And thumb holes don't seem too awfully compatible with my leather gloves. Still there's absolutely no down side to having these thumb holes. I will tell you that sometimes as I move around, my thumb holes seem better positioned for finger holes. It's as if the sleeves twist in such a way that the holes in the cuffs appear kind of in the middle rather than on the sides where my thumbs are. Could it be my body's just not as perfectly proportioned as this jacket? I'm willing to consider that possibility.

Something else you need to know about this jacket, when you consider buying your own. The Heat Elite™ is not a jacket you'll want to wear bulky sweaters underneath. We've already established the high level of warmth it provides, but - as I learned in the reviews on their website - it is cut small. And since it's tailored in such a way to fit a woman's body in a pretty flattering way, there's not a lot of room in there for layer after layer. Still, I've worn mine with nothing but a cami and long-sleeved tee shirt, and been exceedingly cozy all day. And for the times I've worn it while staying out in the cold for longer, I've added one of those poly tee layers underneath. You know those athletic tops that's supposed to wick moisture away from your body? Yea. Those are nice and lightweight and prove a super addition to my layering strategy with the Heat Elite™ jacket from Columbia. Basically it's just about planning. Wear this jacket with thin layers on days when you don't want a lot of heavy bulk and you'll be golden.

Screen Capture from Columbia's YouTube channel promoting their Omni-Heat® line with a montage of fun - cold - videos!I feel there must be more, but this is where I'll stop for today. Part 2 will come when I've pushed my jacket a little further. While you shouldn't anticipate me videotaping myself in my underwear, jumping around in the snow to get cold, then having a trusty assistant hand me my jacket for the complete warm-up - nobody wants that - I plan to give you even more feedback once I've had more time to enjoy my jacket. I want to take it out into the cold for a nice long stretch. After that, I'll write again and tell you about my experience. Right now, though, we've got the design deadlines and the gift buying and the party planning and so my adventures will wait a bit longer.

But if you're looking for a new lightweight fleece jacket that keeps you super warm? This is your jacket. Go try it out.

Also? Thank you Columbia. I love that you chose me as a participant in your field test.