Columbia Omni-Heats Up… The Battle of the Base Layer

With so much competition among base layer brands, the battle of the base layer is on! Not only does it take time to properly review a critical piece of gear, the verification of claims by high-tech gear manufacturers like Columbia’s Omni-Heat requires various weather conditions and sporting activities.

Columbia Women's Extreme Fleece Top

Choice and selection of your base layer depends on the demands of your sport, the weather conditions and your overall level of performance.  In winter, a base layer is a must if playing outdoors but for cross training and year round sports like trail running, needs and demands are different. Making the right choice can be harder than you think, especially if standing in front of a wall of big brand options and unaware of the benefits of their varying technologies.  Once thing is for sure – don’t cheap out. Quality will pay off in the long-term and outlast the lost leader either on or off the trail or mountain.

I compare wearing a base layer to creating a protective shield against the elements. No matter what thickness you opt for, a good layering system should feel like wearing nothing at all.

Base Mid

Columbia Women's Extreme Fleece Tight

Do you overheat or are you always cold? Either way, the Columbia Omni-Heat system regulates it all.  If you’re always cold, Omni-Heat keeps you warm by reflecting back the heat you generate. If you are Mr. or Ms. Sweat-a-lot, it provides an escape route for unwanted moisture and heat thus lightening the load and making you look like a dry hero at the finish line.

Does Columbia’s Omni Heat system really work? I’ll back Columbia and say that yes – it truly does make your own heat… BUT you have to work for it.  To get the garment to really work to its full potential, get moving. Pick up the pace and feel the magic of Omni-Heat. Do nothing…expect nothing.

I found the most notable difference between the Columbia Midweight Top and Tight and the Extreme Fleece Top and Tight to be thickness and comfort.  The feel and fit of the Midweight baselayer is light and snug.  The material serves as a second skin and gives better body cling.  For runners, stretch and fit, overall comfort and a wicking gusset and waistband will put this product on your top gear list.

Columbia Women's Baselayer Midweight Top

On the other hand, the Extreme Fleece feels like you are layered.  It’s meant for low to mid aerobic activity in extreme conditions, so movement isn’t as important.  At the same time I found the sizing to be a little off. Go smaller with the high loft fleece as the material has some give and fits looser than the Midweight.  Columbia even thought of stacking Omni-Heat thermal reflectivity at the nape of your neck where snow and cold air seem to migrate in colder temperatures.  Bonus!

Columbia’s Omni-Heating system’s ability to “make your own heat” is extremely appealing on many levels.  My initial question… could my base layer perform as good as it looks?  Tiny little thermal high tech reflective dots line the entire fabric. Both the Midweight and Extreme Fleece Long Sleeve Tops and Tights are constructed with this incredible “Thermal Reflective Omni-Heat” technology that is heat activated during sporting activities. My advice, move if you want to stay warm – and you will.

For more retailers and information visit To purchase Columbia gear, click here.


  • Steph Florian

    A resident of the North Shore and avid Weekend Warrior, slowing TV Host Stephanie down just doesn’t happen. Always chasing her next ‘adventure’, Vancouver’s active wonder-woman spends her time on the mountain, in the surf, on the mat and playing with her 2 boys.

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About the author

Steph Florian

A resident of the North Shore and avid Weekend Warrior, slowing TV Host Stephanie down just doesn’t happen. Always chasing her next ‘adventure’, Vancouver’s active wonder-woman spends her time on the mountain, in the surf, on the mat and playing with her 2 boys.

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  • I was looking for some warm long underwear, so I bought a pair of heavyweight baselayer in XL . This product is a complete joke. They are supposed to fit pant size 40 and they do fit me well in the waist but the legs are super tight. Tight fitting clothing is no good in the cold. The word “heavyweight” is a complete misnomer and misleading. There is nothing heavy about this product, it is gossamer thin. Lining a product with metal when it is against your skin is stupid as the metal works like a heat sink and pulls the heat out of your body. Walking outside with this under my pants was like walking into freezing water. I tried wearing them under my other long underwear and the results were disappointing to say the least. There is absolutely no benefit to wearing this garment under any circumstance. I think these will be going into the trash. Save your money and don’t buy this garbage.

  • I am not sure who was dumber; me for buying into the thermal reflection concept or Columbia for making it.

    I wore the Heavyweight Baselayer omni-heat underwear in -17 C and windy conditions under cotton pants. I was colder than I would have been with just the cotton pants.

    Think about it….little metal flakes against your skin TAKING HEAT AWAY from your body through CONDUCTION, horse manure on reflecting radiant heat back to the body.

    Tiny pockets of air are insulators, metal on the skin is heat removing. DUMB DUMB idea, but hey — I paid good money for the hype

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