Does Columbia’s Omni Heat Really Work?

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Whenever we see a new breakthrough technology, we consider it, but also question the true novelty of it. Well, Columbia’s Omni Heat technology was no different.  At the beginning of the ski season, 8 years ago, Columbia offered us some new coats and baselayers to review, all made with their Omni Heat technology.  After a few months of crazy trials, we learned a lot about Columbia omniheat. However, in the last 8 years, we’ve put the gear to the test OVER and OVER again. We’re here to help you figure out what you really want to know:

Does Columbia’s Omni Heat Really Work?

The Omni-Heat Technology is hundreds of little metallic dots attached to the inside of the garment. Almost like hundreds of little sequins.  Columbia promotes this product as “the ultimate body heat management system for the outdoors“.  Omni heat technology can be found in Omni Heat Pants, Omni Heat Insulated Jackets, Omni Heat Jackets, Omni Heat Base Layer, and even Omni Heat Shoes.  So does Omni Heat work or is it really just a way to market winter gear?  This Omni Heat review will address just that.

Columbia omni heat jacket

What is Columbia Omni Heat

The real question that people are dying to know is “what is Omni Heat??”  Basically it is Columbia’s Omni Heat thermal reflective technology that looks like a bunch of shiny little silver dots on the inside of the clothing.

It’s designed (much like a space blanket) to help radiate your thermal heat back toward you and help keep you warmer.  These dots are focused on the main areas that you generate heat like your core and upper legs and arms to help keep you warmer while you’re outside and active.

Our Favorite Columbia Omni Heat Gear for 2023

Want to cut right to the chase and see the best Omni Heat gear from Columbia for the 2023 season? Let’s not waste ANY TIME!

After 8 years of using Columbia gear, we’ve learned what Omni-Heat outerwear and layers are the best. In fact, we even went into the Columbia store just to check out what the new omni-heat clothing for the 2023 season would be.

Truthfully, the omni heat technology just keeps getting better and better. For 2023, we are seeing everything from omni-heat ski jackets and snow pants to shirts and pants and even omni-heat socks (though I’m still not totally sure that I would personally love the socks). What you DO need to know is that Columbia is adding omni-heat technology to so many different pieces of clothing that there really is something for everyone.

Best adult omni-heat gear for 2023

There are so many different types of omni heat clothing for adults, but these are a few of our favorites. Make sure to keep reading below to see what pieces of clothing we think omni heat works best in (trust me, they’re not all equal).

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Best kids omni heat gear for 2023

Looking for Omni-Heat for kids? You’ll find a little bit of EVERYTHING! I’m especially loving that they added Omni Heat to so many kids boots and jackets, and ESPECIALLY that they have some regular warm pants for kids that could easily become an everyday staple in cold climates like ours! If your kids haven’t worn omni heat clothing before, make sure to read to the end of the article to see our kids experience wearing omni heat for kids. Here are the best pieces of kids gear with omni heat that we found:

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Are Columbia Omni Heat Jackets warm?

Looking for a Columbia Omni Heat jacket review?  If you want to know how warm Columbia’s Omni Heat jackets are, the answer depends on if you’re moving or not.  If you’re holding still, an Omni Heat reflective jacket feels about the same as any other jacket.

However, if you’re moving around and generating some body heat, Columbia’s Omni Heat will really help you capture and retain that heat, making the jacket feel much warmer than a regular jacket.  If you want to know a Columbia Omni-Heat temperature rating, that varies greatly from design to design (this technology is in everything from shoes to baselayers to ski coats.)

My husband always wears this Omni Heat Jacket after going to the gym in the winter and he hardly notices that it’s only 5 degrees outside because his thermal jacket retains all the heat and keeps him toasty until he gets home, so yes, Omni Heat really does help keep your jacket warmer.

Is Columbia Omni Heat Waterproof?

No, Columbia Omni Heat is NOT waterproof.  Omni heat is the technology (the little metallic dots that we talked about) that helps to reflect heat back into your body.  While many people think that Omni Heat is waterproof it actually isn’t.

Columbia Omni Heat vs Columbia Omni Tech

People often get Columbia’s Omni Heat and Omni Tech technologies confused.  Columbia’s Omni Heat is a series of thermal reflective dots attached to the inside of clothing and outerwear to help reflect back the heat to you to keep you warmer.

Columbia’s Omni Tech is a waterproof coating that Columbia applies to it’s higher end outerwear.  Columbia’s Omni Tech waterproofing has a lifetime warranty, so if you ever have problems with it, make sure to send the article into the manufacturer for repairs.

Many pieces of Omni Heat outerwear (think jacket shells) are waterproof because they are treated with Columbia’s Omni Tech waterproofing treatment as well.

If you want to waterproof your own gear check out how here.

Columbia Sportswear Warranty on Outerwear

As I mentioned above, Columbia offers a lifetime warranty on all outerwear, easily one of the best warranties in the industry.  As they mention on their site:

Outerwear and equipment have a limited lifetime warranty, all other products are warranted for one year.

While I have not personally tested this myself, I have heard from a former Columbia employee that this also applies to waterproofing on Omni Tech outerwear.  Yes, according to them, Columbia guarantees their waterproofing for LIFE.

Columbia Omni Heat Base Layers Review

I tested the men’s Columbia Omniheat Melting Point Parka and Jessica tested the women’s Triple Trail Shell while we both tested their midweight base layers (top and bottom).  We tested the coats and baselayers extensively and consistently came up with the same results.

The coats are great, and the puffy liner quickly became my favorite coat.  The base layers do not perform like I would expect one to.

The base layers are made out of a thin polyester, almost spandex like material.  The funny thing is that as soon as I put them on, rather than getting warmth, I feel cold.  The thin layer doesn’t help hold heat, even if the Omni Heat does (might).

It felt like the material was simply too thin to trap any of our body heat.  As I would lounge around in the house with just the base layer on with the heat set around 60, I actually felt colder with the baselayer on then without it.

Now let me give Columbia a little more credit by saying that they do seem to work fine if they are covered up.  So if that is your full intent, to always cover them up by a sweater, pants, coats, etc.—hence the name BASE layer—then it does work fine.

I walked around Anchorage in -4 degree weather with just the base layer and a pair of jeans and didn’t have much of a problem with the cold. So does it work?  Depends on how it’s used.  If your intent is to have something that keeps you cool in the summer and warm in the winter (if it is covered), these could be a good option.

Jessica loved how hers were tailored to fit her body  (instead of just a smaller mens version) and they are all quite comfortable.  As far as the omni heat, the base layer material, it is too breathable to hold the heat in making it so the reflectors don’t work.  When I get a base layer, I think of insulation, or if I put it on, I expect that I will feel warmer, not colder and I just couldn’t get over the initial reaction of, wow, this actually feels colder.

It consistently happened, so I do not recommend the Columbia Omni heat base layer.

However, a lot of this comes down to the weight of the base layer.  I was sent a midweight base layer which in my opinion are almost always worthless – I need a heavy weight base layer to insulate me.  In the years since we originally wrote this review, we’ve tried thicker base layers by Columbia that have worked good, although I wouldn’t say that they’re significantly warmer than any other base layer.

Best Columbia Omni Heat Base Layers

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Now, we want to talk about Columbia Outwear for a bit and how the Omni Heat technology performs there.  First of all, you need to know that Columbia really does stand behind their products.  In fact, most outerwear with the Omni Heat technology has a limited lifetime warranty.  This is almost unheard of in the outdoor industry.

After years and years of use, our jackets are still performing excellently.  If you want to learn more about their warranty, go here.  

Columbia Omni Heat Parka For Men Review

On the other hand, the coats are great.  Honestly, Columbia has really stepped it up in the coat department.  When I think of a Columbia winter jacket, the first thing that comes to mind is the 3-in-1 coats everyone had in middle school, while although they were popular, do not make me think of high performance.

Are Columbia jackets warm?  Well the Columbia Omni Heat Jacket in the Melting Point Parka design I received, also has the Columbia 3 in 1 system that Columbia is so popular for, so it has some great design going into it.  The liner is a synthetic coat and is so warm that I wear it every single day.  It is a coat that is very versatile and warm.

The liner has the Omniheat technology and the shell does not, which makes sense.  I wanted to tell whether it was the Omni heat or just a good coat, so I did a little experiment.  I went out on a cold night with the coat on inside out (so that the Omniheat wouldn’t be reflecting my body heat).  Yes, I probably looked like I was from outer space, but I did feel that there was a difference in the performance of the coat with the Omni heat in vs out.

By the way, zipping a coat up an down with the zipper on the inside can be a little tricky. 🙂  Overall, this is a fantastic coat that I would highly recommend this Columbia Omni Heat winter jacket.  It is the best Columbia winter jacket I’ve ever used and it performed great in all conditions from recent 60 degree Colorado days, to -10 degrees in Ankorage AK.

Columbia Omni Heat Jackets for Men

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Still going strong 8+ years later with a Columbia winter coat.

Columbia Omni Heat Waterproof Jacket Shell Review

Here’s what Jessica had to say about the Triple Trail Shell that she received:
Honestly, I’m not typically a big fan of shells on their own.  I’m kind of a wimp about the cold, so I tend to like lots of insulation in addition to my layering and most shells don’t cut it.  The first time I really put this coat to the test was skiing with only my baselayers and Icebreaker wool top on underneath.

Initially, my lift ride was really cold.  However, as I started to wrangle Mason and Chloe down the hill, I got warm, and stayed that way.  The heat lasted much longer than I anticipated, probably due to the Omni Heat.

If you’re wondering, “are Columbia jackets good” this shell really is fantastic.  One of the first things that I noticed is how incredibly well it was constructed.  Since I love to sew, I could quickly tell that this was a coat that was made with a lot of precision.  I mean seriously, it’s sewn so well, you can barely even see where the pockets are.  I also loved that it was tailored to fit a women, complete with bust darts!

All of the seams are taped and zippers are sealed on this Columbia Omni Tech jacket so well that even in the rain, everything stays out, just as it should.  I’d recommend this coat in an instant!  Now, 8 years after our initial testing, I am still wearing this coat.  It’s easily the highest quality coat that I’ve ever owned and I fully anticipate getting 5+ more years of use out of it (the waterproofing isn’t performing as well as it once did, but I consider that normal – Is Columbia Omni tech waterproof – yes, but as with most coatings, its performance diminishes with time).

Columbia Omin Heat thermal reflective worked great in this womens jacket, but the Omni-heat reflective didn’t work as well with other pieces that we tried.

Columbia Omni Heat Jackets for Women

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Columbia Omni Heat for Sensitive Skin

If you are wondering how sensitive skin reacts to Columbia Omni Heat, we’ve got a bit to share about that as well.  Our oldest son (now 13 years old) has a pair of Columbia baselayers.  And while he really loves how buttery soft the fabric is, he says that he can actually feel the metallic Omni-Heat Columbia dots and it really bothers him.

However, the softness of the material more than makes up for that, since he still wears those baselayers, just inside out (thankfully he usually wears clothes on top of them so he doesn’t look like a space man and blind me with how shimmering he is!)  His skin isn’t super sensitive, so I would say that Omni Heat does not work well for sensitive skin.

Columbia Omni Heat for Kids

While I mentioned that my son with slightly sensitive skin doesn’t like the omni heat reflective dots, I also need to mention that the material that the kids omni heat base layers is made of is hands down the softest base layer material I have EVER FELT!  No joke.

If you have kids who love soft layers but you don’t want the bulk of a fleece, than I highly recommend these baselayers (though you should also check out our favorite base layers).  They also wear incredibly well and I’m anticipating that all 5 of our kids will be able to wear this set (it’s 2 years old and still looks brand new even with weekly wear 9 months out of the year).  Here are some of the top performing Columbia Omni Heat kids pieces you should consider.

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Columbia Omni Heat Footwear

The area where I think the Omni heat technology has the biggest opportunity to really keep people warm is with footwear.  In our family, we get cold feet REALLY easily, and from all our Omni Heat testing, those little reflective dots perform their best in small spaces where the heat can be well preserved…just like you would find in a boot or a shoe.

This sort of technology does best at certain things so it’s a great fit for winter shoes and boots where you know that warmth is an important factor.  In the last 8 years, Columbia has noticed how effective this technology is in footwear and there are really just so many options available for omni heat boots and omni heat shoes.  And with so many options, it’s really just a matter of finding a style that you like.  Here are some of the top rated omni heat boots on the market:

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Is Columbia Omni Heat worth the money?

As you’ll quickly find out when you do a little bit of shopping, Columbia products with Omni Heat are more expensive than similar products without Omni Heat.

Is Omni Heat worth the extra cost?  In short YES.  No one likes to be cold, so if you can get a jacket that will keep you warmer for only a little more money, I think it’s always worth the price.  Columbia Omni Heat is worth the money in all the outerwear products we’ve tried so far.

How do I wash and dry my Columbia Omni Heat jacket?

When at all possible, hand wash your Columbia Omni Tech outerwear and jackets.  If necessary, you can put it in the washing machine on delicate with cold water for a short cycle.  Only use gentle detergents as these can have a negative effect on the performance of your Columbia Jacket Omni Heat performance.

After washing, we always hang our Omni Heat Columbia jackets to dry.

If you have Columbia base layers, you can launder those as you would any other base layers.  For us, we’ve been washing ours on HEAVY with COLD WATER and then drying on medium heat for the last 8 years and they are still going strong.

Thanks to Columbia for providing the coats and baselayers for this Omni Heat Columbia review.  All opinions we expressed are our own and we didn’t receive any payment for them.

Note: This Columbia Omni Heat review was originally posted in 2012 when Columbia’s Omni Heat technology was fairly new.  This Columbia Omni tech review has been updated in 2023 with our current experience.

Is Columbia Omni Heat worth the money?

There’s no doubting the fact that Columbia gear with omni heat costs more than their other gear without it. For boots, coats, and snow pants, we’ve found that Columbia omni heat works really well and is absolutely worth the money. For other clothing and gear, it seems to vary from person to person.

Does Columbia omni heat bother sensitive skin

Yes, the microdots on the lining of Columbia Omni Heat clothing can irritate sensitive skin. If you have sensitive skin, choose omni heat clothing that won’t be in close contact with your skin like jackets, snow pants, or boots where you will always have another layer of clothing between you and the omni heat micro dots.

How do I wash and dry my Columbia Omni Heat jacket?

When at all possible, hand wash your Columbia Omni Tech outerwear and jackets.  If necessary, you can put it in the washing machine, but make sure to use a delicate or hand wash cycle. Only use gentle detergents as these can have a negative effect on the performance of your Columbia Jacket Omni Heat performance. When in doubt, contact Columbia’s customer service for approved detergents.
After washing, we always hang our Omni Heat Columbia jackets to dry.

What is the difference between Columbia Omni-Heat and Columbia Omni-Tech?

People often get Columbia’s Omni Heat and Omni Tech technologies confused.  Columbia’s Omni Heat is a series of thermal reflective dots attached to the inside of clothing and outerwear to help reflect back the heat to you to keep you warmer.

Columbia’s Omni Tech is a waterproof coating that Columbia applies to it’s higher end outerwear.  Columbia’s Omni Tech waterproofing has a lifetime warranty, so if you ever have problems with it, make sure to send the article into the manufacturer for repairs.
Many pieces of Omni Heat outerwear (think jacket shells) are waterproof because they are treated with Columbia’s Omni Tech waterproofing treatment as well.

About Jessica Averett

Hi, I’m Jessica, a mom of 5 kids and married to my favorite adventure partner. I love to bike, ski, camp and hike. We've visited over 40 countries with our kids, but are equally happy on the road as we are exploring our home state of Utah.

23 thoughts on “Does Columbia’s Omni Heat Really Work?”

  1. Gotta hand it to you Andrew. Wearing the coat inside out was brilliant! I also agree about the baselayers — but since I only wear them as baselayers, the cold feeling quickly goes away. Well done!

    • Wearing the jacket inside out is probably not nearly as tough a test as you think.
      The metallic dots should reflect heat regardless of which way they are facing, although the effect of having the insulation inside the reflective material rather than the other way around may make some difference.

  2. Did Columbia test any of these in Alberta weather?
    Telling me that you felt warm at -4 is NOT what I consider a true test of cold. LOL This Alberta family needs to know how it felt at -50 if you want us to consider fitting up the family.

    • Colette … Alaska is colder than Alberta. When the author said -4 that wasn’t Celsius but Fahrenheit, so about -20 C. Alberta has some cold spots don’t get me wrong but I would think if you said Yukon or Northwest Territories we’d be talking more along the same lines as Alaska.

    • I’ve tested them in Alberta, as well as the territories. They work, they just aren’t designed to have the warm feeling of wool. They are designed for athletics. The heavyweight base layer will give you more warmth feeling, as will an insulator layer on top of the medium weight…but that cooling feeling is intentional. As someone described, it’s like menthol for your legs.

  3. I have the Columbia 2 in one jacket with the shell, this coat is good for Minnesota winters, the only thing bad is that outside I’m fine but when I get in my car the cold from the jacket transfers to my back. I’m 60 year’s old once my back gets cold I’m just about done, can you help me I can’t afford to buy another coat.

  4. I bought and omni heat coat last winter when it was freezing cold I simply loved them they were warm I found with every other coat I had I needed 2 sweaters and I was still cold with these I either wear all the layers or the base layer and my down jacktet

  5. I have had one of these coats for just over 2 years now, and initially my reaction was as described in the review. But as the coat ages, the shiny dots wear off, and what was once a very warm coat, becomes basically a fall jacket.
    It’s seems Columbia’s decision to leave the insulation exposed has created a good marketing gimmick, at the cost of the coats longevity.
    Has anyone else found this to be true?

    • I could not agree more, I live in Chicago and have had it for the 4 winters. This 4th winter the omni-heat reflective material wore off on the inner line and the jacket has not been nearly as effective, thus requiring another added layer under the shell and its liner. I now have to send my jacket to Columbia for repair.

    • Last winter I noticed my shoulders began feeling cold when wearing my Omni Heat-lined parka that I’ve had about 7 years. Just this week it got cold enough to pull the parka out for evening walks and, again, the rest of my torso was toasty warm, but shoulders were cold. I turned the coat inside out and saw the dots were worn off at the shoulder area. Online research led me to this review and this comment. I usually wear a Columbia coat a few years until I tear it on barbed wire or the zipper breaks. Apparently with these, you wear it until the friction with your clothing rubs the reflective dots off.

  6. I just tested the mid weight base layer in -25c plus wind chill factor. My initial reaction was “like menthol for the legs…”. But despite the chilly feeling from the omni-heat dots, my legs felt like it was 10c warmer than it really was. Warming up now I’m not feeling the pinsandneedles frostbite I would have been, had I not been wearing the base layer. What really struck me is that whenever I stood in sunshine, the base layer seemed to magnify the heat of the sun on my legs… Even through the layer of denim over top.

  7. Wearing a light Omni Heat jacket while just standing around in the cold doesn’t do much to keep you warm, but once you start moving around (thus generating body heat), the jacket does a great job of trapping body heat and keeping you warm. Compared it to a heavy duty sweatshirt under the same conditions…the sweatshirt felt warmer initially and, when active, the sweatshirt also trapped body heat, but only momentarily, whereas the Omni Heat jacket retained warmth far longer (to the point where I found myself unzipping it to avoid getting too warm). Definitely appears that there is something to the design. Shoveled snow wearing both a heavy down coat and the light Omni Heat jacket to compare…they both led to me being uncomfortably warm, but the Omni Heat, despite being far, far lighter, made me warmer much more quickly and again, trapped the heat to the point where I was unzipping it to cool off. I feel like it almost works too well when you’re active in cold weather.

  8. The medium weight base layer is not intended to make you feel warm. It’s an athletic layer, designed to regulate core temperature. The cold feeling is the same whether it is Columbia, Dajota DryWear, UnderArmor, et al.

    Having spent 7 years in the infantry in Canada, I had the opportunity to test many different types of base layers in extreme cold environments. The omniheat medium weight layer is intended to vent excess heat to prevent overheating and sweating. This is done through moisture wicking. If you put a layer, such as fleece on top, you will instantly feel the warm…which is why you noticed the jackets felt warm. That too is intentional. This allows athletes (or soldiers in my case) to perform without getting their baselayer wet. They are great for that role…but if you’re looking for something to feel the heat, then go with polar fleece or marino wool. Marino wool wicks moisture quite well too, and even stays warm when wet. It’s also super thin.

  9. Hi Wes…I totally understand, I spent 5 years in the USMC wearing everything from cold weather gear (in the cold thankfully) to 75+ pounds of body armor in heat that would be generously described as “unpleasant.” My comment was more intended for those who haven’t worn specialized gear in multiple environments. I experimented with the Omni Heat in that mindset. If I need to do something in the cold, I know what to wear to: stay warm, as dry as possible, not overheat, avoid frostbite. Not everyone has experienced extreme weather in a military environment. As an aside, I had the distinct pleasure of working with the Canadian Army, to include a rather enjoyable party on the roof the Canadian Embassy in DC, in no way am I trying to start an “argument on the internet.” 😉

  10. I bought one of these reflective jackets from Columbia a couple of years ago. If you don’t layer up under it, the jacket is nearly useless. It does not do any kind of wind-breaking at all; wind goes right through the jacket. If you’re looking for a jacket you can wear everyday clothes under, throw on and be warm when going outside, look for something else.

  11. Can anyone comment on whether or not the Omni heat reflective material creates more moisture on it as compared to just a nylon surface? Does it give you a more damp/clammy feeling inside or does it seem to breath well? I recently purchased a jacket but have not worn it yet as I am concerned about this. The surface seems to have a rubbery feel.

  12. I have owned Columbia jackets all my life. I bought a new one in January of 2019. By this year (2021) the jacket held up but the zipper peeled away from the threads in a unusual spot. About half way up the zipper a portion of it ripped away. I sent it into Columbia and about 10 days later I got a email from them saying the jacket couldn’t be repaired. They were giving me a E-card. I paid 100 bucks for it at Dick’s and the jacket was 2 years old. They honored the warranty without any proof of purchase and gave me a E-card in the amount of 156.00 that I could use on there website or at a Columbia Outlet Store. I went to there website and found a awesome jacket that was 200.00 with 33% off. I paid 1.56 out of pocket for a better jacket than I bought at Dick’s. AWESOME COMPANY! They honor there product warranties. I love my new jacket. It has Omni-Heat and Omni-Tech. I will continue to buy Columbia because I think they are the best!


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