Columbia 2018: Shiny ‘Sun Deflector’ Shirt Cools Wearer

Covered with thousands of tiny, shiny dots, Columbia’s latest technology aims to cool the wearer by bouncing away the sun’s rays. Meet Omni-Shade Sun Deflector, a unique fabric unveiled today.

Omni shade sun deflector sun protective clothing Columbia

We searched for whale sharks for hours. The hot Yucatan sun beat down on our boat, and everybody aboard was dressed like shiny ninjas. The hours pressed on, the sun arced directly overhead, but we stayed cool.

For Spring 2018, Columbia Sportswear introduces Omni-Shade Sun Deflector. In the form of tiny dots, a titanium dioxide compound coats the outside of running and fishing shirts.

Columbia Omni-Shade Sun Deflector
Columbia’s shiny Sun Deflector helps keep you cool; photo by Sean McCoy

Together, the dots reflect the sun’s rays, like thousands of tiny mirrors. It’s both UV protective and designed to keep you physically cooler.

We tested the new apparel, geared toward anglers and people who spend hours in direct sunlight, for a week in the blistering Mexican heat.

Omni shade sun deflector sun protective clothing Columbia
The dots are made of titanium dioxide

Omni-Shade Sun Deflector: How It Works

Instead of traditional cooling fabrics that wick, Omni-Shade Sun Deflector keeps the sweat around to allow the body’s natural cooling process to work. The synthetic fabric does dry quickly, but you’ll feel sweat on your skin under it.

The titanium dioxide in Omni-Shade Sun Deflector clothing has a higher-than-average refractive index. It’s literally shiny. Spin in the sun, and you look like an understated disco ball.

That means a lot of the light, and heat, reflect away from the shirt instead of soaking in.

We spoke with the Vice President of Design and Innovation at Columbia, Woody Blackford, who confirmed the technology effectively reflects light. Lab results conducted by the brand showed Sun Deflector-equipped shirts reflected 25-percent more of the visible spectrum of light that standard base fabrics.

This translates to cooler and more comfortable users.

Omni shade sun deflector sun protective clothing Columbia

Found also in sunscreen, titanium dioxide is the chemical responsible for keeping your skin healthy and burn-free. Columbia claims the compound in its fabric reflects UV rays and prevents sunburn much more effectively than standard cotton or polyester clothing.

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The technology will debut in some of Columbia’s fishing (PFG), trail-running (Montrail), and high-end (Titanium) clothing lines.

Review: Omni-Shade Sun Deflector

Omni shade sun deflector sun protective clothing Columbia
The PFG gaiter completes the look, keeping your neck and face protected

The effect of the Omni-Shade Sun Deflector is subtle. Stand in the shade, and it’s a normal tech shirt.

But stand in the sun for hours. And that’s where it makes a difference. On deck in Mexico, I stayed cool in scorching summer heat and sun.

I wore the technology on long sleeve and quarter-zip t-shirts during 90-degree days in the Yucatan Peninsula. One day we were aboard a boat for four hours.

My blue digital camo top, named the Solar Shade Printed Long Sleeve Shirt, is $70, and the running quarter zip, the F.K.T. Short Sleeve Shirt, is $75.

Sun Reflective Shirt Testing

Another GearJunkie editor used a pre-release model of the shirt over the last month, and found it works great when direct sun is the problem. Standing in 100-degree sunny conditions, it makes a subtle difference. But when it’s really hot out, every degree matters.

In Mexico, I was surprised to feel somewhat cool in 90-degree sunny conditions. I kept expecting that overheated feeling, but Omni-Shade Sun Deflector played all of that down. Even after a few hours aboard a boat, I wasn’t uncomfortable.

The shirt has some heft to it, especially in the long-sleeve version. Columbia claims the technology doesn’t negatively impact mobility and breathability. For the most part, I would agree. But it would be nice if the shirt was a little thinner and lighter.

Omni-Shade Sun Deflector won’t magically transport your body from the sunny Mexican heat to comfortable 60-degree weather. It’s still hot.

But with the clothing, it’s entirely bearable.

Omni shade sun deflector sun protective clothing Columbia
The quarter zip trail running shirt has Omni-Shade Sun Deflector on the upper half of the garment

Who’s It For: Omni-Shade Sun Deflector

I recommend the line for those that regularly go out into sunny, hot climes. Long days of fishing in the tropics, pontoon lake days, or those above the tree line on bluebird days will benefit from the tech.

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Columbia continues to push the boundary with Omni-Shade Sun Deflector. The brand’s trend of visible technology is apparent with the shiny, metallic looking exterior.

Spring 2018 is still a long ways away, but for those interested in the future of UV and sun-protective clothing, Columbia is barking up the right tree.

Omni shade sun deflector sun protective clothing Columbia

Nate Mitka

Midwest born, Nate Mitka is based in the GearJunkie Denver office. He is an advocate of all outdoor activities and has developed some habits, like running without headphones, eating raw vegetables, and fixing the chain on his ratty old bike.