by Phil Bourjaily

Columbia Sportswear has a series of videos on its website, iike the one below, of people doing really stupid Jackass-style stunts in the cold (don’t try these at home) then warming up immediately in its new Omni-Heat clothing. Omni-Heat is lined with what looks like dots of space blanket material and it is supposed to keep you warm by reflecting your body heat.

Saturday I lived the long version of one of these ads and from what I can tell, Omni-Heat works as advertised. I realize so far I have only given Omni-Heat a one-day test, but it was quite a day. We set goose decoys in the morning in a steady rain with temperatures in the 30s. The rain then turned heavy enough to form puddles on the floors of our layout blinds. At about noon, the wind switched 180 degrees and cranked up to 25-35 mph out of the northwest.

Temperatures dropped. The rain stopped for a while then came back as driving snow. We spent the whole day on our backs in mud, wind, snow and water. I have not been that cold in a long time. At one point, the safety on my gun froze solid and I couldn’t take it off to shoot. It was the kind of day only a waterfowler can love. Ducks and geese flew non-stop and it was worth every minute of being out there.

At any rate, when my ballcap soaked through I remembered the brand new Horicon Marsh Hat I had tucked into my parka pocket. I put it on and the effect was almost instantaneous – just like in the video. I felt as if I had put an electric heater on my head. For the rest of the hunt, my head stayed warm and dry although from the neck down I was miserable. The Horicon Marsh Hat is not stylish, it needs bigger earflaps, and it’s a little pricey at $45, but it would seem Columbia may be onto something with this technology.