Apparel

First Look: FKT II Short Sleeve by Columbia

Aimed at keeping you cool and dry with zinc oxide (the same stuff you find in sunscreen)

Columbia FKT II Short Sleeve Shirt

Materials: 100% Polyester
Price: $75.00
Best Features: Comfortable shirt, the fabric helps keep you cool.
Room for Improvement: ¼ length zipper might chafe or rub.

Training in hot weather is something all trail runners eventually have to do. Fortunately, many running apparel companies make products to help mitigate the heat. Columbia Sportswear has a new shirt made from a wicking fabric that does the job.

Columbia’s FKT II shirt is designed to keep a runner cool during hot weather. It would be accurate to say the shirt is all polyester, but that description doesn’t do the shirt justice. The FKT II’s polyester consists of three proprietary fibers: Omni-Wick (which pulls moisture away from the skin), Omni-Shade (which reflects sunlight and blocks UV rays) and Omni-Freeze (which Columbia describes as “sweat-activated cooling”). The cut of the shirt fits an athletic-type build and seems to run true to size.

While I’m not in a position to scientifically evaluate the claims Columbia makes about the fabric of the FKT II, I did put it to a rigorous test in the field.

Recently, I ran ¾ of the traverse across Zion National Park (the East Rim is closed due to rockfall danger, so no full traverse, alas). The weather that day was dry and sunny with highs just below 80 degrees. To truly test the cooling capacity of this shirt, I’d have preferred even warmer temps or perhaps humidity, but the day was hot enough to still give me a good idea of what it might feel like in 85 or 90 degrees.

The shirt worked as advertised. Even when the day got warm, I still felt cooler than I expected to. Sweat and water do seem to evaporate quickly from the fabric, which lowers skin temperature. After almost forty miles of running, the shirt still felt comfortable. The only potential flaw for the trail and ultra crowd might be the quarter-length zipper on the front. I did wear a pack for my run and found that the pack caused the zipper to press into my sternum more than I wanted, but this never became more than a minor nuisance.

Overall, I liked the Columbia FKT II shirt and I will consider wearing it for an upcoming 100 mile race that is likely to feature hot weather.

—Will Fisher, age 47, chooses training runs and races for their scenic value. He’s a relatively large runner who cross trains a lot and is excited to have just been accepted into the Western States 100 Endurance Run.