Air-conditioning in cars and houses keeps us comfy in the summertime, but once we step into the great outdoors, it's much harder to beat the heat. Columbia, which gave us electric jackets and boots to keep us toasty warm in winter, aims to keep us cool during the dog days of summer with its new line of Omni-Freeze Ice clothing. The material that makes the magic happen is made of flat fibers that bring 35 percent more surface area in contact with your skin than traditional round yarns -- and the more cloth touching your dermis, the better it can absorb and dissipate body heat. These flat fibers are bonded with a special compound that activates when wet (by water or sweat) and lowers the temperature of both the garment and the person wearing it. In fact, if you stir in enough of the stuff, you can actually freeze a glass of water. Because the effect comes courtesy of chemical added to the clothing, it won't last forever -- but the company told us it'll keep its cooling properties for 50 - 70 trips through the washing machine. Want it now? Too bad, because the Omni-Freeze Ice line of gear won't be released worldwide until 2012.
We got to try on a sleeve of the stuff ourselves, and can say that Columbia's cool new threads really work. Once the material was sprayed with some water and we started walking around, our arm was chilled quite pleasantly, almost like an Altoid for your skin. Of course, the cooling effect only lasts as long as it's wet, and the temperature drop varies depending upon humidity levels and airflow over the moistened area -- when waving our arm with the sleeve on, it got quite a bit colder than when we were standing still. Don't believe us? See Columbia's secret sauce in action after the break.