• Spring is on its way, bringing new activewear with it. From left to right: Men's Trail Flash Half Zip Shirt, Men's Trail Flash Shorts, Women's Trail Flash Capri. (Photo: Columbia Sportswear Company)

Men's Trail Flash Half Zip Shirt
Admittedly, on cold early morning runs it can be hard to distinguish the benefits of one layer versus the three others you're wearing.

So the first couple of times I tried out the Columbia Trail Flash Half Zip Shirt, I knew I liked the streamlined fit, comfortable stretch and “super blue” colour (more like bright Dodger blue), and I knew it was working hard under there, but it got a little lost in the mix.

But El Niño helped break some records in Ottawa this year, so for one evening run down the Rideau Canal and another to the office one a.m. along the Rideau River, it was a bizarre 5 C and 3 C (respectively) — lovely weather for testing shirts.

I can report that I’ll be wearing this top through the spring months, and maybe adding the black version to the rotation (a.k.a. the bedroom “chairdrobe” where I throw my workout clothes).

Besides the aforementioned stretch and sleek design, the Trail Flash Half Zip has a nice short collar — not one of those floppy ones that you can feel when you’re moving — with a coolly understated mesh print that runs behind the neck, down the shoulders and the length of the arms. This pattern is hardly noticeable in the daylight, but when car headlights catch it as you try to hurdle slush pools on dark canal paths, it lights right up. So everyone can see you splashing around.

One other key feature that turned out to not be a gimmick: the “antimicrobial treatment [that] protects this product from bacterial growth,” as described on the Columbia website. I am a heavy sweater, and for that reason avoid wearing unwashed shirts for consecutive workouts at all cost. (We all know at least one guy with gear that smells like Gruyère, except not in a way that makes you hungry for fondue.) But after overcoming my better instincts and giving the Trail Flash shirt the two-in-a-row test, I was impressed. It wasn’t dryer-fresh, but there was noticeably less post-workout odour than from my regular cotton and polyester blends.

Men's Trail Flash Shorts
The fact that the corresponding Columbia Trail Flash Shorts don’t have this neat antimicrobial coating might be my only quibble. I’m otherwise obsessed with them. They’re made from the same fantastically comfy “Omni-Wick” (sweat-wicking) fabric and have the same reflective detailing, as well as a zippered pocket on the inside at the waist.

They came into my life as I was trying yoga for the first time, and besides the fact that they’re way more flexible than I am, they feature a sturdy set of built-in compression briefs — a must for any male who’s had to lift his leg high in the air from the downward dog position.

Women's Trail Flash Capri
Reviewed by: Alexandra Pope

When I took the Women's Trail Flash Capri out for a run along Ottawa's Rideau River, there were flurries in the air and a sharp, -1 C wind off the water, and a layer of frozen snow still covered large parts of the path, making me wish I had a few extra inches of fabric to cover my ankles (unfortunately, the Trail Flash pant only comes in capri length.)

However, the material is thick enough to keep the wind out, and the sweat-wicking technology prevented me from becoming chilled. I feel confident that these pants are going to be a great asset for outdoor runs during the transitional seasons, when it can be difficult to figure out appropriate clothing. Plus, the snug-but-stretchy fit and stylish detailing meant I didn't feel underdressed and out of place when I swung by the grocery store for a post-run snack.