Columbia PFG Terminal Deflector Zero Hoodie Review
Cons: Durability comes at a cost of breathability, too technical to be versatile, too warm for high-octane activities
Our Analysis and Test Results
You can't talk about the PFG Terminal Deflector Zero without first discussing the zoo of technology in the fabric itself. First and most importantly is: "Omni-Shade." This refers to the tight array of small plastic dots found on the outside surface of the shirt. Being completely opaque, they block out far more sun than most other fabrics. Next is "Omni-Freeze ZERO." This fabric will actually hold onto your sweat for a longer period of time when compared to other fabrics. Columbia says this assists with cooling you down better. "Omni-Wick" refers to the wicking properties of the polyester fabric being used. Most of the sun shirts we've tested and reviewed are primarily made out of polyester and will have similar properties. Finally, the fabric has been treated with a titanium-dioxide anti-odor treatment.
These choices in fabric and technology may make the shirt cooler, but they also make it sweatier. Hence, this may not be the best shirt to choose for activities that involve a lot of moving around, like trail running. But, if you're mostly standing in place under the noon sun with water reflecting back at you, it could be just perfect.
Comfort and Fit
The cut of the Terminal Deflector is slightly tighter than other shirts of the same size and fit. If you're on the cusp and debating which size to get, we suggest aiming for the larger one. The fabric has a slight give to it but isn't as stretchy as some of the other shirts we've tested.
The fabric interior feels like any other smooth polyester shirt, but the exterior is vastly different — almost pleather-like, which may require some getting used to. The shirt we tested for this review had black fabric with white dots, causing a very noticeable optical illusion — the fabric almost seemed to vibrate!
The hood is generous and will easily fit over a helmet. The included thumb loops are also generous in size and cover down to the knuckles. The built-in neck gaiter is comfortable to wear or keep down. Do be ready for a little bit of a fight putting on the shirt, as the neck gaiter likes to ride up with your head as you put it through the neck.
Despite all the buzzwords thrown at this shirt, Columbia only labels the Terminal Deflector with a UPF 50. This rating is actually quite great, blocking more than 98% of the sun's harmful UV rays from even reaching your skin. But we expected even more from the opaque array of dots on the fabric and the amount of sweat that will accumulate on your body by design.
The thumb loops found at the end of the shirt's sleeves really help to cover the entirety of the back of the hands. They ride up higher towards the knuckles than many of the other sun shirts we've tested. However, the built-in neck gaiter is really this shirt's biggest asset. Stitched onto the shirt from the top of the neck, when wearing it over your nose and having the hood up, you'll hardly have any unprotected skin poking out. If you're planning to spend a ton of time without any shade available, a setup like this is absolutely essential.
Shirts that are specifically designed to be worn in full sun for long periods of time generally do not win the Breathability Contest. The Terminal Deflector Zero is no exception. The design decisions of the fabric consciously wick sweat from your body and trap it into the fabric while also creating a non-porous plastic barrier between the exterior of the shirt and the air around you. Great idea perhaps to keep your cool, not so great for keeping you fresh.
This means that if you're on the go often: running, riding a bike to work, hiking with friends, etc., you most likely also will be sweating more in this shirt than in another sun shirt.
Versatility is not a strong suit for the Terminal Deflector. It's great for fishing and hanging out near the water for long, hot, sunny days. But you'll look altogether goofy literally anywhere else. The plastic dot pattern certainly separates this shirt from any other shirt we've ever seen, making you stick out awkwardly around town, around the workplace, or any time you're away from other fisherpeople.
The anti-odor treatment works well. It is based on a titanium dioxide application — the same chemical used in many sunscreens. Be aware of this if you're sensitive to or want to avoid microparticles of this substance. The treatment should last the lifetime of the shirt.
The lack of pockets and zippers mean this a hard shirt to suggest for travel. And the design choice of making a shirt with fabric that holds onto sweat makes us think twice about using this for backpacking. Being cool yet moist isn't such a bad thing while on the move, but if weather comes in quickly or the temperature drops, the last thing you want to be is wearing a not altogether dry shirt.
One thing we will note is that when you sweat, it's hardly visually noticeable. The fabric doesn't change the hue, nor do the plastic dots on the exterior. The Terminal Deflector may be best in more humid conditions than in drier, where you'll be sweating more anyway.
Durability of the Terminal is exceptional. The shirt seems designed to survive a good bushwhack to your favorite fishing hole. All stitching appears top-notch, and this shirt will most likely last the wearer for years. The plastic dots on the exterior of the fabric may become damaged with time if constantly in contact with abrasive surfaces, but they themselves seem to do a good job protecting the underlying fabric.
Two features make the Deflector Zero stand out from every other sun shirt we've reviewed. The first is the built-in neck gaiter, which we found highly effective at its job to protect the face from exposure. Not to be outshined is the highly technical fabric the shirt itself is constructed out of. The small, tightly gridded array of plastic dots on the exterior of the shirt really stand out as a unique solution to reflecting UV rays away from the wearer. However, this fabric's unique strategy of holding onto sweat to assist in cooling may be a polarizing solution. Perhaps it's better for less active endeavors in more humid locales. The thumb loops found at the end of the sleeves cover the back of the hand well. This sun shirt does not come with any pockets or a front zipper.
This layer isn't an inexpensive option, but the sun protection it garners — both from the fabric technology and the built-in gaiter — really make it a good purchase. So long, that is, as you're buying into the idea that to keep cool, you must keep sweat next to your skin. If you like this concept, the great durability of the shirt makes this a wise investment that will last for years of tough use.
Take a serious look at the Columbia PFG Terminal Deflector Zero if you're going to be standing out in the baking sun for hours on end. This hooded sun shirt is made specifically for the job, performing it exceptionally. It also screams, "I take my fishing seriously." If that's you, this may be a perfect hooded sun shirt, neck gaiter included.
— Justin Simoni
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