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Humble Beginnings

Founded in 1938, Columbia Sportswear makes apparel, footwear, accessories and equipment that have earned a reputation for innovation, quality and performance. No matter what you’re outdoor adventures or travel plans entail, Columbia offers comfortable, durable styles with innovative technologies to keep you warm, dry, cool and protected. They include: Performance Fishing Gear (PFG), winter jackets and boots, rain jackets, hiking shoes and clothes, baselayers and fleece.

However, Columbia’s reputation as an innovative company with quality products didn’t come overnight—rather, it came from overseas.

Let’s set the scene: The year is 1937, and Paul and Marie Lamfrom have left Germany for Portland, Oregon. In a year’s time they’ll have purchased a small business and transformed it into Columbia Hat Company, named after the river that runs through the city. And like that river, Columbia Sportswear will flow to the far reaches of the United States and beyond, paving the way for an outerwear revolution.


Since their humble beginnings, Columbia has gone through a few changes. But after 70 years, who hasn’t?

As you’ve probably guessed, it didn’t take Columbia long to start selling more than just hats—their extensive catalogue offers apparel, footwear and accessories for a wide variety of outdoor activities. From skiers gliding through fresh powder to anglers fishing down rivers, Columbia has the right gear for all your outdoor adventures. 

One of the most innovative decisions the company made was Columbia’s decision to independently develop all their technology. While this choice was initially made following difficulties with their vendors, Columbia’s move to independent manufacturing is what helped spur their future success. They shook up the ski industry with the Bugaboo Parka in 1986, and haven’t stopped creating since.

Gert Boyle and her son Tim took over the company in 1970, serving as the Chairman and CEO, respectively. They still hold these posts today. In fact, in the 80’s, they even starred in their own advertisements for Columbia.

Calling All Explorers

At any given moment, somewhere in the world, there’s an explorer clad in Columbia clothing who is shimmying up an exposed rock face, navigating a tough section of whitewater in a Class V rapid, or traipsing across a wildflower-filled meadow. Columbia gear runs the gamut from heavy-duty insulated down jackets to rain gear, fleeces, hats, duffel bags, durable footwear, and much more.

In 1986, the company released the Bugaboo Parka, featuring the brand’s groundbreaking Interchange System—a patented technique which combines an outershell and inner jacket to create a three-in-one coat. The Bugaboo was a smashing success with downhill skiers. More recently, Columbia pioneered Omni-Dry, Omni-Freeze ZERO, Omni-Heat, and Omni-Shade technologies. Using these innovations, many of their products help the body stay dry, cool off, retain heat, and protect skin from harsh UV rays.

The Technology

Homemade. From Scratch. Handcrafted. Homegrown.

You get the idea.

From the Bugaboo Parka in 1986 to the Omni-Freeze ZERO in 2013, Columbia’s reputation as an innovator can be experienced through their top-notch products. Here are some of the technologies they use to make it happen.

Stay Warm

Omni-Heat Reflective

What is it?

Omni-Heat Reflective provides a breathable, wicking layer that regulates your body temperature by reflecting little silver dots back to your skin.

Where can I find it?

Bugaboo Interchange Jacket

Mighty Light Hybrid Jacket


What is it?

TurboDown is the holy union that happens when you combine Omni-Heat insulation with down and sandwich the whole thing together with Omni-Heat Reflective.

Where can I find it?

Gold 650 TurboDown Jacket

Platinum 860 TuboDown Jacket

Stay Dry


What is it?

A permeable solution to wind, rain and anything else mother nature can throw at you.

Where can I find it?

Arcadia II Rain Jacket

Watertight II Rain Jacket


What is it?

OutDry is a once-piece barrier that provides waterproof, breathable protection while keeping feet comfy and shoes flexible.

Where can I find it?

Peakfreak Low Trail Shoes


This high-performance fabric pulls moisture from your body, keeping you dry and comfortable through workouts, runs and more.

Where can I find it?

Tamiami II Long Sleeve Shirts

Silver Ridge Convertible Pants

Stay Cool


What is it?

Omni-Freeze fabric releases heat and provides accelerated wicking to keep you cool, calm and ready to go.

Where can I find it?

Coolhead Visor

Zero Rules Short-Sleeve T-Shirt

Stay Protected


The Sun: Friend of Foe?

In either case, Omni-Shade keeps UVA and UVB rays away to stave off sunburns and long-term skin damage.

Where can I find it?

Bahama II Long-Sleeve Shirt

Silver Ridge Cargo Pant


What is it?

You know those mornings where you spill coffee on yourself or you get caught in a rainstorm? Omni-Shield’s stain and water repellency keeps you feeling dry and looking great.

Where can I find it?

Ascender Softshell Jacket

EvaPOURation Jacket


What is it?

It’s like a cloud…for your foot. And not like an internet storage cloud, but a real soft and comfy one—a cloud that delivers superior cushioning for a higher energy return with every step.

Where can I find it?

Newton Ridge Mid Hiking Boots


What is it?

Omni-Grip technology makes slips, falls and the worry that comes with them a thing of the past. Designed to grip rocks and loose gravel, this advanced material will have you running with purpose.

Where can I find it?

Redmond Mid Hiking Shoes

  • The company is named after the Columbia River, located near Portland, Oregon.
  • Columbia Chairman Gert Boyle was the first woman to be inducted into the Sporting Goods Association Hall of Fame.
  • The tallest peak in Oregon is Mount Hood and it’s actually a dormant volcano. It was first summited in 1857.
  • Columbia is an official sponsor of the U.S. Freestyle Ski Team. The company had to design a custom uniform for the U.S. Aerials Team to address the athletes’ specific needs.
  • Oregon’s Mt. Bachelor has one of the longest ski runs in the Pacific Northwest, with one trail measuring in at four miles long.
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