A new apparel cooling technology described by its developer Columbia Sportswear as "groundbreaking" and a "game-changer", is set to launch next spring after a four-year development effort.

The outdoor apparel and footwear firm says its Omni-Freeze Zero technology offers a new approach to performance and comfort in hot weather because the clothing itself becomes cooler in warm, moist conditions.

Distinctive little blue rings, embedded and visible in the fabric of Omni-Freeze Zero apparel and footwear, contain a special cooling polymer. When exposed to sweat or moisture, these rings actually swell (similar to goose bumps) creating an instant and prolonged cooling sensation.

"Historically, outdoor and athletic brands have looked at sweating as a problem...something to be wicked away with so-called 'technical,' decades-old polyester fabrics," explains Mick McCormick, executive vice president.

"Omni-Freeze Zero is an entirely new approach, and unlike anything the industry has ever seen. We see sweat as a renewable resource that will allow athletes, outdoor enthusiasts or anyone that spends time in hot, humid conditions to sweat smarter, staying more comfortable."

Columbia will release the new technology to consumers in the spring of 2013, integrating it into 40 styles that will include men's and women's shirts, performance layers, headwear, sleeves and other accessories. The company will also add Omni-Freeze Zero to its Powerdrain footwear models to keep the shoes cool in hot weather.

The technology is the latest from Columbia's Performance Innovation Team (PIT), the research and innovation division tasked with developing new solutions across the Columbia, Sorel, Mountain Hardwear, and Montrail brands.

"In general, people remove clothing layers to stay cool, but sponsored athletes using Omni-Freeze Zero have noted that in hot, humid conditions, this is the first technology that feels cooler and more comfortable than wearing nothing at all," adds Woody Blackford, vice president of innovation and head of the PIT.

"We're continuing to test the properties of this new technology in our lab and are sponsoring independent laboratory research."