With recent advances in materials and technologies, you no longer have to suffer from the excessive heat during your workout or in any other extremely harsh environment. Cooling vests technology has developed extensively over the recent years to help you function at peak performance. In this article, we’re going to learn how this technology works, the different types of vests commonly in use, important aspects to look for, and of course, review the TOP 9 best cooling vests on the market for different uses.
- What are cooling vests?
- Science, please!
- How cooling vests work
- Who wears cooling vests, anyway?
- TOP 9 Best Cooling Vests
- Pros and cons of using cooling vests
Whether you’re looking for a cooling vest for yourself, a grandma suffering from multiple sclerosis, a partner who rides a motorbike, or even your dog, picking the best one is far from being a walk in the park. But don’t worry, we’ll cover all the best options that are both high-quality and effective. We’ll include an opinion from a fitness expert, excerpts from scientific research, and, by the end of the article, review the TOP 9 Best Cooling Vests of various types and designs.
Cooling vest is a special type of clothing that is designed to assist with the regulation of a person’s core body temperature under extreme conditions.
A stable body temperature is critical for optimal function. Unfortunately, under severe circumstances maintaining a proper body temperature can be difficult. The human body is designed to regulate its temperature by sweating. But when the heat is so strong that the body is no longer capable of self-regulating, several adverse effects can occur, like heat stroke, dehydration, elevated heart rate, and even a breakdown of a central nervous system.
Thus, it’s extremely important to learn how to combat heat stress and what technologies are available to your rescue.
In this article, we’ll explore the practicability of using cooling vests to maintain a stable core temperature.
Thankfully, there’s ample amount of scientific research available that proves the efficacy of using cooling clothes to alleviate the body’s unfavorable exposure to heat.
Let’s briefly look at some of those studies.
The latest study, published in the International Journal of Occupational Safety and Ergonomics, 2018, confirmed that personal cooling vests are “recognized as an effective measure to combat heat stress” and should be implemented in the appropriate industries.
Another study, performed on the effect of wearing cooling vests to alleviate thermal strain during moderate intensity work and conducted by the Faculty of Health Sciences of the University of Ottawa, Canada, confirmed that wearing a cooling vest has a “beneficial effect on the level of thermal and cardiovascular strain experienced by the worker.”
The study published by the American Academy of Neurology confirmed that “wearing a cooling vest can help multiple sclerosis (MS) patients with muscle strength, fatigue and balance.”
However, there are some circumstances when using a cooling vest might not be as unambiguously recommended. For example, the study, published in the Journal of Athletic Training, 2008, concluded that “ice-water immersion should remain the standard of care for rapidly cooling severely hyperthermic individuals”, and cooling vests are not recommended as a first aid treatment, since they are not able to reduce the body temperature as fast as ice-water immersion.
Another scientific paper published by the researchers from the Florida International University, confirmed the previous findings, stating that ice-water immersion “should continue to be considered the cooling modalities of choice when treating an athlete who presents with hyperthermia and requires rapid reduction of core body temperature.”
The conclusions that we can draw from above are that cooling vests are beneficial in regulating body temperature in various circumstances, but should not be considered as a first choice treatment when rapid reduction of temperature is needed.
Now, let’s look at the types of cooling vest currently available and their distinctive features so you’ll understand what to look for and how they all work.
Cooling vests regulate body temperature by cooling the body down according to the technology used. We describe how each of them works further below.
Type of technologies
The principle of evaporation is based on water and airflow that are required to activate the cooling process: the heat from your body and the surrounding air will cause the water within the vest to evaporate.
Evaporative cooling vests are usually very simple in design and look like a regular insulated piece of clothing. All you have to do is soak the vest in water, wring it out a little and put it on. As soon as you put it on, you will feel instantly cool. And the cooling effect lasts for about 2 hours. On the downside, this vest is suitable for dry climates because in a high humidity you won’t get much of evaporation. Compared to other types of cooling vests, this one is much lighter.
Ice Pack Cooling
Ice Pack Cooling Vest, as its name gives away, is based on ice cooling effect, and usually looks like a flak jacket. Both the vest and the neck cooler (that usually comes with the vest) are full of pockets for ice pouches. You can throw the whole outfit in the freezer or you just can get out the pouches and put them in separately. The vest usually comes with 2 packs of 18 pouches in total. It’s very convenient because you can put the warm pouches back in the freezer and change them with cool pouches and keep on with your job.
The advantage of the ice pack cooling vests is that they can be used in humid climates and still stay pretty cool. On the downside, as far as the fashion goes, the vest often looks kind of funny and bulky. It’s also heavy and weighs approximately 5 pounds.
With these vests, you can make one of those simple and cheap DIY versions: get a fishing vest and ice packs, freeze the packs and put them in the pockets.
And if you suffer from multiple sclerosis, you can actually get one of those free. All you have to do is apply for Cooling Distribution Program.
Phase Change Cooling Vests
Phase Change Materials are much more sophisticated than regular ice packs. Anyhow, PCMs were initially developed and used by NASA, and only recently became available for the public. PCMs are classified as latent heat storage units, meaning they can absorb and release heat when the material changes from solid to liquid, and vice versa.
The funny thing is that although PCM vests are more technologically advanced, they look like regular ice packs and usually come in the same type of flak jacket as ice cooling vests. Inside one of those vests, you’ll find pockets where you put the phase cooling materials: two on the back and two on each side. Phase materials come in separate packets that you have to freeze before use. The difference between PCM and ice packs is that PCM freezes faster. The PCM jackets can look kind of bulky and uncomfortable at first and take time getting used to. The cooling effect also doesn’t last long, 2 -3 hours at most.
Gel Pack Cooling Vests
The gel pack cooling vests look and work the same as the PCMs and ice pack cooling vests, with the only difference is that pouches in the gel vest are filled with, well … you guessed it, a cooling gel! Unfortunately, though, these gel pouches are not very effective and will not last long. Maybe an hour at most.
Active Cooling Vests
Active Cooling Vests are the most effective deep cooling jackets that provide extended cooling between reservoir charges. Unfortunately, these vests do not come cheap and have limited practicability since they require power and ice water reservoir. They might be used in healthcare facilities by surgeons that need to work in a standing position for extensive hours. There are, however, portable versions available which run on batteries (for approximately 60 hours) but they still require a water reservoir. The battery versions can be used by motorcyclists who can put water reservoir on the back seat. Some motorcyclists install the DC power right to the 12V system.
To start using the active cooling vest, fill the reservoir with ice and add approximately 16 ounces of water and seal it up. Then you need to connect a hose that comes out of the vest to the water reservoir with a double connector system. Put on the vest as tight as possible so that the tubes running the ice cold water could be in close contact with your skin for better cooling effect. If you are riding a bike, then it’s important to put the vest underneath a jacket or something else that would prevent warm air on the outside from heating up the ice water. These vests usually come with a special adjustment control system that can help you regulate the amount of cooling you receive.
If you are a fitness enthusiast, a passionate runner, or a burgeoning cycling expert, you will probably be concerned about how much the cooling vest weighs, how long the cooling effect lasts and how the jacket looks on you. Our best bet is on the evaporative cooling vests unless you live in a very humid climate, or your fitness routine is so intense that evaporating cooling will not be enough for you. Then we might suggest going for PCMs or regular ice packs, although they might be really bulky and uncomfortable. There are also cooling fabrics available that are specifically designed for athletes, like spandex and nylon materials with ventilation vents built directly into the fitness gear, like in KewlShirt Cooling Tank Top.
Opinion from Fitness Instructor
Lucky for you, my husband happens to be a certified fitness instructor with over 10 years of experience, so I asked him to comment on the effectiveness of cooling vests and if you should wear them at all. Here’s what he has to say:
“If we talk about training in fitness clubs or specialized fitness centers, then the gym usually maintains an optimal temperature regime and there is no need for additional cooling. If you work out outdoors, especially in hot weather (during the summer, for example), then such a vest can be of great help. Professional athletes are at a greater risk of overtraining, excessive heat exposure, and training under extreme circumstances that require ultimate endurance, thus wearing a cooling vest can become a necessity rather than an option. The vests can be used during the training sessions or before and immediately after its completion. Football players, for example, wear cooling vests during the half-time intervals. The vests usually weigh 4 to 5 lbs on average, which doesn’t make them very lightweight. But they don’t hamper movement and can be used as additional weight, which is great because it will increase the power and strength of an exercise and will burn more calories. Perhaps, this is the only way for you to actually lose weight: use the vest in combination with an actual physical training. To confirm that the vest can somehow contribute to weight loss without regular exercise is not easy at this point and further research is needed.”
As far as the strenuous menial jobs go, cooling vests can decrease the physiological strain of working in hot environments. Ice packs, water-based active cooling, PCMs, or evaporative cooling can all be used during continuous work. Frozen polymer vests have proved to be as effective as power cooling vests, but they have limited application for far away working cites as chilling the polymer packs in iced cooler won’t work and will reduce their effectiveness.
Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
The problem with multiple sclerosis is that the condition makes a lot of people sensitive to heat. The research has proven that cooling garments can lessen the negative effects associated with heat and humidity exposure. Evaporative cooling vests and ice cooling vests can be safely used by people with MS.
Just like in humans, overheating can put your pet at a risk of dehydration and exhaustion. The researchers from the College of Veterinary Medicine of the University of Florida confirmed that cooling vests can help dogs to cool down faster. There are numerous cooling vests available on the market that can help you save your dog from the excessive summer heat. Some of the more sophisticated are those designed for working dogs in the police, military or rescue forces, like K-9 cooling vest, for example, that’s based on PCM technology.
Now we’ll cover the best 9 cooling vests with an in-depth look at several of the top brands. For your convenience, we’ve gathered the vests according to the technology; we’ll explore the different materials and methods that are currently being used by the top manufacturers in the field. Any versatile features and benefits of these products will also be discussed.
TechNiche Adult HyperKewl Cooling Sports Vest – MS patients, workers, athletes
TechNiche is an internationally recognized brand that primarily utilizes Evaporative cooling technology. HyperKewl is a patented material that absorbs and releases water through evaporation. While Cool Pax patented technology are effective for pre and post-cooling, HyperKewl is ideal for use during any strenuous activity.
All you have to do with this types of clothing is soak it in water for one to two minutes, squeeze the excess water and put the vest on. While the manufacturer claims that the vest will keep you cool for 5 to 10 hours, it’s not entirely so, many consumers say that the cooling lasts up to 3 hours at most.
Anyhow, this particular HyperKewl Cooling Sports Vest is a v-neck shaped vest with a zipper closure. The material is quilted nylon with HyperKewl polymer. Available in an array of sizes, seven to be exact.
Consumer response to the product is very positive, with few detractors saying it was heavy for a fieldwork, is not suitable for the humid weather, and didn’t last long. But overall, TechNiche HyperKewl is a solid offering and widely used across numerous demographics, like MS patients, workers, motorcyclists, etc.
TechNiche Men’s Cooling Ultra Sports Vest – for athletes
This TechNiche vest is designed specifically for athletes and is meant to be worn against the bare skin for maximum performance results. The ventilation vents are built into the shoulder, back, side, and front panels. The product is very light-weight and easy to activate (just soak it in water, wring it out, and put it on). Available in an array of colors (4) and sizes (8).
The testers were very pleased with how the product performed, often praising the intensity of cooling sensations. Others, who were not as much enthusiastic, mentioned that the sizing chart was all wrong, the zipper busted after a few days, and the vest being quite ineffective in humidity.
Overall, the TechNiche products are industry recognized and very easy to recommend.
Glacier Tek Sports with Set of 8 Cooling Packs – MS patients, workers, athletes, motorbike riders
Glacier Tek is another manufacturer that is easy to recommend since all their products are manufactured in the USA, and Glacier Tek Cool Vests are the only cooling vests on the market that feature the USDA Certified BioPreferred label. The cooling vests by Glacier Tek feature the PureTemp phase change material that absorbs the heat of the wearer and maintains a temperature of 59 degrees.
The cooling vest that we’ll cover here is a Sports Cool Vest which, despite the name, can be worn by anyone who needs a cooling garment. The Glacier Tek vest comes with 8 PCM cooling pouches that need to be put in ice water or freezer before use and will stay cool for up to 3 hours in 100 degrees heat.
Comes in 3 colors, weighs less than 5 pounds, has dual side straps, and a front zipper.
Apparently, the product works just as advertised, because there was not a single bad review to date!
The only downside is that it’s expensive.
KewlFit Male Performance Enhancement Cooling Vest – for athletes
KewlFit is a sub-brand of TechNiche International, a more established and reputable brand.
KewlFit is specifically tailored to athletes and fitness enthusiasts, as well as those willing to lose weight.
This Enhancement Cooling Vest utilizes a hybrid cooling system: both evaporative and PCM. The vest is lightweight and looks sporty: it has a front zipper with mesh ventilation panels and adjustable side gusset for optimal fit. Because it’s based on two technologies it reduces heat storage without invoking vasoconstriction response. Here’s a video where Dr. Stacy Sims from Standford University explains why KewlFit is different from its cheaper analogies.
Gel-based cooling vests work just like water or PCM-based vests. Gel vests come with a set of packs filled with cooling gel, which you have to freeze before use, and then insert them into the vest. While they might be less effective than PCMs, it’s mainly because the truly effective technologies are not as available for the public as they are for a military and industrial personnel. The ones that are sold online at non-specialised and semi-professional websites are often of dubious quality and should be avoided.
However, we can still recommend the well-known and notable manufacturers that supply their products to military forces and various other industries. Among those are StaCool Vest and Steel Vest manufacturers that are highly praised for the effectiveness and longevity of the cooling effect of their products by the high ranking government official and scientific researchers.
Although the technology they use in their products is sometimes called “gel packs”, it’s not entirely gel. For example, Steel Gel Ice Thermo-strips are composed of corn starch and water. And Thermopacks for StaCool Vests are made of individual cells that contain a non-toxic polymer material. So, whenever, you’re looking for a gel-based cooling vest, see what is exactly in those pouches.
Lightweight Kool Max Zipper Front Vest from Polar Products – MS patients, workers, motorbike riders
Polar Products is a leading US manufacturer of cooling products that’s been in business for more than 30 years. Polar Products cooling garments are used to cool surgeons during operations, workers in sweltering conditions, and military personnel on far away missions.
Thanks to the availability of those products for the public, you can now enjoy the benefits of super innovative and patented cooling technology that Polar Products use in their manufacturing.
Kool Max adjustable zipper vests cool the body by water-based packs that come in special sealed up pouches. Before use, you will have to refrigerate the packs, then insert them into the vest, and put the vest on. The material of a cooling vest shell is constructed of durable and machine washable 100% cotton twill, which is really nice to the touch. The pockets are all cotton fabric with an insulated outer composite fabric to direct the cooling energy toward the body and protect the skin.
This vest has been tested by Kansas State University and “was found to significantly lower heart rate and final body core temperature.”
Consumer responses were unanimously positive. Those who spoke up against said that the product was “monstrously” bulky and unattractive.
FlexiFreeze Ice Vest – for MS patients, outdoor work
FlexiFreeze is the US registered trademark which product line stems from the FlexiFreeze Ice Sheets. These Ice Sheets are manufactured in the USA and contain purified water.
FlexiFreeze Ice Vest harnesses the power of 96 water ice cubes. You can regulate the amount of ice cubes you want to use. The mechanics of use is pretty straightforward and very standard: freeze the packs, put them in, and wear the vest. Adjustable in four locations and comes with 2 types of closure: zipper or velcro.
The customer response is somewhat mixed with those unsatisfied saying the product was too heavy, uncomfortbale, and not of a very good quality (reports of ice packs leaking, broken zippers, fraying out edging, etc).
Allegro Industries 8300 Vortex Cooling Vest with Cooler – for workers
Allegro Industries is another well-known brand with over thirty years of experience in the safety industry that engineer and manufacture versatile lines of products, from ventilation and cooling equipment to confined space equipment. They supply major industries and have been included in many scientific studies.
The Allegro Industries Cooling Vest is a professional piece of equipment that’s made of polyvinyl chloride with hook and loop closure. The vest can protect from heat exposure of 200 degrees with outer clothing and 130 degrees without it. Fits workers up to 200 pounds.
The vest comes with the vortex tube without an air pump. You need an industrial air compressor to keep up with how much air the vest uses. Air supply should meet the following pressure and volume requirements: air consumption: 8-10 CFM (13.59-16.99 m3/hr) (10-16 CFM (13.59-27.18 m3/hr) with vest at 80-100 PSI (5.52-6.9 bar). Will cool or warm compressed air by 25°F (-3.8°C).
The consumer response is positive. One customer warned others that the vest needed ‘tons of air from a compressor.” He also added that at work they had two 100-gallon compressors and it made both of them run full-time. This is just something you need to be aware of.
First off, all of the above-discussed vests, except for the one sold by Allegro Industries, are suitable for patients with Multiple Sclerosis. You can actually get one of the ice pack cooling vests for free if you apply at the official website of the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America.
If you’re tight on your budget or there’s no way you could apply for the above program, then you might consider purchasing the following vest.
Blue-net Cooling Vest
Blue-net is a very comfortable and lightweight vest that’s made of PVA waterproof fabric and works just like evaporative cooling vests: soak it in water, gently squeeze, and put it on. It doesn’t look very durable though and makes it a cautious recommendation due to the lack of consumer reports. It’s very affordable and can be used in combination with any other cooling vests. It’s obviously okay for short walks and gardening, so if you don’t work under strenuous and hot conditions, it might be an option for you.
Now let’s talk about the four-legged!
I’m going to recommend 3 products in this category, two of which are very sophisticated and high-end, and the other is their cheaper alternative.
TechKewl Phase Change Cooling Dog Coat
This is a product from a renowned brand TechKewl, available in 3 sizes and 2 colors. PCM provides cooling up to 3 hours regardless of the environment and or breed. But be careful since PCM packs are toxic when raptured. However, it should not be concerned since the material utilized by TechKewl is very sturdy and durable. The vest can look really bulky with packs inserted, but other than that consumer response was positive.
Another slightly cheaper product by TechKewl is PCM Dog Coat, it varies mainly by design and price.
A cheaper alternative to those both is the Hutta Cooling Dog Vest that is worth less than 30 dollars. It’s available in 9 sizes and two colors. The shell and lining are 100% polyester, very much like the construction of jackets, except the outer shell has small air in it for better air curculation. There are no gel and no water-based packs, in case you wonder. You’ll have to soak the clothing in water, wring it out and put it on your dog.
The customers who were not satisfied said the product was not of the best quality, the sizing was somewhat messed up, and the dogs didn’t like it that much.
- Improves productivity and efficiency of a workout
- Prevents heat stroke and guards against excessive heat exposure
- Increases duration of work
- A lot of faulty unreliable products on the market
- Some technologies are not yet available for the public
- Bulky, unattractive
- Sometimes a necessity rather than an option
- Needs freezing, recharging, or special equipment
Do I need a cooling vest?
You need a cooling vest if you suffer from hot flashes, are menopausal, were diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, work under strenuous and hot conditions.
What can a cooling vest do for me?
The cooling vest can regulate your body temperature and protect you from exposure to excessive heat, which can be dangerous to your health, and sometimes even deadly.
Can a cooling vest improve cardio exercise efficiency?
Cooling the torso and neck during exercise can increase exercise performance and capacity in a hot environment.
Can a cooling vest speed up post-workout recovery?
Ice water bath is still more effective than a cooling vest.
Can I lose weight by wearing a cooling vest for weight loss?
Only if you continue your regular exercise routine.
Are cooling vests good for dogs?
Yes, if you’re living in a very hot environment. Apart from that, the cooling vests are usually more common for professional working dogs.
How to make cooling vest?
Take a fishing vest and cold ice packs. Insert the ice packs into the fishing vest pockets.
What is the best cooling vest for MS?
Evaporative cooling and regular ice cooling vests will work wonderfully for you.
What is the best cooling vest for worker/welder/ surgeon/firefighter?
You have to look for professional cooling vests, which are usually sold by Allegro Industries, StaCool, and Steele.
Can you recommend a cooling vest for hot flashes?
Regular ice packs or PCMs would work great in your case.
What is the best cooling vest for motorcycles?
If you have a huge motorbike then look for active cooling vests; if you own a small bike or don’t want to fumble around with hoses and water reservoirs, then opt for PCM.
What is the best cooling vest for working outside?
Evaporative vest is lightweight and durable and might be suitable for gardening or any other work that you do outside.
Comparative chart of Cooling Vests
Hopefully the list above provided you with a good starting point in your search for a good cooling vest. Choosing a cooling vest is a big decision, knowing how expensive it can get, and by having all the information you will have a better chance at getting the perfect one for your needs. Don’t get high hopes for losing weight just by wearing it around, but use it during your regular high-intensity workout for better results!