Hot weather is usually a trivial thing to worry about for most people. There are plenty of ways to deal with heat, like fans, air conditioning and the occasional cold drink which often enough for many people. Sometimes, however, those options simply aren’t feasible.
You can’t exactly bring air conditioning outdoors and a refreshing drink can only do so much. This is especially true for people who do extensive work while under the sun.
Luckily, cooling vests were made for this exact reason. If you’re interested in getting a cooling vest for professional, recreational or medical purposes, we put together everything you’ll want to know.
What’s a Cooling Vest?
Cooling vests are specialized tools designed to keep body temperatures from exceeding comfortable levels. They essentially stop the body from overheating when other cooling options are simply not available.
The materials that these vests are made of depends on the manufacturer but typically, they’re made of various fabrics and compounds that promote the dissipation of body heat. They can absorb both sweat and body heat and cool the body down with packs containing cold water or ice.
What are Cooling Vests used for?
These vests can be used for any purpose but they’re primarily for people who are expected to run into issues with their body heat. Athletes who compete in physically demanding sports such as football can make great use of these vests, especially when games are played during hot summer seasons.
Industrial workers such as professionals working in construction and oil rig maintenance can also use cooling vests to great effect since their jobs often require them to work under the heat of the sun. Other professionals such as emergency services and fast reaction crews can also benefit greatly from using cooling vests.
The cooling vests can help regulate their body temperatures and stave off the effects of dehydration; they also help keep workers comfortable while they do their jobs.
Cooling vests are also useful for treating people with multiple sclerosis by helping them cope with the disease’s symptoms. The cooling effect that the vests provide can prevent the nerves of a person afflicted with multiple sclerosis from heating up which, in turn, helps manage pain.
These vests can also be used for recreational purposes such as hiking, sports or any other activity or profession that might warrant a countermeasure against heat.
The main benefits of cooling vests are medical in nature; their ability to prevent the body from overheating is useful in its own right while their ability to help with multiple sclerosis is very beneficial for people who suffer from the illness, but the comfort that cooling vests can offer make them enticing for anyone who simply wants a way to deal with heat.
Types of Cooling Vests
Cooling vests come in multiple types. They still serve the same function but how they accomplish that changes depending on how they’re made. Each type of cooling vest has its own sets of pros and cons and a list of other features that we cover below.
Evaporative Cooling Vest
These vests are typically lightweight and more affordable than other types of cooling vests thanks to its simple heat dissipation system. Evaporative cooling vests work by using water to absorb body heat then allowing that water to evaporate once it absorbed enough.
This kind of vest has inserts or cooling packs all over their inner lining which hold cold water up against your body. They can be “recharged” by refilling these inserts with water then either placing the vest in a freezer or submerging it in cold water
Evaporative cooling vests don’t last particularly long, especially during certain weather conditions, but they can be recharged quickly and easily.
Phase Change Cooling Vest
These vests have a slightly different cooling system than the evaporative cooling vests that makes them somewhat bulkier and heavier. Phase change vests use special cooling packs filled with gel or water instead of regular packs with specifically cold water to offer a longer-lasting cooling effect.
These vests use materials that are meant to maximize the longevity of the temperature of its cooling packs while also minimizing any discomfort that the excessive cold might bring when it comes into contact with skin.
Like evaporative vests, phase change cooling vests can be easily recharged by leaving them in ice water or in a refrigerator before use.
The cooling packs used by phase change vests need to be replaced when they get damaged, so it is often a good idea to purchase an extra set of packs just in case one of the original cooling packs gets damaged.
Cold Pack Cooling Vest
Cold pack cooling vests function similarly to phase-change vests, except cold pack vests use actual ice packs. These vests use ice to cool the body down, which means that they have the potential to reach much colder temperatures than the previous two vests but they can also be more uncomfortable.
The ice in each cooling pack of these vests can also be heavier than the other cooling vest variants. In addition, since ice is solid, the mobility of the user may be hindered when wearing the vest. In terms of function, cold pack cooling vests incorporate elements of both the evaporative and phase change vests
Of course, these vests can also be recharged but only via the freezer to make sure that the water actually freezes.
These are the three most commonly used types of cooling vests. However, experts are exploring the option of using thermoelectric cooling vests to replace these. These vests are only in the experimental phase but researchers have so far has been making progress.
Our Top Picks
There are plenty of cooling vests being sold out there. Here are some of the best picks that you may want to look into if you’re in the market for a new vest.
1. FlexiFreeze Ice Vest
The Ice Vest manufactured by FlexiFreeze is one of the lightest and thinnest cooling vests available. The Ice Vest weighs in at 3.5 pounds with a thickness of just one inch, making it incredibly light and flexible. It’s also easy to wear thanks to its zipper-closure design.
The design of the vest doesn’t take any of its effectiveness away, however. The Ice Vest uses pure water in its Velcro-strapped cooling packs instead of gel packs to ensure maximum efficiency and ease of maintenance.
The Ice Vest is made with soft yet rip-resistant neoprene that nicely complements its thin and light design, making sure that the user’s mobility is never compromised. The degree of flexibility that this vest provides means it can be used while doing more strenuous activities like sports without feeling bogged down. The vest also comes in a one-size-fits-most measurement which can be adjusted to fit sizes between XS and 6XX.
The cooling packs used in the Ice Vest can last up to 2 hours since the coolant it uses is pure water. This also means that its effective duration can drop down to just 1 hour depending on the weather condition, which is normal for vests of similar design.
Reception for the Ice Vest has been mostly positive; however, there have been reports that the vest’s Velcro straps leave a lot to be desired.
2. Glacier Tek Sports Cool Vest
This cooling vest made by Glacier Tek is made specifically for athletes and sports enthusiasts who want to maintain their body temperature even while playing sports. This phase change cooling vest features a zipper and adjustable straps that make sure the vest doesn’t come off in the middle of a game.
The Glacier Tek Sports Cool Vest can fit most adult sizes; it can also fit chest sizes that are between 29-52 inches but extender strap sets are available for when larger sizing is required. The vest weighs roughly 5 pounds and isn’t too cumbersome to move around in.
The vest’s cooling packs can maintain a temperature of 59°F for up to 2.5 hours so long as the external heat level doesn’t pass 100°F, while the packs are made of non-toxic materials to ensure safety. Since it’s a phase change cooling vest, it can retain its temperature for longer and it can be recharged faster than the evaporation-based Ice Vest mentioned previously.
The customer reception of Glacier Tek’s Cool Vest has been very positive overall. It’s durable and it works exactly as advertised, even in temperatures surpassing 100°F. Unfortunately, it’s also slightly less breathable yet more expensive than the Ice Vest, with export costs that may cause the price to spike higher for overseas buyers.
3. New Home Innovations Cooling Vest
This phase change cooling vest by New Home Innovations offers superior cooling with 4 different phase change cooling packs in a thin-yet-sturdy package. NHI’s cooling vest is made of soft mesh material, making it more breathable than its competitors, and it has the adjustable torso and shoulder straps to accommodate sizes from S to XXL while weighing only roughly 2.4 pounds.
NHI’s Cooling Vest also comes with a set of 8 extra cooling packs for replacements, upping the vest’s value tremendously. Extra cooling packs mean less downtime for the vest as you can always swap the used packs out and use a different set while the used ones are recharging.
Given that the extra packs are used, NHI’s vest can offer a total usage time of 3 hours before all of the packs are exhausted. The phase change packs are especially useful for people with multiple sclerosis, as they can use the vest in an environment that doesn’t necessarily work against it.
The vest’s thin design also makes it wearable in most circumstances without being too bothersome to the wearer in movement and overall comfort.
The price of this vest is significantly lower than the previous two, potentially making it a more cost-efficient alternative to them both.
4. TechNiche International Adult HyperKewl Cooling Sport Vest
TechNiche International is known for its quality products, and their sports vest brand is no exception. TechNiche’s Cooling Sports Vest comes equipped with the company’s patented HyperKewl technology, which is designed to provide the maximum amount of efficiency possible.
This evaporative cooling vest is extremely light, coming in at 9 ounces or half a pound, and you can pick any size between XS to 3XL. Don’t let its looks fool you, as this simple-looking vest comes equipped with some advanced technology.
The vest is constructed with TechNiche’s HyperKewl technology implemented down to its very fabric. HyperKewl allows the vest to cool down your body without the use of any cooling packs; instead, the vest’s inner fabrics store water inside the vest itself. This water is slowly released via evaporation, giving it its cooling effect.
This type of fabric means that the vest can be charged up by simply soaking it in water for 1-2 minutes. After squeezing out any excess water after that, it’s ready to be used. The vest can also decrease your body heat by 10-15°F for a duration of 5-10 hours, which is considerably longer compared to other cooling vests.
The innovative technology used in this vest means it is much more efficient in both its purpose and its cost. The downside, however, is that areas with high humidity can severely impact the longevity of the cooling effect, making it unsuitable for extreme conditions.
5. COMPCOOLER Ice Water Circulating Cooling Vest
This battery-operated cooling vest by COMPCOOLER is one of the fancier options in this list. This vest comes with a cooling system that uses pumps to allow water to circulate all over tubes that are sewn right into the vest which is made of a water-resistant yet breathable fabric.
The Circulating Cooling Vest’s system runs off of one Lithium-Ion battery while the water is stored in a 2L water bladder that can be detached from the vest, making it easy to replace once it warms up.
The cooling system does make the whole vest a bit bulky and the water bladder adds considerable weight when full, as the entire vest weighs 4 pounds when the bladder is empty. This means that this vest is best suited for workers and more sedentary patients. The bulk and weight of the vest will hamper mobility, making it hard to use for sports.
The Circulating Cooling Vest also only comes in XL and 2XL.
Despite the bulk, the vest is still comfortable to wear and it does the job well. However, it needs two power sources to function properly: a li-ion battery to keep the pumps working and cool water for it to actually cool you down. Replacing each power source is easy enough but you’ll need to pay for extra battery costs in the long run.
6. COMPCOOLER Backpack ICE Water Cooling System
This is another cooling system manufactured by COMPCOOLER. Like the Circulating Cooling Vest, the ICE Water Cooling System features a battery-operated system that improves the product’s overall effectiveness.
The system works similarly to the previous COMPCOOLER cooling system; it uses a pump to circulate water through tubes that run along the vest, but this version of the cooling system features a larger water bladder (3L) and a stronger, 7.4v mini pump.
The ICE Water Cooling System can function for 3-6 hours thanks to the battery and the water bladder can be easily replaced with a new one once it wears down. The cooling effect on a freshwater bladder can last up to 2-4 hours.
Unlike the previous version, this one comes in a variety of vest sizes ranging from S to 4XL.
7. The Coldest Water’s The Coldest Ice Pack
While technically not a cooling vest, this nifty pack can still serve the same purpose as one. The Coldest Ice Pack is an ice pack with straps, but the simplicity of the item doesn’t make it any less valuable.
The Coldest Ice Pack is designed specifically for cold therapy. It is mostly meant to be used to help with the recovery of injuries such as bruises, sprains, back pain and more. The design of the ice pack allows it to cover large areas of the body while still providing an even distribution of the coldness, making it more efficient.
The ice pack is only meant to be used for a maximum of 20 minutes per body area, as too much direct contact with ice can be harmful. Once the coldness fades, it can be recharged by freezing it again for 2 hours.
The Coldest Ice Pack isn’t meant to be used as a traditional cooling vest, as the main benefit of the pack lies in medical use. I can be very useful for people who often experience soreness or nerve pain.
The Coldest Ice Pack can fit almost anyone thanks to its adjustable straps and the size of the ice pack itself lends itself well to any body size or shape. The size, shape and simple ingenuity of The Coldest Ice Pack makes it perfect for people with medical conditions who want something more convenient than a normal cold compress.
There are plenty of factors that can affect how a cooling vest works. If you’ve noticed that the cooling vest that you’ve purchased isn’t doing its job very well then there might be something that’s working against it that applies to other cooling vests everywhere.
Here are some frequently asked questions regarding cooling vests:
How long do cooling vests last?
The effectiveness of cooling vests can last between 45 minutes to 2 hours depending on different factors.
The make and model of your cooling vest can mean a world of difference when it comes to the duration of your vest’s cooling ability. Evaporative cooling vest models tend to lose their cooling effectiveness as the water in its packs is used up, while phase change vests tend to be more effective because of the technology that enhances their function. Vests that use ice packs also proving longer periods of cooling simply because ice takes longer to melt.
Of course, the longevity of the cooling packs’ effectiveness is affected by how hot the weather is. The hotter the weather, the faster the cooling packs will wear out.
There are also a few cooling vests that use battery-operated fans to circulate cool air around the areas that they cover. These vests don’t exactly make the air colder but they can help you cool down by balancing out the hot and warm air on your body. The cooling effect won’t be as strong as water or gel-based cooling vests but these ones can keep working for as long as you have the batteries to spare.
Can I wear a cooling vest while running?
Yes—there are some lightweight cooling vests that are made for runners. Lightweight vests can cool you down while you run, slowing the build-up of your body’s temperature.
Evaporative cooling vests are often the ones that are best suited for running but don’t expect them to last very long. The other vest types identified earlier can provide a much longer cooling effect, but their weight can slow you down or wear you out faster.
Do cooling vests work in hot or humid climates?
Yes. Fighting off the effects of heat is the primary function of the cooling vest, after all. This means that cooling vests will be effective in hot or humid climates in states like Florida or countries such as Australia and Qatar.
Back in 2018, cooling vests were issued to the workers who were constructing the stadium for the 2022 Qatar World Cup in Doha to help them work safely while subjected to the country’s extreme heat conditions.
Cooling vests can be extremely useful for industrial workers, athletes and medical patients alike. However, the effectiveness of different cooling vests varies depending on the situation they are used in and the manufacturers who made them. The fact that they can produce tangible results is undeniable, but the question of which is truly the best cooling vest depends on your personal needs.