Cooling vests appeared on the mass market a few years ago and quickly targeted its audience. Nowadays such devices are in demand with the builders, road workers, athletes, and drivers. Moreover, special products have been launched exclusively for dogs.
The most available and proven vests work similarly to cooling bandanas and towels: you are supposed to soak the vest in water and let special polymers do their work. Once they come in contact with water, the cooling effect begins. Once your vest is dry, re-soak it and it will be ready to work again.
We’ve picked the top 13 items in two categories.
What You Will Learn from This Guide:
- Types of cooling vests
- The efficiency of cooling vests, according to scientists
- Targeted market: who wears what and why?
- 8 Best cooling vests for athletes, workers, cyclists, and bikers
- 5 Best cooling vests for dogs
At the end of the review, we’ll look into the future of cooling fabric and some promising research.
What is a cooling vest and how it works
A cooling vest is a piece of specially manufactured apparel that’s designed to assist a person in regulating their body temperature under unfavorable conditions. The mechanics of how a cooling vest works depend on a type of cooling vest and the technology used in its manufacturing process. Further discussion elaborates on major types of cooling vests currently available on the market along with their differentiating features.
Evaporative cooling vests
Evaporative vests, as the name gives away, are based on the principle of evaporation. They need to be submerged in water for a few minutes, wrung out a little, and put on. When the water evaporates, it brings the body temperature down. This is the simplest type of vests available on the market, but depending on the manufacturer, they might not be necessarily cheap. The downside of evaporative vests is that they are not suitable for humid climates, where water won’t be able to efficiently evaporate into the air.
Ice pack cooling vests
With ice packs, it’s pretty clear that you need to freeze the packs in the freezer until the water hardens and turns to ice; then insert the ice packs in the vest pouches and put the vest on. Two obvious limitations of cooling vests are that they look super bulky and could be initially very cold to the touch, and thus quite uncomfortable to wear.
Gel pack vests
Gel packs work just like ice in the way they have to be frozen from a couple of hours to overnight and then inserted inside the vest pouches before wearing. Unfortunately, the cooling gel technology has its limitations in terms of efficiency and performance, thus, don’t expect a cooling gel vest to work for more than an hour.
Phase Change vests
Phase Change vests are based on the phase change materials (PCMs) that were discovered, tested, and initially used by NASA. So there’s indeed a proven science behind those things. The idea behind PCMs, as their name gives away, is based on the materials that change their phase when turning from solid to liquid, and vice versa, meanwhile absorbing, holding, and releasing heat whenever necessary. The PCM packs that are used in cooling vests look similar to ice, they also need to be frozen before use. But unlike ice, they won’t require much freezing time, which ranges from around half an hour to two hours at most. The technology has not yet come that far as to guarantee cooling effect for hours to come, but PCMs would still do their job for 2-3 hours.
Active cooling vests
Active cooling vests are the most sophisticated cooling vests on our list, they are also the bulkiest and require additional ammunition, like a power source and water reservoir. The need for additional accouterments significantly lowers their practicability, but these vests are indispensable for some healthcare practitioners, engineers, military personnel, etc. The portable versions that run on batteries are popular among motorcyclists.
The cooling vests are proved to be super beneficial in various circumstances:
- Work. The study published in the International Journal of Occupational Safety and Ergonomics concluded that cooling vests were effective in combating heat stress and thus, were recommended for occupational workers. The researchers from the University of Ottawa confirmed that wearing a vest had beneficial effects on the level of thermal and cardiovascular strain during moderate intensity work.
- Sports. A study published in Sports Medicine featured clear evidence that precooling enhanced athletic performance of prolonged exercises in the heat.
- MS patients. American Academy of Neurology advised on using a cooling vest in patients with multiple sclerosis outlining the benefits of cooling in alleviating adverse symptoms in high temperatures, helping with fatigue, and balance.
However, scientists also mention the limitations of cooling vests especially in situations where lowering temperature needs to be fast, like in a circumstance of a heatstroke. In cases such as these, ice-water immersion is recommended.
So, cooling vests, as you can imagine, are pretty versatile, and can be used by both healthcare practitioners and patients alike. Also, other consumers who can benefit from cooling include workers, athletes, and even dogs. Let’s look at each of these audiences in a little bit more detail.
Cooling vest for MS
People with Multiple Sclerosis are especially sensitive to heat. Thus, wearing a vest is no longer a luxury, but a pure necessity. Research has proven that cooling therapy is effective in improving mobility in patients with MS and has to be used consistently and sometimes on a daily basis if a patient lives in a hot climate. You can apply for Cooling Distribution Program to get one of the cooling vests free of charge.
Cooling vest for menopause
It’s a no-brainer, that menopausal women suffer from hot flushes. According to WebMD, cooling therapy can help to prevent hot flashes or battle them when they occur. Doctors advise on using a chill pillow, fans, lightweight and loose-fitting clothes from natural fabrics, and trying a cooling vest during the day. Ice, gel or PCM packs could be options to go if you don’t mind the bulkiness. Otherwise, opt for evaporative vests. These are not exactly the fashion items, but it can help you alleviate adverse symptoms and stay on track with your daily activities.
Cooling vest for surgeons // healthcare providers // doctors
Standing for prolonged periods of time during operations can be exhaustive. Active cooling vests are often used in cases such as these. They should be provided, however, by the hospital or other healthcare institution you work for. These active cooling vests are complete and sophisticated systems that include more than just a vest. For example, this Surgeon Cool Vest System includes a vest with over 50 ft of small capillary tubing and 16-quart ice chest, and cost around 2,000 dollars.
Cooling vest for workers // welders
Construction workers, welders, engineers can also significantly benefit from wearing a cooling vest. If not provided by your employer, then you may look into active cooling vests in case you don’t have to move much at work, or evaporative vests, in case you work outside and move a lot.
Cooling vest for sports // athletes// cycling // runners
If you’re looking for a cooling vest for sports or fitness activities, you’d obviously want to wear something lightweight. If that’s the case, then the evaporative cooling vests specifically designed for athletes are your best bet.
Cooling vest for body armor
The cooling vests for body armor usually look like undershirt tactical lightweight vests made of mesh, which attempt to increase airflow and breathability. The examples of vests such as these are Maxx-Dri Body Armor Cooling Vest and Pacific Blue Line Body Armor Vest. They are both very simple in design and aim at allowing air to circulate beneath the body armor to prevent rashes and skin irritation.
Cooling vest for motorcycles
In case your bike is big enough to incorporate an active cooling system, then, of course, it’s better for you to purchase the battery operated active cooling vest because it’s going to keep you cool for longer. Otherwise, stick to PCM vests for shorter trips (up to 3 hours) or regular ice packs.
Cooling vest for working outside / gardening
Evaporative cooling vests are your best bets. They are lightweight and won’t become an additional burden that adds unnecessary strain to your gardening.
Cooling vest for mascots // costumes // santa // cosplay
It can get really hot in costumes. Luckily, there is a whole range of cooling products available to keep you cool while you cheer up the crowd of little kiddos. You can really choose any gel or PCM vests that we feature in this article. However, if you’re specifically looking at a more or less discrete Santa cooling vest, then this vest from Glacier Tek is so sleek and discrete it will be hardly noticed.
Cooling vest for a child
The unbearable heat presents a particular danger for those who spend much time working outdoors. A cooling bandana or a towel won’t solve the problem while a vest is a good option. We’ve picked eight most popular items: from simple ice pack cooling vests to sophisticated and advanced vests based on NASA technological innovation, namely phase change materials.
Evaporative Cooling Vests
Among classic and cheap cooling vests, three vests can be distinguished. The first one is Ergodyne Chill-Its 6665 Evaporative Cooling Vest. The external layer is made of densely quilted nylon rather than fiber. This is a good option for workers as it has no fancy perks, but wide functionality instead (the zipper allows for quick and easy taking off of the vest and high-quality external layer which is moisture- and dirt-resistant). The fabric will give off coolness for 3-4 hours after being soaked, after that you’ll have to take a break and re-soak the vest.
As for the drawbacks, there are a few sizes available; they only range from medium to 3x large. Two colors are available, reserved gray and bright lime. We can hardly call this vest stylish, it is its practicality that is critical and so the lack of fashionable design becomes less important.
If you’re looking for XS or S sizes and haven’t been able to find them in a previous vest, turn your attention to the TechNiche International Adult HyperKewl Cooling Sports Vest. This vest has the same attributes and is made of identical materials, but the range of sizes and colors available is substantially wider. The new colors are royal blue, gold, black, and silver. And who said that these vests are for men only? Even petite ladies or kids can wear them as there are sizes available from XS to XXXL.
Ergodyne: Check the current price
TechNiche: Check the current price
Cooling Vest for Cyclists and Bikers
If you’re looking for a cooling vest without a zipper, opt for the TechNiche International HyperKewl Cooling Ultra Sports Vest. Lots of cyclists and bikers are fond of this vest. As it lacks a zipper, it is adjacent to your chest tightly and will be able to easily wear a biker leather jacket over this vest, the cooling properties of which won’t let you be overheated.
TechNiche Ultra: Check the current price
The Ice Vest | FlexiFreeze
If you don’t believe a cooling jacket will save you, try wearing a FlexiFreeze Ice Vest. The vest has a special internal lining filled with 96 ice packets. The vest is one-size-fits-all and can be adjusted with special straps. You can also regulate the number of ice cubes or pouches you want to use. The zipper is widely criticized by the users as many don’t consider it to be firm enough. The fabric of which the vest is made can be accidentally ripped, so this product is not suitable for doing any work where it can be damaged. Some customers claim that the idea is great, but the execution leaves much to be desired. Indeed, there are few similar devices, so don’t expect a stable level of quality just yet.
FlexiFreeze: Check the current price
Glacier Tek Sports Cool Vest
Glacier Tek is an industry leader in manufacturing cooling products, which has garnered a solid reputation over the years for their high-quality clothing that is proudly manufactured in the US. This vest, in particular, is pretty lightweight (as compared with many other similar products) and weighs less than 5 lbs. It also comes with an adjustable dual side strap and heavy-duty front zipper for better adjustment and convenience. This sports vest features 8 PCM packs that would maintain a dry, comfortable temperature of around 59°F for up to 2.5 hours in 100°F heat. The consumers confirmed the effectiveness of the vest for 2 hours, great fitting, comfort, and its overall durability. This product, although quite expensive, is easy to recommend. Moreover, Glacier Tek won’t put its name on something less than effective.
Glacier Tek: Check the current price
KewlFit Performance Enhancing Vest
KewlFit enhancing vest is based on the hybrid cooling technology that combines both evaporative cooling and phase change materials. The package includes one set of Cool Pax Phase Change Cooling Military Vest Inserts and insulated Kewler Bag. The vest also features mesh ventilation panels and breathable cotton material. There’s also a front zipper and adjustable side gusset for optimal fit on all body shapes. This option might be a great solution for any athletic activity.
KewlFit: Check the current price
Lightweight Kool Max Zipper Front Vest
This item from Polar Products, another industry leader in manufacturing cooling apparel, is based on ice pack cooling with Kool Max packs. The item’s shell is constructed of durable and 100% cotton twill, which is very nice to the touch and also breathable. The cotton fabric protects the skin and an insulated outer composite fabric directs the cooling energy toward the body. The customers were pleased with the product, only a few complained about how it unattractively looked on the body. Apart from that minor nuisance, the product is worth recommending.
Polar Products: Check the current price
Allegro Industries Vortex Cooling Vest with Cooler
This is an active cooling vest, previously mentioned, which is comprised of a pretty sophisticated set of items that include a cooling vest with a collar, and a fitting tube for an air compressor. The vest’s made of polyvinyl chloride with hook and loop closure and is good at sustaining temperatures over 200ºF (93.3°C) with protective outer clothing and 130ºF (54.4°C) without protective outer clothing. The seller recommends the use of the vest for workers in confined spaces as well as foundries, steel mills, asbestos abatement, and paint baking operations. Many customers confirmed the vest worked as advertised.
Allegro Industries: Check the current price
Cooling Vests Comparison Chart
There also exist special cooling devices for dogs. Everyone is familiar with special winter wear for pets, aren’t they? The vests are tailored for virtually the same patterns and they work in a completely identical manner: you should soak it, put it on, save your dog from overheating and repeat after a few hours. It will come in handy not only when taking your dog for a walk in hot weather, but also when you, say, participate in a dog show competition. Use the vest to cool a tired dog after a tense race.
Comfort and freedom of movement for an active pet are essential when it comes to a cooling vest. Ideally, such a vest should be made in a way that doesn’t cause any discomfort whatsoever. You will be able to take off most of them in a couple of movements as zippers have been replaced with Velcro. Be prepared though that a dog vest will wear and tear faster than a human one. Dogs can be hyperactive and can easily damage the fabric while playing.
Most issues arise if you choose to wear vests covering the entire back as many complain of the fastening being insufficient and of the vest always sliding to the side, especially if a dog is very active. Vests with poor chest fastening usually pose such problems. In that case, opt for a product with 2-3 fasteners both on the chest and on the back. Also, make sure you choose the right size, if you pick a smaller one, a dog will feel too tight, if you buy a larger vest, it will merely slide off the back. Certain customers complain that they were forced to alter the vests for their dogs, that is why you’d better go ahead and measure your pet before the purchase and compare the measurements to the dimensions offered by the manufacturer. Another popular complaint is that sometimes the wet vest becomes too heavy for some dogs and they feel even more uncomfortable in the heat because of the additional load.
We’ve picked several items of different shapes: covering the entire back, similar but smaller ones, and the most compact bibs. They are available in different sizes so it won’t very difficult to buy something for both minuscule and large breeds.
The largest item covering the entire back, HyperKewl Evaporative Cooling Dog Coat, is suitable for furry breeds. It provides for maximum cooling and minimum suffering in heat for your dear dog. Thanks to its special design, the vest will cool you for at least 5-7 hours. It is available in XS-XXL, so even the puppies can be protected.
This huge vest has a cheaper analog, Dog Cooling Vest, Swamp Cooler Jacket for Dogs. It is equipped with conventional fasteners. It retains moisture for a much shorter period of time, though: for up to 2 hours.
The entire back vest: Check the current price
Cut-rate analogue: Check the current price
Also, a multi-layered Ruffwear vest is available for those who don’t save on their pets. Its idea is in being multi-layered, i.e. the top layer facilitates moisture evaporation, the second retains the said moisture and the third one gives off the invigorating coolness to your dog. It is noteworthy that all sizes, ranging from XXS to XL are available for the same price. The only color is light Graphite Gray and the manufacturer promises that it will reflect sunlight.
If you don’t need a large vest, a bib will be handy.
Two of such available are remarkable. The first one is Hurtta Cooling Dog Vest which is thicker and has a Velcro. Its main benefit is that it is available in any size.
Ruffwear: Check the current price
Hurtta: Check the current price
The second one, Guardian Gear Cool Pup, cannot really boast of diversity. You can invest in it if your dog’s chest is about 12-17”.
12-17" chest: Check the current price
Dog Cooling Vests Comparison Chart
|Product||Cooling Time||Sizes Available||Price|
|Up to 7 hours||From XS to XXL|
|Up to 2 hours||From S to XXL|
|7-10 hours||From XXS to XL|
|Up to 5 hours||From XXS to XXL|
|Up to 2 hours||12-17"|
The future of cooling vests
Are such cooling gadgets limited to using polymers only? Several major universities, as well as industrial companies from different countries, are engaged in the development of the materials with the built-in “climate-control”. JacobsSchool website, for instance, provides the information on a $2 million grant for designing “smart fabric” able to independently maintain comfortable body temperature. The idea is the following: depending on the air temperature the fabric will either thicken or become thinner. So far there exists a general concept only, and not even the most primitive prototypes have yet been devised.
Finland takes up similar developments. According to the Daily Mail, the Finns promise to introduce “smart fabric” that can change its temperature with a simple button push. Plastic channels filled with liquid able to alter the fabric’s physical characteristics on receipt of certain electric impulses will be built in there. Ideally, “Finnish shirts” should be controlled by smartphones and tablets. However, so far this is only a grant project rather than a completed study.
You might believe that smart fabric is a too complicated concept. It must be easier to devise a special kind of synthetic material that "breathes" or slightly cools your body at least. Such experiments have also been conducted. Moreover, certain athletes’ and workers’ apparel labels mention such magical materials. Unfortunately, Sara J Abdallah, Robin Krug, and Dennis Jensen, the authors of the study on these materials’ thermoregulation properties name them fictional. They have conducted an experiment with 20 athletes who first had to train while wearing regular clothes (a t-shirt and shorts) and then put on some expensive cooling synthetic uniform. After performing the same stamina exercises it became obvious that the pulse, fluid exchange, skin, and esophagus temperature were all the same. A similar indoor experiment didn’t change the researchers’ conclusion.
Nowadays no fabric that can really control human body thermoregulation exists, that is why we shall avoid the heat this summer with the good old proven reviewed gadgets: сooling towels and cooling bandanas.
Back in 2016, the researchers at Stanford University came up with a cheap plastic-based textile that promised a brighter future for cooling clothing. In the development of the promising cooling textile made of polyethylene, the scientists combined nanotechnology, photonics, as well as chemistry. And the results showed that the skin of a person wearing a cotton fabric was 3.6 F warmer than the skin of another who wore cooling textile. To be honest with you, 3 degrees doesn’t seem like a big deal, besides after more than 3 years since the research was conducted, none of the plastic clothing has become available for the public. Also, polyethylene is super detrimental to the environment, and plastic affects human health. I don’t think society and nature need any more of the plastic pollution.
More recent reseach from the scientists at the University of Maryland indicated the availability of a new thermal regulation textile. The fabric, that the researchers came up with using 3D printing, is “made of a nanofiber composite consisting of boron nitride and poly(vinyl alcohol), or PVA.” The key concept here is that the body heat passes through the fabric by the process of conduction to the surrounding environment, without being trapped within the clothing. The developments of this research are further to be observed. It might be the case that the researchers succeed in developing these nanofiber materials further for them to become fully available for the public.
Cooling Vests: Their Effectiveness and Disadvantages
- Effective in improving capacity and capabilities in workouts
- Essential (life-saving) in the prevention of hot flashes and heatstrokes in heat-sensitive people and others suffering from medical conditions, like menopause and multiple sclerosis
- Guards against excessive heat exposure both animals and humans
- Increases productivity and efficiency/duration of an exercise or strenuous work
- Can speed up the recovery process
- Some products don’t live up to expectations made by faulty advertisements
- Ice-water immersion is still considered as the most effective first-aid method in heatstroke
- Ice /gel/PCM vests are often unattractive and bulky, some are even heavy
- Vests or packs have to frozen, moisten, recharged, require an additional source power, as well water reservoir, air compressor, etc.
Do I need a cooling vest?
In case you’ve been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis or menopause, your doctor may advise you on purchasing a cooling vest. Also, if you work under harsh and hot environments, it might be a good idea to invest in cooling clothing to protect yourself from the dangers of heatstroke.
What can a cooling vest do for me?
The cooling vest can keep your core body temperature at a desired level thus, protecting you from excess heat induced by the surrounding temperature or from a strenuous exercise.
Can a cooling vest improve cardio exercise efficiency?
Yes, because cooling the body during exercise can improve your capacity and you’ll be able to perform better and do a lot more than without a cooling vest.
Can a cooling vest speed up post-workout recovery?
Yes, it certainly can. However, it’s still advised to take an ice-cold bath to increase your chances at a faster recovery.
Can I lose weight by wearing a cooling vest for weight loss?
No. There’s no known evidence to confirm that cooling vests help with weight-loss.
Are cooling vests good for dogs?
Yes, dogs can benefit from wearing cooling vests in a hot environment. However, it’s still advised to take caution while walking or playing with dogs outside in hot weather, because dogs can quickly overheat.