Why Do You Need a Cooling Vests | Scientific Research, Technologies and Professional Fitness Expert Opinion
With recent advances in materials and technologies, you no longer have to suffer from 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’ll learn how this technology works, the different types of vests commonly in use, and the essential aspects to look for.
7 Best Cooling Vests Compared in 2022 for athletes, cyclists, MS patients, motocross riding, hiking, outdoor activities, and even industrial workers in confined spaces, foundries, and steel mills.
- What are cooling vests?
- Science, please!
- How cooling vests work: Explaining the technologies behind
- Who wears cooling vests, anyway?
- 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 walking in the park. But don’t worry, we’ll cover all the best options that are both high-quality and effective, and we’ll include an opinion from a fitness expert and excerpts from scientific research.
What are cooling vests?
Cooling vest is a 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 intense 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 the 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, ample scientific research 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 American Academy of Neurology study 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, this 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 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 the 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 a rapid reduction of temperature is needed.
Now, let’s look at the types of cooling vests currently available and their distinctive features so you’ll understand what to look for and how they all work.
How cooling vests work | Explaining the technologies behind
Cooling vests regulate body temperature by cooling the body down according to the technology used. We describe how each of them works further below.
Technologies of cooling
The principle of evaporation is based on the water and airflow 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 regular insulated pieces 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 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 the 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 get out the pouches and put them in separately. The vest usually comes with two 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 fashion goes, the vest often looks funny and bulky. It’s also heavy and weighs approximately 5 pounds.
You can make one of those simple and cheap DIY versions: get a fishing vest and ice packs, freeze them, and put them in your pockets.
And if you suffer from multiple sclerosis, you can get one of those free. All you have to do is apply for the 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 to 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 bulky and uncomfortable at first and take time to get 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 being that pouches in the gel vest are filled with, well … you guessed it, a cooling gel! Unfortunately, though, these gel pouches are not very practical 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 an 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 that 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 a 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 from 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 a better cooling effect. If you are riding a bike, then it’s essential to put the vest underneath a jacket or something else that would prevent warm air on the outside from heating the ice water. These vests usually come with a unique adjustment control system that can help you regulate the amount of cooling you receive.
Who wears cooling vests, anyway?
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 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 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 this Cooling Tank Top.
Opinion from Fitness Instructor
Lucky for you, my husband happens to be a certified fitness instructor with over ten 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, the gym usually maintains an optimal temperature regime and 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 their 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 burn more calories. Perhaps, this is the only way for you to lose weight: use the vest in combination with 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 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 cities as chilling the polymer packs in an 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. Research has proven that cooling garments can lessen the adverse effects associated with heat and humidity exposure. Evaporative and ice cooling vests can be safely used by people with MS.
Like humans, overheating can put your pet at risk of dehydration and exhaustion. The researchers from the College of Veterinary Medicine of the University of Florida confirmed that cooling vests could help dogs 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 the K-9 cooling vest, for example, that’s based on PCM technology.
Pros and cons of using cooling vests
- Improves productivity and efficiency of a workout
- It 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 to 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?
The 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 suitable for dogs?
Yes, if you’re living in a very hot environment. Apart from that, cooling vests are usually more common for professional working dogs.
How to make a 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 must look for professional cooling vests, 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, 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?
The Evaporative vest is lightweight and durable and might be suitable for gardening or any other work that you do outside.