July 6, 2022
In the same way we have different tools in the kitchen and the shed, there are many different cooling aids for various situations and environments.
First, let's start by talking about the different types of cooling gear available to you. These are items that you can take on the go with you. So we won't be talking about air conditioning here. We will start with the least effective items and move onward to the most effective. We will discuss how they work at keeping you cool and their advantages and disadvantages.
As we know from our blog on environmental risk factors, direct exposure to the sun can increase the impact on the body by up to 10 degrees.
Umbrellas can help reduce this by limiting sun exposure. However, it is important to note that not all shade is created equal and neither are the umbrellas providing that shade for you. There are two types of umbrellas, rain, and sun, and both will produce shade.
The key to a cooling plan is to make sure you get an umbrella with UV-blocking capabilities. This makes a significant difference to the temperature under the umbrella as noted in this review by our good friend, Dave Bexfield, at Activemsers.com.
In his test, a UV-blocking umbrella was 11 degrees lower than a normal umbrella. See how he tested this and his recommendation for an umbrella.
Umbrellas unfortunately come with some usability drawbacks, as you need a hand to hold them or put them in the ground for them to be of use.
At places like the beach or your kid's soccer game, UV-blocking sun umbrellas are a great addition to your cooling toolbox.
Like umbrellas, fans work by changing the environment we are in, to reduce risk from the heat.
Fans improve airflow over our bodies and are effective when it's not the environment, but our activity that is causing the heat stress.
This is because it will push more of the cold air over our body which allows more sweat to evaporate and more heat to escape from our core.
So in temperatures lower than body temperature (98.6°F), the fan is pushing colder air over our bodies allowing us to release heat.
However, when the environment is hotter than your body temperature, fans lose their effectiveness and can be a hindrance.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommends that people NOT use fans when the heat index temperature—a combination of the temperature and humidity—climbs above 99°F.
Remember, from the environmental factors blog that for most of the Eastern US, the heat index will be above 99F when the temperature is above 89F.
This is because the temperature of the air is warmer than the temperature of your body and the added airflow may contribute to WARMING your body.
Although a fan may make you FEEL better, it won't reduce your core temperature, which could prevent you from taking the necessary steps to find a safer environment and drinking the necessary water.
To sum it up, using a fan is great in less humid, mildly hot environments where you are performing activities that cause you to overheat such as yardwork or running.
But in extreme conditions, fans can cause your core body temperature to increase (and thus increase your risk of heat-related illness), despite a slight improvement in how you feel.
Over the past few years, there has been an increase in the use of cooling towels, due to improvements in materials that allow the towel to hold much more water and also feel less wet.
There are two material types used for these towels, microfiber, and PVA, and your personal preferences should influence the type of cooling towel you choose.
In the most basic terms microfiber cooling towels are more comfortable than PVA as they don’t have a “plastic” feel to them but the cooling effect doesn't last as long.
On the other hand, due to its super absorbent nature, PVA cooling towels provide a longer cooling effect than microfiber. We sell a FROG TOGG PVA COOLING TOWEL as an accessory to pair with our Cooling Vests.
All cooling towels use evaporation to get the cooling effect–they only require water to work and are cost-effective and easy to use. However, they will only work in dry environments.
If you are outside and sweat is dripping off of you in the heat, it is too humid for evaporation and the cooling towel will not have much effect.
Finally, while they can provide a nice cooling sensation, there is little research on their effect on your core internal temperature.
You can read more about runners' experience with many types of cooling towels in this review.
Not all cooling vests are created equal. There are many different types in terms of the cooling they provide, the length of cooling, and the way the vests are worn and look. Cooling vests either utilize evaporative cooling technology or use a cooling pack to absorb heat out of your body. Cooling vests that utilize evaporative cooling are lightweight and slim fitting but less effective. It is important to think of these as oversized cooling towels. They work in some conditions but become much less effective as humidity increases.
Cooling vests that utilize cooling packs are the most effective wearable tool for combating the risk of heat-related illnesses because they work in all environmental situations. However, there are many different types of cooling vests and these vests utilize different types of cooling packs. Below is a general breakdown of cooling pack types.
Ice Cooling Packs
These are typically used in older cooling vests. Ice can absorb a significant amount of heat while it melts and is less expensive than other types of cooling packs.
However, ice is too cold for continued contact with your body. For this reason, these vests must be worn on the outside of clothes and frequently have extra insulation and bulkiness to prevent you from getting too cold or ice burns.
Ice cooling packs also “sweat” when used in hot conditions. So you will get wet if you use ice-cooling packs. They also are extremely bulky and heavy.
Gel Cooling Packs
Gel cooling packs have an advantage over other types of cooling packs. They generally do not solidify and will stay liquid when cold. This helps with the comfort of vests that use gel packs.
However, like ice packs, gel cooling packs cool to around 32°F, which means that they will sweat.
Also, because they do not freeze they will not last as long as ice. This means that much more weight is required to keep them cool for long periods making these packs heavy and bulky.
Phase Change (PCM) Cooling Packs
The key advantage of PCM cooling packs is that you can engineer the melting temperature of the cooling pack. Different companies use different temperature cooling packs.
For example, many larger more industrial cooling vests use PCM cooling packs that freeze around 50°F. This provides extra cooling power if you work in a hot factory.
Other companies may use PCM cooling packs that freeze at 84°F, these will not feel cool to the touch and provide less cooling power but last for a very long time.
ThermApparel uses a PCM cooling pack that freezes at 70°F. This was chosen as it provides ample cooling power and is safe to be worn directly against the skin, allowing our cooling vests to be worn discreetly with minimal bulk and weight added.
PCMs that freeze at or above 70°F should be your first choice for any athletic activities as the coldness they provide will not constrict your blood vessels and inhibit oxygen flow.
Don’t forget the Cooler and Water
The cooler is the hub of the wheel in your cooling toolbox. It is what helps all the other tools.
A cooler with ice and drinking water seems a self-explanatory tool for the cooling toolbox. Sadly it's not for most people.
Keeping hydrated is very, very important as we learned in the last blog. So don’t be lazy and skip the cooler and water.
Coolers come in all sizes, shapes, and materials. There is one out there made just for you. Think about what you are doing and for how long. This way you can get the right size cooler.
Some coolers don’t even need ICE. You can just freeze the cooler and take it with you. The technology available is amazing. Some soft-sided cooler bags can keep ice for a couple of days.
Your cooler is a lifeline, for example: after the ice melts a little in the cooler you can use this water to replenish your cooling towel.
If you are using a ThermApparel UnderCool Cooling Vest, a unique feature is that the Cooling Packs can be refrozen using the ice water in your cooler!!
This is a huge advantage that allows you to use your vest over and over throughout the day to help keep you safe, energetic, and cool.
That’s one of the reasons we engineered the UnderCool the way we did. We feel it hits all the checkmarks of an amazingly useful product.
ThermApparel Cooler Bag
The ThermApparel Cooler Bag has enough space to hold 2 vests with 2 sets of packs, or a vest and bottle of water or the equivalent of six 12 Oz. cans.
Comes with re-freezable ice inserts, made from cubes of pure USA water, to keep your vests and packs cool for up to 4 hours!
There is a 36" adjustable strap for easy carrying and features a front slip pocket for your phone or keys.
FOLDABLE: Folds flat to save space. 8" W x 10" H x 4" D.
REUSABLE: Refreeze the cubes of pure USA water and reuse them again and again.
EFFECTIVE: Extra cooling packs and vests stay cool for hours.
TIP: Put a large 2-3 gallon zip lock type bag in the cooler bag, fill it with ice water and you can refreeze your packs.
The Chilly Sport™ evaporative cooling towel is a lightweight size. Designed to be worn as a nonslip neck wrap or headband, the Chilly Sport™ features a "Sport Slot™" that allows the towel to stay in place when participating in sports and high-level physical activities.
• Provides hours of cooling relief
• Durable, washable and reusable
• UPF 50 + UV protection
• Incredibly lightweight and packable
• Sized for the ultimate in convenience at 7.5'' x 33''
In all the facts and questions about tools, people can get lost in what effectively using your cooling tools together looks like.
- First, have all your tools organized and easy to use. If it's a hassle you will not do it and the consequences are too high.
- Start using that umbrella right from the beginning.
- Set the timer on your phone to drink regularly.
- Have the cooling towel ready to press into places on the body where blood flow is close to the surface i.e. the neck and wrist.
- Use the cooling vest before, during, and after exertion to absorb excess heat produced.
By doing these simple things you will not be as tired at the end of the day. When you have made a plan that reduces heat stress on your body it allows you to do what you do without the fatigue that can last for days.
Join us next week when we discuss how to put together all the info from all 6 blogs into one coherent plan!
PART 7 Visit #HeatIQ Home
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ThermApparel is a small business making big waves in the heat sensitivity world by designing the first lightweight, comfortable, and invisible cooling vest, UnderCool. Check us out online, on our blog, or Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Instagram.
Please let us know if you have any other questions or ideas in the comments below, we will follow up. You can always reach us via:
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