August 14, 2022
Listen to Dr. Gretchen Hawley of The MSing Link and Kurtis Kracke co-founder of ThermApparel chat about what sets ThermApparel apart from other cooling brands, the technology behind the cooling packs, sizing, all the considerations taken when creating this vest, and more! If you have heat intolerance, or even just feel like summer weather is too hot for you, you'll want to check this out!
Transcript from The MSing Link Podcast
The big question is how does someone with MS actually improve their mobility? strength, energy independence? The list goes on. My name is Dr. Gretchen Holly, physical therapist and multiple sclerosis specialist. Welcome to the MSing Link Podcast. Tune in as I share the top strategies and exercises to help you gain control over your life with MS using research driven insights and advice from top industry experts. Whether you're newly diagnosed or have had MS for over 30 years, whether you have relapsing MS or progressive MS. This podcast is for you. You're sure to feel empowered and inspired after each episode. Ready? Let's dive in.
Welcome back. Thank you so much for tuning in. Today. I am joined by Kurtis Kracke, the co-founder and CEO of ThermApparel, their cooling company that's been helping people with MS stay cool for five years now. They are my favorite cooling company because I truly feel like they've thought of everything. Their vest is discreet, you can hardly tell you're wearing it. It's super comfortable and it fits all sizes comfortably.
I wanted to bring Kurtis onto the missing link podcast to talk about the specifics and what makes their UnderCool Cooling Vest different from others. Kurtis, thank you so much for being here with us today.
Oh, it's my pleasure. It's really good to see you again. It's been quite a while.
Oh my gosh, so long and I feel like the first time we met was at one of the annual MS conferences. Was that maybe four or five years ago now?
Thanks. So probably three or four because we've been in business now for five years.
Okay. Yeah. So maybe it was at the National Harbor MS conference in the DC area. Where you guys at that one?
We were at it in May this year, but I don't remember when the last time it was before that.
Or maybe it was Nashville? I don't know.
Yeah. Nashville was the first one.
I just remember. I came up to your booth and it's a really hot day. I'll try on one of these cooling vests. And I immediately loved it because you felt cool instantly. So you had me from the moment that I first tried it on. But for those of our listeners that don't know anything about you guys, can you share a little bit about how ThermApparel came about?
Sure. Brad, the other co-founder and inventor of our cooling vest. He and I were going to graduate school at the Rochester Institute of Technology. And they had projects that they had gone out to the community to try to find problems for us to try to solve as our graduate studies. And one of the issues was that they found that there are so many people that were not attending MS workgroups during the summer, because it's hot, and if they get hot, they have a hard time functioning and we thought hmm, maybe we can do something about that. And then a few years later, we had our cooling vest to make a long story really short.
What a lot of our listeners probably don't know as well is that we're practically neighbors. So I grew up in Batavia, New York, which is anywhere from 35 to 45 minutes from Rochester so we're actually really close to each other which is cool and MS is really prevalent in Western New York. So your cooling vest is in the perfect spot.
I think the statistic I've most recently heard because that specifically Syracuse, New York is the number one area out of all of the US for highest prevalence of MS.
Yeah, you know, and who knows why, you know, there's all kinds of conversations about whether it's lack of sunlight, vitamin D, and all other kinds of things, you know.
Alright, so let's get into it. So what makes the ThermApparel Cooling Vest different because there's some other brands out there? What considerations did you think of to make yours stand out?
This is why it took us so long to develop. One of the great things about our cooling vest is that we got help from the MS community in making it and as a person that's trained to try to solve problems we looked at the problem and of course the thing that we were focusing on was the issue of heat. Okay, so if we solve that problem, then bada boom, bada bing, we've got a cooling vest and everything's wonderful, and everything's great. And so then we took it to our local MS Society chapter and said, Here you go, try it on. This is really great and they looked at it and said, I don't want to wear that.
What was that one? Like? How is that one different from what you have now?
It was more belt like and it was a whole lot more bulky and it really was like almost wearing an inner tube around the middle of your waist.
That's when we really learned that there's more going on than just the issue of cooling. Now cooling is a very important part of a cooling vest but we started really asking and taking a deep dive and asking people within MS. Do you have a cooling vest and most of them said, Yeah, I've got a cooling vest. Do you wear it? They said “No”. And I'm like, Well, if you don't wear the cooling vest and the cooling vest doesn't work, even if it solves the problem of cooling to keep you from overheating if you don't use it. It's not working.
And so then we started really digging in and asking people questions about like, why don't you wear your vest. And one of the things that we heard most often was, well, it's just really ugly and it's really uncomfortable. And so then we got to work on those problems, because we found out that those are really kind of the deeper issues as opposed to just the situation of cooling.
That's why we really work hard on making our vest so that it fits underneath the clothes so that people don't have to know that you're wearing it. So you don't have to go out in public wearing some bizarre piece of clothing that nobody's ever seen before. And people asked you “Why are you wearing that in the middle of the summertime?”, you know, and then the other issue was, we just wanted to make it out of materials that were comfy because so many of the other products on the market are made for men, unfortunately, and we all know that MS is 75% of the people are female. So we wanted to make something that really fit women as well as men.
Most of the other products on the market are made for other reasons, you need to do construction where they do it for roofing or roadwork or whatever. And those are big, strong guys that don't really care what they look like and they're not going shopping in their vest and if it weighs 20 pounds, then any advantage that you get from the cooling is going to be totally outdone by just the sheer weight of the vest itself.
So we really knew that it needed to be inconspicuous, comfortable and lightweight and after we learned that then we went back and spent four months just making prototype after prototype after prototype until we finally got something and I tell you I'll never forget the day that we finally gave it to a friend of ours who has MS. She really likes riding horses and she would do it at seven in the morning before it gets hot outside. And she told us that she would go and ride her horse for 30 minutes. Then she takes 30 minutes to put the horse away. And then she said she could barely drive home before she'd fall asleep because she was so exhausted just from the exertion and just from the heat of riding the horse.
Then she wore her vest and she went home and she said I didn't even have to take a nap. And when she said you know, I always have to take a nap, and I said, well what do you mean take a nap. She said she would sleep for two to three hours after riding her horse. And I was like that's not a nap. That's missing a lot of your day.
Yeah. Yeah, you know, it's so crazy how, of course everyone with MS has different symptoms and it affects them differently, but for those that do have heat intolerance, it can really put a damper on your day. And when you've been living that way for so long it can start to feel normal. Yet keeping your core temperature down can result in giving yourself a lot of your time back, getting your life back to do other things and that's one of the many benefits of cooling that specifically because of where your cooling packs are located. Can you talk a little bit about that? How did you decide where to put the cooling pads?
Well, it came about from talking to people with MS and like we said most of them are females. So you don't want to put a large weight right on the front of their stomach …for some reason people don't want that. I can understand that. I understand that myself. You know I like pizza and ice cream just as much as everybody so I don't need any help in the front.
So we put all of our cooling packs in the back. One because it makes it more inconspicuous. But the other reason is that it is really close to a lot of your organs and your organs are full of blood and it's the blood that transfers the heat throughout our body. So by helping to pull the heat from the blood it really makes the vest most effective in helping to keep that core temperature down.
We want to focus really on that core temperature because that's where the fatigue comes in. As opposed to making it feel like you're just walking around in air conditioning. Because the fact of the matter is, we can just spray a bunch of water on ourselves constantly. As we walk around outside, it'll feel nice and cool. But it really won't really do much for your core body temperature.
Yes, and I have so many clients who do suffer from heat intolerance that will tell me that if they can lower their core temperature, their symptoms will improve, but if they lower their skin temperature with air conditioning or as you said spraying cold water, it doesn't help nearly as much as actually lowering your core temperature. So it does make a difference with the strategy you're using to try to help reduce your core temperature and therefore reduce the heat intolerance.
Yeah, you know, and one of the things that we try to talk about a lot, especially in our blogs is that we feel really strongly that our vest is really good and really effective, but there's no reason not to use the vest and other cooling products with it because you can use a cooling towel and it'll make you feel good around your neck and help keep you wet especially if you're in a drier environment and the humidity is not all that high. All those things can have a nice cumulative effect as well. I think that our vest is probably the biggest tool in the arsenal, but there's no reason not to take advantage of the smaller tools. as well.
Yeah, I love that you brought that up because as we've been mentioning, everyone is so different. And there are some people where they might only need the vest, but other people might also need wristbands and or a hat and yeah, it's kind of similar to when you have MS. It's encouraged to have multiple types of mobility aids because you might have a day where you use a cane another day where you use nothing and a different day, you use a walker.
Well with heat intolerance, you might have one day where you just need a cooling vest and other days you need all of it, other days nothing at all. So yeah I think it's important to break that stigma and just have people be open to multiple forms.
Yes, exactly. Because the fact of the matter is you have to try everything and find out what works the best for you. Because the whole point is to get the best quality of life that you can get for you. Because there's no reason to miss out on those fun activities and exercising that's going to make living with MS better and even like with exercise, it can really help with your symptoms and really help improve your quality and your overall health just like it does for everybody else.
Absolutely. And I don't think it's a coincidence that my two favorite things about the ThermApparel UnderCool Cooling Vest are the two things that you mentioned earlier that you focused on which was making it comfy. It truly is so comfortable and I feel like when you're wearing it, you can't even tell your wearing it.
But my favorite thing is that it's discreet, because similar to you guys, everyone that I talked to with MS, all of my clients did not want to wear something bulky. I've tried theThermApparel UnderCool Cooling Vest with multiple different shirts, tank tops, tighter t-shirts, baggy t-shirts, and you truly can't see it under anything. I just love that because yeah, as you mentioned, so many people don't want to be seen wearing something that looks like a cooling device or a cooling product. What materials did you use for both the cooling packs as well as for the actual vest?
You know, I tell people all the time to just think of it like yoga pants because it's a similar material, that it's really stretchy. It just goes right around your body. And one of the things that is really important is that the cooling packs themselves have to be right up against the body and make contact with the body. The heat that you're going to transfer into the body and the body is going to absorb that heat away from the body and so that's really helpful with the stretchy material and stretchy material also happens to be really comfy. So you know it's a win win.
The cooling packs themselves are a PCM. And what PCM stands for is phase change material. And the phase change material is a really fancy way of saying that it's kind of like ice and that it can be a solid, it can be a liquid or it can be a gas because it changes phases as it goes through different temperatures.
ThermApparel PCM is non toxic and it is biodegradable. It's basically a vegetable oil and I like to compare it to butter. If you take a stick of butter and you put it in the freezer, it's gonna be rock hard. You could knock somebody out with a stick of butter, but if you put it on the counter, it's going to be all gushy, but if you put it in the pan, then it becomes a liquid. So it's kind of the same thing.
So what we did, we went out and found what's the best temperature for your body. Then put that temperature up against the body so that it'll absorb that heat away. Then PCM, that oil goes from a solid to a liquid and when it's become a liquid, then you know that it's absorbed all the heat that it can and it just needs to be recharged, i.e. put in the refrigerator or the freezer or even just some ice water.
Yeah it's a really hot day here today. I was just cooling my cooling packs down earlier today and they freeze so fast. I put mine in the freezer, and I walk away but it was less than 30 minutes and they were fully frozen. Is there a general timeline of how long it should take?
Yes, we offer two different cooling packs. And one of them is made so that it can be slimmer, the SlimCool Cooling Pack, and then the other one is made so that it lasts longer, the ExtendedCool Cooling Pack. So it can vary depending on the person's heat and tolerance and it can also vary on the person's amount of time that they need cooling for whatever activity that they're doing.
So with the ExtendedCool’s which are the ones that last a little longer and they last about two to three hours depending on how hot it is and what your level of activities and kinds of things but they can be refrozen in as little as 20 to 30 minutes in ice water.
In fact, I use them all the time. I have a silly hobby, and that's that I race go-karts. We race out at a track on Sundays and there's no trees, there's no nothing, it's a lot of asphalt and it's always really hot. I always take a cooler of ice water and I throw the cooling packs in the cooler and and 20 minutes 30 minutes later, they're all frozen up ready to go again. And I just keep switching them out. But yeah, so it's 20 minutes and ice water 30 to 40 minutes in the freezer and about an hour in the refrigerator.
Nice I like the thought of giving people the option. You know you can choose the ExtendedCool if you want but if you don't then you can choose the SlimCool option. That's really cool.
Yeah, when we first started the company, we only had SlimCool Cooling Packs. We found that there were a lot of people using it for work and they worked indoors but where still experiencing some of their heat symptoms. We found that a lot of people wanted to be outside and do things for more than like an hour or an hour and a half. And so that's why we created and developed the ExtendedCool. Cooling Packs.
Awesome and what sizes does the ThermApparel UnderCool Cooling Vest come in?
I like to say from a kid to Santa Claus.
I like that!
It’s a great visual because we have some cooling vests for children. The extra extra small could fit a six or seven years old and up and then we have an extra extra large which is for somebody over a 50 inch natural waist. So it'll fit just about everything but I'm really glad that you brought that up because the vest fits differently than any other piece of clothing that you have because it's created to go right around your lower back and close in front around your natural waist, and that's not your hips, and that's not your shoulders and that's not your chest. It is that little bitty small part of your body that's below your ribcage but above your belly button.That's your natural waist.
So it's like I wear a 2x t-shirt but I can wear a large or even a medium vest because that's the smallest part of my body. Just so people don’t get really confused a lot think, well I wear this size t-shirt so I should wear this size vest. Don't worry about it. We've got tape measures that we can send you. Our customer service person Julia is just incredible. I hear her every day talking on the phone with people telling them how they can use a phone cord or other things and a straight ruler to measure themselves to make sure that they get the right size.
Alright, so you've already mentioned several ways in which the UnderCool is different from other types of cooling products out there. Is there anything else that we missed that you wanted to point out about the UnderCool?
I really encourage people to actually use it. It's one of those things that is like everything else. It's easier to do nothing than it is to do a little something. But just make sure you take care of yourself. Take the time, put the packs in the vest, put the vest on, and you'll be really amazed.
I've really found that even for myself, I have a little bit of heat sensitivity due to medications. That's another thing that a lot of people are not aware of is that there's a lot of heat sensitivity out there due to medications, not justMS medication and other things but it really fights the fatigue quite a bit. I can definitely tell the days when it's hot out and I've worn my vest and I haven't worn my vest by just levels of concentration and fatigue.
Yeah, I have some clients who when they're overheating they could get dizziness or experience vision changes. I'm so glad that you and Brad thought of ThermApparel. You guys are all over social media, ads that you've got on Instagram, your website and I'll put all of those links in the show notes. So if anyone listening is interested in checking out their website or anything, just check the show notes out and you'll find those.
But other than that, thank you so much Kurtis for being here with us today explaining the ThermApparel UnderCool Cooling Vest. I really appreciate it.
Well thank you. We really appreciate the opportunity. We really appreciate the work that you do to help keep people active. That's what we're all about as well.
Thank you for listening to today's show. I am so grateful to have you as a listener. If you'd like extra resources such as a video of one of my speeded exercise classes, my favorite core exercises and the opportunity to ask me your questions, head to msinglink.com forward slash insider. That link will be shared in the show notes along with links to my social media handles. If you love this episode and think a friend or family member with MS would benefit from listening. Please go ahead and text or email this podcast and sharing this podcast will help me educate and empower as many ms warriors as possible. Thanks again for joining and be sure to tune in next week for another episode of the MSing Link Podcast.
Find Dr. Gretchen Hawley:
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→ Game Changers Course: https://www.doctorgretchenhawley.com/GameChangersCourse
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→ The MSing Link: https://www.doctorgretchenhawley.com/TheMSingLink
More info about ThermApparel
Website - https://www.thermapparel.com
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/ThermApparel/
Twitter - @Thermapparel
Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/thermapparel/
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 on 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:
Live Chat - www.thermapparel.com | Email - firstname.lastname@example.org | Phone - 855-232-7233 | Address: ThermApparel LLC. 125 Tech Park Dr. Rochester, NY 14620
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