It’s been a scorching summer in many parts of the US. Particularly in the west, the temperatures have been record-setting at times. Kim and I both found this out during this summer’s round trip cross country ride. Most of the time, we both wear Aerostich Roadcrafter one-piece suits. They are pretty well known not to be the coolest of outfits on the market. However, they do offer good crash and rain protection and are easy to take on and off. So for those reasons, to us, it’s worth the heat tradeoff.
Still, it would have been nice at times to have a way to stay a bit cooler as we bounced along both on and off-road in some 100 degree plus temperatures. And sometimes, timing is everything. Unfortunately, I’m afraid our timing wasn’t as good as it might have been when it came to keeping cool.
Motorcycle clothing manufacturer Fieldsheer has come out with a line of mobile cooling garments which they say will keep you cool in hot weather. And they said that they’d be happy to send us each one of their Mobile Cooling® Hydrologic® Vests free of charge. But unfortunately, we had to leave Vermont before the vests could arrive.
So we made our journey without the benefit of the claimed cooling garments. But not to worry, when we came back from our six-week ride, the vests were literally sitting on our porches to give a try.
Although it was quite rainy in Vermont during our absence, there was no shortage of hot weather when we returned. Eighty and ninety-degree temperatures with high humidity were fairly commonplace. Well then, that should be perfect weather to find out whether the vest can do what it is supposed to do.
It’s important to note that the Mobile Cooling Vest isn’t designed only for motorcyclists. The vests can be worn by anyone seeking some cooling in hot weather.
From Fieldsheer’s website:
Designed to deliver quick, water activated comfort and cooling, the Mobile Cooling® Hydrologic® vest by Fieldsheer® keeps you cool whether you’re working outside in high temperatures or pursuing your favorite outdoor activity in warmer climates. Hydrologic®’s Super Absorbent Polymer (SAP) fabric interlining absorbs and holds water for lasting comfort and cooling. Saturate the cooling vest in water for 1-2 minutes, wring out excess water, and place over your clothing. The cooling vest utilizes evaporative cooling to reduce core temperatures and maintain a safe, comfortable temperature in even the hottest conditions. Made from low profile, lightweight materials, the vest easily stows away when not in use and is ideal for active lifestyles in hot climates.
That’s a lot of words to say that the vest holds water and cools you by the process of evaporation. But I needed to find out whether the vest really worked.
The vest fits loosely and is comfortable. It has a single main zipper and large holes for your arms. The material is pretty low profile, so it’s not bulky and won’t inhibit your movement on the bike.
Fieldsheer says the sizing runs small. So since I normally wear an XL, they sent a 2XL. Check their sizing chart if you are unsure of what size to order. OK, let’s give the vest a try, shall we?
So on a sweltering and muggy 85-degree day, as Fieldsheer suggests, I submerged the vest under water for a couple of minutes. The vest quickly picks up a lot of water, so when you retrieve it from the sink, it weighs significantly more than when dry.
I then began to wring out the vest. The vest left my hands with a slightly greasy feel. Once I was done, I wiped my hands on a paper towel, and my hands were no longer greasy. Of course, once you put the vest on, you will get wet.
I then headed out on the bike to give the vest a try and test the vest in various configurations:
- First, wearing the vest under my jacket suit with all the vents open.
- Second, wearing the vest on top of a pressure suit with no jacket.
- Third, since Fieldsheer says that the vest has off-bike uses, on top of a poly shirt while mowing my 4 acres of “lawn.”
- Fourth, under my Roadcrafter with all the vents open but using Fieldsheer’s secret weapons (make sure you read to the end of the article).
Evaporative cooling testing begins
Once on the bike and underway with the vest under my open vents jacket, I began to feel some cooling effects from the vest. Although it was somewhat cooler, I still felt quite warm under my jacket. As I increased my speed, the cooling improved, but still not what I was hoping for. With the vest under my jacket, airflow was restricted and apparently impeded the evaporative process.
Next, I took off the jacket, put on a pressure suit, and put the vest on over it. This time the cooling was better, and it felt like the vest was a worthwhile addition to my riding gear. It was still hot, but the cooling capability increased because the vest could better evaporate the water. It was still hot, but I felt better about it.
With the vest out in the open and in the slipstream of a moving motorcycle, I got about two hours of useful cooling time. That’s not a gigantic amount of time, but you can get more cooling time if you are carrying water or are in places where water is readily available.
At this point, it was time to test the vest off the bike. I re-wetted the vest and rode my 625 HP John Moose super mower. Well, perhaps it’s only about 25 HP, but it gets the job done. Anyway, the best speed I can hope for on my machine is about 5 MPH, so the evaporative process should happen slower and give me a longer cooling period.
When all was said and done, I do think that I got some cooling. But perhaps the high humidity coupled with the low speeds inhibited the cooling process. So did I feel cooler? Yes somewhat. But I didn’t feel like I was standing in front of an air conditioner.
Secret weapon ice packs
But let’s now talk about the vest’s secret weapons. Well, they’re not really a secret, but in my opinion, they work far better than the evaporative cooling method.
Built into the interior of the vest are three pockets. There is one on each side and one on the spine. Into these pockets, you place a small pack containing purpose-made ice packs.
The packs are about 6 inches wide by 8 inches tall and 1/2 inch thick. Each is divided into separate ice holding compartments encased in a single layer of plastic. This makes the packs flexible and easy to put in or take out of a separate little pocket with a velcro tab at the top.
You place the packs into your freezer, and about a couple of hours later, you have a flexible ice pack. After the packs are frozen, you put the separate pocket into one of the vest’s pockets. To ensure that the ice packet doesn’t move around, both the packet and the pocket have Velcro closures that keep the packet precisely where it’s supposed to be.
Ice pack testing begins
To test the system, I put a dry vest on underneath my Roadcrafter with all the vents open. When I first put the vest on, it was immediately chilly, perhaps cold even. With the vest under the Roadcrafter, the cooling was immediately noticeable. I would even say it was a bit much.
But once on the road in 90 degrees, high humidity weather, the vest was a godsend. Despite the steaming temperature, my core was cool, dry, and comfortable. I was shocked at how well the cooling worked.
Fieldsheer says that the ice packs will stay cold for 3 hours. In my test, under the Stich, I got about 2.5 hours, and I was quite happy with that. I didn’t think they would last that long.
So, to sum up, I think the Fieldsheer Mobile Cooling Hydrologic Vest can be a useful addition to your riding gear for hot weather depending on how, and how long you ride. As for the evaporative technology and cooling, I would give the vest a “C.” You will get some cooling benefit, but not necessarily as much as may you wish.
But the cooling ice packs are another story. I give a dry vest equipped with the cooling ice packs a “B+.” It would have been an “A” if the packs could last longer. From my perspective, the ice packs are a far better solution to keeping you cool without the need for a damp garment.
I note that I didn’t test the vest using both the evaporative and ice pack capabilities together. You can certainly try it, but for me, wet and cool/cold are not a good combination.
The Fieldsheer Mobile Cooling Vest comes in three different colors, grey, brown, and hi-viz yellow with reflective striping. The grey and brown versions retail for $44.99. However, Fieldsheer is running a sale, and they are now priced at $33.74. The hi-viz yellow retails for $49.99 but is on sale for $37.49.
Unfortunately, the Mobile Cooling Ice Packs are optional and retail for $19.99 and are presently on sale at Fieldsheer for $14.99.
Note: Fieldsheer provided two mobile cooling vests free of charge for testing.
All photo credit: Fieldsheer.