Gear

Have You Ever Used a Cooling Vest?

Are these items for riders in hot weather worth the money?

Remember a few weeks ago when I called into question whether I can call myself a moto-journalist? Here I am reinforcing that by writing an article that doesn’t impart any sort of information or experience; I am just straight up asking y’all a question. Have you ever used a cooling vest when riding? Was it any good?

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I started thinking about this earlier this week when Harley-Davidson sent me an email to let me know about its new US $60 cooling vest (there’s also a slimmer-cut women’s vest) and $199 so-called cooling kit.

The vest you soak in water, then wear underneath a well-ventilated or mesh jacket – the evaporation helping to keep you cool. Harley says its vest contains a fancy “HyperKewl™ lining” and can be “rehydrated up to 100 times.” As best I can tell, though, the way this works is that you’re just putting a wet thing on yourself and letting it dry – kinda like people in hot climates have been doing for centuries with cotton clothing.

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If that’s the case, it seems you could save a lot of dough by just buying a cotton T-shirt, drenching it in a sink, and throwing it on under your riding jacket. If you are considering that option, might I suggest a fine The Motorcycle Obsession T-shirt, made from 100-percent organic cotton in a renewable-energy-powered factory? Available in three colors, I don’t yet know if a TMO T-shirt can be rehydrated up to 100 times (so far mine has only been through the wash once – we just got the shirts this week), but I’ll bet it can…

t-shirt
Wow! What a great looking T-shirt. And only £19! What a bargain!

Uh, sorry. Got lost on a tangent there. Point is, I don’t quite see how a nylon and “HyperKewl” vest is better than a T-shirt for this particular purpose.

Meanwhile, Harley’s cooling kit vest is the same as the aforementioned soak-it-in-water vest but also has little pockets that hold “non-toxic carbon based phase change cool packs” – what most of us would call ice packs. Personally, I’ve never been so hot that I would have thought to stuff an ice pack down my jacket. But I’m from Texas; I kind of like heat. Additionally, at the moment I live in Britain, where it never gets hot.

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I’ve ridden in the United States and continental Europe on days when the temperature reached 38º C (or 100º F) but was content with simply opening my jacket and relying on the somewhat wet T-shirt technique that comes naturally from sweat. Maybe I was doing it wrong, though.

So, I’m interested to know if any of TMO’s readers have experience with cool vests or the like. Are they worth the money? Are they notably more effective than a wet T-shirt?

And for those who ride regularly in hot places, what do you to stay cool on the bike?