Monday, 22 August 2011

Beating the heat!

My cool vest is my most treasured possession (after my wheels). At the request of several jealous people, here are some of my cool vest secrets:

(this is entirely from my own experience, and is simply being shared incase it helps anyone else. It may not be the solution for everyone)

What difference does the vest make? 
Without it I cannot tolerate temperatures above 22 degrees. I get increasing mental clouding (brian fog), feel awful and end up semi conscious. With the cool vest, I can be out and about on summer days, go on picnics, sit in a wedding reception, go out for meals -all without over-heating and best of all: feeling alive.

Make and model:
Cool vest lite, from  (A US company.) I had to order by email and fax rather than direct from website. I could find no comparable products in the UK. I have, however, suggested to a UK disability equipment supplier that he looks into stocking them. [14/06/2017 Edited to add: Cool sport is no longer selling cool vests. Similar phase change cooling vests are available in the UK from The important thing for me was 'phase change' - there are lots of different ways that cooling vests work, but phase change was the best for me.]

Basic details:
A cotton tabard/vest with 4 large pockets for the cool packs, and lots of velcro. Looks something like this:

The vest can be washed in the washing machine, and the packs wipe clean.
Very size adjustable. 

Approximate Cost: 
I bought 2.
Vests:$160 each
Postage: $62.35
Import duty+VAT: £100
Plus currency exchange fees etc. 
Final bill was in the region of £350.

Ease of assembly:
I have some problems with my hands but can put it together and put it on by myself. 

How long does it last?
It depends. On a day that is just a little bit too warm for me, it can last about 5 hours - even a bit longer. On a hot day it can run out after about 3. 

How long does it take to recharge?
It depends. If the packs are stacked up it can take 24 hours to recharge them in a fridge, but if spread out in a single layer they can recharge within 4 hours in a fridge (recharge before your other set runs out - very handy) much less in a freezer. 
ALWAYS recharge them flat otherwise they 'freeze' all rumpled and lumpy - very uncomfortable.
I've never tried recharging in a bucket of iced water like they suggest because it is far too difficult to find a big enough container so they can lie flat, fill it, find ice..etc...etc. But might be worth a try if you are at a bar serving iced drinks and have a set that needs re-charging.

Is it really cold?
No - it is about 16 degrees. Like holding a bottle of cool water to your face on a hot day. Refreshing. 

How heavy is it?
The weight should be on the website. When on it is a bit of gentle pressure but doesn't feel heavy.

Yes, people do stare some. And yes, it can look rather like a flak jacket. But not nearly as much as most of the cooling vests I've seen. 

With the cool vest lite you can get different coloured vests to suit the occasion/outfit. I have one black and one white. You could always make your own vest once you have the cooling packs. Accessorizing with handbag, shoes and watch, or choosing a brightly coloured contrasting top to wear beneath the vest means I still look good (yes, I am female. Although there is no reason males couldn't wear bright pink DM boots if they wanted to...). Experience says when I wear it with confidence it is quickly accepted by people as 'something I wear' I still get curious people asking questions and a lot of jealous looks in summer, but on the other hand - I am out and about and enjoying myself, a few questions is a small price to pay and I rather like the envy factor :D

You can wear a loose top/shirt over the vest. I don't usually because it makes me look a very odd shape. I prefer that people can see I'm wearing something non standard rather than stare for ages trying to work out whether I am genuinely a wierd, bobbly shape or wearing something odd!

The black one works extremely well with goth/emo/punk fashion - which can make it look like a fashion statement rather than a disability aid, but I've also worn the vest when all dressed up with high heels and a a pretty dress - and still looked good.

When will it need replacing?
Had mine 18 months, been either in the fridge/freezer or in use ever since. Still going strong.

Can I take it on an airplane?
Although you can't take liquids on planes normally, you can for medical reasons. I've flown to Norway wearing mine and carrying my refills. I had a Drs letter explaining what it was, and that it was medically essential. I also notified the airline in advance and took the info sheet that I got with the cooling vest to provide more information if needed -including the suppliers contact details.

General tips:
When out for a warm day I wear one set and put my second set (already recharged) in a small cool bag with an icepack to help keep the temperature down. That way I can be out for longer - go on day trips etc.

In B&Bs/Hotels without a minibar fridge in your room: Travel with some antisceptic wipes and ask if you can borrow a bit of freezer space in the kitchen - reassuring that you will sterilise the packs first so no hygiene risk. (if possible ask in advance)

On days that are slightly warm I can find that while my symptoms benefit from wearing the cool vest, I also have chilly arms. then I wear a light jacket over the cool vest and it makes a lovely little microclimate perfect for me.

In Conclusion

I am dependent on mine for my ability to live independently - if that isn't a contradiction! It was the best thing I've bought (next to my favourite wheels) and I wouldn't be without it - my keys to feeling alive.


  1. There seem to be quite a few different medical conditions where keeping cool is helpful.

    I personally have a lot more difficulty dealing with the symptoms of one of my neurological conditions during periods of hot weather, and even in warm rooms. Keeping cool really makes a difference to how I am. In the past I've tried all sorts of things to keep me chilled. Portable fans, ice-cold drinks, cooling sprays... you name it really.

    In conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis (MS) it's well documented that keeping cool can help with symptom management and, whilst I'm not a medic, I certainly support this.

    The (UK) MS Society website has a link to a factsheet that talks about effects of temperature on MS symptoms. This factsheet makes reference to the use of cooling vests*

    Just recently I had a good old chat with Hannah about the difference her cool vests had made to her in managing her particular conditions. After seeing one of Hannah's vests in action, I thought something similar might be just the thing to help me deal with my heat related symptoms.

    Like Hannah, I ordered a cool vest lite through I'm pleased to say that it's really helped me. I've found that with the vest on I tend to stay more alert, my body works a bit better and I'm generally a bit more useful

    Prices have gone up a little since Hannah placed her order and one cool vest lite now comes to $172.50 (U.S). A set of spare cool packs is $112.50 (U.S) You do have to think of the postage, import duty, VAT and currency exchange rate. For me, although I've had to save up, it's been well worth it.

    *With reference to the (UK) MS Society factsheet on Temperature and MS, it should be noted that the factsheet (quite rightly) advises that people with MS should have a chat with their MS Nurse before buying anything like this.

  2. I still have some left - as the only UK supplier (at Hannah's request!). But as I'm winding down trading, once they're gone, it's back to the hassle and expense of getting them direct from Cool Sport in the US.

    Best wishes


  3. I have ordered one from Guy, and I am hoping it will be useful to me. Given the temp issues I have, I am confident that it will. Thanks for a fab write-up Hannah :-)


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