In our latest Qore Performance Insights technical review, we’ll be comparing two classes of safety vests: conventional cooling and consumable thermoregulation. The conventional cooling safety vests are the top three best selling options available on Amazon, and the consumable thermoregulation vests are from the Qore Performance Safety Collection.
We’ve consolidated empirical data in this comprehensive video to save you time and effort in your research process. While this video is designed for enterprise level decision makers, anyone looking for personal cooling and heating solutions can benefit from the data presented here:
For those of you who are new to Qore Performance, we live for Building A Superhuman Future. This means we help customers be the greatest version of themselves, and do so by creating competitive advantages where none previously existed. To accomplish this, we design, build, and manufacture thermoregulation and hydration solutions that weaponize temperature to improve performance and survivability for a wide range of end users. Our clientele include US and allied militaries, law enforcement, prepared citizens, pilots, outdoor enthusiasts, and numerous well-known and beloved American companies. You might have even encountered a few of our products while waiting at the drive-thru of your preferred coffee or fried chicken establishment.
As individuals, teams and enterprises face record temperatures, tools for preventing heat related injuries are an increasingly critical investment. With conditions now frequently in the 90’s or warmer right through September, cities like Los Angeles, Phoenix, Dallas, Atlanta and Miami could underestimate the potential for heat injuries later in the year. With much of the southern United States staying hot later than traditionally expected, both worker health and team productivity are at risk. So what are the most popular options available for those looking to stay safe in extreme weather?
First up from the conventional cooling vest group is the FlexiFreeze Ice Vest, utilizing FlexiFreeze Freezable Ice Sheets, cooled by 96 pure water ice cubes, totaling 56 fluid ounces in weight.
Next up is the Ylnewways (why-el-new-ways) Cooling Vest, with six waterproof pockets on the interior to house their included ice packs. The vest places four of these on the user’s back, and one either side of the torso. The vest comes with 24, 13.5 fluid ounce ice packs. 12 water-filled ice packs, and 12 water-absorbing ice packs.
Last up from the cooling vests available on Amazon is the NJDGF Cooling Safety Vest. Much like the Ylnewways vest, the NJDGF also uses a six pocket design for the same 13.5 fluid ounce packs with almost identical pocket placement.
For the consumable thermoregulation vest category, we’ll start with ICEVEST HiVis Class 2 (Type R). ICEVEST HiVis Class 2 utilizes two of our ICEPLATE® Curves as the cooling ‘battery’, each containing 50 fl oz (1.5 L) of water that can be frozen for cooling, filled with hot water for heating in the winter and provides hydration via the Source 90 drink tube. This can be scaled down to a cooling and heating only setup if hydration does not suit your use case. ICEPLATE® Curve’s conformal geometry matches modern allied military armor plates, which fit the front and back of 80% of the US population.
Next up is ICEPLATE EXO®-SLK, which also uses ICEPLATE® Curve, as do all of our vests, with the SLK using one ICEPLATE® on the front and one on the back. SLK is engineered using the same ICEPLATE EXO® laminate found on the eponymous ultralight minimalist plate carrier we build for elite military and law enforcement users, for durability. SLK is optimized for intense athletic movement, but remains comfortable for all day wear. The black colorway was selected by Dutch Bros Coffee Arizona for ease of maintenance and care.
The final product we’ll be comparing today is the ICEPLATE EXO®-SLK HiVis. As the name suggests, SLK is constructed from proprietary HiVis laminate, alongside a reflective trim. SLK HiVis is up for comparison to the standard SLK due to minor weight and material differences and for the sake of maximum transparency and objectivity.
The materials used in cooling vests will impact several components of performance, Namely: durability, water retention and insulation.
Starting with the FlexiFreeze Cooling Vest, we have a mostly Neoprene and ripstop construction with shock cord, nylon, mesh and sbs zippers also in use.
The Ylnewways is made from Polyester, cotton, unbranded hook and loop, unknown zippers, reflective fabric and elastic.
The NJDGF HiVis Cooling vest is built from Polyester, unbranded hook and loop and an unknown zipper.
Moving on to the Qore Performance consumable thermoregulation vests, the ICEVEST HiVis Class 2 is constructed from structural polyester mesh, reflective trim, hook and loop and ITW Nexus™ and Duraflex™ Mil-Spec Nylon hardware.
ICEPLATE EXO®-SLK is built from ICEPLATE EXO® waterproof laminate, flat woven elastic, genuine Velcro® and ITW Nexus™ and Duraflex™ Mil-Spec Nylon hardware.
Finally, ICEPLATE EXO®-SLK HiVis is built from HiVis waterproof laminate, flat woven Nylon, genuine 3M™ ScotchLite® reflective trim, genuine Velcro® and ITW Nexus™ and Duraflex™ Mil-Spec Nylon hardware.
Weight is an important category because other than the environment, almost no external factor affects human performance more than weight. Every ounce added to the body is additional energy spent to move and carry out tasks. Famously, Nike Co-Founder Bill Bowerman incorporated this concept into the development of running shoes, figuring out that just one ounce removed from a shoe’s weight would save 55 pounds of lift over the course of one mile. Keeping this in mind, we can begin to factor in the trade-offs between weight and cooling capability.
|Dry Weight No Cooling Element (oz)
|Dry Weight with Cooling Element (oz)
|ICEVEST Class 2
|ICEPLATE EXO®-SLK HiVis
After weighing the Cooling Vests dry with just the vest and then with their various cooling elements, we can see how they compare without external factors like water weight from rain etc.
The lightest vest by itself is the ICEPLATE EXO®-SLK at 14.55 oz, with the heaviest being a tie between the FlexiFreeze Cooling Vest and ICEVEST HiVis Class 2 at 20.80 oz. ICEVEST HiVis Class 2 surface area is determined by OSHA, ANSI (An-see) safety compliance.
With our cooling elements in our dry vests, the lightest is the FlexiFreeze at 62 oz and the heaviest is the ICEVEST HiVis Class 2 at 148.30 oz.
So how do the cooling vests stack up after taking on water weight from rain or heavy sweat? Our method for measuring wet weight consists of soaking the vests for an hour, letting them hang dry for 60 seconds and then taking their weight.
|Wet Weight No Cooling Element (oz)
|Wet Weight with Cooling Element (oz)
|ICEVEST Class 2
|ICEPLATE EXO®-SLK HiVis
Without cooling elements in the wet vests, ICEPLATE EXO®-SLK comes out on top at 21.90 oz thanks to the hydrophobic laminate, and FlexiFreeze struggles to shed wet weight, coming in at 35 oz. FlexiFreeze however makes up for this with the cooling elements in, coming out on top at a wet weight of 76.20 oz thanks to the lightweight Freeze Panels it utilizes. Meanwhile, the ANSI compliant ICEVEST HiVis Class 2 comes in with the heaviest wet weight at 162 oz.
However, the differentiating factor between the cooling vests and consumable thermoregulation vests is static weight versus dynamic weight. While cooling vests will weigh the same no matter what, the consumable thermoregulation vests provide hydration and will become lighter as the user drinks from them.
The goal of this test is to determine the amount of cooling power each vest generates while being worn. In order to calculate that we used Fourier’s Law of Thermal Conduction. Using Fourier’s Law, we determined the Joules per second, AKA Watts, generated by the cooling elements melting against the human body, and measuring the time each vest takes to expend all cooling power.
As a disclaimer, all testing was conducted inside of our studio, with changes in temperature between 77 and 82.4 degrees Fahrenheit. This variance in temperature does impact the results, this manifested in a maximum of 5 tenths of a degree in temperature difference. In contrast with our indoor testing, use outdoors will mean a shorter time to deplete your cooling elements compared to the indoor environment of our studio due to direct sun exposure.
To obtain the total cooling power behind each vest, we needed to solve for two unknown variables left in the equation: heat transfer, Q, and the thermal conductivity coefficient specific to the material/vest, K. Using the specific heat of fusion, we can break down Q into this equation (see below) where we use the properties of ice to determine the heat transfer. One of these being the time it takes for the ice to melt. Once this variable is measured from our tests, we can solve for the thermal conductivity coefficient of each vest. Then, we were able to determine the aforementioned rate of thermal energy transfer per second, and the total energy capacity of the cooling element until depleted.
To simulate the cooling vests expending their energy on the human body, we placed the various cooling elements in their respective vests on a proxy human torso. This torso was filled with water and warmed via heating rod to 97 degrees Fahrenheit. We then timed how long it took for the ice in the various cooling elements to melt.
Starting with Joules per second or Watts (the average cooling power each vest is putting out per second) the FlexiFreeze comes out with 59.59 Joules per second. The weakest output came from the NJDGF Cooling Vest at 25.13 Joules per second, this was caused primarily by the looseness of the vest, which provided poor thermal conductivity between the cooling vest and the body. Interestingly, the Ylnewways vest, which uses the exact same cooling element, six frozen 400ml ice packs, positioned in the same spots on the body performed at 55.63 Joules per second. The vest can be tightened for better conduction between the ice packs and the torso.
While the Qore Performance cooling vests all shared the same mass of ice and cooling element in the ICEPLATE® Curve, the vests offered up variability in construction, thickness and materials. This gave us different cooling power per second with 50.04 for the ICEVEST HiVis Class 2, 48.27 for the ICEPLATE EXO®-SLK and 41.57 for ICEPLATE EXO®-SLK HiVis.
The really interesting data comes when we move from the average Joules per second to the total amount of energy transferred over time.
Despite providing the highest Joules Per Second, the FlexiFreeze lost cooling power the quickest with a total Joules over time of 427,521.32. This was followed by matching results between the Ylnewways and NJDGF cooling vests of 562,290.73 Joules over time. This result might be surprising despite the vastly different times the cooling power was expended over, but with the cooling element being the same size, the energy output was ultimately the same.
The Qore Performance cooling vests varied in Joules per second and time for the ICEPLATE® Curves to melt, but over time, all generated very close results. ICEVEST HiVis Class 2 produced 944,688.51 Joules over time, ICEPLATE EXO®-SLK 946,879.55, and SLK HiVis 910,423.34. With a pair of ICEPLATE® Curves having the largest mass of ice, we get the largest potential for cooling energy conduction before the cooling elements are exhausted.
There are important differences between cooling vests and consumable thermoregulation vests.
Out of the cooling vests available on Amazon, the NJDGF is the only vest that seeks to do more than simply cool the wearer, featuring three pockets on the front to allow limited hands free carry of items.
By contrast, ICEPLATE® Curve provides cooling, heating and hydration, reducing the risk of temperature related injuries. Other cooling elements do not have this ability. When seasons change from warm to cold weather, instead of freezing ICEPLATE®, hot water can be added to keep warm in the winter.
In a busy work environment, modularity of equipment can be a game changer. The ability to add complementary items to a cooling vest can greatly improve the efficiency of the wearer.
The top Amazon cooling vests are not modular. The FlexiFreeze, does utilize internal hook and loop for swapping out the FlexiFreeze Ice Sheet panels. This could allow for future alternative panels to be added, but currently none are on offer.
By comparison, Qore Performance vests feature Swift Clip attachment points across the ICEVEST HiVis Class 2, ICEPLATE EXO®-SLK and ICEPLATE EXO®-SLK HiVis. These allow for the addition of the ICECASE iPad Cooling Case via the ICECASE Strap Kit. This carry method keeps the ICECASE positioned on the body for maximum productivity, efficiency, and security without the tangling, neck chafing or bouncing associated with a shoulder strap.
For further load bearing capability, the ICEPLATE EXO®-SLK and SLK HiVis utilize the Swift Clips and lower Velcro® field to secure ICEPLATE EXO® MOLLE placards. This military style attachment system allows for pouches and other items to be woven onto or otherwise attached to the vest, perfect for keeping tools accessible. When load bearing capabilities are not needed, the MOLLE placard unclips and detaches from the Velcro®, ready whenever you need it again.
If additional storage capability is needed, our upcoming Cash Management Pouch (AKA the CMP) or other velcro attached hanger pouches can mount to the lower Velcro® panel of the ICEVEST HiVis Class 2, SLK and SLK HiVis.
People vary greatly in size, and for those investing in cooling vests for a team, a readily adjustable solution is key, so how do the cooling vests fair with sizing adjustability?
The FlexiFreeze is advertised as ‘One Size fits most, adjustable from XS to 6XX’.
They further state that the vest is ‘adjustable in four locations allowing for a snug fit from sizes XS to 6X’. The vest uses a shock cord lace system on the side for adjustment.
The Ylnewways Cooling Vest has six points of adjustability via unbranded hook and loop straps. One for each shoulder and two on each side of the vest. The shoulder strap allows for seven point five total inches of adjustability and the side straps, nine total inches of adjustability.
The NJDGF Cooling Vest has no adjustment, with the size simply listed as ‘Medium’. The vest is 25.5” inches long and 45.7” around the waist. It should be noted that the lack of adjustability does pose an issue for achieving proper thermal conductivity between the wearer’s body and cooling element.
ICEVEST HiVis Class 2 comes in two sizes, ‘Fits Most’ and ‘Extended’ for 45”+ waists. The shoulder straps offer four inches of adjustability and the side straps feature a wide range of adjustability depending where on the rear velcro they are initially attached.
ICEPLATE EXO®-SLK, in both black and HiVis, utilize adjustable Velcro® shoulder straps and elastic side straps, for a wide range of adjustability. Designed for mass adoption by enterprises such as Dutch Bros Coffee, the ICEPLATE EXO®-SLK vest can conform to just about any body shape.
Country of Origin
To many, Country of Origin is an afterthought, but to the conscious consumer, at the individual and enterprise level, it is a major point of consideration. Where your equipment is manufactured can factor into quality, safety and supply reliability as we saw during the pandemic. China for example is a prolific user of forced and child labor as per the Bureau of International Labor Affairs (link for more information on that available in the description).
Starting with the FlexiFreeze, the product page on Amazon states: Made in the USA and Imported. This contrasts with the label you’ll see on the interior of the vest once it arrives that specifies the vest itself is Made in China while only the ice packs are Made in the USA.
The Ylnewways Cooling Vest product page states the Country of Origin as China.
The NJDGF cooling Safety Vest also states on the product page that its Country of Origin is China.
As for the consumable thermoregulation options, the ICEVEST HiVis Class 2 is assembled in the US and built from Pakistani materials. For full transparency on our imported materials, click the link in the show notes below. ICEPLATE EXO®-SLK and HiVis SLK along with ICEPLATE® Curve are all produced in the USA from US materials at our Knoxville, Tennessee HQ.
With the topic of price comes the nuance of quality, craftsmanship, innovation, value, etc. to consider.
From lowest to highest cost, as of the publishing of this video, the Ylnewways Cooling Vest is the cheapest option at $29.99. The next lowest is the NJDGF Cooling Vest at $36.99, followed by the FlexiFreeze at $99.99 for the velcro version and $129.99 for the zipper variant.
The consumable thermoregulation vests start at $230 for the ICEVEST HiVis Class 2 for the cooling, warming variant and $260 to optimize with hydration capability. The ICEPLATE EXO®-SLK and SLK HiVis are both priced at $300 for the cooling, warming variant and $335 with hydration. For large volume purchases, click the link below for details on the Enterprise Purchasing Program.
A final category unique to Safety products is uniformity: How effectively can these cooling vests conform to teams and enterprises seeking to maintain standards of professionalism? The majority of the torso is typically concealed by most vests, which hide any logos, branding, or company colors on shirts.
The FlexiFreeze vest offers little in the way of uniform compatibility, available only in blue with a FlexiFreeze logo visible on the bottom, left hand side of the vest.
Moving on to the Ylnewways vest, we have a solid blue color with a reflective trim and a dominant ‘Ylnewways’ brand logo on the left hand side of the chest.
The NJDGF vest is the first of the conventional cooling options to feature any space for branding, with a small clear left hand side chest pocket for name tags or a company logo. This vest also comes in a HiVis Safety Yellow color, an already widely accepted sight across many industries and companies.
ICEVEST HiVis Class 2 has a front facing genuine Velcro® panel on the chest for branding carried over from the military collection. Velcro® patches have been used successfully by our enterprise customers such as Dutch Bros Coffee to showcase their branding on top of cooling vests.
ICEPLATE EXO®-SLK and SLK HiVis both feature front and back Velcro® panels for branded patch placement, while also obscuring much less of an individual's uniform, should they be wearing one. This maximizes uniformity without sacrificing consumable thermoregulation capability.
That is all we have for now on the two categories of safety vest for 2023: conventional cooling and consumable thermoregulation. Based on the data we presented in this video and blog article, we’d love to know: which one of these Safety Vest options suits you or your teams needs the best? Are there any other Cooling Vests we should cover in a future Insights video? Let us know in the comments below.