Artic Heat Cooling Vest First Impression

Front of the Vest

I’ve ridden with this vest twice from work to my house. My commutes were 13.9 miles with some rolling hills with temperatures on the low 90’s. First, let me begin by describing the ‘activation’ of the vest: First, I soaked the vest in room temperature water for 10-15 minutes to ‘activate’ the crystals that form some sort of gel, you can see the gel pouches in this picture:

Gel pouches activated

Once the cells are activated, I removed the excess water and I hanged the vest to dry up. I didn’t use the vest on my morning commute to work, temperatures are not really high in the morning.

Back of the vest

The first day that I used the vest, I placed it inside the freezer for about 1 1/2 hours, I noticed that the gel pouches were not fully frozen but the vest was cool to the touch. On my way back home, I used the vest in top of my regular cycling jersey, the vest felt really cool but it was not freezing. The first four miles were a joy to ride, I wasn’t sweaty and I didn’t feel like I was burning when I stop at a red light. After the four miles, I started to feel that the cooling effect of the vest was wearing off, the gel pouches were no longer cool and I began to sweat. By the 10th mile, the vest felt uncomfortable but I finished the ride without taking it off. So far, I was not really impressed by the vest’s performance.

Vest weighs 2lbs fully activated

On my second ride, I placed the vest for 4 hours in the freezer, this time the gel pouches were fully frozen. I also rode with the vest inside my jersey, the vest felt really cool but it was not uncomfortable. Unfortunately, the result was almost the same, the vest lost its coolness by the 7th mile, leaving me uncomfortable on the last 5 miles of the ride.

Temperatures in L.A. are in the mid 80’s but they are projected to rise by the end of this week. This time, I will freeze the vest for a longer period of time and I will ride with just the vest on. Stay tuned for an update.


  1. Palm Beach Bike Tours July 7, 2008 10:42 am 

    Past a certain point, keeping your vest in the freezer brings no gains. Once the vest reaches the freezer’s base temperature, it won’t get any colder nor will keeping it in the freezer past that point give you a larger cool ‘battery’.

    I spent a weekend testing and comparing insulated water bottles against uninsulated water bottles. (Short answer: insulated water bottles are better.) It didn’t matter if I froze the water/sports drink for two hours or 24 hours, the water bottle melted at the same pace.

    My uncle, also a cyclist, mocked me and my quest for cool water: If hot tea was good enough for the Chinese laborers building railroads across the American West, air-temperature water will get him anywhere he needs to bike.

    Did you find any problems with the gel bands reducing your mobility or just feeling weird?


  2. Moe July 7, 2008 10:47 am 

    Matt, there were no mobility issues and I didn’t feel the extra 2 pounds or weight. I don’t know if I reached the full freezing point of the vest, the manufacturer claims that the longer the vest is in the freezer, the longer it will last. I guess this statement will be tested as well.

  3. John Butler July 7, 2008 10:54 am 

    A bandana around the neck with the same crystaline substance is something we used a lot in my days in the National Guard. The longer term cooling was good for about 45 minutes or so.

  4. Black Pearl July 7, 2008 11:19 am 

    Man what a waste of weight and energy.

    For the last three weeks my daily 18 mile each way commute has been over 94 in the morning and almost 100 in the afternoon, here in Dallas, TX. I have been commuting for the last three years and only wear wool, last summer the temp was over 90 for many days and the humidity was in the 70’s and 80’s.

    About 5 years ago my wife got me a wool jersey, now they are all I wear. Yes I get damp, the jersey soaks it up then turns into a big “swamp cooler” and if the head wind is wrong I get cool.

    I work in an office with a shirt, tie and jacket and in all the time I have been commuting no one has ever mentioned any odor, as a mater of fact in some cases people have asked why I don’t have any odor as opposed to those around me who are stressed out and smell like someone in a “synthetic” jersey after a century. The only time my “designated snifter” mentioned any order was the day I wore my new Fat Cyclist jersey to work. I just go into the men’s room and rest for about 10 or 15 minuets to stop sweating then I get dressed for work and start the day, no wipe down, no spitz bath, I do have a towel, soap and wash cloth but except for the one time mentioned about I have never used them.

    Yes they cost more than regular jerseys but my oldest is 5 years old and I will probably get another two or three years out of it.

    The only thing I can say is …” Try It you’ll like it.”

  5. Moe July 7, 2008 11:38 am 

    Black Pearl: There’s a saying: ‘Don’t knock it until you try it’. Being a product tester is tough job, but someone has to do it!

    I do own wool jerseys and they are OK but I prefer to ride with the ‘synthetic’ stuff. Obviously, this vest is not for you, but someone maybe considering it as an option. People can take or leave our advice, some of them do appreciate it.

  6. We get it! July 7, 2008 11:41 am 

    Black, I think we get your point, you don’t like it

  7. Ghost Rider July 7, 2008 11:58 am 

    I’d like to try it…I wonder if the vest would work a bit longer in a more humid environment?

    Matt, regarding insulated waterbottles: I used to work with a marine researcher doing coastal surveys off Alabama’s Gulf coast. He always had an ice chest full of sodas with him on the boat, but never any ice (despite access to a huge commercial ice machine). His saying was “the thirstier you are, the colder it tastes.”

  8. Palm Beach Bike Tours July 7, 2008 1:45 pm 

    Pearl: Where do I get a wool jersey? Any specific brand you like? How does the wool cut compare to a synthetic jersey? I’m lazy: what kind of care does wool require?

    I have been tempted by wool before but never knew enough to buy a jersey. The wool I have seen was 30% to 100% more than synthetic.


  9. russ roca July 7, 2008 2:21 pm 

    PBBT…as far as wool goes i would suggest the following: (they have wool jersey, t-shirts and polos!) (wool jerseys) (wool jersey, wool t-shirts, wool sleeveless t-shirts [what i use when I’m on bike tour]) (got even smarter, they know have cycling specific gear) (their Wool2 shirts make great shirts for the summer, or base layers for the winter) (wool jerseys, shorts, caps) (awesome wool caps)

  10. tadster July 7, 2008 2:51 pm 

    Moe, how about a pic of you in the vest. Do you look like a power ranger? =)

  11. Moe July 7, 2008 2:56 pm 

    Sorry, no pics this time. And yes, I would look like the blue power ranger if I would wear a time trial helmet….

  12. Lance July 7, 2008 3:34 pm 

    Wool is an excellent and natural performance material…strangely enough, it’s why sheep use it!

    When viable and acceptable alternatives to wool, leather, down fill, etc. become available it’s amazing how loth we are to give up our luxuries.

    (I can hear the “stop crying for animals” comments now)

    While the wool industry certainly doesn’t match meat’s cruelty to animals, it still consumes the animal’s entire life. We humans are so ready to label and sell our sentient beings(or parts of them) as soon as we see profit for ourselves.

  13. 2whls3spds July 8, 2008 1:51 am 

    Not to start a flame war…but what are the viable alternatives and are they really viable?

    FWIW I cannot stand to wear most synthetics. Also as a general rule I have found QUALITY natural fiber products to outlast similar synthetic ones.


  14. Palm Beach Bike Tours July 8, 2008 6:32 am 

    Thank you for the wool links!

    It was the Rivendell printed catalog that got me thinking wool a couple years ago.

    Now I remember why I haven’t gone wool — $135 for a jersey!?!? Ouch! I can buy a synthetic jersey for every day of the week for the cost of one wool jersey. ($135 — that is like two an a half tanks of gas.)

    Has Bike Commuters reviewed wool jerseys? Someone should do that and push me over the edge.


  15. Lance July 8, 2008 8:32 am 

    Synthetics are most definitely a viable alternative. Professionals race and train in them so they’re good enough for the most demanding athletes.

    I’d say that most definitely makes wool a “luxury” item.

  16. PushingWind July 8, 2008 10:58 am 

    Black Pearl, don’t kid yourself or be blinded by the politeness of your coworkers. An 18 mile commute wearing anything will cause you to have an odor, even if it takes you 90 minutes to ride. What about your sweaty hair, helmet and riding pants? Do your coworkers a favor and take a shower or rinse off in the bathroom. Then hang everything in some closet with a fan.

  17. Black Pearl July 8, 2008 3:05 pm 

    Matt, the ones I love the best come from

    The new ones from Smartwool are under $80.00 so they are not much more expensive than the synthetics. I have found that they last a lot longer than I have been able to get out of any of my synthetics.

    Pushing Wind: I take a shower and wash my hair before I leave the house, yes in the evening when I get home I do have some BO but believe me with the people I work with they would tell me. I am a more comfortable in Lycra shorts so I am one of those stuck up roadies, I do have a clean pair of bibs for every day, so I have to change into my suit and tie when I get to work . I would love to take a shower but there is not one available for anyone lower than an Executive VP. I can’t say that my s**t doesn’t stink but I know my body doesn’t.

    I do wash my helmet in the shower once a week too.
    Moe you are correct the vest is not for me I did have one that a friend made for me a couple of years ago from the neck wraps that they use to give out at rides here in Texas it was heavy wet and by the afternoon with no freezer to keep it in it was just much more trouble to use than it was worth for me. Obviously your millage may vary.

  18. The Wool Guy July 9, 2008 1:20 pm 

    Matt, Lance and anyone else that wants to listen,

    Thanks for bringing up the conversation about wool, there are many different view points when it comes to the benefits of a wool jersey especially when it comes to comparing out of the box costs but there is really much more to consider when looking at the whole value proposition.

    For one, a good quality wool jersey can be worn both on and off the bike, at work, at the pub or almost anywhere you go, we even had a customer wear one to church.

    A wool jersey also has a much larger comfort range that allows the body to regulate temperature in warm or cold weather as opposed to synthetics which do not.

    Ultimately these features allow you to have a much broader use of the more expensive wool jersey as opposed to a cheaper cycling jersey that only works while riding.

    Also, wool jerseys do not need to be washed after each wearing as do synthetics. Which not only means that you can wear the jersey ride after ride it also saves you time and $$$ by not having to wash them nearly as often. You cannot discount the cost of washing both on your wallet or on the environment, they both add up over the lifetime of a garment.

    My commute is 18 miles each way and I have ridden many a summer day in our short sleeve wool jerseys well into the 90’s in our hot and humid New England weather and they have performed great. I hang them when I get to work, they are dry and odor free when I leave and I can put the same jersey on the next day and ride again.

    Anyway I could go on……just thought I would add my two cents, thanks for listening.

    Wool, the Ultimate Practical Luxury.

    Live Absolutely!

    The Wool Guy
    Earth, Wind and Rider (EWnR)

  19. 2whls3spds July 9, 2008 5:12 pm 

    Thanks wool guy 😉 I got tossed off by the lame internet provider I was using last night.

    I don’t consider most synthetics to be viable for a variety of reasons. Most are made out of oil (non renewable) and have a very short life. I have wool jersey’s, jackets and slacks that are around the 15 year old mark. I have yet to have a synthetic make it that far. I also much prefer the leather saddles, again I have some that have seen over 30 years of use…show me a plastic saddle that lasts that long and is comfortable. Unfortunately we are a society that is more interested in cheap price, convenience and disposable stuff than we are good quality durable goods. Durable costs, but if you run a proper cost analysis they usually come out less expensive in the long run….like my 35+ year old steel bikes vs the latest plastic wonder.

    Plastic and synthetics do have their place, but they are grossly overused.

    Reduce, Reuse, Recycle an don’t buy it if you don’t need it!


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