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Cooling vest - evaporative cooling vest

Silver Eagle Cooling Vest

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It's only been within the last couple of years that motorcycle clothing manufacturers have finally started to produce clothing suitable for very warm weather.  This is surprising, since the vast majority of motorcycle riding takes place during the summer months.

For many years apparel manufacturers have been focused solely on producing a single set of clothing that would "do it all". 

The problem is that unlike the motorcycle riding neighbors of the Jetsons,  we don't yet have the technology that allows a single garment to work in a range of 30 degrees to 90 F., or that will provide cooling air flow while still being waterproof. 

The result?  Our typically bulky jackets and pants with "breathable" waterproof liners (vastly overrated) and zip-out insulating inserts. 

To stay comfortable with seasonal temperature change, you still need separate clothing ensembles.  Until just about a year or two ago, there was also the added problem of a distinct lack of clothing suitable for riding in really hot temperatures. 

Unfortunately, many motorcyclists can't afford to purchase multiple outfits for various niche weather patterns, so other than the odd day when you just happen to own a set of comfortable clothing, you had to make do with whatever you had.

Although I guess I shouldn't complain -- back when I started riding, life was simple (and so were we!).  Jeans, T-shirt and maybe work boots in the summer; add a leather "bomber" jacket found at the local thrift shop, and there was your summer and winter riding outfit!

The recent trend towards highly breathable fabrics that still offer a modicum of crash protection for summer use has really opened up a whole new outlook on hot weather riding.  It helps that these new products are relatively inexpensive, which provides motorcyclists the potential of affording two sets of riding apparel, one for winter and one for summer.

Some chemists or scientists somewhere must be hard at work on developing new technologies for human comfort in hot weather, because it seems as if a lot of new products are being released that can help us keep cool.  One of these new technologies is the ability of a special fabric to hold water and then slowly release it as a gas to provide an evaporative cooling effect.

Cooling vest by Silver EagleSilver Eagle Outfitters offers many different types of garments using the Hydroweave technology that provides this effect.  Their vests, hats, and other products are used in the construction industry, by motorcyclists, hunters, equestrians and anyone else who needs comfort in temperature extremes. 

If you're going to ride in really hot weather, the Silver Eagle vest offers an interesting way to keep cool.  In the past, I've sometimes avoided riding in the heat of the day, because even with one of the mesh jackets, it can be too darn hot to enjoy the ride.  This is especially true in the southern U.S.A., where winter is the preferred riding season.

The Silver Eagle vest must be "activated" to obtain the desired cooling effect. To activate the vest, it must be soaked in cool water.  Silver Eagle Outfitters suggests two ways of doing this. 

The "package activation method" involves placing water in a plastic bag and soaking the vest for 15 minutes.  The vest comes with a "Zip-lock" plastic bag for this purpose.  The instructions suggest placing no more than 16 ounces of water in the bag and then inserting the vest.  This method minimizes the amount of excess water that might drip from the vest, but takes a bit of time.

I use the "submersion method", which is a bit easier to manage.  I place the vest in a spaghetti pot of cool water for about 5 minutes (minus the pasta, of course!), then gently wring out the excess moisture and wipe down the inside liner. 

Silver Eagle claims that the vest can't be over-soaked, but the submersion method seems to allow the vest to soak up as much water as possible and provide the greatest amount of cooling effect time when the vest is worn.  We have a nice, deep well that throws out cool tap water, which works well for activating the vest.  But Silver Eagle Outfitters also suggests placing the vest in the refrigerator after activation but prior to wearing it for an even better cooling effect.

It does take a while to get used to the feeling of the damp vest on your body; it feels a bit "icky" at first.  It's not actually as soaking wet as, for example, a wet T-shirt (which is a pretty yucky feeling!), but it does feel damp. 

The evaporative effect really starts to work as air flows over the vest; note that this type of garment is not designed to work under a jacket with poor airflow.  I wear the Silver Eagle vest under a Joe Rocket or Firstgear mesh jacket, and the cooling effect is pretty dramatic once I'm underway. 

We've had one of the coolest and wettest springs on record here in the Mid-Atlantic, so it wasn't until the end of June that the weather finally warmed up enough to fully appreciate what the vest can do.  A couple of 90+ degree days with heavy humidity gave it a good workout. 

The cooling effect is very noticeable up to about the first 2 hours and can definitely make a difference.  One day, as I was riding, I passed some people sitting barefoot under a shade tree, waving fans in their faces.  It was a hot day; too hot to be active.  But I felt fine, and it kind of gave me a chuckle.

The Silver Eagle vest also provides a bit of warmth when its not activated.  It works well in the spring and fall when you need just a touch of warmth under a jacket.  When the vest is dry, it folds up into a pretty small package, so it's easy (and handy) to carry on the bike to use in the evening.  Of course, it's also handy to have during travel, as you can soak it in cool water just about anywhere when you need the cooling effect.  It seems to take about a full 24 hours for the vest to completely dry out.  Silver Eagle suggests that you don't store the vest in a sealed container or bag unless it's completely dry.

I usually take about a size 43-44 men's jacket, and Silver Eagle Outfitters recommended an XL sized vest.  It fits well, with just enough room for movement.  It's important to make sure the fit is correct, so that the vest will stay near your body to provide the correct cooling effect.  Silver Eagle has a variety of sizes and vest designs, so you'll probably find one that fits.
 

 
The vest also has a decently hefty zipper up the front.  The zipper is plastic, and the pull tab and slider is metal.   There are also two short pockets (photo right, above), which come in handy for small items like earplugs.  The recent photos of this vest on the Silver Eagle website don't show zippered pockets, so they may have been discontinued on this model.  The vest also has adjustment tabs on each side, which have a button snap that allows 35mm (1-3/8") lateral adjustment.

The vest illustrated in these photos is really designed for construction workers, so the back is a bit longer than you need for motorcycling, but I had no problems either folding it over to fit under a short motorcycling jacket or stuffing it under the back waistband of my riding pants. 

So if you live or ride where it gets really, really hot and humid, the Silver Eagle vest may work as well for you.  The price is reasonable, especially considering that it can also be useful in cool weather.  Don't forget that the vest can also keep you cool for non-motorcycling activities too!

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Product Review:  Motorcycle Cooling Vest by Silver Eagle Outfitters
Available From:  Silver Eagle Outfitters Suggested Retail Price:  $40.00
Colors:  Silver/khaki; other models available in various colors Made in:  China
Product Comments:  Water activated to allow evaporative cooling while you ride.  Works nicely in hot weather, especially when humid.  Works with airflow over vest.  A single soaking lasts 2 hours or more.  A T-shirt should be worn underneath; you'll feel damp, but the cooling factor really helps.  The vest also provides some insulation in cool weather.  Available in various designs and colors.  Women's styles and sizes also available.
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