wBW Quick Look by "Burn" for webBikeWorld.com
Moisture-wicking shirt with four pockets for "HydroCOOL" ice packs.
The inserts are soaked in water and frozen, then inserted into the shirt and provide relief from the heat...while they last.
Every year about this time, motorcycle riders living south of about 42 degrees of latitude start their annual search for relief from the summer heat.
Combined with the debilitating humidity found in many regions, motorcycle riding can easily become more of a chore than a pleasure.
I've always thought that riding in winter is easier than riding in the heat of the summer, which sounds curious, but I find it easier to keep warm in winter than cool in summer.
We've tried and reviewed all sorts of potential solutions to this problem over the years -- see the links to all the reviews of hot weather riding gear in the right-hand column.
For instance, last year we covered Under Armour and Wal-Mart moisture-wicking shirts (review).
And we even reviewed a couple of those icky water-filled cooling vests that make you feel like you're wearing a wet diaper.
I always wear full protection when riding, which makes the heat/humidity problem is somewhat worse.
This summer's max heat outfit includes an old pair of Rev'it Airvent pants (now replaced by the Mistral mesh pants; review coming soon) and the white Joe Rocket Phoenix jacket we reviewed last year.
So what's this summer's find? A tip from a visitor sent us to the Hydro Cool website (which apparently doesn't work, by the way).
The HydroCool moisture wicking shirt is made by a company called TRREX (contact info in the summary table below).
The shirt is made from a claimed patent-pending material, but the label says 86% polyester and 14% Spandex, hardly a trade secret. It comes with four HydroCool packs.
The instructions have a somewhat complicated process of "charging" the packs, which involves soaking them in water and then freezing them overnight.
The ice packs are then placed in the pockets sewn into the shirt, two in front and two in the rear, and the shirt fibers are supposed to "deliver cool across your core".
Actually, I'm calling them ice packs, but they're some type of special reusable material that can be refrozen once charged with water. Kind of like those reusable cold packs sold in the supermarket.
It sort of works, actually -- stick the ice-cold HydroCool packs in the pockets and throw on the shirt and it feels too cold at first. I've worn it several times under the Phoenix jacket, and it feels great for about the first 20-30 minutes or so.
A lot depends on the weather and riding conditions -- if it's very hot, obviously the effect will not last as long.
I wouldn't say that the cooling is distributed all across the shirt, but it does feel cool under and around each vertical ice pack.
And I'll assume that the packs are located in strategic positions that help lower the blood temperature to a certain degree, if you'll pardon the pun.
But after about 20-30 minutes or so, the feeling seems to dissipate. I think it's partly because the skin quickly gets used to the cold temperature and sort of becomes numb to it.
It's like when I have a sore back and I break out the heating pad -- the effect is useful for the first 15 minutes or so, but the Doctor told me that it's best to alternate heat and cold and not to leave it on for more than a quarter-hour each.
As an example, I went out for a ride yesterday when the temperature was 91 degrees Fahrenheit (33 C). Although it wasn't as humid as it gets, the humidity was pretty high.
This is the type of weather that honestly I would probably not ride in unless I absolutely had to. I usually take my joyrides early in the morning when it's this hot.
I felt pretty good at first, and the effect of the HydroCool shirt with the frozen ice packs was noticeable, although the rest of my body was pretty warm.
But after about 20 minutes, the cooling effect was diminished and about 45 minutes later I had to press down on the ice packs to feel anything.
I arrived back home after a little over an hour and the packs, which are divided into 3 sections each, were no longer frozen and although a couple of spots here and there felt slightly cool, they were nearly all depleted.
TTRREX claims that the effect can last up to 6 hours or more, but in my experience so far, the effect lasts for about 45 minutes in the 90-degree or so temperatures we've been experiencing over the past couple of weeks.
What is nice about the concept is that other than some minor condensation, the ice packs stay dry.
That is, I don't have that nasty wet blanket feeling that you get when wearing one of the water-soaked cooling vests. You're basically sitting on your bike with a soaking-wet garment when wearing one of those, a feeling I don't care for at all.
The TREXX HydroCool moisture wicking shirt with the ice packs is a good idea.
It helps keep the rider cool while it lasts, and it avoids the wet rag feeling when wearing a soaked cooling vest.
Using this system means that you'll need access to a freezer to keep the packs frozen until just before the ride. Extra packs are available from TRREX, but I don't know how easy it would be to keep them frozen on the bike until needed.
I have only tried the system when riding a motorcycle with a couple of different mesh jackets, which cause the air at ambient temperature to flow across the ice packs much faster than when walking or hiking.
This may cause the ice in the packs to melt faster than normal. So it's possible that the cooling effect is longer lasting when not riding or if used under a non-mesh jacket.
All told, I think the system is relatively expensive at about $54.00 with shipping and handling.
Perhaps the ice packs will last in more moderate temperatures or when the humidity levels are lower.
Although when it's below 85 or so, I don't feel the need for a cooling vest or other types of auxiliary cooling garments anyway -- a good mesh outfit does it for me.
It's fun while it lasts though...
|wBW Review: TRREX HydroCool Moisture Wicking Ice Pack Shirt|
|Manufacturer: TRREX (Note: As of June 2010, their website is non-functional and the company is apparently no longer in business).||List Price (2008): $45.00 + $8.95 S/H|
|Colors: White or Black.||Made In: China|
|Review Date: July 2008|
From TRREX (July 2008): "While the body will feel the coolness of the inserts for the first half our as it adjusts, the inserts provide their cooling effect for a much longer time period.
I would suggest it will last from 2-3 hours although, like you suggested, users being to not notice their body is being cooled after 30 minutes or so.
The fact that it is not noticed after 30 minutes is actually viewed as
a strength of the product. For the period from 30 minutes up to 3 hours
the body is being cooled and the wearer tends to forget he is using the
Motorcycle riders are but one of a number of markets our small company finds applications for its products.
We are actively working to optimize our products in each of the markets we are in and are working to develop products that should help people stay cool in each of the activities.
suggestions that you or your users might have regarding changes to appeal
to the biker market are greatly appreciated.
Thank you again for your fair review!"