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OFFICIAL PRODUCT REVIEW: Motorcycle Cooling Vests

A Cooling Vest Can Be a Godsend in Triple Digit Heat!

Photos and text by Gary Mraz

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It gets hot there in the South West this time of year and a cooling vest can be a godsend in triple digit heat. There are a lot of options for us motorcyclists, and evaporative cooling vests are common. You pull them out when needed, soak them in water and become a human swamp cooler. Ice-chilled cooling vests require ice packs or cooling packs that can freeze at a moderate temperature of 58° Fahrenheit. There are even thermoelectric cooling vests utilizing water pushed through tubes with motors and batteries.

The first for review are evaporative vests from Alpinestars and Harley-Davidson. Even these two are distinctly different in design. The Alpinestars has a pop open filler to pour water into. The vest contains a fibrous material capable of soaking up water. Pour in a total of 0.5 liter of tap water. It does not need to be cold. Squish it around the vest to make sure the water is evenly distributed. You can stow the vest and pull it out ready to when needed. One might call this a “Coolant Vest.”
The Harley-Davidson vest on the other hand is soaked in water for a few minutes. Their nylon vest is embedded with a HyperKewl™ lining capable of rehydrating 100 times. This type of vest is typically filled with beads or crystals that soak up water and dry out slowly.
Mike, the owner of Sedona Eagle Rider and I will tried them both. At over 100 degrees in Arizona, the game was on. I wore Alpinestars mesh jacket, (cooling vests are designed to be worn under mesh/vented jackets). I cheated with Alpinestars riding pants and Alpinestars Ridge motorcycle boots. I was a walking Alpinestars billboard. This Italian brand is world renowned for their incredible line of riding rear.
Refer to their International/U.S. sizing online sizing chart when ordering. Cooling vests are supposed to fit snugly but my L/XL vest fit more like strait jacket. I should have known this. I’m normally XL, but my wonderful 2/XL Alpinestars mesh jacket fits me perfectly. Guess I am just jealous that extra-large Italians equal even extra-extra larger Americans.
Mike donned the Harley-Davidson evaporative large, which fit as expected. Mike's jacket is a vented design with two zipper vents in the front, one on each arm and two rear exit vents on the back of his jacket.
As mentioned the Harley evaporative was designed to be soaked in water for two minutes or so, wrung out and put on over a shirt. As you may well imagine you’re soaking wet but that’s the idea, it evaporates while riding. The Alpinestars on the other hand is filled with water and designed to evaporate slowly via the small holes in the vest. I felt immediately cooled down with the Alpinestars, while Mike was immediately wet…we hit the road.
The Alpinestars vest immediately worked. I stayed cool, wind chill factor and the mesh jacket did the trick without a doubt and kept my core temperature down. After an hour of riding I noticed that the vest while still cooling, seemed to stabilized, meaning it was doing its job but it wasn’t a dramatic cooling effect, which was probably its design intent.
Alpinestars claims it will keep you cool for 3 days, which is probably how long it takes the water filled vest to dry out. The Harley vest on the other hand was palpable. You could feel the evaporating air rising up the back of your neck, into your armpits and really cooling your core. Remember, the Harley vest is only good for 2-3 hours of continuous riding and then you’ll need to soak it again.
Mike reported: “The minimal air coming in to the six vents of my jacket and up my sleeve was definitely cooler. I want to mention the Harley vest DO NOT protect from bee stings. Test failed there!” Unfortunately, a bee joined the ride to cool down and stung Mike in his neck.
I have used the Harley-Davidson vest on many occasions and it is without a doubt a palpable solution to keeping cool for several hours.
Mike then got a chance to wear the Alpinestars. After a few hours into the ride, his impression was, “I did not notice the same cooling breeze as I did with the Harley vest. I am guessing it requires more airflow from a mesh instead of vented jacket. The one benefit I could see is it would not have soaked my shirt like the Harley vest. So if you're going to a dinner date afterwards, a wet shirt may not be the best look.”

Chillin like a Villain:
Both vests worked and make a huge difference on your core body temperature in triple digit heat. I surmise that if you’re riding all day and want a more evenly distributed evaporation the Alpinestars may be your choice.
The Harley-Davidson vest is a more aggressive approach, as your soaked body dry’s off in 2-3 hours rinse and repeat. We are both ATTGAT riders, all the gear all the time and although Arizona doesn’t not require helmets, we wear them, so keeping cool is always a priority and a cooling vest is a smart investment.
We are excited to try out the big guns of cooling vests next installment with the Harley-Davidson Ice-Chilled version of this vest which includes four wearable ice packs and the Polar Products Cool Phase and Hybrid Design vests.

Harley-Davidson Cooling Vest-- $60.00 2 to 3 hours
• Lining absorbs and holds water that slowly evaporates to provide a cooling effect for 2-3 hours depending on riding conditions. Vest is fully hydrated when soaked 1-2 minutes.
• Can be rehydrated up to 100 times.
• Fit & Mobility: Contrasting stretch mesh side panels provide a close fit. Elastic back waist.
• Design Details: Rubber LOGO patch.
• Materials: 100% nylon with embedded HyperKewl™ lining.

Alpinestars Coolant Vest $158.00-- cooling effect claimed to last 3 days.
• Vest features an innovative cooling system which evenly releases moisture during rides, thus significantly regulating the vascular system and limiting the effects of heat exhaustion. Extremely
• Very light cooling vest, designed to limit the effects of the heat and to cool the upper part of the body whilst riding. Fill it with 500 ml of tap water, squeeze to spread it around and it will immediately start to cool, significantly reducing body temperature (at least 15°C less). The cooling effect can last for up to 3 days.
• Strategically placed air apertures that ensure optimum ventilation, breathability and airflow.
• Triple layer fabric with an inner coating which absorbs the humidity and allows it to remain dry.
• Anatomical design with stretch panels on the sides.
• Antibacterial treatment.
Click for a copy.
Click for a copy.

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Reader Comments

Dear reader we are a motorcycle merchandise dealer in Windhoek Namibia. We are looking for a supplier that can help us with hydration vests amongst other merchandise like Harley TShirts etc.
If you can help in any way please let us know.
Kind regards
Dirk Kleinschmidt

Dirk Kleinschmidt
Windhoek, Khomas region, Namibia
Monday, January 17, 2022
The H-D cooling vest team will tell you the vest does work well in "less humid" climates. Adding a wet vest on top of your clothes in Houston during a 90+squared day (temp/ humidity) is really pointless.

You just end up wet, steamy, and with a bad case of swamp crotch. I used my vest for less than a week for regular work commutes, but have found it to be rather effective in states where the humidity is 75% or less.

Johnny White
Humble, TX
Tuesday, March 16, 2021
Editor Response Thanks for the tip, goddammit.
Wearing a jacket and helmet actually can be much cooler for the rider. The sun is baking your skin and the wind instantly evaporating cooling sweat makes...well a sleeveless or t-shirt not so cool.

My son and I hit the road in 100 plus for several hours. As we stopped to hydrate, an ambulance had just left to take a heat stroked rider to the ER. Apparently, he wasn't the first.

Stop often and drink water. Beer and caffeinated/carbonated drinks are not the way in my opinion. My son had me wear his armored and perforated jacket on a solo trip that I took later, and, to my surprise, I was much cooler. Old dogs can learn new tricks.

Saturday, March 13, 2021
Editor Response Thanks for these recommendations. Good stuff. I like testing the notion of a wet T-shirt.
RE; the H-D vest.
After the mentioned 100 hydration cycles do you have to purchase more of the crystals or a new vest? Almost sounds like if you soaked a T shirt every gas break it might accomplish the same thing. Good article.


S. Daytona, FL
Friday, March 12, 2021
Editor Response Sure seems like a less expensive, more reliable solution.

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