Top 4 Cooling Apparel Categories & How They Work

If you’re someone who just sweats a lot, or looking for clothing that will help you stay cooler in hotter climates, this article will help you understand the 4 primary categories of cooling clothing.

Sweat Much? In Search of Cooling Apparel

It’s a fact. Some people just sweat more than others. 

But, regardless of how much we sweat, the one thing most of us have in common, is a desire to stay cool when it gets hot.

Although this particular reader is a heavy sweater, responding to him gave me an opportunity to summarize the main categories of cooling apparel products, and explain how they work, and their relative effectiveness.

Hey Tug,

I’m so glad I ran across your site. I hope u can help.

I just started a new amazing job that a little labor intensive, which is fine I love it however, saying I’m a heavy sweater would be an under statement.

After 5 min of work in shorts and a loose cotton t-shirt I’m POURING sweat.

But not the obvious places.

Not feet, hand or even under arms. But everywhere else.

My chest, back, neck, arms, and especially my head.

Sweat just pours from my brow and scalp on a constant basis.

I love this new job but sweating this much makes anything miserable.

I’m open to any suggestions u may have.

I hope u can help.

Thanks,

The sweaty one (Richard)

Pouring Sweat

Hey Richard,

Good to hear from you buddy and thanks so much for your question!

So your question is great and timely, because I’ve been having ongoing dialog with a couple guys who are in a similar situation as you.

In a nutshell, the high-level things you can do are:

  1. See if you can block the sweat, or at least reduce it some. There are some trade-offs to this
  2. Find clothing that will help distribute the sweat effectively, and dry quick
  3. Use a cooling product or cooling clothing to help regulate your body temperature a bit, to see if that helps minimize the amount of sweat

Diving deeper into each one, here are some ideas.

#1 – Blocking Sweat

There are two very effective extra-strength 7-day antiperspirants, that come in a towelette/wipe form, that you can use on different parts of your body.

They are:

  • Sweat Shield Ultra
  • SweatBlock

The potential downside to using a stronger antiperspirant like this, is that there is a possibility you’ll get compensatory sweating (sweating other places) if you block sweat in one area.

The only way to know for sure is to try out the products, and see what happens.

To learn more about other stronger hyperhidrosis antiperspirants, check out my Sweat Management article.

#2 – High Performance Wicking Clothing

You may find that adding a thin layer of synthetic compression shorts (or leggings) and a compression undershirt could leave you a bit more comfortable.

Some brands claim these are a forum of cooling apparel. However, notable cooling can only be experienced when evaporation occurs. That requires some catalyst, like wind. 

As an under-layer, wind can’t hit the wicking clothes, so it will be hard to recognize any cooling effects.

That said, wicking clothing can help you feel drier, and as such, more comfortable.

There are so many versions of synthetic (i.e. polyester, or some variation) apparel that do a great job of distributing sweat.

By adding in a middle layer between your body and your outer clothes, you may find that the clothes help:

(1) Move moisture away from your skin faster

(2) Prevent your outer clothes from getting soaked as fast

(3) Keep you feeling drier because of the former two points

An alternative would be to just wear really good synthetic outer clothing instead of putting on a middle layer. This may also allow you to recognize some cooling effects, since wind can come in direct contact with the wicking clothing, forcing evaporation to occur quicker.

If there is no wind, or high humidity, you won’t likely feel cooler, but should feel drier.

Duluth Trading Company may be a good place to look for some performance outer clothing.

Amazon would be a good place to look for inexpensive men’s compression leggings & shirts.

For more information about wicking clothing, check out my Moisture Wicking Undershirts article, as well as my other articles related to moisture wicking topics.

Of course, this does not address the sweat pouring from your head.

#3 – Cooling Apparel Products

This is a really tricky category, because there are so many brands claiming to have cooling apparel.

Most of it is simply marketing bullshit.

Some of it is actually legitimate, but requires certain environments to work as designed.

From my experience, there are less than a handful of “cooling” apparel categories:

(A) Wicking Apparel

This category focuses on wicking apparel, mentioned above, that has special traits/characteristics to allow moisture to dissipate more rapidly through the fabric.

When combined with notable airflow, it intensifies the evaporation effect, and can feel much cooler than other wicking apparel.

This apparel can also be made with fibers infused with other micro elements, like jade, that claim to even further accelerate/intensify the evaporation and cooling effect.

But, as noted above, if there is no notable airflow, there will not be any notable cooling.

Airflow is a required catalyst.

Some examples of products in this category would be the IAMMAI shirt, Columbia Omni-Freeze Zero, Armachillo products (from Duluth), or even the ActiCool shirt (link).

(B) Wet-Activated Evaporative Cooling Clothing

A sister-category to (A), there are some apparel products (i.e. shirts, caps, wristband wraps, towels, etc.) that are designed to be wetted or submerged in water then rung out.

The material is designed with similar characteristics to (A) items, and requires airflow to initiate the evaporation & cooling effect.

More airflow, more cooling.

Less/no airflow, no cooling.

The Arctic Cool product line falls into this category, so does the Dr. Cool products (by CoolCore) and the products from Chill Pal (link).

Acticool: A form of cooling apparel
Arctic Cool Men’s Instant (Evaporative) Cooling Shirt

There are also enthusiast-centric products, such as the REV’IT! Liquid Cooling Vest (link) for motorcyclists.

(C) Phase-Change / Ice / Water Based Cooling Solutions

These are simply products that use gels, ice, or circulating ice-water as catalysts to create the cooling effect.

A good example of this is cooling shirts or cooling vests that utilize phase change material.

You freeze the phase change packs, put the frozen packs in the vest, then wear the vest.

These are reasonable solutions, but they generally add extra weight and bulk on top of (or underneath) your clothing.

Plus, you have to have access to a freezer or ice water because the cooling effects can only last for a 2-3 hours at time.

I have a list of products in this category that I’ve found over the years in my High Tech Cooling Undershirts article.

(D) Thermo-Electric Cooling Apparel

This is a newer, lesser known category, powered by peltier technology (Wikipedia).

Done correctly, this is probably the utopian cooling solution, because it doesn’t require any special catalyst like the above categories.

The electric cooling apparel devices are powered by rechargeable batteries, and can last up to several hours on a single charge.

Some of the peltier cooling products I’ve seen include cooling shoe insoles, cooling vest, cooling bracelet, and a peltier powered cooling cap.

There are a few folks who are claiming to be making peltier cooling clothing, but there is only one who has actually made a legitimate truly-working product that is currently available for purchase.

For more articles related to peltier technology, click here.

My Recommendation

For Your Head

Because you mentioned you have a good deal of sweat coming from your head, I think your best bet would be to first check out the ClimaCap Peltier Cooling Cap.

ClimaCap: Themoelectric (peltier) cooling cap
ClimaCap: Themoelectric (peltier) cooling cap

From what I understand, it’s the first-ever commercial Cooling Cap, powered by peltier technology.

It also works really well from a cooling perspective, has 3 cooling settings, and can last up to 4 hours on a single charge.

Whether or not it will give you the full relief you need is hard to know without you giving it a try.

Outside of that, if you believe you’d be in an environment with a decent amount of airflow, you could also try some of the water/airflow activated evaporative cooling caps like the ones from HyperKewl (link, link), EnduraCool (link), or possibly the Dr. Cool Chill Cap (link).

You may also find some helpful information in my article about Managing Head & Face Sweat.

For Your Body

I’d recommend looking into either:

  • The suggestions I made in section #2 above (high performance wicking clothing)

or

  • See if there are some phase-change options, like a thin cooling vest that might work for you.

I’m sure there’s more we could discuss here, but I think the above is a good starting point.

How about you check out the products I mentioned, maybe try a couple, and report back with an update?

Other Cooling Apparel Articles

For more articles about about cooling apparel, be sure to check out these other articles.

4 thoughts on “Top 4 Cooling Apparel Categories & How They Work”

  1. First of all, I love how you’ve pulled off devoting an entire website to the t-shirt. And they said it couldn’t be done…

    The best part is that it’s actually informative and not just cheeky, as I suspected. Good stuff!

    But to the point that brings me here:

    Bravo! for calling out the hocus pocus of so-called “cooling” shirts. When it’s 75º or higher, a fiber can absolutely NOT offset exertional or environmental heat.

    Drives me nuts to know that people — smart people — put down $30-plus for these wearable unicorns.

    Now; you want to experience real cooling? Improve-your-endurance kind of cooling? You just found the right person.

    So with my introduction aside, keep me in mind when you next do a piece on cooling. I’ll be sharing your link with our followers.

    Too good to keep to myself.

    Reply
    • heya luanne, good to hear from you and thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!

      if you ever want me to try out your cooling gear, and mention here on my site, please hit me up via my contact page.

      look forward to hearing from you!

      Reply
  2. Hi there, any more info on the Peltier cooling insoles?

    I have a genetic blistering skin condition that is worse in the warm weather – these insoles could be the solution that I am looking for!

    Thank you
    Paul cotton

    Reply
    • heya paul — thanks for your question.

      sorry to say, it looks as though that peltier cooling insole product was either a scam, or the crowdfunding creator (adam paulin) bit off more than he could chew.

      just do a google search for “thin ice” or “adam paulin”.

      you’ll find one kickstarter campaign, at least one indiegogo campaign, both with a lot of very pissed off backers.

      if you search for “peltier” here on my site, you’ll see some other projects related to personal wearable cooling devices powered by peltier tech. though none of them are related to cooling insoles other than the sham crowdfunding campaign i mentioned above.

      Reply

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