At first blush, the standard cooling vest from First Line Technology seemed destined to fail. A cooling vest that activates at 82.4°F (28°C) and has a reported ultimate cooling effect of a measly 72°F? Why bother, since MSers like it cold. Damn you, science. It aced every test, every challenge. Concealability? Better than all vests except one by a long shot in our reviews. Strangers polled didn’t notice it under my loose-fitting button-down shirt. Best friends didn’t notice. Jesus, my own mother didn’t notice! Sports? Since it fits so snuggly and is one of the lighter vests tested, it doesn’t bounce around, and the flat PhaseCore panels make it ideal for weightlifting, sit-ups and anything else on terra firma. Comfort? The panels are not only razor thin, but there are 16 of them, so they fit around many body shapes. You can even take a nap comfortably. Convenience? Grab, put on—done. No cold packs, no freezer, no water, nothing. I can't emphasize enough how important this is, as the more time it takes to assemble your vest before you step out of your front door, the less likely you are to bother.
The PhaseCore packs (we recommend the 28, as the 32 activate at to too high of temperatures for typical use) last for about three hours before they start to soften, and some may last as long as four hours. Then remove the vest, lay it flat, and it will recharge in 2-4 hours at room temperature. If speed is required, toss the vest in the freezer for a half hour, or even faster: take out the PhaseCore packs and immerse then in ice water (add salt and the slurry will cool them in under five minutes!). Design, fit, adjustability, endurance, dryness, portability, cold sensitivity (ha!), whatever. Aces. Women also judged this vest to be among the most comfortable of all those trialed. Note the snug fit around the hips (slimming!) and how it drops down lower on the lower back--better for cooling and to prevent the vest from riding up when sitting. Even if you are oversized, there is an extender kit available (not tested). Want to precool before an event? Toss the entire vest in the freezer for a few hours and you'll get over 30 minutes of downright chilly temps.
I still wasn’t a believer, so I kept testing. A dinner outdoors in 90°F temps was comfortable (when just hours earlier I was hammered despite cooler temperatures in an art gallery). Exercising at max effort with the vest meant more endurance and a quicker recovery. I tried to make it fail, and I failed. Alas, its price exceeds that of all vests we’ve tested (naturally), but First Line Technology (as well as other manufacturers) are offering discounted pricing for members of ActiveMSers. I guess now I’ll have my hands full harassing the insurance industry to accept cooling vests as a standard treatment for multiple sclerosis. (As many of you know, don’t doubt my resolve.) Other than price, are there any drawbacks? Since the PhaseCore cooling packs are small to better fit the contours of your body, the entire 16 packs take a minute or so to fully extract/reinsert. And no, you won’t “feel” cold, especially after wearing the vest for a half hour, giving your body time to acclimate. You will be convinced it’s not working and curse my name. Your brain will tell you you are hotter. But when that happens, twist the vest an inch to either side. Does it feel cool again? Surprise, it's still doing its magic, faithfully absorbing your body heat. And when you are sure you are at risk for that dreaded overheating with multiple sclerosis—heck, you might even be sweating, as your body's natural cooling mechanism kicks in—you'll notice your vision is still okay, your walking isn’t too bad, your brain isn't fuzzy, and your fatigue isn’t burying you. For me, the FLT vest works just as effectively on heat-related MS symptoms as other, colder, cooling vests, arguably even more so. I guess I better keep on testing....
There are two other First Line Technology vests that we've tested, the Standard Mesh and the XPC, both ranked highly as well. The Standard Mesh cooling vest is similar to this Standard but uses the lighter mesh and comes in smaller sizes and the color white. The Standard Mesh vest is reviewed here. The the new XPC has an intriguing design and is best for larger body types. It is reviewed here.
Cold Sensitivity: 5
Weight: 3 lbs 12 oz
Vintage Wash Crew Under-Vest Tee
Most cooling vest manufacturers recommend a light shirt be worn under the vest to both prevent chaffing and to maintain vest cleanliness. Alas, many T-shirts are made of thick cotton and weigh 6 ounces or more. ActiveMSers has teamed with MStshirts.com to procure the ideal under-vest T-shirt. Weighing 3.7 ounces (fabric weight), this under-vest tee is among the lightest of any shirt available on the market and is perfectly suited to be worn under phase change cooling vests or on its own. Made of 100% ring spun combed breathable cotton, the tee comes in the unisex sizes of XS, S, M, L, XL, 2XL, 3XL,and has a well-loved look thanks to its garment wash treatment. Available in white, black, blue and red. Price: $12.
Members of ActiveMSers can save up to 20% on select cooling vests with reserved coupon codes. To get your discount, join today by signing upfor our newsletter. NOTE: ActiveMSers has negotiated these discounts and has no other affiliation with these companies and receives no compensation or commission of any kind. Vests were donated for testing purposes.