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Reviews > Animal Companion Gear > Dog Wear > Ruff Wear Jet Stream Cooling Vest > Test Report by Richard Lyon
RUFFWEAR JET STREAM COOLING VEST
Test Series by Richard Lyon
Initial Report: June 23, 2018
Field Report: August 26, 2018
Long Term Report October 3, 2018
PERSONAL DETAILS and BACKPACKING BACKGROUND
Tester: Whisper, a very spoiled three-year old English Cream Golden Retriever
Weight: 71 lb [32 kg]
Circumference at chest [the measurement used by RuffWear to ascertain size]: 32 in [81 cm]
Temperament: Frisky and super social. Easily distracted.
Reporter: Male, 71 years old
Height: 6' 4" (1.93 m)
Weight: 210 lb (93 kg)
Email address: Montana DOT angler AT gmail DOT com
Home: Outside Bozeman, Montana USA, in the Bridger Mountains
Ruffwear has designed the Jet Stream Vest as a means of keeping man's best friend cool during activity in warm weather. The upper portion, which fits over the dog's back, is made of spandex to provide a bit of shade. The underside is a three-layer mesh designed to utilize evaporative cooling to "disperse heat from the dog's core." To use, soak the vest in water, wring out any excess, and fit the product on the dog.
Manufacturer: Ruffwear, ruffwear.com
Size: Large. Available in XXSmall to Extra Large [six sizes]
Weight, measured: 4.75 oz [135 g]
Length, measured: 16 in [41 cm]
Color: Blue Lagoon. Also available in Salamander Orange.
MSRP: $39.95 US
INITIAL REPORT - June 22, 2018
OUT OF THE BOX
Upon receipt of the Vest I immediately tried to fit it on Whisper the tester. Three problems made this easier said than done: the fit is fairly tight, the storm guard over the bottom of the zipper makes engagement tricky, and Whisper doesn't especially cotton to clothing of any kind.
The first of these prompted a call to Ruffwear. A helpful representative informed me that Ruffwear intended the fit to be tight; too loose and the evaporative cooling won't work as well. That and the fact that Whisper is at the lower end of the website's size range for Large convinced me that I should proceed with that size.
The bottom of the male end of the zipper is covered by a small triangular fabric strip, making it difficult to insert the male end into the female [slider] end while fitting the Vest on to a wiggling, uncooperative hound. This I solved [before calling Ruffwear] by starting the zipper an inch or so before placing the Vest on its user. On the call the Ruffwear rep suggested this action, indicating to me that the manufacturer recognizes a potential design fix here.
The third problem is going to take some canine instruction. The photo shows that it is possible to get him dressed. Obviously Ruffwear is not at fault for this. Whisper has resisted insulated vests at sub-zero F [below -17 C] temperatures though he appreciates them once we're outside. I truly look forward to seeing what he's going to do when I start placing a Vest that is wet and cold on his shoulders.
That will be a subject of my Field Report. Despite this being the second full day of summer, the temperature here is hovering around 50 F [10 C] with more of the same forecast for this weekend. No need for artificial cooling just yet.
Like every product I've purchased from Ruffwear the Jet Stream Vest appears well-made and free of manufacturing defects; there are no loose threads and both fabrics are soft to the touch. The product's design is simple and its cooling concept easy to understand. After a couple of false starts it's now easy to put on and remove the Vest.
August 26, 2018
The weather and my travel schedule have limited testing somewhat, but Whisper and I have put the Jet Stream Vest to enough use to report on some of the pluses and minuses of this innovative product.
Generally this summer in the Northern Rockies has been pleasantly cool, with temperatures rarely rising above the low 80s F [about 27 C] even in bright sunny weather. Many of my day hikes have been on trails with plenty of shade, though a few have been in the midday sun. However one of Whisper's favorite haunts, the local Snowfill Dog Park, has almost no shade at all, and it is there that the Jet Stream has come in most handy.
Snowfill is a 38-acre fenced park that was designed for off-leash canines. With varied trails both mountain and valley views, it's a great place for exercise and training. [You can see the mountain views in the first photo in my Initial Report.] Whisper loves it. On every trip to town when it isn't raining I try to include time for a lap or two. Both of us can be hot on sunny midafternoons if the mercury hits 80 F [27 C]. On those days Whisper appreciates the vest. Though in late May he got a crew cut for summer, he's getting shaggy again and likes a cool-down.
The dressing routine goes as follows:
a. Soak the Jet Stream in cold water. There's a pump just inside the gate that's ideal for this purpose.
b. Affix the ends of the zipper as described in my Initial Report. This step, I've found, is crucial if the dog is social with other dogs, as Whisper certainly is.
c. Pull it on and zip it up. Seven simple words that are easy to say and not so easy to do with a squirming animal eager to run and play.
Things go about the same on the trail, except that I'll wait to put the vest on until I am near a convenient water source - a stream or lake.
Once attired Whisper generally ignores the Vest, though occasionally he'll roll in the weeds or in the dirt on the trail. [But he now and then does so sans Vest.] If that occurs any accumulated debris is washed off with a garden hose upon returning home.
In sunlight the vest stays dripping wet for about fifteen minutes, then dries from evaporation and Whisper's body heat. After 30-45 minutes it's still damp but now at body temperature. These times are in the dry climate on sunny days; if humidity is high, such as immediately after a rain shower, or the day is overcast, the Vest stays wetter longer.
My experience illustrates a number of good and bad things about this product. On the plus side, it definitely cools Whisper off. The best evidence of this comes from Snowfill. Near the pump is the only greenery in the place, a clump of shrubs next to the pump. Careless pumping and dogs' using the water bowls as a footbath mean a large puddle under the bushes, the only shady spot in the place. After his walk Whisper enjoys a lie-down right there. After a jaunt in the Vest Whisper deems the cooling off unnecessary. That's been true on day hikes as well, when he's foregone a swim or a dunk on a warm day. This benefit results in a damp dog, rather than a damp and muddy dog, in the car on the way home.
The Vest's less desirable aspects are also clear from the foregoing. Most importantly, water is needed for use. If there's no water source on the route, I need to use water I've brought with me. After use the Vest is damp and often soiled from Whisper's grass or dirt baths. I'll attach a wet Vest to the outside of my daypack, where it dries quickly. But it's a mess.
I'm generally pleased with the Vest, though damp animal and damp Vest can give the car a distinctly doggie odor after use.
LONG TERM REPORT
October 3, 2018
After two more months of intermittent use I don't have much new to report on the Jet Stream Vest. I dressed Whisper in the Vest mostly in the Snowfill Dog Park, whenever the weather was sunny and the temperature above 80 F [27 C]. Walks there varied from thirty minutes to two hours. As noted in my Field Report this wonderful dog-friendly venue has almost no shade, so a one-hour hike is an hour in direct sun. Whisper also wore the Vest on several day hikes, the longest of which was about three hours, and for free time at a couple of days at a friend's ranch in Big Timber, Montana, all in similar conditions. [It's been a dry and pleasant August and September here.]
There is one factor that may color my observations on this product - Whisper the Tester doesn't care for it. I don't believe there's anything particular about the Jet Stream that generates his ill will; he doesn't like any garments that I've put on him. Fall vest for hiking in hunting season, winter sweater, snow booties, training harness, even an extra collar I use so that I can see him in the snow - he resists all without discrimination. I confess that these sentiments sometimes dissuade me from putting the Jet Stream on him even when the conditions say it'd be good for him. That's due partly to owner laziness but mostly to the fact that I spoil my pup. I will say that it's become easier to put the Vest on Whisper as summer has progressed.
My overall assessment of the Jet Stream is favorable - it's well-made, reasonably priced, simple, easy to use [here I'm placing blame for struggling to fit it over Whisper on the canine, not the product], easy to pack, and does what it's intended to do - keep its wearer cool. I'll point out a few highs and lows, mostly repeated from my Field Report.
1. In the dry climate of the Northern Rockies the Vest is effective for about 45 minutes at 80 F [27 C]. That's been a minor issue for me since that covers one lap at the dog park and there's a handy water pump for reloading. On day hikes, however, I've needed a water source near the trail to avoid having to re-wet the Vest with drinking water. If Whisper ever gets his recall response to the point when I can take him backpacking this might be a significant problem in high summer.
2. The Vest does keep its wearer cool until all the water has evaporated. Which has been good for Whisper whether he likes wearing it or not. That's also good for Whisper's owner's peace of mind on hot days. One new development is unfavorable. Lately the Vest hasn't deterred Whisper from a swim in a stream, lake, or algae-filled pond whenever he gets the chance. That may briefly rinse away the accumulated dirt and debris but leaves me with a wet, sloppy dog. And it does reload the Vest. Of course that's not a product flaw. But I was so hoping!
3. It can be messy. Whisper likes a roll in the grass, leaves, or dust anytime but especially after a swim - and after getting the Vest with a fresh charge of water. That hasn't been a serious laundry problem, nor has it caused any visible deterioration of the fabric or complicated cleaning back at home. The garden hose quickly removes surface grime, and I have once run it through the washing machine on a cold water cycle and then air-dried it. I just have a wet dog in a grimy Vest on the trail.
4. In the woods the Vest makes it much easier for me to spot Whisper. In hindsight I wish I had requested an orange Vest. September means prime hiking weather in Montana but is also the start of hunting season. Whisper does own an orange vest for cold weather use, but it would add to Whisper's already shaggy fur coat on warm fall days.
5. The Vest is exceptionally durable. In fact it still looks almost as good as new after three-plus months of direct exposure to dust, dirt, leaves, or grass - often all of the foregoing - on virtually every use. I've used detergent on it only once. As noted other cleanings have been more casual, a rinse with a garden hose. After several uses it acquired a mild doggy odor, but that vanished after its formal cleaning. More importantly, there's been no shrinkage and no loss of functionality; the zipper still works just fine. That's a compliment to the Vest's design. It's simple, with very little that might go wrong.
My Test Report ends here. Whisper and I thank Ruffwear and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test the Jet Stream Vest.
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