For many of us, Summer is an exciting season that opens up all sorts of new adventuring opportunities. However, many dogs don’t share our excitement for warmer weather. Bella slows her pace down significantly in the heat, and she oftentimes requires several hours of napping following a warm excursion that has zapped her energy. While we still avoid taking her out with us during the hottest parts of the day, sometimes even mornings and evenings in the summer seem to be too much for her to handle in the intense Colorado sun.
If your dog also wilts in the heat, you might consider a cooling product to keep him or her on top of her game, even when the mercury rises. In the past, we’ve used Ruffwear’s Swamp Cooler for adventures in the heat. However, we’ve found it can be too bulky when using a harness or backpack. We oftentimes found ourselves faced with one major issue: do we have Bella wear a pack so she can bring her own water and carry her poop bags? Or use the cooling vest to keep her temperature in control (forcing us to carry water for her).
We were pleased to see that Ruffwear recently came out with a couple of new cooling products to help remedy our hot weather conundrum: enter the Core Cooler, Jet Stream vest, and updated Swamp Cooler.
How does Ruffwear Evaporative Cooling Gear work?
Dogs can’t sweat like we do, and rely on panting and a few sweat glands in their paw pads to cool off. All of these products by Ruffwear use evaporative cooling to help your dog regulate his or her temperature. Picture those time’s you’ve soaked a buff or bandana to keep cool on a hike …it’s the same concept. As the water evaporates off of the cooling product, it helps your dog stay cool in the heat.
In the following sections, we will share our experiences with each cooling product by Ruffwear. To get started, you might want to check out this comparison chart by Ruffwear to see the differences in price and function yourself.
The Core Cooler
If you are familiar with Ruffwear’s Brush Guard, this is the same exact design, yet made out of a cooling material. The Core Cooler attaches to Ruffwear backpacks and Web Master harnesses using hook and loop closures. We’ve found that this product works great with the Single Track Pack for day adventures such as mountain biking, trail running, or hiking. This is also is great for backpacking in warm areas, such as in desert/canyon areas. We first used this on a warm, 12-mile trail run with the Single Track Pack in the foothills, and it definitely helped keep Bella cool in the Colorado sun. We loved that she could still carry her own water and poop bags. As an added bonus, the Core Cooler helps to support your dog if he or she needs to be lifted by a harness or pack and also helps to properly distribute a weight load from a pack.
The only challenge we’ve found with this product is that it is difficult to “recharge” since you have to figure out a way to splash water on your dog’s underbelly if your dog doesn’t have access to a stream to wade into. Also, double check that the Core Cooler doesn’t interfere with the fit your dog’s backpack or harness straps. We don’t have any issues with this but have heard of people who haven’t been able to make the fit work.
Overall, if your dog typically wears a Web Master Harness or Ruffwear backpack in warm weather, then this would be a good option for you. If you don’t currently use the Web Master harness or Ruffwear brand packs with your dog, then check the next two options below!
The Jet Stream
We love the Jet Stream because it works well for fast-paced adventures such as trail running and mountain biking. It’s less bulky than the Swamp Cooler and has a much more athletic fit to allow your dog to be more agile. We’ve always commented the Swamp Cooler was a little awkward on trail runs, and it occasionally got hung up brush. On one run, Bella actually pulled her Swamp Cooler off over her head when running in the woods. The Jet Stream is much more form-fitting and sleek. Also, this product is sleek enough to fit under harnesses and backpacks, even those that aren’t made by the Ruffwear brand. We’ve used it under harnesses when running in our neighborhood with no problems.
The top of this vest is a spandex material, which dries out quicker than the three-layer cooling material below, but we found that the top of the Swamp Cooler dried out quickly during fast activities anyway, so in our opinion, this reduces unnecessary bulk and fabric that wasn’t always functional when moving quickly.
The Jet Stream is a little tricky to zip up on your dog if your hands and/or the zipper is wet, but really it wasn’t that big of a deal to us. If you are primarily looking to get a cooling product for slower paced activities such as walks, attending events with your dog, etc., then we suggest checking out the last option below. While we love the Jet Stream, it’s not as full coverage as the Swamp Cooler, and Bella’s lower back and hindquarters still heat up in the sun.
The Swamp Cooler
Ruffwear has recently updated the Swamp Cooler to have a port for a leash on the back when used over a harness. We have the old model without this feature and think that this port would make a huge difference in improving the versatility of this product.
There is no doubt that the Swamp Cooler is the most effective in cooling your dog, as it has the most coverage and the most cooling fabric. However, this also makes it the most expensive option. It’s a little bulky for fast-paced activities and doesn’t fit well under backpacks.
We think the Swamp Cooler is great for the most extreme heat if you have a dog that is extremely sensitive to heat and the sun (such as an all black dog that needs more coverage), or for slower paced activities such as walking going on shorter hikes.
Ruffwear’s new cooling products have made it possible to find the perfect cooling aid your dog, no matter which activities you and your dog prefer to take on. The only adventures we sometimes hesitate to take these products on are those with the possibility for lots of abrasions, such as horseback riding or bushwhacking on some fly fishing excursions. That being said, Bella’s Ruffwear cooling gear has held up well after many miles (and in the case of her Swamp Cooler, years) of use.
It’s worth noting that if you are going for a long trek in a dry area without a water source, you will probably need to “recharge” your dog’s cooling product at some point with a spray of water from a water bottle, so plan on packing a little extra. Usually, this isn’t an issue for us in Colorado until the early fall, when streams and other water sources tend to dry up.
While the light coloration of the cooling fabric does attract dirt and stains, it rinses out easily with the spray of a garden hose. If the cooling fabric becomes extremely dirty or smelly, we toss it in the washing machine and then air dry it…it comes out like new.
If your dog struggles in the heat, then we highly suggest you give these products a shot! It has definitely made a big difference to Bella’s stoke level for summer adventures.
Update – June 16, 2017
We had a couple good questions around a dog’s core temperature with and without the cooling products. Although it would be really cool (no pun intended), we don’t own any type of thermal imaging technology. Our review was based more on observation (energy levels and touch).
However, an image from Ruffwear below shows some temperature differences for a single dog in one set of conditions. The “one set of conditions” is important to note here. The effect of the evaporative cooling gear will differ based on all the things you’d expect – the dog, temperature, humidity levels, wind, elevation, and cloud cover.
For example –
- humidity – the evaporative cooling gear is going to excel in low humidity. Just like your own sweat in low humidity, it will evaporate faster drawing heat away from the body faster. This is not to say this gear won’t work in high humidity though.
- cloud cover – certain gear, namely the Swamp Cooler, has more coverage to act like a parasol. It’s going to shade and reflect some of the sunlight. This would vary with cloud cover and elevation.
We love those cooling products and they work for us. We encourage you to try them but, of course, be mindful. Watch your dog. If it’s hot, watch for signs of overheating and dehydration (hyperventilation, excessive panting, dry gums), just like you would with your human hiking partners.