Monday, October 7, 2013

Veskimo Personal Cooling System Review

Staying Cool When You Ride

Veskimo Personal Cooling System

I don't personally buy the whole "man-made" global warming notion. But, when I am riding in the summer, especially in the South, I begin to wonder if there's not something going on! Riding in 95+ degree temps is not only uncomfortable, it can be dangerous. A rider can quickly become dehydrated leading to disorientation, dizziness, or worse. On two wheels, that spells disaster.



There are several techniques that you can employ to stay cooler when riding. The most common is simply pouring or spraying water on your undershirt or mesh jacket and allowing the evaporative effect to cool you as you ride. This can be somewhat effective in dry climates, but if humidity is above 40%, not so much. Also, the cooling only lasts briefly, until the garment dries out. Evaporative cooling vests are designed to hold moisture for a longer period. Basically, you soak them in cold water and wear them in-between your undershirt and mesh jacket. These vests rely on the same evaporative cooling effect as the wet t-shirt. And, as humidity rises, they become less effective.
Veskimo 9-Quart System

I recently had the opportunity to test a completely different approach during a 700-mile weekend ride from Dallas to Midland, Texas. The Veskimo Personal Cooling System consists of a mesh vest into which plastic tubing has been sewn. The tubing is designed to carry icy cold water which is pumped from an attached 9-quart chilled water reservoir, which is basically an insulated ice chest with a submersible pump. The vest connects to the cooler via an insulated hose with two quick-release connectors.

On a Goldwing, or any touring bike, the 9-quart reservoir will easily sit on the passenger seat and can be secured using bungee cords. With my Utopia backrest, I did not even need to use bungee cords; the chest never budged during my ride. Veskimo also makes a 4.4-quart hydration backpack model that would be better suited for off-road bikes, or even sport bikes with no place to attach the cooling chest.

Veskimo Backpack System
 A simple on/off rocker switch controls power to the pump. The pump can be powered by an optional rechargeable Lithium-Ion battery pack that can provide power for up to six hours. Or, the system can be powered through a 12-volt cigarette-lighter-style power port.  The pump draws very little power from the battery so it should work well with any 12-volt electrical system.

Veskimo offers an optional Adjustable Cooling Controller that connects between the power switch and the power source. This is basically a timer that turns the pump on for one minute every 1, 3 or 7 minutes.  So, if the controller is set to "3". the pump will run for a full minute, then shut off for 3 minutes. The controller also allows you to turn the system off, or have it remain in the "on" position for continual cooling.

The Test

Vesimo Vest
The first task for me was to get the cooling vest adjusted properly. The vest has three elastic straps on each side that can be adjusted to fit a range of body types. Ideally, the vest should fit as tight as possible so that the tubes carrying the cold water are in contact with the skin. During my test, I wore the vest over a long-sleeved t-shirt and underneath an Olympia AirGlide II mesh jacket. Veskimo actually recommends the vest be worn in contact with the skin and a non-mesh jacket is recommended. So, if you have a leather or textile jacket (non-mesh) it should work even better for you. The mesh jacket actually speeds the process of warming the cold water circulating through the vest, causing cooling loss. A tight-fitting under armor-style shirt might also work better than a regular t-shirt.

The cooling vest under my Olympia jacekt

My next task was to provide a power source for the cooling chest/pump. For my test, I decided to use 12-volt power instead of the battery pack. The 12-volt external power cord comes with a cigarette-lighter-style plug for use with a 12-volt same-style port. I decided to cut off the plug and hard wire the cord to my battery with a 5-amp fuse. I ran the power cord under the seat and up between the passenger backrest and left armrest.

12v Power Plug

On a Goldwing, this mounting method for the electrical plug makes it very quick and easy to connect/disconnect the Veskimo chest without having to run a large, bulky 12-volt cigarette-style port. However, it would be nice to have a cap or dead-end stub to put on this connector to keep out water when not in use.

Power connector

Once power is available, all that is left is to fill the chest with ice and add 16oz of water. The water delivery/return hose exits the Veskimo chest on the right-hand side, yet the hose on the vest is on the left-hand side. So, I routed the hose coming from the chest under the right passenger grab rail and up over the passenger seat so that the connector was on my left. This made it very easy to hook up the vest to the hose. However, by running the hose under the grab rail, I was forced to connect/disconnect while still seated on the bike. I am not sure why I chose to route the hose under the grab rail, not doing so would probably have left me enough hose so that I could get off the bike before disconnecting. Also, it is possible to simply turn the Veskimo chest facing backward on the passenger seat, which would put the hose on the left-hand side of the bike.

Water hose coming from Veskimo vest

For the first leg of my trip from Dallas to Midland, when the temperature reached 90, I turned on the pump. I immediately felt a cold rush starting at my lower back and rising up my back and over my shoulders. I must say, it is quite refreshing. In fact, in 90-degrees it quickly became too cold. I ended up switching the pump on and off a few times during the ride. This convinced me that on the return ride I would need to connect the optional Adjustable Cooling Controller. Unfortunately, on the first 350 miles, the temperature never got above 92.

Adjustable controller
The ride back home from Midland saw temperatures that reached 99-degrees, a much better test for the Veskimo. On this leg, I connected the adjustable controller and set it to the 1-minute setting. Basically, it pumps the cool water for 1 minute, then turns off the pump for 1 minute. This worked perfectly and kept my core cool the entire way. I highly recommend the Adjustable Controller. However, the controller is quite bulky so finding a good mounting location might be a challenge. For my test, I simply let it sit behind the cooling chest on the passenger seat. In the future, I plan to rig it to the front part of the passenger grab rail so I can easily reach it while riding.

Veskimo chest filled with ice

With the temperatures In the high-90s, I found the cubed ice I was using lasted about 90 minutes max. I typically will stop for gas every couple of hours, so it worked out just about right. If I had not been wearing a mesh jacket, the recirculating water may have stayed cooler and the ice may have lasted a bit longer. However, even after the ice melts, the water remains cool for a while longer.

There are a couple of methods for draining the chest between refills. The quickest way is to simply tip the chest over and dump out the water. However, it is also possible to disconnect the hose coming from the chest and press the end of the hose to let the pump expel the water. This can take a few minutes. I tried to refill the ice chest using large drinking cups from Dairy Queen, but 9 quarts is a LOT of ice. I eventually resorted to buying a small bag of ice when I stopped for gas. Sure, it is a couple of bucks, but a small price to pay for staying cool.

Summary

Any method of staying cool on a motorcycle is going to come with a certain degree of hassle. Cooling vests have to be removed and soaked in water. The Veskimo has to be refilled with ice periodically. A hassle, yes. But, well worth it in my opinion. While the Veskimo does nothing to keep your head, arms or legs cool, it is amazing how much difference keeping your core cool can make. Even with the vest worn over a t-shirt, the Veskimo made a huge difference in my ride comfort. There is no doubt that the Veskimo could extend my riding time in hot weather by at least two hundred miles a day.

On the downside, I don't see any way to use this system when riding 2-up. But, whenever I ride solo long-distance, which for me is 90% of the time, I will be riding with the Veskimo. Once you use it, you will be hooked.

What I Like

  • Excellent build quality
  • Keeps your core cool
  • Adjustable controller

What I Don't Like

  • Can't be used when carrying a passenger
  • Cooling chest needs better tie down hooks



For more information, go to www.Veskimo.com

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