New safety gear lets workers wear water

If drinking water isn’t keeping you cool enough while working in this summer’s heat, a new manufacturer of safety gear hopes you’ll consider wearing water.

Kelly Butler heads CoolCLAD, a six-month-old business that sells vests, hardhat liners, neckbands and several other products that contain a layer of water to keep those who labor in direct sunlight cool. Construction companies are the firm’s majority customer base.

“You’re essentially wearing water, but feeling dry,” Butler said of CoolCLAD’s $116 vest, the company’s signature product.

The middle layer of CoolCLAD’s three-layer fabric is laden with “smart” polymers that trap water and distribute it evenly throughout the garment, Butler said. “The only way to get rid of the water is through the heat it absorbs from your body,” he said.

To activate the fabric, you soak it in room-temperature water for five minutes. The inner layer that touches your skin is waterproof, so you just have to towel it off or give it a few minutes to dry if you don’t want to get your clothing wet. The garment is then ready to wear for an average of six hours without reactivation.

Unlike other garments that use water, CoolCLAD’s polymers only absorb a set amount of liquid, so they don’t get bulky or heavy, Butler said. Whether you leave the products in water five minutes or three days, they’ll absorb the same amount of water, he said.

The vest absorbs about a liter of water and weighs a pound and a half. Butler said he’s sold about 600 vests to contractors so far.

“It [the vest] literally places a layer of cool up against your skin,” Butler said. “When you get a nice breeze on this, it just feels wonderful.”

Butler calls CoolCLAD products “the next generation in personal protective equipment.” They decrease instances of heat-related illnesses, he said.

And construction workers aren’t the only ones wearing the products. The Philadelphia Eagles have ordered 70 of the $36 helmet liners.

Click the link in the right-hand column for more information about CoolCLAD products or to order.

Olivia Grider