Heat Management for Costumes: Advice on Installing Fans or Cold Packs Into Clothing

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Brolocaust

New Member
Hi all. This is my first post on these forums and it's a generic questions/advice thread that applies to anybody who sweats a lot. Please let me know if I should be posting this elsewhere.

I like costumes but I’m not always a fan of wearing them, because I’m a highly exothermic person and I HATE the feeling of sweat drenched clothing. I’m also an enthusiastic dancer and just a few minutes of partying will make me sweat like crazy. Usually I will choose a costume that is pretty skimpy but that really limits my creativity and you can only show up to so many parties without a shirt before you become known as that guy.

One of the costumes I want to wear involves a fur coat (a modified version of the Malkavian costume from "Vampires: Bloodlines"), which is guaranteed to make me sweat in almost any situation. I want to apply some technology to this coat so that the heat doesn’t totally overwhelm me and I can party in relative comfort. After a bit of research I think the best way to do this would be to install battery powered fans into the jacket or to install cooling ice packs (or other phase change materials).

Ice packs and phase change materials (PCM) are an interesting concept that are used for pain management, mascot costumes and industrial workers. It helps if you have a basic understanding of the science behind phase changes: basically most compounds will require a decent amount of thermal energy before they undergo a phase change but this thermal energy does not contribute to temperature change. This is really useful because you can keep a material at the same temperature for long periods of time while absorbing/emitting significant amounts of thermal energy. Water itself is one of the best phase change materials because it has a very high energy requirement for phase change (also known as the “latent heat of fusion/vaporization”). (Phase Changes) The one thing about water that is not ideal is that it has a phase change temperature at 0 degree and 100 degrees (Celsius), and for the sake of comfort you would probably want to maintain a temperature around 10-15 degrees. There are phase change materials that change phases in this temperature range but it does not seems like there aren’t any materials that can retain as much thermal energy as water (ie their latent energy of fusion is smaller).

Most cooling packs last between 1-4 hours but the most promising one I’ve found claims to last 8 hours. https://www.amazon.com/CryoMAX-Cold...p/B001QFZL1G?ref_=bl_dp_s_web_3023415011&th=1. I believe this is a water based material because it freezes close to 0 degrees. I would prefer a product that freezes at 14 degrees but these products seem to only last half as long (which is counter-intuitive because a warmer object loses heat more slowly, but water has an exceptional thermal capacity). Does anybody here have any experience with cooling packs and integrating them into their costumes?

The next concept is to add fans to the clothing items. There are some products on the market made for this but most of those outfits are partially sealed, ie the jacket forms a seal around the waist and all the air escapes out through the collar. (Amazon.com: Customer reviews: Makita DFJ201ZL 18V LXT Lithium-Ion Cordless Fan Jacket, Large) I was wondering if it’s really necessary to have a tight fitting jacket to do this or if I could still get decent cooling from having a fan installed to a loose fitting jacket (such as the fur coat without elastics). I've found a few small battery powered fans on Amazon that appear to be good candidates to be attached to clothing:




I've used these handheld fans before and they're pretty effective but I’m not sure how well they would work when attached to the inside of my jacket. I would put some perforations in the jacket for the air intake but I’m not sure how much would be needed to get decent air flow. There are some kits made for installing fans into your jacket but they are FAAAAR more expensive than just buying the hand-held fans that I linked above. Does anybody have any experience installing fans into their jackets?
 

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Macorrie

Sr Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
I use a simple Ice pack vest for my Witch King of Angmar. It 7 layers of cotton and linen. Great in the winter. But con season isnt in the winter sadly
 

Iggy

Sr Member
I bought one of these when ebay was having a 20% off sale of any item:

Haven't used it just yet but I am definitely going to wear it with my Vader suit under the all leather padded suit. Anything is better than being in a sweatbox. I have heard great things about circulating vests and they are cheaper now than every (used to be around $1000 to get into vests like that unless you rigged your own which there are threads for).

If your costume is big enough I suggest fans. If it is smaller go with cooling packs or vests.
 

Brolocaust

New Member
I use a simple Ice pack vest for my Witch King of Angmar. It 7 layers of cotton and linen. Great in the winter. But con season isnt in the winter sadly

How long does the ice pack last for? I'm curious because an ice pack is going to absorb heat MUCH faster being up against a person's skin than it will sitting inside a cooler. I'm sceptical that most ice packs would last very long and it's not like I can carry around a cooler with back up ice packs. The 8 hour ice pack I posted has reviews claiming it lasts anywhere from 1 to 9 hours but most people say it last around 4.

I bought one of these when ebay was having a 20% off sale of any item:

That looks pretty good for the costume I'm making I will be bare chested underneath my coat (I guess I really am that guy).

I'm thinking about going the fan route, but I think I'll try one of those misting fans. The jacket + fan combos are usually designed to circulate the air around the whole torso but since I don't have that benefit I think the evaporation should provide significant cooling. I'll certainly update this thread once I start crafting.
 

Macorrie

Sr Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
I tested the ice vest and under the layers of cloth it lasted about 2hours. I cant really do a fan and i cant currently afford the circulation vests. though I want one
 

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Temperance

Active Member
I recommend one of these: Mascot cooling vests and systems | EZCooldown

EZ cooldown makes a cooling vest with oil-based inserts that can be cooled in a sink with some ice water (you don't need a fridge or freezer) in only 30 minutes, and they can stay cold for up to 4 hours depending on the type of insert you get. I use them for mascot perfomance and for cosplays.
Not bulky at all to wear, but if you find it to be cumbersome to move in the neck collar works really well as a small profile alternative.
 

lmgill

Sr Member
The issue is been researched by many. Unfortunately there is not an ideal solution, due to the physics involved. Some work better than others, but if a cooling system even marginally works for one situation, it often has other major drawbacks and is unsuitable for other situations.
The problem it the amount of heat a human body can produce, compared with the amount of "cold" you can store. I won an academy award for the development of a cool / heat suit system for use in the motion picture industry and I can tell you, it is a far far bigger problem in high stress, high heat environments and if someone could crack the physics there are many industries that would come flocking to your door. This is why there are so many types of options, but none of them are really that ideal.
You have hit on one of the big problems, you don't want a cooling source at 0 degrees, more like 10c. Wet ice takes up about 70+ calories of energy when it melts, where dry ice (Frozen CO2) is only 30+ calories, so another issue is how much energy does the cooling medium absorb. Just because it's colder, doesn't mean it's more effective.
Spacesuits use two methods; active water cooling and airflow over the body. Because when a spacesuit is pressurized, it is held stiff and away from the wearer, air (or oxygen) is piped down to the ankles and wrists (in addition to the helmet), then has to flow back to the torso to get out, thus flowing over the limbs removing heat. This is extremely effective.
The issue with liquid cooling is contact. Contact with the body is the only effective way to make this type of system work. The typical "tube suit" approach uses a round Tygon tube snaking back and forth in a stretch garment in an attempt to hold the tubes in contact with the body. Take a soda can and hold it against a flat surface, and you can see a round tube can only make contact with a tiny amount of surface area. The other problem with these tube suits is they are often 1 continues path of tube, so if an small section gets a kink, the whole vest is shut down.
The of course there comes the issue of the "cold battery".
For film, it is impractical (if not impossible) to store enough "cold" on the performers body without adding too much weight or bulk. So, we abandon this approach fairly early. But in film, you don't shoot very long for each "take" and there is plenty of time between takes to cool the performer. So we made a larger capacity system with a heat exchanger, to go from wet ice at 0 to cooling fluid at 10c, and just hook up the performer between takes. Sometimes the shot doesn't show the whole body, so we can keep the person hooked up during filming. I originally developed it for my friend Kevin Peter Hall, for his role as the Predator in 1986. It has been used in hundreds of other films since.
In addition to the stand along larger cooling source, we used a vest made of PVC coated Nylon, that was "heat sealed" (Ultrasonically welded actually) into a more traditional radiator design, with multiple small channels going into two larger end channels. This way if part of the vest was crimped, it would not shut down flow to the rest of the vest. The PVC coated Nylon is much thinner than Tygon (PVC) tubing. and because it's a sealed pattern, we can run the cooling channels much closer together than a normal tube suit design.
But all of these innovations / improvements didn't make a big enough difference for the average use and with the increased availability of commercial tube suit cooling systems, it was not economical to continue producing these specialized systems.
My suggestion is use a commercially available cools suit, and have the heat exchanger near by and "plug in" occasionally.
 

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