I’m excited to announce that Robin is now a product ambassador for Alcott! I chose several products out of their selection and received them at a significant discount.
Price: $9.99 – $12.99
Sizing and colors: Small (10″ – 14″) – Large (18″ – 26″), gray
This is our first summer with Robin, and I was surprised by how quickly he gets tired in the heat. Where previously he was tireless, he’s now lethargic by the halfway point. Even at home, he’s constantly panting and seeking out cool patches of floor in our west-facing house.
There are a number of cooling products made for dogs, from bandanas to full coats, but Alcott’s bandana is the first product I’ve seen that uses cooling bead technology. Their line as a whole is meant for the casual/beginning adventurer, so the bandana isn’t intended to keep a dog cool on long full-sun hikes, but we put it to the test to see how well it would combat this SoCal summer.
Most cooling products (for dogs and humans) use evaporative cooling, which is sort of like artificial sweating- as water in the highly absorbent garment evaporates, its phase change borrows heat from the remaining water, lowering the overall temperature of the garment. Evaporative cooling garments need to be re-hydrated as they dry; the frequency depends on the temperature and humidity. Alcott’s bandana, on the other hand, uses cooling beads, which swell up with water and feel cool to the touch.
The bandana is made of very lightweight gray fabric with a black lining, printed logo, and velcro closure, and fastens securely. I’m anti-velcro especially on dog clothing, since it tears up collars, but its adjustability is undeniable.
Dry out of the package, the bandana seemed to contain very few cooling beads, but after a few minutes of soaking, the beads expanded to plump up the pouch at the throat. The bandana is goofy looking when the beads are swollen, especially when it’s left soaking too long and the pouch is full to bursting. Looks-wise, I think the product would be improved if they added a triangle-shaped bandana flap over the top of the cooling pouch. Gray material isn’t really necessary since the bandana isn’t positioned to reflect the sun, and an extra top layer might help direct the cold toward the dog.
The size Small fits Robin exactly. Since this bandana fits him with the velcro matched, it doesn’t snag his collar. However, there’s not a lot of coverage, which makes me wonder if we should have sized up.
A significant advantage of cooling beads over evaporative cooling is that they stay cool a LONG time- only around the 48 hour mark do they start to dry out and shrink back down. For contrast, Robin’s cooling vest is mostly dry after an hour in the sun. The second big advantage is that the bandana is not wet for most of its active time and doesn’t leave drips or wet spots, unlike wet-sponge evaporative cooling garments. This also means that the bandana doesn’t register as wet to dampness-averse Robin, who likes clothes but balks when his cooling vest appears.
However, while the beads feel cool to the touch (about like a wet washcloth), they don’t seem to make a significant difference to Robin. The bandana covers a small part of his body and although the fur underneath the bandana is cool to the touch, I don’t notice a major difference in his demeanor. I think there is merit to the cooling bead technology but the coverage provided by the bandana just isn’t enough to make much difference. My brief and unscientific test showed that the cooling beads approximately triple in weight when soaked for 3 minutes, while Robin’s cooling vest doubled in weight when dampened, so beads would make for a heavy but long-lasting jacket.
Build quality: 2/5
I hate to say it, but the build quality is pretty disappointing. The bandana is constructed of thin cotton and is poorly sewn, with big stitches that were already starting to come out when we received it. I wouldn’t expect it to hold up to any hard wear.
Unfortunately, the bandana wasn’t a good cooling solution for us. It was a little hard to score because it’s only a bandana and I can’t expect it to magically cool his whole body, but since I really couldn’t say for sure that it made a difference in Robin’s overall body temperature, it’s just not fulfilling its intended purpose. Since it stays dry to the touch, it might be a good cooling aid for indoors, and a dog with thinner hair than Robin might experience more relief. One alternative use is as a cool compress for bruises and swelling on the trail- I’ll be tossing it into my first aid kit, since it weighs almost nothing and the velcro would be good for wrapping it around a skinny dog leg.
Good for: emergency cold compress; may be good as an indoor cooling aid for small, thin coated dogs.
Not ideal for: Combating hot weather or direct sun.
January 2016: Updated review to new categorical format and added some hindsight perspective.