This post is part of our Summer Cooling Gear series! We’re running a tad behind, but see here for our previous Ruffwear Swamp Cooler (old model) review, and check out our reviews of the Chilly Dogs Soaker Robe and the Kurgo Dog Core Cooling Vest. Coming soon – Ruffwear Core Cooler, Hurtta Cooling Vest, and the Zippypaws Cooling Vest!
Sizing and Colors: XXS – XL in Salamander Orange and Blue Lagoon.
Ruffwear expanded their cooling line for Summer 2017 with two new options: the Core Cooler (a belly panel designed to attach to the Webmaster harness) and the Jet Stream, which is basically a standalone Core Cooler belly panel, integrated with a light spandex vest to hold it in place. They’re welcome alternatives to the Swamp Cooler, Robin’s most hated piece of clothing, because they’re both lighter and less bulky. We ordered an XS Jet Stream in Robin’s signature color, orange.
The Jet Stream is a sleek, clean-lined spandex zip-up vest with a belly/chest panel of gray cooling material similar to the Swamp Cooler. Ours is highly visible orange, but lacks any reflective piping, which reduces its utility as safety gear. It’s a shame considering that unlike the heavy Swamp Cooler (which does feature two lines of reflective piping on the chest), the Jet Stream is light enough to be useful during cooler summer dawns and dusks.
The vest is cut for narrow bodied dogs (unlike the Swamp Cooler, which is too wide for the space between Robin’s front legs) and both armholes are trimmed out with a non-stretch, smooth nylon bias binding that has proven to be chafe-free even when wet. The neck and waistline are trimmed with stretchy, sueded elastic binding for more comfort. The vest covers the whole belly to the groin area and it’s slightly longer in the back, making it less stumpy-looking than the Hurtta vest. The whole thing fastens up with a lightweight zipper, which takes some finesse to get started on a grouchy damp-averse dog but reduces bulk overall.
The belly material seems to be a slightly softer, yet still durable version of our old Swamp Cooler fabric, but the back spandex is more delicate, so this may not be the best choice for dogs that do a lot of running through brambles or low underbrush. Ours is still brand new looking, but we don’t exactly have a lot of trees here and I’ve treated it pretty delicately. Since it’s thin and light, though, it could easily fit under a full coverage harness or a visibility vest for protection on the top without affecting the cooling on the belly.
While the vest is well designed and executed, I’ve noticed that Ruffwear’s build quality has gotten a bit mass-market over the last two years since we discovered them. On our Jet Stream, the seams are a bit wobbly and loose ends are visible from a couple feet away; trim ends are folded over and left raw or poking out, and the liner on our vest was bunched a bit during sewing, so that it creates ripples on the inside. At a glance and in photos it looks fine, but it’s not up to the meticulous standards that previous Ruffwear purchases have been.
I almost didn’t get the Jet Stream because I thought cooling gear should cover the full back to be effective. Robin’s back fur heats up in the sun, and I wanted shade for his whole body. However, now that we’ve used it, I understand why it ends partway down the back – the spandex material would be very vulnerable flapping loose over the hindquarters. As it turns out, I actually like the minimal design – I don’t get as many suspicious looks on 95 degree days in the city than I would with a full coverage jacket, and because it’s so lightweight, Robin doesn’t mind the Jet Stream almost at all once it’s on, which is the complete opposite of his reaction toward the other cooling vests we’ve used.
The cut overall is athletic, and it’s a very snug fit on Robin, who at 19-20″ girth is right around the middle of the 17-22″ recommended size range for XS. I honestly wouldn’t put a larger dog in this size, and sizing up is risky; if the belly panel isn’t in contact with the skin it won’t do much, and may cause chafing. So if your dog is toward the top of the recommended size range, stick with the Swamp Cooler – it’s really meant for the beefier body types.
My only gripe fit-wise is that the vest is cut with very oversized armholes. They’re so big that they reduce the structure of the vest, causing some buckling in the zipper, and take away valuable cooling space in an already minimal cooling solution. Robin’s floof also sticks out through the openings in a very odd way.
This is a minimal cooling vest and it’s not as light in color, so it’s just not going to be as effective as the big, bulky Swamp Cooler. However, while the Jet Stream may not cool as much, it does help significantly, and it lasts pretty well for its size. We really only tended to get up to 1.5 hours out of our Swamp Cooler, while we’ve gotten up to 2 hours out of the Jet Stream belly panel for sedentary city use (like park lounge time), and about 45 minutes on the trail in the evening. Times will vary based on humidity, temperature, and activity level, and effectiveness will vary based on coat type – Robin’s coat is medium length but pretty smooth, so cooling gear fits close to his body.
The fit of the Jet Stream really helps its effectiveness on slimmer dogs like Robin – the Swamp Cooler doesn’t actually touch his belly, because it’s so big (and due to its stiffness, he would have been chafed if it did). It was effective for providing shade, but once the back dried out it was a lot of thick fabric to haul around. Having the Jet Stream’s belly panel right up against Robin’s skin seems to make a big difference for him.
Robin was actually cool enough in the Jet Stream on a 95 degree day to sunbathe, a rare activity for him even in cooler weather. His level of acceptance was actually shocking to me – once the Jet Stream is on, he quickly forgets about it except for an occasional “my chest is wet” bath session, which is a huge improvement over every other cooling vest we’ve tried, ever.
The last main consideration for any cooling gear – how easy is it to refresh? The Jet Stream is hands down the easiest to re-wet of the 6 total cooling vests we’ve tried. The spandex back sucks in water and wicks it down to the belly. It’s the complete opposite of the (last generation – we’ve heard the newer one is much improved) Swamp Cooler and Hurtta vest, where the water just runs off, and of the Core Cooler, which is absolutely impossible to wet while it’s on. With the Jet Stream, I just spray or pour water along his spine, then stand him up on his hind legs and spray the front chest.
The Jet Stream isn’t cheap, but it’s my favorite cooling item, hands down. We’ve had chafing problems with literally everything else except the Chilly Dogs Soaker Robe (which is really not even a cooling vest), but the Jet Stream is designed for the moving dog. It’s also super versatile – it’ll fit under harnesses (no need for a Core Cooler), or under a visibility vest (added protection for the spandex back), and it’s light, breathable and doesn’t look stumpy. It looks way less silly in the city, and I actually had people ask me “Is that for cooling?” whereas with the Swamp Cooler it’s more like “Why is your dog wearing a coat?” However, know your dog – if you do a lot of activity during the heat of the day (not recommended, no matter the gear), or your dog overheats easily, is elderly, or is too beefy or floofy for the Jet Stream, stick with the Swamp Cooler, my next favorite.
I’m very pleased with the Jet Stream and glad I took a chance on it. I’ll give our Swamp Cooler a couple more months to see if we use it again, but honestly the Jet Stream covers all of our cooling needs right now. It’s attractive, effective enough for its coverage level, and earns the Robin comfort stamp of approval. Don’t expect it to counterbalance scorching weather, but to keep your pup more comfortable on warm days, this is it.
Best for: hot weather, city use, dawn/dusk, fussy dogs
Not ideal for: extremely hot weather, long hikes in full sun, beefier body type dogs or those toward upper end of size range.