Kurgo Core Cooling Vest

This post is part of our Summer Cooling Gear series! Exceptttt.. we never got through all the writeups while it was still warm, so here it is as an early reference for next year. See here for our previous Ruffwear Swamp Cooler (old model) review, and also check out the reviews of the Chilly Dogs Soaker Robe and Ruffwear Jet Stream, and stay tuned for the Ruffwear Core Cooler, Hurtta Cooling Vest, and Zippypaws Cooling Vest!

Price: $50 on Kurgo’s website, but various sizes may be available for less in other online stores.

Sizing and Colors: 4 sizes from S (16-20″ girth) – XL (27-40″ girth) in Icy Blue w/ Storm Blue trim.

Kurgo’s cooling offering is new and pretty similar to the older Ruffwear Swamp Cooler, but fits differently, so it might work for different-shaped dogs (the Swamp Cooler is decidedly stiff and bulky and works best for broader dogs, especially those toward the top end of the size range). The Swamp Cooler is pretty much an industry standard at this point, so I’ll be using it as the main “benchmark” in this review.

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Construction: 3/5

The Kurgo Core Cooling Coat is lighter than the Swamp Cooler – 4.6oz dry for the Small, while our XS Swamp Cooler weighs 5.8oz. It’s a softer, more flexible coat, which might mean a better fit on smaller and slimmer dogs, but the buckles and webbing are also noticeably flimsier. Both coats have a smooth outer shell (Kurgo’s is shiny, which might be more reflective but isn’t my preference for a male dog) and an absorbent core of some sort, but Ruffwear’s shell is tighter and more durable and it also has a finer mesh lining that helps keep some sand and foxtails out of the coat. The softer fabric of the Core Cooling Coat is also especially prone to getting seriously dirty.

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The coverage is nearly identical to the Swamp Cooler – they have the same back length and similar chest coverage with a belly panel that feeds between the front legs and attaches on each side with a side-release buckle. Kurgo has a slightly bigger neck opening and it’s slightly wider between the front legs, yet we didn’t have chafing problems because of the soft material and slick trim (the narrower yet stiffer Swamp Cooler chafes Robin unless I keep a hair tie around that section).

Kurgo Core Cooling Coat robinventures review

The Kurgo coat has a 4.5″ zippered harness port that allows you to clip into a harness  anywhere from the neck to the mid back, while our Swamp Cooler has no port (the new version has the overlapping slit type that runs perpendicular to the back). While Kurgo’s zippered ports make it easier to find and clip into the harness, and allow you to zip the port closed no matter where the harness ring is positioned, I find it a little overengineered personally. Clearly, I couldn’t even be bothered to zip it closed on this particular hike:

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I do like this coat’s aesthetic – while the old Ruffwear Swamp Cooler looks basic and utilitarian and not very airy and I’m not a fan of the blue stripe on the new one (and Hurtta’s discontinued cooling coat takes the cake for shininess and poof), the Kurgo Core Cooling Coat has a faint blue color to the body, and darker grayish purple trim that gives it a bit more character. I think it also looks unusual enough that people would be less likely to mistake it as a “regular coat” on a hot day. And my favorite feature – the word “cooling” is written on the left shoulder (see above). It’s not extremely visible, but it’s there if someone nosy happens to bug you about having a coat on your dog on a 90 degree day.

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Fit: 4/5

I had trouble choosing a size in this coat because at the time (last April), Robin’s measurements were literally in between the Small and Medium, and it looked like the Small would be too small in the girth. I messaged Kurgo for help, and they said that the coat/sizing was being re-worked, and offered to send us a revised coat when it came out (estimated July). They took down my address, but we never got anything. It’s just as well since I don’t want to keep this coat, but I am curious about what changed size-wise.

I ended up choosing a Small at the time (we got this coat from @dogsthathike to test) and there’s just barely enough space in the girth for Robin. It turns out that this might have been a boon, since we heard from others that the webbing on the belly fasteners tended to loosen, but Robin’s already maxed out.

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I like the roomy neck on this coat, which means that it doesn’t compete with Robin’s collars at all, and reduces the bulky/overstuffed feeling he seems to get when he’s got too much gear piled on.

The really strange thing about the Kurgo Core Cooling Coat design is the belly panels. The webbing straps used to fasten the coat come from underneath the belly panel, so the corners of the panel aren’t held down and stick straight out like little wings. Because Robin’s close to max and there’s no excess in the belly of the coat, it’s less of a problem for him, but earlier in the summer when he was skinner, the extra fabric actually stuck out enough to rub against his front legs when he was running. The panel should have been sewn firmly to the webbing to keep it snug and prevent extra debris from getting stuck in there. I do like the design element of the visible buckles, however (compared to the hidden Ruffwear buckles which are fussy to fasten and don’t allow for as snug of a fit), so with an easy fix this could be a non-issue.

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This isn’t the best angle, but the sagging part of the belly panel below the strap pokes straight out like little airplane wings, and used to bump his legs when he was skinnier.

Function: 4/5

At around 75 degrees and sunny, the back of the Kurgo coat dried in about half an hour, while in the past our the Swamp Cooler lasted closer to 1 – 1.5 hours depending on weather. We did find that starting with very cold water and complete saturation (by dunking it in the ice water in our cooler) made it last longer during camping, but also made Robin very unhappy.

All cooling coats will eventually dry, so the biggest problem is always refreshing them on the trail. Our old Swamp Cooler is a huge pain to wet since water just runs off it, but the newer Ruffwear Jet Stream is a lot easier to wet, so they might have made improvements to their absorbency tech. Water ran off the Kurgo jacket as well, but I did find that after a machine wash, it became easier to wet – possibly there was some type of coating on the fabric that was making it more hydrophobic. For any of these coats, your best bet is to never let them get entirely dry during an adventure, as they always seem to accept water more easily while still damp.

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You can see the protruding side of the belly panel a little in this photo.

I can’t tell if the Kurgo coat dried more quickly because it took up less water, or because it releases water faster. If the latter, then these coats work via evaporative cooling, it stands to reason that a faster-drying coat would cool more dramatically. It might also be more effective in humid climates (where this type of jacket is typically not as useful) since it lets go of water more easily.  If it just took up less water, then it might still be a good solution if you just need it for quick walks rather than long hikes – that way you don’t have a dripping coat between walks.

The coat definitely did keep Robin cooler underneath, so it does its job. But because I generally only use a full cooling coat for longer hikes on hot days, I definitely prefer one that lasts longer.

Value: 5/5

At the Kurgo coat’s $50 price point, I’d choose the Swamp Cooler instead. The older Swamp Cooler is on sale for $50, and the new ones are only $10 more. The Kurgo cooler is pretty good considering that this is a first-generation product for them, but the weird fastener setup and the reduced wear time are both strikes against it considering the price. Ruffwear is on their third generation and they’ve made a lot of refinements from their original, so I’ll be interested to see what Kurgo comes out with next round.

Overall: 4/5

This coat isn’t my top recommendation, not because it’s bad but because the Swamp Cooler is better for around the same price. If you see it at around $30-$40 and need it for briefer outdoor excursions, it would be worth a try at that price point.

Best for: hot weather, brief use, smaller/narrower dogs

Not ideal for: longer adventures, larger dogs, longterm durability.


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