Friday, September 08, 2017

Coolcore Apparel Review: All Conditions Comfort and Cooling Performance

Article by Sam Winebaum with Dominique Winebaum
We have long been obsessed here at Road Trail Run by apparel which is effective for running comfort at the extremes of heat and cold. In warm weather perceived and real comfort comes from how cool one's skin feels and in  minimizing wet cling of fabric to the skin. Cooling using fabrics can come from
  • a variety of chemical and other treatments (Columbia Omni-Free Zero, 37.5)
  • the actual structure of the fabric to allow not only rapid evaporative cooling but also less clammy cling to the skin when wet. The approach Coolcore takes.
  • fiber selection,for example Titanium fibers in adidas Climachill article here to actually conduct heat away from the skin
  • reflective outer layers on the fabric (Columbia Omni-Shade Sun Deflector 
Of course, fabric color is also a factor with lighter colors generally less heat absorbing. In colder conditions staying dry is the key and many of the same characteristics of rapid evaporation and fabric structure needed in heat can apply to keep garments drier and more comfortable in cold. The differences generally are the fit, generally snugger in cold, deeper structures or "fuzzies" on the skin and on the outside to insulate being main difference between hot and cold weather comfort and performance.

We have long kept an eye on Coolcore a local to us Portsmouth, N.H, company.  Their fabric technology (see here) relies on structure to provide cooling and drying power and less wet cling. Coolcore achieves this by wicking, transporting moisture, and regulated evaporation. No added chemicals are used to achieve the performance and comfort of these synthetic fabrics.  Early on Coolcore was involved and still is in cooling towels that when wet provide a distinct cooling effect as well as some licensing of the fabric technology into work wear and general athletics. For several years we have wrapped a Coolcore cooling towel around our neck during long trails runs, very effective and tested a t-shirt a few years ago that was effective in cooling but was a fairly crude slick feeling fabric with plenty of wet cling . We were eager to try their latest  introduced at Outdoor Retailer in July and put it to the test.

Cool core had their fabrics tested on specialized equipment, and not just anecdotally via user impressions, at the Hohenstein Institute, a 60 year old independent testing and research institute for the clothing industry  The fabric was tested against 7 competitors and three competing technologies, un named but we might assume Climachill and Columbia were in the mix.  The testing results are here and also illustrated below. Coolcore won several awards for fabric technology innovation.

In the Hohenstein testing Coolcore came out with the highest performance scores in the three tested categories of Cooling Power, Drying Time, and Wet Cling.  One must always take such company sponsored testing with a grain of salt and actual on the run use in varying conditions of humidity, temperature, sun combined with color of garment, wind, if used under another layer along with of course each runner's preferences also go into the mix.

This said when compared to standard technical t-shirts, and other cooling claiming shirts on many runs and hikes in varying conditions and even cold conditions, in combination and overall, the Cool Core outperformed any of our many high performance and cool claiming shirts.

Cooling Power
We were exceptionally well cooled in moderately humid warm and hot conditions, especially with a light breeze. In drier air the cooling effect requires sweat to activate and thus takes a little longer to be felt and tend to be dry faster in such conditions.  The dark gray color of our test shirts was not ideal and lighter colors (available)  might have performed even better, The Climachill has a slightly higher sensation of cooling in drier air but is considerably more clammy and absorbs and retains more water in high humidity conditions and as a result its evaporative cooling gets overloaded and suffers.  37.5 in a Salomon sleeveless S/Lab race shirt had a slight cooling effect but less sun protection as it is a mesh. It performs very well in high humidity warmer conditions as there is just less material. The Montrail Columbia Omni-Shade Sun Deflector felt better in damper very sunny conditions than drier as the combination of reflective and cooling dots worked well together but the feel on shoulders where the reflective areas are was somewhat more awkward fitting .
Drying Power
Drying power and spread of moisture is exceptional, although we did of course see sweat through areas in the all the usual places in high heat and humidity with no breeze. After runs the shirt dries very fast. The drying power was proved on a steep hike in the White Mountains in overcast, damp weather in the mid 40's with some light wind while wearing a light hydration pack. I deliberately hiked in just the shirt. I sweat a lot and amazingly the shirt was almost entirely dry at the top and beyond my frozen hands I was never chilled, even standing around while my hiking partners had to bundle up on the way up and then some more at the summit. I would have been far damper especially on my back in any other shirt. No question drying power is enhanced in any kind of breezy or windy conditions. We will test in winter conditions with layers over to see if the dry feel on the go holds up.

The rapid drying power and structure of the fabric may also contribute to surprising "stink" resistance. Coolcore told us there is no anti odor treatment yet we found its funk performance fairly close to being on par with specialized treatments such as Polygiene (article here). Maybe odor causing bacteria have a hard time growing on Coolcore's fabric structure and the rapid drying stops their growth faster? We don't know but will inquire further.
Wet Cling
The Coolcore really shines here. The fabric has a heather look and some surface texture which effectively keeps it from clinging, The comfort is exceptiona, even when wet, and far less sticky than Climachill or any other technical shirt in our vast collection and not as thin and somewhat rough on the skin as the Columbia Montrail Omni-Freeze Zero we tested.
The Actual Apparel Review
The pieces we tested are Coolcore first real in house run/workout line. 

Despite the more workout color focused gray and black t-shirt color we both liked the fit and style of the shirts. Somewhat form fitting, light, and stretchy they of course did not cling when wet so super comfortable. As outlined above the performance is outstanding in all conditions. The price is very reasonable for such a well built high performing top which can be used not only for running but other fitness and every day activities. 

Women's Crush It T Shirt ($36) is a comfortable tee that fits perfectly and keeps me cool and dry on my runs.  Size medium is true to my size.  Just the right length, flattering and works well with the Strider shorts for a great outfit. 
Also now available in Deep Coral and Sea Foam for $24.99. Other t-shirt styles, tanks, capris, and tights all with Coolcore fabric are available.
Men's Crush It T-Shirt ($40) Now $24.99 at CoolCore here
The Crush-It is also available in Slate and Utility Green as well as in Blue in the Endurance version. Long sleeves and a men's tight are also available.
Men's Pacer 5" Short ($40)
We quite frankly did not notice much cooling from the shorts'  Coolcore liner, likely as the outer layer is a relatively heavy and also very durable material. They certainly are comfortable if a bit heavy for a run short. I actually asked Coolcore for the 5" version as the 8" Impact they first gave me almost got in the way of my stride and I generally don't like longer "board" style run shorts.  On the plus side they are super rugged as run shorts go! The men's have 2 front drop in pockets and a rear zip pocket sized, just, for an iPhone 7 with case. They have a wide substantial waist band backed by a non slip very fine webbing material (no chaffing there so far), and long, maybe a touch to long drawstring so they stay up when pockets are loaded. Again the price is very reasonable. I only wish they made the outer fabric lighter.

The shorts are extremely comfortable and roomy offering plenty of coverage, especially in the back.  The elastic waistband is densely gathered with a drawstring of a contrasting color for a tighter fit around the waist.  You get one zippered rear pocket. It is to small to hold an iPhone 7 in case, unlike the men's version.  Looking at the size chart, the size medium is 38.5 – 41 around the hips, which is somewhat larger than other size medium from other size charts.   A size small would probably have fitted me better as extra fabric around the hips gives the short a baggy look, even though I am aware that the strider short is not a tight fitting short.  The fabric is lighter weight than the men's Strider short. Overall, I have been enjoying wearing the strider short on my runs and have been staying cool and dry.  Comes in “Malibu blue” (my favorite color), black, and in a floral print. 

Coolcore is onto something good here! The cooling, drying and wet cling performance of the shirts is outstanding and was consistent for us on the run with their lab testing. Odor resistance was also close to on par with odor treated fabrics, which CoolCore is not. Pricing is more than fair especially given the obvious performance of the fabrics and the style and quality of the apparel. The shirts are stylish in a dark multi purpose kind of way. 

Wish list. We would like to see a lighter more mesh like version of the shirts. The shirts could use more lighter color options on the men's side. The men's shorts could use some lightening of the outer shell, why not use the just right women's weight fabric?  They are somewhat  overbuilt for running but still comfortable, at least in the 5" version.  The women's Strider short is a bit voluminous for our taste but some may like that style.  

Overall Coolcore has done a great job with its first full apparel season and we highly recommend them.

For bios see our Reviewers Bio Page here

Coolcore was provided at no cost.The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.

Comments and Questions Welcome Below!
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