Baldal’s only got about eight more months of wearing body armor, but he plans to carry the torch for officers who are suffering underneath their armor into his post-law enforcement gig, which is to expand his CoolCop business to help hot cops find some relief with cooling-optimized tees and a 360-degree cooling ballistic vest.
More chill & warmth boosters
The CoolCop gives officers relief when they’re in the cruiser, but outside of the vehicle, cops are still sweating under their armor in hot climates. Steel Body Cooling Comfort Systems out of Washington state offers a mobile cooling option: Its vests incorporate reusable ice-pack-like items into a carrier, to be worn beneath the officer’s armor. The original Steele vest was designed by owner Sandra Steele in the 1980s when she was working in the protective clothing industry for nuclear plants as a sales person. Since then she’s updated the design per industry and has been selling vest systems for various uses but hasn’t yet made a firm push into law enforcement equipping. “There are a lot of situations where the heat is just unbearable, especially when they’re wearing protective clothing,” she explains. “Last year I redesigned something and [the government] tested it.”
Steele says the light bulb for the product’s use by police was first lit years ago, when a motorcycle police officer from Texas reached out to her for help dodging the heat. “He says, ‘I’m no good to my wife, I’m no good to anybody. I’ve got to be out on this motorcycle and I just really suffer.’” That call gave her a heads up that in addition to the nuclear industry, military and medical applications, that law enforcement had a need the freezing system could help. The Steele vest is “going to add a little bit to [the officer’s] girth, but it’s not really bulky. It works.” The non-toxic, reusable Steele vest system has been tested extensively by the government, with many of those human subject test results posted directly to the company’s website.
Steele says she’s currently looking at departments to continue trials of the redesigned vest under body armor.
Law enforcement can also borrow from outdoor equippers, who regularly innovate for extreme weather conditions. Once such company is Klymit, which makes outdoor vests as an option on the cold side of the weather spectrum. Klymit, an outdoor apparel company based in Utah, offers a vest made of lightweight stretchy fabric and flexible chambers that can be inflated with Argon gas to insulate the wearer. Last year, Contributing Editor Lindsey Bertomen reviewed the Klymit Double Diamond vest, calling it impressive and stylish. A version purpose-optimized for law enforcement use has not been released yet, however, the vest offered by the company can help enhance comfort and function for officers in extreme cold, like the frigid winters in the Alaskan tundra.
Equipment in weather extremes
When products are optimized for the varying weather our law enforcement faces, officers experiencing climate challenges like Grimes feel less on the fringes. “Most manufacturers don’t cater to extreme cold environments because there’s so few people that live up in those areas.”
Whether keeping heat in or finding ways to reduce discomfort in hot climates, the variety of American weather calls for special attention from manufacturers to offer options that will help keep officers comfortable on an already challenging job.
“We’re not robots,” Baldal says. “Officers are affected just like the public is affected by the weather and its extremes.”