Sean Kiffe is a Runner’s Edge Ambassador for the 2018/19 season. He is very visible around town as he runs just about every Runner’s Edge race and Run Wild Missoula event each year. We asked him to review the uCool Towel, and you can find his thoughts below. You can also follow Sean’s adventures on instagram@seankiffe.
When I was asked to review the uCool Ultra Cooling Towel I was initially a little doubtful. The concept seemed a like a gimmick marketed to the zealous gearhead who had to have everything in their arsenal. A little research revealed that the technology has been around for a while and that there are multiple brand options out there. So there must be something to it, right? Ever the skeptic I had to see for myself. As they say, the proof’s in the pudding.
The science of the uCool Ultra Cooling Towel and other similar brands is pretty simple. The concept is called adiabatic cooling, or evaporative cooling. In a nutshell, water takes energy to evaporate. Cold water takes more energy than hot water does. Putting a cold wet towel on your head or your neck uses the heat energy from your exercising body to help the water evaporate from the towel and thus drawing the heat away from your body. The concept is nothing new and does work. The question that remains is does the towel hold up to its claim of achieving this effect longer than a standard towel and achieving a 30 degree fahrenheit cooler surface temp.
I used this towel on two separate runs. The first run that I did was a 14 mile run from Missoula up into the Rattlesnake Recreation Area. While it wasn’t a crazy hot day, the temperature was in the high 80’s by mid-run. At mile 8 I stopped near the creek and soaked it for a minute, wrung it
out and snapped it (per the instructions). Wrapped around my neck the towels cooling effect was noticeable right away. The towel was comfortable and I barely noticed that I was wearing it. I checked back on it by hand about every 10 minutes to evaluate its coolness. The towel held up to it’s cooling promise for a good 30 minutes but after that I could no longer feel the coolness of the towel. However, the overall impact of cooling my body temperature was noticeable, and the last couple miles of the run felt great. While I lacked the technology to see if my body surface temp was 30 degrees cooler where the towel was applied, it was without a doubt cooler. *the small silver tag allows you to lace the opposite end through and securely fasten the towel. Makes a great ascot if that’s your thing!
The second test run was conducted in Wisconsin while visiting family. On a 20 mile run on a very humid day I pulled the towel out at mile 13 when I passed a city park. I soaked the towel in the sink and applied it in the same fashion. Of course, the towel felt cold to the touch initially, which felt nice. However, there was one significant difference. The cooling effect didn’t seem to be there. The towel warmed up but failed to move the heat from my body. This made sense to me. The humid day limited the evaporative potential for the towel to move heat away from the body due to the high amount of water vapor already in the air. So while the cold felt good the towel was not wicking the heat from my body as fast as before.
*could be worn as a dew rag if that’s how you roll…good for hot headed people!
❖ The uCool Ultra Cooling Towel is well constructed. The fabric is durable and super
lightweight and far less bulky than a standard towel. It was easy to fit in may waist pack,
vest or the side pocket of my shorts.
❖ On a hot day and a long run a cold towel is a welcomed asset and the cooling effects
might be the difference between quitting early or pushing a few extra miles.
❖ At $14.99 this towel is not going to break the bank.
❖ The cooling effect, in my opinion, does not last as long as I would have liked it to.
❖ Does not perform well in humid conditions.
The uCool Ultra Cooling Towel is an affordable and useful tool for managing heat on long runs in dry conditions. The technology works as promised just not for as long as one would like it to. While a damp dish rag might achieve the same cooling affect, the uCool Ultra Cooling Towel’s packable size, durable fabric and anti-odor technology make it a much better choice. I could see using this towel in a variety of situations from distance running, backpacking or even hot yoga.