There are two companies that manufacture these products: Fresh Air Systems Technologies (FAST) & Cool Shirt Systems The shirts we currently have come from FAST and continue to be great after many rallies and repeated washing. Cool Suits are made up of several feet of capillary tubing sewn onto a heavy duty T-shirt. Tubes connect to and from a cooler full of ice water, the pump pushes ice water through suit, and you stay comfortable while attacking stages in 100+ degree heat. The sensation is a lot like wading into a cold pool, but after a few minutes you stop sweating. Sure, you’re racing around with 15 pounds of water, tubing, and a 12V pump, but calm and comfortable does a lot more for the psyche then hot and sweaty.
I’ve seen a handful of homemade cool suit shirts, but I still believe that the technology and labor that goes into making the shirt is worth their cost (around $150). I would be stabbing a needle into that thin tubing for sure! The supply tubes, cooler, and pump on the other hand remain entry level and parts are easy and cheap to come by. If you built or even mildly prepared your rally car, then a bilge pump and some epoxy won’t be hard. Setting it up exactly how you want while saving $100 is nice too. Our original cooler has seen better days. A softer plastic Coleman Cooler, the top needs to be ratcheted down tight (read; squished), and now both companies use a harder locking cooler in their design. My connectors were damaged by a spare tire, so I decided to upgrade the whole kit.
Cool Suit Cooler Recipe:
Engel UC13 13 Quart Dry Box Cooler
Rule Submersible Bilge Pump, 500 GPH
51545K24 Polypropylene Quick-Disconnect Tube Coupling Socket, 1/4 Cplg, 3/8″ Male NPT
51545K74 Polypropylene Quick-Disconnect Tube Coupling Socket, 1/4 Cplg, for 3/8″ Tube ID
51545K91 Polypropylene Quick-Disconnect Tube Coupling Plug, 1/4 Cplg, for 3/8″ Tube ID
Insulated Gray Silicone Rubber Tubing 3/8″ ID, 1/2″ OD, 1/16″ Wall Thickness
All of this, some 3/8″ PVC, and some glue can be sourced for about $200
I still feel a little jaded at buying a $19 bilge pump in a $15 cooler for $200, but at least I came up with the supply tubing the first time around. We still make sure the ice water line goes to the Swedish kid first, and then over to the Italian girl after being pre-warmed. :p I added some additional insulation over my existing silicone tubing. Keeping those tubes off the floor helps with any heat transfer from the 120 degree car. The next step is sourcing an off the shelf 12V DC speed controller for a little less then the $150 one offered. A small 10 Amp circuit should do, and oh look at that – around $20. 😀 I’m thinking of making an even simpler circuit that will just pulse the pump on for 10 seconds and then rest for an adjustable amount of time with a MOSFET and a 555 timer. If that’s not in your bag of tricks – stick with the switch on the dash 🙂