Review: Swamp Cooler & Kool Dog Collar

Products:  Ruffwear’s Swamp Cooler Jacket and the Kool Collar for Dogs.

Purpose:  Keeping dogs cool in the heat.  Both products use evaporative cooling to lower body temperature.  The Swamp Cooler needs to be wet to work.  The Kool Collar comes with its own (nontoxic) gel pack that you ‘charge’ by freezing; or you can fill the Kool Collar with ice cubes.  This second option is best for outdoors, where the run-off won’t matter.  One gel pack comes with the collar; you can also buy spares (great for a long day outside, when you have access to a picnic cooler or fridge & can re-charge/rotate the inserts).

Sizes Tested:  Small for the Swamp Cooler, and medium on the Kool Collar

Tester:  Zip, 12 yr old pug, 29 lbs. Neck size 16″, girth 24″, length of back 16″.  Favorite seasons are fall and spring, when the temps are cool and the humidity is low.  Tail tends to wilt when he’s unhappy.

The Test Conditions:  The commute to work in downtown Boston.  82 degrees with 69% humidity.

I ran the Swamp Cooler under the kitchen faucet for a minute to soak it in cold water, and rung it out.  It was still dripping when I put it on Zip at home.  The fit was just right though there was still some adjustability around the girth if we needed to make it bigger or smaller.  Then we pulled the Kool collar out of the freezer, expanded it to almost max length, and clipped it around his neck. Because his neck is so short, I left his everyday collar off…would have been too much bulk with both.  But most dogs (with necks!) can wear the Kool collar above or below the regular collar.

Results:  The difference with the collar and jacket was dramatic, and apparent almost immediately.  Normally on a hot day, he’d stall to avoid going out in the heat, but he trotted right out to the car with his tail up.  Good sign.  We parked on Dartmouth Street near Columbus, about a half mile from the store, and started walking toward Newbury Street via Copley Square.  This walk takes us 20 minutes on a cool fall day, but in the summer it takes at least 45, as we have to make 3-4 rest stops in the shade.  Zip sets the pace; when he ducks under an awning and spreads his belly on the pavement, I offer him water and let him determine when to get up & get going again. Today though, he didn’t pull over at all!  Other than to sniff, pee and drink water. He was not only not encumbered at all by the gear, he clearly felt good wearing both…tail curled, eyes bright, natural gait (quicker pace than usual). Walk time: 20 minutes!

The Straight Poop: 4 paws way,way up!  As mom to a dog prone to overheating I’m grateful to find a way to keep him cool & comfortable in the summer.  We’re going to be using both the jacket and collar all summer.  I’ll be recommending them as essential summer gear for Pugs, Frenchies, English Bulldogs and any brachycephalic breeds; for agility/disc dogs; senior and dark-colored dogs.  I’d like to see a Kool Collar for cats….though I think the small size could work as is.

Zip the pug looking happy after his walk with Swamp Cooler & Kool Collar

Zip looking fresh after his walk in the heat

Image of Ruffwear Swamp Cooler

Swamp Cooler cooling vest by Ruffwear

image of the Kool Collar for Dogs

Kool Collar for Dogs

About Kathy Palmer

I grew up in NJ and Belgium and eventually settled in Portland, ME. Until missing the big city, which inspired a return to Boston in 2010, and the opening of Fish & Bone on Newbury Street. Fish & Bone and its original sibling store Fetch (est. 2000) bring together some of the things I love the most: animals, real food, great design, having an impact, the natural world, urban life, creative solutions, good community, and a good laugh. Zip is all pug, but I'm a cultural mutt.


  1. Michelle says:

    Loved visiting today! This blog inspired me!

    • Kathy Palmer says:

      Thanks Michelle! Great to hear from you. Let me know if there are particular products you’d like reviewed. I hope to see you in the store again soon. Be sure to tell me who you when you come back in. It’s always nice to attach a face to a name.

  2. I have two frenchies and I am thinking about buying the collars….Do you know which one (the vest of the collar) does the best in the heat?

    • Kathy Palmer says:

      For short outings, I’ve been using the products separately so I can get a sense of which one to use for which circumstances. For my pug, I think the vest clearly has more of an impact. Makes sense, because there’s just more cooling power by virtue of the amount of surface area covered. On really hot days, just before leaving the house I’ve been putting Zip in the tub with cool water about ankle deep, soaking the Swamp Cooler at the same time. I put the Swamp Cooler on him before he leaves the tub, and I can see that he feels great. He trots to the door, and his tail is curled. The Kool Collar seems to work best for him on shorter walks. I like having both, but if I had to choose one or the other, I’d definitely feel better going with the Swamp Cooler.

      I hope that helps! Thanks for your note Wendy!

  3. We have a Kool Collar that we use during agility training in the summer. For us, ice works much better than the gel pack. The gel pack is melted and body-temperature within the first 15 minutes of class. The ice only lasts slightly longer, but the wet coat continues to keep him cool for a while longer. Plus, I can bring a cooler of ice and reload. It has been a great addition to our training gear, through.

    I’ve wanted to try the Swamp Cooler (we are Ruffwear addicts!) but I’ve been afraid it wouldn’t work as well in our 80-90% humidity. Anyone have experience in high humidity?