With Record Heat on the Rise, Athletes Need Climate Adaptive Gear
HONOLULU, Aug. 24, 2021 -- July 2021 was the hottest month on record to date, and the Tokyo Olympics offered a glimpse of what the future of sports may look like as climate change progresses. Reports from the Games were sobering: several competitors passed out or suffered from heatstroke, events and matches were rescheduled to avoid midday heat, and sidelines were dotted with portable AC units and misting stations. And although Olympic athletes had the best cooling technologies available, there were still over 30 instances of heat-related illness.
Just one month prior, at the US Olympic Trials in Oregon, a record heatwave swept over the Pacific Northwest, causing the suspension of daytime USA Track & Field events and pushing the schedule back to 8 pm starts to avoid the midday heat. During this record-breaking heatwave, temperatures and humidity made it feel like 114°F in Oregon.
“This event will likely be one of the most extreme and prolonged heat waves in the recorded history of the Inland Northwest,” said the National Weather Service office in Spokane, Washington.
This is our reality now, and the current technologies meant to cool down athletes and amateurs alike are no longer enough.
Current state-of-the-art cooling garments rely largely on passive cooling methods. With evaporative bandanas, for example, sweat is ferried through the fabric and quickly evaporates, taking a bit of heat with it. Wicking fabrics pull sweat from the body and dry quickly to allow for increased airflow. Many cooling vests have ice-pack pockets which act as cold compresses offering only momentary relief.
All of these methods rely on the body’s natural cooling system to do most of the heavy lifting.
Enter the Honu Cooling Pack, a first-of-its-kind active cooling pack designed to help us adapt to the realities of climate change. Designed by 19°N Hawaiʻi, Honu combines NASA’s pioneering research in liquid cooling technology with nearly a decade of advanced materials engineering to enable better endurance, higher performance, and faster recovery in increasingly hot environments.
In contrast to the currently available passive cooling garments, the Honu cooling pack contains a patented active cooling system, called ThermoCore, which mimics the biomechanics of thermoregulation to cool the body down faster and more efficiently than it could alone. Comprised of a small water bladder, a micro pump, and patented polymer tubing, ThermoCore pushes cool water through 60 feet of microtubing sewn into the pack’s chest, shoulder, and back areas, transferring heat from the body into the water within the tubes. Research has shown that liquid cooling garments are the most efficient way to cool the human body, capable of providing sufficient cooling in almost any temperature environment.
Honu is able to reduce the impact of atmospheric temperatures by up to 20°F.
The development of the ThermoCore Active Cooling System began years ago for US military personnel operating in dangerously hot conditions. After receiving overwhelmingly positive feedback from tests at Pearl Harbor in Hawaiʻi, 19°N adapted the technology to provide comfort and cooling to civilian workers, athletes, and adventurers. And so, the Honu Cooling Pack was designed to stand at the intersection of military-grade strength and athletic agility, resulting in a flexible yet robust, outdoor-ready pack able to withstand the elements.
The Honu Cooling Pack is available for preorder now via Kickstarter. Each of the pledge levels include the pack, cooling bladder, and lithium battery with further additions available, including a hydration bladder, cold recharge gel packs, and a power bank and charging cord. The campaign will run through September 23, 2021.