The meteorologists were right. This current period is a real scorcher and that means you’ll need ways to keep cool – and we're not just talking about the best fans or even the best portable air conditioner. Although they do help, especially air conditioners.
After sweating through the UK’s last heatwave and dousing ourselves with the hosepipe followed by half an hour in Tesco's frozen food aisle, we came to the conclusion that there must be a better way to keep cool when the temperature rises. And there is. In fact there are many ways.
Below you’ll find a varied smattering of products from fans and portable air-con units to the more exotic likes of cooling vests, face sprays and garden misters.
Scroll further to the bottom of the page for our handy guide to keeping cool without the aid of any tech. Well, mostly.
Best tech for keeping cool
We don’t usually have much call for portable air conditioners in the UK but you can bet that if we get more regular heatwaves – as we’ve had during the past two years – we’ll be snapping up both portable and built-in air-con units by the truck load.
This MeacoCool portable AC is perfect for rooms up to 28m² and this writer can vouch that it works amazingly well, especially if you sit a few feet away and angle the vents correctly. I set it to its minimum 16˚C and it was like sitting in a car with the AC on full blast. Instant relief.
However, one should bear in mind that all portable air-con systems belt hot air out of the rear, so unless you attach the supplied outlet hose and point it out of a window or a hole in the wall, chances are the room will eventually get even hotter. Those lucky enough to have an open-flue fireplace can take advantage of the chimney’s inherent suction and place the unit directly in front of the fireplace. But do sweep the chimney first or soot will be blown all over your furnishings and haberdashery.
The Pure Cool Me is designed for personal use and comes equipped with the company’s air purification tech for added chutzpah. Measuring in at just 40cm in height, it’s the perfect cooling solution for desktop and bedside use.
The Pure Cool Me provides 70º horizontal oscillation, a sleep timer, 10 fan speed settings and focused cooling using its top-mounted airflow control interface. According to Dyson, its ‘activated carbon and glass HEPA filter captures gases and 99.95% of ultra-fine particles from the air’ – a boon for allergy sufferers.
Granted, it’s not the cheapest fan on the market but it performs admirably well, is quiet as a mouse, and light and portable enough to move from room to room. For maximum effect in really hot weather, either dampen your face with a wet flannel or drape a Stay Cool Ice Towel (see below) around your neck.
Like Dyson's brand of cool? Why not check out our guide to the entire range of Best Dyson fans (and air-purifying/humidifying/warming products)
Okay so that's the boring stuff out of the way, on to some proper gadgetry. Of all the cooling products on the market, the HyperKewl TechNiche Evaporative Cooling KewlShirt tank vest is one of the most effective pieces of tech for long-term cooling on the move. Small wonder it’s such a hit with the construction industry.
This writer followed the instructions and submerged the vest in a sink of tap water for about two minutes. I then squeezed out the excess water and slipped it over my T-shirt (Techniche advises wearing it against the skin or under a breathable sports top). The result was Holy Grail-esque. In fact I had to take it off after 45 minutes to warm up again – and this was during the last UK heatwave. Perhaps even more surprising was how light it felt to wear, even though it was loaded with water.
The Kewlshirt is constructed out of soft Spandex with a sponge-like HyperKewl fabric inner and a waterproof nylon liner to keep the body dry. According to Techniche, the vest cools down by up to 15˚C, reducing the body’s core temperature in the process. You can safely expect it to remain cool for up to five hours on a single soaking and this writer can vouch for that, because our test model was still cool to the touch six hours later.
If you’re on an excursion in a hot climate or watching a sports match in the searing heat, slip one of these over your head and you’ll be the only one in tranquil comfort while everyone around you is wilting in the heat.
In case you’re interested, Techniche also produces a ‘Hybrid’ version for athletes – and Formula One drivers – which uses thicker Cool Pax inserts for maximum cooling. It even comes with its own cooler bag for easy transportation.
There’s a plethora of these magic cooling neck and head towels on the market but they all work on the same scientific principal of evaporative cooling. Indeed, to some degree you could replicate the same effect using an ordinary towel or dishcloth soaked in water and then swinging it around a few times. Voila, instant cooling. However, most of the cooling towels on the market are more absorbent and much lighter than normal towels and they also retain more water for longer by dint of their unique pitted construction and spongy, chamois-like material.
The Stay Cool comes in a clear plastic container that holds in the moisture until you need to use it. Alternatively, find the nearest tap, soak the towel, wring it once and swing it around a few times. Now drape it round your neck or cover your head. It works remarkably well and stays cool for quite some time, especially if you’re moving or there’s a breeze. When it begins to feel warm and clammy, simply swing it round a few times and it’ll be cool again. Or dip it into some more water.
If you’re out and about, in the gym or just feeling hot under the collar, slap this round your neck and you’ll feel suitably refreshed.
If you’re seeking shade under the parasol but are still sweating like a horse that’s just run 30 furlongs, consider this effective contraption from Gardena. Comprised of seven micro mist nozzles, a 10-metre hose and a pile of clips, the Cooling Mist Set basically blasts a fine mist over you and your guests while you sip Pimm’s in cool comfort.
Unlike the professional high-pressure systems they use in Australia and the US which emit a mist so fine you can’t actually feel it, this one’s more akin to pointing a spray gun at your face on the finest mist setting. Yes, you will gradually get wet, but you'll also feel cool and refreshed. According to Gardena, the system ‘cools down the ambient air by up to 6° C’ and we’re not going to argue with that.
Granted, this system is a bit of a Heath Robinson affair – the top of your parasol will look like the work of a bad plumber and you’ll need to have your hosepipe unfurled across the patio – but none of that will matter when it’s hot enough to fry an egg on the York stone.
According to Magicool, this scented cooling mist uses purified water and a ‘combined process of refrigeration and evaporation’ to cool the face, arms and body, and reduce the temperature in a car before the air-con kicks in. Furthermore, the spray remains cool even if the can’s been scorched by the sun.
Available in two sizes – 200ml for a day out and 75ml for handbags – this spray works exceptionally well though sadly the cooling effect doesn’t last more than about 40 seconds and its so addictive that, before long, you’ll be reaching for another can. Still, it’s much more practical than dragging a hosepipe around with you.
The humble paddling pool is still one of the best ways to cool down, even though it requires gallons of water to fill it. Inflatable pools are the most popular but the least reliable since they always spout leaks which are usually impossible to find. Well, we’ve found an excellent model here that doesn’t require blowing up.
The Bestway Steel Pro is best positioned on a flat patio and preferably on a wide piece of carpet so sharp edges don’t interfere with the vinyl. As is the case with any paddling pool, if you place it on the lawn and leave it there for a few weeks, the grass underneath will turn to a slimy, sludgy mess and smell like a thousand cats had all pee’d at once.
Measuring in at a substantial 9’10” x 6’7”, the Bestway provides excellent paddling possibilities for both adults and kids. At 26-inches in height, it’s easily deep enough for kids to submerge themselves up to their necks and long and wide enough to accommodate a six-foot adult in full float mode. However, you will need to either treat the water with chorine from time to time or purchase a separate filter and pump.
Bestway pools are exceedingly tough, but only if treated with respect. Hence, leaping in is a no-no in case you slip, collapse the side and release all 3,300 litres (726 gallons) on to the garden – and the rest of the neighbourhood.
Okay, we’re out on a limb here but stick with me. If you have a pressure washer to hand, consider using it to cool you down. Take the excellent Kärcher 2 Power Control, for instance. If you screw in the pointy-tipped lance and turn it on, it produces the finest mist known to nature. Usually you would point the nozzle at some paving stones to clear away moss and mould but if you hold it in the air and pull the trigger, the lance kicks back as it produces a continual cloud of really fine and wonderfully cool mist, and so much of it that it will completely cover a full patio area and everyone sitting on it. What’s more, because the mist is so fine, it doesn’t actually make you wet. Instead, it’s like a giant misty sun shield – albeit a short-lived one.
It stands to reason that you would have to be incredibly stupid if you held the nozzle close to someone and pulled the trigger because the pressure is so great it could very easily pierce the skin and that would be a bad thing. But hold it ten feet from someone and pull the trigger, and they will ask for more. It really is that effective.
How to stay cool in summer (non-tech department)
Without wishing to sound like we’re condescendingly teaching grandma to suck eggs – no, we’ve never understood that phrase either – there are a number of ways to keep cool that don’t involve any technology whatsoever. Unfortunately there are probably no magic bullets you've never thought of here, just a soupçon of common sense…
Outdoor cooling tips
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• Take a tip from our four-legged friends and head for some shade where temperatures are usually several degrees lower. Animals aren’t stupid, which is more than one can say about some humans.
• Take a bottle of spring water with you, especially if travelling on the sultry Underground where air-con is practically non existent. Ideally refrain from using plastic bottles because we all know where they eventually turn up. We’d recommend a reusable vacuum-based flask-type bottle like those in the excellent Chilly’s range. These metal beauties keep chilled water cool for hours and hours.
• Dip a tea towel in some water, wring it out and whirl it around a few times. Now drape the instantly chilled towel around the neck for some quick, albeit short-term relief. Dip and whirl again when required. Alternatively, invest in a Stay Cool Ice Towel (reviewed above), which is lighter and does a much better job.
• Water is your friend, so grab a hosepipe and completely douse yourself – if that doesn’t lower your core temperature, nothing will.
• Wear a light fitting, breathable natural fibre or performance fabric top – short-sleeve light cotton or linen shirts are best – and preferably a pair of trendy long-legged swimming shorts in case you stumble upon a public fountain. Wear sandals or flip-flops for added cooling relief.
• Keep the sun off you head and wear a hat or baseball cap – especially if you’re short of hair.
• Umbrellas aren’t just for keeping out of the rain – they’re among the most efficient ways to keep the sun off your back while on the move or lounging around in an open field. Just be sure to choose a light-coloured one to reflect the sun’s rays.
• Sip on a chilled drink with plenty of crushed ice, American style.
Indoor cooling tips
• Dampen your face and neck with a flannel (or soak yourself completely) and sit in front of a fan. The evaporative cooling process kicks in immediately, providing instant relief.
• If you live in a south-facing house, retreat to the north side where temperatures will be noticeably cooler.
• Take a leaf out of the Spanish rulebook for keeping cool and close all doors and windows and draw all the curtains. This will keep the heat out almost completely. For an extra psychological cooling effect, turn off the lights too and live your life in the dark. No, we don’t like this last idea either but a million Spanish villagers can’t all be wrong.
• If you have a glass-topped conservatory, consider installing an exterior-mounted roof blind, preferably a remotely controlled model. Outdoor blinds are more efficient at reflecting heat before it penetrates the roof space. Interior models also reflect heat and sunlight but, as they’re on the inside, they’re not nearly as effective. If you think it’s cost effective, consider changing your glass roof to a solid one.
• If you have a polycarbonate-topped conservatory roof, the cheapest and best course of action is to self install some reflective solar film inserts. These keenly-priced cut-to-fit silver or gold-coloured metallic strips are slid one by one into every channel in the roof and this writer can vouch that they work surprisingly well. Yes, the conservatory will still heat up but internal temperatures will be a lot more tolerable. Solar film inserts work in the opposite way during winter by reflecting internal heat inwards. If you fancy giving them a whirl, then check them out at PolyCool.