with John Rivera
A cool solution to a sweaty body armor problem
Prickly heat and allergic reactions can make wearing body armor unbearable — one low-tech solution could be a life saver
In the summer of 2011 I was issued new body armor. As most officers know, new body armor is often cumbersome because it is stiff. Once the new body armor relaxes, it allows the officer to work “a little” more comfortably. But my new body armor was not only stiff — there was another problem.
When I perspired during the shift, I began to itch. Summers in my part of Washington State are short, but they can be very warm and are always muggy. That first summer I noticed my itching increased so much that the itching would wake me up from deep sleep.
It was more than uncomfortable — it was miserable.
I knew the itching was associated with my new vest and would use undershirts made from different “hi-tech” materials — all to no avail. The itching became constant and began to spread all over my back and even spread to my chest area.
I went to a dermatologist and he diagnosed it as an allergy to ... Kevlar! Yes, I was allergic to the very life-saving material used in every body armor panel in the world. The doctor told me to find my own solution because he had none, but to let him know when found my solution. I thought to myself, If this could happen to anyone, it would be me.
I searched the internet for a solution to my problem and discovered I was not the only police officer in the world with my problem. There are literally hundreds of police officers, security personnel and military members with the same problem. Many of those suffer from prickly heat from serving a hot region, and a minority of those whose intense itching was from other health conditions. Searching the blogs and forums I found proposed solutions, but those were the same things I had already tried in vain.
One afternoon, while surfing PoliceOne, I saw an advertisement for the Cooling and Trauma Attenuating Vest — or CTAV — by CORTAC. I visited and read how the company developed a product to help those wearing any kind of body armor stay cool.
I read some of the testimonials for their product, and found that several users had the same symptoms as me and the CTAV had remedied their condition. I called the company, told them of my plight and ordered the product (by the way, they have fantastic customer service and are very prompt).
Air It Out
Once I received the CTAV I was surprised to see it was not a vest as we know in the traditional sense. The CTAV is two panels of pliable, plastic-like material with two separate surfaces. Each of the CTAV panels has a soft-side velvety surface that attaches to the body armor carrier. The opposite side of the CTAV is a soft canvas-type surface that goes against the user’s body or undershirt — thus completing the barrier. And each side is a different size and shape, allowing the user to distinguish how to properly install the panels.
The packaging includes several strips of Velcro the user sticks to the inside of the body armor carrier and a hand air pump. The air pump is used to pump into the CTAV once it is installed on the user’s body armor carrier.
CORTAC states that the CTAV helps cool the user by putting a barrier between the user and the body armor. Each panel has air channels strategically placed throughout the panel. The hand air pump is used to fill each panel with air, thus keeping the user cooler.
The CTAV not only cools, but when properly installed and filled with air, it reduces “ballistic blunt trauma.” Yes, it can even add to your body armor protection with very little added bulk. So there are two benefits to using this product.
I have been wearing these panels under my body armor since last January, and this past summer my area of Washington State was unseasonably warm.
Although I did perspire while wearing my body armor, the CTAV barrier kept the miserable itching I had previously experienced from reoccurring.
Here’s to a low-tech solution in a high-tech society!