Nothing zaps a driver’s performance like heat stress. Fortunately there are a couple of new products on the market designed to lower body temperature in the cockpit.
While it is a myth that you lose more body heat through your head than any other part of the body, it does encompass 9% of your total body surface area. Cooling the noggin can significantly lower your core temperature. This can be a major challenge with a balaclava and a helmet on. Air cooled helmet blowers have gotten mixed reviews from racers that I’ve talked to that have used them.
The good news is now there are liquid cooling options that integrate into an existing Coolshirt system. Cool-a-clavas are thin water bladders that tuck into your helmet and circulate cold water over your dome.
This weekend I tried two different models while racing in Charlotte. The ambient air temps were hovering in the low 90s with 50% humidity, pushing the temperature humidity index to over 112F. It was absolutely scorching on the pavement.
However, with the cool-a-clava on it was bearable. We started at 3 pm and I was never uncomfortable while racing. Nor did I climb out of the car feeling overheated. Needless to say, I’ll be using one from now on.
There is currently only one cool-a-clava on the market, available from Driving Impressions.
It is made from a soft, medical-grade polyester urethane blend with a soft felt outer layer. They recommend securing it inside your helmet with double sided tape. I tried it that way, but the tubing kept kinking and shutting off the flow. I found it worked the best just setting in on my head and pulling my balaclava over it.
Just be sure the ice water flows to the shirt before the clava unless you want a serious case of brain freeze. I tested it first and color coded the tubing with racing tape.
The few small annoyances- the additional tubing to wrangle, one extra connection to dislodge, cost – are trivial compared to the cooling benefits. Once you race while wearing one, you won't want to be without it again.
Speaking of balaclavas, Traqgear just released its superlight version. These are made of the same fabric as their fireproof shirts. I tried one this weekend and loved it. The fit is perfect. There is no extra material to bunch under the helmet chin strap.
It is so much lighter and breathable than Nomex that it all but disappears when you put it on. I had quit wearing a balaclava on warmer days because of overheating. If the temp is over 60 degrees, I’m using the Traqgear balaclava with cool-a-clava underneath. The Sparco Nomex hood is being relegated to the winter gear bag.
Roger is also working on his own version of the cool-a-clava. I beta tested a prototype this weekend and liked it. It is constructed of nylon and may prove to be more durable than the one offered by TeamDI. It also features insulated tubing that is less prone to kinking. He plans to integrate it into the balaclava with a double layer pocket. This will be a really nice option that will keep it from moving around before the helmet goes on.
I’ll have an updated review on this when I get to spend a little more time comparing both options side by side.
The Superlight Balaclava is currently available through Traqgear's Facebook page. Look for the full product line to premier at PRI.