Body armor is worn out of necessity for safety and definitely not for comfort. Over the years, plate carriers have gotten more ergonomic, minimalistic, lighter and usually have air flow channels to help with cooling. Plates have gotten lighter too, but they’re still not as comfortable as running without armor. Since we’re not bullet proof and don’t like to bleed, we have to run with it on. Even with latest designs, it’s still hot to wear for any amount of time and especially when you’re training or in a dynamic situation. If you could stay cool with body armor on, why not right? I came across Qore Performance and their IcePlates on social media and thought it was an interesting concept; having a frozen plate that is also your hydration system. Through some research, I found out they serve many functions and that cooling was just one of them. The other functions include: Heating, Hydration and Impact Protection (near zero back face deformation behind soft armor, testing video.
I contacted Justin Li, Inventor and co-founder of Qore Performance and he sent me two IcePlates to test for this report. The IcePlates came with a quick detach hose and velcro straps that allows them to be worn as a stand alone cooling/heating and hydration system for other applications that I’ll get into later. The plates I received were white (Qore Performance calls this color “Frost” and it is translucent so you can see the water level when you are filling your IcePlate, there are a few color options to choose from), are about the size and shape of a SAPI plate, around an inch thick. They have a slight curve to them and felt very durable. Each plate holds 50 ounces of water either heated or frozen for 6-8 hours. Since I’m in Southern California, keeping cool is what I’m going for with the IcePlate.
I prefer to have it inside the plate pouch and this is possible with some plate carriers, not all. I used my 5.11 Tactical Tac Tec Plate Carrier in conjunction with the IcePlate with some Level III Armor Plates and they fit well with hardly any room to spare. With the IcePlate in, the added thickness is immediately noticeable and with both IcePlates in, front and back; it was too cumbersome of a loadout for me. I decided to run a single IcePlate in the back, which worked much better. You could feel the added weight of the water but it wasn’t very noticeable to me. When it comes to weight, it all depends on your job. If you’re already carrying a hydration pack as a part of your kit, then it is not adding any weight to your setup. The weight of the water on board is now in a lower profile and functional with more features. The IcePlates weigh less than most hydration bladder systems out there.
The first opportunity for me to run the IcePlate was at the Lead Faucet Tactical CQB Carbine Course a few months ago on an 85°+ day at the Prado Olympic Range. I froze both IcePlates the night before and threw one in the back pouch of my carrier and the other one in the trunk. When I was getting all my gear on to start the course, Dan Brokos and the OCSD SWAT Deputies were curious as to what I had in my plate carrier. I told them what the IcePlate was and they were a bit skeptical. Some of their thoughts were that it added too much thickness and weight, again most of them weren’t running a hydration system and didn’t get to run it.
By now the temperature was on the rise and wasn’t going to dissipate until after our day was going to end. The moment I put my plate carrier on, I experienced the very opposite feeling when having body armor on: cold. It felt refreshing and made me want to keep it on instead of taking it off. What was even better than that cool feeling was when I took a drink from the IcePlate. Rather than having lukewarm water from all of the hydration packs from which I’ve drunk, ice cold water came through. Having cold water in conjunction with the IcePlate against my back, the relatively hot day under the sun wasn’t so bad. Having a hydration on my person was much more convenient during the course than running to a water bottle whenever I needed water. I had fewer thoughts going towards how hot it was and allowed me to focus on training.
A few weeks later, I shot Justin an email with some feedback from my experience with the IcePlate. I was curious if it was a possibility for Qore Performance to make a thinner IcePlate that was half of the current plates. Here is his answer to my question and some background into the IcePlate design:
Justin Li: “We have looked at making a thinner variant for some time now and keep going back and forth on what form factor the next gen IcePlate (2019 and beyond) should take. The big question we have for a thinner IcePlate is “Will this last long enough for our end users?”
“When we were approached by Army/AUSA personnel about solving the “body armor cooling problem” in DEC of 2015, they told us the three things this solution MUST do are: 1) Provide 140+ watts of cooling power over 2+ hours 2) Not add any weight to the warfighter kit and 3) be compatible with any body armor system in the Army inventory. I knew that 100oz. Camelbak’s were already standard issue and that drinking water acts as a battery when it moves from one state to another (absorbing or discharging energy as it freezes, melts or evaporates). My business partner J.D. Willcox then figured out that 100oz. of water holds a little over 140 watts of energy over 2+ hours when frozen (he is Stanford trained engineer, so basically way smarter than I am:)). This is how we addressed Army requirements #1 and #2: use existing warfighter water volume as the battery; rethink the shape of the container. To address Army requirement #3, we went with a SAPI shape and knew we had to configure the bottles to hold 50oz. of water each (wearing a front and back bottle gets you to 100oz.) to get to 140 watts of cooling when frozen. Since this is the same water volume warfighters were already carrying, we met the criteria for “no added weight” while also hitting 140 watts of cooling power without using any chemical batteries or other electrical system (which is highly inefficient).
It is this combination of requirements that dictated in the 1” profile IcePlate on the market today. That is the profile required to hold 50oz. of water in a Medium SAPI footprint. We also knew from the extensive interviews we conducted with SOF, SMU, EOD, 0311 veterans and SWAT operators in Texas, Illinois and Arizona during the design process, that we had to get to 2-4 hours of cooling time for the contrast to be sufficient to change behavioral patterns and drive adoption. “Cooling duration/time” is correlated to the ratio of contact surface area to thickness. In other words, for a given surface area, the thicker you make the IcePlate, the longer it will “cool” or absorb heat from the body. The thinner you make the IcePlate, the quicker it will melt.
Our preliminary estimates are that a 50% thinner (so 25oz. and just 0.5” profile) IcePlate would “feel” cold for about 30-60 minutes.”
With all of that information, I’d rather go with one IcePlate as it is and have it last longer than to have thinner plates that wouldn’t last past an hour.
The IcePlate could also be used in many other applications outside of the tactical world. It is used in the civilian private sector for employees who work outside. Qore Performance offers different harnesses and systems including a Cooling Only Kit that is sealed and not for hydration. It is in use with many restaurants including Chick-fil-A for their employees that have to stand outside to take orders. IcePlates are also in use with construction workers, crossing guards and first responders throughout the nation to keep cool in hot weather conditions. IcePlates are also great for going on hikes or other outdoor activities.
A few weeks ago, I went with my family to the Renaissance Faire and it was projected to be a 95° day. I took a slick plate carrier and put both IcePlates in it. I wasn’t planning on wearing it, I brought it along for hydration. I changed my mind not long into the day and kept it on until the end as it did make it much more comfortable for me. The cooling system lasted almost the entire day. Between my kids, and myself we drank all of the ice cold water in the back plate. The front IcePlate was room temperature by the time it was to head home. The IcePlates made my day much more bearable and was the perfect test in which it performed extremely well.
The Qore Performance IcePlate has many uses from tactical to practical. It is a flat and low profile hydration system that doubles up as a cooling or heating system. It isn’t the solution to every application as it is not a one size fits all for certain plate carriers and armor plates. If it does work for your set up, it’s definitely worth a try. You will have run it and see if it works for you in terms of weight, mobility for the cooling or heating advantages the IcePlates offer.
*SHERIFF ID Panels provided by Foehammer Arsenal.
Qore Performance is releasing the newest IcePlate color, as you are reading this report: Black. There were many requests from Law Enforcement Officers so that it would match their uniforms. They are available to order now and will ship as soon as tomorrow.