After his friend’s dog died of heat stroke on a hiking trail, Denver entrepreneur Michael Bevis decided it was time to create a protective solution for furry friends with avid hikers for owners.
Seven years later, he launched KoolSkinz, a dog vest that can keep pets cool for up to two hours in 90-plus-degree weather.
“I’ve been a dog lover my whole life and didn’t realize this was such a problem,” Bevis said. “I did some research and realized that tens of thousands of dogs actually die from complications related to overheating every year. They can’t sweat or cool themselves down like humans.”
Bevis, who was scared for his own dog’s safety, said he tested every product on the market that claimed to keep your dog cool during outdoor activities.
“I realized they all kind of suffer from two things: One is that they are big, bulky and stiff and can actually wear sores on your dog over long periods of time, and two is not a single cooling product on the market today lasts longer than about 15 minutes,” Bevis said.
Many of the popular products out there now also use an over-the-back design. But Bevis said that’s not the most effective way to cool dogs down, because they have a subcutaneous layer of fat on their backside that protects them temperaturewise. Dogs are most vulnerable to the heat that they pick up from the ground, he said.
KoolSkinz, which Bevis said was tested on 150 dogs before he launched it in 2018, features a sleeker underbelly design using pet performance wear — what Bevis calls “Under Armour for dogs” — and a proprietary cooling agent that stays cold for up to two hours.
The product vests come in different sizes, for dogs between six and 160 pounds. Each one has three pockets containing “kool packs,” which contain a liquid solution that when cooled absorbs heat away from a dog’s body and helps them maintain a comfortable core temperature. Similar to ice packs, kool packs can be placed in a freezer, cooler or cold mountain stream, and can be reused.
“I’m a big hiker and it ideally appeals to people who are hikers, campers and hunters who are out in the field a lot,” Bevis said. “Especially in Colorado, there are so many amazing hikes near streams and you can just stop for lunch and recharge your kool packs and the dog can stay comfortable for another two hours of the hike.”
The kool packs also can be heated in boiling water or the microwave during the colder months to provide up to 45 minutes of warmth.
KoolSkinz vests retail for $80 on the company’s website, Amazon, and in six retail shops in Denver and one in Colorado Springs. They come in four designs, including polka dot, bones, floral and skulls.
Bevis said he has sold 2,500 units in seven countries since KoolSkinz hit the market. Both the vest materials and the vests themselves are produced in Colorado, through Colorado Contract Cut and Sew.
“Our product is a hot seller, pun intended, during the summertime, but it’s really critical and important for people to understand that our product is intended to help create a more comfortable environment for your dog,” Bevis said. “It’s not going to protect your dog from the most extreme circumstances. So, wearing a KoolSkinz vest doesn’t make it OK to leave your dog in a hot car.”
Bevis works on KoolSkinz part time, sometimes tapping freelancers for assistance. He still holds a full-time position as director of innovation and entrepreneurship for the city of Denver. Before that, he was an instructional dean and founded the entrepreneurship program at Emily Griffith Technical College.
“I’ve had that entrepreneurial spirit my whole life,” Bevis said.