Introduction: Doggy Cooling Vest / Backpack (from Cargo Pants)

Picture of Doggy Cooling Vest / Backpack (from Cargo Pants)

EDIT: Featured on the instructables and lifehacker homepage, awesome! Just to clear some things up, the evaporative cooling doesn't work in humid environments but you can still use ice packs. And it's probably not as effective as just pouring water directly on your dog, but you will get the same effect without actually wetting your dog (and the wet dog smell), but anyways enjoy!

Need to keep your pooch cool for long walks on hot sunny days? Well look no further for this multipurpose vest will fit the bill (and your dog)!

The basic premise for the "cooling" part is you soak the the upper layer and as it evaporates it will draw heat from the lower layer with a waterproof layer in between to keep your dog dry. And also since it has side pockets you could throw some ice cubes in there too which will melt and then evaporate. Or you could just put flexible freezer gel pads or what not in there (or bags of frozen peas for that matter).

Old worn out cargo pants
Plastic bag

Sewing machine
Fabric shears
Pins (safety or otherwise)
Measuring tape
Ironing board

Step 1: Cut Out Inside Seam

Picture of Cut Out Inside Seam

Cut out the inside seam as indicated in the picture.

Step 2: Cut Out Main Shapes

Picture of Cut Out Main Shapes

After cutting out the inside seam, open it up, lay out the pant legs and cut out the shapes as in the picture.

Sorry I didn't take an pictures earlier, I tried to put together this picture in the later stages, but the basic shapes are similar.

You should have two cargo pocket pieces and one pant leg piece. The other pant leg and the rest of the pants aren't used (except for scraps for the fasteners later).

Step 3: Hem Edges

Picture of Hem Edges

Now fold in about 3/8" on all edges and iron flat the lower layer piece, which will make it easier to hem. Then simply use a straight stitch about 1/4 " from the edge all the way around. You could do a proper hem folding it in twice so it won't fray so easily, but I was lazy.

Step 4: Add Fasteners

Picture of Add Fasteners

Next we add the straps and fasteners, I chose buttons since this particular pair of pants had lots of spare buttons that I could salvage. But you are free to use any sort of fastener (clasps, clips or buckles) as you wish, just try to avoid velcro (as suggested by criggie since they get filled with fur after a month or so)

These 3 locations should be enough to help keep the vest in place.

At this point you may want to try it on your dog to see how long you need to make the straps. Sew the straps to the main section and add the buttons and buttonholes as needed.

Step 5: Make Upper Layer / Pocket Layer

Picture of Make Upper Layer / Pocket Layer

To make the upper layer, attach the two pocket pieces together and hem all around the edges on this layer too.

Step 6: Sew Together

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Now we attach the upper and lower layers by simply sewing around, but be sure to leave one side open so we can insert/remove the waterproof layer

Step 7: Insert Waterproof Layer

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Now find a plastic bag around this size or just cut one to size and insert into in between the layers. Don't worry about breath-ability since dogs don't sweat through their skin like us humans, they only sweat through their paws. In essence this vest will help them cool down by "sweating" the water that we soak the upper layer with.

I guess since we have the waterproof layer this may act as a doggy raincoat as well to some extent. Bonus!

UPDATE: You can also add another layer of fabric on top of the bag for extra water capacity or a thin spongy foam (like mattress topper) to help soak in more water as well so you don't have to re-drench it as often on really hot dry days.

Step 8: Attach to Dog

Picture of Attach to Dog

Now go put it on your dog, pour some water on it and go out for a long walk!


emilygraceking (author)2013-03-26

Thank you so much! I used your instructions to make a dog backpack out of some cargo pants I picked up at Salvation army for $2. I was less interested in the cooling aspect and more in the backpack functionality. I like to put some sandwich bags of sand in the pockets to give my dog a better workout on his walks.

Minasapo (author)emilygraceking2016-04-04

it's not good for their backs to put any type of weight on dogs. It can injure the vertebrae

obake (author)emilygraceking2013-11-04

Awesome! Love the StarFox logo too!

VictoriaB7 made it! (author)2015-06-19

My Niki loves her vests/backpacks. She knows it's time to go walking when I get it out. People ask me where I bought them and I refer them to your instructable. Thanks for such a great idea!

obake (author)VictoriaB72015-06-20

Wow, looks great! I'm glad this instructable is still helping people out! Nice addition with the chest flap!

MügeH (author)2015-05-21

Larry01 (author)2015-01-05

It says: "...they >only< sweat through their paws." Dogs sweat through their mouths/tongues, that's why dogs pant - to cool off by exhaling hot air and bringing cooler outside air inside to their lungs.

lisa.cassio (author)2014-11-14


kfinch-shwiry (author)2014-01-10

How would you size it to your dog? I am new to sewing and have 3 big dogs. They are all over 100lbs.

obake (author)kfinch-shwiry2014-01-11

You're somewhat limited by the size of cargo pants so I wouldn't worry too much. Try to get extra large pants. And if you make the straps long enough you could always make them adjustable (put multiple button holes, etc). In step 5 you should probably insert an extra strip of fabric between the two halves so that on your dog the pockets will sit lower/closer to the chest instead of high on the back.

kreator (author)2013-12-29

this is great..wish I woulda thought of it

WhyHello (author)2013-06-30

I've been working on it for a few days now :| its not coming out good.

obake (author)WhyHello2013-11-04

Did you ever finish your project? What parts do you need help with?

Boost (author)2012-06-07

Cool idea but does it really cool the dog? All that water in the vest is also heated up by the sun? Or this just works in the shade with winds to help the evaporation?

SWV1787 (author)Boost2012-06-07

I think it works by the same premise as a swamp cooler which works well in dryer climates but where I'm from a swamp cooler would just cause mildew as it would never fully dry out...

obake (author)SWV17872012-06-07

This is true, you wouldn't want mold growing on it! This is why I designed it with an easily replaceable plastic layer. You could still try putting sealed ice packs in the pockets to cool your dog while keeping the fabric dry.

kentdvm (author)obake2012-06-22

If you mix 1 part rubbing alcohol and 3 parts water together, you get ice packs which don't harden. Simply makes a slush because alcohol lowers the freezing point of water. I double bag them in zip-lock bags and keep a couple in the freezer for sprains, stings, etc. They would work very well in the pockets as they would be soft and comfortable. Great vest! Thanks for posting.

obake (author)kentdvm2012-07-17

Great tip! I'll have to try this for sure. Do you use freezer bags or just sandwich bags? Even double bagged, I'd have a hard time trusting sandwich bags not to burst or leak. Any other easy, durable, cheap water pouch suggestions?

kentdvm (author)obake2012-07-18

I typically used freezer bags and double bag them. Much tougher. So far, so good!

WhyHello (author)kentdvm2013-06-26

Good to know! :)

WhyHello (author)Boost2013-06-26

One think to consider is the color of your dog vs the color of the bag. My dog is black and i found light colored cargo pants. Since lighter colors reflect the sun's heat when black absorbs it. Soooooo. I think this will help my dog, A Husky :)

seekertat (author)Boost2012-06-07

When water evaporates, there is a cooling sensation. I sell neck coolers which operate on the same principal. These have water beads that soak up water. Soak the neck coolers in water until expanded. Wrap around your neck and let evaporation cool you. This dog cooling vest would work on the same principal; however, since dogs cool through there tongue, I'm not sure if the principal applies. Worth a try and a good instructable too.

drivanovich (author)2012-06-26

awesome! you should sell these on Etsy.

obake (author)drivanovich2012-06-27

That's not a bad idea, but I think for the amount of time it took me to make just one, it wouldn't be worth my while. I'm no expert at the sewing machine so the quality isn't quite good enough I think, plus it would be hard to get the right sizing to make it fit just right. I only made it because commercial dog swamp coolers cost so much more than old pants. But glad you like them, thanks!

WhyHello (author)obake2013-06-26

i thougt the same thing about selling them on etsy, but then thought of the odd hunt for cargo pants i would have.

arnold54 (author)2012-06-21

Great idea. I've been told though that dogs need to be cooled more from the belly/chest side of the body so that their core temp will drop. So perhaps also could add some belly/chest pockets for ice too.

obake (author)arnold542012-07-17

It's finally been hot enough outside for me to try this and after our walk I did notice that the chest area is very warm and the back was cooler. But instead of adding another pocket, I think it would be easier to just insert an extra strip of fabric several inches wide down the middle between both halves, which would make the pockets sit lower and closer to the chest and the straps should pull the pockets snug around the chest. Of course then the bottom layer would need to be expanded (widened) as well and it would need a larger plastic insert. Unless you're not doing the multi-layer thing and just making a plain backpack.

Bosun Rick (author)2012-06-24

The cargo pockets would easily carry a collapsible water bowl and some water bottles, depending on the size of your dog, of course. Which would probably be more efficient, and better for the dog.

SWV1787 (author)2012-06-07

My fiance and myself were talking about getting a backpack for our dog... I think I might be making a search for old cargo pants now, I like the idea and it looks really good.

Bosun Rick (author)SWV17872012-06-24

You can find the pants at garage sales, Goodwill or Salvation Army stores.

jerazo (author)2012-06-21

Looks like a bomb dog...

cooldryplace (author)2012-06-21

Love this. Need my mom to give me my sewing machine back!

atyk (author)2012-06-21

Even if it wasn't used for cooling purposes, this dog vest is super cool! ;) The design is great and it makes me want to whip out tons of clothes for my dog too!!

patron_zero (author)2012-06-19

Pardon the pun but very, very cool, thanks for sharing !

scoochmaroo (author)2012-06-08

This is just fantastic!

jessyratfink (author)2012-06-06

That's such a great idea! Looks very stylish too. :D

obake (author)jessyratfink2012-06-07


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