A cooling vent having opposed front and back panels to substantially cover a user's torso, the panels being non-integral along at least a first side and a first shoulder. First shoulder connector means allows the front and back panels to be releasably connected to one another such that the first shoulder can open or close. A plurality of elongated pockets are provided on at least one of the panels and preferably both, each of which has an opening to receive a cooling pack into the pocket. By virtue of the foregoing open side and shoulder construction, the vest can be removed sideways after use allowing a user to wear protective headgear, such as a gas mask, until after the vest is removed and without having to attempt to remove the vest over their head. In one embodiment, each pocket has inner and outer walls, each wall having a structural layer and an insulation layer. The insulation layer of the inner wall inhibits too rapid cooling of the user's torso which might otherwise occur, while the cooling by the gel packs.