I can turn almost anything into a swamp cooler. I do it with my clothing, with vehicles, with pets and with materials at job sites.
Swamp coolers work best in environments where the humidity is not already extremely high. We are in a rain forest here, but during the heat of summer, the humidity is not terribly high most of the time. Water evaporates quickly. When I used to live in Ontario on the south shore of Lake Ontario, we had summer days and nights that were hot , with humidity so high that I thought I was going to rot.
Today is a hot day for Victoria. Temperature has spiked up into the high 70s. It's much hotter if you're sitting in a car or working near hot surfaces.
Today, I am wearing a wet shirt, a wet hat and I've even poured a little bit of water into my shoes, to wet my socks. This has made it feel like a cool spring day.
My vehicle is a pickup truck. It gets very hot when sitting in traffic or when sitting generally. It has air conditioning but that doesn't work when the vehicle is sitting. I like to put a thick towel on the dash and then pour water over it. Evaporative cooling works very well in the windy conditions of a truck with the window down a little. For floor cooling, I like to put water in a shallow plastic container that has a towel laying in the bottom. The towel adds surface area and it prevents the water from sloshing around. Incoming air is set so that it blows in at floor level. It is cooled as it passes over the wet towel.
My daughter has a Pomeranian dog named Theo. He rides in a carrying bag which is very well ventilated. In order to cool it further, I put a thick dampened towel in the bottom. He isn't someone who likes to jump in a lake or river to get wet, but if there's a car ride involved, he will jump into his carrying bag, no matter what.
In the home, it makes sense to wash laundry on hot days, so that it can be hung to dry in the house. This cools the house in two ways. There is no need to run and electricity gobbling dryer and the wet clothing provides evaporative cooling.
I have made swamp coolers by placing a blanket in a tub of water, with a portion of it held up with sticks. A fan is used to blow air over the blanket and the water in the tub.
During extreme heat, I have used a garden sprayer to broadcast a few gallons of water onto carpets and low value stuffed furniture.
I once had a south facing balcony in a large apartment building. I wet down the bricks, the concrete and a carpet that resided on the balcony. This made a big difference in comfort.
How do you use evaporating water to cool yourself and your surroundings?
While living in AZ for 4 years I discovered the wonders of swamp coolers. But may places they just don't work often enough due to the heat usually coming with humidity. But if your in an area where it is dry heat a swamp cooler is not only your friend for cooling things down but the humidity it creates is soothing on your body too. Hydrating your skin, easing the dehydration of your eyes, etc...
"Where will you drive your own picket stake? Where will you choose to make your stand? Give me a threshold, a specific point at which you will finally stop running, at which you will finally fight back." (Derrick Jensen)
I look a fright in the garden. Now that we've hit 85 degrees, I need a portable swamp cooler. I wear a soaked long sleeved demin shirt. And I make my fashion statement by adding a double layered hat of bright orange terrycloth, also soaked.
I can add hours of outside work to my day. And I'm done with my daily sunburn.