BUYING GUIDE - HEATED JACKETS & VESTS
When it comes to heated clothing there are a number of factors to consider. While the battery and heating elements are essential, you should also take into account items such as the material the coat is made from, the insulation packed into the shell, and even the number of pockets. Keep reading to see some of the key considerations when shopping for a heated vest or coat:
Written by Mark Vallet
Updated January 2021
The battery is obviously one of the biggest factors when shopping for a heated jacket or vest as it does the majority of the work to keep the coat warm. The majority of heated jackets and vests use a a rechargeable lithium battery to generate heat. We recommend avoiding vests and jackets that use rechargeable nickel batteries as they are heavier and lose their ability to recharge over time.
BATTERY LIFE: This is one of the most important considerations when evaluating heated outwear. The majority of heated jackets and vests can provide heat for up to ten hours on a low setting, but the differences can be dramatic when using a high or medium setting. While some coats or vests may last six hours on high, others will drain the battery in three hours. Think about how you will use the coat and what kind of battery life you need. While a skier or someone working outside all day may want the maximum number of hours on high, someone who only wears their heated outwear for a short hike or walk in the woods might not need a long-lasting battery.
CHARGING TIME: Charging times can vary, while some batteries may fully recharge in 3-4 hours, others may take up to 7-8 hours. How often you use your heated vest or coat will determine how important a quick recharge time will be to you. We highlight the charging time in all of our reviews, so you know what to expect from the coat or vest you choose.
MOBILE PHONE CHARGING: Some heated jackets and vests now come with the ability to charge a mobile phone using the battery pack. Not all brands have this functionality, Ororo and Ravean are examples of the coats that will charge your phone. However, it should be noted that this will lower the runtime of the battery so make sure you consider the implications for battery life when charging your phone.
CHARGING OPTIONS: One other consideration with batteries is the ability to charge it using a charger in a car in the event you are out and about when the battery dies. Some brands use a USB port to charge the battery which is compatible with a car charger, while others use a proprietary charging system that will only work in a wall socket. If charging on the go is important to you, make sure the brand you choose can be charged in a vehicle.
HEATING ZONES AND MATERIALS
While the battery produces the heat, carbon fiber or conductive thread is what delivers that heat to the shell of the jacket or vest. Heat zones are woven into the coat where they generate heat that radiates around the shell. Most heated coats and vests have heating elements built into the chest and back area, ranging from three to five different zones. Here is a quick overview of the two primary heating methods:
CARBON FIBER: One of the more commonly used heating elements in heated clothing is carbon fiber. This technology uses strips or tubular heating elements made of carbon fiber to heat the jacket or vest. The carbon fiber elements are spread across sections of the jacket to provide warmth. Carbon fiber works well providing uniform heat as well as flexibility. While slightly stiffer than the material used to make the jacket or vest, it is unlikely that you will ever notice the heat zones or experience any reduction in flexibility. Numerous heated clothing brands use carbon fiber technology, just a few examples include ORORO, Venustas, and Milwaukee.
CONDUCTIVE THREAD: Conductive thread is an e-textile that carries an electrical current much the same way an electrical wire does. This means that it can be used to create a circuit that will generate heat. Conductive thread is very thin making it perfect for a coat or vest where weight and flexibility are important. The majority of heated jackets and vests have three to five heating zones. Conductive thread is an excellent choice for heated clothing and is used by a number of apparel companies but is not as popular as carbon fiber at this point. Conductive thread is often used in headed gloves, socks, and base layers due to it being so thin and light. A few examples of heated clothing makers that use conductive thread include Gobi and N NIFVAN.Fit
FIT: It’s important that your heated clothing fit comfortably. It can be even more crucial with a heated vest or jacket because a secure fit means you’ll trap the heat inside. Heated clothing seems to run a bit on the small side for most manufacturers so it is extremely important to consult the sizing chart for any vest or jacket you’re considering to determine the best option for your body. The majority of complaints related to heated clothing have to do with sizing so do not skip this step.
MATERIAL: You want your heated outerwear to be comfortable which is why you should consider the materials used to make it. The majority of heated vests and jackets use cotton or polyester or a blend of the two. There are also heated jackets made of canvas and even down puffer coats. Most heated outwear is wind and water-resistant while some are completely waterproof. How you use the vest or jacket will determine how important these features are to you. Always consider the liner as well, it should be may of a comfortable and cozy material, fleece is popular in heated outwear, it is comfy while holding in the heat.
INSULATION: If you plan on being in extreme cold on a regular basis you will want a heated vest or coat with lots of insulation. Heated down puffers are an excellent choice for those extremely frigid days. Extra layers of insulation not only keep you warm, they also allow you to run the battery on a lower setting, which will extend the time you can spend out in the cold.
HOOD: While a hood is not always necessary, it can be a real benefit on a particularly cold or wet day. Many heated jackets come with a detachable hood which is nice if you don’t need a hood on a daily basis. It bears mentioning that the hood will not be heated.
POCKETS: Most heated vests and jackets have pockets just like a normal coat. These are great for storing your personal belongings when you are out in the weather. In most heated jackets, there is an inside pocket for the battery. One nice feature available in some heated jackets is heated pockets. This creates a cozy spot for your hands when out in the cold.
CAN HEATED CLOTHING BE WASHED?
The majority of heated outerwear can be machine washed and dried but there are some that require hand washing and air-drying.
Directions will vary between manufacturers but in most cases, you simply have to make sure you remove the battery, zip the connector cable back into its pocket, and then wash and wash and dry on a gentle cycle. Most heated apparel makers say drying cleaning and bleach will damage your heated clothing so simply wash at home.
Always follow the directions that come with your particular piece of heated apparel, as straying from their recommendations will often void your warranty and could ruin your heated clothing.
HOW EXPENSIVE IS A HEATED COAT OR VEST?
While the majority of heated coats and vests fall into the $100-$200 range, they can run over $300 and on the budget side you can find a heated jacket for around $80.