Tech Savvy: Heated clothing a good option for winter

People have been told by state and local agencies to stay indoors when the weather is frightful. However, we still have to get to work, go to school and shovel snow — and basically live our lives. I mean, we live in the Upper Midwest so we know what to expect. We love the outdoors and one way to stay warm is heated clothing. There are several brands and types of gear to choose from. A person can purchase heated jackets, heated vests, heated socks or soles, heated gloves — even a heated hat. Sounds nice and cozy to me.

I personally have not tried any heated clothing. However, two of my co-workers have and shared their thoughts on the heated gear. Brainerd Dispatch photographer Kelly Humphrey is always out in the cold covering everything from fires to winter family events to sports, and she recently purchased a heated vest. My other co-worker, Jim Stafford, often assists the newsroom with video and uses a drone to gather footage for a variety features. In his personal life, he does a lot of activities outdoors and he purchased a pair of heated socks and gloves.

Heated clothing is designed to keep the body warm and is typically powered by rechargeable battery packs connected to integrated heating elements, providing hours of heat.

Humphrey had to experiment a bit with her vest; her first one did not work out.

Humphrey’s first purchase was a $90 Arris heated vest that used a USB portable power bank.

The website for the heated vest states there is no specific battery required and the vest does not come with a battery. It states a person can use their own 5 Volt USB or a 2.1A USB Port.

“In the description of the vest, it said you can use your own USB phone charger, but it didn’t work out so well for me,” Humphrey said. “After the first time wearing the vest, the battery bank smelled odd, like it was overheating. I thought I needed a better battery for the power bank. So I got a better battery and wore it a second time and it again smelled funny.”

Humphrey took her vest to Batteries Plus in Brainerd to see if they could help. They took a closer look at the battery bank and realized it wasn’t the battery. Humphrey said the USB connector melted or shorted when she was using the vest.

Humphrey mailed the vest back to Amazon, stating it was defective and she didn’t feel safe wearing it.

“I would hesitate to recommend the Arris vest because of what happened to me,” Humphrey said.

After thorough research and a recommendation from an employee at Batteries Plus, she purchased a new heated vest from Milwaukee Tool known for its durable, heavy duty tools. Her vest has a powered M12 Redlithium battery which creates heat from the chest to the back. It has a thermal fleece lining and is washer and dryer safe. The vest has two large outer pockets, an inner zip pocket and a low-profile battery pocket.

According to the Milwaukee website, the vest received a 5.0 overall customer rating — the best it could get.

“This Milwaukee vest has been great,” Humphrey said. “It’s really nice. The connection is safer than the Arris. It has three to four settings. My only complaint is the battery was a bit bulky and if I’m sitting back or if the vest was tight the power bank would push into my side.”

Humphrey said the trick with the heated vest is to make sure she remembers to recharge it fully.

She recommends those interested in buying heated clothing do their research before their purchase.

“You want to be comfortable with your decision,” she said.

Humphrey said her Arris vest — the defective vest — could have been a fluke. In a customer review on Amazon, a reviewer stated he liked the vest, but the USB connector worried him as it was thin and looked as it would wear down easily.

According to a review by The Gear Hunt, the Arris vest was the second most popular vest to purchase.

Stafford got it right the first time. He went online in January and purchased a pair of Mobile Warming brand heated socks for $84.

“I’ve used them three times now to stay warm and I have noticed a difference,” he said. “I start with it on high to get them warmed up and then put it on low and my feet never got cold. This pair has a heating pad on the bottom and it permeates throughout my whole sock/boot. They work good. I would recommend them.”

Stafford’s electric socks have a 3.7 volt battery pack that goes into a little pouch of the sock. The pouch is resealable and the battery pack is rechargeable. The socks have a remote control so Stafford can easily turn up the heat, or lower it, without having to dig out his socks to get to the battery pack.

Stafford also purchased a pair of gloves from the same company.

“They keep my hands warm, the interior is very soft,” he said. “The battery pack in small and is located near the wrist. There is a battery pack for each glove. They don’t seem bulky.”

Stafford said he would recommend the Mobile Warming brand for the socks and gloves. He said he hasn’t considered purchasing a heated vest because he already has a warm jacket and gear to keep his core warm.

A Digital Trends review mentions an 8K Flexwarm heated jacket for $286. The jacket can warm up to 122 degrees in just six minutes and can stay powered on for as long as 13 hours depending on the temperature settings. It also has “Venture Heat Heated Base Layers” for $150 that a person can wear under their jacket. The website states the item is machine washable and is made from stretchy materials designed to move with a body during active outdoor activities. The clothing sits close to the skin, helping provide temperature and moisture control.

According to the “Top 5 Heated Jackets” published on Homethods Reviews, the top five are Ororo mens jacket, Makita multi-pocket jacket, Bosch mens coat, and DeWalt has two jackets — a 12-volt or 20-volt battery heavy duty coat and a women’s heated jacket.

Living in the Upper Midwest, having this gear certainly can be handy.

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