The cold is a biting and unpleasant thing. Sure, winter wonderlands can be nice, and ski trips to snow-capped alpine mountains can be wonderful too. But, when you have to travel or work in the biting cold, the charm dissipates quite quickly. Remember those science fiction movies and books, where people had things like heated and self-drying clothes? How cool was that?

Well, self-drying clothes aren’t ready yet, but heated clothes? Oh, we have that, and a lot of people just don’t realize. While more expensive than an average coat, these heated vests aren’t that expensive either. We’re going to learn about these today, and see the best ones on offer.

ORORO Womens Lightweight Heated Ves min: photo

OUR PICK for Women
1. ORORO
This woman’s vest with the pleated texture comes with a 10-hour battery. It will be a ideal for biking, skiing or other high-speed outdoor activity. Effectiveness: 10

Milwaukee M12 Heated AXIS Vest min: photo

OUR PICK for Men
2. Milwaukee
This is a standard but comfortable male vest. The product has a Quick-Heat function that creates heat 3 times faster than competitors. Effectiveness: 10

ARRIS Heated Vest min: photo

Best Unisex
3. ARRIS
This rugged and adjustable heated vest is designed for hiking and camping. It is a unisex model that will suits any environment. Effectiveness: 10

This guide covers TOP-5 best heated vests, their main types and differences. You will learn about the way they are powered and how they provide heat. You will also find some valuable advice on how to wear and wash this kind of clothing. Based on approximately the same technology, heated vests are designed either for men or for women or can be unisex.

TOP-5 Best Heated Vests

Below, you will find a review of the 5 best products at a price ranging from $100 to $300. All these models have four heated zones and are water-resistant, however, they differ by design and the battery life that ranges from 7 to 12 hours.

1. ORORO Heated Vest | Best Lightweight Model for Women

ORORO Heated Vest: photo

This is a quintessential example of the fashion and construction of electric vests. This, like several on the list, are women’s vests, but male versions are probably available for most as well. It demonstrates the pleated texture, the zipper, the black/neutral color. This is what most of them are like.
This also exemplifies the average battery life, construction, and interface that most of them have, as well. It’s a decent vest, but were I a woman, I’d find that neck section to be awful. You could zip it only up to the chest, but it’d still be there. This is, however, probably ideal for bikers though, making this one of my recommendations for bikers.

Features

  • Gender: Female.
  • Color: Black (pink zipper)
  • Heating Zones: Four.
  • Battery Life: Up to ten hours on the lowest setting.
  • Material: Vinyl/nylon.
  • Water Resistant: Yes.
  • Wind Resistant: Yes.
  • Ruggedness (1-10): 7.
  • Element Type: Carbon fiber.
  • Heat Settings: Three.

Performance

This boasts a ten hour battery life, and yes, it could do it, albeit only on the lowest setting. The technology at work here would produce about a five or six-hour life, not ten. This is definitely made with biking or skiing or some other high speed outdoor activity, with the design and material.

Pros Cons
  • Comfortable.
  • Long life.
  • Good material.
  • A pink zipper? Really?
  • That neck.
  • Battery life is shorter on high.
  • Only three settings.

Conclusion

If you’re a woman and a biker, I can recommend this. But just form factor-wise, I like other designs on here better.

2. Milwaukee Heated Vest with Front & Back Heat Zones | Best for Men

Milwaukee Heated Vest for Men: photo

Now we come to our first men’s heated vest, and this is a lot like the first one we looked at. Milwaukee is known for producing rugged garments, and you can count on this one probably meeting that standard.

Features

  • Gender: Male.
  • Color: Gray.
  • Heating Zones: Four.
  • Battery Life: Seven to ten hours.
  • Material: Vinyl/nylon.
  • Water Resistant: Yes.
  • Wind Resistant: Yes.
  • Ruggedness (1-10): 9.8.
  • Element Type: Carbon fiber.
  • Heat Settings: Three.

Performance

This is a pretty standard male vest, but it’s comfortable, and again, at least the neck could be mostly out of the way if it weren’t zipped all the way up.

Pros Cons
  • Comfortable.
  • Long life.
  • Good material.
  • Kind of plain.
  • One size fits all usually means one size perfectly fits none.

Conclusion

This is the only dedicated men’s heated vest we’re looking at, and that’s for a reason, the selection is a little more garish for men.

3. DEWALT Heated Vest for Work

DEWALT Heated Vest for Work: photo

Dewalt is a respected company making power tools and construction gear, so you know if they make a heated vest, it’s going to be rugged and less concerned with fashion. This one has a neck too, all but one of these darn things do, but this one would be less annoying if you chose not to fasten it shut, I suspect.

This is more of a work vest than a sporty one, but there’s no reason you couldn’t do sporty things in it, it doesn’t look bad at all. It’s a standard “workman’s gray”, which is fine enough.

Features

  • Gender: Female.
  • Color: Gray.
  • Heating Zones: Four.
  • Battery Life: Seven hours.
  • Material: Vinyl/nylon.
  • Water Resistant: Yes.
  • Wind Resistant: Yes.
  • Ruggedness (1-10): 9.8.
  • Element Type: Carbon fiber.
  • Heat Settings: Three.

Performance

If you want a more rugged, stain-resistant affair, this is definitely the one to go with. It’s great for things like hunting, or working outside in cold weather. Its battery life is more realistic at about seven hours, which is what most Dewalt power products do.

Pros Cons
  • Comfortable.
  • Long life.
  • Good material.
  • A little utilitarian looking.
  • That neck.
  • Shorter battery life.
  • Only three settings.

Conclusion

For women who hunt, fish or like to work outdoors no matter the weather, this is a good choice. I am comfortable recommending it.

4. Venture Women's Heated Vest with 12-Hour Battery

Venture Women's Heated Vest with 12-Hour Battery: photo

This one is a bit more sleek and modern, which can be a good or bad thing depending on your tastes. This is definitely something that fits in in more places, but it’s less rugged as a result, though Venture are pretty reliable.

Features

  • Gender: Male.
  • Color: Black.
  • Heating Zones: Four.
  • Battery Life: Up to twelve hours!
  • Material: Vinyl/nylon.
  • Water Resistant: Yes.
  • Wind Resistant: Yes.
  • Ruggedness (1-10): 8.
  • Element Type: Carbon fiber.
  • Heat Settings: Three.

Performance

If you want something that suits any environment, and is rugged enough for most, this is probably worth a look. I really hate these necks they keep putting on these, though. There need to be more varieties, or perhaps the necks be removable on these.

Pros Cons
  • Comfortable.
  • Long life.
  • Good material.
  • Not quite as rugged.
  • These necks just won’t stop.

Conclusion

I recommend this for women who want to stay warm in lots of different environments and situations.

5. ARRIS Adjustable Heated Vest for Hiking & Camping

ARRIS Adjustable Heated Vest: photo

This is my favorite because it fits all genders, and it doesn’t have that annoying neck. I think things like this should be more unisex, unless men or women are trying to show off their physique, which in this kind of weather, why?

Features

  • Gender: Unisex.
  • Color: Gray or reflective black (it’s hard to say).
  • Heating Zones: Four.
  • Battery Life: About eight hours.
  • Material: Vinyl/nylon.
  • Water Resistant: Yes.
  • Wind Resistant: Yes.
  • Ruggedness (1-10): 8.
  • Element Type: Carbon fiber.
  • Heat Settings: Three.

Performance

If you want something that suits any environment, and is rugged enough for most, this is probably worth a look. I really hate these necks they keep putting on these, though. There need to be more varieties, or perhaps the necks be removable on these.

Pros Cons
  • Comfortable.
  • Long life.
  • Good material.
  • This has a phone charger (?!)
  • It’s kind of frumpy looking.
  • It’s a bit heavy.

Conclusion

This is what I’d have if it got cold enough in Florida often, and I went outside much.

Great Affordable Alternative | UnderWarmer Heated Shirt

The UnderWarmer® HEATED shirt: photo

There is a great alternative to heated vests that is more affordable and functions somewhat differently. Unlike the above-mentioned products, this one is single-use and does not require batteries or any other power source. This item will cost you just $15 and for me, that’s a small price to pay for the comfort in cold weather.

Now, let's take a closer look at this model. The UnderWarmer is a heated compression shirt with 8 heat elements integrated into it. In order to activate them, remove the shirt from the packaging, and voila! Keep in mind that it will take about half an hour until the shirt heats up completely, which is why you should better activate it in advance.

The UnderWarmer works really well. The heat elements reach the maximum temperature of over 100°F and can keep you warm for 10 hours and even more. On top of that, the shirt has the benefit of being very convenient as it fits tightly against your body and is lightweight.

UnderWarmer: Check the current price

How Do Heated Vests Work?

Heated vests aren’t a technologically-complicated concept, it all came down to the ability to provide power at a reasonable rate, control the heat yield, and get the best synthetics to work that can handle the extra heat and wiring needs. That made it sound complicated, after I just said it wasn’t. That is to say, how it works, those individual innovations aside, is pretty basic, and not dissimilar from how something like a space heater, oven, toaster or stove burner works.

An amount of electricity is run through a metal that acts as a resistor, converting the current into heat. This same principle of resistance shed as heat is why things like batteries, phones and computers get very warm too, albeit that’s an undesired side effect where the heat is intentional here.

The power supply is a rechargeable battery pack, usually lithium-ion (Li-Ion) which is what most devices use, such as phones, many flashlights, tablets, wireless peripherals, power tools, drones and so on. These batteries can come in many forms, some are “bricks”, others are bundled AA-form factor affairs. These batteries aren’t nearly as heavy as they once were, but they do of course add some weight.

The heat is provided by a flexible resistive mesh, usually centered in specific parts of the vest where heat is most important. There’s a deliberate limit to how hot these can get, for many obvious reasons. But yeah, they’re not powered by complicated principles by any means.

How to Use a Heated Vest

It’s really not complicated. These vests should be worn under any heavier jackets, coats or protective gear, and they should be zipped up if they can indeed zip. Once it’s comfortably on, you just turn the heat on. This is done differently depending on the controls, but they’re usually just an on/off button, and a temperature control button or knob. Some just have plain knobs or roller controls, fancier ones might have a small display, or even work with your phone, though the implementation of Bluetooth plus the provision of heat will mean the batteries don’t last that long with such a concept.

These are usually washing machine safe, unless the actual garment material isn’t (I confess the particulars of materials beyond the basics is well beyond the scope of this piece, and beyond my knowledge). You will of course want to remove the battery/controls, and in some cases, the heating elements are removable as well.

In the case of the latter, instructions will clearly indicate this. Read the instructions, because this varies with each and every design. There’s no real standard for how these are set up, beyond basic safety and quality control regulations, and the scientific principles of safely providing electric heat directly to the body.

What Types of Heated Vests Are There?

Alright, I will be the first to admit that as a tech writer, my knowledge of fashion, clothing materials, sizes and so on is, well, nonexistent. However, it is safe to say there are probably a few thousand different designs that can either be bought as a heated vest, or ones that can be converted with a simple kit. Honestly, most higher-quality padded vests or jackets can be converted with a base kit, and thus given it’s not difficult to implement, there are just as many varieties of vests as far as material and style.

They tend to be black or dark gray in color, though that’s probably just a choice to be color and gender neutral, despite the fact not all vests are themselves gender neutral. There are vests designed for men, vests designed for women, and unisex ones as well.

The technology behind them is pretty universal, but as I said earlier, the controls may vary from one to the next, and there do exist smart versions of these that can be controlled with a phone, though battery technology on this planet still sucks entirely too much for Bluetooth to not be a problematic way to handle wireless for now.

Chances are, unless it’s some absurd designer vest (those exist don’t they), you’re going to be able to find one in a style you like, given the diversity. They’re designed more for comfort, durability and of course, to provide reliable, but not excessive heat, but the ones we’re looking at today are far from bad looking, but you’re taking a tech writer’s word for that, shop at your own discretion of course.

Future technologies in this sector will also bring in size-adjusting mechanisms, which are already being tested, the problems with which are just that they don’t have much in the way of durability. Self-drying materials are also being worked on, though the way they did this in Back to the Future 2 isn’t practical.

It will be more of a hydrophobic material which simply repels water and mud and stains, meaning that while it still doesn’t hurt to rinse them off now and then, they never get dirty or wet in the first place. These materials exist now, but it’s got a lot of refining and development to do, and it’s very expensive for now, as well as less than comfortable. This will change given enough time, but those are innovations for the not so distant future, things worth looking forward to down the line, especially once batteries stop sucking so badly.

What to Look for When Buying a Heated Vest

Once more, fashion and beauty are in the eye of the beholder, and materials depend partly on personal preference as well, so I can’t give all-applicable, blanket advice on choosing these. However, there are some things to keep an eye out for, and there are some environmental concerns that do impact what you need material-wise.

These are just some core things, and other facets may matter more or less to you than to others, so this is just a jumping off point for your own shopping and thinking-through. Let’s take a look.

  • Do You Ride a Bike? – Do you ride a motorcycle, a moped, a bicycle, a go kart or an ATV? If so, you’re moving at speeds more than a leisurely stroll. I myself am an avid go kart racer, while those don’t do motorway speeds, they go fast enough that I long ago learned that I needed a water-resistive and wind-breaking material on me. If you’re trying to keep warm on one of these “exposed to the environment” types of vehicles, you may need something like vinyl or the like.
  • What’s Your Gender? – I mean this in the most literal and old-fashioned way, and not out of disrespect to anyone either. But there are three types of these – men’s, women’s and unisex. Women can often wear all three, but a women’s vest will look odd on and feel weird to a man. Unisex ones are a little more utilitarian in their shape too.
  • Are You Wearing More? – Are you planning to wear more over this? Because if so, some are too bulky to do this with, others are not. So you won’t want to choose an overly-padded one that’s too much mass to fit under another layer of clothing.
  • Neck – Some of these have a turtleneck, and I for one never could stand the feeling of this approach. I don’t like tall collars, tight collars, neckties or necklaces. Seatbelt shoulder straps are horrible too. If you feel like this, be aware of the neck style.
  • Size – This is an obvious, and I only know sizes like S, M, L and XL, so I can’t comment on any specifics with this kind of thing.

FAQ

How to wash a heated vest?
They’re mostly machine washable. Anything else would be pretty impractical. You may or may not need to remove the heating elements from them, depending on the vest. Instructions will come with it that clarify this.

Is it good for back pain?
Well it’s certainly not bad for it, but this does not provide as intense a level of heat as a heat pad or electric blanket, due to being battery powered, and designed with a different application in mind.

How long does a heated vest run on a battery?
This depends on the battery. A lot of them can do a good six or seven hours, others claim longer though that’s dubious.

In what temperature ranges can it be used?
Well. When it’s cold. If it’s coat weather, you could forsake a coat for a heated vest and a lighter jacket. If you’re wearing this when it’s warm, what’s the matter with you?

Is it suitable for such outdoor activities as hunting, motorcycle, skiing, fishing, golf?
Sure, just pick a vest that’s water and wind resistant, and isn’t an exceedingly fragile material.

Pros & Cons of Using Heated Vests

Nothing in this world is perfect, everything, even if otherwise an excellent thing, has its downside. This is the case with heated vests as well. Let’s talk about the key ups and downs with these.

Pros

  • This is a good solution to keep you warm in really cold conditions. It’s like being wrapped in fresh warm laundry, which is pleasant.
  • They’re pretty stylistically neutral, so you don’t look particularly out of sorts wearing most of these.
  • They’re mostly comfortable.
  • They do actually provide solid warmth for a decent amount of time now.
  • They can be recharged.
  • They’re mostly machine washable.
  • They’re costlier than a non-heated vest, but you’re not paying hundreds or thousands for them.

Cons

  • They’re tight.
  • Many only have a couple preset levels, rather than a gradient or digital control.
  • Some of these are a bit heavy.
  • Clothing is a nuisance to shop for, due to size, gender and so on.
  • Batteries do still run out, so don’t count on this for a long-term survival thing.
  • Heat is provided in specific zones.
  • You now have clothing you have to recharge next to your phone, your shaver, your toothbrush, your tablet and your vape pen. By 2100, everything in the world will probably have a USB port on it.

Conclusion

This is the sort of futuristic thing we used to imagine being around in the 21st century. Now all we need are power laces (shoe laces are dumb), self-adjusting clothing, and perhaps flying cars. The latter isn’t far away I might add.

My Personal Experience with Heated Vests

I don’t really have much to say about material nor fashion, I’ve dressed pretty much the same my entire life, with my baggy shorts, Hawaiian shirts and flip flops. When people tell me the like what I have on, I honestly have to look down to see what I’m even wearing. I say this to say that I can’t give advice nor caveats on those aspects aside from, I personally hate the feeling of leather and faux leather – anything with that “I don’t breathe and you stick to me” sensation honestly makes my hair stand on end, so if you’re sensitive to that, avoid things trying to resemble leather.

At least one of the ones on the list is made of vinyl, which means I wouldn’t be able to stand wearing it, were I the appropriate gender for it. However, I do have an amusing story that tells why you shouldn’t try to make this yourself, aside from perhaps using one of those kits I briefly alluded to.

Many years ago, I tried to move to Seattle, from LA. I had gotten a job offer there that months later, ceased to exist as the company went under, but I spent an entire winter there. It gets cold at night in California, but the damp, deathly chill of an early November morning in Seattle before the sun (which you never directly see in that place) rises is a whole other beast. I actually got sick, even after bundling up like no tomorrow. I don’t get sick, I never catch colds or the flu or pneumonia or any of that viral garbage usually.

I’d had enough, so I took apart a jacker, and I put a bunch of resistors (which fight the flow of current by shedding heat) daisy chained to a pocket full of batteries inside it. Flicking a single little switch on the positive line meant my jacket would get toasty.

This worked for a few weeks until one of the resistors got damp, and a short happened in the vest. The batteries were hit with feedback, and burst in the pocket, dousing me with battery acid. Mercifully, the acid inside one of those AA batteries isn’t that immediately hazardous, compared to something like car battery acid, so I wasn’t hurt.

The jacket was ruined, the resistors got extremely hot, and I had to peel the thing off of me as though I were on fire.

I tried another approach, lining a jacket with a bunch of hand warmers, which also worked, but wasn’t controllable, and would actually get too hot, and I got sick from the more extreme temperature differences I experienced as a result.

Now, I have used a utility vest that was heated, a couple years ago. My friend was working on his student film project, and we had an especially chilly winter, which can happen in Florida, though “chilly” is in the high 30s. But, with Florida’s humidity, and the low temperature, it’s miserable like a Seattle winter in many of the same ways. He had me helping him film, and it was a very professional production. There were craft services for the cast and crew, trailers, pyrotechnics, paramedics on site, and since it was so awful out, crew got heated vests. The cast couldn’t due to costuming, but they were troopers and got this thing shot.

Sure enough, it kept me nice and warm, though once more, that heated core against the wet chill probably wasn’t the most ideal thing health-wise.

Don’t build your own one of these unless you really know what you’re doing. I’m handy with electrical things, but I used the early 90s’ best components and nearly set myself on fire. And, I didn’t regulate eat well, resulting in my getting sick. If you’re a clothing designer, and you want to make one of these, use a kit, and know the science behind it going in. You might know clothes stuff, but you gotta know thermodynamics and electric laws to properly create something like this.

One closing little anecdote, that I only remembered as I began to finish this section, was my friend who didn’t remove the elements in one of these before washing it, when the instructions said he should. It damaged them, fraying the padding, and his heated vest overheated against his bare skin, and severely burned his nipple. So, yeah, use as instructed, everyone. It sure looked like it hurt like hell.

Table of Contents