Last Updated on 08/12/2022
They sound like a good idea for outdoor work, but are heated jackets worth it? In this guide, we share the pros and cons of heated jackets and whether they are even practical. If you are looking for a winter jacket and wondering if heated jackets are worth the money, you are in the right place.
Heated jackets first became available in 2001 when North Face released their MET5 jacket which was labeled by Time Magazine as one of the best inventions that year. It was developed using the technology designed for electric blankets and was pioneering at the time but had a whopping price tag of over $500.
What happened next was a flood of cheap Chinese knock-offs which didn’t work very well and gave heated jackets a bad reputation. 20 years later and the big tool manufacturers have all entered the market. We are starting to see some real improvements to battery life, battery size, heat panel size, and jacket styling.
This article is my honest opinion of using a heated jacket for over 3 months last winter and then testing several new products this year ready for the cold weather. Bushcraft jackets are great but they don’t keep you warm like a heated jacket will.
Are Heated Jackets Worth It?
Heated Jackets are totally worth it if you work outdoors or in a workshop without heating. They are also awesome for camping, fishing, and hunting where you might be sitting still for hours on end.
No, they aren’t the most stylish and the batteries are quite bulky but there is no easier way to warm up than switching on the heat. When you press the button and start to feel the heat on your back and arms, you can be absolutely sure it was worth the money.
All of the best-heated jackets are fairly pricey, especially when you have to purchase separate batteries (Makita and Milwaukee I’m looking at you). You can be looking at anywhere from $150 to $350 all in. This seems like a lot but when it is freezing cold and you are outside all day, it is a small price to pay.
5 Benefits of Heated Jackets
The benefits of heated jackets boil down to keeping you warmer and more comfortable when outdoors. Electrically heated jackets are not for everyone and every task but for a small few they are such a brilliant invention. Here are the 5 advantages heated coats have over regular jackets:
1. Heat at The Push of A Button
Have you ever felt cold outdoors and wished you could snap your fingers and be warm? Well, now you can.
Most heated jackets not only have an on and off switch but multiple heat settings so you can control the temperature and extend your battery life. You can feel the heat start to spread fairly rapidly and it doesn’t take long before your entire jacket starts producing steam when it’s cold.
The other thing is that you don’t have to leave it on constantly and once you warm up you can turn it off to conserve the battery.
2. Reduce Layers
Without an electric jacket heated by the battery, you would have to wear multiple layers of clothing underneath your winter jacket just to stay warm. People have been layering clothes to stay warm for thousands of years, it works but it can become quite cumbersome in some cases.
A heated jacket accomplishes what two or three big winter jackets all worn together would do with minimal bulk. Lots of upper body layers in winter often restrict arm movement and can make you sluggish which is why having a heated jacket is such a benefit.
All of the heated jackets I tested were weatherproof and so can be worn as an outer layer if you want. I do suspect some would eventually soak through as there doesn’t appear to be a waterproof membrane (just a DWR treatment). But the point is you can get wear these in any weather and they will keep you warm.
4. Extend Time Outdoors
If it is so cold outside that you can only spend short bursts of time outdoors before your body temperature drops then a heated jacket and other heated clothing can be a massive advantage. Hunters and fishermen/women who have to remain as still as possible can’t do 10-star jumps to warm up. Heated jackets are silent and allow you to stay outdoors for longer.
5. Health Benefits
There are some surprising health benefits that heated jackets can offer for certain people. If you have a sports injury on your upper body a heated jacket can help to relax the muscles and aid in recovery. People who have illnesses that make them susceptible to the cold, like arthritis, can use a heated jacket to stay warm and try to alleviate pain.
3 Problems With Heated Jackets
While the benefits are obvious and when you try a jacket for the first time it is easy to forget about the downsides. But here they are:
1. Battery Size
Even though power banks and batteries have become more powerful and compact over the years, a heated jacket requires a good amount of energy to power it. There is no sugarcoating it – battery packs that go along with heated coats are still big and heavy.
Some are better than others in terms of size and profile but they are all still a bit of a burden (like carrying a can of pop around in your coat pocket all day). These battery packs can be multifunctional like on the Bosch jacket which has a USB charging port on it for your phone or accessories.
Of all the different heated jacket batteries, we found the Ororo power pack to be the least noticeable and in the way throughout the day.
2. Battery Life
With such big batteries, you might think you get a full day of battery life on full power. Wrong. Even on the longest-lasting battery heated jackets will only go for 4 hours on full power with a standard battery. On some of the tool brand jackets, you can use larger batteries that will last all day and of course, you can turn the jackets onto the low settings but the limited battery life is still a disadvantage.
3. Heat Coverage
Not all jackets are heated equally with some having larger heating panels than others. Most jackets have five heating zones on the front and back of the jacket but few have them in the arms. As you can see in the video below, using a thermal-sensitive camera shows how some jackets provide much more coverage with larger heat panels.
Who Makes the Best Heated Jackets?
There are hundreds of different no-name heated jackets out there but we ignore 99% of them in favor of an established brand or a company that is pioneering in the industry. Ororo is one jacket that has risen to the top in terms of performance and price. We like the tool-branded jackets because they are compatible with battery packs that you may already have. Here are five brands that you can trust:
ORORO Soft Shell Heated Jacket
The ORORO Soft Shell Heated Jacket is our favorite because it costs the least, has one of the better batteries, and provides some of the most consistent warmth. The jacket looks and feels good and the battery pack is ultra-slim and not very noticeable.
Milwaukee Heated Jacket KIT M12 12V
The Milwaukee Heated Jacket is probably the most popular option out there with multiple color options and types of jackets for men and women. There are some cool features like underarm gussets for ultimate mobility when working and full weatherproofing. You can also use most other Milwaukee tool battery packs which is a big plus if you already have them.
Makita DCJ205ZL 18V LXT Heated Jacket
The Makita Heated Jacket is similar to the Milwaukee jacket although it doesn’t come in camo or so many other options. It does integrate with other Makita battery packs though which many people may already have. You get five heat panels on the front and back to spread the heat around your entire upper body and keep you extra warm in the cold.
DEWALT Unisex Adult Jacket With 2.0ah Battery
The DEWALT Heated Jacket offers the same battery compatibility as the Milwaukee and Makita options but has a much heavier shell and lining. The outer material is waxed duck cotton for durability and weatherproofing. On the inside is a thick flannel fleece for warmth and comfort. ANd then between that, you have the heated panels sewn in which connect to a battery in the outer pocket.
BOSCH 12V Max Heated Jacket
The BOSCH Heated Jacket is a budget option that includes the batteries and charger as a complete kit. A really cool feature of the battery pack on this jacket is that it has a USB connector and doubles as a power bank to charge things like your phone and devices as well as your heated jacket.
How Do Heated Jackets Work?
Heated jackets are powered by rechargeable battery packs which usually sit inside an outer or inner pocket and connect to the network of heated panels sewn into the jacket. It works the same way an electric blanket does by passing a low electric charge through thin wires which then heat up. There will often be an external button on the jacket which controls the heat settings which is very discreet but easy to access.
Are Heated Jackets Safe?
You might be wondering what happens if a heated jacket gets wet and whether you can wear them in the rain. The truth is that even though most heated jackets are waterproof, the battery pack itself isn’t powerful enough to electrocute anyone. The one danger there is with using any rechargeable battery is that if it becomes damaged or faulty it could potentially overheat and cause a fire. No reports as of yet though.
Can You Wear a Heated Jacket in the Rain?
Most heated jackets are designed to be worn in winter and so are completely waterproof and windproof however all jackets are different and you should check with the manufacturer if you are unsure. You can also wear a hard shell raincoat over the top if you want to make sure you stay dry as well as warm.
What Happens if A Heated Jacket Gets Wet?
If your heated jacket gets wet you should disconnect the battery and hang it up to dry overnight. It is better to avoid drying your jacket directly on a radiator and instead hang it close by or above one. If you are worried that your battery pack got wet you can leave that in a bowl of rice for a few days which should suck all the moisture out.
How Long Do Heated Jackets Last?
On the highest settings, most heated jackets will only last about 2 – 4 hours on a standard-sized battery pack. On the medium and low settings, some companies claim that they will last a full 24 hours. Whatever claims are made, if you cut them in half you can assume that is roughly how long a heated jacket will last.
The Ororo Jacket has one of the longest battery lives of 4 hours on full power. Being able to run on full power means that you can use the jacket in temperatures as low as 40 degrees. For the Makita and Milwaukee jackets, you can use larger batter packs or keep a spare in your pocket if you want to run the settings on high heat all day.
How To Wash a Heated Jacket
Washing a heated jacket is easy. All you have to do is remove the battery pack and zip up all the pockets with any cables tucked away inside. You can use normal detergent on a cool setting below 40 degrees C but putting it inside a pillowcase for extra protection is a good idea. Once it is finished you should line dry and not use a dryer to avoid damaging any wire connections.
- Remove the battery
- Secure the cables inside pockets
- Close the pocket zips
- Put inside a laundry bag or pillowcase
- Line dry
Heated Jackets Vs Heated Vests
We could write an entire article on this subject, and maybe one day we will, but for now, we will say that heated jackets are one of the most convenient ways to stay warm with a single layer in winter. Vests have the benefit of keeping your arms free and working well with other layers. But with a heated jacket, you don’t really need any other layers.
Are Heated Jackets Worth the Extra Cost?
In summary, heated jackets are absolutely worth the extra cost if you work outdoors all year round and are looking for a convenient way to stay warm. Heated jackets don’t just keep you warm like a big puffer jacket though. They can actually raise your body temperature as well as maintain it.
The batteries are a little bulky and heavy but for the pleasure of staying warm, no matter how cold it is, heated jackets always feel good. It’s like getting an uber in winter and they have heated seats – makes you appreciate things you know?
My Experience with Heated Jackets?
To give some background, last year I was working in a plant nursery in an area with heavy rainfall and snow over winter. I tried multiple layers but when I got too hot there was nowhere to leave my clothes without them getting wet. I tried using hand warmers in my gloves and mini-DIY-hot-water bottles in my pockets. I never found balance.
Then my spouse got me a heated jacket as a gift because she felt bad and it changed everything. Instead of bulking up with multiple layers, I could just raise the temperature whenever needed. What I had originally shrugged off as a gimmick when I first saw one, was now my favorite winter jacket.
What do you think? Are heated jackets worth it? Let us know in the comments below.