Also available in: French
Layering is inspired by a strategy that has been used throughout history to fight the cold which involves adding an insulating layer to retain body heat. But, there is another approach to staying warm all winter long. Your mittens, jacket and even the soles in your boots can generate the warmth you need to spend several hours outdoors. Find out how heated clothing and other accessories can change the way you experience winter.
Find out the answers to these 8 popular questions about heated clothing and other accessories that provide warmth.
- How does heated clothing work?
- What clothing can be heated?
- Is heated clothing effective?
- Who needs heated clothing?
- What are the benefits of heated clothing?
- What are the disadvantages of heated clothing?
- How do you wear heated clothing?
- How to pick heated clothing?
1. How does heated clothing work?
You are walking up a steep hill on snowshoes and sweating. Your effort is rewarded, because the view is magnificent at the top. It’s the perfect place to take a break…despite the freezing wind. Rather than start shivering and let the cold take hold of you, you press the button of your heated vest. The little battery tucked away in a pocket activates. It sends energy through wires to the heating surfaces built into the garment. In a few seconds, the heat spreads over your back and torso, and compensates for the heat that your muscles no longer produce. This heat will be kept close to the skin thanks to the insulation of your coat. You enjoy your meal feeling warm. Back at the cottage or at home, you recharge your heated clothing like you recharge your phone.
Other heated gear, such as some heated insoles, are single use. When you unpack these insoles, the air starts a chemical reaction that releases gentle heat for hours.
2. What clothing can be heated?
Many garments can provide heat and help you fight the cold.
Two types of functional clothing exist, those with a rechargeable battery or a disposable one.
Options with a rechargeable battery:
- Heated gloves and heated mittens
- Heated vest
- Heated socks
- Heated insoles with batteries
- Toe warmers
- Hand warmers
- Body warmers (adhesive strip to be stuck inside the jacket, for example)
- Disposable heating insoles
3. Is heated clothing effective?
It’s mathematical: if you produce less heat than you lose, you get colder (and if you produce more, you get warmer).
We have always fought the cold by reducing heat loss. With heated clothing, you’re still keeping warm (yes, you’ll still need a jacket to go outside and play in the cold), but you’re changing the other part of the equation: the heat produced. With that extra heat, you’ll stop cooling down and start warming up.
Heated clothing will work anywhere you feel that little shiver that indicates a heat deficit: on the way up the hill, at the bus stop, in your sleeping bag, etc.
4. Who needs heated clothing?
Some people use it to walk their dogs, others to hunt deer. You’ll love heated clothing if you encounter either of these conditions.
- You play outside (or work outside) in cold weather.
- You must stand still in the cold for long periods of time.
- You do low-intensity winter sports such as ice skating, hiking on snowy trails, ice fishing, winter waterfowl hunting, etc.
- You go camping in winter
- You are less able to fight the cold because of your genetics, health or age.
- You hate being cold.
5. What are the benefits of heated clothing?
When your body doesn’t produce enough heat, your muscles contract and blood is drawn from your extremities. No one likes that feeling. Your heated clothing makes up for the lack of warmth and lets you enjoy nature, even in the coldest weather.
There’s no fun in shivering. When you fight the cold, your muscles and joints get stiffer. Your performance decreases and your risk of injury increases.
Finally, when you do a sport that requires loose movements, heated clothing will allow you to wear a thinner and less bulky jacket.
Usefulness against frostbite and hypothermia
We’ve all experienced that outdoor outing where we would have paid a lot of money to warm up our toes as they start to freeze. One solution is to carry a pair of heated insoles or single-use toe warmers in the bottom of your backpack, and only take them out when necessary. Is your whole body getting cold? Use body warmers in the form of adhesive strips.
6. What are the disadvantages of heated clothing?
This will be a very minor inconvenience for most outdoor enthusiasts, but if every extra gram in your backpack is an extra gram, battery weight can be an issue. However, before you reject a heated garment for this reason, compare the weight of that battery to the weight of the clothing it replaces.
You’ve activated your heated vest as you hit the trail early in the morning. You spend the day having fun in the snow, nice and warm. Then, in the late afternoon, as the sun is setting over the horizon and fatigue makes you more vulnerable to the cold… the battery has run down, and the heated vest no longer warms you.
There are two solutions: better plan the use of the heated clothing or simply carry a spare battery.
Recharging the battery
This is not a problem if you are returning to the cottage at the end of the day. But if you go on a winter camping expedition for several days during extreme cold, your heated clothing will quickly lose its benefits.
The battery in some heated clothing is designed for 1,000 charge and discharge cycles. If you use your vest 7 days a week, from early November to late April, you will have over 6 years of use. Battery life is not an issue… as long as you follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
For example, if those instructions tell you to recharge the battery after each use, do so.
Otherwise, the performance and life of your battery will decrease. Your garment will produce less heat, for less time.
You can’t just throw your heated clothing in the washer with your other outdoor clothing. You must remove the battery and follow the manufacturer’s other instructions.
Discard after use
Single-use heated insoles and hand warmers should be discarded at the end of the day. This is not the most environmentally friendly choice. For regular use, opt for a battery-operated version.
It’s normal that heated clothes are more expensive, but they are worth the investment.
7. How do you wear your heated clothing?
The answer is simple: close to the skin!
A common mistake is to put the heated jacket on top of the insulating layer, for example between your fleece sweater and your winter coat. If you are layering clothes, place your heated clothing on top of your merino wool base layer, but underneath your fleece. The heat produced will be conserved.
8. How to pick your heated clothing?
Here are some criteria you’ll want to consider:
- The maximum amount of heat produced (often expressed in watts)
- The ability to modulate the heat
- Battery capacity (often expressed in hours or mAh)
- Weight and size of the battery (you’ll want a thin battery)
- Number and position of heating zones
- Overall quality of the heated clothing (design, insulating material)
- Ease of use
- The fit of the heated clothing (the clothes should fit without restricting movement)
- Gadgets (do you want to regulate the heating with your phone? Or connect your heated jacket to your snowmobile? Or do you want to recharge it without removing the battery?)
- Ease of maintenance
- The warranty
- The price
MORE LUXURIES TO KEEP YOU WARM
It’s the ultimate in luxury: an outdoor chair that’s as comfortable as many living room chairs and generates its own heat, just like heated clothing. The heated chair will change your evenings at the cottage.
Watching a hockey game or waiting patiently in a blind for a moose to show up? Then the heating pad is your most practical option.
Also available in: French