Heated Jackets to Keep You Warm This Winter
Heated jackets and heated liners are a great way to make sure you stay nice and warm while you are riding this winter. The problem with normal jackets is that they use your body’s own heat to keep you warm, but the wind usually blows right through them. There is also the simple matter of the cold. If it is too cold then it’s not going to be able to do as much since the cold is simply overpowering the heat your body can produce even with the insulation from the jacket. Heated jackets eliminate this limitation by adding in electric heating elements. These heat up the inside of the jacket to keep you nice and warm on even the coldest days riding. There are several different options including a full jacket vs just a liner and battery vs wired power source. We are going to take a look at some of these issues, then we are going to explorer the top ten best heated jackets and liners.
Battery powered VS. Wired
The first thing we need to decide is how we are going to power our heated jacket? You have two options here, either a battery powered unit which usually runs on a 7V battery, or a wired unit which runs off of your bikes battery. This is going to come down to personal preference in most cases as each has its own advantages and disadvantages and only you can decide which option is right for you.
Let’s start with battery powered jackets and liners. These are more convenient for riders who don’t want to be bothered with wiring a new harness into their bike. The biggest advantages to a battery powered system are portability, you can keep using it once you get off of your bike, and ease of use, there is no wiring involved. Because a battery powered jacket or liner has its own power supply this is going to be the only option on some dirt bikes that don’t have a battery, but this shouldn’t be an issue on most street bikes. This is also good if you have a bike that runs on a 6V system since this would need a converter to run a 12V jacket. The added load of a converter powering a heated jacket is likely to overload a 6V system. This is compounded by the fact that 6V systems have not been used in production for years, so, unless the bike has been completely rewired recently, you risk overloading the wiring and damaging the system. This is where a battery powered option really shines since it eliminates all of this hassle.
Next, we have 12V wired jackets and liners. These are by far the more popular choice and the market reflects that. There are way more options out there for wired gear. There are several factors to consider here. First, a 12V wired jacket is not going to have to be charged. Since it is connected straight to your bikes battery you are not going to have any issues powering it on a long ride like you will with a battery operated model which can last less than two hours depending on the heat setting. This is great for around town trips, but what if you are taking a long ride out of town? You will be warm for the first few hours, then cold the rest of the time.
Wired jackets do add another layer to the setup, however, since they have to be wired into your bike. These usually come with a quick connect, fuse, and battery terminals. This simplifies installation since all you have to do is hook the terminals up to your battery, install the fuse, and connect the quick connect. Once this is wired up there is no reason to remove the harness, instead just hide it away somewhere so you can have easy access to it when you need to.
Heated Jackets VS. Heated Liners: Choosing the Right Option for You
Next, we need to take a look at the two main options you have available. Do you want to go with a full jacket or a liner? A full jacket will usually come with a removable liner, so if you already have a riding jacket then it doesn’t make much sense to spend the extra money on a full jacket when you can just buy the liner that goes underneath. If, on the other hand, you are also looking to buy a riding jacket then a full jacket is the way to go since a heated jacket doesn’t cost much more than a normal riding jacket. This can save you some money when you are getting started. This is really going to be the biggest deciding factor when deciding between a liner and a full jacket. The biggest advantage to a liner here is that you are not limited to the jackets available. You can use these with any jacket that will fit over the liner.
Can’t I just use a Dewalt or Milwaukee work jacket and be fine? Is there really a difference?
Let’s take a moment here to take a look at Dewalt and Milwaukee as brands. These are names you should immediately recognize, but for those who are not familiar, they both manufacture tools. They also both make heated jackets and hoodies, but they are focused on their own industry, namely tool and die work. This means these will usually run on either 12V or 20V which will be determined by the battery. Higher voltage batteries will usually have more power in these cases. The thing to watch out for here is that, even though they will run on 12V power, these are still designed to run off of batteries, so you will have the same restrictions as with a 7V jacket. Another thing to keep in mind with batteries is that they don’t like to be damaged. This is especially true to lithium ion batteries which can release a highly flammable and toxic gas when the cells are damaged. For normal use, this is not a problem, but if you were to have a wreck this could prove dangerous.
The second, major difference is that these jackets are designed for use while working, not riding on a motorcycle. They will keep you warmer than a normal hoodie or jacket, but will not do much compared to a riding jacket. This is because these are not made with any type of wind proof layer, why would they be? Their target audience is working mostly in either protected areas with little wind or in large warehouses that would cost too much to heat and cool. With this in mind it doesn’t make sense to add to the expense of the jacket to wind proof it when it won’t really serve a purpose.
The biggest disadvantage here is the construction. These jackets are made for workers, so they are not going to offer the protection that a riding jacket will. Heated work jackets are really only designed to stand up to normal use and maybe a bit of slag, but not the type of abuse a riding jacket needs to be able to stand up to. This can leave you vulnerable in the event of a wreck and could cause additional injuries. You wouldn’t want to wear one of these as your outer layer, but they can be worn under a riding jacket to act as a heated liner similar to what you would buy from a brand like Gerbing.
So, to sum up, yes, you can wear a heated jacket or hoodie from one of the major tool brands like Dewalt or Milwaukee. These are a good option if you need a dual purpose solution since they run on batteries and can be used for work as well as a mid layer under your riding jacket.
Let’s get started with full jackets. If you are just stating out and don’;t have a riding jacket yet this is the way to go. It will cost less to buy a heated jacket with a removable liner now than it would to buy a jacket now and come back for the heated liner later. Unfortunately for many riders, they start out in the summer and never even give a thought to winter riding until it is too late. At this point the only options are to buy a whole new jacket that has the liner, or get a liner and keep wearing their current jacket. Either option is more expensive, so hopefully some of you have stumbled onto this article ahead of time and can save a bit of money. Now, let’s get the ball rolling.
Gerbings 12V XE Jacket
Starting off strong is the Gerbing 12V XE jacket. Gerbing is a brand you may not have heard of before, but they are one of the top heated gear manufacturers around. They have a reputation for quality heated gear that will last for years and hold up to the abuse of riding. Gerbing is so confident is their products that they offer a one year total coverage warranty and a lifetime heating element warranty as well as a three year warranty on the controller. This means if something happens to your jacket in the first year or if anything ever happens to the heating elements you are covered.
The Gerbings XE is not just a heated jacket, it is a full blown riding jacket. It comes with everything you would expect a premium jacket to have. This includes elbow and shoulder pads take keep you safe. It is made with an impact resistant fabric to keep it from tearing away if you happen to wreck. Finally, it also comes with reflective strips for maximum visibility while you are riding at night.
The jacket tends to run a little small, so it is recommended to order a size up if you want it to fit like you are used to. The thing here, however, is that Gerbing actually designs their gear to hug your body for maximum heat transfer. This is uncomfortable for some riders though, so really it comes down to which is more important to you? Would you rather it fit a little looser or be warmer? Personally, I think I would have to go with looser. This is also a good idea if you plan on layering as well for obvious reasons. You shouldn’t need to add too many layers with this jacket though. It is rated to temperatures up to 135 degrees and run on 77 watts of power. Your bike should have no problems supplying this and more for other heated gear.
Speaking of other heated gear, the XE comes with connections for both heated gloves and a heated pants liner. This will save you the trouble of wiring additional connectors to your battery if you choose to invest in additional heated gear. This isn’t always necessary, but if you are planning on upgrading later on and getting a full suit this is something to consider now, before you buy any of your gear.
During the summer the liner is removable and the jacket opens up to allow for more ventilation, so you don’t have to worry about having a second riding jacket for warm weather. While this jacket may not have as many pockets as some it does have two chest pockets, one buttoning and one with a zipper. It also has two normal pockets, but I wouldn’t recommend storing anything in these while you are riding. The XE jacket is available in sizes from small all the way up to 3X-large. This makes this a jacket that anyone can wear. The jacket is also advertised as being water proof, so you don’t have to worry about getting caught out in the rain and ruining your heated jacket.
This VentureHeat 7.4V is a great example of a dual purpose jacket. It is mainly intended for snowmobile use, so it is wind resistant, but does not offer any type of padding to protect you if you take a spill. This is not a huge deal for some riders like myself who don’t wear padding anyway. This is not to say this jacket can’t be worn under a riding jacket though, it is a fairly thin jacket.
The heating elements are woven into the fabric rather than having larger elements which can cause hot spots and burns. Even if you were to be exposed to the direct element you are not likely to get a serious burn, more than likely it will just be an “ouch” moment. That’s not to dismiss the possibility of getting burnt by this jacket, but it is far less likely to be an issue than with something that uses thicker copper wires or large heated areas that can form hot spots.
One unique feature of this jacket is that is has select able heating. Thanks to this you can choose to only heat the front or back of the jacket to suit your needs and comfort. The battery should be able to power this jacket for up to seven hours, but expect about two hours on high heat.
Let’s move on to liners. Liners are going to be much more common that full jacket solution since most people opt to buy a heated liner after discovering their jacket isn’t warm enough on its own. These liners are usually going to cost a good bit less than a full solution with some starting around $100. We are going to take a look at a few different options, both battery powered and wired so you can make an informed decision on which is right for you.
Right away this is going to be one of the top choices for this list. This does come at a price, though with this being one of the more expensive liners on the list. That being said, this liner is well worth the extra premium. It is a quality liner made with premium materials. Let’s take a look at some of the features that make this liner stand tall above the rest.
The first thing this liner offer that cheaper options will usually leave out is consistent warming throughout the jacket. The TourMaster Synergy is heated throughout, even the collar. This is great for keeping your neck warm while keeping out the cold since the collar is adjustable to seal tight against your neck. This is great since a heated jacket won’t do you much good if there is a constant supply of cold air being blown into your liner.
The next feature we are going to talk about, and this is my favorite, the TourMaster Synergy comes with a temperature sensor in the liner. This allows you to maintain a consistent temperature, unlike some other liners which will just supply a constant voltage to the heating elements. This usually works well, but can cause it to over heat if it is set too high or too cold if it is set too low. Unfortunately, as most of us know, the outside temperature usually falls between two settings, so you are left switching back and forth to maintain a comfortable temperature. With this liner you don’t have to worry about that. In my opinion, this makes this the top choice on this list.
Because this is just a liner and not a full jacket it weighs a good bit less than a full heated jacket. While most heated jackets weigh in close to six or seven pounds, the TourMaster liner only weigh two pounds. This may not be a huge difference for short, unencumbered rides, but for longer rides when you are already loaded down with gear those few pounds can make the difference between hurting in four hours or six hours. Remember, every pound counts when you are riding for hours at a time. TourMaster also makes heated pants liners and gloves which can be wired in to the Synergy liner for a full body heated suit. This will make those long winter rides not only bearable, but pleasant.
FirstGear Heated Liner
This is a great example of a middle of the road jacket liner. It is rated up to 110 watts at 12.8V, but is limited by the controller you use. The jacket comes with a standard controller which will supply the jacket with 65 watts of power. The upgraded model, what they call the “DualSingle Heat-Troller” offers up to 90 watts of power for added warmth. Don’t ask me how they came up with that name, I’m not sure myself.
This liner is designed to keep you at a neutral temperature while not in use. This means you don’t have to worry about taking it off when you are stopped. This is because it is made of a lightweight nylon that, by itself, will not do much to retain heat. This is a bit of a double edged sword since it means the liner won’t contribute to insultation you, but it will also not cause you to retain extra heat when you are not riding and need to stay cool. This makes it a great option for riding in the desert where it is hot in the day, but the temperatures drop like a rock once the sun starts to go down. With this liner you can just wear it all day and not have to worry about it, then turn it on when it starts to get cold. It is designed to be worn between your jacket and another layer such as a t-shirt. This is to allow for maximum heat transfer while keeping the rider safe from burns if the liner gets too hot, similar to having a covering on a heating pad.
This jacket offers consistent heating throughout. It even has heating elements running down the sleeves to keep your arms warms while riding. The FirstGear liner comes with connectors to allow you to attach gloves and a pants liner. These are stored away in a zippered pocket when not in use to keep them from getting caught on something and possible damaged. One last thing, and this is a small one, but one that is a nice addition, this liner comes with it’s own pouch. It’s nothing special, just a zip up pouch for the liner, but it is great for storing it in your bags when not in use.
Gyde by Gerbing
This liner is basically the liner from the Gerbing XE we talked about earlier. It runs on 77 watts at 12V, same as the XE. It is designed to reach temperatures up to 135 degrees meaning it is going to offer plenty of heating potential when you are out riding. Like the XE jacket, this system connects straight to the battery via terminals and an inline fuse. It can the be expanded by adding a pants liner and or heated gloves which can be wired right to the Gyde liner.
The Gyde liner is made with a light-weight nylon shell that is designed to be tear resistant, so if you get a tear, the shell is designed to stop the rip from spreading. How effective this would be if, say, the tear got caught on something, but should keep them from spreading from normal, day to day use. This may not mean much for those riders that are meticulous with their gear, but for most this could prove useful.
This liner uses what Gerbing calls their “Micro-Wire technology.” Basically what this is is the heating elements are much smaller, but also more densely packed than other brands. These heating elements are located in the sleeves, chest, collar, and back to allow uniform heating throughout. Sizing is another area the Gerbing shines. It is based on standard sizing, so you don’t have to worry about finding out which size to order. This isn’t a big deal since you can usually find out from the reviews if a jacket runs small, but knowing without having to scour reviews like you do with some brands is a nice change of pace.
The HotWired heated jacket liner 2.0 is one of the cheaper liners on this list, though not by much. For the most part it has the same features as the others on this list, but it does lack a connector for hooking up a pair of heated pants liners. Sizing is pretty standard, so you don’t have to worry about figuring out your size. It is also water resistant. This should help if you wind up caught up in a rain storm.
This particular liner is rated at 83 watts at 12.8V. This allows for settings up to 110 degrees. This put it on par with most other liners in this price range. This allows you to save money on the liner since the controller does not need to be able to handle as much amperage and heat. The reason they do this is because most riders keep their liners set at around 110, so by having it max out at this it makes tuning the temperature in easier while saving money. One big advantage here is that You don’t have to try to make fine adjustments or be switching between settings to maintain a comfortable temperature range.
It is made with a fleece inner liner for added comfort, but should not be worn directly against your skin for the same reason as the others, simply because prolonged exposure can cause burns. This liner is designed to be a mid layer and does provide some insulation. This means you can wear it while not riding and it will still help keep you warm unlike some of the others which are made not to retain heat. The fact that this one will is good for the cold since it will keep you warmer without adding more bull, but at the same time you would not exactly be comfortable riding on a hot day in this like you would the lighter, nylon ones.
This is another liner that comes in at the sub $200 sweet spot for these liners. It is the only liner that is switchable between 105 watts and 60 watts without a controller switch. This is far from the only liner that has variable wattage, but it is the only one that makes it this easy. There is simply an extra set of wires that need to be disconnected in order to reduce the wattage.
The shell is made of nylon like most of the others. It does not retain heat well, but given the fact that it can run on 105 watts this should not be an issue. This liner will keep you nice and warm no matter the outside temperature. The shell is coated with polyurethane for water proofing and wind resistance. This makes it a great choice for riders that do not have a weatherproof jacket already.
This liner is designed to heat up quickly. The elements are fast heating, getting up to temperature in just 20 seconds or less. This is great for those cold mornings when you just want to warm up. The liner has stretch panels sewn in to help keep it hug closer to your body for effective heat transfer. Speaking of heat transfer, this is another liner which has consistent heating throughout. It also has a fleece collar which makes wearing it for long periods more comfortable.
OK, so, here is our first battery powered jacket on this list. The VentureHeat Escape runs on a 10,000 mAh USB battery bank. Unfortunately, it does not come with a battery, but for the price this isn’t a big deal. The rule of thumb is you get about an hour of use for every 1,000 mAh, so a 10,000 mAh battery would give you up to 10 hours of continuous use.
Because this is a general use heated jacket it is not really designed to be worn under a riding jacket which means it is going to add a bit of bulk. On the other hand you have the advantage of being able to wear this out in the cold as its own jacket. Most of the liners are not made to insulate you, so they don’t retain heat.
The VentureHeat is a fleece jacket, so it will be comfortable even if you only have a t-shirt under. It is not going to provide as much heat as a riding liner since it is not really meant to stand to that much wind. That being said it is made to be wind and water resistant. The shell is made of polyester to allow water to bead to and roll off.
Heat is controlled with a one button controller and gives you the option of low, medium, and high heat. This means you can’t tune it as much as some of the liners, but you also have the advantage of not being tied to your bike. The heating elements are micro elements and are made not to overlap so there shouldn’t be any hot spots. This will help with comfort and prevent burns. Not a bad deal for the price.
Bosch Soft Shell
When most people hear the name Bosch they think of car parts and for good reason. Their main business is spark plugs and fuel pumps, but they also make great jackets. These are made with mechanics in mind, so you know this jacket can stand up to abuse. It is made completely out of polyester. This makes it wind and water resistant, so it is another good choice for a mid layer or base layer. Like the VentureHeat is is not made to be worn under another jacket, so it will add a bit more bulk, but will also be that much better for keeping you warm.
The jacket is designed to run up to 6 hours on low settings. This isn’t as good as some others, but still should be sufficient for shorter rides. It also has a USB charging port, so you can charge your phone or other USB devices with the jacket rather than having to bring an extra battery bank. The charger does only work on 5V/1A, so it won’t charge very fast, but it’s better than carrying around an extra battery and having to worry about that.
One area the Bosch lacks in is heating elements. It only has two in the chest one one in the back, so there is no heat around your neck or down the sleeves. This isn’t a huge issue if you are wearing it under your riding jacket though since the extra insulation will keep you warm regardless. There are three heat settings, low, medium, and high, which should be sufficient in this jacket. It has plenty of pocket space, but in most riding situations you won’t be able to get to them. This is good for times when it is warm enough to just wear the jacket though.
Our second work grade heated jacket to make this list the Milwaukee M12 is a heated jacket that runs on a Milwaukee tools battery and can get up to six hours from a charge. The jacket comes with the battery and charger included which does drive the price of this one up a bit, but it is well worth it when you consider the cost of the battery separately. The interior liner uses a waffle patterned weave to help with heat retention. On top of that, it is made to look and feel like a normal jacket. Sizing is on point for American standard sizes, so you shouldn’t have any issues finding the one that fits you.
Heating on this jacket is about what you would expect from a battery powered unit. It has five heating elements which are made with carbon fiber, not steel or copper like most others. Heat will still be somewhat lower than 12V liners and jackets though, but shouldn’t make a huge difference since they will provide extra insulation to retain more of the heat that is produced. This is necessary for battery powered jackets and liners since they are running on a limited source. There are three separate heat settings, so you can’t really tune it in, but you should be able to get your temperature about right with proper layering.
One of the biggest things that stands out to me with this particular jacket is that it is washer and dryer safe. This means you can simply machine wash it instead of having to follow special directions for cleaning it or having it dry cleaned, you can simply toss this one in the wash and forget about it.
As you can see there are plenty of options out there for heated jackets and liners. If you are like me and work outside a lot in the winter it may pay to invest in a work grade, battery powered jacket. This is a great option for someone who does their own mechanic work and doesn’t have a garage to work in. They may not be able to last all day without a charge like a 12V one will, but they are more versatile.
If, on the other hand, you are going to use this solely for riding then you should consider either getting a liner or heated jacket that runs off of your bikes power. These units will get warmer than battery powered units and do not have to be charged since the bikes stater will keeps the bikes battery charged even with the extra load from your gear. The other big advantage here is that you can usually wire in heated gloves and pants liners as well for a full body heated suit. If this doesn’t keep you warm riding this winter, nothing will.