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Anyone have any experience with heated clothing?

Hi TP friends,

After Oregon’s snow/ice storms and multi-day power this past winter, my partner and I realized we needed to get serious about the implications of living in an on-grid, all-electric house in the event of a prolonged power outage during cold weather. We’re not stoked on generators for several reasons (Most prominent: We don’t want to have to store all that fuel; we don’t want to spend a ton of money on something we will be far less likely to need when we inevitably move), and we’ve been thinking about heated clothing as an alternative. My two main questions are: (1) “What brands are good quality?” (i.e., function reliably; won’t set us on fire), and (2) the more fundamental, “Is this even a good idea?”

Before you take a stab at (2), some context:

  • We live in western Oregon. It doesn’t get that cold. When it does get seriously cold, it doesn’t stay that way for long.
  • We’re avid outdoorspersons. We have multiple sleeping bags, multiple down comforters, multiple down jackets, two tents, and a LOT of fleece and wool blankets and clothing. We can always heat water on a camping stove in the backyard for tea and hot water bottles. We also have a husky mix, who doubles as an XL, living hot water bottle. For all these reasons, I am very confident in our ability to create a space in our home where we can sleep comfortably on a cold night without heat.
  • While I am confident in our ability to create a warm bed/blanket fort for ourselves in our house in winter without heat, I do not want to actually LIVE in said bed/blanket fort for the duration of a power outage. That would suck.
  • We have friends who lived in a shipping container for two western Oregon winters while they were building their house. One of them bought a heated jacket to get through it. That’s where we got this possibly stupid idea. Both friends are, however, very much alive as of this writing.

So… thoughts? Experiences? Alternatives? Brand reccos? 

Thanks in advance…

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  • Comments (29)

    • 5

      One of my friends who is a full time guide loves his heated gloves from Outdoor Research for ice climbing.  It allows him to wear a thinner glove while climbing without getting cold, which aids in rope manipulation and getting a nice grip on the tools.  Though in reality a thick belay mitten is just as warm.  

      I also know that heated undersuits are common in cold weather drysuit diving, again because you have a limited space you can use for insulation.  I don’t know about other brands or versions of heated clothing so my knowledge is limited, but to me it seems best in applications where you have to sacrifice loft for a specific reason.  So it might fit into your plan, for example the gloves for high dexterity tasks during the day, or whatever.  But it would still need to be paired with some high loft versions as well to really keep you warm.  

      For very cold climbing days and expeditions we also use down puffy pants, might be worth looking into as well.  For example these are what I use. 

    • 4

      I’ve been thinking about a heated vest – great cold weather addition to a sweatshirt day or under a coverall work suit >> keep the body warm and keep the heat in with a cap – you got a chance 

    • 6

      LOVE this topic! haha Okay, little side story first. When I was in high school I saw an advertisement on TV for people to pitch their invention ideas. I was so excited and started thinking up some ideas of inventions imagining myself to be the next guy on Shark Tank, making it big and retiring in my 20’s. I thought up various ideas, dressed up, and presented my ideas to someone at this invention company. It didn’t go well and they wanted me to have invested tens of thousands into prototypes and have working models of various things. Quickly killed my dreams. 

      Looking back, they weren’t the best ideas. One was to have a low powered rubber waterproof heated blanket sort of thing that you could place out on your driveway the night before it was going to snow and storm. That way you could melt the snow as it came down and wouldn’t have any snow shoveling or ice scraping the next day. They have heated driveways, but that is very expensive. This would be a much cheaper solution that could be bought by anyone and implemented quickly.

      During the winter I like using the Zippo hand warmers and I have a piece of paracord tied around the little bag it comes in. I then wear the hand warmer around my neck like a necklace and the hand warmer warms up my entire chest and core inside of my jacket. Using the same principle of warming up a body, my next invention idea was a heated tie. You know, like the piece of useless cloth that men wear around their necks. I thought it would be a great idea to place a small battery pack and run tin wires throughout the tie to make it heated. They already do have heated snow gloves with this same technology, so it would just be about placing that same device inside of a stylish tie. To me this made sense, heat up the core of a person and that warm blood will be transferred to the rest of the extremities. A business man in his commute to work would benefit from this because he could just button up his coat and have his core heated.

      Anyways… those were my inventions. I believe in the idea of heated clothing enough to have thought about it and pitch the idea to a company. Sure you can bundle up in warm clothes and sleep in a sleeping bag like you mentioned to stay alive, but that is relying on your internal system to continually burn calories to keep you warm. It’s more efficient if you had an external source of warmth so your body doesn’t have to work as hard. A fire, space heater, or heated clothing can meet this need.

      Especially if it could be powered by a rechargeable battery, power bank, or small solar panel, this heated clothing can be an excellent survival item. 

      I’ll have to do some research for you, but I know they have heated snow gloves so definitely look into those. And then another idea is to do something like I do with that Zippo hand warmer and wear it as a necklace inside of a shirt or coat. I know they have electric hand warmers as well, but I haven’t used any of those.

      • 4

        I love your hand warmer idea because we could buy a bunch of them right now (or, you know, later in the fall) while we explore other options— and they’d be a great backup if the heated jacket ran out of batteries. I did some Googling and was able to find some heated jackets, but I have no idea which brands are reliable and what the battery life/re-charging options are. In any case, it seems better relying solely on one’s own calorie-burning for heat, and also better than buying a $1,000 generator, a bunch of fuel containers, and the fuel itself.

        Not knocking generators: If I lived in a place that routinely got very hot or very cold, I’d get one, but there’s a limit on what I’m willing to spend (and store) to generate my own power in a place where extreme temps are very rare. At the same time, we had hundreds (thousands?) of people out of power for the 4-5 coldest days of the year this past winter, and since the city doesn’t invest in snow removal, a lot of them were stuck at home. Most had natural gas heat, but we don’t. I would feel like a foolish prepper if I went into this winter with no plan for that scenario after having it stare me in the face for a week.

      • 4

        it seems better relying solely on one’s own calorie-burning for heat

        – I would argue that. Remember Texas’s deep freeze they were having earlier this year, I bet any of them would have bought a heated jacket for $1000. 

        I wouldn’t rely on the heated jacket 100% and not invest in other appropriate non-heated clothing, but heated clothing options are an excellent idea and investment that you will want desperately if placed in a situation where you really need it. I’ve done some winter camping, and would have loved to have an external source of heat like a piece of heated clothing. Sure I survived off of my body heat and all bundled up in my clothes and bag, but I was miserable and still freezing.

        At least give the hand warmer near your chest during the winter a try. If you are not moving around and producing body heat, like when just sitting there or laying down, it really is a game changer of keeping you warm and happy.  Here’s the zippo hand warmer I have.

        I’m going to ask Santa for a hand warmer like this, this next Christmas. Looks like it can be charged by USB, and also doubles as a battery bank to charge your phone. I hate having cold hands because you lose dexterity and that can lead to more issues like being able to shoot a gun accurately, tie some paracord for a shelter, or start a fire.

      • 3

        Oh gosh, also, typo— I meant to say, “In any case, it seems better THAN relying solely on one’s own calorie-burning for heat, and also better than buying a $1,000 generator…” 

        Because yeah, I can warm myself up doing jumping jacks and burpees or whatever, just like I can warm myself up by putting on wool long underwear and getting into my 0°-rated down sleeping bag with a Nalgene full of hot water in the toe box and piling a couple of down comforters on top of that and coaxing my dog to lie down in the pile. The problem is that if the power is out for three days, I do not want to spend three. straight. days. either doing burpees on my living room floor or in a goose feather cocoon. I need to be able to move around and do stuff that isn’t active enough to warm me up— like cooking! 

        And yeah, the manual dexterity thing is such an issue. Thick gloves also make it hard to do any fine movements, but thin gloves that don’t keep your hands warm land you in the same place.

      • 3

        I have a friend with Reynauds syndrome (which is serious response to cold in her hands) and she has these types of charging hand warmers.  Loves them.  

      • 3

        P.S. VERY RELATEDLY, I love your snow-melting mat idea! 

      • 3

        Thanks! I totally would buy a product like that, if it’s not already made. It would be extremely durable where a car could drive over it, and just keep the temperature slightly above freezing to minimize on the amount of power it requires and keep the snow off your driveway. If only I was more of an entrepreneur…

    • 4

      Sorry, no electric underwear ideas, but I am definitely cold blooded. If my feet are cold, I’m cold. So I have a bunch (dozens) of chemical hand warmers to stick in the toes of my boots. I used them in the Missouri winters when I was doing herd work on the neighbor’s dairy. They are of course  limited in number but good for a cold spell if I absolutely have to go outside to repair a roof or whatever. It got -20-something here last year!

      My grandma would heat old iron window weights on her little tin woodstove and then wrap them in newspaper to stick at the foot of the bed. Man it makes me feel good thinking about it! Newspapers are more obsolete than window weights but you can use a brick and an old tshirt.

      The best thing to do to keep warm is move. Not move to Florida just move your body. But that is also a problem, move too much and you get sweaty. I have a couple of “outfits” of 100% polypro material: base, insulated, button shirt, pull-over, windbreaker/shell. most of it came from walmart not REI so wasn’t hugely expensive. It isn’t perfect, don’t believe the ads for Goretex but it does dry very fast—which means when you stop working you can get chilled but unlike cotton it quickly warms you back up.

      So, you know this, layers. If you are going into a blizzard a big parka is great but if you are going to be active, lots of layers that you can shed is the ticket.

      One other thing about synthetics, they burn like the petroleum they’re made of and they melt too making them poor outerwear for a bonfire. Have a big wool shirt available when you are using that Coleman. 

      • 3

        my go to way to warm up is to do some burpees to get those quads to make some warmth. i then swing my arms like a windmill to force warm blood into the tips of my fingers. works every time.

      • 2

        We’re cold-blooded, too! We actually wear synthetic long underwear around the house when the heat is on. We have the polypro stuff, but wool is my favorite. It’s a lot less itchy than the wool of my childhood!

        I think the challenge with a 1-4 day power outage like we had this past winter (in our area, not in our house) is that you sort of have to keep existing semi-normally, which means (for information economy city dwellers like us) being up and around but not super active. Lying in bed for three days would suck, but the things to get up and do instead aren’t active survival farm-y outdoorsy things like chopping wood (or working cattle… which makes me think that a full-body insulated Carhartt jumpsuit could be useful…).

        Aren’t window weights super small? I’ve never heard of using them that way— so quaint to wrap anything in newspaper! (I usually wrap Christmas and birthday gifts in newspaper.) In the same vein, one of the first gifts I ever gave my husband was a hot water bottle for which I had sewn a cover out of a weird cashmere dress my friend pulled out of a free clothing pile. The dress had clearly ended up in the dryer and was too small to be worn by most adults, but it was enough cashmere to make a very cozy sweater for the hot water bottle!

      • 3

        Old fashioned window weights were iron bars hung via rope and pulleys, heavy enough to balance the weight of double hung windows—hence “double hung”… more useless information, LOL

        weights_thumb

      • 2

        I love old house ingenuity and how they designed and did things before better solutions were thought of. I didn’t even know that window weights were a thing until you mentioned it here.

    • 2

      Good morning, (I’m up !)

      Maintanince ?

      Have thoughts been developed on cleaning and drying waterproof clothes such as socks ?

      Would these products be first choice for an evacuation ?

      Sidebar; On my load-bearing suspenders, are 4 sturdy paper clamps (Think of MITRE and RAND glossy cover reports.). After washing socks, they get clamped on “H” section of suspenders during a walking evacuation (a/k/a/ “infantry mode”).

      • 2

        Good morning, Bob! (Evening over here…) 

        I am not envisioning heated clothes for an evac— I wouldn’t want to bug out with clothes that derive their warmth from a battery as opposed to traditional, harder-to-break features like loft. It seems like packing down a jacket with heating elements and storing it in a cramped pack could increase the likelihood of damage, too.

        I’m interested in heated clothing for the very specific situation that actually happened in the area where I live this past winter: 3-5 day power outages when temperatures are in the 20s, since our rental house doesn’t have gas heat or a fireplace. Life safety isn’t my concern (we have the gear to stay warm) nor is long-term grid-down survival (we’d start a fire). I’m seeking misery-mitigation in short-term disruptions. (And arguably, also, marital preservation: My partner knows how much time and money I spend on prepping, and if we blunder miserably through the minor hiccup of a winter power outage, he will, at the very least, tease me about it for the rest of our life together and, at worst, show more skepticism of my expenditures on getting us “prepared.”)

        As for waterproof socks, I contemplated buying those when I had permits to backpack the West Coast Trail a couple of years ago, but decided against it because multilayered socks seem like a blister recipe to me, so I have no actual experience with them. But I love the idea of clipping your socks to your suspenders so that they dry while you hike!

      • 2

        I live in an area unlikely to suffer extreme cold, but Winter Storm Uri persuaded me to buy a 12V heated blanket that I can plug into my Jackery (which is rechargeable via solar). I recently went “glamping” in a thin tent in a very cold and windy climate where the heated mattress pad made the entire experience heavenly so I’m assuming the 12V heated blanket will be enough to forego misery; fortunately I have not yet had an opportunity to actually try this but it was an inexpensive prep to add to my stash. Also consider investing in some old-fashioned hot water bottles (go the extra mile and get silicone instead of latex in case you happen to be helping someone with a latex allergy).  If you have a campfire you can heat some water before bed, fill the bottles, and they should keep you warm long enough for you and the spouse to get some ZZZs.  Finally, in my experience multilayered socks actually PREVENT blisters. I usually wear a think silk pair under a cotton/poly blend (sadly I can’t wear wool) and when I do that I never get blisters.  And remember to have a backup plan for your pipes. You may be warm and toasty but if your pipes freeze you’re in serious trouble. I’d love some really good advice on preventing frozen pipes when there is zero power for days – from what I understand the “drip” method helps but isn’t foolproof and requires certain considerations like whether or not to drain the water heater.  If our home were in a Uri situation I cannot envision any way to prevent frozen pipes during such an extended freeze without power. 

      • 1

        Good morning M.E.,

        Good program you’ve got.

        Silk is the best textile material for insulating human skin. Also available in “long johns” / long underwear.  Admittedly, I don’t use because just too cold of a material to put on.

        As an aside, the best fur (Don’t tell Ingred Newkirk of PETA Norfolk, Virginia I posted this) for insulating human skin is black sable.

        Am familiar w/ blisters; infantry, artillery recon. Even today, antifungal footpowder and moleskin anti-blister stuff CRITICAL part of loadout.

        Footnote: I have some Army issued long underwear. For those into gallows humor, it is award-winning.

        Label reads:

        Drawers, [+ other word]

        Extreme Cold Weather

        100% cotton

        ………………………..

        “The times they are achanging” 

      • 2

        A heated blanket seems great for lying around, but if you’re up and about you sort of have to bundle it around you… I’d dig a heated blanket that could be converted into a poncho so you could actually use both hands with it wrapped around you! That would be a more versatile item than a heated jacket or vest, too— it could be a blanket or a clothing item! (Now, does anyone make it?)

        Good idea on silicone hot water bottles— we’ve got a latex one (and you can do the same trick, albeit not with boiling water, with a Nalgene).

        To be clear about my socks comment, I’m definitely a fan of layering socks and have no reason to question the conventional wisdom that they prevent blisters— I was referring to a single sock that is comprised of multiple distinct sock layers. Have you seen these? A footwear specialist at REI told me they were amazing and prevented blisters, so I gave them a chance, but I was dubious, and indeed, the interior sock sort of crumpled over time, creating blister-inducing wrinkles while the exterior sock was still otherwise perfectly good. :/

        And VERY good point about the pipes— thank you. I hadn’t considered that and will need to go digging for info— we’re born and raised in the Bay Area where pipes do not freeze, so we have zero experience managing that problem. Oof.

    • 2

      Have you considered a space heater? TP reviewed them and their top choice uses propane like a car-camping stove.  It’s still fuel to store, but it is sealed and less messy than gasoline.  I got the converter for a 20lb tank so I can use the one from the grill.  Fuel I was already storing.  

    • 4

      I have a Milwaukee Tools heated vest. The main advantage is being able to wear less bulky layers while working. It has three heat settings and one battery will last me about half a day. I use their tools too, so in an emergency I would have a few extra batteries. You could also use the car charger to recharge batteries if grid down. I love it, sized down so that the vest is a little snug. The larger size didn’t feel as warm.

      • 2

        I took a look at those on Home Depot’s website and they look thin and warm. Having one that runs off the same battery as your tools is also a great idea.

        Have you had to wash it yet? Is it machine washable?

      • 3

        I bought three M-Tool hunting jackets two years ago, one for me and one each for my boys. They are great while they work but….#2 son’s didn’t last the first three month long deer season. Mine lasted one deer season for the main body heater. The handwarmer pockets lasted one more season. #1 son’s is still working going in to this third season (and now he has three batteries for it). These were pretty high dollar so I expected much more from them. Now I wear camo Frogg Toggs as my outer layer. Waterproof and wind proof so they retain a lot of your body heat even when just sitting on a deer stand all day.

      • 2

        Seems like finding a heated clothing company with a good warranty and reputation is an important consideration. More things to go wrong. And if the heating element goes out, then you are just carrying around an extra heavy piece of clothing that won’t be that great on it’s own.

    • 2

      Hi Pnwsarah, my personal preference is no tech: stainless steel water bottle with a silicone washer, filled with boiling water & dropped into a thick wool sock. Can be shifted about while sitting, stuffed into bottom of sleeping bag, moved around in jacket, held in hands, etc. That combined with a thermos type bottle with hot tea, and my cold sensitive self can enjoy sub freezing tent camping just fine with normal cold weather gear. Something interesting I’ve observed too, is how our bodies adapt to colder temps when forced to; first day & night is torture, then we begin to adjust a certain amount. That first night back in heated shelter feels soooo hot. A flat whiskey flask would likely be good too, just need more frequent reheating. In such conditions I would wear insulated pants also, ski type, bulky & ugly, but cozy. 

    • 2

      The only heated clothing I’ve had experience with is heated glove liners. I have Raynaud’s syndrome (in short, my hands are very sensitive to the cold), and when I moved to Quebec from the southern U.S., I ordered these glove liners from Its Motion Electric. I no longer live in la belle province, but these glove liners still get plenty of use. I highly recommend them, and although I haven’t used the other heated clothing products from Its Motion Electric, they might be worth researching as well.

      • 1

        Good afternoon Mensch,

        That’s a great chart on glove fitting / sizing chart at the Moton link you provided.

        That chart will help my small group.

        Thank you for being a real mensch !