This is a long term reflective review on the Blazewear products that I’ve been wearing since last October. For the original review, please see this blog post: http://www.mikewilson.cc/2011/10/27/blazewear-heated-clothing-video-review/
Winters are cold, especially when one is outdoors, in the countryside and standing still looking up at the stars all night. That’s why, a few months ago I went looking for the ultimate in warm weather clothing that was simultaneously warm but also lightweight enough to allow me to carry approximately 50kg of astronomical equipment, be flexible and warm enough while I’m operating it and then keep me warm while packing up several hours later.
A friend of mine suggested that I take a look at Blazewear heated clothing and so I did, picking up a heated fleece for me and a heated gilet for my wife. I was impressed and acquired a men’s gilet fleece, ladies scarf and men’s heated insoles a week or two later.
The men’s fleece and ladies gilet is reviewed on my YouTube channel:
1. Men’s Ardeo Gilet
2. Ladies Deluxe Gilet
3. Men’s Fleece
4. Heated Insoles
5. Heated Scarf
6. Standard & Large Battery plus car charger
They arrived after a couple of days and were promptly unboxed:
The items arrived wrapped in a branded polythene bag and inside were the two garments plus boxes containing the car charger and batteries.
Techie tip: Just 2200 mAh. I’m not planning on opening these or modifying them but it feels like the standard batteries contain a couple of 18650 3.7V Lithium cells in series. It should be possible (disclaimer: but may void a warranty and/or cause injury if you do not know what you are doing) to replace these two cells with a couple of AW 3100mAh batteries, giving you an extra 30% heating duration (this would cost about £35-40 so you may be better off getting an extra standard or using the long life battery instead).
The batteries are 7.4V and not 12V or 9V. The optional car charger outputs 9V which is good enough to charge a battery but shouldn’t be modified to power the garments from a car. There’s potential here for Blazewear to produce an adapter which plugs into a 12V system – almost all astro imagers have a 12V power supply in the field (via a leisure battery or a regulated power supply) and all cars and most motorcycles have a 12V cigarette socket. This might be a nice way to keep warm for extended periods where all you have is a 12V socket. Competing products for Motorcycle users allow bikers to plug into a 12V system and it would be nice to see a 12V-compatible adapter for Blazewear too.
The Ladies “Deluxe” Gilet
The Men’s Fleece
The Men’s “Ardeo” Gilet
Garden astronomy (I’m wearing a Blazewear Heated Men’s “Ardeo” Gilet over a T-shirt)
A large and very fluffy gilet. It’s pretty warm just used on its own and with heating applied it warms up the large panel on the pack and the two panels on the front.
Two pockets on either side with no zip.
If it’s exceptionally cold outside I wear the heated fleece underneath this or put a standard fleece or outer shell over the top to keep the heat in. It’s a strange feeling to be toasty warm outside in cold and damp conditions.
Just beware of the inevitable static electricity shock you’ll get whenever you peel the gilet off your clothes! (Caused by the fibres of the fleece stripping electrons from your clothes – not the electrics!).
The heated scarf
The scarf looks larger than it is, it’s actually quite a small but comfortable neck warmer that wraps around your neck and closes via Velcro strips at the front. The scarf is made of polyester fleece and has a single heating panel at the back and a pocket for a 3x AA battery box at the front. I’m using low-self-discharge NiMH batteries in this. The style of the scarf suits ladies more than guys and it’s small enough to fit easily into even a small handbag.
It heats up well and since the heating element sits on your neck it provides a lot of warmth to a highly vascular part of your body. The two parts of the scarf meet in the middle and connect with Velcro. At £22.95, it’s an expensive scarf but a fantastic item of heated clothing.
The heated insoles
They run for a few hours and do get warm. If you’re planning on a long astronomy session then you’ll be wanting to turn them on for short bursts to preserve the battery. It does feel awkward having boxes attached to elastic straps around your legs and I’d suggest not wearing them visibly around town as they do look like you’re wearing a tracking tag. In the dark, this doesn’t matter.
As with all the other Blazewear products, I wish there was a way to cable them all together (insoles, fleece, gilet, scarf) and plug them into a 12V power supply like biker’s do with their gear. Astronomers, particularly imagers, work for long hours in the dark and the cold and are relatively stationary (and cold!) during this time.
All the Blazewear items heat well and do the job. The insoles are marginally less powerful when heated using ordinary AA batteries (Alkaline or NiMH).
Yep, totally unscientific and I make no bones about it. However I have a calibrated IR thermometer, an iPhone timer and a camera on a tripod. Starting at room temperature, I made a series of measurements over ten minutes by taking a sample (actually three samples and averaging them) and snapping a photograph to record the measurement (with the timestamp from the iPhone). I’ve plotted the results on the below graph for you all to see
In actual use it feels like it warms more quickly than the results show and the pads were exposed to the air instead of my back, which probably contributed to cooling them down. However the quantitative results do bear out my qualitative experience which is that the gilet warms quickly, by approximately 15-20 degrees Celsius and maintains the temperature for several hours. Result!
Long term ownership
After using Blazewear products regularly for the best part of eight months, I can say that I’m overall very impressed with how well heated clothing has moved on. Blazewear has kept me warm and comfortable even on some bitterly cold nights (most recently in a remote field in Somerset at –5 degrees). I find the heated insoles simply don’t last long enough for a long session on standard batteries although Blazewear sell upgraded batteries for the insoles, they’re expensive.
The heated fleece and gilet are exceptional. My first fleece had a problem with the heating elements but this was replaced by the manufacturer and has been trouble free ever since. It is slightly less breathable compared to a Berghaus fleece (partly due to the panels and the cut) but I wouldn’t want to be without it when it’s cold.
The heated gilet is fantastic. I ordered a huge size and it fits well under clothing as well as over it. The men’s gilet doesn’t have zips whereas the blue female gilet does. I like to put my phone, wallet or keys in the pockets and would feel a lot happier if I knew they weren’t likely to fall out.
One of the two large capacity batteries that I have has stopped working, it appears to be fully charged but the hand controller won’t switch on when the suspect battery is attached. I’ll be contacting the manufacturer after this review to see if they can replace it.
I hope that Blazewear create a product which goes over (or under) trousers to provide heating to ones legs, as well as produce an adaptor to allow one to plug in to a 12V system.
Disclaimer: Blazewear had not paid for nor commissioned this review. However if you liked this review and placed an order because of it, please considering supporting this blog by letting me know what you ordered – since Blazewear currently operate an affiliate referral scheme for all customers.