It's a Thermal Pro gilet with a built-in electric heating pad powered by a rechargeable battery and it feels like someone pouring hot soup over your kidneys. Is it any real use though or just a nice toy?
Berghaus Heatcell Gilet - First
Weight: 740 grammes including battery
( medium) battery - 209 grammes
Thermal Pro fleece gilet with integral Exo Heatcell heating
system, rechargeable lithium battery and charger
supplied, twin handwarmer pockets, zipped chest pocket,
elasticated adjustable hem, close fit. Battery can also be
recharged with in-car charger (not supplied) men's and
women's versions. Machine washable at 40C. Charging time 2.5
hours, battery life 3 hours.
Like having hot soup poured ove ryour kidneys
Not cheap and battery life is only three hours,
It's self-explanatory really, the Heatcell is a
fleece gilet incorporating a battery-powered heat pad over the kidney
area. If you're out in winter and get cold, you switch it on and
bingo, instant warmth and a nice morale boost. The only similar
garment we've come across is the TNF Met 5 jacket, which is a lot
Technology, you can't beat it. The Heatcell
incorporates a flexible, washable heating pad over the kidney area,
the rechargeable lithium battery sits in an inrternal pocket and connects with
a robust jack plug, while the on/off switch sits inside the external
chest pocket and allows you to eke out the three hour battery
The battery itself is about the same size as one of those square
4.5 volt ones that Petzl used to use in their classic Zoom headtorch
and takes around two and a half hours to recharge using the mains
charger supplied. You can also recharge using a car charger, but
that's an extra.
The rest of the gilet is unremarkable, but it's made from
Polartec's Thermal Pro and has a nice, high quality feel, big collar
and so on.
Bear in mind that this is an initial impression and
we have plans to test the Heatcell properly in really cold
conditions. Our first observation is that for a gilet, this thing is
heavy. Berghaus's workbook claims 445 grammes for the gilet and 98
grammes for the battery, but we found the battery weighed twice that
at 209 grammes and the battery and gilet combined are a cool 740
gilet itself is nicely cut and made with neat, comfortable handwarmer
pockets, but what you're really wondering about is the heating bit.
Well, click the switch in your chest pocket and seconds later, your
kidneys are embraced by what feels like a flow of hot soup. It's
rather nice in fact, particularly when things get chilly and works
best when there's something pressing the pad against your back - a
pack for example or a chairback.
It's hard to tell how much of the benefit is psychological and how
much is real. From a previous life testing motorcycles, I know that
in order for a heated garment to physically impart heat to the human
body, it would need to be so warm that it would actually make you
nauseous. Thankfully the Heatcell is limited to 38C, which is
pleasant and comfortable.
It may not be heating your body, but what it will do by heating
the air trapped in your clothing layers, minimise heat loss because
your own body heat is no longer warming the trapped air. If the
heated area covered more of your torso then, it would be a sort of
super-insulator. However, because it's just the kidney area, the
benefits are less clear and for now we think it's more of a morale
booster than a genuine insulation aid. A down jacket weighing the
same would be far more effective for overall protection, though
bulkier and without the on/off element of the Heatcell.
Care and use are both easy by the way. Take out the battery and
switch and you can wash the gilet at 40C while the battery recharges
in two-and-a-half hours to give another three hours-worth of soupy
warmth. We liked the handwarmer pockets too. It makes a nice gilet without the battery too, but let's be honest, you can buy a nice gilet for a lot less than 150 quid.
The jury's out on the Heatcell for now. On the one hand, it's a very
nice thing and that instant heat to the kidneys is a luxurious
morale-boosting bonus when you stop moving. It's expensive though at
£150 and quite heavy too. It's also a bit odd having a battery
that feels like a bulky wallet just below your ribcage.
We'll reserve judgement untlil we've had the chance to use it in
really cold conditions, but for now, we're thinking entertaining,
mental mood boster rather than serious winter warmth generator. Then
again, don't underestimate the importance of morale, low morale is
generally recognised as being one of the causes of hypothermia. We
also reckon it might work well for belay stances on cooler days, with
the lack of bulk being a bonus once you get moving again and for
placating grouchy partners during winter lunch stops...
Last but not least, we're expecting a lack of breathability and
wicking in the heat pad zone, but no worse and warmer than you'd get
with most packs anyway.
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