Berghaus Heatcell Gilet - First Look

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?

Posted: 10 February 2005
by Jon

Berghaus Heatcell Gilet - First Look

Price: £150.00

Weight: 740 grammes including battery ( medium) battery - 209 grammes

Features:Polartec 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, heavy.

The Concept 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 pricier.

Features 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 life.

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.

In Action 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 grammes.

The 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.

Berghaus web site

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Discuss this story

Can you tell me where I can purchase a car charger for Berghaus Heatcell Gilet - Regards

Posted: 04/11/2012 at 19:37

My suspicion is that the 'charger' is actually just a power supply, and the battery pack contains a charge regulator.  In which case, find out what voltage and current the mains 'charger' produces, and find a generic lighter socket supply that is regulated, and has the same output voltage and current.

As I said, that's a suspicion, not fact.  The alternative would be that the 'charger' is a crude trickle charger, and has a simple series resistor to limit overcharge current, but, since the battery pack recharges in 2.5hours, this is unlikely, as it would mean a very high overcharge/trickle charge current.

You should also be aware that the original battery pack was the subject of a safety recall notice in April 2006.

Posted: 05/11/2012 at 18:11

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