Battery-operated heated jacket promises warmth in the worst weather conditions

We’ve seen a number of options for heated clothing pop up recently, including jackets, vests, and even boots. Once viewed as mostly a gimmick by outdoor enthusiasts, these garments have proven that the technology is not only efficient and effective, but also viable for use in demanding outdoor activities, too. Powered by USB battery packs, these articles of clothing come with integrated heating elements that help to keep the wearer warm in cold conditions. And just in time for the current polar vortex that is bringing sub-zero temperatures to much the country, another new jacket has launched a crowdfunding campaign, promising an affordable option for warmth on the go.

The Heacket claims to be “the world’s most durable heated jacket.” Incorporating fabrics that are relatively thin and lightweight — yet very tough — this jacket is designed to perform more like a traditional soft shell rather than an insulating layer as we’ve seen from similar products in the past. Because it is made from materials that are both waterproof and wind resistant, this gives it a bit of a leg up on the competition. In theory, if the heating elements function as efficiently as the manufacturers claim they do, you could conceivably head out into harsh conditions without a traditional down puffy, which, while very warm, are often bulky as well. For very active winter outdoor athletes, that could make the Heacket a very intriguing option indeed.

The jacket features three heating elements — two in the front and one in the back — that begin working within three seconds of activation, providing warmth, even as the mercury drops to unpleasant levels. Meltpartners Outdoors, the Chinese company behind the Heacket, claim that it has four different warmth settings, allowing the wearer to dial up temperatures that range from 77 degrees Fahrenheit (25 degrees Celsius) to 131 F (55 C) depending on individual comfort levels and current needs.

On the lowest of those settings, the integrated battery pack can maintain that level of heat for up to six hours before requiring a recharge. It isn’t immediately clear if that battery can be easily swapped out, allowing users to carry extras that would give them the option of extending their stay in the outdoors longer.

One of the advantages of having a heated jacket that is both windproof and waterproof is that it means you can cut down on the number of layers you need to wear underneath it. The Heacket should provide solid protection from the elements — the traditional role of an outer shell in a layering system — as well as plenty of warmth, which is usually generated by wearing an insulating layer such as a thick fleece or down jacket. In this case, outdoor athletes would only need to wear a base layer underneath the heated jacket to get the same level of comfort and warmth, at least in theory. If the jacket does work as advertised, it should allow skiers, snowshoers, fat bikers, and other winter athletes to move more quickly and efficiently.

That said, there are a few caveats to be aware of here for serious outdoor adventurers. For starters, the jacket tips the scales at 24 ounces, which is heavier than most other soft shells on the market. This is somewhat understandable when you consider that it has a heating element integrated into its design, and a battery pack to power it, but it is still an important item to point out. It also isn’t clear just how breathable the materials used to make the jacket actually are, and the Indiegogo page doesn’t mention it at all. This is an important factor, as enhanced breathability allows moisture created through perspiration to escape from the interior of the jacket, keeping the wearer warmer and drier as a result. If the Heacket doesn’t excel in this area, it could actually make your outdoor activities more uncomfortable.

The designers of the Heacket heated jacket are hoping to raise $10,000 to get their product into production. If that happens, they plan to start shipping it to costumers as early as February 2017. The retail price is expected to be $249, which is surprisingly affordable for a jacket of this kind. But early bird backers can get one at an even better price if they support the crowdfunding campaign. Pre-ordering one brings the price down as low as $109, including a battery pack.

Find out more on the Heacket Indiegogo page.