As a winter outdoorsman, bad weather is the only thing that can keep me out of the woods during bow season. Cold weather, however, is far more manageable, thanks to a little secret I have for making hours in the field more comfortable. That secret? Suiting up in 12-volt heated clothing designed for motorcyclists to wear on winter rides, which I plug into a 12-volt battery pack you’d use for power on a camping trip. I thought of this myself when I realized that many large, 12-volt batteries used for camping have the same cigarette-lighter plug that motorcycles do. But to date, I haven’t met anyone else who has a similar hack.
Before I go any further, I must note that my clothes are best for stationary activities like sitting (whether on a motorcycle, while patiently stalking prey, or during a leisurely outdoor meal). The garments aren’t heavy, but the battery can be. The one I use, Goal Zero’s Yeti 400 Portable Power Station, weighs more than 20 pounds. While the brand makes similar batteries in smaller sizes that weigh less, I prefer a heavier (more powerful) model because it keeps a charge for longer — mine lasts for 12 hours — which can make all the difference when you’re passing time outside on a cold day.
There are a few brands that make heated clothing, but I buy mine from Gerbing, which has been in the heated-clothing business since 1975 and always seems to have a more plentiful stock. My wardrobe includes a heated jacket, pants, gloves, and even socks — all of which can plug into each other (the brand illustrates how here). Once gloves are plugged into jacket and socks are plugged into pants, I plug my heated “top” and “bottom” into a temperature controller that Gerbing sells (it allows wearers to manage the items’ heat output), which I plug into my battery’s cigarette-lighter port using a simple DC adapter (Gerbing sells these, too). While it may sound like a lot of wires, most of them are cleverly concealed within the clothes; the only exposed cords are the ones connecting my jacket and pants to the controller, and the one connecting the controller to the battery beneath my seat. To help trap the heat my battery-powered clothes produce, I wear a regular jacket and pair of pants over them. Some users advise wearing regular socks beneath the heated socks, too, as all of the clothing can heat to a maximum of 135 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the brand. (I’ve found that setting the temperature controller to about 20 percent of maximum power is the most effective way to get steady warmth for a long period; much higher and you can get too toasty.) As for how I feel when it’s all plugged in, let me put it this way: When everyone starts to go inside because they’re too cold, I’m just getting warmed up.
While I only wear the heavier-duty 12-volt clothing, Gerbing also makes a line of 7-volt heated clothes that come with rechargeable (and much smaller) batteries attached, making them more portable. It claims these pieces can also reach 135 degrees Fahrenheit, but since their included batteries aren’t as powerful, the clothes won’t stay warm for as long on a single charge. Still, the 7-volt clothes’ simpler setup may be more convenient for some, especially anyone who only needs to warm up for a couple hours at a time. So I’ve included a few 7-volt pieces from the brand beneath the 12-volt clothes I own. (If you want to jump straight to them, click here.)
My 12-volt heated clothes (and accessories)
A lighter, less expensive (but less powerful) version of my battery
While this battery has a maximum 187 watt-hours compared to my battery’s 400 watt-hours, it clocks in at just around five pounds, making it far lighter.
The adaptors and controllers I use
The controller has two ports — one where I can plug in my “top” (or jacket and gloves) and another for my “bottom” (or socks and pants) — and two controls for setting the warmth of each.
I plug the controller into an adapter like this, which then plugs into the cigarette-lighter port in my battery.
My heated jacket
My heated gloves
My heated pants
My heated socks
The socks, I should add, are made with a moisture-wicking fabric to help minimize dampness from sweat even when they get toasty. While Gerbing sells them in sizes from XS to 2XL, right now, they only seem to be available in XS and S (including from the brand itself).