Heated Gear 101
Heated Gear 101
Given the questions we have been asked lately and the untruths, half-truths, and deceptive statements others are making, maybe it is time to really explain heated clothing. And who better than us, the people who fixed or developed most of what you have seen in the last 20 years. Let’s call this Heated Gear 101 and start out with clearing up misleading comments others make.
1. No one uses copper wire to make the heat in the gear, but everyone should use copper in the wire that carries power to the heat panels. The only time I ever heard of using copper wire to create the heat was when someone got the idea that they could use 22 gauge copper wire with a Teflon over mold to do a homemade heated vest. 18 years owning a cable and connector company, so I think I can tell you that was a dumb idea. Metals like copper and steel don’t like being heated and cooled over and over. They get brittle and break. And the Teflon over molding, that is actually referred to as plenum cable because it goes through the plenum of the heating and cooling ducts and the Teflon protects the wire from the changes in temperature.
2. You can wash any of the heated clothing that is out there. The real players in this business build strong reliable products and you can wash it all.
3. All heated gear designed for use on a motorcycle can be run off a battery. What do they think a motorcycle uses? Ours can be run off our 7.4 volt battery but we are not going to lie and tell you that it will make 30 deg C heat for 12 hours like someone else in this business will.
4. Our liners heat up faster. In the old days, before the concept of running a number of short parallel panels was developed, people took 2 runs of heating wire to cover the whole vest. The speed of heating comes not just from the material used for heating but the shortness of the runs of each section. Our Gen 4 uses 3 short runs per panel, so the speed of heating is faster than anyone else's product out there on the market and that is no lie!
5. Can I feel the wires? Put the liner on and see if you feel the wires. We don’t use insulation in our liners so when you are looking at the liner off your body you will feel the wires. But put it on and then see if we placed the wires in way that you find a problem. Can you even feel them? Remember, we ride, so we are going to design our gear for people who wear them day in and day out over months of time and then use it as a jacket at night. But you can also get our Softheat Gen 4 liner. And Yes, it is “far infrared” (I should add, yes it is carbon), we just don’t think it is some mystical heating system. It is warmer because the heating material is flat. Flat makes a greater contact patch, more coverage equals more feeling of heat. But this stuff is a pain to work with. Every panel has 6 solder points compared to 2 solder points in traditional Nickel Chromium nano wire. That makes it a lot more expensive to manufacture. More on that in Heated Gear 102.
6. Our liner is 110 watts but it says 90 watts on the label so what gives? This magic number has to do with how you measure the voltage. At 13.8 volts our heated liner is the hottest out there. But can you get the 13.8 volts that a revved-up bike will produce to the liner? If you adjust for resistance in the wires and the connection, you could be at 12.8 volts. And if you are stopped at a light well you would be less. So, I just made a command decision and said 90 watts at 12.8 volts. Then others say 105 watts at 13.8 volts. So, I guess we need to start saying 110 watts at 13.8 volts / 90 watts at 12.8 volts. And again, we are the warmest out there. Just do the numbers.
7. We just found a new one that a competitor has on their packaging. "This item may be covered by one or more patents...". Very good! They are not actually lying. It may be covered. It may not be covered. The fact that the item is not covered by any patents or the patents actually are not defendable since many of the things have been made by other companies for years, including us should tell you something. But it sounds good. It may be patented. Sort of like saying, "As seen on TV". It gives you a feeling there is something special about it when it is just another Chinese made product.
Now that is out of the way, let’s talk about heating methods. We use two. The first is the very reliable and easy to work with nickel/chromium alloy. This “nano” wire, or whatever you want to call it, is an alloy that has been developed for an industry. In our case we design the percentage of each metal, the gauge, length and wind that gives exactly the heat we want in any given area of the body. To further protect it, it is molded into a special outer shell with a strand of silk or Kevlar on the inside. Other than our gloves, we control the design of this element. In the case of our gloves we did try to design a special wire but the company making the wire in Florida purposely made the wire wrong. After that the company making our gloves refused to trust anything but their own supplier. This heat element if made right does not break or give hotspots. If the liner is designed right and worn right, you will never get a hot spot. As for the heating element breaking, you are more likely to get a break at a solder point.
The other heating element we use is referred to by too many people as far infrared. Now I wish I could add ghostly noises to it since the mythology of it makes it seem like it is some magical thing. We have been playing with it in one form or another since going to see the “inventors” of it in the UK many years ago. While this stuff seemed great for heating water, it would be useless in our clothing. Everyone that used it has left it behind. But then it resurfaced in China as the magical far infrared heating element. Yes, we use it in all the gen 4 products, our heated socks and glove liners. And yes, we have been using it since about 2008. So why do we not mention that Softheat is far infrared? Because we don’t believe all the hype. To us it is another heating method. We developed the heat panels we use with the help of the manufacturer of the panels. The Science behind this stuff is tricky and getting the coverage the way we wanted it to be took a lot of work. And while others are not out and out copying our panels, they sure are benefiting from the work we put in to it. So if we don’t think it is better than our other heating method, why are we using it? Good question. We developed this for our office clothing and street clothing where it was important to reduce the weight, the impression of utility clothing and still have the coverage. In designing this line of clothing we also redesigned the interconnect wires and over molding of the plug wires we now use in our motorcycle heated gear. We also developed the remote control heat-troller partly for that same use. But the nonsense that far infrared gets hotter faster, gets hotter with less power and that it heats 2 inches below the skin have real explanations to them. Well, except for the last one. Heating 2 inches below the skin? So, if you are standing on ice and using our heated socks it will melt the ice under your shoes? As for it heating faster, that comes from the shorter parallel runs. Remember I mentioned that before. In the case of the Softheat we have more short runs. This stuff is a bear to work with. That makes it more expensive to create and more expensive to manufacture. Every panel has 8 solder points, that is 6 more than using the ni/cr heating element. That is 36 more in every liner. That is a lot of work. The feeling that it gets warmer with less power is only because we can flatten this heating element so the contact patch to your skin is greater. It is true that you can’t break this material. The gen 4 has some other changes like the reflective which I feel really is important for women. But for 80% of the people, the Gen 3 will do the job. Don’t get caught up with the hocus-pocus of the hype out there with far infrared. Look at the science and if you want it then get the Gen 4 and feel safer with the reflective on it.