What heated clothing is right for me? 5V or 7V or 12V
Updated: Oct 24, 2019
The Basics of Heated Gear
Faced with never-ending choices daily, another decision we need to make when buying heated gear is what voltage to purchase. 12V, 7V, 5V, what’s the difference? I’ll break down the advantages and disadvantages of each, so you can pick your heated items faster and be warmer sooner.
Let’s start with the highest voltage, 12V. 12-volt gear has long been the mainstay for motorcyclists, snowmobilers and UTVers. Advantage number one is that 12V heated gear can get hot as the gear is powered directly by the vehicle’s battery, so a temperature controller is highly recommended. Another plus is the longer heating times. As long as enough excess electrical capacity is generated, your liner, jacket, socks, insoles, etc. will keep you warm. You will need to check your motorcycle/snowmobile/UTV common operating load before hooking up 12V heated gear. Powerlet has a handy guide on how to do this. Now, besides discovering that your vehicle doesn’t have enough juice to power what you want to heat, another disadvantage is that you are tethered to your ride during your trip, but once you get to your destination, you have to unplug. And also remember to unplug! I’ve hopped off too many times at a gas station and started to walk off to pay and gotten a rude tug from the still-attached cable. Oi! But there have been some interesting developments in 12V gear in recent years, most notably the invention of smaller and lighter 12V lithium-ion battery packs. Now you can continue to heat your 12V moto gear both on and off your bike! Simply unhook from your vehicle’s battery and attach the 12V battery pack of your choice and walk away.
Next up, 7V or 5V. This one is easy-peasy. How large of an area on your body do you want to heat, and how long do you want to heat this area? 7-volt heated apparel will warm larger areas for longer periods of time at higher temperatures. All this power will come at a higher cost, as well. 5-volt is the little sibling in the heated gear family. A bit smaller heating panels and possibly shorter heating times (depending on battery size) when using the highest settings are earmarks of the 5-volt heated gear. But 5-volt batteries have a distinct advantage over 7-volt, and this advantage is USB capability. 5-volt power banks are already ubiquitous in our lives, charging our phones, tablets, and headphones. Now they can be used to power 5-volt heated gear with USB connections. Brilliant! No more juggling extra rechargeable batteries, you just attach your heated item to the power bank and keep on going.
I’ve gone over some of the conveniences and drawbacks of the different levels of heated gear available today. There’s a heated product for every part of your body, from head to toe, not to mention your pets and home. Whether you are inside or outside, in your car or on your motorcycle, on the sidelines or in a duck blind, there is a heated product that will keep you warm.