It’s finally that time of year again: Here in New Brunswick, we just had our first snowfall of the 2021-2022 winter season, which means we’re officially in riding season’s overtime. Or maybe, it’s time to start thinking about putting the bike away until spring … Either way, my thoughts are once again turning to the benefits of heated gear, especially because I’ve been running the new battery-powered ewool PRO+ heated vest this fall season.
Longtime CMG readers might remember I tested a Symtec Heat Demon battery vest wayyyy back in 2013. I’ve used it fairly regularly since, but it’s always been a bit of a hassle, with lots of cords and cables and a battery that sits in the vest’s left-hand pocket, jutting out like an abdominal tumor.
When I opened up ewool’s new PRO+ heated vest, I was very pleased that, almost a decade later, battery vest manufacturers have improved on some of those issues. The new ewool vest uses a much thinner battery than the old Heat Demon vest, and you can store it in either the front of the vest (for easy removal/replacement) or in the back (for a less bulky look, and more comfort—the battery isn’t pushing into your abdomen, when you’re crouched on the bike).
It seems Montreal-based ewool (10 years in business) has indeed done its homework while designing this vest, and the improved fit is all-day comfortable.
The ewool PRO+ vest also looks pretty decent; I’d happily take the battery out and wear it around to a rink or grocery store, as casual wear. It fits nicely, with a bit of stretch to the material. Of course, since it runs off a battery, you can wear it when you’re snowblowing, watching your kids at the rink, or for any other cold weather activity (ewool’s website has a comprehensive list, saying it’s “perfect for outdoor enthusiasts – those who enjoy snowmobiling, backpacking, hiking, hunting, golfing, fishing and board sports – as well as outdoor workers such as security guards, construction workers and police officers. It also comes in handy when walking the dog, working in a cold office or having an outdoor meal.” Well, then!).
The ewool PRO+ vest can be wired into your bike’s standard 12V system as well as using the battery. Along with this vest, ewool also makes a PRO vest; the PRO+ vest has larger heating elements, and adds heating elements to the lumbar region in your back.
In the saddle
The new ewool PRO+ is supposed to heat up more quickly, and keep you warmer, than previous battery vests. As per the website:”ewool PRO+ delivers up to 51W of torso warming power in just 3 seconds. That’s over 20% more heat than our PRO Vest and 7 times more than any of our competitors. Plus, larger heating elements in the front and back and new elements in the lumbar region means more coverage – so you’re warmer than ever.”
Indeed, it is noticeably warmer than previous heated vests I’ve used; it still lacks the coverage of a full heated liner with sleeves, but this vest gets very warm, very quickly. Even if if the battery runs down, it’s a warm insulating layer under your riding jacket, and that tall collar warms you neck as well, an important point missed by some other heated gear manufacturers.
It’s also easier to turn on/off, or change the temperature setting, than older heated gear, which often used a clumsy controller assembly that was stuffed into a pocket. On the ewool PRO+, there’s a tab that hangs from the bottom of the vest; long-press to turn it on or off, and then short-press the button to change the setting. Depending which gear you’re using, many riders will be able to reach this control without unzipping their jacket, which is a definite bonus in cold weather (obviously, this won’t work with one-piece suits). The vest’s heating elements are IP67-rated for dustproof/waterproofing, so you shouldn’t have to worry about that button hanging out in the elements.
We haven’t had enough really cold weather here in NB this fall to truly test it CMG-style, but I will say that through October-November, this vest beat off the cold handily. I believe it would extend most riders’ seasons by a couple of weeks, at least, adding at least a month of riding time for those without heated gear. If you’re really determined, and the roads stay dry-ish, you might be able to push through most of the winter with this vest.
There were two drawbacks to the ewool PRO+ vest. First, the battery life is still short on the vest’s high heat setting, at 1.75 hours. However, you get 3.5 hours on medium, and 7 hours on low; most of us aren’t riding all day long in temperatures that would require the high heat setting, so this isn’t a huge problem. The vest’s medium and low settings will usually suffice, and the battery has decent lifespan on those settings. Plus, you can daisy-chain two batteries together (you have to buy the second battery) and double your battery life, so you can use this vest for an all-day ride if you want.
The other niggle is the cost—the ewool PRO+ has a pricey $598 MSRP in Canada. You can keep an eye on ewool’s clearance section, though, and you might see a bargain come up. And, if you really do get another month (or more!) of riding time every year with this vest, that $600+ (after tax and shipping) doesn’t look so bad after a while. Also, these battery vests seem to be harder to find these days; you can still buy general-purpose battery vests from Home Depot and other hardware stores, but moto-oriented vests aren’t as easy
For more information, or to order this vest, visit ewool.com.