Heated Vest Review – USB Powered Bodywarmer
Battery powered clothing – what next? We put the Roeam (now Fasola) USB-Heated Vest through its paces on a cold January morning
Why we like the Roeam Heated Vest: good heat spread; long battery life.
It was only a matter of time before battery power found its way into clothing, and creating a heated jacket was probably the lowest hanging fruit in terms of ease of implementation for manufacturers. When a battery is connected to a looped length of resistive wire, electrons are pushed from one end to the other and radiative heat is generated during the process – this is how a heated windscreen is used in a car to melt ice.
For camping and outdoors enthusiasts, the potential benefits of heated clothing are numerous:
- Keeps the wearer warm even if they are sitting around and not generating much heat of their own – perfect for outdoor activities which require staying fairly motionless such as bird watching, fishing or just sharing in some socially-distanced drinks at the campsite.
- Can be very compact for transporting and may mean a large insulated down jacket is not needed on top.
- Low cost options are available and all options are certainly cheaper than the best down jackets. Whether they look as good is a matter for debate!
The downside of any heated garment is that you a) need to buy a battery pack (although you may already own a suitable one) b) keep the battery charged, and c) remember to bring it along with you. However it goes without saying that you can still wear the garment as a standard item of clothing without a battery – it just might not keep you particularly warm as it’s not designed for that purpose!
In this blog post, we review the Roeam Heated Vest which is a bodywarmer with a difference. It contains several heating elements sandwiched inside the layers of the vest material which can keep you nicely toasty on cold days when hooked up to an appropriate battery pack. We recommend the Anker Powercore 10000mAH mini power bank for this purpose as it fits neatly into the the front pocket of the vest and cannot be seen when in use.
Check out our video review of the Roeam Vest below and carry on reading to understand our thoughts and verdict on its looks, performance and value for money.
Roeam Heated Bodywarmer - Video Review
Roeam Heated Vest - Design and Operation
Let’s understand one point before we go any further. The Roeam Bodywarmer is not an item of clothing you would buy to look stylish in any way. It is constructed from an soft, flexible ‘neoprene-like’ outer layer which possesses a pattern of diamond dimples on the surface, lending it a rugged, utilitarian feel – ready for action. The material used on the inside surfaces was a surprise however – Roeam have opted for a soft, velvet-like furry material which is warm and inviting to put on. Nice! This provides some insulation on its own and means you could consider wearing the vest even without USB power.
The design of the Roeam is essentially unisex and that of a black sleeveless waistcoat (or vest as they say in the USA). It uses a sturdy large-toothed plastic chunky zipper up the middle to connect the two front sections. Each front section has it’s own external pocket, but these are pretty small (about 10cm x 12cm) and as a largeish chap, I couldn’t get my hands in.
Applying Some Power
The front left pocket (when wearing the bodywarmer) contains a short cable with a Type-A USB connector on the end. The user connects this cable to a rechargeable battery pack which is then carried around, preferably within the pocket.
The USB cable is connected internally to a grid of heating elements sandwiched between the inner and outer materials of the bodywarmer. There are 5 grid sections in total – two at the lower front, two at the lower back and one large one on the upper back section. To my mind, this is a good distribution for camping scenarios because often you are facing a campfire or barbeque and are receiving heat from that, but it’s your back which gets cold. Having more heating elements on the back of the Roeam helps counteract this effect.
The front left chest section of the Roeam incorporates the power on-off button. It is a cool little depressible square switch with a nice friendly power symbol on the front. When you first hook up a battery pack to the vest it glows red and then the illumination switches off. To start up the heating process you need to press in and hold the switch for around 3 seconds and then it will start flashing red again. This signifies that it is heating.
3 Levels of Heat
There are three power levels to choose from and each can be selected by cycling through the modes each time you press the switch:
- Red provides maximum power to generate a temperature of ~65°C at the heating element surface. At this power, the jacket is drawing about 10W from the battery (5 volts at about 2 amps).
- Blue reduces the power to give a heating element temperature of ~55°C.
- White further reduces the power to give ~45°C at the element surface.
It’s worth noting that when you first apply power, the switch turns red for the initial heating and then switches to white automatically after 10 minutes or so. You need to click the button again if you want to up the power from this level.
When you’ve finished wearing the Roeam or just want to preserve battery power then you need to do a final long press of the power button, and it switches off.
Roeam Heated Vest - Sizing Guide and Cleaning
For this review, I was testing the XL size vest. I’m 6ft3 tall and usually wear a 42 inch chest for my UK-bought clothes. For a 42 inch chest, the manufacturer recommends a medium (M) size (41.7 inches) or a large (L) size (43.3 inches). As a result, I would certainly buy a size or even two sizes larger than your typical clothing.
For me, the XL Roeam was slightly short and tight, but overall not a bad fit. I’m of reasonably slim build and do have a long body, and so the length shouldn’t be a problem for more ‘normal’ people. If you’re any bulkier than me (watch the video above) than I would highly recommend moving up a size to the XXL.
If you want to get maximum heat into your body from the Roaem then in my view a tight fit is actually preferential. My ideal layer structure would be an inner breathable base layer, followed by the Roeam and then an optional down jacket on top if particularly cold. I would not put the Roeam over too many inner layers because then the heat may struggle to reach the body through the insulation.
It’s worth also mentioning cleaning of the Roeam. The manufacturers say that it is perfectly OK to machine wash the bodywarmer – just make sure the battery pack is removed from the pocket!
Suitable Battery Pack - Anker Powercore 10000mAH
The battery pack is a critical part of using the heated bodywarmer, but it is not supplied with one. I think this is a good idea because you may already have one which is suitable. Unfortunately, the pockets on the Roeam are not particularly big and so you need to choose a decent battery pack of sufficiently small size.
Step forward the Anker Powercore 10000mAH mini power bank. It only measure 9.2 x 6 x 2.2 cm and fits perfectly into the pocket of the Roeam bodywarmer.
On maximum power, the Roeam draws about 10 watts of power, and that would drain the Anker in around 3.5 hours (the capacity of the Anker is about 36 Wh). On the lower power settings, this battery pack will last around 8 hours which is superb .
Roeam Heated Vest - in Use
I tested the Roeam on a chilly January UK morning, with frost on the ground. I had layered up, with the bodywarmer in between a baselayer and a downjacket.
On applying power, you are aware of heat on both front and back within about 20 seconds, and it is certainly in distinct areas rather than an overall warmth. When coupled with additional walking this soon became too hot and I quickly switched to the lowest power mode. This supplied a decent level of heat whilst letting me move along smoothly and not get too sweaty. By the end of the walk however I had completely switched off the Roeam as the exertion from the walking was generating enough heat of my own.
On another cold evening I tested the Roeam by simply sitting outside in my back garden using the same clothing and found that the medium level was great for maintaining a decent level of comfort, even with the temperature dropping below 5°C. This is where the bodywarmer really shines – whilst the user is sitting still.
Roeam Heated Vest - Conclusions
The Roeam Heated Vest is an entry-level product in a clothing sector which I believe is about to boom. It does its job well when combined with a suitable battery pack, and does not run flat even after several hours of operation. More than enough for a few campfire beers on cold, long nights outside!
It could be argued that it’s not a particularly stylish garment and I would agree with that assessment. However, I envisage it being worn underneath an outer layer, rather than it being the main focal point of your clothing. From this perspective, the look is less important and I think it offers great functionality. Overall, we recommend the Roeam bodywarmer.
The Roeam heated bodywarmer is a budget mid-layer capable of giving you a heat boost when you're sat around. Weighing only 570g (without battery pack) it is fairly imperceptible when worn and worked well in our winter testing. Loses some marks for the general styling and poor size-guide for UK buyers.