Traditional jackets are designed to keep you warm, but this one is designed to actively heat you up. Packing integrated heating elements and a rechargeable battery supply, the Gobi Heat Wolf is almost like having central heating on the go. My review:
The ‘Wolf” heated jacket is a standard puffer jacket on the outside, constructed of a soft nylon shell with a fluffy nylon interior. Inside, however, it packs a large 6500 lithium ion battery and three heating coils, one on the back and one on each side of the chest. It features two hand pockets, an interior pocket which also houses the battery, and a chest mounted LED illuminated control button with adjustments for 3 levels of heat. It weighs roughly 2.75 lbs. for the medium, battery included, and retails for $219.
What I liked
Let’s start with the starring feature, the heating functionality. It absolutely works. It provides, even on the lowest setting, a substantial amount of heat that is applied directly to the back and chest, eventually diffusing into the blood system and the rest of the body. The effect is immediately noticeable and can quickly transform a shiver fest into something of a sauna if overused. While sitting around, such as lounging at camp or heading up a chair lift, the difference it can make cannot be understated. The high setting can, in fact, become uncomfortably hot for my liking after just a minute or so of use, providing fast heating for otherwise trying conditions. The jacket alone, without the heating system turned on, is still quite warm, easily keeping me warm into the low 30’s F (-1 C). Pumping that power button radically boosts how warm the jacket is, but I haven’t had a chance to test the lower limits of the jacket when using the heating elements, but I’ll update when I do. This jacket is toasty indeed, almost to a literal level.
The jacket is also quite comfortable, with its smooth nylon body sliding with a fairly low amount of friction across the skin when moving around. The interior is roomy enough that it doesn’t restrict movement, and one can wear a thin layer underneath it without it feeling tight or bunched up. The cuffs and waist both have a gentle elastic built in to provide a better seal, yet still fits with other garments such as gloves or snow pants.
Using the heating elements is quite simple. Once the battery is charged it just slips into the interior pocket, electrically connects in via a barrel style jack, and a button on the chest manages power and level. Hold it for 3 seconds to turn it on or off, and tap to cycle through power levels, represented by a small led display built into the button itself. It is occasionally required to “wake up” the battery itself by tapping a power button on the side of it (which also shows the battery level) but that is only a minor inconvenience that occurs after long periods of not using it.
Build quality is good, but not outstanding. Most of the construction effort seems to have gone into creating the heating elements, battery pack, and the wiring inside, which is fair enough. It is machine washable which is impressive (take out the battery though) and so far I haven’t had any defects or failures come up. It doesn’t appear to have any rip-stop inside, but that shouldn’t be too much of a concern as it is still a repairable fabric and not really exposed to tearing forces.
What I didn’t like
Having a large battery certainly adds to the weight of the jacket. Coming in at just under 3 pounds with the battery pack, it is very noticeable. For hiking or casual strolling around town, I generally prefer to leave the battery at home or in my pack as I didn’t need the additional heating and the added weight pulls down on the neck of the jacket. Having the weight off to one side (in the pocket) it also feels rather weird with the jacket unzipped as it feels like the whole garment is shifting to the left, which I find a little annoying. But, with the battery installed and the jacket zipped up, it is still overall rather comfortable.
The insulation used, while quite warm, doesn’t regulate heat very well. It can steam up and become quite clammy at warmer temperatures (50 and up for me) with moderate humidity (think 30 percent and up). This is largely due to the insulation, seemingly pure, simple nylon, which doesn’t breath as well as some higher end insulations. It’s also less packable and a bit heavier than many similarly priced jackets I’ve tested in this range, but those didn’t have elements sewn in or large batteries included, so I think this is a fair trade.
I would prefer for the elements to provide the same amount of heat, just over a larger area of the jacket. The patches cover the most important parts of the body, but are fairly concentrated, especially on the back. This creates a notable hot spot in the specific zones. It’s not a big deal, honestly, but something that I could see being improved upon.
I was really surprised at how much I found myself using the integrated heating feature of the Wolf jacket by Gobi Heat. While it is easy to view the built in element and battery pack as a gimmick, and it technically is, it is absolutely a useful one. While kicking back on the patio, relaxing around camp, or slowly creeping up a chair lift, the jacket provides an amount of extra heat that the human body simply cannot. It also does this for up to 10 hours on low, which is substantial. While I probably won’t be taking it backpacking with me due to the size and weight, biking around town, hanging out by the campfire, and stashing it inside my car as an emergency layer are all excellent uses in my experience with it. It’s not perfect, my only major complaint really being the weight, but overall still a rather enjoyable product that is easy to recommend when weight isn’t a consideration.
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