As I write this review, it is January, and the waters in the UK – both in the sea, but particularly in inland sites – are getting decidedly chilly, So what better time to try Mares Active Heating Vest and Pants.
Good thermal protection is, therefore, paramount, and there are all manner of base-layers and undersuits to don under your drysuit to try and keep the cold at bay. However, we live in an era of technological development, and so it makes sense to tap into all of this clever stuff – and that is where Mares Active Heating Vest and Pants come in.
I have tried a few heated vests over the years, but Mares have come up with a neat set that provides warmth for your upper torso and your legs.
In their literature, Mares say that the Active Heated Vest ‘provides heat to the back kidney area and to each side of the chest, giving a feeling of complete warmth to the upper body’ and the trousers ‘provides heat to the back iliac area and knees in order to give a feeling of complete warmth in the lower body’.
The vest is constructed with a windproof 100 percent polyester outer, with two handy zippered pockets – perfect for keeping your hands warm when topside. Inside there are two Velcro-closing pockets – one for the lithium battery pack, and the other for essentials. There is a double zip up the front.
The Active Heating Pants are made from polyester, nylon and spandex, so combine some of the windproof elements of the vest around the front of your legs, but at the back are super-stretchy and thin for minimal bulk and ease of movement. The elasticated waist is closed with a zippered fly and metal popper, and there is a single zippered pocket on the left for the battery pack. Stirrups at the bottom of the legs prevent them from riding up as you put your legs into your drysuit.
It says not to use the vest and trousers against your skin, so wear a base-later underneath them.
The battery packs provide four different temperature settings, providing between two and five hours of heating time from each supplied lithium battery (which only take around two-and-a-half hours to recharge). The battery packs feature a charge level and battery level indicator.
Undersuits can develop a particular aroma after several days of use, as anyone who has been on a cold-water liveaboard can testify, but thankfully both the vest and the trousers are hand-washable – after you remove the batteries, of course!
So, what are they like in use? Well, warm as toast springs to mind! The vest and trousers run on small battery packs, but man, do they pack a punch. Whack them on full power and within a few minutes you can really feel the heat. I found that if I switched them both on at full power while I was getting the rest of my dive kit sorted, by the time I was due to get into the water, I could knock it down a couple of power bands as I had built up a good residual warmth.
That said, on one particularly cold day, I just left them on full power the whole time and it was very bizarre to still be feeling very warm at the end of an hour in low single-digit temperature water! The heating elements are in the perfect spots, accurately generating the warmth to the right locations. The battery packs are simple to use – once turned on with the power button, you can then ‘cycle’ through the heat settings, or press-and-hold to turn off.
Obviously, once you are in your drysuit and ready to dive, your battery pack is all sealed up inside. So, you have two options. You can either set the heat to the level you want pre-dive and then leave it at that, or if your drysuit is a reasonably thin trilaminate, and you ensure the battery pack is seated so that the control button faces out, you can change it ‘on the fly’.
Both the vest and the trousers are lightweight and flexible, so you do not feel restricted when you are wearing them. In fact, I even pressed the vest into use when I went mountain biking when there was a thick frost on the ground, and it was great to be able to warm up while I was in the car and getting my Kona off the car bike rack, and then switch it off once I was out on the trails.
I soon switched it back on when I returned to the car park though! Perfect way to finish, a nice warm core combined with a large hot chocolate! It would equally be useful when out and about walking the dog, hiking, out on a RIB or jetski, or any number of outdoor activities when keeping yourself warm is essential.
The vest and trousers come in sizes ranging from XS to XXL, and the supplied charger has different attachments for plug sockets depending on where you are in the world.
NB: The Active Heating Vest and Pants are not suitable for people with pacemakers.
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