Firstgear Electric Apparel Review
Prior to me and Evans going on our American Iron Butt ride, where late-night temperatures were expected to drop below freezing, I’d never ridden with electrically-heated gear. Ironically, I hate being cold, but I’ve always chosen to layer rather than rely on manufactured warmth. How wrong I was before is only magnified by how glad I am now to have an electric outfit in my moto-closet.
Truth be told, I still packed extra layers just in case the electric stuff failed to electrify. And it almost happened! While messing around (testing) with the device, with cruise control keeping the Harley-Davidson scooting along at freeway speeds, I accidentally dropped the powerport-to-coax jack adapter that delivers electricity from the bike (in lieu of hard wiring directly to the battery. A half-hour roadside search amounted to nothing more than revealing how much crap litters our freeways (add to that a powerport adaptor). Thankfully, some Radio Shacks remain in remote corners of the country, allowing me to purchase a cheap cigarette lighter power adaptor, splice it into the remote heat-troller’s receiver, and continue on our ride into the desert night.
Really, that warm, Tom? Oh yeah. When I contacted Firstgear about testing the company’s line of electric apparel I went whole hog, and Firstgear graciously complied sending me a heated jacket liner, pants liner, socks, gloves, and topping it off with a wireless remote heat-troller. I was wrapped in an electric blanket from fingertips to toes, beneath Firstgear’s Thermosuit I reviewed independently here. The combination proved to be more than enough for motorcycling, maybe better suited for snowmobiling, and if you live in a part of the world with both activities, this combination is all you’ll ever need.
The electric apparel is designed as a system with the jacket liner acting as the hub receiving power from the motorcycle, and distributing electricity throughout the jacket liner as well as to the gloves, the pants liner, and finally to the heated socks. The Dual Remote Control Heat-Troller allows the wearer to adjust heat levels of the jacket and gloves separately from the levels of the pants liner and socks.
Because Evans and I were swapping bikes during our American Iron Butt, I required something easily portable for maintaining the correct temperature of the electric gear, and Firstgear’s Dual Remote Control Heat-Troller was just the ticket. The wireless, waterproof remote can be affixed to a motorcycle just about anywhere you prefer, but for my purposes, I wore it like a bracelet using the included lanyard.
The wireless controller is small and light, measuring 1.9 inches by 1.3 inches, and weighing 2.75 ounces (including batteries). Before the heat-troller will function it must be synced to the receiver – a simple operation consisting of a few dial turns – that once completed should stay synced indefinitely. Afterward, as previously mentioned, you can adjust heat levels of the jacket and gloves separately from the levels of the pants liner and socks via the two, color-coded dials: Red for jacket liner/gloves, Yellow for pants liner/socks.
Each dial of the heat-troller spins a 300° rotation allowing for a wide range of temperature adjustability, while LED lights provide a visual reference. If the remote gets lost, a new one can be synced to the existing receiver, saving you the hassle and expense of replacing the entire package.
If you’re only interested in the heated jacket liner and heated gloves, a single Heat-Troller will suffice and save you money with the wireless version costing $99.95, and the non-wireless controller retailing for $69.95. All these systems include direct-to-battery wiring. For a more convenient power source (if your motorcycle is equipped with an accessory powerport) is to purchase a powerport-to-coax jack adapter for $16.95.
Heated Rider Gloves
Sizes: S – 2XL
Women’s Sizes: S – L
Even without being electrified, I would declare these gloves to be some of the best cold-weather mitts I’ve ever owned. Their Thinsulate lining keeps bulk down while maintaining natural warmth. Turn on the electricity and the 15 watts of heat per glove in each pre-curved finger, thumb and back of the hand deflect even the coldest wind blasts.
The exterior is constructed of drum-dyed leather and a Porelle waterproof, breathable membrane that has so far kept my hands as dry as they have warm. The velcro closures at the wrists and gauntlet could use more adjustability, and a pouch inside the glove to store the cord when unused would be nice, but, otherwise, these gloves have become my go-to gloves for cold temps whether or not I plug them into the jacket liner.
Heated 90-Watt Jacket Liner
Sizes: S – 3XL & Large Tall – 2X Large Tall
Women’s Sizes: XS – 2XL
The key instrument in this electronic symphony is the heated jacket liner. Within it reside the integrated connections to your power source and heat-troller, as well as connections to the heated gloves and heated pants liner. If not in use, pockets at the cuffs and bottom left of the jacket store the unused wiring, keeping them out of the way while protecting the connectors.
The jacket liner emits 90 watts of heat throughout a vast network of wiring in the front, back, sleeves, and even the collar. The tall collar is lined with soft fabric for comfort, with a small fold at the front to keep the zipper from irritating the wearer’s neck, which it would because the jacket liner is meant to fit tight.
To better transfer heat to the wearer, as well fit beneath a riding jacket, the jacket liner is form fitted (with specific fitments for both men and women) and meant to feel snug. Stretch panels running the length of each sleeve and down the sides of the jacket provide comfort and movement.
The jacket liner is also key because keeping your core warm can oftentimes be all you need for maintaining an overall comfortable body temperature. It’s amazing how wearing an electric jacket liner and no other heated gear allows you to withstand temperatures you’d otherwise avoid by parking the bike and taking the car.
Heated Pants Liner
Sizes: S – 3XL
Women’s Sizes: XS – XL
Like the jacket liner, the heated pants liner is meant to fit snug for optimal heat transference as well as fitting beneath riding gear. The pants liner is constructed from a polyester/spandex blend allowing a lot of flexibility and comfort, while the waistband is elastic and also includes a drawstring. At the front are a standard crotch zipper and velcro closure.
Down the front of each pant leg run an assortment of wiring providing 30 watts of heat. The amount of heat provided is ample, but not quite as effective as the jacket. Another 10 or 20 watts would be nice. There are no wires at the back of the pants liner because that would be uncomfortable and would most likely cause hot spots, not to mention being bad for the longevity of the wires.
At the ankles are the connectors for the heated socks, and at the top left the connector for the jacket liner. When not in use, or when you may be wearing the liner and it’s not cold enough to require electrical heating, all three have zippered pockets in which the connectors can be stored.
Sizes: S – 2XL
Next to the gloves, Firstgear’s heated socks are my favorite. When it starts getting cold and your body naturally restricts blood flow to extremities in order to maintain your body’s core temperature, the toes are the first to go. With a simple turn of the dial, 9 watts of warmth per sock oozes over the top your tootsies like an on-board foot massage.
A single wire runs down the side of the sock, branching into a small network of wires directly above your toes. Like the pants liner, you won’t find wires on the underside for the same reasons. Also like the pants liner, I could have used slightly more warmth, but, like I said at the beginning of the article, I’m a wuss when it comes to cold weather. As cold as it got on our American Iron Butt ride, I never once complained about being uncomfortable.
The socks are right foot, left foot specific, have fitted heals and are thin to fit comfortably inside riding boots. At the top, there’s a velcro closure, as well as the connector for the pants liner.
My entire heated outfit cost $755.70, but you can begin with the jacket liner and heat-troller of your choice and slowly piecemeal the rest together if the whole package is too much to swallow in one gulp. An added benefit I’ve discovered riding with heated gear is the increased flexibility and comfort and reduced weight of not having multiple layers. I can also quickly wire into a bike without an accessory powerport and use the jacket liner and gloves to keep me warm enough when temps aren’t demanding the extra heat provided by the pants liner and socks.
I view the collection as an investment into my riding comfort with the huge benefit of extending my riding season. Yes, coastal California is a temperate place to live, but every direction East of here is either mountainous or desert, and those places get nasty cold. They’ll be cold again this coming winter, but I’ll be better prepared to deal with the weather, and, as long as I’m warm and dry, I’ll ride through whatever Mother Nature dishes out.