Post in collaboration with 8K Flexwarm*
I was super excited to get my hands on an 8K Flexwarm jacket to review on the blog. This revolutionary heated apparel is such a clever bit of outdoors kit and the first in the world to enable you to control your temperature from your smartphone and charge your device at the same time.
Although it’s handy, it’s not so much the mobile phone compatibility that got me excited. Since I moved to the countryside I have found myself spending a lot more time fantasising about such things as thermal socks, electric blankets and the perfect anorak and hiking boots. It’s extra warmth I was excited about and the lack of down feathers in the lining, which really appeals to me as a veggie.
I have amassed a growing collection of anoraks, yet none of them quite tick all the boxes. Breathable but ugly, lightweight but chilly, funky but soggy, toasty but bulky.
The 8K Flexwarm jacket ticked lots of boxes for me instantly, it is super warm and windproof – even before you turn the heating on – it is also water resistant, very lightweight, smart, washable and down free.
The science bit
I wasn’t totally sure what to expect – wires and bulky uncomfortable panels sprung to mind at first – but the tech behind 8K clothing is pretty special, 8K engineers spent 6 years researching and developing a unique, ultra-thin 0.5mm printable heating element.
This means the tech doesn’t add to the jacket’s bulk, weight or flexibility, you can scrunch the coat up and not feel the panels. I didn’t notice the tech at all, bar the power pack in the pocket, but again, this has its advantages – a power bank is something I always mean to have on my person and forget.
It’s fast too, it takes just 360 seconds to reach 50 degree celsius, which is gorgeous.
The power pack
The power pack simply fits in a special inside pocket which has a small adapter plug. You charge the power pack again using a USB adapter.
Another benefit of the power pack is that it has two USB sockets, so can be used to charge your phone and coat simultaneously.
Battery life is advertised at around 13 hours. This is different to heat time, as the brochure says the jacket can keep you warm for 6 hours. I found it managed three and a half hours when turned up full to 50 degrees and heating back and front, but its been suggested that I should have charged the battery fully before starting out to get the most out of the battery. Something to bear in mind as I can’t see this on any instructions.
However, I found one charge was plenty for a day of going in and out the house a lot running errands, school runs, dog walks and doing bits of gardening. I even wore it indoors, more on that later. You can buy extra battery packs should you think you might need them too.
There is a Flexwarm app which you can use to control and measure the temperature on the jacket. You can do this manually too, the jacket has two switches by the left pocket and you can just turn the jacket itself on and off, increase or decrease the heat by three levels, and adjust the heating to front and/or back panels, but the app sets and displays the exact temperature to a degree which is clever.
Here I am charging my phone and using the app, but you don’t actually need your phone to be plugged in to use it as a controller. You just press a button on each to pair the two.
Did it meet my expectations?
Mr A has Reynaud’s Syndrome so whenever we go hiking we take hand warmer packs to combat white fingers, and I think I was expecting the warmth to be a lot like that, or like a mobile hot water bottle. Flexwarm is a more subtle heat, but also more sophisticated. Hot water bottles after all, are too hot and then too cold I always find. This is heat that you can control, but also adapts to your temperature and stops heating when it reaches the limit you set, it also stays constant or at the temperature you set for up to six hours.
I can definitely feel the heat pads’ warmth radiating when I am leaning against the jacket in a chair or sat in the car, but really what Flexwarm technology is doing is heating the layers of air between you and the jacket and within the layers of the jacket, creating a layer of warm air and an optimum temperature, rather than a furnace. If you are producing heat as you warm into a hike, the last thing you need is the jacket to be getting progressively hotter too.
Flexwarm ensures that optimum body heat is retained, I really noticed this, even when I turned the heat off I could feel the warmth radiating for a long time afterwards.
In terms of improvements, I would love to see a longer jacket style, my Mum always said a proper Winter coat should cover your bum, although I would probably have both in an ideal world!
I would also like to see clearer instructions about charging the battery pack fully before first use.
I also found I was quite thirsty, boosting my core temperature did seem to dehydrate me a little faster.
Where might this jacket be handy?
You can also get a gilet and a hooded version of this jacket, all three designs I can see being really handy, depending on what you want the jacket for. I normally love hoods, although I actually found the collar and a hat a snugglier combo than I had previously given it credit for.
As the heat is purely in the front and back panels, a gilet could be a great warmer, especially under another jacket for hiking, but ultimately I found the sleeved design more practical for everyday use and liked the way the heat still radiates down the arms. Initially I thought the arms seemed quite billowy, but the hot air definitely collects in the arms.
It’s a really warm everyday jacket in itself. I wore it to visit Leek Christmas market and didn’t need the heater on. Its my perfect jacket to grab when nipping outside to do jobs around the place – I like the sleeves a lot as they have been well designed, they are snug but comfortable elastic round the wrist, hidden inside a doubled over, flared layer which really keeps the rain and wind out.
One use I didn’t anticipate: I’ve ended up wearing the jacket in the house a lot while working at my laptop, it seems bonkers to heat the whole house when its just me at home, but the jacket keeps me toasty and is very lightweight and comfortable to move in.
Walking the dogs in relatively unsheltered fields in the rain and fog I was really glad of a heat boost. Or while waiting for my son in the rainy playground – in that November foggy rain that feels like it’s seeping into your soul. For anywhere where you have to stand around, in my case watching my kids play rugby over Winter, it’s ideal.
For hiking I can see the jacket really coming into its own as a versatile layer – windproof and warm in its own right but with a boost to keep you toasty when you stop for a rest or if you hit unexpected bad weather or more exposed locations.
When I started training last January for the Leaden Boot Challenge I often just wore a fleece and a waterproof as I got so warm hiking, but I did worry that if I had been injured or the weather really changed I wouldn’t have had enough layers – this would be perfect, it is a such a lightweight layer to wear or to stuff in a rucksack, plus you have a phone charger too. In more extreme conditions it would also work well over thermals and a fleece, and under a bigger coat.
For travel I could see this being really handy, it is so lightweight and packable, great in a real range of weather conditions.
I should explain, I am wearing the men’s jacket. I tried a women’s jacket but found the sizes are quite small fitting. As there weren’t any women’s review jackets left in the next size I agreed to review the men’s. This probably worked out for the best, as the women’s jackets were also more tailored than I would normally go for in a coat. Take the measurements very literally though, there are no spare inches in the women’s jacket beyond the inches given in the size guide, so if you want room to breathe or wear a thicker jumper, then go up a size!
Find out more about 8K Flexwarm on their website.
Photos taken around our place by Jon Cruttenden Photography, Jon was over shooting pictures of the Airbnbs for me. I’d planned to go off on a hike but as you can see, it’s been nothing but thick fog!
*Full disclosure – This post was created in collaboration with 8K Flexwarm, who provided a heated jacket for review, but all views and opinions expressed are my own. Some links in this post are affiliate links. This means I may receive a small percentage of a sale if you click these links and purchase a product.