The Breakdown

The Gerbing 12V heated vest has warmed my torso and neck over thousands of miles in the Rocky Mountains of Alberta, Montana, and Idaho without fail. It gets really HOT if you want it to, or on the lower settings can merely take off the chill. My favorite feature is the collar heating element that helps relax tense neck muscles after logging many miles on the road. The fit is almost too tight on my neck, but not to the point of being unacceptable. Temperature controllers and battery harnesses are not included with the vest. Warranty is only 1 year on the vest other than the heating elements which are lifetime guaranteed.
Aesthetics 100%
Design & Innovation 90%
Build Materials & Quality 100%
Warming Performance 94%
Fit & Comfort 90%
Value for $$$ 90%
Pros
Heats up fast & effectively / Collar heating elements / Washable / Lightweight / Thin & fits under jackets easily / High quality construction & materials / Reasonable price point / Lifetime heating element warranty
Cons
Battery harness & temperature controller sold separately / Awkward controller wiring / No controller mounting system / Vest doesn’t breathe very well / Collar fits borderline too snug / No heat elements on sides / No women’s sizing available / 1-year warranty on non-electrical components

Thank You!

Our friend Justin Silverman at Gerbing Heated Clothing supplied me with this vest, battery harness and temperature controller at no charge for this review. 

First Impressions

In the Spring of 2019, I reviewed the Exotogg thermal vest and experienced first hand how electric dependant heated gear can fail at the most inopportune time. Click on the Exotogg link after reading this one to better understand what I mean.

With that lesson in mind, when the opportunity arose to test this Gerbing heated vest I was apprehensive. That feeling quickly left when I remembered the Gerbing heated gloves my friend Matt wore during our Ride to Tuktoyaktuk last year. His hands stayed perfectly warm, while mine were continually on the cusp of freezing during the ride north of the Arctic Circle. He couldn’t stop raving about his gloves and it made me want to know if it was all hype or for real.

Me standing in front of the marker for the Arctic Circle in Canada's Yukon Territory.

When a package from Gerbing showed up at my home with the vest in it my curiosity was finally due to be satisfied.

Build Quality

The inside liner of the Gerbing Heated Vest.

This vest is made from a silky nylon material that is slightly textured yet shiny and slick to the touch. The inside nylon shell is a smoother and shinier version of the exterior material. It’s pleasant to touch and have against your skin. Gerbing consciously chose this material to aid in promoting heat transfer to the wearer’s body. It works as planned.

In order to get the best heat transfer from the vest to the wearer, Gerbing recommends wearing a nylon or polyester blend base layer such as the Forcefield Tech 2 one I use.

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Available Colors

You can order the vest in any color you like, just as long as you’re ok with them sending you black.

That’s supposed to be my clever way of saying it’s only available in Batman’s favorite shade. It’s an undergarment anyway, so the color really is irrelevant.

Microwire Heating Elements

Gerbing 12V Heated Vest Liner

Photo from Gerbing

Despite the fact it has four, stainless steel microwire heating elements split between the front and back (and some in the collar as well) this vest is ultra-lightweight, wafer-thin and able to roll up small for easy storage in luggage or a large jacket pocket without damaging anything.

Unlike some other heated gear I’ve worn before, the integrated electrical components weren’t overly noticeable from a comfort perspective and didn’t affect my movements whatsoever.

A Little Noisy

Handling or moving while wearing the vest produces a faint “crackling” noise similar to the one given off when folding up a tarp only much, much quieter. The volume increases if the vest material gets cold, but is never loud enough to be annoying.

Stitching

All the tracks of thread loops are first-rate, single stitch, straight and show no blemishes despite fairly heavy usage of the vest during my testing. It strikes me as being a well made and perhaps premium European product. 

Gerbing’s not European though… more on that later.

Hi-Viz?

Lettering on the Gerbing Heated Vest.

I note the stylized letter “G” on the left breast area is made of silver reflective material along with the “powered by” lettering on the zipper flap. I’m not quite sure why since again, this vest is worn underneath a riding jacket, but hey it’s flashy and catches my eye. Extra points for style.

Other Design Features

There aren’t any external pockets on the vest, but there is a passport-sized one on the interior left side that I used extensively while traveling over 6 days.

Inside vest pocket on the Gerbing Heated Vest.

The zippers are all high-quality YKK and I especially like the large-toothed main one that made donning and doffing the vest easy and fast.

YKK zipper on the Gerbing heated vest.

The lower, rear area of the vest has a slightly longer portion to help keep your back covered when leaned forward in a sportbike riding position. 

Gerbing Heated Clothing’s Roots

Overall the design seems excellent and well thought out. This comes as no surprise since Gerbing has been designing and selling heated gear since 1975. It’s designed in the US but manufactured in Vietnam.

Gerbing heated vests are manufactured in Vietnam.

Gerbing is an American company. It came to life when its founder Gordon Gerbing saw the icy plight of his motorcycle riding employees. They were chilled after riding motorcycles to work at Gordon’s Aeronautical machine shop through the damp and cool winter months commonly found in the Seattle, Washington area. 

He designed and built heated gear for them using microwire elements and the company grew from there to what it is today. Gerbing is arguably the top-level manufacturer of heated riding gear from what I’ve heard.

Gordon Gerbing passed away a few years ago, but his first employee Cupid Roberts still works for the company to this day at their product development and warranty repair shop in North Carolina.

Fitment

I wouldn’t have expected to fit a size small vest or shirt since I’ve just about always been a medium or large to this point. That’s not the case with Gerbing it turns out. Small it is…

Here are my physical measurements that convinced Justin to send me a size Small vest from Gerbing. 

  • 16-inch neck
  • 40-inch chest 
  • 34-inch waist

Chest & Neck Fit

A tight fitting collar on the Gerbing heated vest.

Initially, I found the chest and neck fit me well if not snug. After wearing the vest for two full days I was noticing the collar felt increasingly like it was flirting with being too tight. Luckily the microsuede covering on it prevented any undesirable chafing from occurring. 

I did drop the zipper down at times to get a break from the pressure. If your neck measures ANY bigger than mine I would advise going up a size because there is zero give or stretch to the collar due to the microwire heating element inside.

Waist Fit & Layering

My waist had some room to spare which isn’t a bad thing. The extra space allowed me to comfortably wear a Forcefield Tech 2 base layer and a T-shirt underneath the vest. I think most people tend to have a larger waistline than I do as well, so this would fit them better than me in that area.

Rear view of the Gerbing heated vest.

Connecting To the Motorcycle Power Supply

There are two main connections that need to be made in order to have the vest function: Battery Power and Temperature Control.

The photo below shows the three harness connectors that are found in the vest’s Power Pocket. The photo below that is from the Gerbing website to illustrate how it can all connect together if you’re running more than one piece of their heated gear. Luckily the connectors are color-coded to make things easier for people like me who overthink stuff like this on a regular basis.

Electrical connectors in a Gerbing heated vest.

Electrical diagram from Gerbing.

Battery Connection

This 12V heated vest runs exclusively off the bike electrical system via an electrical harness that connects to the motorcycle battery.

Power harness for the Gerbing heated vest installed in a 2019 KTM 790 Adventure.

Installation didn’t take much longer than 15 minutes and the harness is thick, tough and built appropriately from cold-resistant material to ensure it remains flexible in lower temps. It has an inline fuse to protect you or the harness from bursting into flames in the event of a short circuit.

Close up showing the inline fuse holder in the power harness for the Gerbing heated vest.

Maximum draw is 4.5 Amps according to the Gerbing site, but I neglected to confirm that while testing it. The electrical system on my Ninja H2SX SE and my KTM 790 Adventure both were able to handle the draw without experiencing any negative effects.

***Note: This electrical power harness isn’t included with the vest purchase and will cost you an extra $8.99 to buy.***

Temperature Controller

There are several different options available from Gerbing used to control the temperature of the vest or other heated gear they make. They have a controller equipped with two rotary style knobs labeled with numbers for fine-tuning the degree of heat you want. There are single and dual circuit controllers. The dual-circuit ones are capable of powering two separate pieces of heated gear at different levels of heat.

Dual circuit temperature controller from Gerbing.

There’s also a wireless Bluetooth version which I would really like to try.

***Note: The vest doesn’t come with a temperature controller and they range in cost from $14.99 up to $52.99 depending on the design/complexity. You’ll risk voiding your warranty if you use non-Gerbing temperature controllers or power sources/wiring harnesses with the vest.***

The LED Style Temperature Controller

The controller I was provided for testing has an LED light on it that changes color 4 times when pushed consecutively to convey increasing levels of warmth. 

Blue, green, orange and red lights are how the different degrees of temperature are displayed while wearing it.

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It Brings The Heat! 

The heat is felt by the wearer almost instantly when plugged into the power harness and it spreads evenly over the surface of the 5 heating elements simultaneously. It feels wonderful to wear out on the bike during short or long rides! 

Show Me The Money!!

I laid the vest out then powered it up for the following photos and put my temperature gun on the exterior to better know the actual numbers I had been experiencing out on the road. The measurements are impressive but don’t exactly validate the Gerbing website claim of a maximum of 135-degrees Fahrenheit.

Gerbing Vest heated at 74.3 degrees F

This photo shows the first level of heating at 74 degrees F (Blue LED illuminated)

Gerbing Vest heated to 82.1 degrees F

Second level of heat 82 degrees F (Green LED illuminated)

Gerbing Vest heated to 95.3 degrees F

Level 3 heat showing 95 degrees F (Orange LED illuminated)

Gerbing Vest heated to 113.6 degrees F

Maximum heat level measured 113 degrees F! (Red LED illuminated)

I can confirm if you wear this vest against bare skin on the highest setting it’s uncomfortably hot in ambient temps above say 10 Celsius (50F). Having said that I’d rather squirm a bit than be looking for more heat output.

Range of Testing

The lowest temperature I tested the vest in was 0 degrees Celsius (32F). Anywhere around that neighborhood, I enjoy having the vest set on full power continuously, especially at highway speed.

As mentioned I wore a Forcefield base layer and a cotton T-shirt underneath the vest with a puffy jacket liner from Joe Rocket Canada and my Rukka ROR jacket over top of it. It was an excellent combination that worked well right down to freezing temps. However, I found down at the lower end of the spectrum I was wishing the heating elements ran all the way around the sides of my torso. The gaps on each side of my ribs noticed the cold even with the vest set on maximum heat. 

Still, even at that I was quite comfortable and unencumbered thanks to how thin and lightweight the vest is.

Big Claims?

Gerbing claims on their website the vest “keeps you warm at any temperature, any speed.

Screenshot of Gerbing temperature claims from Gerbing Website

Screenshot from the Gerbing website

Speed wasn’t an issue, but I found the comfort limit for what I was wearing combined with the vest to be 0 Celsius

In theory, if I wore additional layers of thermal insulation (or a thicker jacket) It would have kept me warm below that temperature, but at that point, I would need some heating elements in the sleeves additionally to be really comfortable. The Rukka ROR I wore is quite thin compared to many riding jackets and is only considered 3-season.

Me on my KTM 790 adventure out in the backcountry near Challis, Idaho.

Gerbing makes a jacket liner with additional heating elements in the sleeves just for that purpose.

If You Misplace Your Temperature Controller…

While testing the vest in Idaho at the annual Klim Cow Tagz Rally I managed to drop the temperature controller in a parking lot and lost possession of it for 48 hrs. I have a bad habit of misplacing important items at critical times (like the keys to Indian Chieftain Ltd motorcycles), but that’s when I often learn valuable lessons to share with you.

In this specific case, I learned the vest could be directly plugged into the power harness and still work. The only problem doing that without having a temperature controller in between the vest and the power harness is that the wearer gets full power going to the vest and so maximum heat. All or nothing with a heated vest this powerful can get uncomfortable when ambient temperatures rise above 10 Celsius or 50 F.

Luckily for me, a fellow Rally rider found the controller on the ground and returned it to me before I rode the 1000 miles back home to Alberta through the cold and rainy mountains in Montana.

Here’s Are Some Problems

So far I really haven’t had anything negative to say about this setup beyond the neck fitting a bit on the tight side because it’s very effective at doing what it was meant to do, but it’s not perfect.

A Rat’s Nest Of Wiring

It was good to have extra harness length of wire coming off the power harness and temperature controller, but there isn’t a good way to secure it. I found it ends up piled in my lap while riding, ergo the rat’s nest comment. I was constantly checking to ensure some of it hadn’t dropped down unbeknownst to me and was threatening to get caught in the chain or rear wheel.

A mess of wiring from the Gerbing heated vest.

As I mentioned before Gerbing’s wireless controller would likely fix this problem, but introduce the irritation of needing to recharge the batteries in the wireless portion.

It Needs A Mounting System

All this electrical paraphernalia is crying out for a good way to mount the controller unit to the tank of the motorcycle or alternately to the wearer’s jacket or sleeve. I ended up using a piece of stick-on velcro that came with a SENA unit I previously tested. It worked well enough to hold it there in front of me on the gas tank for easy access. A simple fix that made adjusting the heat setting on the fly safer, easier and kept the mess of extra wire length from falling down into harm’s way. 

Maybe some sort of a retractable lanyard would work better here?

Why not just tuck the extra wiring into my pocket or riding pants, you may ask? That would have worked if the controller unit was located closer to one end of the harness or the other, but as it stands it’s smack dab in the middle.

The temperature controller mounted using velcro to the fuel tank on my KTM 790 Adventure.

The temperature controller stuck to the fuel tank using a piece of velcro.

Breathability

The nylon shell doesn’t breathe all that well and gets very uncomfortable to wear in temperatures above about 15 degrees Celsius (59F). No, you won’t be needing to wear a heated vest at that temperature and above, but it would be nice if you didn’t need to pull over and take off the vest to avoid sweating profusely once it warms up (and vice versa). 

I realize this might be an impossible request because that insulation the nylon provides is a positive in colder temperatures. Usually, you can’t have your cake and eat it too, but perhaps Gerbing can put their R&D team to work on this one if they haven’t already…

Women’s Sizes

There isn’t a women’s version of the vest available, meaning they’re potentially missing out selling these vests to 25% of motorcycle riders. 

They do have a full-on heated jacket for women leaving me wondering why they didn’t build a vest shaped to fit the female form too?

Gerbing heated jacket for women.

Photo from Gerbing

Portable Power Options

It would be nice if this vest could be powered up using Gerbing’s portable 7 Volt power pack as an alternative to plugging it into the bike.

I have tested other heated gear equipped with that option, although it didn’t get nearly as hot using the portable power cell as it did when plugged into the motorcycle. Maybe Gerbing should design this into the next generation of vests?

The Final Verdict?

I previously tested the Fieldsheer Hydro Heat Jacket which included a heated liner made by Mobile Warming. I liked that setup but didn’t love some things about it and scored it accordingly. Now having tried this Gerbing vest I would wear it before the Mobile Warming system without hesitation. The Gerbing one is designed better, more comfortable, fits me more precisely and has heating elements built into the collar where the Mobile Warming one does not. The Gerbing system is overall better at keeping me warm and that’s what counts the most.

It’s irritating not to get the power harness and temperature controller included with the Gerbing vest, especially since you can’t run the vest properly without at least the power harness. Why not just add $9 to the vest price and include it as a package deal, Gerbing?

A Gerbing electrical harness.

Washable

The vest is surprisingly washable and not in a dry cleaning kind of way! It has to be washed by hand and hung to dry. I didn’t attempt it with mine even after almost a week of heavy sweating during testing because… well… it didn’t stink or look dirty. 

The material seems to be naturally anti-microbial or resistant to it anyway. Gerbing provides specific instructions on how to wash/dry it and what detergent to use. That’s impressive to me and a big selling feature.

Washing instructions for the Gerbing heated vest.

Gerbing Has Won Me Over

Although I’ll still always bring a Plan B/backup solution (the Exotogg vest) for keeping myself warm on long rides in case this Gerbing vest fails unexpectedly, I have to say that I’m now a big fan and will get a lot of use out of it moving forward.

I’m giving it a high score of 94% and recommend it based on the 2500+ miles of trouble-free testing it endured with me. It shows virtually no signs of wear other than wrinkles.

Regrets? Just One

I do have one regret about wearing this vest that some of you reading this might already have guessed. I’m finding the rest of my body is jealous of my oh-so-warm torso. My feet, hands, and arms all want a piece of the Gerbing action now! Luckily for them, Justin didn’t only send me the vest.

More Gerbing heated gear reviews are on the way…

Gerbing Hero heated gloves.

Pros

  • Heats up fast & HOT
  • Collar heating elements
  • Washable
  • Lightweight
  • Thin & fits under jackets easily
  • Reasonable Price point
  • High-quality construction & materials
  • Lifetime heating element warranty

Cons

  • Battery harness & temperature controller sold separately
  • Awkward controller wiring
  • No controller mounting system
  • Doesn’t breathe very well
  • Collar fits borderline too snug
  • No heat elements on sides
  • No women’s sizing available
  • 1-year warranty on non-electrical components

Specs

  • Manufacturer: Gerbing Heated Clothing
  • Price when tested: $ 149.99 USD on sale for $112.99 from Gerbing directly
  • Made in: Vietnam
  • Sizes: XS to 3XL
  • Review Date: November 30, 2019

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webBikeWorld works closely with Revzilla, 2WHEEL, and Amazon to provide our testers with quality products to review. While we have an affiliate relationship and receive a commission from items purchased, this addition comes at no additional cost to you. It is the primary way we pay for our site and reviewers.

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