I am a professional fly-fishing guide in Colorado. Late fall and winter fishing is one of my favorite times to fish because the colder it becomes, the fewer people fish.
Fewer crowds make for a nice, fishing experience but you must fight the cold.
There are many ways to fight the cold and dressing in layers is one of the best and most recommended ways.
One disadvantage to layering is that layers are designed to trap your body heat and wick moisture away from your body.
If you are moving, your body will generate heat and with the right layers, you can retain it.
What if you aren’t moving that much and are in an environment where heat is wicked away from you through the air and cold water?
What if you can’t generate enough heat because you are in a boat, or are working a fishing hole and not moving too much?
That’s where heated clothing comes in.
The idea of using power to generate heat in clothing is not a new one. There have been socks and gloves heated through batteries for a long time.
What has changed is that the power supply is more than just a 9-volt battery and the material used to transmit the heat is much more sophisticated and reliable.
The 9-volt battery is replaced by high-capacity lithium-ion batters and the material to transmit the heat is a carbon fiber filament that you can barely feel in the clothes.
On the test day, it was about 30°Fahrenheit, bright sun, and the water temperature when I started was 36° Fahrenheit.
I started with the vest on the highest setting as I was rigging my rod because I’m not moving much, and I wanted to see how long before my hands got cold and if I could feel the heat in the jacket. It didn’t take long to rig up and it felt great sticking my cold hands in the vest pockets to warm up.
I tested the Venustas Men’s Heated Vest with Stand Collar 7.4. This vest is a 90% down and 10% polyester-filled nylon “puffy” vest.
I love the idea of heated clothing for fly fishing. But, for it to be part of my fly-fishing kit, it needs to work, be worry-free and be durable.
Let’s take a look at some of the looks and functional aspects of the Venustas Heated Vest.
The Venustas vest is good-looking. An elastic cord that goes around the waist allows it to tighten up around your waist. The cut of the vest is very straight, so without tightening it, the vest hangs too loose for me below the waist.
I used the elastic to tighten the vest around my waist as much as I can. I wore it under my wading jacket, which I wear in cooler weather.
The vest was a second layer beneath the wading jacket. Normally, I wear a puffy jacket underneath the wading jacket when cold. This vest was nice because immediately I felt I had more freedom around the arms and casting was much easier without the added sleeves of my jacket.
It has an upper pocket and two lower pockets which are both felt-lined. This feels great in the cold and can protect items such as phones and sunglasses with the lining.
The pockets are zippered with rubber zipper pulls that are handy when you have gloves on.
On the inside of the vest is a pocket for where the battery is to go.
The pockets hold the battery, and the battery’s connection is in the pocket.
This vest version has a stand-up collar that can fold down. Stand-up collars are nice when you can zip them up and guard your neck against the cold and wind.
Overall, I would say this vest looks like most basic, “puffy” style vests. The cut of the vest is straight and mine rode below my belt line.
On/Off/Temperature Adjustment Button
To turn on the vest, you press and hold the button for a few seconds. It will turn red. In pre-heat mode, the red light will blink and when the vest comes up to temperature, it will have a steady red light, which is the hottest temperature setting.
You can then press the power button for 1 second and it will cycle through the temperature settings. The hottest temperature of the vest at room temperature will be 130° F/55°C.
At the medium setting, the white setting, it is 113°F/45°C and at the Low, Blue setting, it is 95°F/35C°.
Almost all the heated clothing I investigated had a switch like this that turned on the heated clothing. The only problem I had with it is that it is difficult to see the colors in bright light.
Temperature control is predicated on the color (if you can see it) or the number of times you hold the button to cycle to the next temperature.
There were times that I couldn’t see the color of the button and had to cup my hand around the button or move into the shade so I could see the color.
Once I knew the color, I could count how many times I hit the button to cycle through the heat settings.
The other challenge with the button is that if have other clothing layers under the button, you wind up pushing the button hard, so that there is some upward resistance to the button, and you can feel the tactile response.
Fill of the Vest:
The vest is filled with 90% Down, and 10% Feather.
According to the website, it is a white duck down.
I did a little research on “white duck down” and color has nothing to do with quality. There is significant information on “down” and the different categories. I’m not going to get into that.
The vest is warm, even without the heating elements being turned on.
While the vest has some water repellency, the battery is not waterproof and when down gets wet, it loses its insulating qualities.
Nothing good will come out of this vest getting wet, this vest needs to stay dry.
The vest has a total of 5 heat zones, 4 on the front of the vest and 1 in the back. 2 of the zones in the front are right behind the lower pockets, and the other 2 are on the upper part of the vest. The one in the back is located towards the vest’s top and between the shoulder blades.
Initially, I wore the vest underneath my waders and I didn’t have access to the pockets.
After lunch, I wore the vest outside of my waders so I could get access to the heated pockets. This was game-changing for me.
I usually carry those hand warmers that you get in a packet at the store. You expose them to air and they heat up. With the heat zones in the pocket, I was able to stick my hands into the heated, felt-lined pocket and didn’t need my hand warmers.
This is great because I need to keep my fingers warm so I can tie knots and change flies.
The 4 zones in the front were great. The zone that surprised me the most was the zone on the back of the vest. When you stand all day wade fishing, the added heat felt good on my back.
I wish the heating elements went a little lower to my lower back.
You can feel the filament in the vest if you run your vest along the material. The filament doesn’t seem fragile and doesn’t inhibit your movement in any way.
On a shorter day of fishing, I left the vest on, and the heat felt nice on my back driving home.
The battery is a 7.4, 5000mah battery. According to the website, you should expect 3-4hrs on high, 4-5hrs on medium, and 8-9hrs on low heating settings.
For the most part, I would say these are pretty accurate.
I was in very cold weather for a few days, even below 0° and the vest didn’t last quite as long as promised. It may have been that with the much colder weather, the battery wasn’t as efficient as it could be.
The vest comes with a USB C charging cord and a charger.
The battery has a digital gauge on it and will tell you the percentage of charge remaining. I found that the battery took quite a while to charge from O%. So, if you plan on using the vest, make sure you plan on a full night for charging.
The Venustas vest does what it promises.
It will keep you warm by generating heat for you. The vest is warm by itself and with the heating elements, you can be comfortable in cold weather.
My main caveat is that the battery life will vary depending on what temperature setting you are using and how cold the ambient air temperature is. Your battery endurance may vary.
The vest as an insulating layer works well.
In my case, I wore it under a more rugged wading coat. In my use case, I would expect the durability of the vest to be pretty high because it is not the outer layer.
I don’t know if I would wear it outside by itself. First, I need my gear to be fully waterproof, not just water-repellent.
Also, the outer fabric of the vest doesn’t seem like it would hold up well to walking through brush and feels less durable than I would like.
For cold fly fishing, I plan on using the vest and turning on the heat the second I get out of my truck.
The vest will keep me warm because of the down-fill material and the heating elements.
I will have to be careful about the temperature zone because I can’t always see the color of the button to know what zone I am in. But, when the water is nearly frozen, and the air temperature is even colder, I will wear my Venustas vest.