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Gear Review: Corazzo Heated Vest

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Corazzo Heated Vest

Rating:
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It seems that many people have had bad experiences with heated riding gear. Not willing to try the premium brands (Gerbing comes to mind), people often opt for lesser gear and settle for less performance… sometimes much less performance. Over the years, my friends and I have had a few different types of battery operated gloves and I can’t remember one good experience. The heated gloves that we bought (under $50) chewed through expensive batteries or completely exhausted rechargeable batteries within minutes. Internal wires broke and even when working well, the gloves were so poorly insulated that the heat output amounted to a squirrel’s gentle warm breath on our hands. So, it was with some trepidation that I recently tried the Portland and Australia-based Corazzo’s latest product, the Corazzo Heated Vest.

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Before I ordered my vest, I spoke with Allen Drysdale, co-owner of Corazzo, and he told me that they took a new approach with their heated vest. “We wanted people to know that we took this product very seriously,” he told me over email. He continued “We set out to make a product as good as the best scooter and motorcycle protective gear that we’ve ever made, and you know, we knew we couldn’t do it ourselves to the level that we wanted.” Enter, the U.S. company Symtec, a name well-known in heated garment circles. Allen continued “We knew the the Symtec heating system was top notch, it was reliable, very effective and it offered the security of a source for replacement parts, a long history in the business and truly great performance on the bike or scoot.” I asked him what Corazzo brought to the table and he told me that they concentrated their design on what they do best - building tough but stylish protective gear. “Not that a vest is going to do a lot of protecting,” he said “but it has to be a tough and wearable as our 5.0 jacket, for instance, or the Tempeste.” When I asked him the three best things about the heated vest his answers were typically Aussie and to the point. “Style/Design, performance and quality” he said. “Style and Design of course, because it’s what Corazzo is know for,” he continued, “then performance, because almost everyone has had a bad experience with heated gear, and quality, because it has to be good enough to last for years and parts are able to be replaced cheaply if the battery goes down, for instance.” So it sounds all good from Allen, but what about real world performance?

I got my hands on a preproduction sample and using my should-be-patented advanced use technique (I wore it every day for two weeks), I can tell you that this is the real deal. Here is what I found:

Style/Design:
The vest looks good, and it’s tough 500 Denier Nylon material and smooth polyester lining, goes on easily and looks to be very tough indeed, feeling almost bulletproof. The sides of the vest appear to be of a gore material, so they stretch out when you put it on and then snug back to wrap tightly around your chest. The neck is lined with a short poly fleecy material and it does the job of a smooth surface for the snug (for me) neck opening. The vest itself is available in black and army green and features a contrasting window pane stitching reminiscent of a Barbour vest. Allen told me to get one that fits tight, as it’s designed to be worn only over a t-shirt or very light sweatshirt (my favorite Corazzo Underhoody is perfect) for heating efficiency. Alas, the “large” that I received was actually more of a medium, and even when I got the XL, it was a snug fit, especially around the arm holes (which seem to be cut a little high) and the neck (of which I have a huge 17.5 inch neck, so I’ll give them a break there.) For sizing comparison, I’m 5’11”, about 193 lbs and have a 34 inch waist. I’m typically between an L and an XL, so bear that in mind. The vest does have some very handy, zippered hand pockets on the outside, and the battery pocket low on the left and a phone or wallet pocket on the right inside.

The heating equipment, provided by Symtec, is also top-notch. The heat controller is small and conveniently hooks onto a loop near the bottom left side of the jacket. Sadly, it did also slip out fairly easily, so I used a rubber band and later, a small grip-strip fastener to secure it in the loop. Be sure to read the directions for the controller as it not only has five levels of very bright color-coded heat lights, but can also be set in a “night mode” that dims the lights considerably. A nice touch. The charger is "smart" in that it indicates a charging and a "fully charged" state by turning it's LED from red to green. Again, a nice touch that helps to avoid over charging, and allows one to start out with a fully charged battery.

There isn’t much style to the carbon fiber impregnated heating patches (two small ones in the chest area, one large one in the upper back), but they do the trick and are hidden from view unless you take them out to wash the vest. All of the wires in the vest have their own small grip-strip enclosed channels, so it’s an overall tidy design.

Performance:
If a high-performance heated vest is what you want, this is the one for you. The Corazzo Heated Vest can get very hot indeed and once you experiment with the heat level, you will most likely be dialing it down a bit (or a lot.) I must confess that I didn’t ride with the vest, because of the Polar Vortex and 18” of snow on the ground, but I bet that this vest could handle a windchill of minus 30 on the scoot and still feel great.

Battery performance was nothing short of amazing, but there is a trade off with high heat and time to empty. The first week of testing, I wore the vest for nearly two hours every day, and on the lowest or second lowest setting, I did not have to charge the relatively compact (but not equipped with a charge indicator - it's handled by the charger) battery once. That’s very close to 10 hours of more than adequate heat. During the second week of the test, I used the vest for my walks and in wind chills of minus 3 to 5 degrees, so I cranked up the heat to the third or fourth level and got a bit more than four hours out of a charge. I never used the highest level, as with it my back would begin to sweat - it’s that hot. The vest comes equipped with a 11.1 volt / 4400 mAh Samsung Lithium-Ion battery that’s advertised as offering up to seven hours of heat. Used judiciously (and with a full 4-6 hour charge), I think that it will do even better than that under real-world conditions.

I also like that the Symtec documentation comes with tips for storing (and charging) the battery during the off-season. It’s a high quality piece and it seems that Corazzo and Symtec want to you be happy with the vest for the seasons ahead.

Quality:
The overall quality of the vest is superb, maybe too good, in fact. Corazzo’s choice of 500 Denier nylon is tough wearing, but kind of stiff. That means that it will provide protection for sure, but under your riding jacket, I don’t know if it’s needed, as it’s a pretty stiff, abrasion-resistant material. I’m sure that it will break in, eventually, but for a brand new vest, it seems kind of stiff. In addition to the outer fabric, the inner polyester lining is good and the stitching of everything seems strong and solid. There is enough brand identification to get the point across without being shouty about it, and the entire design is slimming and it feels great when you put it on and zip it up. The zipper is of high quality and the integration of the battery pack, wiring and controller couldn’t be better.

All things considered, (including the suggested $299 price) the Corazzo Heated Vest comes across as a high quality piece of dedicated riding gear. It’s construction is top-notch and the bought in heating system is competitive with anything out there. I like that everything is replaceable and that the vest gets seriously hot. I can hardly wait to try it on the scoots, as part of the reason is that one of them is a 6 volt system that could never supply enough power for this vest. If you are in the market for a comprehensive system for cool weather riding, seriously consider the Corazzo Heated Vest.

What’s Next: The benefits of a smaller scooter

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