When my boyfriend and I decided to take a 3,600-mile road trip to/from Austin, Texas, over the Christmas holiday (read the story here), it was clear we were going to need some heated apparel. As it happened, Tour Master had just released its new line of battery-powered Synergy heated gear: a perfect opportunity to get my hands on some for a proper road test.
Tour Master is currently in the process of revamping its 12V wired Synergy 2.0 apparel (soon to be Synergy 3.0), but it also saw an opportunity with battery-powered gear. As Richard Kimes, head of marketing for Helmet House, Tour Master’s U.S. distributor, explained, while wired 12V gear is still popular with hardcore touring riders, dealers have expressed an interest in heated apparel that works on bikes with limited charging capability, and that can transition off the bike and into other cold-weather outdoor activities.
I certainly appreciated that characteristic when we stopped one cold, gray, damp morning in the charming town of Fredricksburg, Texas. As we meandered through the outdoor memorial garden at the National Museum of the Pacific War, I left my vest and gloves on at 50-percent power and stayed nice and toasty. Actually, Kurt probably appreciated it too, since I’m sure I was far less cranky than I would’ve been if I was cold.
The vest ($181.99) is meant to be worn over a light base layer, like a T-shirt or other thin fabric, and should fit snugly for best results. It has a soft interior and a soft shell-style, breathable and waterproof treated outer layer, with a cinch cord at the waist and two zippered handwarmer pockets.
Inside the right pocket is another zippered compartment where the 4-ounce lithium-ion battery plugs in. Tapping the battery’s power button shows you the charge level and holding the button for a few seconds powers it up. Now you’re ready to activate the three heating elements (two on the chest, one on the back) whenever you’re ready, via a button on the vest’s right chest.
There are four levels; the first long push activates it in full power, and each subsequent short tap drops it by 25 percent, with an integrated LED light changing color accordingly—red, orange, green, blue. Another long push shuts it off. Completely zip up your outer jacket—this is key to the vest’s effectiveness—and you’re good to go for a little more than two hours on full power.
I tested the longevity in the warmth of the office as well, and it didn’t change; two hours is about all you’ll get unless you run it below 100 percent. If you need more time, I recommend picking up a spare battery ($39.99/each for the vest, $34.99/each for the gloves). Tour Master also offers 12V charging cables so you can charge your spares on the go.
The gloves ($219.99 for the textile ones I tested, $259.99 for leather) work similarly; the smaller, thinner 2.8-ounce battery plugs into a zippered compartment on top of each gauntlet and a button on the top of each hand controls the power output. The glove batteries have no charge indicator or power button and the LED is hard to see in daylight, but you’ll know they’re on almost immediately as the heating elements on the top and down each finger are quite effective.
Like the vest, you’ll get about two hours out of them on high, which was enough to see us through the chilliest mornings on our trip. They’re soft and fleecy inside, with 80g polyester insulation, a HiPora waterproof membrane and touchscreen-friendly index fingers and thumbs.
The Synergy 7.4V line includes a jacket ($221.99), vest, and leather and textile gloves, all available in a wide range of both men’s and women’s sizes. If you’re looking for versatility and/or your bike’s charging system isn’t up to the sizable demands of 12V wired apparel, the Synergy 7.4V gear is worth a try.
For more information, visit tourmaster.com