When expressed my desire to review the Milwaukee Realtree heated hoodie (the full name is the M12 Realtree Xtra Camo heated hoodie), I had some funny looks from the staff—at least the ones who know more about me. You see, it was July when I made the request, and I happen to live in sunny Florida. Wisdom would have me wait until December to begin my review (I actually did end up waiting until November), but in truth this is the perfect product for a Floridian. In the winter, Florida can have some nice runs of cold weather (relatively speaking, of course). Couple that with our reduced tolerance for anything under a balmy 70 degrees Fahrenheit, and you have an entire state that would gladly don a heated jacket or hoodie at the first sign of cold weather. With the influx of heated jackets into the residential construction scene (several of the largest tool manufacturers now have their own models) it’s Milwaukee’s unique twist on the technology that makes for a compelling second look.
The other reason I like this type of heated outerwear is that I have opportunities to hunt throughout the year (deer, hogs, and gators—to be precise). This type of hoodie not only keeps you warm in the seasons that require it—it really fits the part. Going out on a recent gator-hunting trip, I donned the Milwaukee Realtree Xtra hoodie and brought along a couple spare M12 batteries. If you’ve ever been gator hunting, you’ll know it’s potentially a very late-night affair. This trip was no different, and though we didn’t bring home the big one (though we certainly saw a ton of them), I at least looked like I was dressed properly for the occasion…and I stayed very warm without having to wear a lot of layers.
It’s a Camo Heated Hoodie, Not a Jacket
For anyone who hasn’t spent time hunting in Florida (or doing anything outdoors, really) you have to understand the persnickety nature of the weather. A Floridian will chalk it up as “regular Florida weather” when the day starts out at 43 degrees, heats up to 72 in the afternoon, rains towards early evening, and then drops back down to 55 by nightfall. Anyone else would be wondering if someone dropped a dome overhead and was experimenting on us like so many unsuspecting lab rats. But that’s Florida, and a product like Milwaukee’s heated hoodie bodes well in such a dynamic weather environment. I already has some experience with the Milwaukee M12 Hoodie to begin with, but the RealTree Xtra camo and adding in the M12 and M18 power supplies made for a nice update and furthered my perspective of the potential user experience.
The Milwaukee M12 Realtree Xtra Heated Hoodie uses three individual (but linked) carbon fiber heating elements that are sandwiched between a 100% polyester water repellant shell and a 60/40 cotton/polyester waffle-weave thermal liner. By itself (without the use of the M12 heating system), the jacket is nice and warm—but the heating pads (like a heated blanket) heat your chest and back on the places where it’s needed most. The lightweight carbon fiber heating elements really are effective, and the material distributed the heat evenly. The principle applied is that, if you heat the core (chest and back), the entire body reaps the effects.
Activating the jacket is a simple matter of pressing the M12 button for three seconds. It’s located on the interior left side so that it doesn’t present a blinding light from its LED when you’re trying to remain concealed. Subsequent presses cycle you through the different heat levels (you have high, medium, and low options). Obviously, you get the most run-time from the lowest heat setting, but I tended to run the jacket in high for most of my testing. Additional M12 batteries gave me the additional run-time I needed. Without fail, people will comment on this jacket, particularly when you unzip the top and reveal that it’s a battery-powered heated product!
What I like about this design is that you can replace a large amount of clothing and generate the same amount of warmth with less weight and layering. In fact, less layering will probably generate more heat for your body. This camo heated hoodie isn’t going to work on its own if you’re in sub-freezing temperatures—for that you have two options. You can put on something a bit more robust, like a full-on heated jacket system, or you can simply layer a jacket on top of the heated hoodie. In any case, it will certainly temper the cold on a blustery day. In Fall and Spring, the Milwaukee Realtree heated hoodie may be the perfect outer wear to cover a range of temperatures you’ll encounter.
Milwaukee Realtree Heated Hoodie Features & Use
One of the advantages to the Milwaukee Realtree Camo hoodie is that it uses a special noise-reducing fabric. That, plus the obvious advantages of the Realtree Xtra Camo pattern, make it an excellent choice for hunters (the gators didn’t seem to care, but I’m sure deer hunters will appreciate it). With a standard M12 battery, the hoodie provides up to 6 hours of continuous heat—and that number goes up if you utilize either a Milwaukee 2.0 Ah battery or the Milwaukee M18 power source with a compact M18 battery (in which case the run-time increases to 10 hours or more!) I don’t recommend using an M18 XC battery as the weight is prohibitive and I’d personally rather carry an additional battery or two.
The hoodie (as well as Milwaukee’s heated jackets) use their M12 RedLithium batteries (this kit came with one plus a charger). The included basic M12 battery holder fits right into a back pocket that has a hook and loop flap and which can expand to fit either an M12 XC battery or M18 battery (with the optional M18 power source). Due to its weight, the M12 battery will tend to pull at the fabric and stick out at the bottom of the hoodie. To alleviate this, you can tighten the elastic bands at the base of the hoodie to give you tight fit around your waist. This also has the added benefit of trapping additional body heat. I do wish that Milwaukee had better secured the compartment to keep the battery elevated during use as I tend to keep a battery in there, and it sticks out whenever the hoodie is unzipped for casual use. Another helpful feature would be an internal pocket to hold an MP3 player or phone while it charges. Perhaps in a future iteration, Milwaukee will add this and include the USB-toting M12 Power Source as they did with their newer M12 heated jacket kits.
Here’s the kicker: All M12 heated hoodies, including the Realtree Xtra Camo model, are washer and dryer safe! That’s right, you simply remove the battery holder and throw it in the washer on gentle cycle. After that, tumble dry low and you’re all set. This came in handy when I spent a few evening hours around a campfire and my hoodie picked up a nice smokey flavor…I thought I smelled delicious, but my wife disagreed and was all too happy to help me “test” the washability of the hoodie. After a quick trip to some warm water and a tumble dry, the hoodie came out smelling normal (which is to say, neutral), and I was able to see that it was none the worse for wear—with all of the heating elements continuing to function normally.
If I had to summarize my thoughts I’d say this is a comfortable, well-designed, and well-manufacturered hoodie. It’s robust enough for wearing it hard and tossing it in the wash when you need to clean it up. It heats well, but pay particular attention to fit. You don’t want to buy “a size up”. This piece of heated gear, like the Milwaukee heated jacket, needs to fit snugly so that the heating elements are close to your body. If it’s loose it won’t work nearly as well. I found battery life to be good, and there are tons of options for you to increase run-time for all day use. Whether you’re hunting or you just like the look of Realtree Xtra camo, the Milwaukee Realtree heated Hoodie is a great product that’s sure to keep you warm (and impress your friends).