Fall is here and winter is fast approaching, making now a good time to think about heated gear. You might already have a jacket, hoodie, or non-heated layers, but what about winter gloves?
Milwaukee introduced their heated gloves last year at NPS18, and I received a test sample last fall, but I held off doing a review until I could subject them to the coldest part of winter. Since stores are half a season ahead and winter gear was off the shelves by that point, posting the review at that time wouldn’t have made much sense.
It’s not very cold out yet, but I saved all my notes from last year’s testing. Now’s the time to get serious about your winter gear planning. Wait too long, and heated gear will start selling out in the next two months.
Milwaukee’s heated gloves are each powered by a single Red Lithium USB battery, which they claim will heat the gloves for up to six hours.
The gloves have heating elements on the back of the hands and along the fingers, with the outer material made from Milwaukee’s “Gridiron” rip-stop polyester, and leather for the palms and fingers. The index fingers have “Smartswipe” material that lets you use capacitive touchscreen devices with your gloves on.
On the back of the thumb there there is a piece of terry cloth sewn in for wiping away sweat. The cuff extends further up the arm to provide cover beyond your wrist and has a Velcro strap for securing the glove.
The switch on the glove operates like the switches on most of Milwaukee’s other heated gear. You press and hold the button for a 2 second count and the glove turns on in high (red) mode. You can then cycle through the temperature settings — high (red), medium (white), and low (blue) — by pressing and releasing the button quickly. The you can turn off the glove by holding the switch for 2 seconds.
The heated gloves come with everything pictured above: the gloves, two batteries, two chargers/controllers, a split charging cable, and 2.1 A charging adapter. The gloves come in Medium, Large, and eXtra Large sizes.
As far as I can tell Home Depot doesn’t stock the medium gloves in their stores, so if you have smaller hands, your best bet may be online.
Glove sizing usually varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, and even from glove model to model. I always recommend trying on a pair before you buy, but sometimes you don’t have that luxury.
To aid in your decision, Milwaukee does have a fit guide for their gloves. You just measure from the tip of your middle finger to the base of your hand as shown above. Then you look up the measurement on the chart. For instance, my measurement is 7″, and so I would pick the closest size: Medium.
Fit and Finish
Weighing in around 0.6 lbs per glove and with the extra long cuffs, the Milwaukee heated gloves feel like you are wearing a gauntlet (or maybe a hockey glove).
The finger pull makes it easy to draw the long gloves over your jacket sleeves. Once donned, the cuffs have a Velcro strap for adjusting the seal against your jacket arm which helps to keep the heat in and the wind out.
I really like how the finger tips don’t end in a seam. I’ve owned a lot of gloves that claimed to be made for dexterity, but they fall short because they have a hard seam at the end of the finger. In the photo above you can also see the terry cloth sweat wipe on the back of the thumb.
Having a sweat wipe on a heated glove that you are going to use in the cold might seem weird, but there are occasions where you can work up a sweat in the cold. I didn’t really get a chance to use the sweat wipe. It feels soft against your forehead, but it’s a pretty small patch and I think it would soon become sopping wet if you were really sweating.
A close look at the label shows that the glove lining and insulation are also made from polyester. Unlike other heated gear from Milwaukee, you cannot machine wash these gloves, they are labeled spot clean only.
The photo Milwaukee provided of the heating element in the gloves was somewhat confusing, as the diagram shows that there are heating elements on each of the fingers and thumb as well as the back of the hand.
I can confirm by wearing them that the Heat Zones diagram is more accurate and that there are heating elements in all the fingers and thumbs as well as the back of the hand.
Unfortunately there’s no way to actually photograph the heating elements of the glove without destroying it, so the best I can do is show you an IR photo of the heat that leaks out of the gloves through the insulation.
I took this image outside on 20°F concrete — not with my hands in them obviously. The gloves are on high and have been on inside for 5 minutes.
Charging the RedLithiumUSB Batteries
At first I removed the battery containers to charge them, but after a while I figured out that you could leave them inside the gloves and plugged in, which saves a little assembly time.
The output of the charging brick is stated to be 2.1A at 5V, and the capacity of each Red Lithium USB battery is 10Wh (2.5 Ah at 4V). So theoretically it should take about 2.5 hours to charge both glove batteries.
I measured the current for charging both one and two batteries and found that with 1 battery attached, it charged at a current of 1.8 A and with both batteries attached they drew about 2.4A. This means the charging time for both gloves is ideally closer to 2 hours.
In my experience the gloves usually charged in less than two hours because I suspect that even when you run them down to the point where the glove turns off, the batteries aren’t being completely discharged.
These charge currents I measured also suggest that it would be much faster to charge both gloves from separate USB bricks than from one brick with a split USB cable. This could theoretically cut your maximum charge time down to 1.4 hours.
Runtime for a product like this is hard to quantify, as it depends on the outside temperature. Milwaukee is claiming a six hour runtime, and I’m assuming that’s in mild weather and with the heat on low.
From testing of the hoodie, I discovered that Milwaukee’s heat system works like a household thermostat. It heats the elements in the gloves until they reach a cut-off temperature and then cuts power until it reaches a lower threshold. The colder it is outside the longer the current will remain on.
While I didn’t do any formal testing, I did notice that on the coldest days I wore them (5°F), the batteries only lasted the 50 minutes of our daily walk.
While I was writing this review, I left the fully charged gloves on high indoors with the room at 70°F. The batteries lasted about 1 hour and 40 minutes, so you can see how the exterior temperature can affect the runtime.
Testing and Observations
I wore these gloves an entire season in temperatures ranging from 32°F to 0°F for doing everything from walking the dog, shoveling snow, snow blowing, and other outdoor tasks. Here are my observations.
Shown above is one of the first times I used the gloves. I had a flat tire and it was 20°F outside. The gloves proved to be more than adequate for the task of changing out the tire for a spare, but not for the task of taking a photo of changing the tire.
The “Smart swipe” feature turned out to be pretty useless to me, because I unlock my phone with my fingerprint and then it doesn’t make sense to put the glove back on. I have tried using the glove to manipulate my phone, but due to the large finger size, it isn’t very accurate. It’s really hard to choose an icon on the screen and forget about typing anything on the onscreen keyboard.
It might be okay for simple tasks, such as swiping to accept a phone call, or to dismiss a timer, but that’s about it.
I walk our dog 3 miles a day no matter the weather, except if it gets below -10°F, then we only make it about a block before my dog wants to go home. What I quickly discovered was that these gloves are not capable of keeping my hands warm below 5°F, and actually start getting iffy around 10°F.
The problem is that when you turn the gloves on outside when it’s that cold, they never really warm your fingers up. So, I started pre-heating the gloves by turning them on high for a few minutes first before going outside. When I did this they performed much better, but even this trick didn’t help the gloves when it was below 5°F.
Milwaukee has been touting that their new heated products reach temperature 3X faster. I have definitely seen a difference in the speed in which the new “Quick-Heat” hoodie reaches temp over the older style hoodies, but I have nothing to compare these gloves to. Plus with my recommendation to pre-heat the gloves before you put them on, it makes this kind of a mute point.
As for dexterity, the gloves are just fine for changing a bit or pulling a tool’s trigger switch, but you’re not going to be picking up small screws off the ground with them.
I’m not the first person to notice that theses gloves don’t work well in sub-zero temperatures, as I saw several complaints last winter on social media. Milwaukee’s marketing isn’t exactly clear when they claim things like “keeping users warm in extreme cold.” What is extreme cold? To some people it’s below freezing, to other’s it’s zero, and for us crazy few it’s even colder.
I think that the engineers had to compromise on weight, runtime, and outside temperature. Sure they could have made them work in sub-zero temperatures, but runtime would have suffered greatly, or added insulation would have bulked things up. To get sub-zero performance, you’d probably have to use M12 batteries or another proprietary Li-Poly flatpack. Or use disposable chemical warmers like I do when it gets really cold.
I think that if you are aware of the limitations of the gloves, they can be a fine choice for winter work. The gloves are well made, they are reasonably dexterous, and will keep your hands warm in the milder winter temperatures that most of the country experiences, except those of us foolish enough to live in the great white north.
The question remains: would I buy them for myself? Personally I prefer mittens when it’s cold outside. I don’t have to do much work outside in the cold that requires dexterity, and so $179 is a lot of money to spend for gloves. But, for instance if you’re out in a cold garage everyday working on vehicles, I could definitely see the utility.