Work doesn't stop when it gets cold outside, so glad we've finally reached a point in human history where we can slip on one of any number of heated jacket options. A heated jacket is not an ordinary jacket to keep all your self-generated body warmth in, but does the heavy lifting from the heating side of things. As we discovered in our recent heated jacket wars, some heated jackets work better than others. Our shootout winner, the Milwaukee Axis Heated Jacket, falls into the better performing category. Let's take a look at what makes it special.
- Fits exactly according to the size chart
- Most comfortable heated jacket overall
- Excellent insulation effect
- excellent heating time
- 5 heat zones including left/right shoulders
- value for money
- Side-entry battery pockets are easier to access than other battery pockets
- Case is not as durable as a thick case
- No belt clip on battery case
If you're looking for the most comfortable thermal jacket, the Milwaukee Axis is your winner. While the case has ripstop seams, it's not as durable as thicker cases that go around, so keep that in mind.
Hot Zones and Controls
The controls for the Milwaukee Axis Heated Jacket are located on the left chest. Two buttons allow the user to discretely control the 5 heating elements located on the left and right chest, left and right shoulders and back. You won't find heated shoulder zones on most heated jackets, it helps surround your core more completely.
Batteries have the potential to really affect the comfort of a design. Thankfully, Milwaukee uses 12V batteries here. While you won't get the same run time as you would with an 18V battery, 12V won't add as much bulk or weight. In fact, the Milwaukee Axis Heated Jacket is designed to virtually eliminate the need for you to carry batteries around.
The battery is housed in a rear left pocket with an entry on the side for easier access than other heated jackets. There is also a point in the middle of the back to pull the cord if you want to remove the battery completely from the jacket and put it in the back pocket.
Materials and Design
The Milwaukee Axis uses a smooth-handling 100% polyester liner and shell. Personally, I prefer this material to something that feels rougher and fluffier. It glides on and off without bunching up your base layers and compresses well.
The downside to the outer material is that it won't be as durable as some other jacket materials. It does, however, come with ripstop seams, making it easy to add another layer if you want the Axis to act as a middle layer.
While nearly every other jacket opts for hook-and-loop straps or storm cuffs, the Axis has some light elastic. The sleeves don't block the elements like storm cuffs do, but they're more comfortable than hook-and-loop straps.
Additional Features of the Milwaukee Axis Heated Jacket
- Quick heat function acts like a preheat, allowing the jacket to warm up quickly
- One-touch LED controller with (3) heat settings per heat zone
- Washer and Dryer Safety
- Windproof and waterproof
- compressible design
- Reinforced high wear areas prevent wear and tear
- 100% polyester insulation retains heat without adding bulk
- Adjustable waist and tail extension
- 2 exterior zip pockets, 1 interior zip pocket, 1 slim battery pocket
While we tend to look at fit more subjectively, we do have objective benchmarks for this category. As with all work clothes, it's all about the accuracy of the size chart.
However, the size chart can't tell you everything. How does the jacket fit your shoulders and stomach? How long are the sleeves? Is the jacket long enough to cover your belly when you stretch your hands over your head?
The chest size recommended by Milwaukee was a perfect fit and fit my shoulders perfectly. The sleeve length is also good. However, the midsection and length are on the short side. Any reach exposes my belly, and the fit is tighter than I like.
A tighter fit is something you need to decide. It puts the heating element close to your skin, which is where it does its best work, but it takes some getting used to. This isn't unique to Milwaukee, every jacket we tested had very similar fit characteristics. Our overall recommendation is to try them on before pulling off the tab in case you want to go up a size.
things are heating up
While design and comfort are important qualities of any heated jacket, the heating capacity is the whole reason to buy one.
We tested how long it took each jacket to reach 100°. On the highest setting, the Milwaukee Axis came alive almost immediately, hitting the 100° mark in just 11 seconds. That's just 1 second shy of Bosch's winning time of 10 seconds.
It took 92 seconds for the jacket to reach its peak temperature of 140° before dropping back down to its "cruising temperature" of 131°. Only the Bosch was warmer at 152° overall and 140° at cruise, while the DeWalt matched the Axis at 131° after settling in.
We also wondered how well each jacket insulated. After setting the jacket to high heat for an hour, we compared the temperature difference between the outer shell and the internal temperature. Compared to other jackets, the Axis performed well, although there were no wild fluctuations between them. It allows 72% of the internal temperature to escape. Makita's new Hi-Viz did slightly better, with a 71% escape rate, while their Camp model entered with a 79% escape rate.
By combining battery capacity and voltage, we looked at several metrics. The Milwaukee Axis ran an impressive 2 hours 50 minutes with all heat zones high and 3 hours 51 minutes with the chest and back elements high.
Comparing the all-area runtime to the 2.0 Ah M12 battery that comes with the kit, the Axis is somewhere in the middle of the pack in terms of efficiency in using those watts.
The Milwaukee Axis Heated Jacket retails for $219 and comes with an M12 RedLithium 2.0 Ah battery pack and compact charger. You can also buy the jacket separately for $169. The price is on par with most other jackets we tested, and it gets 4.9 stars for its value.
the bottom line
From an objective standpoint, the Milwaukee Axis Heated Jacket performed consistently, even though it never stood out on the runway. From a more subjective standpoint, the jacket seemed to be our group's biggest crowd pleaser. It can be used as a midlayer or an outer layer, it's comfortable on the go, the battery isn't obtrusive, it warms up quickly and stays put. All things considered, it's easy to recommend the Milwaukee Axis to anyone looking to stay warm on the job site.
- Model: Milwaukee 203-21
- Voltage: 12V
- Battery system: M12
- Heat Settings: High, Medium and Low
- Laundry: Washer and Dryer Safe
- Weather Resistance: Windproof/Waterproof
- Insulation: yes
- Thermal Elements: Chest, Back, Shoulders
- Inner material: brushed warp knitting
- Warranty on heating equipment: 1 year
- Price: $179 bare, $219 kit