The Heat Is On

Shooting Times & Country|November 6, 2019

The Heat Is On
No matter how tough you are, Richard Negus believes Härkila’s new electric jacket should be part of every sporting wardrobe
Richard Negus
Just down the road from me lies the pretty little village of Mendlesham. It has a pub, a school and a few streets of ancient timber-framed houses, so commonplace in my part of Suffolk. Not a lot goes on in Mendlesham.

However in 1943, the peaceful idyll was transformed into a vibrant hotbed of gum-chewing and jiving, ‘oversexed and over here’ young American warriors. The pilots and aircrew of the USAAF’s 34th Bombardment group flew hundreds of sorties out of RAF Mendlesham. Each crew of 10 brave young men, flying in their thunderous B17 bombers, facing fearsome antiaircraft fire and the ever-present threat of Luftwaffe attack.

Freezing limits

To alleviate the dangers on the way to their target, pilots would fly their machines at the freezing limits of their planes’ altitude capabilities. Thus if the Nazi flak or pilots didn’t get them, frostbite was an ever-present threat. To remedy this the Americans developed an enormously bulky electric flying suit that the crew plugged into their aircraft’s power supply.

For any Gun who thinks themselves a good shot, I would like to challenge them to bag an angry Focke-Wulf travelling at 400mph, armed only with an unwieldy open-sighted .50 calibre machine gun. Then try this wearing a hybrid between a Michelin-man suit and an electric blanket.

Remarkably they did; we won the war and Mendlesham has gone back to its peace and quiet.

While electrically heated clothing is not a new thing, I am trialling the latest in such gear. Härkila Heat uses some very clever modern fabric technology. The V-necked waistcoat version appears at first glance to be nothing more than a sage green-and black polyester gilet.

However, look at the lining and it shines silver — this is Thermo Poly Shield, which is lightweight and quick drying. In the back and lumbar region of the waistcoat lie some pads that produce heat and the Thermo Poly Shield reflects this around your torso. The pads themselves are invisible to touch and sight.

The waistcoat can be folded up and treated like any other item of clothing, including being put in a machine washing. It runs off a 10,000mAh power pack (not included) which, once charged, plugs into a little cable in the left-hand pocket. You obviously do have to remove the power pack before you pop the waistcoat into the washing machine.

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November 6, 2019