Having lived the major share of my life, so far, in Upstate New York, I am somewhat acclimated to the potentially harsh weather conditions that can span as much as 6 months. Growing up outside of Buffalo, learning to dress for the weather was literally a matter of survival. Back then, cotton waffle long johns were in widespread use, but if you were active they soon got damp and robbed the heat from your body, thus the adage “cotton kills”. In more recent years, the advances in technical clothing has been aimed primarily at the outdoor sporting enthusiasts, though the trades have benefited as well. One problem though, is that most of the new technical wear can be pricey, adds bulk, or is not designed to hold up to the abuse associated with the construction trades. Being caught up in a snowstorm of down feathers right after walking past that exposed nail is a groan worthy event. Taking that into consideration, Milwaukee developed a line of outerwear to beat back the elements that will hold up to the rigors of the workplace.
The MILWAUKEE® M12™ Heated AXIS™ Layering System with HYDROBREAK™ Rain Shell consists of the rain shell and the Axis inner jacket. We reviewed the Milwaukee Axis Jacket on its own once before, in a series of grueling tests in. . . . southern California. The Axis inner jacket is powered by M12™ REDLITHIUM™ Battery Technology, and uses carbon fiber heating elements to create and distribute heat to the chest, back and shoulders. A one-touch LED controller heats up the jacket to three heat settings, creating a comfortable temperature for any environment or weather.
I found that even in temperatures in the 30’s, if I was moving, I could run at the lowest setting or not use the heating function at all. These jackets are built strong to last with new AXIS™ Ripstop Polyester providing a lightweight, compressible design that can be used as an inner layer or mid-layer jacket. The HYDROBREAK™ Rain Shell protects against rain and snow conditions. The 2.5 layer rain shell is designed with ripstop polyester for tear and abrasion resistance and a polyurethane laminate to keep you dry all day. The morning I spent plowing and clearing snow and a day hunting in the rain were spent completely dry, at least on top. Available in gray with sizes ranging from small to 3XL, this kit comes with the M12™ battery powered heated jacket and HYDROBREAK™ rain shell, one M12™ REDLITHIUM™ CP2.0 battery, and an M12™ compact charger and power source.
A Couple Milwaukee Videos to Get You Up to Speed
Getting Familiar With the Milwaukee AXIS Jacket and Rainshell Kit
I was pretty excited the day the Milwaukee M12 Heated AXIS Layering System with HYDROBREAK Rainshell Kit showed up from Milwaukee for us to evaluate. I unpacked the box to find the inner jacket (where the magic happens), a waterproof hooded outer shell, the M12 battery and adapter and the USB charger.
The inner jacket fit perfectly and allowed for an unencumbered full range of motion. Slipping the waterproof shell over the inner liner added a little bulk, but overall still allowed for free movement. The M12 battery is compact and fits neatly into the pocket provided on the inner jacket. The included adapter serves as the interface to the jacket, and also includes a USB port, so you can charge a cell phone, MP3 player or other device right in the pocket. The buttons to activate the heating coils are large and easy enough to work, even with gloves on.
There are multiple zones, including shoulder and chest, and each zone has 3 ranges. The selected range is indicated by the color of the button for that zone, and the zones are independent to allow for flexibility.
The HYDROBREAK Rainshell is constructed with ripstop polyester and has a reflective inner layer that complements the heating effect of the inner liner. It held up nicely to a long day in the rain, never leaking and it kept me warm and dry from mid thigh up. There is a clever little pass through on the face of the shell so you can adjust the heating controls without having to expose yourself to the rain or snow. As with any waterproof article of clothing, it can get pretty warm when working hard.
The Big Hunt (Part 1)
The Milwaukee M12 Heated AXIS Layering System with HYDROBREAK Rainshell Kit arrived at this branch of Home Fixated two days before the big game rifle season was to start in Upstate New York. Coincidentally the temperatures plummeted and the snow fell just before opening day. I set out early opening morning with the Axis inner jacket layered between my wool base layer and a down layer topped with my blaze orange parka. The thermometer read 12 degrees as I headed out to sit in my tree stand, but I was feeling well prepared for the conditions. Right up until I climbed up into my stand and pushed the buttons on the Axis jacket and nothing happened. I tried again, and suddenly was struck by the memory of the battery sitting on my dresser still plugged into the charger. What a great opportunity to compare my experience when I finally do have the battery connected I thought. Sure, that’s just what went through my mind. At least my slow boil kept me warm for a little while. As an insulating layer the inner jacket did have some value as well.
The Big Hunt (Part 2)
After a rather chilly morning I retreated to a small cabin we have at the edge of the woods and warmed my outer self by the fire and my inner self with some hot coffee. My wife walked down to the main house to feed the livestock and brought me back the battery for my next foray into the woods. I plugged the battery into the cord and tucked it into the pocket which sits right about where your left kidney is. There was really no discernible difference in how my layers fit with the battery in, no restriction in motion, it disappeared for all intents and purposes.
I got back in my tree stand and fired both zones to the full heat mode. The heating effect was immediate, warming my upper back, shoulders and chest. Given how cold it was outside I decided to bask in the warmth for a while. I burned through a full charge with both zones set at high within a little less than 3 hours, so I once again got to experience the cold for the last hour of the day. Lesson learned I set the heat level at medium from there on, and never exhausted the battery again. If I were expecting severe conditions for a prolonged stint outdoors I would recommend packing an additional battery. My typical stints in the woods were about 4 hours at a time, and the medium setting provided plenty of warmth. There is a learning curve associated with finding exactly the right level of heat in the right combination, but the controls provide enough flexibility to maintain comfort in most any condition.
Working in the Elements with the Milwaukee AXIS Layering System
As expected we got our usual helping of winter, maybe even a little extra as well. There was snow to clear from the driveway and from the solar panels. I also decided it was time to put the 1 bottom plow away as I do believe it will be sometime in the spring before I need to break ground again. This was the first chance I had to utilize the rainshell portion of the kit, it was still snowing and spitting sleet when I went out to start in on the chores at hand.
The Fuel That Heats Twice (or 3 Times)
Our primary heat source for the house, shop and cabin is wood. Therefore we need to cut a lot of firewood. Fortunately we have a little more than 40 acres of wood, and the property had been logged recently, leaving plenty of tops. The best time to cut firewood is in winter, when the brush is minimal, the ground is frozen and it is pleasant to work outside. We try to stay at least a year ahead with our wood supply, if not two, which ensures well seasoned wood. On this day the temperature was 5 degrees Fahrenheit when we started but temps warmed through the day into the 20’s.
The Axis jacket proved to be the perfect outerwear as I was able to start off at maximum heat and scale it back as the outside temperature warmed and my efforts produced a bit of internal heat. One word of caution here though. The property is also plagued with multi flora rose, a tenacious and vicious undergrowth that produces rapier like thorns. Unfortunately, the inner jacket was no match for this noxious weed. Fortunately, my wife is a talented seamstress, among her other skills. The outer shell would have provided protection against the pernicious plant, but I ignored the risk and the jacket paid the price.
Cleaning up my Act – The Milwaukee Axis is Washable
Believe it or not, when you wear an article of clothing on a regular basis doing farm chores, building projects and all the other activities associated with maintaining the property, said article of clothing will get dirty. It was with some reluctance I handed the inner jacket over to my wife to be washed. I read the instructions several times, really just wash on gentle, make sure the battery is removed and the cord is zipped into its pocket, and then tumble dry. So I waited anxiously through the wash cycle, and then hung it to dry as we rarely ever use the dryer. Still, I felt a little like the Peanuts character Linus, waiting for his blanket to come out of the dryer. Turns out there was no need to worry, the mud and other soils washed right out, the jacket cleaned up nicely and looked as good as new. And it still worked, to my relief.
Final Thoughts on the Milwaukee Axis Combo Layering Kit
A funny thing, whenever I put this jacket on I would suddenly think of the movie, The Sound of Music. I wondered if the magnetic field from the heating wires was affecting my brain, but then I realized the song from the musical that wormed its way into my head was “A Few of My Favorite Things”. And make no mistake, the Milwaukee Axis combo has quickly become one of my favorite things. It’s functional, looks good and is versatile enough to fit a wide variety of applications. I wear it working around the farm, out hunting and it is even stylish enough for a trip to town. It is well made, thoughtfully designed, washable and functional, all desirable traits in an article of workwear.
You can pick up the Milwaukee Axis Combo Layering Kit at Ohio Power Tool for around $269: