I enjoy reviewing all the products I test for Practical Travel Gear, but ThermaCELL’s heated products feel like they were made just with me in mind. I spend a great deal of the time outdoors, both when I travel and while I’m at home, and I constantly suffer from cold hands and feet. I have poor circulation, and no matter how well I prepare for the weather, my fingers and toes freeze. I couldn’t wait to try ThermaCELL, and I’m glad I did.
Here’s how they work, and what you can expect:
By far ThermaCELL’s simplest product, the heat packs are very straight-forward. You get two hand warmers equipped with rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, small enough to slip into your gloves or pockets. In fact, they come in two sizes. I chose the smaller size, because my biggest worry about battery-operated heat packs was bulk. More on that in a minute.
The heated surface of the heat pack is lined with a durable silicone that is soft to the touch, and the reverse side is made of molded TPU, which is easy to grip. The hand warmers charge via an included USB wall charger and cord, but it’s the same micro-charger you’re already using for your phone, so you’re most likely good there. They charge in four hours or less; I found that mine charged in about three. Once in the field, you can turn them on and off with a little switch right on the heat packs, and they have three heat settings. They don’t need another charge for approximately six hours. Controlling the heat at the source is a really nice feature: last year I was backcountry skiing with someone who used heat packs controlled by a secondary unit strapped to his waist, and it took quite a bit of fumbling to get the heat adjusted to his liking.
The hand warmers can be recharged over 500 times, and are shock and water resistant. So far, I’ve tried them out on the ski slopes, and plan to use them in the spring as I sit on sidelines of soccer fields, watching my kids. When I travel, it will be easier to bring these along than pack thick gloves. As for the hand warmers’ bulk: they’re definitely bulkier than disposable hand warmers because they’re not as malleable, but they are grippy on one side, making it easier to keep them in place. I found that when turned horizontally in the palm part of my ski glove, I was able to forget they were there (apart from the warmth, of course).
If you’re more worried about your feet than your hands, the ThermaCELL ProFLEX heated insoles provide the same degree of warmth as the hand warmers, embedded in a cushioned insole. Note: you can same a few bucks with the original heated insole, but you sacrifice comfort, which I don’t recommend. The ProFLEX features a flexible polyurethane insole material with a Poron battery cover cushion. The removable battery nestles inside.
Do I notice the battery pack when I walk? A little bit. I would not use the insoles on long hikes or if pursuing a technical or competitive sport but honestly, if you’re doing that, your feet are not likely cold. Instead, I think it’s best use is for when you need to stand around or sit outdoors for longer stretches, such as while fishing or hunting, camping, or traveling to cold climates and waiting for trains or busses and the like.
Like the heat packs, the heated insoles are charged with USB cable and last almost as long: 5 hours in the field. Unlike the heat packs, you use a small, lightweight remote to control the settings. While this is just one more thing to keep track of, obviously it would be even more inconvenient to take off my boots to adjust the heat. There are three heat settings: no heat (standby), medium (100°F), and high (111°F).
You buy the insole based on shoe size, then cut to fit as needed. I found that my size 8 foot fits the size 8 insole category without needing any adjustment. While I won’t use the heated insoles for skiing (my ski boot fits too precisely for this), they will go in my snow boots for longer days outdoors. Another nice feature: it’s easy to take the batteries out of the insoles to recharge without taking the insoles out of the boots.
Pick up the ProFLEX heated insoles in men’s or women’s sizing for $185. They’ll last over 500 charges, or multiple winters. Also available on Amazon for about the same price.