Gear to keep your hands and feet warm: DryGuy, ThermaCell, Dakine, and Yaktrax
Cold hands, warm heart is how the saying goes. But when you live in town that sees harsh winter conditions and you want to get out and enjoy the mountains, no matter the temperature, cold hands can turn the most enjoyable experience into a not so fun one. Here are a few tips and products to keep your hands and feet warm so you continue to enjoy the outdoors.
DryGuy Force Dry DX Boot and Glove Dryer $80
A wet, cold ski boot is just about the last thing you want to put on before a full day on the slopes. Fortunately, the DryGuy Force Dry DX Boot and Glove Dryer eliminates this problem in a matter of hours. The DryGuy Force Dry DX is the most used item that I’ve reviewed this season. In a week, I average 4-6 days on my skis and with a 9-5 job this requires some early morning and after work ski tours. Fortunately, even when doing a morning ascent after an evening tour, the boots are dry and ready for my use thanks to the DryGuy Force Dry DX Boot and Glove Dryer.
Features and Performance
The DryGuy Force Dry DX features 4 different ports that can be used for drying. The machine tested came with two extension tubes or boot extenders, which are 16″ tall and ideal for ski and snowboard boots. The extenders also feature a removable attachment that helps propel the air towards the mid-foot and toe box. Without the extenders, you really don’t get the mid-foot or toe box dry in a larger boot. Therefore, if you are drying ski or snowboard boots, 1 boot at a time is required unless you have 4 boot extenders. This was not a big deal for us, as you can use the other 2 ports to dry out your mittens or gloves. DryGuy also sells a wader adapter and extension and helmet holder.
The boot and glove dryer features an 80,000 hour rated rotary blower. DryGuy states that the boot dryer is whisper quiet. I would say it sounds more like our bathroom fan; noticeable but not overly annoying. Most people would place this in an entryway or mudroom, so the sound sound will not likely be an issue. The dryer reaches a maximum temperature of 105F/40.5C and has not caused any melting, shrinking, or other damage to the fabrics in gloves and/or boots. You can also switch the heat off, but I am unclear of the indications for this.
The DryGuy Force Dry DX dries my wet ski boots in an average of 2 hours. My husbands’ boots (featured above) are quite a bit larger, he wears a size 12.5, and therefore his take about 2.5 hours to dry completely. The unit remains stable even with heavy boots on the rack. DryGuy makes it easy to maximize efficiency and avoid wasting energy with a timer that can be turned up to 180 minutes multiple boots without wasting extra energy thanks to a dial timer that can be turned up to 180 minutes, or 3 hours.
The DryGuy Force Dry DX Boot and Glove Dryer utilizes a standard 120V AC household outlet and comes with a 6 foot cord. The cord length is ideal as it gives you enough room without creating a tripping hazard. The unit itself measures 12″ x 7.5″ x 15″ with the height increased with the addition of the boot extenders. The overall footprint is similar to two boots placed side by side on the ground to dry and therefore doesn’t require extra space. We used the boot dryer on-top of one of our boot mats and I highly recommend this to catch snow and other debris from the bottom of your boots that may drip when the boot is drying.
Overall, the DryGuy Force Dry DX Boot and Glove Dryer is a product I didn’t know I needed and now I don’t know how I lived without it. When mud season rolls around here I will continue to turn to the DryGuy DX Forced Air Boot Dryer to quickly dry my trail running shoes. The DryGuy Force Dry DX Boot and Glove Dryer will be in use for about 8 months out of the year, making it well worth the $80 price tag.
ThermaCell ProFlex Heavy Duty Heated Insoles $199
Boot warmers are a key part of my typical resort ski day. A few years back, I tested the Therm-ic Smartpack IC 950, full review available here. But what I didn’t have was insoles for when you aren’t skiing, that can be used in a variety of boots and easily added or removed depending on the activity. Thankfully, ThermaCell offers a new product for this winter with the ProFlex Heavy Duty Heated Insoles that can easily slip into multiple boots to keep feet warm whether I’m hiking, watching a ski competition, hockey game, ice fishing, or just sledding in the neighborhood on a frigid day.
The ThermaCell ProFlex Heavy Duty Heated Insole is an update and upgrade from their previous offering, the ProFlex Heated insole. The main differences with the ProFlex Heavy Duty Insole are: extended battery life, extra supportive footbed that is constructed of more durable material, and Bluetooth operation for adjusting the heat via your smartphone. Here is a more detailed look at each feature.
ThermaCell ProFlex Heavy Duty Insole with Extended Life Battery
The ThermaCell ProFlex Heavy Duty Insoles feature two cushioned removable and rechargeable lithium ion polymer batteries. Each battery can last up to 8.5 hours or 30% longer than the standard ProFlex batteries when used at the low temperature setting. The average run time for the battery on medium is 7 hours and high is 5 hours. After a few uses, I feel that these battery times might be slightly over estimated, even with a new battery. On high, the battery seemed to run for close to 4 hours and approximately 5-7 hours while on medium. I did not test them on low as my feet get quite cold and the low setting was not enough to keep my feet comfortable.
The 3 heat settings release the following amount of heat:
The ThermaCell Heavy Duty Extended Life Battery is removable and can be removed while leaving the insole within your boot. The battery is lightweight and compact and can charge fully in 2 hours using a wall charger or USB port. The charging station charges both batteries at the same time and utilizes a micro-USB port. ThermaCell states that each battery can be recharged “well over 500 times”. I have never kept track of charging times but would assume that these batteries should last a few seasons or more.
You can also purchase a second set of batteries for $49 to allow you to use your insoles all day or on multi-day trips that do not allow re-charging. When your insoles are not in use, ThermaCell recommends removing your batteries from the insoles to turn off the insole completely. If you want to turn off the temperature, but keep the battery in the insole, you need to turn the insole to “No Heat” in the application, which is discussed below. I used this feature throughout a weekend, but remove the battery from the insole if I am not using them for one day or more and store them in the charging station unplugged.
ThermaCell ProFlex Heavy Duty Insole
The ThermaCell ProFlex Heavy Duty Insole is thicker and more durable, as the name suggests, than the standard ProFlex insole. The material is firm on the bottom and the insole offers good arch support. The insole is rigid and can be slipped into boots easily after removing factory insoles and loosening the laces of the boot. It is important to avoid bending the insole as to not damage the heating elements.
The Heavy Duty Insole is available in a variety of sizes and can be trimmed to fit your boot for a custom fit. Fortunately, I did not need to trim or cut the insoles as they fit perfectly into 3 of my cold weather boots. I wear a size 9-9.5 and was able to use the size Large insole in Merrell, Sorel, and Keen boots. Here is a size guide courtesy of heat.ThermaCell.com
|Heated Insoles Size||Fits Men’s Shoe Size||Fits Women’s Shoe Size|
|Small||3.5 to 5||4.5 to 6|
|Medium||5.5 to 7||6.5 to 8|
|Large||7.5 to 9||8.5 to 10|
|X-Large||9.5 to 11||10.5 to 12|
|XX-Large||11.5 to 13||12.5 to 14|
The insole and the battery are water resistant, not waterproof. This is no surprise and not an issue as I wear these boots with waterproof snow boots and am using them for walking in the snow, not puddles. These insoles would also be ideal for those that fish, including fly fishing with the use of high quality waders, and hunting. These are two activities that I personally do not do, but standing in a stand for many hours in the cold or in a frigid stream are activities that cause reduced blood flow to the feet and ultimately cold feet.
ThermaCell App and Bluetooth
The ThermaCell ProFlex Heavy Duty Insole does not require a remote that may get misplaced. Rather, the Heavy Duty Insole can be controlled by your phone thanks to Bluetooth technology. To set up your new insoles, you only need about 5 minutes.
- Start by going to either Google Play if you have an Android or the App store if you have an iPhone. Type in ThermaCell to the search menu and download the application. It takes little space/memory.
- Once the app is downloaded you need to pair your phone with your heated insoles. Ensure that your insoles are fully charged and simply open the app and select the “+” or plus sign to search for My ThermaCell Heated Products. Your insoles should come up as an option and simply select the pairing button.
- From this point you enter a security code and can name your device, which is helpful if you have more than one ThermaCell product.
- After you have done the initial set up, you simply open the app and select your device and can adjust the temperature in a matter of seconds.
From the app you can adjust the head settings of an individual insole or both insoles at the same time. To adjust each insole individually, simply turn the “link” button in the center of the screen to the left and their will be an X under the word link, meaning that the temperature settings can be individualized and two columns of heat options will appear. If you prefer to have the same temperature for both insoles, keep the switch to “link” and only one set of temperature adjustments will appear, like the image above. The green bars under each insole shows the percentage of battery that remains, which is a helpful tool to know when your feet may start to get cold or that you may need to swap or charge the batteries. The app is easy to use and doesn’t decrease your battery life of your phone, even when running in the background.
There is also a “No Heat” setting. This can be used to put your battery insole into stand by mode. This is handy if you go inside, your feet get warm, or you plan to not use the battery for a few hours or days. ThermaCell states that closing the app does not turn off the battery. The only way to truly turn off the battery is to remove the battery from the insole.
Overall, the ThermaCell Heavy Duty Heated Insoles have been a must have for cold weather days when I’m not doing highly aerobic activities. These insoles do not make my feet hot, but rather keep them at a comfortable temperature and prevent them from freezing or going numb.
Dakine Tundra Mitt $120
The Dakine Tundra Mitt packs many features into a small, mitten package. To kick things off, the Tundra Mitt features a polyester shell that features a DWR treatment to help shed snow. Beneath this tough outer shell is a Gore-Tex insert that features Gore Warm technology and is waterproof and breathable. Below the insert, and before the silky liner, is the meat of the Tundra Mitt, the insulation. Dakine has incorporated Allied® Down (230 g) and Primaloft® (80g) into this mitten to help keep you warm even if the mittens do get wet; the combination is lightweight and doesn’t cause you do lose all dexterity when wearing this mitten. The lining is a smooth fleece lining, my favorite part, which is soft on your hands and doesn’t pill. I can’t invert the fleece, but if feels similar to “Monkey Fleece” jackets from Mountain Hardwear a few years back. The palm of the mitten is leather and also helps keep the mitten functional when skiing.
Dakine has incorporate excellent fabrics and features in the Tundra Mitt. The mittens have seen at least 50 days of use and have broken in nicely in the palm and thumb region. The polyester back of the mitten is snag free, the insulation remains lofted and equal throughout the mitt thanks to the baffles or stitching in the shell.
The Dakine Tundra Mitt is available in size small, medium, and large. I found the sizing to be spot on in the palm and length. However, I was not a big fan of the tight cuff. The cuff is 2.5″ long and very tight when trying to wear with a watch in place or with liner gloves. These days, many ski jackets have integrated thumb loops into the cuff and the additional material in the wrist creates bunching and was uncomfortable. Unfortunately, due to having cold hands wearing the mittens without a liner mitt or glove didn’t keep me warm enough if the temperatures were below 25F. Therefore, I have resorted to using these without my watch (which makes me sad as I love to geek out on distance/elevation) and sticking with my shells that don’t include fancy thumb loops.
|SIZE||X-SMALL (6)||SMALL (6.5)||MEDIUM (7)||LARGE (7.5)||X-LARGE (8)|
Yaktrax Body, Hand, and Toe Warmers
If you don’t have an extra $200 to $300 to drop on battery operated boot or hand warmers, then disposable warmers will be your friend on the coldest of days. Yaktrax now offers body, hand, and toe warmers which provide warmth for an average of 4 to 5 hours. The largest body warmer states that they can last up to 12 hours, while the hand warmers can last up to 8 hours, and the toes warmers up to 5 hours. In real world testing, we didn’t notice a significant difference in the length of the warmth based on the various sizes.
Yaktrax hand warmers are an air activated hand warmer and contain iron powder, water, salt, activated charcoal and vermiculite. They work by producing heat from exothermic oxidation of the iron when exposed to air: the salt is the catalyst, the vermiculite is a water reservoir, and the carbon helps to distribute the heat evenly. While we didn’t experience any issues with the seams of the bags opening, on other websites multiple users had expressed some issues related to quality control with the packs opening by accident when placed within their glove or sock. They didn’t suffer any burns, but did have to deal with charcoal on their mittens. Perhaps they got a bad batch? We didn’t experience any issues.
YakTrax Cozy Cabin Sock $13
The Yaktrax Cozy Cabin Socks are the perfect post skiing or early morning sock. The double layered sock features a acrylic and polyester outer layer and nylon inner layer. The double layer is soft on the inside and outside and has kept my feet plenty warm without the addition of my slippers. As a general necessity, I need my slippers about 95% of the time in our house in the winter time. It would be nice if they had little grippers on the bottom of the sock, as they can be very slick or slippery on hardwood floors.
When you first purchase the socks, Yaktrax recommends that you was the Cozy Cabin Sock inside out. I did this as instructed, but the inside of the sock continues to shed and is messy. Please excuse the photo below, but it looks like light gray toe jam from the sock. It has gotten better with subsequent trips through the washer and dryer, however I have to be careful what I wash these socks with to prevent shedding onto a black base-layer.
The Yaktrax Cozy Cabin sock is a crew design and measures 8″ from heel to the top of the sock. It is available for both men and women in one size: women size 5-10 and men size 8-10. For those with larger feet, these socks will not likely work for you. It would be nice to see a couple more size options for men. There are a variety of patterns and colors to choose from: nordic, snowflake, and stripe. The socks are available for a decent price, keep your feet warm, but do have room for improvement on a couple issues listed above.