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The Pack PRO set foot warming system by Conform'able consists of two pro batteries good for 8 hours of heat on the low setting. This battery-heated insole set includes two heating elements, charger (with adapters), and Custom H insole covers for attaching the heating elements to the insoles of your choice. Volcano H insoles with the heating elements pre-installed are also available along with other accessories such as extension cords and velcro straps. The rechargeable lithium-ion PRO batteries feature three heating levels with LED indicator. The heated insoles can also be used to dry your boots while charging (allow 6-7 hours versus 3-4 w/out drying option). The Comform'able foot warming system is great for keeping toes comfortable during any cold weather activity from skiing to ice climbing.
Battery Size: 3" x 1.6" x .7" (7.7 cm x 4.1 mm x 1.7 cm)
Battery Weight (ea): 2.9 oz. (82 g)
Battery Type: Lithium-ion
Low: 8 hrs @ 57°F (14°C) above ambient
Medium: 6 hrs @ 64°F (18°C) above ambient
High: 4 hrs @ 86°F (30°C) above ambient
Warranty: 1 year
Initial Thoughts (03/02/12):
I have always been prone to cold feet, but after getting frostbite last year, I have to be even more careful when out in the cold. I have used disposable chemical toe warmers, but they often do not work very well at higher elevations when I am climbing. Enter the Conform'able (parent company Sidas Technologies) Pack PRO set foot warming system. These battery heated insoles promise up to 8 hours of warmth by transforming an ordinary insole into a heated insole. Everything is included except the insoles which you provide. I installed the heating elements into a pair of Conform'able Winter insoles. These particular insoles have a section of ridgid plastic, so installation was slow and required the use of a Dremel tool. Installation requires a hole to be cut for the power cord to fit through. I also notched the underside of the insoles to allow the cord to fit better. The entire process took me nearly two hours. Conform'able offers pre-installed heating elements in their Volcano H insoles. I would recommend purchasing these unless you have custom insoles that you cannot live without.
Installation in footwear is straightforward. The insoles are inserted with the power cord coming out the back. I do not feel any extra bulk under my foot from the heating elements and I can barely feel the skinny power cord coming up out of my boots behind my ankles. The system feels very solid and well thought out. The PRO batteries can be clipped to boot straps or used with optional velcro leg straps. Since I plan on using the Conform'able heated insoles with my mountaineering boots, I have to use velcro straps.
The heated insoles are turned on by holding down the power button (located on each battery) for a few seconds until the indicator light comes on. It starts on the low setting (green light) and successive presses of the power button cycle through the heat levels (orange light for medium and red light for high). The button is flush with the battery housing and requires a firm positive press. This should eliminate any accidental presses while in use.
Initial Field Test (04/07/12):
My first test of the Comform'able foot warming system was on a climb of Mt. Hood in Northern Oregon. Temperatures were cold all day, starting off in the low 20°'s F and dropping down to 10°F. These were similar temperatures to last March when I got frostbite. I turned the PRO batteries on to the low setting right when I started the climb around 3 AM. I felt a very slight warming sensation, but it was hardly noticeable. After climbing for several hours I realized my toes were not cold! This was a first for me. On this climb with cold temperatures, my toes would normally start to get cold after about 30 minutes.
We continued climbing, but after about 3.5 hours, I noticed my left foot was getting cold. I checked the PRO batteries and the one on my left foot was dead. That was very unfortunate. I considered turning around, knowing there was a real possibility of getting frostbite again if I couldn't warm up my toes. I decided to continue knowing I could always swap batteries between feet periodically. Luckily we picked up the pace and the increased activity started to warm my toes again.
About 6 hours later we had to turn back less than a 700 vertical feet from the summit. The good PRO battery was still working even though my toes were a little cold from sitting around waiting for the weather to clear up. I decided to turn it up to medium and instantly felt warmth. This battery also died soon after, but it was within specified run times. Luckily my toes always warm up on the climb down, so everything was warm at the end of the day.
I had one issue with the power cord on my left foot. Somehow it got twisted at the start of my climb, so it kept creeping down into my boot, causing slight discomfort. The power cord was not twisted on the other side and I didn't really notice it the entire climb. Next time I will need to be more careful when putting my boots on. For longer multi-day climbs or colder temperatures, it would be a smart idea to bring extra batteries. At less than 6 ounces for a pair, the weight is negligible.
See Mt Hood adventure where the Conform'able Pack Pro foot warming system was used.
Additional Testing (04/11/12):
After the poor performance of one of the PRO batteries, I decided to test the Comform'able PRO foot warming system in my freezer at home. This is something I should have done from the start. I recommend controlled testing of any battery-operated gear before depending on it during an actual adventure.
My freezer is one of the non-defrosting types and is set at a constant -5°F. For the first test, I placed my boots with Conform'able heated insoles and batteries in my freezer overnight on low. I checked on them eight hours later and the good battery was still going while the bad battery was dead. Next I tested while I could watch the batteries every half hour. I set the bad battery on low and the good battery on high. The bad battery only lasted 3.75 hours, which clearly indicated it was defective (it is rated for 8 hours on low). The good battery lasted 4.25 hours on high (0.25 hours more than specified), indicating it is performing as promised.
Conform'able has a one year warranty, so I sent back the defective battery and promptly received a replacement. I tested both the orinigal good battery and the new battery on low and they both lasted over 8 hours in my freezer. I should have better results on my next climb using the Conform'able foot warming system. One thing to note is that once the batteries are almost drained, the indicator light starts flashing and the heating element stops producing heat. When they are completely dead the indicator light shuts off and the power can no longer be turned on.
There are a couple competing products on the market made by Hotronic and Therm-ic. Advertised battery run times can be deceiving when comparing products. Basically it boils down to the Comform'able PRO battery providing the longest run time with the lightest weight. Hotronic's Power Plus e4 battery pack is composed of inferior NiMH cells weighing 6.4 ounces and lasting only 2.5 hours on high setting (at comparable ambient temperature and measured heat from heating element). Therm-ic's SmartPack 950 battery is a lithioum-ion weighing 3 ounces and lasts 3.5 hours on high setting (at comparable temperature and measured heat from heating element). Therm-ic does offer a SmartPack 1200 (4 hours on high) and 1600 (6 hours on high), but they are not comparably priced to the Comform'able PRO battery.
Extended Field Testing:
Available from amazon.com.
Special thanks to The Soze Group Distributors Inc. for providing the Conform'able Pack Pro foot warming system for review.