Nicole McClain: Keep Your Feet Warm While Hunting with Heated Insoles

Nicole McClain, Expert Blogger on Deer & Deer Hunting

Staying warm so you can focus on the hunt is essential. (photo copyright Nicole McClain)

I hate being cold.

It’s so frustrating to be out in the woods and wanting to focus on the hunt but the frigid temperatures keep creeping into my skin, bones and mind. I’ve tested and tried several ways and products to establish and maximize warmth, including maniacal mental machinations, like make-believing I’m sitting in the middle of a Texan heat wave sweating my arse off.

Some of my efforts include:

  • Buying nearly every product on the market that claims to retain body heat or create new heat
  • Switching the locations and times of where and when I get dressed in particular layers
  • Sticking heat packs to my second layer of clothing
  • Using a hand muff filled with hand warmers
  • Changing positions from sitting to standing in my treestand to regain blood flow to my feet
  • Tightening, holding and relaxing my muscles over and over in hopes to provoke thermogenesis to begin
  • Taking my foot out of my boot and putting it under my arse to bring it halfway back to normal body temperature

The only thing I haven’t done is decide to gain 30 pounds in order to have “more meat on my bones.”

The cold weather makes me do crazy things

I ran into a problem during my hunt at Tri-State Outfitting – I learned just how damn cold and windy Wisconsin is in October. I was wearing a jacket that didn’t have a slot in the back for my safety harness tether to feed through and connect to the tree strap. Long story short, I removed my jacket and sat in the circling winds of 28-degree weather for five hours. It didn’t take but 30 minutes of treestand-shaking to figure out my lunchtime plan – I was going to drive 40 miles into town to buy a new jacket or find some heated gear – immediately.

In my mental and frozen delirium, I not only decided to buy a heater body suit (another purchase in hopes of being warm), I stumbled upon remote-controlled Heated Insoles. Without hesitation and with much desperation, I tucked them under my arm and headed to the register – after buying four more packs of disposable hand warmers.

Hot damn, I like these parts

1. The insoles come with a remote control – and it’s red. The remote control is battery powered, bright red so it’s easy to find in my bag, and keeps the controls nice and simple: no heat, medium, and high. The insoles are red too, which makes them easy to find in a bag of camo hunting gear. ThermaCELL recommends turning on the heater insoles at the first sign of your feet getting cold. For me, the freeze child, I’m not wasting any time so I turn those bad boys on as soon as I get situated in my treestand.

2. Different sizes with the option to trim for a better fit. I bought the smallest size available. Luckily I didn’t have to do any trimming – I just slid the suckers right into my boots and they fit perfect. Seriously. Finally something for us ladies that actually fits our small feet and frames without looking like a bloated, uncomfortable pufferfish wearing our older brother’s gear.

3. Easy to charge. Plug the cord in the wall, plug the connectors into the back of the insoles, and come back in a few hours. None of this replacing batteries over and over or walking out with two C-size batteries stuck to the side of your leg at the top of a floppy sock. How do you know if they are in need of a charge? Plug them in and a green light will illuminate indicating your insoles need some juice. The green light is also handy as a nightlight if you’re into that sorta thing, or you want to drive your bunkmate crazy with weird green lights coming out from underneath the bed.

4. Easy enough to put in and take out. I didn’t have to trim the insoles at all, so I can’t say whether trimming them to fit your foot and boot is an easy process or a pain in the arse. I will say the insoles have a little black flap near the heel, so as long as you put them into your boots with that little flap facing upward, pulling out the insoles is pretty easy – and the little flap isn’t noticeable when you wear or walk with the insoles.

5. Insoles? What insoles? I don’t even notice I’m wearing them. I walk out to my treestand with them in my boots and turn them on when I get into my stand.

6. Think thermostat. On medium (100 degrees) or on high (110 degrees) according to ThermaCELL, the heater insoles reach those temperatures and then temporarily turn themselves off. They are supposed to turn back on when needed, like a thermostat. I didn’t know this the first few times I wore them, and I thought they had lost their charge when I noticed the heat decreasing, and used the remote to turn them back on. I guess you don’t need to do this. Lesson learned.

7. Right or left, which side needs heat? Maybe you have a medical condition like peripheral neuropathy and one foot needs more heat than the other. If for some reason you only want to heat one of your feet, you have the option to charge one or both insoles at the same time.

8. A lifetime of 500 charges.  I obviously haven’t verified ThermaCELL’s statement for validity, but that’s what those folks be a claimin’.

9. A “turn off” that’s finally a “turn on.”  There are two ways to turn off the Heated Insoles. If you don’t plan on using them for several hours or a few days, there is an on/off switch at the heels that turns off both the insoles and the remote control. If it’s only going to be a short period of time before you use them again, say an hour or two, simply push the “no heat” option on the remote control and it will put the insoles into a standby mode. According to the manufacturer this will only exhaust the battery life at 2 percent per hour.

10. Forget about those big-arse batteries. Amen. I hate being cold and I hate carrying batteries, especially the AA up through D batteries. This clever little remote uses a flat disk battery, a #CR2032 battery to be exact.

11. You shouldn’t be watching TV or listening to the radio from your treestand anyway. I put this in the good column because this bit made me laugh. Turns out you might have some TV or radio interference if you wear these while watching or listening to the game. These heater insoles generate, use and can radiate radio frequency energy, so either watch the game wearing fleece-lined camo slippers, or go see the game live at the stadium and take the Heated Insoles with you.

A few points to consider

1. Don’t plan on using them right out of the box. They take four hours to charge the first time you use them. I guess that’s fair, I just wanted to use them right away and the department associate said they came pre-charged which probably led to most of my disappointment.

2. The heating units are located under the balls of your feet. These do a good job of keeping the balls of your feet warm. The arch and heel areas are not heated – I did not realize this prior to purchasing. My toes were OK, but I would have liked them to be warmer. (Can you imagine?) I could only guess that a man with longer feet or toes might have an issue keeping his toes warm since they are farther away from the heating unit, but most of the time mine were OK.

3. Lasts up to five hours on medium (100 degrees). As I’ve declared, I can’t get enough heat. I want these on high the entire time, so they don’t last for a full day hunt, or if I want to go out in the morning and again in the evening. For optimum performance, the manufacturer recommends completely draining the battery before recharging. If I leave my stand at 11:00 a.m. and plan on heading back out at 2:30 p.m., that isn’t enough time to fully drain and recharge them in between hunts. I did not verify the five hours on medium for validity as I kept them on high 95 percent of the time (110 degrees).

4. If you don’t like reading directions, these are perfect for you. Do you really need an instruction booklet to figure out how to work a pair of insoles? I didn’t think so. But as I began using them, I started wondering about thing like how long they would last, does it take longer to charge the first time and shorter for all subsequent charges, how do I know when they are fully charged, etc. ThermaCELL offers a nice resource available online that explains the product in detail.

5. You shall sit with heated insoles, not walk with heated insoles. Both the manufacturer and myself recommend having the insoles in “no heat” mode when walking. ThermaCELL says it’s not good for the product and the combination of the insole heat and your body heat from walking can get pretty darn warm. (There’s no way I just said that.) This can be kind of a pain if you are into stalking or forget to turn them off in advance of leaving your treestand.

6. Like a thermostat. I put this in both areas because I would prefer the insoles stay on for a longer period of time – until I decide to turn them off, or upon a complete loss of power.

7. Safe to walk in but “do not excessively bend the insoles.” This is confusing. The manufacturer says it’s OK to walk on the insoles all day long as long as the heating element is not engaged – but that one should not excessively bend the insoles. Isn’t all that walking, bending and creasing considered excessive? I guess not. Maybe they just meant no running marathons, or no snuggling at night with the insoles, or no excessive butt-smacking your bunk mates with them. I haven’t tested those out yet.

8. Charge them up at the end of the season – and then some. Looks like ThermaCELL wants you to charge the insoles fully before long-term storage and also recharge the insoles every few months to maintain peak performance. Maybe this is why I’ve heard some people say they didn’t work after a year due to lack of “charge love” for their Heated Insoles. Glad I read the online directions because I didn’t plan on charging them during the warmer hunting seasons.

9. Keep your “schnit” dry. That’s right, these Heated Insoles are not waterproof, but the manufacturer says they are water resistant. Most of us wear waterproof boots so this isn’t an issue, but just keep it in mind in case you switch up your footwear throughout the seasons and climates.

Final thoughts from my feet

I’m happy to say floppy socks and D batteries are a thing of the past for me, and it’s a no-go with disposable heater inserts for my feet – they either burn your feet in one spot or don’t get enough oxygen to keep them activated. All in all, weighing the other products on the market, and the pros and cons listed above, this is the best product I’ve found so far to heat my feet.

What product should I review next?

Until next time, stay toasty fellow hunters. Hit me up on Facebook and Twitter and let me know which product you would like reviewed next.

Nicole McClain, Expert Blogger on Deer & Deer Hunting

“Hunting was my bucket list item after being diagnosed with cancer. It has become a lifestyle on this road of many forks, reminding me of God’s gift of life, for both myself, and the life of every animal I harvest.” – Nicole McClain (photo copyright Nicole McClain)

Nicole is connected with brands and foundations like Pink Arrow ProjectLumenokCAMX CrossbowsDeer & Deer Hunting Magazine20th Century FoxFight Like a Girl!J.C. PenneyTGI FridaysKellogg’sColdwater CreekSusan G. KomenU.S. ElitePickle Press ComicsGrange Insurance, and CamoTrading.com.

Check out more of Nicole on Deer & Deer Hunting:

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