Neil Williman: Heated Socks - the game changers
As someone who spends a lot of time in the mountains, and most of that time in ski boots, it's surprising to me that it's taken me this long to try heated socks. I guess I imagined that they would be a nuisance, difficult to wash and that my friends would make fun of me if I wore them. However, last season I decided that it would be better to have them than to continue suffering because the daily pain in my toes was unbearable to the point of unbearable. When I found out that they were comfortable to wear and easy to wash and that my friends were jealous instead of making fun of me, it was a nice surprise. And that was before I even realized I could finally wear my fitted performance ski boots all day without suffering.
After reading many reviews on the internet, I finally decided on Lenz heated socks. The general tenor of the reviews was, "These are the best heated socks out there and the quality is worth paying for," with some reviewers having tried other, cheaper brands first without being satisfied.
After receiving the socks they lived up to all the positive reviews and my highest hopes. Commentating for the Freeride World Tour means I spend many hours in cold places on the mountain with my feet in the snow and finally having heated socks is an amazing upgrade. It made it much easier for me to sustain the positive energy while sitting at the mic for long periods (because I'm no longer in pain) to an extent that my friends told me they felt as listeners.
So how do they work? Actually quite simple. I imagine this was the result of a long process of trial and error to find the best design. The socks feel like regular performance ski socks but have a thin heating element wrapped around the toe cap (including the top and bottom of the toes). The Element is surprisingly strong as it's also thin enough that I can wear the socks in a racing shoe without bruising my toes. The wires are even more discreet than the heating elements and run up the side of the foot/shin to a snap connection on the cuff. Each battery simply snaps into these snaps (direction doesn't matter, which is helpful and took me a while to realize), and then the sock cuff is folded over to gently but firmly hold the battery in place and on prevent accidental loosening. On the battery itself there are 3 settings, 1 (low), 2 (moderate) or 3 (high) and they aren't joking when they say 3 is "high" - I find it almost too hot and I'm glad that it's set to automatically revert to "moderate" after a while, perhaps to keep your foot from sweating. If you connect the batteries to a smartphone via Bluetooth, you can gradually regulate the heat. The app's interface is well-designed and user-friendly. I prefer to just use the button on the battery though - the controls are still visible through the sock material even when the cuff is folded up and the 3 basic settings have so far more than satisfied me.
A personal tip would be that if you plan to ride long days in cold areas on the 'moderate' or 'high' setting, it's worth buying the RCB 1800 batteries, but if you're only going to ski for 5-6 hours a day then the RCB 1200 batteries will suffice (but switch them off at midday).
Washing is easy anyway, they come with a laundry bag to pop them in the machine (they are fully machine washable at 30°C - the recommended program is on the label). The batteries come with a charger that can be plugged into any 100-240V socket and can also be used to charge using USB devices (e.g. power bank). The power plug has an ingenious flip/slide system that allows it to be used anywhere in Europe or North America without an adapter and it's this kind of attention to detail that I was so impressed with the product design. It just feels like when a brand takes the time to get the little things right then you can trust that they put a lot of effort and thought into the product. And that's nice for me because it means I can now spend a lot less time thinking about my feet being cold.