What's the Best Ski/Snowboard Boot Warmer, Electric or Chemical?
It's a fact, most people's feet get cold on the mountain, and I suppose yours do too, or else you would not be looking for boot warmers. Timea and I are no different, so we tried a few ideas to make skiing more comfortable. We think we have the answer now. Here's what we tried.
A Better Boot Fit with Thinner Sock
We thought our feet might get cold because our boots were not fitted properly. Maybe we were tightening them too much for control and constricting blood flow or maybe we had way too much extra wiggle space to heat up. So we first looked to find a better fit.
We ended up spending a good deal on a pair of Surefoot custom boots, paired with a thinner sock for moisture control. That better fit helped improve our skiing - by a lot - and was worth every penny for that alone. We both love them! I think it also helped with our cold situation, but not by much.
These socks and intuition liners are very similar to the ones used by Surefoot. Many skiers appreciate their better fit and warmth.
So, we continued to experience freezing toes on the coldest days on the mountain when the temperature was well into the low 20s and below. Since we fixed the fit and loved it, we were now looking somewhere else for warmth.
Chemical Toe Warmers
The next logical step was to try adding a chemical toe warmer for those colder days. We tried this product and bought a healthy supply - like only Costco can sell.
These tiny warmers go underneath your toes (like the name suggests) and provide heat for several good hours. They're cheap, at approximately $1/pair.
I was concerned with the bulk though, as I did not want to compromise that perfect glove-like boot fit that I had and absolutely loved. But it was not bad at all, they stuck to my sock and went in without too much fuss. They worked as advertised and kept my feet warm all throughout the day. If we wanted, we could even swap in a fresh pair when we stopped for lunch. We skied in 10℉ temperatures at Mount Batchelor, Oregon last winter and these warmers did their job beautifully. A downside, besides the little bump they create underneath your toes, is they're not reusable and go into the trash at the end of the day.
Electric Foot Heaters
Even though I was happy with the chemical warmers, I wanted to check out those Hottronics that I heard so much about. So, for no particular reason, on a sunny afternoon, on an impulsive moment, I ordered this kit from Amazon. At around $180 it is 180 times more expensive than a pair of the above chemical warmers. Ouch, now that I think about it writing this, it hurts. I will need to use them 180 times now to justify the investment.
They come in 2 versions, Custom and Universal. The Custom installs on your existing custom insole and is less expensive. The Universal includes its own insoles, so they cost a little more. I got the Custom because I already had my Surefoot footbeds. Their quality is very solid (coming from a picky person) and their installation instructions are also very detailed and easy to follow.
The setup took about an hour and it was easier than I thought it would be. There are also several step-by-step instructional videos on YouTube, such as this one. I recommend watching one before you start cutting.
Mounting the battery on my boots was a little more involved because I could not find a spot to place it using the included holder, so I ordered these extra brackets:
Which I then screwed on the back of my boots, like this:
The installation was super fun, especially the drilling part, and made me feel like I earned the right to use them.
I skied with the Hotronics three times now and I can say that they're as warm as the chemical pack and they lasted me all day, plus, there's no bump underneath my toes. However, I have to pay a little more attention now so the wires in the back don't get bumped and damaged when I'm riding the lift or during lunch, but I don't mind it yet. Better not forget to charge before ski day. All in all, I'm very happy with these electric heaters now.
Here's my recommendation:
- Get a boot with a liner that fits well - spend the extra to get as good of a match to your foot as possible. It worked wonders for both Timea and I.
- Test it and see if you're still getting those cold toes. If you do, purchase a pair of the chemical toe warmers, and try them out. See if you mind the bump underneath your toes. Timea swears by them, she's hooked and wears them all the time, regardless if it's really cold or just chilly.
- If you hate the bump or if money makes no difference, the electrical warmers provide a better fit on the inside of your boot where it matters. If you can find a place where to strap that rather bulky battery and don't mind the extra care you need to have with them, they might be worth it.
If I were to start again now, I would probably spend as much on the boot and liner as I can afford, then stick with those chemical warmers for the very cold days. I would not have spend on the electric warmers and keep the $180 I save for beers. Maybe I'll change my mind as I ski more with them, who knows.
I hope you found this post useful, let me know if you have any questions and I'd be happy to help.