Saturday, November 29, 2014

ThermaCELL ProFLEX Remote Controlled Heated Insoles

$159 on Amazon
Our Quick Take On ThermaCELL ProFLEX Heated Insoles:  They are expensive and take some time to get used to as your regular insoles, but they do work as advertised keeping your feet warm. The batteries last long enough for most day-long activities and the wireless remote makes it easy to control them.  One of the coolest useful gadgets we have the opportunity to review.

PROS: Not difficult to get started with, Easy to use and control, Keeps feet warm, Charge lasts long enough for day-long activities
CONS: Expensive, A bit stiff and thick for an insole

Have you ever hiked in the winter and wished your feet could just be a bit warmer?  We have and that was one reason we were excited to try out the ProFLEX heated insoles from ThermaCELL.  As someone whose feet seem to get chilled as soon as I stop hiking, skiing or snowshoeing no matter what sock or what boot I wear, I thought a supplemental heat source that is almost built into the boot would be far superior than trying to use chemical hand warmers to add some heat.

“Remote controlled heated insoles...” I wondered too about things like wires, batteries and uncomfortable objects in your boots.  I was surprised to find that ThermaCELL has done a decent job tackling these issues.  The insoles are run by rechargeable batteries that fit into the insole and the temperature of the insoles is controlled wirelessly by a small remote control that you carry.  The remote is small, light (only an ounce or two) and easy to carry in a pocket.  The rechargeable lithium ion batteries for the insoles are located in the heel portion and are padded, so when they are inserted into the insoles, you notice very little difference between the battery and the rest of the insole.

There are three heat settings for the insoles: standby; medium; and high and there is an internal thermostat that regulates the insoles to keep them from overheating your feet.  The goal of the insoles is to keep your feet at your regular body temperature and they work harder the colder it is to do that.  On the medium setting the batteries last for about 5 hours, but I have found that I rarely use them continuously so they last longer.  One thing to consider is that standby really is standby, the insoles are still using energy from the batteries.  The only way to turn them off is to remove the battery, in which case the insoles cannot be used because of the hole the batteries would leave.  Charging up the batteries is straightforward with the included charger.

For me, I find I turn on the heating portion of the insole when I stop hiking and I am not actively working to raise my body temperature.  At those times, the insoles can kick on with some heat and keep my feet comfortable so they never dip into the getting cold territory.

What about comfort?  This is probably the only place I am a bit disappointed with these devices.  I do not find them to be as comfortable as a good pair of regular insoles in my hiking boots, but I have been on a couple of hikes with them now without any serious problems or foot pain.  To me, it is more that they just feel a bit more stiff (most likely due to the heating elements inside) than a regular insole and take some getting used to.  They definitely keep your foot a bit higher up in the boot, so you will have to adjust your lacing a bit.  My first time out with them I ended up adjusting my boots several times until I was able to get to a comfortable spot for activities

Overall though, they do keep your feet warm as advertised and for someone who is often chilly during winter activities, I will be looking forward to having these with me this winter.

ThermaCELL ProFLEX Heated Insoles are available in sizes from small to extra-extra-large and can be trimmed to properly fit your boot.  When you purchase them, they come with the two insoles, two battery packs, a charger and power cord, the remote control with lanyard and a small carrying bag for the insoles and the remote.  They are available through most outdoor retailers and sell from about $150 to $200.

The insoles were provided to us free of charge in return for a review at our sister site Adventures in the Outdoors.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Woodstock, NY | Catskill Mountains

Pros: Great cultural resources, Unique shops and boutiques, Lots of restaurants, Outdoor resources
Cons: Can get very crowded in the summertime, Hard to find parking at times

Between the cultural and natural resources of Woodstock, it’s an amazing place to visit, but when you hear the name Woodstock you might first think of the 1969 festival, but that was actually held in Bethel, NY.  Woodstock has its own charms though and stands out on by itself as a destination worth your time.

Today, Woodstock is a small village tucked against the eastern escarpment of the Catskill Mountains and is in the shadow on Overlook Mountain. The village boasts a number of different restaurants, shops, galleries and cultural activities and is well worth the visit if you are in the Catskill Mountains.

Where’s Woodstock? 

Located within the Catskill Park but outside of the major mountain ranges (it rests at the base of the eastern escarpment), Woodstock in nestled at the base of Overlook Mountain. It can be accessed via Route 212 and Route 375 and is about a half an hour from the Saugerties or Kingston exits on the New York State Thruway.

Places to stay? 

There are a number of different hotels, bed and breakfasts and campgrounds within the Woodstock itself and in the vicinity nearby. I’d suggest you have reservations ahead of time for most of the year, especially in the summertime when the most people visit the Woodstock area.

What makes Woodstock special? 

For most of the last century Woodstock has been home to an active artist colony and has hosted a number of different artists. Today the artist colony is still there and there are a number of different galleries and spaces where you can explore and learn about the arts and crafts being created in Woodstock.

The artists colony in Woodstock draws a lot of people to the area, which has resulted in a small town with some really big cultural offerings. Not only are there art galleries and display spaces, but playhouses and theaters along with musical concerts throughout the area.

That cultural base has also drawn in unique retail outlets which make up the heart of the village. You can walk down the street visiting small shops that sell local jewelry, art, books and more. Best of all – you won’t find a single chain store in the area – almost all the shops are unique to Woodstock.

In addition to the shopping opportunities, Woodstock hosts a number of restaurants and people can find almost any kind of food that they are looking for. There’s everything from simple pizza places to more elaborate (and fancy) restaurants.

What to do in Woodstock? 

Depending on what you want to do, you can probably find it in Woodstock. Being in the Catskills, the natural world is never far. There are several trail heads within 15 to 20 minutes of Woodstock that let you hike and climb into the mountains to the north and west. The Esopus River is nearby and offers visitors a chance for white-water rafting and tubing. In the wintertime, Belleayre Mountain, Hunter Mountain and Ski Windham are all nearby ski resorts.

For those who want to stay right in Woodstock, there are art galleries, display spaces, theaters and concerts to visit and attend. Not only that, many of the artisans offer various classes and workshops throughout the year for those who are interested in the arts. You can attend a workshop on painting or photography or get your chance to act on stage.

If shopping is what you like, there are plenty of unique and individual shops scattered throughout the downtown village of Woodstock. You can stroll along the streets exploring these shops and then when you get hungry, there are a number of different places to eat – from very simple to very fancy.

One of my favorite activities in Woodstock is getting to people watch. The town attracts so many different kinds of people and its fun to sit in the Town Square and watch everyone go by. I usually get myself some ice cream and we sit and relax and watch the world go by.

Getting around Woodstock 

For the central village area of Woodstock the easiest way to get around is to park in one of the municipal lots and then walk around. The village area is small enough to walk around and gets so crowded that it’s hard to drive and find a parking spot in the village itself. For the more distant activities in Town, it’s easy enough to drive and find parking either in provided lots or along the street.

My experiences in Woodstock 

Having grown up in the Mountains just to the north of Woodstock, I often visited first with my parents and then on my own with friends and nowadays with my spouse.

On almost every visit we take the time to explore the shops in downtown. My favorite is the bookstore, which is so crowded with books that I always find something new on each visit. Not only are there lots of books, but it’s one of the best resources of local books around.

We often go down to Woodstock for dinner too – always calling ahead for reservations, especially in the summertime. There are a number of great places to eat and while not every meal has been perfect, we haven’t run across a place we really haven’t liked.

Final Thoughts 

It might not be the real location of the Woodstock festivals, but Woodstock, New York has a vibe that is all its own. Filled with artisans and their work spaces, playhouses and theaters, unique shops and almost limitless restaurants, Woodstock has a lot to offer in such a small area. I think it would be hard for anyone not to find something that they enjoyed in Woodstock.

Not only that, Woodstock is in the Catskill Park and is surrounded by the natural resources of the Catskills. You can go hiking nearby, tube down the Esopus River or in the wintertime go skiing.

Between the cultural and natural resources of Woodstock, it’s an amazing place to visit. Just be sure to give yourself enough time to fully explore it – since there is just so much to find and explore.

More to Explore in the Catskills