Therm-ic Smartpack IC 950 Review
Do your feet get cold feet while skiing, riding, snowmobiling, or hiking outside in the winter? If the answer is yes, then you should check out the Therm-ic Smartpack IC 950: a portable ultra-light lithium ion battery pack that pairs with insoles to keep your feet warm with increased blood circulation.
Therm-ic Smartpack IC 950 Features
It seems like pretty common sense, but something that we often over look, myself included. As the muscles in your feet get cold, they no longer function to the best of their ability and you therefore rely on larger muscle groups within your legs to do the work and take over. In skiing, this can be very problematic, as your form and control can deteriorate quickly. Utilizing heated insoles avoids this problem by keeping these small muscles the same temperature as when you left the comforts of your home or car.
The Therm-ic Smartpack IC 950 is a lightweight heating system that utilizes rechargeable lithium ion battery to reduce not only weight but also size. Each Smartpack IC 950 measures 2″ x 2″ x 3/4″, making them not that noticeable when in use. The Smartpack IC 950 features a large clip that allows you to fasten the pack securely onto your ski, snowboard, or winter boot. I am still trying to find the best location due to my more narrow powerstrap on my alpine boots; I place them in the front to avoid having the lift hitting the pack, which could cause them to pop off. I mention this, because I actually lost my previous heating elements in this fashion. Once the clip is securely pushed down, I then place my gaiter overtop for an extra bit of security.
The Therm-ic Smartpack IC 950 are either sold separately or as a Smartpack Set, which pairs the Smartpack IC 950 with Thermicsoles that you install into your boot, such as the Trimfit or Classic soles. I tested out the Trimfit sole and will discuss these in a few minutes. If you were to purchase the Smartpack IC 950 separately, they would run $219. If purchased as a set with the insole (which you need to warm your feet!), the set will cost you $259 with the Classic sole or Trimfit sole. I would recommend the Classic sole if you are using the manufacturers insole. If you have a custom molded footbed, then the Trimfit sole is a better option as it allows you to utilize your custom insole while also delivering heat with the Therm-ic system.
Thermicsole Trimfit Installation
To install the Therm-ic Trimfit sole, there is some work involved. Some boot manufacturers have made their boots more compatible or ready for a heating system, yet this may vary from boot to boot. You can do it yourself, as we did, or if you purchased the Therm-ic system at a local ski shop, they may be able to do the work for you for a small fee. The total time to install both insoles was about 1 hr and was performed by my partner in crime here at AGR, Kevin. Here is a short video that outlines the steps, while it is a few years old the process is still the same.
Once installed, the Therm-ic Trimfit sole does not feel any different on my foot than my footbed prior to its’ installation. There aren’t any lumps or ridges along the length of the boot, as the heating element wire is below the insole and an adhesive overlay is placed on top of your insole and the heating element.. The wire runs along the back of the boot and exits at the rear cuff, with enough free wire to allow me to attach the pack to the rear, side, or front of my boot.
Performance is Key
The Therm-ic Smartpack IC 950 and Trimfit sole work to keep the temperature of your feet near your core body temperature. They do not warm your feet, rather they work to maintain the heat and circulation in your feet. I have Raynaud’s, or poor circulation within the small vessels found commonly within your hands and feet. Without the Smartpack IC 950 and insole, my feet would go numb within 45 minutes on an average ski day, with temperatures in the 20s-30s. If the temperatures were colder, the numbness only came sooner. By adding the Smartpack IC 950 and Trimfit sole, I have not experienced a “numbness” episode and believe it is because the heating element maintains circulation and prevents the spasms that commonly occur with Raynaud’s. Needless to say, I am a huge fan of these and wish that I had them in my boots for the last 4 years, when I would either suck it up and ski on or go in the lodge way more frequently than my ski buddies.
Therm-ic Smartpack IC 950 Battery Life
In terms of battery life, Therm-ic states that the Smartpack IC 950 will have a life of 19 hours. Therm-ic does offer models with battery life of 22 and 29 hours, but with a steeper price tag. If you are planning to use the Therm-ic Smartpack IC 950 on day trips or at the local ski resorts, returning to a power supply each night, then the Smarpack IC 950 will meet your needs completely. The stated battery life of 19 hours is with the Smartpack IC 950s set to the lowest setting; putting the battery pack at the higher setting and you will burn through the battery life a lot quicker. For instance, when set the Smartpack IC 950 to the highest level, the battery pack was drained in less than 4 hours. Fortunately, when skiing I set them to level 1 on most days and only kick it up to level 2 when temps are nearing the single and negative digits. Setting the Smartpack IC 950 to level 3 made my feet sweat, which ultimately can lead to cold feet.
Here is a quick breakdown of what each setting translates to in terms of temperature and hours of use
Low (level 1) : 37C or 99F for 13-19 hours
Middle (level 2) : 45C or 113F for 6-8 hours
High (level 3) : 70C or 158F for 2.5-3.5 hours
Adjusting the temperature control on the Therm-ic Smartpack IC 950 is simple: hold down the plus sign for a few seconds to turn the unit on to level 1, hold down a few more seconds and it will go to level 2. To turn off or turn down the heat, simply hold down the minus button for a few seconds. Therm-ic does make other models with longer battery life and some come with a small wireless remote control for you to adjust the temperature. I feel that I am prone to losing things, and the remote control would be just the thing that I would lose. Therefore, manually setting the temperature on the unit was not a big deal for me, as it takes only a few seconds and can be done with a glove or mitten on.
Therm-ic Smartpack IC 950 Charging
The Therm-ic website states that the battery packs have an “extremely short charging time”. I timed the charge cycle a few times, with the battery packs completely dead or having turned off while on the slopes due to meeting their life expectancy. The charge cycle averaged about 2 1/2 to 3 hours. To charge the Therm-ic Smartpack IC 950, simply plug the charging cord into each battery pack in the same fashion that you attach the pack to your insoles. The charger unit features country specific plug and is available in a wide array of offerings. I am unclear how many charges the battery will endure, one website reported 1000 charges. I am waiting to hear back from Customer Service with Therm-ic to get a better idea. Therm-ic does offer some tips to improve battery life and performance: turn off the element when you don’t need it (ie hanging in the lodge), store them inside, and perform a maintenance charge every 6 weeks of so, when not in use, such as in the summer months.
One thing that I would like to see in the future is that the charging system utilize a USB compatible charge cord: this would allow the user to utilize a portable USB charging system or a solar charge pack for continued use in the backcountry. If you plan to use your Therm-ic system on multi-day outings, then you may prefer to check out the Therm-ic Smartpack RC 1600, which touts a 29 hour battery life.
Overall, I have loved having the Therm-ic Smartpack IC 950 and feel silly that I didn’t get these sooner: they have revolutionized my ski day and I hope that others are able to take advantage to add back the joy to being outside in cold temperatures.