With lots of heating technology on the ski market, we sent Alf Alderson off testing on some winter walks to explain if the high-end heat kit is worth the price tag.

Kymira

Kymira Sport products use what the company calls ‘KYnergy technology’ to harness the wearer’s energy and the latent energy in the surroundings, and convert this into Far Infrared Radiation (FIR). FIR increases the production of nitric oxide which, in combination with increased blood circulation, is responsible for a variety of positive effects.

During exercise, FIR will improve performance by increasing blood circulation, tissue oxygenation, the efficiency of respiration and energy production as well as relieving pain. Increased levels of tissue oxygenation combined with an increase in blood circulation allow for more oxygen, nutrients, and glycogen to be delivered and absorbed into cells. FIR also hastens the removal and breakdown of waste products like lactic acid, delaying muscle fatigue and increasing muscle performance during exercise. And by stimulating the biological pain relief mechanisms via increased nitric oxide levels in the tissues, FIR can also reduce pain.

Kymira also say that if you continue to wear their products after exercising, it aids the recovery process since the increased blood oxygenation and circulation caused by FIR helps with the removal and breakdown of lactic acid and increases the rate in which waste products are removed from cells. Sounds simple, right?

The increased circulation also aids in replenishing muscle glycogen levels, reducing inflammation and speeding up the recovery process. All of these effects result in a faster replenishment of energy during and after exercise and increase the rates of cellular repair and replication.

And there’s yet more. It’s claimed that the infrared properties of the garments aid the body’s ability to regulate its internal temperature. The FIR technology embedded in the fabric allows for better temperature regulation, faster drying of the material and increased circulation, since the fabrics retain heat 63% longer than standard fabrics in cold conditions and are 35 per cent quicker drying than standard fabrics.

This is a hell of a lot for a pair of leggings to do, so do they actually work? I used a pair for winter mountain walking in Snowdonia (temperatures with windchill were around minus-8). The leggings were about the same thickness as those I usually wear, but the fit was noticeably tighter – this took a little getting used to, but wasn’t uncomfortable.

By the time we were approaching the upper slopes of Snowdon – where there was snow cover, cloud cover and howling winds – I was wearing four layers on my upper body and just about warm enough, but my legs felt fine and toasty with just the leggings and my mountain pants.

I was also more than happy to note that the knee discomfort that I often suffer when hiking (the result of a ruptured ACL some years ago) wasn’t particularly noticeable; this was my main reason for trying the Kymira leggings, and whilst it’s an issue that comes and goes with no regular pattern, I’m hoping the lack of problems I encountered on this occasion was as a result of the FIR properties of the fabric. As for recovery, my legs were aching somewhat the following morning after what was the first ‘proper’ mountain walk I’d done in months, but soon loosened up.

So, for now I’d have to say the Kymira leggings kept my legs warm, they did seem to help with pain relief and my ‘recovery’ was certainly no worse than I’d expect it to be; more ‘testing’ over the winter will be needed, but even if you just buy a Kymira base layer to stay warm the prices are comparable with other high-end base layers, and if you find that you get the additional benefits you’re quids in.

FOR Potentially offer lots of benefits in addition to warmth

AGAINST Pricey

KYMIRA SPORT IR50 LEGGINGS £80 www.kymirasport.com

Odlo

There’s no doubt that £250 is a lot to pay for a base/mid-layer, but I have to say that within seconds of switching on the I-Thermic app I could see the advantages, despite the price – but more of that momentarily.

Odlo’s I-Thermic is an intelligent thermal technology mid-(or base) layer that regulates heat via an integrated app; I say mid-/base layer because you can effectively use it as either – the knitted fabric (a mix of 50 per cent polyester, 40 per cent polyamide and 10 per cent Elastane) is the kind of thickness you’d expect to find in a mid-layer, but the thermal technology contained within its fibres means you can wear it next to the skin and effectively do away with a thinner base layer. Indeed, you feel the benefit of its heat output more quickly when it’s worn next to your skin, and this also has the additional advantage of reducing the bulk of the clothing under your ski jacket.

The system is operated via a battery and Smartphone app which you can program to detect the optimum heat level to keep you comfortable; the app is then able to detect fluctuations in skin temperature and activity levels via a smart thermal algorithm, and conduct heat through copper wiring woven into the garment to regulate and maintain that ideal temperature.

All the sensors are seamlessly integrated into the fibres and positioned at zones of your body that are most sensitive to the cold; I loved the fact that it can automatically adjust the temperature depending on your level of activity, since this means you have less heat output when active i.e. skiing and more when inactive e.g. sitting on a cold chairlift; and you can override the system to increase or decrease the heat level should you need to.

Any temperature increase/decrease is felt pretty much straight away so you can warm up/cool down quickly and efficiently.

The garment itself has plenty of stretch, feels pretty luxurious and looks quite stylish with its high collar and zip neck, and there’s little to distinguish it from a regular base layer other than the small bulge on the lower right-hand side where the battery that powers the system is stored in a small zipped pocket.

If you’re wearing a rucksack the hip belt may need to be adjusted slightly to take account of the position of the battery, although I found the hip belt on my pack sat just above the battery. I contacted Odlo to ask if the device was likely to affect an avalanche transceiver and was assured that if worn on the opposite side of the body “…it should have no effect on the signal being emitted from the transceiver for rescue or the searching function.”

I have to say this is the most effective form of battery powered heating I’ve yet encountered in ski wear and for anyone who feels the cold badly the Odlo I-Thermic will be a real boon; the rest of us may feel that £250 is too much to pay for a base layer – until we’re stuck on a chair lift in a January blizzard…

FOR Warm and toasty

AGAINST Very expensive

ODLO I-THERMIC £250 www.odlo.com