KREAMER SPORTS
HEATED FLEECE SOCKS
and ELECTRONIC CONTROLLER


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Kreamer Sports Heated Fleece Socks
Product Review

By Sam Lepore

Kreamer Sports Heated Fleece Socks Bottom line at the top of the review? If you want a moderate amount of heat in an inexpensive, heavy weight, heated sock that can be worn without other layers, and you are willing to make a few concessions ... then this is a good choice, and a very good value.

When I bought my K bike after 10 years of riding an R100RT, the first thing Brian ("Data") Curry said was: "Your feet will be colder." He was right, of course, but not because the K fairing offered less protection. It was because the airflow over the R cylinders aims right at the riders ankles, offering just enough heat to make the feet feel 'not cold', whereas the K heat airflow extraction is higher on the body and the feet are left to the elements, so to speak.

Thus I have been considering electrically heated socks for a few years. This year I decided to see what other options there might be beyond the gold standard for motorcyclists - Gerbing. Not that I had any objection to Gerbing, except the price seemed a tad high for a pair of socks - $59.

There are various battery-powered "hunter's socks". I found them at the bigbox -Mart stores and some sporting goods outlets. These tend to be heavy socks with minimal wiring in them and are designed to be used only occasionally to warm the foot, then be turned off. Some use rechargeable batteries, but most use D cells and last only a couple of hours at most. My style of long distance riding needs something that will go for at least 12-16 hours, so these did not seem to fit my need. And at an average price of $27 a pair, they weren't much of a value for the cost.

Next up I found a foot sole heating pad that is inserted into your boot and can be powered by its own rechargeable lithium battery or optionally by a vehicle hookup. It looked interesting until I saw it in hand ... it was nearly one-half inch thick, which would have been a problem for getting my feet into my boots. And its thickness is inversely proportional to the resultant thickness of your wallet: $149. No thanks.

So finally, wandering the Net as I like to do late at night, on a whim I entered "electric socks" into the Yahoo search field, and lo - up popped Kreamer Sports in Shreveport, Louisiana. http://www.kreamersports.com/

    Heated fleece sock, black. Plugs into suit
    or into special adapter harness for stand
    alone use. $39.95

Sounds good ... so I fired off a few questions to the contact address Kreamer Sports <ksports@bellsouth.net> . To my surprise, and unlike most businesses selling on the Net these days, I got an immediate (next business day ... remember, I surf at night), courteous, and complete answer. The more I thought about it, the better these socks seemed, so I arranged for Kreamer Sports to send a pair with the understanding that I would be writing this review.

Although relatively new in the market, Kreamer Sports also makes other heated clothing, including (would you believe?) heated underwear, and heated sleeping bag liners, and the only heated leather jacket I've heard about yet. Their original intended customer base was sportsmen who need portable power, so they offer a 'wearable battery pack', but also have developed their own variable thermostat with a vehicle (12 volt) power plug. To avoid modifying anything during my test, I asked for their thermostat too. Given the recent discussions about Gerbing, Widder, Heatroller, and homemade thermostats, I thought the Kreamer version would be another good inclusion to review.


Top of sock, showing stitching The Kreamer socks are a heavy weight fleece with the soft nap on the inside. They bear a label "Crafted With Pride In USA", and indeed appear well made. They are composed of two flat panels of material, sewn together at the sides (of the foot) with cross stitching over the top behind the toes, and with two tuck stitches on either side of the ankle to induce a slight pouf for the heel. The cross stitching anchors an inside pocket made of another layer of fabric into which the heating wires are looped and fixed by a 3 inch circular stitch directly above the toes. They have a doubled (folded) 2 inch elastic rib sewn to the top. They are available in sizes Medium and Large. Despite the red photo on the web site, the text (above) says the socks now only come in black, but Kreamer Sports responded: "Our socks are available in black, blue, green and Grey."

Flaw in ribbing Unfortunately, I have to report that one of the pair I received was flawed. The ribbing on one sock was mis-stitched, leaving two large open gaps which would tear if tugged. Manufacturing problems can happen everywhere ... but it was a surprise, so as with any mail order item, check yours carefully on receipt. Because this did not affect the performance of the socks, I didn't go through the effort of returning them before writing the review. When informed about the flaw, Kreamer Sports responded:

"The manufacturing defect in the sock would have been a warrantee replacement and would have been shipped to you on the same day, via UPS 2 day service."
In a way ... it was better for me to find a flaw and see how they provided customer service. I get a very good feeling from dealing with these folks.

Leaving the toe area, the wires are sewn into the seam of the top and bottom fabric pieces along the right side of the foot. The wires run up to 2 inches below the ribbing where they exit through an un-reinforced snip in the fleece and extend another 5 inches. The wire is a thin pair which ends in a polarized, pointed box pin plug - a standard snap connector available in electronics supply stores, but not one used by any other clothing manufacturer (that I know of). The wire juncture with the plug is covered in heat shrink wrap, Y cable and the connector itself looks much more substantial than the wire. I suspect (but decline to test ...) that if you forgot you were connected to a bike and walked away, this connection would hold firm, but the wire would not. To be used without a suit, a Stand Alone Sock Adapter ($12.99) is necessary. It is a 4 feet long Y cable to connect to a power source at waist level. Being so thin and flexible, the Y wire easily and unobtrusively fits under pants legs with length to spare. Note: The wire thickness has changed. See the supplementary comments from Kreamer Sports, at the end.

With and without boot Wearing a size 11 shoe, I chose the size Large sock, which measures 16 1/2 inches laid flat (plus the 2 inch rib). While that is more than enough for even my high-top combat boots, the ankle tuck stitching is only 8 1/2 inches from the toe - which is too small for my feet and causes the ankle pouf to be positioned under the heel (and in turn causes the boot to "eat" the sock). This is already a large volume sock, so ordering the larger size if you don't really need it might make it too much for your boot. The first time I tried wearing the socks in my half boot, I could not comfortably tie the laces even though I have worn two athletic weight socks in them before. These fleece socks are THICK! If I am going to wear them, I have to use footwear with a wide toe box, like my combat boot. The problem I see is the socks are not tapered at the toe ... they are just rounded, which makes the fit more like a mitten for the foot. The first time I walked across the floor with just the socks and no shoes, my observer chuckled and said "You look like a duck getting ready for a scuba dive." These fleece socks are BIG!

Ok, so how do they work? Truth is, they are so thick and so warm on their own that unless you are in extreme weather (or ride an unfaired bike) you may not need the electrics at all. Once turned on and warmed up, because the wiring is a single loop above the toes, and because there is a full layer of fleece between the wire and your skin, the delivered heat is moderate, not "hot". It is more than enough to keep the cold away, but it is not so much that it really needs a variable regulator. The fleece offers such good protection against heat loss through airflow (and incidentally, wind protection on the shin above the boot) that you may not even need the heat on all the time. My feet did not feel sweaty as they have with some high plastic content (nylon, rayon, etc.) socks, but neither did I get the socks wet, so I can't comment about wet weather response.

In trying to compare the Kreamer Sports Heated Socks, I asked a series of questions to list members who have used other brand socks. There are two brands that are best known among motorcyclists - Gerbing and Giali. Gerbing has been making electric socks for several years, whereas Giali has begun more recently. Both those brands take a different approach than Kreamer Sports. The Gerbing sock is a white ribbed-cotton winter weight sock, but most riders tell me they either wear a thin sock under the Gerbing because the wires are close to their skin, or they wear another winter sock over the Gerbing because it is not enough by itself. The Giali sock is a very thin poly-something fabric that I can not imagine wearing alone (although I have not tried one). I suspect it is intended as an undersock ... it would barely protect me from boot chafe.

Here are the questions I asked of Gerbing wearers, and my relation of them to the Kreamer Sports Heated Socks.

Overall, it is a tough call. If you plan to ride in sub-freezing temperature and/or you want *hot*, then, just like in gloves and jackets, Gerbing is still the king of high output. The Kreamer socks were not designed specifically for motorcycle use so it may be unfair to question their durability in this application, but given the choices of their construction they are suitable for all but the most extreme conditions - maybe even without being plugged in. The plugging itself may or may not be a problem (see the thermostat, below), but the price is a good value for the size and quality (indeed, if they are not TOO thick!).

Bottom line? If you want a moderate amount of heat in an inexpensive, heavy weight, heated sock that can be worn without other layers, and you are willing to make a few concessions ... then this is a good choice, and a very good value.

_________________________
Sam Lepore, San Francisco
With appreciation for their detailed answers to my survey from:
Pete Hoover, Tony Black, Rob Nye, and Randy Prade.

Addendum - The Kreamer Sports Electronic Thermostat Controller

It is the best of choices ... and the worst of choices ...

Remember, I am looking at this as a motorcyclist, and as one who has had experience with a Widder thermostat, an Eclipse thermostat, a Gerbing thermostat, and a HeatTroller thermostat. None are perfect. Kreamer Sports told me they designed their own. There is no mention of who actually does the manufacturing. This would be the best of the bunch except for a few shortcomings relative to use on motorcycles.

Thermostat, power plug, and cables The box is wonderfully small, 2 1/4 inches by 1 5/8 inches by 3/4 inch (thick). It has a 19 inch input cord with a car-sized power plug with an inline fuse. The output side has TWO 15 inch cords, so you can power a suit and also direct connect the socks (and avoid the reduced power to the socks drawn off by the suit). There are no maximum wattage markings on the box, so I don't know what the limit is. Input and output cords are heavier duty than the sock wires, resembling indoor telephone wire in tight wrap insulation. The plug ends are heat shrink wrapped. There is an on/off push button switch (marked with the international 1/0 symbol) and a separate plus ( + ) and minus ( - ) push button. A red LED shows when the current is on and blinks at different rates as the setting is changed.

So what are the shortcomings? Note: Some of these items are being changed. See the supplementary comments from Kreamer Sports, at the end.

Tactile buttons, waterproofing, and a choice of connectors ... with a few changes this little baby would be a contender tough to beat. Kreamer Sports sells the thermostat with the Stand Alone Sock Adapter (Y cable) as a package for $69.95.


Supplementary Comments From Kreamer Sports

After my initial draft of the review, Kreamer Sports offered the following:

Also, we are constantly improving our design. Your input has been helpful in this respect.

All heat shrink used is adhesive lined, to prevent moisture entry and to provide durability.
Our socks are available in black, blue, green and Grey.
The Y adapter wiring gauge has been increased from 24 to 20 gauge.
The large male lighter plug has been replaced with a smaller model.
All wires will now be on the insides of the leg on our socks.

There are 32 steps from minimum power (20%) to maximum power (95%).
Maximum current is 8 amps @ 12 VDC.

All of the older, analog controllers (they are about twice that size, and have a knob as the heat adjustment) are shipped with a clip on the back. We will now ship all of our new digital controllers with the same clip.

On the next production run, all wires in and out of the box will have rubber grommets. This will make the box water resistant, and almost water PROOF.

We can also provide the 'Heat Troller' heated clothing controller with our units now. We are considering using their controller as our OEM controller in all of our clothing. Their unit performs admirably with our clothing.

Customization of our adapters and controller input or output can and is done at Kreamer Sports upon customer request. There is little and sometimes no charge for this service. We have supplied controllers with eyelet as an input, etc, etc..

Merry Christmas and good riding!

Kreamer Sports


From the Kreamer Sports website ...

Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions.
We are more than happy to take the time to answer them!

Kreamer Sports
7100 West Park Road
Shreveport, LA. 71129

318-687-0030 Voice
318-687-0709 Fax
800-819-9095 TF line
ksports@bellsouth.net


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Last Update: Monday, December 20, 1999