People who live in the northern latitudes know how to protect themselves against the ravages of winter. They have their long underwear, wool socks and sweaters, down jacket, balaclava (or similarly effective winter hat) winter boots and their gloves. This basic outfit is enough to protect most people from even the most extreme winter weather. But if there is a weak link in this chain it’s the gloves. For some reason, probably having to do with the intricacies of blood circulation in the extremities, gloves always seem to come up just a bit short in the warmth and comfort department. As long as there have been gloves this has been true. And as long as it’s been true there has also been virtually nothing that could be done about it. Until recently.
In the past decade or so the science of hand warmers have progressed to the point where today, there is really no reason why anyone should have to go through winter on the verge of frostbite all the time. Below we’re going to take a look at what our product review experts have determined are the 5 best hand warmers on the market today.
The Best Hand Warmers
If you’ve ever attended a football game in December you know how hard it is to keep your hands warm. Same if you’ve ever been cross-country skiing (even with your ski gloves on) or even just holiday shopping. Zippo warmers are here to put an end to your frozen fingers and they’re remarkably effective. Just remove the burner from the compact warmer mechanism, fill the warmer with lighter fluid, light the burner and replace the cap. That’s it. You’re good to go. You can keep the warmer in your pocket (don’t worry there are no flames involved) or simply hold it in your hand the whole time. Either way it’s like having a little bit of summer at your disposal when winter wants to turn your fingers into frozen twigs. The Zippo Hand Warmer is small, handsome and effective and best of all it costs less than 15 bucks.
- Weight4 oz
The E-Teching hand warmer is a battery-powered device that provides 3 different heat settings (107°F, 118°F and 131°F) and also functions as an emergency power bank for your iPhone, Galaxy and more. It’s super easy to use, heats up in seconds and is small enough to slip into any pocket. This is a double-sided warmer meaning you can close your hand around it and you’ll feel the heat emanating from both sides. It’s a great tool to have along for hunting, camping, snowboarding, ice fishing, and other outdoor activities. It has an auto turn off feature that will shut the device down after an hour and it’s both impact resistant and shockproof so you’re not going to get an accidental jolt while using it. And if all that’s not enough use it to recharge your phone when you’re not using it to warm your hands.
- BrandYeeteching Direct
- Weight6.7 oz
The Kozy 7800mAh Rechargeable is both electric hand warmer and power bank like the E-Teching we just looked at. It uses 3 rechargeable lithium-ion batteries that provide 6 to 10 hours of warmth when fully charged. You have your choice of 2 settings; either 108°F or 120°F and there’s also a built-in LED flashlight and SOS flasher, just in case you’re both cold and lost. The device is made of high-grade aluminum that disperses the heat evenly and there’s an optional cloth warmer pouch you can put the Kozy in if you feel direct contact is a bit too much. As we mentioned this is also one of the new breed of hand warmers that is also a portable power bank and you can use it to recharge most any of today’s most popular handsets. A great winter companion. It is extremely handy and you can always keep it in the pocket of your down jacket.
- Weight8 oz
The EnergyFlux Enduro is another of the new breed of rechargeable hand warmers and portable power banks and it’s every bit as effective as the two we’ve already reviewed. It offers 2 temperature options (109°F and 115°F) that will provide 7 or 6 ½ hours of heat respectively on a single charge. The body is made of aircraft grade aluminum that distributes the heat evenly across the surface so that every part of your hand that is touching the device benefits. You can also slip it into your glove if you want to enjoy the maximum benefit but put it on low before you do. Additional features include an LED flashlight that kicks out 55 lumens, an emergency strobe light and the power bank option we already mentioned that is accessed via the handy USB connection. You really can’t lose when you have a fully charged Enduro in the pocket of your ski jacket.
- BrandTrueToSource US
- Weight4 oz
HotHands hand warmers are decidedly low tech and rely on the miracle of chemical reaction to produce their hand-saving effects. Once you break the seal on a HotHands hand warmer you set in motion a process called oxidation. Air sifts into the packet through tiny holes in the pouch and reacts with the iron inside. Iron oxide (more commonly known as rust) is then created. Salt is used to generate heat and vermiculite in the warmer then absorbs that heat and prevents it from escaping. Carbon (also in that busy little bag) is then employed to disperse the heat throughout the sack so that when you hold it the entire bag feels warm, not just one particular area. There are no fancy-pants energy banks or LED flashlights on offer here. But these little sacks of heat may be the best hand warmers for winter. You can even put them in your winter boots to heat them before you wear them.
Hand Warmer Buying Guide and FAQs
Hand Warmer FAQs
Q: What Are The Different Kinds Of Hand Warmers?
A: The following represent all the currently popular methods different warmers use to generate heat. Some of these were touched on above, some were not.
Crystallization - Chemical reactions are the ultimate in low tech and these reusable hand warmers use what are called “supersaturated solutions”. Basically they’re a clear gel which, when properly activated, turns noticeably opaque. This opaqueness is the result of exothermic crystallization which spreads throughout the gel pack and generates heat. You then use that heat to warm your hands. You can get as much as 2 hours (or in some cases a little bit more) out of a single exothermic event and the best part is you can “recharge” the gel pack by simply reheating it in boiling water for about 5 minutes.
Lighter Fluid - Lighter fluid powered hand warmers like the Zippo above use petroleum naptha in concert with a platinum catalyst. The two react to create oxidation that in turn generates heat. The great thing about lighter fluid heat warmers is that they don’t need to be recharged. Just fill them back up with lighter fluid again and they’re good to go. This type of warmer was first introduced nearly a century ago.
Batteries - Battery operated hand warmers convert electrical energy to thermal energy via a process that’s too involved to explain competently in the space we’re given here. Suffice to say they do a good job producing heat quickly and can offer something chemical reaction warmers can’t: different heat settings. In normal conditions they can be expected to produce heat for about 6 hours. Many of these instant hand warmers can also double as power banks to recharge your mobile handsets.
Charcoal - Charcoal stick hand warmers are perhaps the most “primitive” type, but that doesn’t mean they’re not effective. They are. And their simplicity is a plus to many people. A typical charcoal hand warmer provides a fireproof case into which a glowing stick of charcoal is placed. As the charcoal does its slow burn heat is generated that you use to warm your hands. Besides their simplicity their other big upside is that charcoal is widely available and very affordable.
Air Activated - Air activated hand warmers like the HotHands warmers reviewed above utilize the process of oxidation and a salt catalyst to generate heat. That heat is retained by vermiculite and dispersed within the hand heater pack using carbon. The duration of heat you’ll get from them can be uneven though, lasting anywhere from 1 to as many as 9 or 10 hours.
The Many Ways To Use Hand Warmers
While everyone knows hand warmers are used to warm hands during the winter months they can also be put to use performing an array of other important tasks, including:
Drying wet socks - If you’re in the woods and your socks have become soaked put your hand warmers inside them to help dry them quickly and effectively.
Drying wet boots - If your climbing boots got wet along with your socks put hand warmers in the boots at night so that they’ll be dry for you in the morning when it’s time to hit the trail again.
Warming your sleeping bag - Sometimes we bring a bag rated to 40 degrees and it turns out to be 25 degrees. If your sleeping bag is coming up a bit short bring a couple of hand warmers into the bag with you to compensate.
Supplying emergency body heat - If someone is on the verge of hypothermia they need to be warmed as quickly as possible. By wrapping a hand warmer in a sock and putting it in the person’s underarm you can help restore core heat and perhaps, perhaps, help stave off hypothermia.
Warming massage - After a long day of trekking you can wind up with stiff, aching muscles. While you’re kicking back in the tent break out a couple of hand warmers and rub them over your sore muscles to help loosen things up so you can relax.
Keeping your batteries working - Cold temperatures can be tough on batteries. If you brought your beautiful new camera into the woods with you during the winter you may have Lithium-ion battery trouble unless you can keep it warm. Put your battery or batteries in a single case with a hand warmer to keep them viable.
Relieving headaches - It’s not uncommon to suffer from headaches at the end of a long day of trekking. If your head is pounding activate a heat pack and hold it gently to your temples to provide relief. This technique is sometimes helpful in relieving the effects of migraines as well.
Preventing frozen drinking water - If you’ve ever spent time in the outdoors during the winter you know what it’s like to pull out your water bottle and find the contents one big ball of ice. If the mercury has dropped substantially take a heating pad and wrap it around your water bottle to prevent it from freezing through.
Warming feet - Feet get cold too and there’s no better feeling than activating a hand warmer and using it to warm up your frozen piggies. Put one in the foot of your sleeping bag at the end of a long cold day and enjoy the warmth and comfort.
Warming food - Keeping your nice hot food warm when it’s freezing outside can be a losing battle. Unless you have some hand warmers with you. Instead of putting your hot food down on the frozen ground or an equally frozen picnic table or other surfaces, put it on a warmer or 2 and make sure it stays hot for as long as you need it to.
As you can see hand warmers are not just for hands anymore. They’ll also recharge your mobile devices, keep your food hot, help save someone slipping into hypothermia and maybe even help relieve headache pain. Which one you pick will depend on your temperament, your needs (do you take mobile devices with you that will need recharging) and to some extent your budget. Whichever hand warmers you pick however those cold, frozen digits of yesterday will soon become a thing of the past.
We hope you found this information useful and don’t forget to stop back often for more product reviews from Gear Hungry.