The winter months are often the best months to appreciate our unique landscapes here in the UK. Popular hikes that are otherwise famous for their green valleys, spiky-grey ridge lines and wildflower backdrops, become seas of white fields, snow-capped peaks and hardy winter shrubs. Our local walks quickly become whole new worlds to explore.
They also open up a whole host of different technical adventures like winter mountaineering, skiing, ice climbing and more. Whilst exciting and rewarding, if we’re being perfectly honest, these activities can also get a bit… cold. And in between taking your gloves oﬀ to use your phone, have a snack or take a photo, for example, our hands are often the first to feel it.
Related: How To Keep Warm In Winter
Related: Winter Kit Checklist
So why not opt for a bit of extra warmth? Hand warmers are a great – and quick – way to get the feeling back in your fingers and enjoy the outdoors for that little bit longer. They’re also very handy (pun intended, sorry) for those of us with poor circulation who need some extra help keeping toasty in the cold.
Admittedly, however, there’s an overwhelming amount of options out there to choose from. We’ve tried to narrow it down to our favourites here though, including a variety of different heat sources to suit your individual, adventuring needs.
Different Types Of Hand Warmers
While considerations such as the price and weight are common with any outdoor product you might buy, with hand warmers, you might also want to consider the shape and comfort of each product depending on your specific hand size. Much like choosing the perfect camping chair, ergonomic factors are key when it comes to our different bodies and their comfort levels.
The duration the hand warmer heats for and its maximum temperature are also important and will depend on the length of your outdoor activity and how much heat you think you’ll need. If you’re going on a day’s hike up Helvellyn mountain – a 3 to 5 hour hike on average – , for example, and you know your hands lose heat quickly, how hot your hand warmer gets is probably more important for you than whether or not it lasts for 12 hours.
If, on the other hand, you’re going on a multi-day hiking trip along the Kungsleden Trail, you’re probably going to focus on a hand warmer with a longer life to keep you toasty day in and day out. You might also fancy a hand warmer that can switch on or oﬀ to preserve that precious heat – an option that will entirely depend on your choice of heat source.
Chemical Reaction Based
Hand warmers that use chemical reactions for their heat source tend to come in two forms: air-activated disposable heat packets, or reusable hand warmers that crystallise using a supersaturated solution.
The air-activated heat packets come in sachets containing iron filings, cellulose, activated carbon, vermiculite and salt. When exposed to the air and shook gently, the iron filings oxidise and create heat. They generally take around half an hour to heat up and only tend to last for a couple of hours. People often buy them in bulk as each sachet can’t be reused, and you’ll typically see them being used for skiing as they’re lightweight and small enough to fit in your gloves or jacket pockets.
The solution-based hand warmers, on the other hand, work by mixing a super-saturated solution of sodium acetate with water and metal. When the internal metal strip is bent or ‘clicked’, tiny bits of metal are released which creates a chemical reaction that releases stored heat energy from the solution. Once the heat fades out, the hand warmers can be reset by boiling them until the solution has re-liquified and the crystals have gone. These ones are handy for multi-day trips when you’re likely to have a stove in your kit.
Catalytic hand warmers are started using a flame and burning either a flammable liquid or some fuel sticks (usually made of charcoal). They’re pretty straightforward and generally burn for a long time, though you’ll need to continually refill the gas/ charcoal sticks if you want to reuse it. They also tend to come with protective cases that are wrapped in fabric to prevent your skin from burning.
Electric hand warmers use electricity to harness power in the form of heat. They’re arguably the most environmentally-friendly in this sense, though tend to land on the more expensive side of things. They can be turned on and oﬀ, and are also generally a bit chunkier – a trade-oﬀ for longer lasting power and durability.
The battery capacity of electric hand warmers ranges from 3000 to 8000 mAh (milliamp hours) so once the juice runs low, they’ll need to be recharged for optimum performance. Here’s our favourite portable power packs for some lightweight charging options.
The 10 Best Hand Warmers On The Market
With a variety of diﬀerent weights, price points and heat sources, here’s our favourite hand warmers on the outdoor market at the moment.
- Zippo 12-Hour Hand Warmer
- Lifesystems Rechargeable
- Lifesystems Reusable
- Human Creations Energyflux G3 Series
- Zippo HeatBank® 9s Rechargeable Heat Bank
- Hothands Super Warmer
- HotSnapz Round Reusable
- Celestron Elements Firecel+
- OCOOPA Pro IP45 Waterproof Rechargable
- Hi-Gear Charcoal Hand Warmer