The Best Hand Warmers To Beat The Cold in 2022


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People who live in the northern latitudes know how to protect themselves against the ravages of winter. They have their long thermal underwear, wool socks, sweaters, down jacket, balaclava (or similarly effective winter hat) winter boots, and 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 has progressed to the point where today, there is really no reason why anyone should have to go through winter on the verge of frostbite. Below, we take a look at the best hand warmers on the market.

While I personally often opt for disposable hand warmers on long days, rechargeable options are excellent too. I love to place hand warmers near the core of my body so blood can better flow to my extremities, or I slide them in my ski gloves on super chilly days. Before I adjusted to winter, warmers were one of the things that kept me even remotely close to comfortable in winter months. They still provide a lot of value and make days in the snow much more comfortable. They are a valuable first aid tool too, so I keep them just about everywhere.

 

Editor’s Choice: HotHands Hand Warmers

hothands hand warmers

  • Heats up in 15-30 minutes
  • Comes in several styles to warm you
  • Natural, convenient to use
  • Compact and very eco-friendly

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.

Being from Texas, for most of my life I was not cold hardy and relied on multi-packs of hot hands hand warmers to get me through chilly days and climbing trips. I’ll often keep one in my pocket, or if I’m climbing, my chalk bag. Additionally, I often slide one on my bra or in the waistband of leggings to keep my core warm so blood can flow to my extremities. I’m more cold-hardy these days, but I now spend much of my winters in snow, and these hand warmers keep me comfortable all winter long. I love that these stay warm for hours on end, but if you have sensitive skin and you use one of my pieces of advice above, be careful not to let the hand warmer go directly against your skin. You can usually find these disposable hand warmers at grocery stores, big box stores, sporting goods stores, and your local hardware store.

See HotHands Hand Warmer on Amazon

See Hothands Hand Warmer on Walmart

 

Best Butane: Zippo 12- Hour Hand Warmers

 zippo hand warmer

  • Refillable and reusable
  • Improved fill cup prevents spillage
  • Generates warmth up to 12 hours
  • Model: 40334
  • Weight: 4 oz

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. To use this device, remove the burner from the compact warmer mechanism, fill the warmer with lighter fluid, light the burner, and replace the cap. Then, you’re good to go for the next twelve hours, enough to stay warm for post-game brews too.

You use this device as a pocket warmer (don’t worry there are no flames involved) or hold it in your hand. Either way it’s like having a little bit of summer at your disposal when winter wants to turn your fingers into frozen twigs. You will need to purchase the butane separately, but that can be done at a local hardware or big box store. Additionally, you can snag some straight from Zippo. The Zippo Hand Warmer is small, yet effective, and best of all it costs less than 15 bucks.

See Zippo 12-Hour Hand Warmer on Amazon

See Zippo 12-Hour Hand Warmer on Walmart

See Zippo 12-Hour Hand Warmer on REI

 

Most Ergonomic: Zippo Rechargeable Hand Warmers

zippo rechargeable hand warmers

  • Serves as a power source for your smart devices
  • Features battery and heat indicator lights
  • Uses a rechargeable 5200 mAh lithium-ion battery
  • Very efficient and truly sustainable
  • Model: 40512
  • Weight: 7.8 oz

Zippo Rechargeable Warmer is a superior quality warming device that delivers just the right amount of heat to warm you for a long time – up to nine hours of continuous heat. It is your ideal heat bank that offers a two-sided source of heat for prolonged and uninterrupted warmth and will generate temperatures up to 120°F or 50°C. It has been expertly crafted to fit perfectly into your hands and in your pocket. There are six adjustable heat settings, allowing you to choose a one-sided or dual-sided heat delivery.

Additionally, this rechargeable hand warmer serves as a phone charger or power source for your valuable devices such as MP3 players, cameras, tablets, and smartphones. Whenever you are out and about and short of power, simply connect your device via a USB port onto the Zippo Rechargeable Warmer and get your cell phone charged. It also features battery and heat indicator lights, so you can monitor its performance. The electric hand warmer uses a rechargeable 5200 mAh lithium-ion battery that gives a reliable source of power and warmth to last you at least 9 hours at a time. Due to its rechargeable nature, it generates less waste, is more efficient, and is way ahead of other disposable heat warmers in terms of sustainability.

See Zippo Rechargeable Hand Warmer on Amazon

See Zippo Rechargeable Hand Warmer on Walmart

See Zippo Rechargeable Hand Warmer on REI

 

Best Disposable Hand Warmer: Tundras Hand Warmers

tundras hand warmers

  • Ultra-thin, single-use and portable
  • Up to 11 hours of heat output
  • Great for travel and vacation
  • Approved by TSA
  • Weight: 2.85 lbs

Turn up the heat and keep warm and cozy with the soothing warmth generated from one of the best disposable hand warmers. The Tundra 40-Count Hand Warmer contains twenty pairs of disposable warming pouches that give you up to eleven hours of heat output. These disposable warmers are ideal for delivering instant heat to your hands and feet. The small pouches are great pocket warmers for long periods of time outdoors in chilly weather.

You can tuck them away safely and conveniently in your car, backpack, or luggage. This product has been approved by TSA and is safe for airline travel. It also comes at an affordable price and is safe for both adults and children.

See Tundras Hand Warmers on Amazon

 

Safety First: KARECEL Rechargeable Hand Warmers

karecel rechargeable hand warmer

  • Shockproof, anti-scald, anti-skid, explosion-proof design
  • Premium aluminum and ABS case, eco-friendly lithium-ion battery
  • Double-sided heating, 3 temperature settings (low, medium, and high)
  • Doubles as a portable power bank, compatible with most devices
  • Weight: 4.7 oz

Whether you’re skiing in the Alps, going for a weekend fishing with friends, or just want to keep your hands warm on your morning commute, this KARECEL Rechargeable Hand Warmer will quickly become your new best friend, and you won’t know how you ever lived without it! Simply hit the ‘on’ button and choose between the three temperature settings to warm up this device in seconds and enjoy toasty hands no matter what the weather is going outside. There are 3 indicator lights on the outside of the device to keep you aware of the remaining battery life and heating status, and the product itself has been carefully designed to feel pleasant and smooth in un-gloved hands. The handwarmer easily offers 2-4 hours of heating on the medium setting and can be recharged quickly via the included USB charging cable.

If that’s not enough, this rechargeable hand warmer from Karecel also doubles as a power bank so you can charge your phone on the go with the same device! It’s not recommended to charge while you’re using the heating function, but with the fast charging action and dual-purpose this hand warmer offers, we’re sure you’ll see precisely why we think it’s one of the absolute best hand warmers out there! We particularly like it on the small of our back, and the device is even small enough to slip into a sock to help ease your chilly, achy feet!

See Karecel Rechargeable Hand Warmers on Amazon

 

Best Battery Life: OCOOPA Hand Warmers Rechargeable

ocoopa hand warmers rechargeable

  • 3 adjustable heating levels
  • Fully charged in about 2-3 hours to provide roughly 4-8 hours of use
  • 5200mAh lithium rechargeable battery
  • Made of aircraft-grade aluminum and ABS plastic
  • Weight: 4 oz

Go from cold hands to blissful warmth in seconds with the Ocoopa Rechargeable Hand Warmer. Doubling as a portable power bank to top-up the power on your cell phone or tablet, this portable, rechargeable hand warmer does so much more than just keep your fingers toasty! With three levels of heat, you can easily adjust the multiple settings to get just the right amount of warmth every time, and the device heats up in seconds for immediate relief.

The large-capacity lithium-ion battery provides plenty of life for this little gadget. It recharges quickly, so you shouldn’t need to worry about getting caught short during a football match or while hiking. Most hand warmers, including the Ocoopa, also assist with circulation problems such as Raynaud’s to encourage more efficient blood flow and enable you to get out and about even on the coldest of winter days.

See Ocoopa Hand Warmers Rechargeable on Amazon

See Ocoopa Hand Warmers Rechargeable on Walmart

 

Best for Camping: The Outdoors Way Electric Hand Warmer

the outdoors way electric hand warmer

  • Lithium-ion battery is good for up to 500 charges
  • Two heat settings, 105 degrees and 115 degrees
  • Seven-hour battery life on the low setting
  • 55 Lumen built-in flashlight
  • Weight: 6.7 oz

Outdoor enthusiasts know that versatile and durable gear is critical. The Outdoors Way Electric Hand Warmer fits that bill to a tee. With this USB rechargeable hand warmer, you get two heat settings with a max heat setting of 115 degrees Fahrenheit. The aluminum casing offers dual-sided warmth with a seven-hour battery capacity on the low setting.

To make this product all the more versatile, you can use it as a power bank when your phone starts to run low, plus it features a 55-lumen built-in flashlight. While 55 lumens is not that bright in the grand scheme of things, it can still be a lifesaver and provide light where there is none in the cold, frigid night while warming your chilly fingers. This is one of our favorite rechargeable hand warmers for outdoor activities.

See The Outdoors Way Electric Hand Warmer on The Outdoors Way

 

Best Reusable: Hotsnapz Hand Warmers

hotsnapz hand warmers

  • Each warmer is good for 200-300 uses
  • Reheat for 10-15 minutes to use again
  • Up to 60 minutes of heating time
  • Eight warmers included, four rectangles and four round
  • Model: Round and Circular HotSnapz
  • Weight: 4 Oz, 7 Oz

Our next product is a bit different than others on our list in the way it functions. The Hotsnapz Hand Warmers function by snapping a disc in the warmer which generates a chemical reaction and creates heat as the product crystallizes. Once snapped, the rectangles offer up to an hour of warmth while the circles offer up to 40 minutes. To reuse them, add them to boiling water for 10 to 15 minutes and store them until it’s time to snap, crackle, pop once again!

In this pack you get eight warmers with 200-300 uses each. While these may not have the longevity of rechargeable hand warmers or the heating time of other disposable hand warmers, they are a cost-effective and reusable option with years and years of use in them. These devices are excellent for use at home or in the great outdoors.

See Hotsnapz Hand Warmers on Amazon

 

Why Trust Us

If there’s anyone that has had to learn how to cope with the cold, it’s a Texan who moved to the mountains. I went from 85˚F on Christmas day to skiing big mountains in the Cascades. I was far from ready for the cold when I first arrived and have slowly found ways to cope and increase my cold tolerance. My favorite ways to stay warm involve hot tea, hot cocoa, layers upon layers, and of course, hand warmers. On brutal days, you often need a little something extra like a pocket warmer to make it through.

Who This Is For

This guide is for anyone looking for a hand warmer. We have such a large range of options here and include additional information in the FAQ section to make sure you’re selecting the best choice for you. There’s something for outdoor enthusiasts, sports fans who need to endure a chilly game, skiers who need to ski through a stormy day, and folks with Raynaud’s.

How We Picked

When curating a selection of the best hand warmers, I opted to ensure there was a variety of heating methods from chemical reactions to a catalyst hand warmer, liquid fuel, and rechargeable options. The selection we present here offers heat for as little as 30 minutes and up to 12 hours in some cases so we serve a variety of needs. Many options also feature additional perks and features to make them more worthwhile.

How We Tested

I’ve been using hand warmers for years in a variety of scenarios, from cold climbing gyms to outdoor climbing, chilly hikes, skiing, and more. I use hand warmers on a weekly basis during winter in the Pacific Northwest, and the Cascades present a perfect chance to test the best hand warmers. Throughout the years I’ve found creative solutions like warmers tucked in a bra, to toe warmers adhered to my hip in the name of warmth. I even sometimes add them to my wrists and secure them with hair ties in a sleeve!

hand warmer

Features To Look For In Hand Warmers

Source of heat

Below we discuss the different heating methods used in hand warmers and their heat source.

Duration of heat

There are many ways a hand warmer generates heat and the source of the heat determines the length. Many rechargeable and electric hand warmers can offer up to eight hours of heat depending on the battery size. Disposable options can often last up to ten hours with some options with chemical reactions working for as little as two hours.

Max temperature

Many hand warmers share similar max temperatures between 115 and 130˚F. Those 15˚ can make a big difference in comfortability but it’s not quite as noticeable as you think. Any hotter than 130 could potentially burn or hurt your skin in sensitive areas so always exercise caution!

Heat settings

Electric and battery-powered hand warmers often offer multiple heat settings. There are often two to three heat settings but some boast as many as six different settings. This feature allows you to maximize the battery life and pick the perfect setting for you.

Battery life

The best rechargeable hand warmers can offer up to 10 hours of battery life, but the average and most common range is between five to seven hours.

Extra perks

Some options come with flashlights or act as power banks for your phone or other devices. Versatile products are always a win but these features can drain the battery from the primary purpose, which is to warm you and your hands.

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 damp, put your hand warmers inside them to help dry them quickly and effectively.

Drying wet boots – If your climbing or winter boots got damp along with your socks, put the warmers in the boots at night so that they’ll be drier 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, 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 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 warmers with you. Instead of putting your hot food down on the frozen ground or an equally frozen picnic table, put it on a warmer or 2 and make sure it stays hot for as long as you need it to.

hand warmer

Hand Warmer FAQ

Q: What are the different kinds of hand warmers?

A: The following types represent 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 that, 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 five 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 without boring you to death. These top-rated hand warmers do a great 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 up to six hours. Many of these instant hand warmers can also double as power banks to recharge your mobile devices.

Charcoal – Charcoal stick hand warmers are perhaps the most “primitive” type, but that doesn’t mean they’re not effective. Their simplicity is where they shine. 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 one to as many as nine or ten hours.

Q: Are hand warmers safe to use?

A: Yes, hand warmers are safe to use. Bu since you are interacting with heat and sometimes electricity or chemical reactions, it is important to exercise caution in general. Some folks have skin that is sensitive to heat and a protective layer should be utilized if that is you.

Q: What material is best for hand warmers?

A: There is no necessarily the best material. Your choice of warmers from the types above should be based on personal needs and preferences as they all serve certain purposes and have their best uses.

Sources:

  1. What’s Inside Disposable Hand Warmers? – C&EN
  2. Hand Warmers – Open University

 

 

Tuesday Kahl

Tuesday Kahl Tuesday Kirby Kahl is a contributor at ExplorersWeb. Her fierce love for the outdoors fuels everything she does. Her professional pursuits include writing, creating art, and photography. These professional passions allow her the time to live life outside as a rock climber, skier, runner, backpacker, paddle boarder, swimmer, and explorer. When Kirby is indoors, she enjoys tea, whisky, old films, cooking, and baking. Her product testing and feedback have shaped the design of everything from climbing shoes to candles.

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