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Thread: Best hand warmers

  1. #1
    Senior Member marty's Avatar
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    Question Best hand warmers

    I was hiking Sunday with a friend who stated that one brand of hand warmers generated more heat than others that he used. Unfortunately, he did not recall the brand.

    Just wondering if there is a hand warmer brand that you prefer.

    Thanks!
    Marty
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    Senior Member Tom Rankin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by marty View Post
    I was hiking Sunday with a friend who stated that one brand of hand warmers generated more heat than others that he used. Unfortunately, he did not recall the brand.

    Just wondering if there is a hand warmer brand that you prefer.

    Thanks!
    Marty
    More is not necessarily better. Too much heat can cause burns. Most of the packages say to avoid direct contact with the skin.

    FWIW, I use Grabbers. Always make sure the expiration date has not passed.
    Tom Rankin
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  3. #3
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    I had mixed luck with handwarmers longevity. I think the ones in the foil pouches seem to last longer than the ones packaged in clear plastic.

  4. #4
    Senior Member TMax's Avatar
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    No matter what brand I use (usually the ones I find on sale!) I always bring several pair - just in case I wind up with a "dud."
    TMax
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  5. #5
    Moderator bikehikeskifish's Avatar
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    The key to controlling the heat is controlling the exposure to oxygen. Thus a roomier mitten which gets some fresh air (not sealed at the wrist) will be warmer than a tight-fitting one. Experiment with placing it in your palm, versus the back of your hand, or even on your fingers. Of course once the reaction is used up, they are useless, so getting a shorter, bigger blast of heat comes at the expense of needing them later on.

    For whatever reason, I went through a bunch last winter whereas the previous winters I did not. I think I let my hands get too wet. Then again, too much heat means sweat and that leads to cold fingers.

    Tim
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  6. #6
    Senior Member DSettahr's Avatar
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    I know that a lot of people use (and swear by) hand warmers, however, I'm in the other boat... I swear by not using them.

    There are a few reasons why I stay away from them:

    First off, and most importantly, the best and most effective way to heat your body is from within. Eating lots of calories, and drinking lots of water are incredibly important. Calories are the fuel for your body to burn and generate heat, while water is the means of transporting that warmth through out your body through your circulatory system. Too often, hand warmers are used as a substitute for this incredibly important bodily need.

    Many people forget the staying hydrated bit... there's a somewhat common misconception that because in the winter, proper layering prevents you from sweating, you don't need to drink as much water. In reality, staying hydrated is just as important, if not more so, in the winter than in the summer. In winter, you lose a lot of water not only through your skin but through your breath as well. Hikers should be drinking at least 4 liters of water per day in the woods, and it needs to be a constant intake of a little bit every so often.

    Secondly, applying external heat sources can do weird things to your body, and actually cause it to lose more heat than it gains. If your body is slowing circulation to your feet and finger, it's for a reason. External heat sources, such as hand warmers and fires, cause your capillaries to dilate, resulting in an increased flow of heat from your core to your extremities. Unfortunately, as humans we don't have the ability to only dilate capillaries on certain sides of our body; it's an all or nothing deal. This can result in your body losing more heat than is gained from the heat source. I was taught in a Wilderness First Aid course once that when standing next to a fire in the winter, your body can radiate more heat away on the side that is facing away from the fire than the other side will gain from that fire.

    Again, if your circulation to your extremities is slowing, and your hands and feet are getting cold, it's a sign that you need to eat and drink more, not crack open a hand warmer.

    The third reason I stay away is the horror stories I've heard associated with hand warmers. As Tom stated, you need to be careful with burns. I've also heard a story (no idea if it's true but it is plausible) about a guy who fell asleep in a sleeping bag in the winter with hand warmers inside. He got so warm, that he unzipped his sleeping bag before falling asleep. During the night, while he was sleeping, the hand warmers ran out, and he awoke with severe frostbite.

    Again, like I said, I know a lot of people swear by them. But they aren't for me.

  7. #7
    Banned Kevin Rooney's Avatar
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    I get new ones each year, and try to find a place that sells alot of them. The package should bend easily - if the contents are hard, then it's a dud.

    I actually use toe warmers more than hand warmers. They're shaped differently - thinner and wider. The ones I like have an adhesive layer which sticks to my liner socks (Smartwool liners in winter). Not a good idea to allow them to come in contact with skin, especially under your toes.

  8. #8
    Senior Member TCD's Avatar
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    Right, they should feel loose and flexible. If they're hardened up or "chunky" it means the package has leaked and the material has already reacted.

    Due to Raynaud's syndrome, I have no choice but to use them as soon as it gets down to about 35F. Doing all the good food, clothing and hydration practices keeps me from having to use them at 55F.

    Grabber brand is the standard. There are many knockoffs, which usually have a higher rate of leakers. I get them at a local hunting shop that sells lots of them, as Kevin recommends.

    I put them in direct contact with my skin all the time. They've gotten a little uncomfortable once or twice, but I've never gotten burned. YMMV. (JMHO: The burn notice is for legal coverage, not because any kind of serious burn is really likely.)

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    I have a pair of gloves and insoles made by this company-
    www.heatfactory.com. The insoles are licensed from Superfeet and there is a slot under the ball of the foot for either a small foam filler piece or a chemical warmer pack. The gloves have a small zippered compartment for a similar pack.

    Heat Factory makes bunch of different products that use different sized packs in them or you can just stick them in pockets, etc. In the insole, the little pack generates a lot of heat, too much unless it's really cold. I tried them in ski boots and they were too warm in about 35-40F weather. I think I got mine at a trade show, but I've seen them somewhere, just can't remember where. Their website is a combination wholesale/retail site but don't let that put you off. Their stuff works really well.
    Last edited by TomD; 10-07-2010 at 02:38 AM.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Raymond's Avatar
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    All the whoo-hooing I see here when winter rolls around each year, Iím surprised to read that so many of you use hand warmers: It seems like cheating.

    Like being glad that summer is finally here so you can turn on the air conditioning.

  11. #11
    Banned Kevin Rooney's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Raymond View Post
    All the whoo-hooing I see here when winter rolls around each year, Iím surprised to read that so many of you use hand warmers: It seems like cheating.

    Like being glad that summer is finally here so you can turn on the air conditioning.
    Can not speak for anyone other than myself, but ... my post above is not for or against winter hiking. Rather, it's part of what I carry in winter as part of "seasonal essential gear". Like bug spray in spring/summer, I don't always use hand or foot warmers in any given year.

    I do know that for some, especially those with Reynaud's, they are essential, and allow them to be outside in winter without unduly endangering themselves.

  12. #12
    Senior Member carla's Avatar
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    hand warmers are a blessing!

    so many people like me have Reynaud's or just poor circulation or are pretty thin/not much body fat. Handwarmers have made my enjoyment of winter hiking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing possible. I used to suffer with claw-like hands and numb feet for years before I "broke down" and started using these all the time. If that makes me a wimp, then I'm a happy content wimp outside, rather than a wimp sitting on the couch eating potato chips!

    so yes on whoo-hoo, but thank god for the person who invented the warmers!


    Quote Originally Posted by Raymond View Post
    All the whoo-hooing I see here when winter rolls around each year, Iím surprised to read that so many of you use hand warmers: It seems like cheating.

    Like being glad that summer is finally here so you can turn on the air conditioning.

  13. #13
    Senior Member Tom Rankin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Raymond View Post
    All the whoo-hooing I see here when winter rolls around each year, Iím surprised to read that so many of you use hand warmers: It seems like cheating.
    Cheating?! Then wearing clothes is cheating too!

    And as others said, Raynaud's Syndrome will not let you hike in Winter w/o some backup.

    I do all the right things on Winter hikes, but for me, it can kick in around 50 degrees if the conditions are just 'right'.
    Tom Rankin
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  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by carla View Post
    so many people like me have Reynaud's or just poor circulation or are pretty thin/not much body fat. Handwarmers have made my enjoyment of winter hiking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing possible. I used to suffer with claw-like hands and numb feet for years before I "broke down" and started using these all the time. If that makes me a wimp, then I'm a happy content wimp outside, rather than a wimp sitting on the couch eating potato chips!

    so yes on whoo-hoo, but thank god for the person who invented the warmers!
    I was quite young when I started using them. That was after I bought Stowe's most insulated down mittens and my digits had lost sensation my first run up and down. Had already given up on gloves.
    YOU ARE NOT A WIMP!
    Many of us are not endowed with the most perfect circulation.
    I thank god for hand warmers to. I place them in my mittens and warm them up before I even get out of my car. In the winter I carry extras in car, pockets and bags.
    I wore them 24-7 on my OB course in No MN. Another woman tried to "tough it out" and was evac'd out day 3 with serious frostbite. Unfortunately she had kept it a secret from the team.
    I am finding that some are warmer that others.
    Was not very happy with my Hot Hands-2 last year. Had been buying them at Walmart. Will try the Grabbers this year or possibly the ones on the web site just posted.

    I bought a nice pair of mittens that have a zipper pocket on top for the warmer. They positively did not work for my hands. On the wrist does not work either.

    It certainly does beat sitting in the rocking chair all winter!

    Another summer like this one and I will buy an air conditioner.

  15. #15
    Senior Member MadRiver's Avatar
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    I usually carry both hand and toe warmers. For toe warmers, I use Grabber full foot warmers. At the start of the hike, I place the foot warmer under my orthotic. I find that if my foot is in contact with the foot warmer after 10+ miles the balls of my feet become tender because my foot is not sitting properly on the foot bed because of the warmer. If I place it under the orthotic, I no longer have that issue. Granted it is not as warm as if my foot were directly on the warmer, yet the warmer heats up the orthotic enough to keep my foot warm while hiking.

    For hand warmers, I place a warmer in each mitten that I will put on later in the hike. At the start of the hike my hands are warm enough that I do not need a hand warmer. Later in the hike after my first set of gloves or mittens have become wet, I can change into the dry mittens that are now warm from the hand warmer.
    Last edited by MadRiver; 10-07-2010 at 12:51 PM.
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