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Thread: Handwarmers?

  1. #1
    Senior Member sierra's Avatar
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    Handwarmers?

    Yesterday, I summited a 4k with a girl I met online. Upon reaching the summit, eating, feeding my dog, drinking, my lightweight gloves no longer kept my hands warm and they got pretty cold. We got up to head down and I pulled on my heavyweight OR gloves, she did the same. BUT, she put handwarmers in hers, it took me 10 minutes of balling up my hands to get them warm, she was warm in no time. I think, I'm going to try and add some to my kit, anyone here use them? A few questions to those that do. Can they get too warm and burn your skin? Can they break open in your pack and make a mess? How long do they stay warm? Me and my dog were walking around Bass Pro last night and they have huge bundles for ten bucks, cheap enough. PS. I had frostbite years ago, maybe age is bringing back that coldness I had for years.

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    I use the throwaway packs. Unless you have circulatory issues, it would be hard to get a burn (but there is a warning on them). Walmart sells bulk packs of them for cheap. They do on occasion not work usually as the packaging leaked. I rotate my stock and keep them in a ziplock bag as the original packaging is not robust. It is basically accelerated rusting that causes the heat. I am not sure how it would affect a dog if it tried to eat or chew one, its mostly iron powder, salt, activated charcoal and vermiculite so it probably would not taste good. The packs are pretty robust, I have never unintentionally broken one. I get 4 to 6 hours off them in the field. Longer if it is just sitting in a dry pocket. If oyu need them it's nice to have a pocket sewn into the mitts to hold them against the wrist which seems to work the best for me. The sodium acetate reusable ones do not last as long. The king of hand and body warmers are the Jon E handwarmer (zippo make one also). They use lighter fluid and put out a lot of heat. Great for a sleeping bag in ventilated tent or for sustained outdoor conditions. If i needed a way of getting warm for an emergency, it would be my choice. The downside is they are difficult to light in windy conditions and once they are lit, they pretty well need to burn out. So its pretty much light them before you head out and its good for 8 hours if fully filled.

    BTW, the cold hand and finger issue is normal response, you were hiking generating lots of heat, your stomach is basically on idle. I'ts a major blood user. You stop at the top and stop exercising and you eat something this cranks up the stomachs blood demand The body now had less heat than it needs so it redirects it the core and pulls it away from the extremities. The choices are do not stop for long or pull on extra layers right when you get on top. Others carry a thermos of hot liquid which is heavy or stove and heat up something. I just do not stop long as graze as I hike from easy to digest gorp.

    Note some folks have Raynaud's syndrome and it reportedly gets worse with age. they are the folks that the hand warmer warnings apply to. I got a large patch of frostbite winter hiking on my leg early in my winter hiking career, it was an issue for many years but it did get better eventually.
    Last edited by peakbagger; 12-06-2021 at 08:03 PM.

  3. #3
    Moderator bikehikeskifish's Avatar
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    Be warned that if your hands are cold already and you open the warmers, your hands will still be cold for about 10 minutes until the warmers get going. Putting them inside restricted oxygen environments will slow down the reaction and thus the heat output. I usually start a pair at the beginning of the day if I remotely suspect I might want them. Even if they are lukewarm/cool in my pocket, the fact they are already going helps. Toss them around in your bare hands in the oxygen laden air to really give them a boost. Put on a layer and a hat as soon as you stop also helps.

    The fastest way I have found to warm up those hands is to stick them in your pockets, or someplace where they can quickly absorb body heat (arm pits, etc.)

    Tim
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    Senior Member TCD's Avatar
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    All the above input is good.

    I have Raynaud's; it got a little worse from age 30 through about 55, but has now leveled off (age 66). I swear by the chemical heaters, both hands and toes. I start using them in October, usually.

    The Grabber brand has the best quality. The Hot Hands brand (common in WM) often has a of of dud packages (package leaked air and already reacted).

    I get my Grabber Warmers here:

    https://warmers.com/

    Start out warm and stay warm. If you do get cold hands, the advice above about putting hands in pockets or armpits is good. More heat there than from any heater. Does not help with toes, though; must keep them warm from the start.

  5. #5
    Senior Member wardsgirl's Avatar
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    I always carry them in winter. They are inexpensive and easy to use.

    I always wave them around in the air for a few minutes before I put them inside my mittens. Like bikehikeskifish indicated, the exposure to oxygen activates them.

    I agree with TCD that Hot Hands are readily available, and often has a percentage of "duds." You can tell a "dud" because the contents of the bag become stiff after they have been used.

    They also come in various sizes, depending on the brand.
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    Moderator David Metsky's Avatar
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    You can also use electronic rechargeable hand warmers that heat up in 10-15 seconds and last a few hours. They're a bit heavier than the disposables but I'm impressed with their robustness and speed.
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    Senior Member Nessmuk's Avatar
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    "Back in the day (1960's)" when I started going hunting with my dad, I would sit on watch at favored spots for hours at a time, freezing, watching for deer as Dad circled around a quarter mile away. Then Dad got me a Jon-E handwarmer that was fueled by lighter fluid. it burned silently via a catalytic process wick for many hours. I discovered the best place for it was in a breast pocket, right over my heart. it kept me toasty warm, including my feet, all day. In its small flannel bag it did not get too hot to touch. On a boy scout winter overnight campout I made the mistake of taking it out of its flannel bag and I remember how inside my sleeping bag it burned my leg.
    "She's all my fancy painted her, she's lovely, she is light. She waltzes on the waves by day and rests with me at night." - Nessmuk, Forest and Stream, July 21, 1880 [of the Wood Drake Canoe built for him by Rushton]

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    Yes the Jon E warmers are quite warm. When I helped out the local scout troop we would bring spares for winter trips as scouts inevitably would show up with inadequate sleeping bags. They could be used without the flannel bag but the bag also acts as an air filter to keep any debris out of the burner. They can be picked up at garage sales for cheap and as long as the burner and wick is intact they usually run as there are no moving parts.

    Out of a 1 to 10 if disposables are a 5 the Jon E's are a 10 for heat. unfortunately, they are too big for a toe or a hand warmer.
    Last edited by peakbagger; 12-07-2021 at 07:14 AM.

  9. #9
    Senior Member sierra's Avatar
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    Thank you all for the great info. For the most part, my hands warm up in my gloves in ten minutes or so and they only get cold if I'm lazy at the summit. That being said, I'm going to buy and carry some hand warmers and try them out. They sound like a great tool once you can work them into your routine. The girl I was with also had one next to her phone, which I thought was pretty smart. I cant take pictures of my dog if my phone dies.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Tom Rankin's Avatar
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    I bring (and sometimes use) both the Electric form and Chemical forms. 99% of the time, they work. Once in a while there will be a tear in the packaging. If they are stiff or crunchy, discard. You can put them in a sealed plastic bag and 'reuse' them. This usually works once, possibly 2x.

    They usually last whatever they say they will (varies).

    The Electronic ones can get too hot if you use the max settings, but I keep the chemical ones right against my skin, and have never had a problem.

    The Electronic ones seem to degrade over time, not surprising. I prefer the oval shaped ones.

    Having Raynaud's, it's important to keep the hand warmers on most of the time.
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  11. #11
    Senior Member Mike P.'s Avatar
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    My only caution is not to buy at end of the season. My history, (with disposables), with them is I don't need them until a Feb or March trip, I buy them thinking I'll be ready next time and in another year or so, they fail to work.

    Buying them early and using them because you know you like them would be good. Moving and layering seems to work well. My current system varies with liners, wind-bloc gloves, a fleece mitten over those and then a waterproof overmitt goes over those three layers if needed. Most of the time, two liner layers and the overmitt are fine.
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  12. #12
    Senior Member DayTrip's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Barkingcat View Post
    Does anyone have a recommendation for a rechargeable electronic warmer that fit easily in a glove? I'd like to move away from using the disposable variety, if possible.
    Yah I'm wondering about this too now. Someone mentioned above putting it in a chest pocket and staying warm all over. Anyone ever try this in a sleeping bag? Is that a safe use (i.e. because you're sleeping) ?? I'd think putting an item like this near your feet much like you would a Nalgene with hot water would be an awesome way to stay toasty warm on a cold night.....you know assuming it doesn't burst into flames and kill you.
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    Senior Member MikePS's Avatar
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    I was given an electronic warmer that fits in a large size glove, and works quite well, this will be my third winter using it. Usually I switch to heavy gloves on top, putting this device in one glove, alternating hands as I snack on top, usually have a cup of tea as well. On really cold hikes, I use it for the first 15-20 minutes going down. The product name is either Ocoopa or simply coopa- hard to tell from the brand logo design. Not sure where it was purchased but being from my daughter it was likely Amazon.

  14. #14
    Senior Member TEO's Avatar
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    I, too, suffer from Raynaud's. I regularly use chemical toe warmers, opening the package about ten minutes before I put my feet in my boots. They decrease in effectiveness as the day progresses, because of lack of airflow.

    For my hands, I use chemical warmers infrequently. It's key for me to avoid exposing my uninsulated hands and wear mittens. The downside is that when my hands are warm and I'm active, my hands sweat. Later in the day the wet mittens are less effective. Last year I started wearing medical gloves as a vapor barrier and this seems to make a significant difference. I can wear my overmitts all the time, blocking the wind and trapping more heat, but my inner mitts stay dry. An added benefit is that when I have to take off my overmitts for extra dexterity, the vapor barriers reduce the evaporative cooling.

    Occasionally, if I remember to bring some, I'll have a swig of bourbon before heading out. When I was a child and my Raynaud's was more severe in my hands, my pediatrician prescribed a tea or tablespoon of sherry before school to combat the Raynaud's to dilate the blood vessels. (Raynaud's causes the bloods vessels in the extremities to constrict.) If my memory serves me correctly, my mother did it once, but then ceased for fear of someone smelling alcohol on my breath in school.

  15. #15
    Senior Member sierra's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TEO View Post
    I, too, suffer from Raynaud's. I regularly use chemical toe warmers, opening the package about ten minutes before I put my feet in my boots. They decrease in effectiveness as the day progresses, because of lack of airflow.

    For my hands, I use chemical warmers infrequently. It's key for me to avoid exposing my uninsulated hands and wear mittens. The downside is that when my hands are warm and I'm active, my hands sweat. Later in the day the wet mittens are less effective. Last year I started wearing medical gloves as a vapor barrier and this seems to make a significant difference. I can wear my overmitts all the time, blocking the wind and trapping more heat, but my inner mitts stay dry. An added benefit is that when I have to take off my overmitts for extra dexterity, the vapor barriers reduce the evaporative cooling.

    Occasionally, if I remember to bring some, I'll have a swig of bourbon before heading out. When I was a child and my Raynaud's was more severe in my hands, my pediatrician prescribed a tea or tablespoon of sherry before school to combat the Raynaud's to dilate the blood vessels. (Raynaud's causes the bloods vessels in the extremities to constrict.) If my memory serves me correctly, my mother did it once, but then ceased for fear of someone smelling alcohol on my breath in school.
    Interesting idea using the medical gloves. I know many years ago, I used vapor barrier socks in my plastic boots on overnights to keep the inner boots dry. My feet didn't care for the clamminess, but dry boots in the morning were worth it.

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