Three Things to Know Before You Buy a Hand Warmer

Chemical or battery powered? Disposable or rechargable? Here’s what to know when buying hand warmers.

Frozen fingers are the bane of the outdoorsman’s experience. Nothing shortens or spoils a hunting or fishing trip or a stadium football game quicker than cold hands–either yours or your spouse or kids. For under a buck apiece you can stock up on disposable single use handwarmers and have them at the ready at the first hint of “I’m cold.” More expensive battery models are rechargeable and some will also recharge your phone in a pinch. Even the old-style lighter fluid-based catalytic models have their advantages. Consider these three factors when choosing what’s best for you.

HeatMax Hot Hands 2 Handwarmer

Single use, disposable warmers can be bought in bulk. HeatMax

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Convenience

Disposable single use hand warmers are cheap, convenient and easy to find. They’re light and stow easily so you can carry extras. They’re small enough to fit one in your glove. They often take a few minutes after the package is opened before they begin to heat up. They have a limited shelf life (so check the date).

Battery-powered hand warmers are usually rechargeable, which requires a power source. Carrying an extra battery is an option, though less convenient. They can be turned on and off as needed. They are heavier and bulkier than disposables, and cost more.

Catalytic warmers require fuel, typically lighter fluid or butane. The process of re-filling the warmer can be messy and smelly, and getting it lighted (it can’t be turned off) is sometimes tricky. But they ‘burn’ a long time.

OCOOPA Rechargeable Hand Warmer

This hand warmer is battery powered and can also recharge your cell phone. OCOOPA

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Planned Use

Hand warmers are useful in most cold outdoor activity. A catalytic warmer might serve better when sitting still in a deer stand or duck blind. Skiers or snowshoers might prefer a warmer that will fit in a glove. Consider how you’ll carry the hand warmer so it is accessible when you need it.

Zippo Refillable Hand Warmers

Catalytic heaters like this typically burn longer than other types of hand warmers. Zippo

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How long it lasts

The length of time a hand warmer actually stays warm could be critical. Typically a disposable hand warmer will give a good 4 to 6 hours, depending on the oxygen its getting. Battery-powered warmers are usually maxed at 7 hours, and often less although turning them off when not needed can conserve the power. Catalytic warmers typically last longer than battery or disposable warmers.