When was the last time you felt comfortable, while also feeling cold? The two contradict themselves conclusively.
Most of us realize that. That’s why, when winter comes around, we put on as many layers as physically possible. Unfortunately, winters get so very brutal in many parts of the U.S. One of the most disappointing and defeating feelings in the world is being cold in spite of wearing, a coat, a sweatshirt, a pair of gloves, a hat, a scarf, and several pairs of socks.
Another quite discouraging feeling is living with a chronic condition. Two particularly bad ones are Raynaud’s and arthritis. If you have one of the two, your hands and feet will either be cold or achy for no particular reason other than bad luck.
Thankfully, there is an unsung hero to help us with both the cold weather and the evil chronic conditions that are Raynaud’s and arthritis.
Enter the the hand warmers.
Created by a small-town Japanese inventor in 1923, the hand warmer has become a favorite widget amongst households worldwide; over 45 million sold annually. This 1923 invention is still considered an advanced piece of technology, although, not quite as advanced as the self-driving cars and reusable rockets, of course.
There are three types of hand warmers:
- Rechargeable – The rechargeable (a.k.a. electric) hand warmers are powered by a battery, which is charged with a USB-to-android cable. They usually have multiple heat settings, as well as extra features, such as a flashlight and a charging plug (compatible with most electric devices out there).
- Air-Activated – These warmers are disposable. All you need to do in order to use one is to take it out of the wrap. They heat up from coming in contact with oxygen.
- Catalytic – These heating units need to be filled with lighter fluid and ignited with a lighter. They also need access to oxygen to operate. The catalytic hand warmers are superior to any other types of warmers when it comes to their heat duration, as they could keep you warm for up to 24 hours.
Depending on your needs, desires, and circumstances, one or more of these types of warmers may be useless to you. The contrary is also true.
Here are some pros and cons of each type, so that you may buy the right unit for you, or the person you are gifting to. We’ll start with a brief infographic and go into more detail underneath.
1. Electric/Rechargeable Warmers
Perfect for you if:
You need to use a heating unit for no longer than 6 to 8 hrs at a time.
You plan to use your unit regularly.
You would be pausing and resuming your hand warmer numerous times.
You plan to use the product in your pocket.
Smaller rechargeable units, like the EnergyFlux, may even fit in gloves and scarfs.
You need an easy-to-operate warmer, due to reasons like arthritis or Raynaud’s disease.
Don’t buy an electric hand warmer if:
You have tiny hands.
You won’t have access to electricity for long periods, like when hunting, camping, etc.
You intend to place your it in your boot. Electric warmers are still way too big for that.
To prolong the battery life of your rechargeable warmer, consider the following:
- Keep the catalytic unit away from direct contact with the cold (like by placing it in your pocket, glove, or pouch if it comes with one).
- Turn the unit off, while you’re not using it. However, switching it on and off too regularly will reduce the working time of your warmer.
- Avoid charging other devices with your electric unit or using its flashlight. The additional features will drain part of the battery and affect the heat duration of the product.
Most electric heating units come with a warranty.
Manufacturers of rechargeable units recommend not to use your unit while charging.
2. Air-Activated Warmers.
You want a product that is extremely easy, and non-demanding to use (due to reasons like arthritis pain, and others)
You won’t have access to electricity for long periods of time.
You would need hand warmers only for a few days/ weeks out of the year.
You want your product to be small and soft so that you could place it in your boot, glove, etc.
Don’t buy if:
You are allergic to any of the contents of the air-activated hand warmers.
You need to use a hand warmer regularly.
You need your hand warmers to be 100% reliable. Sometimes, in a box of air-activated warmers, a few of the pairs may be faulty.
You may pause (for no longer than a day or two) and reuse air-activated units by placing them in a Ziploc and sucking all the air out of the bag.
If you wish to use your heating unit in an oxygen-deprived space, like your boot, be sure to take the warmer out of the wrap and let it reach its highest temperature, before placing it there. It takes about 20 minutes for this to happen.
If you have arthritis in your hands, or they are just numb from the cold, you will need scissors to open the wrap of the warmers.
3. Catalytic Hand Warmers.
You need your warmer to last long periods at a time (12-24 hrs).
You want an elegant accessory, as well as a hand warmer.
You like large length and width of the rechargeable warmers but dislike how thick they are (especially if you will wear it in your pocket).
You don’t mind purchasing and handling lighter fluid and lighters.
Don’t buy if:
You have arthritis in your hands, and refilling and igniting the unit would be difficult for you.
You will need to refill your warmer in extremely cold conditions; your hands may go numb and make it hard for you to do so.
You don’t feel like spending money on lighter fluid regularly.
You’d like to place the catalytic unit in your shoe.
To turn off a lighter fluid hand warmer, you must place cut its oxygen flow. One way to do that is to put it in a ziplock bag, suck the air out and seal the bag.
Usually, the catalytic units get too hot and need to be placed in a pouch (which most products come with) when used.
Check out a tutorial on how to fill and ignite lighter fluid warmer – in this YouTube video.
The Best Hand Warmers We Have Come Across
The best overall hand warmer on our list
3.5″ long, less than 2.5″ wide and about 1″ thick.
Battery Capacity – 7800 mAh
Has a flashlight, and a USB charging plug so it could charge practically any electronic device.
Two heat settings; a warm option that reaches 105°F, and a high-heat setting, which gets up 115°F (advertised temperature).
Low heat setting lasts around 8 hrs and 20 minutes, while the high heat setting lasts around 7 hrs and 45 minutes.
Made in the U.S.
The longest lasting rechargeable hand warmer sold on Amazon (we’ve tried them all).
Only takes about a minute to warm up to its highest capacity
It comes with a free velvet pouch
All Outdoors Way products come with a 5-year warranty.
Outdoors Way donates 5% of their profits from their pink handwarmer to breast cancer research.
Outdoors Way provides superior customer service experience than any other hand warmer manufacturer.
Easy to operate for people with arthritic hands.
It may be too big for people with small hands.
It is too big to go in your boot.
Hakkin is the company responsible for the first ever catalyic unit in 1923.
It has a length of 4″, a width of 2 5/8″, and less than 0.5″ thickness.
Requires lighter fluid and a lighter to function.
The best catalytic (or lighter fluid based) warmer.
Best looking mass-produced heating unit available.
Provides the longest lasting heat; if filled up all the way, the Peacock may last up to 24 hours.
Comes with an elegant, velvet pouch.
Way better than the considerably more popular Zippo hand warmer.
Significantly less convenient than the rechargable, and air-activated units.
It’s not impossible to make a mess while filling it up.
Cannot be switched off unless you cut off its access to oxygen (like by placing it in a ziplock bag).
Not allowed on flights.
Air-activated (cut the wrap open to use).
Takes around 5 minutes to start producing warmth and 13 time to reach its highest temperature.
Contains, iron powder, water, salt, activated charcoal, and vermiculite.
40 packs in a box, 2 warmers in each pack.
Length of 3.5″ and a width of 2″
Made in the USA.
The HotHands are small, which makes them easy to hold an easy to slip into a glove, pocket. etc.
Depending on the conditions under which you use your HotHands, they could last 7-9 hours.
Easy, and non-demanding to use.
Sometimes, a few of the packs in a box may contain defective products.
You need to restock periodically.
Cannot be turned off, unless their access to oxygen is cut off.
The filling tends to cake up on one side of the warmers.
Has two heat settings.
Low heat lasts around 7:45 minutes, while high heat lasts as long as 5 hours and 45 mins.
Length of 3.5″, width – 2.3″, and just under 1″ thickness.
Made in China
Battery Capacity – 5200mAh
Slightly smaller than the Outdoors Way.
Very quick to warm up.
It comes with a 1-year warranty.
Easy to operate for people with arthritis.
The EnergyFlux lasts significantly less than the Outdoors Way Rechargeable.
Even though it ’s slightly smaller than most other electric warmers, the EnergyFlux is still too big to be comfortably placed in a boot.
Contains iron, water, vermiculite, charcoal, polymer, and salt.
Takes around 5 minutes to start feeling warmth and 17 time to reach its highest temperature.
Made in China
A little under 3.5″ high, and a little less than 2.5″ wide.
Warms up in about 17 minutes.
Like the HotHands, the Grabbers are easy to slip into a glove and easy to use for people with small and/or arthritic hands.
Slightly cheaper than the HotHands.
With Grabber, you have to option to buy hand warmers in bulk (boxes of anywhere between 1 and 320 packs).
15% of reviewers received one or more faulty Grabber packs within a box.
You need to restock.
Cannot be turned off or paused unless placed in a Ziploc bag.
The filling tends to predominantly collect on one side of the warmers.
Four to five minutes slower to heat up than the HotHands.