Best hand warmers for hiking, skiing and backpacking in 2017

best hand warmers

During the winter season, outdoor activities such as backpacking, trekking, hiking, and skiing can often become a challenge because of cold weather. This is especially the case if you use hand-operated equipment such as trekking poles and ski-poles, even with thermal gloves on. For such situations, hand warmers are a perfect item to have. However, picking right-hand warmers can sometimes be difficult, because of the options available in the market. In this article, we suggest the best hand warmers of different types and also explain the criteria to consider while picking the most suitable hand warmer.

Best hand warmers comparison list

Our pick of the best hand warmers out in the market and how they stack against each other.
PictureProductTypeFeatures 

HotHands Body & Hand Super WarmersAir-activated - Single use warmers which provide safe, natural heat
- Contain non-combustible, nontoxic and odorless ingredients which get heated up quickly.
- Each warmer can last up to 18 hours
- Come in different shapes, sizes and also as a variety pack
Grabber Outdoors 7 Hour Hand WarmersAir-activated - Single use warmers made up non-toxic, odorless natural ingredients that are non-combustible
- Perfectly sized to fit in pocket, glove, shoe or boot
- Each warmer can last up to 7 hours.
Heat Factory Premium Hand WarmersAir-activated - Single use warmers made up with biodegradable ingredients
- Non-toxic, odorless and provide up to 10 hours of reliable even heat
- Small size to fit in gloves, pocket or shoes easily.
Little Hotties Hand WarmersAir-activated - Single use warmers made with Odorless, environmentally safe ingredients
- Can provide heat for up to 7 hours.
- Small size to fit in gloves, pocket or shoes easily.

Hakkin Peacock Standard hand warmerLighter fluid based- Sleek, lightweight, made in Japan, reusable hand warmer that uses clean platinum catalysis to provide heat.
- Odorless, stays warm for up to 20 hours.
- Extremely lightweight at 1.9 ounces, can fit in pockets or gloves.
Zippo Hand WarmerLighter fluid based - Small, sleek, reusable hand warmer that uses the lighter fluid to provide heat.
- Virtually odorless and stays warm for up to 12 hours
- Can fit in pockets or gloves.

EnergyFlux Ellipse Rechargeable Hand WarmerBattery rechargeable - Perfectly sized, reusable, USB chargeable hand warmer.
- Warms on both sides of the unit, with two settings providing warmth up to 6 hours
- Can also recharge digital products such as phones and digital cameras
- 1 year warranty
Kozy Rechargeable Hand WarmerBattery rechargeable - Smart, reusable, USB chargeable hand warmer.
- Provides consistent, soothing heat on all sides for 6-10 hours.
- Also contains a bright LED Flashlight & Emergency SOS Strobe Light
- Bonus warmer included in the pack.
- 1 year warranty
Defrost Labs Rechargeable Hand WarmerBattery rechargeable- A multi-purpose rechargeable hand warmer with 6000/9000 mAh, Polymer Battery
- Once recharged, can keep a temperature of 100+ Fahrenheit for up to 7 hours.
- Features an emergency flashlight and comes with a velvet storage pouch.
- Can act as a power bank
- Comes with 1 year international warranty.
BoneView HotPocket Hand WarmerBattery rechargeable- Aluminum body, hand warmer with a 7200mAh lithium ion battery.
- Once recharged can last for 6-7 hours. Has two temperature settings – Low (109 F) and High (120 F).
- Comes with an in-built LED flashlight with strobe function. Has a battery life indicator.
- Can work as a power bank through the USB port.
- Backed by a lifetime warranty.

What are hand warmers and why do you need one?

Hand warmers are small disposable or reusable units that generate on-demand heat to warm hands and other body parts. Hand warmers are especially useful while hiking and camping in cold weather. They are also pretty useful for other outdoor activities such as hunting, skiing, and fishing. Moreover, if you suffer from medical conditions such as Raynaud’s disease, hand (and toe) warmers can be a lifesaver.

Three types of hand warmers are common in the market – air-activated, catalytic (lighter fuel-based) and electric (battery-powered).

Air-activated hand warmers contain a concoction of iron, cellulose, water, and salt and produce heat from exothermic oxidation of iron when exposed to oxygen in the air. Such hand warmers can last anywhere between 4-12 hours. Such hand warmers are inexpensive, lightweight and efficient. However, they are single-use and cannot be turned off.

Catalytic hand warmers are traditional lighter-fuel based hand warmers. These hand warmers require a flame to initiate warming. Catalytic hand warmers are multi-use and can work for long times till the fuel last (up to 12-15 hours). They, however, provide very little control over the heat levels and are sometimes difficult to turn off.

Battery-powered hand warmers are essentially electrically resistive heating devices that use battery charge to convert electric energy into heat for 6-8 hours. Such hand warmers are multi-use (can last up to 500 recharges) and provide excellent control over heat levels. They are however costlier than other types and may not be as efficient and long-lasting.

The following infographic summarizes the different types of hand warmers and their pros and cons:
Different types of hand warmers

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How to pick the best hand warmers for you?

Picking the best hand warmers depends on personal preference and factors such as cost and purpose. Once you have an understanding of that, you can keep the following factors in mind while considering the best choice for you or anybody else you are buying it for:

  • Type of warmer
  • Duration of warmth provided
  • Single use or Reusable

Type of warmer

As discussed above, the three most common type of hand warmers used in outdoor activities are air-activated, catalytic (lighter fuel-based) and electric (rechargeable battery-powered).

The air-activated hand warmers are generally single use and once activated, they can provide efficient heating for long times. The air-activated warmers are generally cheaper and come in different shapes and sizes, so they can be also be used for warming other body parts. They are also lightweight enough to fit in gloves, shoes or pockets.

The catalytic (lighter fuel-based) are multi-use/reusable and can last for a long time, up to 15 hours depending upon the fuel supply. They are pretty efficient and provide a high heat level. However, starting and turning them off can be a hassle.

The rechargeable battery-powered hand warmers are also reusable and they generally support recharging for up to 500 times. Once activated, they can provide heat for 6-8 hours. Moreover, they can be easily turned off. Another advantage of rechargeable battery-powered hand warmers is that they can be used as small power banks to recharge digital products such as phones, mp3 players, and digital cameras. However, these hand warmers are not as efficient as the air-activated and catalytic hand warmers and you may find their thermal capacity a little inadequate at times.

Based on the above considerations, you can pick the type of warmers you would like to go with.

Duration of warmth provided

The activation time and the warmth duration provided by a warmer are also important, especially in freezing temperatures.

The air-activated warmers typically take about 4-5 minutes to activate fully on a little bit of shaking in the open air, but can provide warmth for 8-9 hours in most cases and even up to 12 hours in some cases. In addition, air-activated warmers come in pairs, so you can use them for both hands, pockets or gloves.

The catalytic, lighter-fuel based hand warmers take 1-2 minutes to heat up fully after lighting up and last as long as the fuel is available – typically 8-12 hours on full fuel.

In case of rechargeable battery-powered hand warmers, once charged they can be used almost immediately, but are not as efficient and can provide warmth only for up to 7 hours on the lowest setting. Catalytic and electric hand warmers typically have a double-sided thermal surface, so you would have to switch between hands to keep both the hands warm.

Single use or Reusable

As discussed above, air-activated hand warmers are generally single use while lighter fuel based and rechargeable battery-powered hand warmers can be reused multiple times. As a hack, some people tend to use air-activated hand warmers a couple of times by cooling them in ice and then packing them in zipping lock bags, though this is not always advisable.

Lighter fuel-based and battery-powered hand warmers are multi-use, so they can be used more than once. Some battery-powered hand warmers even have different thermal levels – Low (up to 110 F) and High (up to 120 F). In addition, most of the battery-powered hand warmers come with additional features such as LED Flashlight & Emergency SOS Strobe Light. Of course, because of these features and functionalities, battery-powered hand warmers are generally costlier than air-activated warmers.

So based on your preferences, you can pick single-use air-activated or multi-use lighter or battery powered hand warmers.

Which are the best hand warmers and what our picks are?

HotHands Body & Hand Super Warmers– Editor’s choice pick for best air-activated hand warmers

Best hand warmers - HotHands Body & Hand Super Warmers
HotHands is undoubtedly the leader in the field of air-activated warmers, and hand warmers are no exceptions. HotHands air-activated warmers are made up of non-combustible, non-toxic and odorless ingredients which get heated up quickly. Typically such warmers can stay hot for as long as 12-18 hours. They come in different shapes and sizes and the typical hand warmers can fit perfectly in gloves, pockets or shoes, making them a suitable choice for winter sports such as skiing and snowboarding. They are also competitively priced.

Considering all other hand warmers are compared against the HotHands warmers, HotHands Body & Hand Super Warmers are our Editor’s pick for the best air-activated hand warmer.

Hakkin Peacock Standard hand warmer : Editor’s choice pick for best liquid fuel based hand warmer

best liquid fuel based hand warmer
It takes something special to beat the ultra-popular Zippo and believe us, the Hakkin Peacock hand warmer has features that score over the Zippo hand warmer.
The Peacock hand warmer is ultralight at 1.9 ounces and sleek enough to fit your pocket or even gloves. It has a superior platinum catalysis heating mechanism that is quicker to light up and fast to heat. It can work in extreme weather conditions as well (up to -40o F) and once lit, it can provide heat for up to 20 hours. With its simple-to-use refilling system and a superior Velcro pouch that restores heat for hours, it is easier to handle and use than the Zippo hand warmer.

For all these reasons, the Hakkin Peacock Standard hand warmer is our Editor’s choice for the best liquid fuel based hand warmer.

EnergyFlux Ellipse Rechargeable Hand Warmer – Editor’s choice pick for best battery-powered hand warmers

best hand warmers - EnergyFlux Ellipse Rechargeable Hand Warmer
EnergyFlux Ellipse Rechargeable Hand Warmer is perfectly shaped, reusable, USB chargeable hand warmer. Once charged, it can provide heat up to 6.5 hours on both the surfaces. It comes with adjustable two temperature settings: Low (107F): 6.5 hours, High (118F): 5 hours.

It can also double up as a power bank and can be used to recharge digital products such as phones, mp3 players, and digital cameras. EnergyFlux Ellipse Rechargeable Hand Warmer can be reused by recharging it for up to 500 times.

For these reasons, EnergyFlux Ellipse Rechargeable Hand Warmer is the Editor’s pick for best rechargeable battery-powered hand warmer.

What about Foot and Toe Warmers?

Your hands are not the only body parts that may require some warming up. If you are looking for something for your feet and toes, air-activated hand warmers are the way to go.
For feet, some of the best insole warmer options are listed below. These warmers come in different sizes (for small, medium and large feet) so pick the size that would fit you best:

If you are looking for something specifically for your toes, check out the following options:

Do It Yourself (DIY) Hand warmers

If you are someone who loves to try out some innovative solutions, you can very well make your own reusable hand-warmers using some discarded fabric and rice.

Simply take a piece of cloth and cut it into the desired shape, stitch a pocket and fill it with some rice (up to 75% of capacity) and enclose/double-stitch from all sides and you have your own re-heatable hand warmer. Cotton Flannel, woolen and fleece fabric are most suitable for this purpose. To use, simply heat the hand-warmers in a microwave for 20-40 seconds and you have some workable hand warmers. In the field, you can heat them in a dry pan for 40-50 seconds.

And if you want to have some fun with chemistry, you can check Popular Science’s article on DIY hand warmers.

Final thoughts on best hand warmers

In this post, we looked at some of the best hand warmers for different outdoor activities. We listed out ten options based on specific types and listed out the key features of each product and also shared the Editor’s picks for the best air-activated, catalytic and electric hand warmers.

We hope that this article would help you pick the best hand warmers for your needs when you plan your next outdoor trip in cold weather. Do let us know how you found this article and if you would want us to consider anything else.

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