Hand Warmers are perfect add-ons for a winter survival kit. They’re a potential comfort for nearly any cool/cold weather outdoor activity. Fishing, Camping, Skiing, Hiking, Hunting, Shoveling Snow, you name it…
As I type this, it’s winter. It’s cold outside. More fresh snow on the ground. Time to check the mini winter survival kit tucked away in a storage compartment on my snowmobile.
Do I still have hand warmers and foot warmers in there? Check. Four of each. Nice and flat in their pouches, taking up very little space. Perfect.
I’ll tell you what… If I were ever to become stranded outside somewhere during the winter, I sure would want to have hand warmers to slip into my gloves and foot warmers in my boots.
Yes, I would be wearing some appropriate winter insulated gloves. I would also have a spare pair of gloves (or mittens) too. But a long lasting pair of hand warmers will sure make life more comfortable (assuming it’s really cold out).
How Do Hand Warmers Work?
It’s actually pretty simple. You may be surprised that these warmers are made from all-natural ingredients. According to the popular manufacturer “HotHands” of Dalton, Georgia, ingredients include include iron, carbon, and salt. When iron is exposed to oxygen, it oxidizes and produces heat. It’s a small chemical reaction found in nature.
The thin packet containing the combination of ingredients are vacuum sealed in a plastic wrapper. They won’t heat up until you remove it (exposing it to air/oxygen, and shake it to start the reaction.
I just read the contents list on one of my packets of Hand Warmers (didn’t know they had it listed till I looked)… Iron Powder, Water, Salt, Activated Charcoal, and Vermiculite.
Here’s what a HotHands packet looks like after you take it out of its vacuum sealed wrapper. This one measures about 3.5″ x 2″
This is what “the stuff” inside looks like:
How Hot Do Hand Warmers Get?
These particular warmers are spec’d an average temperature of 135-F. It takes 15 to 30 minutes to really get going. They do caution that “Maximum temperature may reach 158-F (although I’ve never felt it that hot – so probably just a CYA thing…).
How Long Do They Stay Hot?
Well, they make different formulas. The typical packet of HotHands that I have says up to 10 hours. Realistically, the heat will diminish after many hours. However I have worn these in my gloves for up to 6 hours – and they stayed warm!
Do Hand Warmers Expire?
There is an expiration date on the packets. I believe (for these) it’s 5 years from manufacture. I bought a box of 40 pairs back in 2016 (I still have some left). They’re marked EXP01/20. They are exactly 1 year beyond so called expiration as of this post date. So, I’m going to open one up, shake it up, and see what happens…
Okay, it has been about 20 minutes and I believe the temperature has stabilized. I got out my digital grill thermometer probe and measured the packet. Are you ready? >> 126 F
Not bad for being over EXP by a year. So as you can see, they will still work, just not quite as hot. When they’re newer/fresher they will heat up a lot hotter at first. So I would expect that expired hand warmers won’t stay hot as long either. Although 126 is good enough (hot enough) for me.
Made in the USA…
(view on amzn)
Anyway, I thought that I would put it out there as food-for-thought to add some hand warmers to your kit (or just to have at home) if you happen to live in a cold region. Should you ever be caught with a disabled vehicle or have to ‘hoof it’ in the cold, you might be glad that you had them…
I have a number of articles here on the blog with suggestions for what to keep in a survival kit for just-in-case: