Hand Warmers For My Winter Survival Kit

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).

[ Read: Thinsulate Gloves Insulation – Warmth Scale ]

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)

Hand Warmers (10 Pair)

Hand Warmers (40 Pair)

Foot Warmers (5 Pair)

Foot Warmers (40 Pair)

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:

>> Survival Kit Topics


  1. Another good option for instant hand warming are Hot Snapz. They are reusable.
    The small ones don’t last super long. But they have larger ones that last longer.

    1. I have those too! HotSnapZ. They’re pretty neat. Instant heat when activated. They get REAL HOT – but they don’t last very long. Maybe an hour. After usage, boiling in a water bath brings them back.

  2. Two “bonus” points for hand warmers. First, since they consume oxygen during their reaction, they can be used as oxygen absorbers when packaging dry goods. Later, when you open the package, if they get warm there was no leakage. Second, because of my first point, you can stop the reaction by placing them in an air tight bag, we all know the brand. Later, you can take them out and the reaction will continue.

  3. When the electric went out for 7 hours a year or so back during a cold spell, the foot warmers and hand warmers felt so good to have. As your blood is pumping warms the whole body. Need to check mine for viability though.

  4. Vacuum packaging them with a foodsaver gets a little more shelf life on them as well…

  5. When sitting all day in a hunting blind deer I have two super sized hand warmers in an around the waist insulated muff, no need to wear gloves, toasty warm. Also have toe warmers in the boots. Backpack with six or more additional warmers. For brutal cold days (single digits or below zero F), a super sized warmer taped to the long John top , lower back location, stops the chills. Of course I have the portable buddy on a pound tank to really heat up. No sense suffering.

  6. yes, @ Grey, me too…. I found them super effective if I wrap the hand warmer in scarf (double layer coz it will get pretty hot) and place it on the back of my neck, inside the coat collar.
    And if really cold, and not toooooo drafty, I tuck one between my undershirt and the waistband of my pants…. get real toasty that way, bc it re-heats the core area of the body & the extremities will warm up fast, too.
    @LITW…. I’ve used the Hotsnaptz, too. Nice to have something to reuse… I find them heavier and not as long lasting… again nice to have options.

    1. ah, also, just be careful that if you place the hand warmer in the waistband, it doesn’t fall into the toilet, when, you know…and just forgetting it’s there…. ah, nope didn’t almost happen to me… why do you ask?

  7. Was -4 degrees here this morning around 6:00.
    Sitting here sipping my morning Ginger Tea looking over the small Valley below at the 50 or so homes I was wondering how many of them had a way to heat their homes OR anything for that matter.
    I had just tossed another couple of logs into the old wood stove and pondered what the hell would these folks do if the power shut down for a week or so.
    It was interesting to watch the smoke/steam rise from the houses as the furnaces turned on and back off. Of all of them probably only 3-4 had smoke from a fireplace or woodstove visable……

    Ok on the Article.
    These things are darn cheap, if used correctly one could last quite awhile, so why would one NOT have a few in every vehicle that you own????

    Ever been cold? I mean really cold, try it, grab a bucket of cold water walk outside when it’s-4 degrees and stuff a hand or foot in there….. you’ll figure it out reallllllyyyyy quick.
    PS: make sure you didn’t lock the door when you went out…. you’ll be wanting to warm that hand up real quick.

    1. That’s why I mentioned the HotSnapz. I have Reynauds and have to deal with moving water every day. These things give you instant heat. Pop the tab and Bam. Enough heat to thaw frozen fingers or warm up your burito for lunch.
      The first one I got lasted for years, til’ I finally poked a hole in it. Great customer service also. I burned a hole in one a while back. And they sent me a free box of heart shaped ones.

    2. NRP, I am thinking lots of folks are gonna be cold during this extended dark winter. To be cold and clueless is a bad combination. Throw hunger in and…well,you know.
      Warmers are really a cheap investment when you’re cold. Definitely should be in everyone’s kit…

  8. If someone is hypothermic (stumbling, mumbling, fumbling) toe warmers under the armpits and on the inside of the upper thighs can be a lifesaver. Of course there are other things that should be delt with, like exchanging wet clothes for dry, drinking warm high calorie liquids, etc. Hothands are part of my winter pack and my summer mountaineering essentials.

  9. Make sure you never sleep with a handwarmer in your pocket! My teenage son did and it slow cooked his leg. All his tissue to the bone was burned and he ended up having surgery in the burn unit. Not a happy ending to the football season and a bad start to his basketball season.

  10. If you can check each handwarmer pack before you buy it do so. By squeezing pack all over to see if it is soft it is good. If it is hard or has hard spots in it has gone off and won’t produce any heat. Discovered this by accident when removing packs from my boots at the end of the day and they were hard as they had gone off through normal use. Went back to my supply to check and several were hard indicating they had already gone off and were now useless. Checked at store where I normally buy the individual packs and probably half of the stock was hard. Wouldn’t want to find that out when I really was depending on some heat. And fyi they really work well. I use them in boots when working in my shop. Air is nice and warm but floor remains cold and have had frost bitten toes in insulated boots.

Comments are closed.