Last updated: August 11, 2021

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With hand warmers, the principle is: what's on the label is what's in it. In the cold winter months, they keep your hands nice and cosy when your jacket pocket isn't big enough or you've forgotten your gloves.

Hand warmers are also perfect for those who get cold hands and want to warm up. The aim of this hand warmer test 2021 is to help you choose a suitable hand warmer. I have compiled a list of hand warmers in which I compare conventional heat/gel pads with petrol-powered pocket heaters, heat pads and hand muffs and also list the advantages and disadvantages.

All this should make it easier for you to buy a hand warmer.




Summary

  • Hand warmers enable us to keep our hands warm even in the coldest season when gloves or the jacket pocket are not enough.
  • They come in several shapes and designs, all of which last for different lengths of time and all of which have their advantages and disadvantages.
  • Depending on what activity you want to do, you will benefit from a hand warmer that keeps your hands warm for a longer or shorter period of time. Of all of them, the pocket heater with carbon sticks lasts the longest.

The Best Hand Warmer in the United Kingdom: Our Choices

Buying and evaluation criteria for hand warmers

You can buy so many hand warmers everywhere, but which product is ultimately best for you? For this very reason, I have compiled a list of criteria for you to consider when buying a hand warmer:

Material

With this and the following points, it really depends on which model you finally decide on.

The outer shell of heat or gel pads is usually made of plastic, while the liquid inside is much more difficult. This is usually a salt solution that solidifies when the metal plate is bent.

In the case of disposable hand warmers, we are again dealing with a chemical reaction, namely the oxidation (combination of a substance with oxygen) of the iron in the hand warmer.

The disposable hand warmers also contain water, table salt, iron powder, activated carbon and vermiculite (a mineral). All this is surrounded by an air-permeable membrane. The principle of a pocket stove, on the other hand, is simpler again; it is made of metal and is operated either with pressed rods of coal, charcoal or lighter fuel.

The name says it all; hand warmers made of fabric or fur are, well, made of fabric or fur. These are usually lamb or sheepskin or faux fur. These are then covered with a water-repellent fabric.

Field of application

Again, the proper name is self-explanatory. Hand warmers are usually used in the hands, jacket pockets or gloves.

Hand warmers fit not only in hands but also in jacket pockets.

Although hand warmers are usually used in or near the hands, you can also put the disposable pads in your shoes, for example. Hand warmers made of fur or fabric are often used with prams to keep hands warm when pushing them.

Reusability

You can reuse heat or gel pads by boiling them in a kettle, for example. When the pad is liquid again, simply bend the metal plate again and your hands will be warmed once more.

As the name suggests, disposable hand warmers are not reusable, but you will find several pads in the packs. Even in the metal pocket stoves, you can simply replace the carbon sticks or refill the lighter fluid and you're good to go again.

Actually, all hand warmers can be reused - except the disposable pads. But then you have several of them in one pack.

The hand warmers made of fur or fabric can actually be used all the time, unless you have to wash them. A constant helpful companion during cold winter days!

Environmental friendliness

Environmental friendliness has become an increasingly important issue in recent years. That's why it should not be neglected when deciding what to buy. Reusable hand warmers, including those made of fabric or fur, are much more environmentally friendly than disposable hand warmers.

These have to be thrown away after each use, thus increasing plastic consumption. But even the pocket stoves are not without concerns. At least those that are operated with carbon sticks. With these, there can be an unpleasant smell as coal is burnt.

The hand warmers that are operated with lighter fuel are harmless, however, as there is no flame inside the case and they do not emit any smell.

Durability of the temperatures

The heat or gel pad can reach a temperature of 45 degrees Celsius after an activation time of about 20 seconds. After two hours, however, the heat has already subsided again. The disposable hand warmer stays warm for up to 12 hours with an average temperature of 55 degrees Celsius.

Of all the hand warmers presented here, the disposable pads and the pocket stoves keep warm the longest at a high temperature. The principle of durability cannot really be transferred to hand warmers made of fur or fabric. Because as soon as cold air gets to the open warmers, the warmth generated by the body does not last long.

Decision: What types of hand warmers are there and which one is right for me?

In this section, I will introduce you to the different hand warmer options and their respective advantages and disadvantages. This should help you to make your purchase decision easier.

Heat / Gel Pads

Heat / gel pads

The biggest advantage of a heat or gel pad is in its use. All you have to do to activate the heat is to bend the small metal plate. After the hand warmer has become solid and cold, you can put it into boiling hot water. When the substance inside the pad has liquefied again, you can use the hand warmer again from the beginning.

Advantages
  • easy to use
  • reusable
  • small and light
Disadvantages
  • does not get as warm as other hand warmers
  • short runtime

For being relatively small and easy to use, this hand warmer does not keep the heat for very long. Compared to the following models, the heat or gel pad only stays warm for about 2 hours at a temperature level of 46 degrees Celsius.

Disposable Hand Warmer

Disposable hand warmer

Compared to a heat pad, the disposable hand warmer stays warm at a higher temperature for much longer. In terms of ease of use, they are in no way inferior to the hand warmers described above; simply tear open the packaging and the pad warms up. They also fit perfectly into gloves or jacket pockets!

Advantages
  • stay very warm for a very long time
  • inexpensive
  • easy to use
  • perfect fit for gloves or jacket pockets
Disadvantages
  • not reusable
  • creates more waste than a heat pad
  • short start-up time

As the name suggests, disposable hand warmers are not reusable. After use, you throw them away, creating more waste – not particularly positive for the environment. In addition, the pads do not always warm up immediately; some need about five minutes to warm up.

Pocket Oven

Pocket oven

Just like their predecessors, the pocket stoves are small and handy and fit easily into your jacket pocket. Thanks to the metal surface, this hand warmer gives off heat well and for a long time. Due to the good workmanship, the smell of petrol is also kept within limits, which is due to effective combustion. The pocket heater also poses no health risks whatsoever.

Advantages
  • small and handy
  • odourless
  • gives off heat well and for a long time
Disadvantages
  • Petrol is not included in delivery
  • temperatures may fluctuate
  • impact on environment with combustion of petrol

Unfortunately, the petrol used to power this hand warmer is not included in the delivery (from Amazon). Also, devices that run on carbon sticks don’t have the best impact on the environment, but here it’s much less serious than with a car, for example. The temperatures in a pocket oven can fluctuate if the oxygen supply is not guaranteed or the ambient temperatures are too low.

Hand Warmer made of Fur/Fabric

Hand warmer made of fur / fabric

The hand warmers made of fur or fabric are very easy to use with press studs and fit universally on every pram. On the inside, they keep the hands nice and warm with sheepskin or lambskin or imitation fur as well as fleece or cotton, while the outer finish ensures wind and water resistance.

Advantages
  • easy to use
  • windproof and waterproof
  • pleasantly warm
  • fits any pram
Disadvantages
  • Warmth does not last

Due to the openings for the hands, the warmth generated by your own body temperature may not last too long and escape through these very openings.

Guide: Frequently asked questions about hand warmers answered in detail

We have answered the most important questions about hand warmers in as much detail as possible for you below.

What is a hand warmer / pocket heater?

A hand warmer is a source of warmth for your hands that you can take with you wherever you go.

Handwärmer-2

Nobody wants icy hands, literally. That's why hand warmers can be very useful. (Image source: 123rf.com/ serezniy)

There are many different designs (which I have presented to you here) with different chemical and physical principles.

How much does a hand warmer cost?

Again, it depends on which hand warmer you buy and where. To make your decision easier, here is a comparison of prices and models.

Type Price
Heat/gel pad from €9.90
Disposable hand warmer €11.90
Pocket heater €19.90
Hand warmer made of fur/fabric €9.99

As with other products, if you expect high quality from your product, you will have to pay more. But they will last longer.

What's inside a hand warmer?

A heat or gel pad contains a liquid called sodium acetate trihydrate (a kind of liquid salt) that solidifies when the metal plate is bent.

Disposable hand warmers are made of iron powder, table salt, activated charcoal, water and vermiculite (a mineral). All this is surrounded by a soft and air-permeable membrane.

Depending on how the pocket heater is operated, it contains either lighter fluid or pressed carbon sticks. Hand warmers made of fur or fabric can be made of lambskin or sheepskin or faux fur, or lined with fleece or wool. The outer shell is usually windproof and waterproof fabric.

How long do I have to boil a hand warmer?

This only applies to heat or gel pads. You boil the hand warmer in hot water until the contents are clear again. This usually takes about 10 minutes.

How does a hand warmer work?

  1. Trigger crystallisation: as soon as you press the small metal plate inside the pad, the liquid solidifies. This transition from liquid to solid releases the heat.
  2. Warming: Your (solid) hand warmer will now give you warmth for about 2 hours.
  3. Heat: As soon as the hand warmer no longer gives off heat, you can heat it in hot water for about 10 minutes. This will make the inside of the warmer liquid again.
  4. Cool down: As soon as the inside of the hand warmer is liquid again and has cooled down, you can use it again. This state is called super-cooled melt.

With a disposable hand warmer, the chemical reaction of oxidation is at play. As soon as you open the single pack, the oxygen combines with the iron. This is also called an exothermic reaction.

The heat of reaction that is released subsequently warms your hands. If the pocket stove is operated with petrol, combustion takes place via a catalytic converter. The whole process is flameless. Simply light it with carbon sticks and close your pocket stove tightly.

If you need more heat, you can light the sticks from both sides. The principle of hand warmers made of fur or fabric is very simple. Just put your hands inside and they will get warm.

How often can I use a hand warmer?

You can use a hand warmer or gel pad as often as you like, but it may wear out over time if you use it a lot. The same applies to a pocket heater, but the same rule of wear and tear applies, or a hand warmer made of fur or fabric.

Just don't forget to wash this one in between uses! A pack usually contains 10 or more individually packed disposable hand warmer pads. But you can only use one pad once. But it stays warm much longer.

How long does a hand warmer stay warm?

It depends on which hand warmer you use. I have put together the following table to give you an overview.

Type Warming time
Warming/gel pad 1.5 - 2 hours
Disposable hand warmer 12 hours
Pocket oven 12 hours
Hand warmer made of fur/fabric depends on how large the hand openings are

In the end, your choice depends on how long you will use the hand warmer for which activity.

How can I recharge the hand warmer?

You can recharge heat or gel pads by placing them in boiling water for about 10 minutes. Disposable hand warmers and hand warmers made of fur or fabric cannot be recharged. For pocket stoves, simply refill the lighter fluid or replace the carbon sticks.

Image source: guasor/ 123rf.com

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