Fists of Fire: The 6 Best Hand Warmers

A pair of winter gloves and a down jacket are all well and good, but against serious, “Hey, why are my fingers turning black?” cold you need more than a little thinsulate and some happy thoughts. You need a hand warmer that will keep your pockets toasty warm so you can keep all your digits; otherwise how are you going to gesture helpfully at the next inept driver who cuts you off? Whether you’re slipping your finger into the trigger guard of an AR-15 or just trying to get your key in the door, a warm hand is essential.

When it comes to this market, your options are very broad. You can get a disposable pair to go into your gloves, which are good for emergencies but using them over and over quickly gets expensive, not to mention wasteful. You can buy an electric that needs to be charged or one that runs on lighter fluid and can keep going so long as you have enough butane to keep the heat coming. There’s also reusable gel inserts that offer a small amount of heat through chemical reactions that work time and again. We’ve checked them all and found the 6 best hand warmers for your winter survival.

Zippo A-Frame

Zippo A-Frame

Pro: Very long lasting
Con: Requires experience and practice to use

Old Faithful: This is probably the most popular pick in the world. The design is timeless and the heat production is excellent. It doesn’t get excessively hot, but rather offers a gentle warmth for your pocket that lasts for up to 12 hours on each refill. So long as you have lighter fluid handy, this can keep going as long as you need it to without creating much waste. You can alter the amount of heat it creates as well as the length of its burn by changing how much oxygen it is receiving, though that is the only way to adjust it, which is imprecise at best. Using it can be a little difficult for the newbie so make sure you look up some of the tricks and tactics that others have used, since operating it according to the instructions will give you fairly lukewarm results. Once you get used to it, there is little better or simpler, especially for the low-tech man who wants to keep his heat simple. [Purchase: $15]

HotSnapZ Gel

HotSnapZ Gel

Pro: Pliable
Con: Short-lasting

The Goo Life: Gel hand warmers still have the power to fascinate most people. By simply clicking a small metal disc inside of the gelatinous pouch you create a cascade within the chemicals that begins to immediately put off warmth. These can reach up to 130 degrees, but you can also use them in such a way as to slow the chemical reaction for longer periods of heat when you need it. The issue with gel warmers is they aren’t intended to work for an extended period of time, but rather to heat up for about an hour to ninety minutes for a quick burst of heat. Due to their particular design, these are often placed in emergency kits for helping raise a person’s body temperature quickly or heat the inside of a sleeping bag before you slide into it. Athletes often use these strapped to sore muscles during a workout or to help improve circulation to extremities while exercising in the cold. For what the HotSnapz do – which is short term – they’re great, but aren’t going to give you hours of warmth. [Purchase: $30]

HotHands Hand Warmer

HotHands Hand Warmers

Pro: Very hot
Con: Single use

Expendables: HotHands is the company that also makes the HeatMax line of hand warmers, which are some of the best in the business when you need something disposable that can wait for ages in the packaging for the moment when you find yourself trapped in your car during a blizzard, living off of the granola bars and illegal morphine you put into your first aid kit. These warm up slowly as soon as they are exposed to air, but once they’ve had a chance to hit their stride, you can get 10 hours of use without any trouble. The best part of disposables is that while they create more waste, they are also smaller so can be put into a glove or a sock to heat blood as it flows past, thereby keeping fingers or toes warm. Using them on a daily basis is extremely costly, but if you must work out in the cold with only a pair of basic fingerless or winter gloves, you might have no choice but to go with the smaller size. The heat level is better for active individuals who are working in the cold. HeatMax or Grabber might be better for more sedentary uses, like watching a football game from freezing stands. [Purchase: $31+]

EnergyFlux 4400mAh Rechargeable

EnergyFlux 4400mAh Rechargeable Hand Warmer

Pro: Can be turned on and off
Con: Needs to be recharged

Battery On Board: Lately the world of hand warmers has jumped into the digital realm with items like the EnergyFlux hedging out old standbys. This uses a USB or AC plug in order to charge the internal battery. Once it is full you can set it for either 109 degrees or 120 degrees depending on your needs. It will run 5-6 hours at the lower setting, 4-5 at the higher. The advantage to this over most other options is that it can be turned on and off to conserve energy when needed. The battery can also be used to juice up your handheld GPS or your cell phone in the event you need to tweet more than you need to keep all your phalanges. The charger doesn’t require that the heat be turned on, which is a nice feature. The price is slightly higher, and you can’t be away from an outlet for long, but for a technological solution to the simplest of problems, this is a modern marvel. [Purchase: $37]

M12 Cordless Realtree Xtra Camo Hand Warmer

M12 Cordless Realtree Xtra Camo Hand Warmer

Pro: Adjustable temperature
Con: It’s a muff

The Huntsman: Yes, it looks like a muff that rich women wore in the 1920’s, but this thing has camo on it, so that makes it badass. For the hunter who expects to spend a lot of time sitting in a blind waiting for an elk to wander by and take their bait, this is perfect. It has a rechargeable internal battery that will run for six hours each time it is juiced to the max. Inside the cuff is a pair of carbon fiber heating elements that give you surrounding heat to keep your hands loose and flexible for when you need to squeeze off a shot. The interior is lined with thermal fleece that retains warmth so it doesn’t seep away leaving you with hot and cold spots. The ends create a pocket that blocks air flow so that the hot air stays inside longer and cold winds can’t whisk it away. You’ll also get three heat settings which affect the length of time that the M12 with operate. Naturally the camouflage won’t ruin your hunter chic outfit, you killer you. [Purchase: $70]

Venture 12V Heated Glove Liners

Venture 12V Heated Glove Liners

Pro: Plugs in directly for continuous heat
Con: Does not work without a power source

On Tour: It’s easy to keep your hands warm when they’re stuffed deep into your pockets, but what about when you’re out on the open road with your fingers wrapped around the handlebars of your favorite bike on a winter tour up the coast, or wherever the horizon takes you? That is when you need the ultimate in hand warmth that can not only keep your fingers from freezing, but can also fit inside your motorcycle gloves without making you lose your feel of the road. The Venture Heated Glove liners are made with the motorcycle maniac in mind. They fit beneath most standard gloves whether you prefer a full gauntlet or something a little lighter. The liners can plug right into the battery on your hog for continuous warmth as you tour the country from sea to shining sea. The thin heating elements go around the perimeter of the hand so that they never interfere with your grip but also help to move blood around to promote your body’s natural circulation and heating system. [Purchase: $72]