Being cold outdoors ain't a lot of fun. Kinda ruins the enjoyment, whether you are camping, hiking, trail running, skiing, snowshoeing, boating, hunting or just going for a long walk. And "cold" doesn't have to mean freezing temps or below. Some people who have a cold-sensitive condition called Reynaud's -- like one SNEWSÂ® editor -- can even lose circulation in their fingers and (sometimes) toes in moderate temps of chilly movie theaters or freezer aisles of grocery stores. Whatever your definition of cold, then, staying warm can make whatever chosen activity you're doing, more fun.
Over the years we've tried butane-powered heaters (they can be stinky, heavy and bulky), battery-powered heaters (sometimes bulky and demands batteries) as well as all the best insulating materials around. The best helper we've found are oxygen-powered warmers and our favorite is the HotHands2 by HeatMax.
HotHands2 (as well as the company's other heating packs for backs, body and toes) come packed in a foil-like wrapper, so they last a long time on the shelf. The best part is how they heat -- more gradual in warming up and a milder heat, but longer lasting as a result. In fact, they will last up to 10 or 12 hours.
How do they work? Each packet -- a soft paper-like pouch that's palm-sized -- is filled with a mixture of iron powder, water, salt, activated charcoal and vermiculite. Exposure to the air activates the warmth through an oxidation (the equivalent of rusting) process. That helped our testers rest easier knowing there wasn't some nasty chemical inside to harm the environment. The only waste is the tiny paper package -- yes, sadly, inorganic, but indeed recyclableÂ -- since the insides can be strewn into your garden.
The true trick is how you can also STOP the heating process simply by removing oxygen available to the packets. This means you can reuse one or two packets if you aren't using them for the entire 10- or 12-hour span: Just seal them in the tiniest air-tight container you can (like a Tupperware container) and once the packets are cut off from oxygen, the heating is turned off. Open whatever container you place the packets in to expose them to oxygen and the heating process turns back on. You can actually repeat this multiple times.
We have had some truly amazing experiences with the heat packs: On a recent trip to snowbound Germany, for example, our editor opened one pair and used them for nine outdoor runs or hikes in the snow over 12 days for a total of about 12 to 13 hours. Each time, she sealed them back up in two zippered plastic baggies (one inside the other), then in a tiny airtight plastic container. Twelve days after her return, she discovered she had forgotten the sealed packs so she popped the container open to see what happened. Lo and behold if they didn't warm up again mildly for another 20 minutes!
We haven't tried the toe and body warmers but are told they are designed to heat differently -- different size holes in the paper package and different thickness of paper -- to allow the heat to be appropriate for the placement and the normal amount of oxygen available in that placement (shoes, boots or gloves, for example).
We do, despite biodegradable insides, feel a little wasteful when we toss them in the garbage. However, we still love them for the enjoyment outdoors they can guarantee on cold days and try to keep one handy in backpacks and suitcases.
SNEWSÂ® Rating: 4.5 hands clapping (1 to 5 hands clapping possible, with 5 clapping hands representing functional and design perfection)
Suggested Retail: $2 for a hand warmer packet (two small warmer pouches), with some retail locations selling multiple sets for less.
For more information:www.heatmax.com or 1-800-432-8629