The 10 Best Rechargeable Hand Warmers
This wiki has been updated 25 times since it was first published in September of 2016. When temperatures drop to near freezing, having a pocket heat source to fend off frostbite can be a welcome relief. Manual dexterity takes a beating in wintry conditions, but these hand warmers will thaw out frozen, stiff fingers, and some of them can even juice up a smartphone or other portable electronic device. Because they're rechargeable, you can use them over and over again. When users buy our independently chosen editorial selections, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
October 13, 2020:
For most, The Outdoors Way 3-in-1 and the Celestron Elements ThermoCharge still make sense, and we've added the robust Zippo HeatBank 9s Plus over the Zippo Rechargeable. The 9s boasts an easy-to-read battery life indicator, a nice touch, as well as six heat settings — more than most others can offer. We selected the Comlife Portable Type-C, as well, which also has a handy battery indicator; however, this model is quite large and weighs just over a full pound, so if you need something light and portable, this may not be it. On the other hand, it can charge two devices at once, a feature that sets it apart from the rest.
For those who'd prefer a traditional non-electric model, we kept the Peacock Japanese Giant Size and the Zippo Refillable. Despite the former's name, both are portable enough for outdoor activities and won't weigh down your hiking backpack or ice fishing gear. The Zippo comes in quite a range of colors, too, including camouflage, silver, or pink. But do keep in mind that these use an actual fuel source, which means two things. One, even though they are reusable, you'll have to pay for more lighter fluid down the road, and two, there's a slight fire risk, although problems are generally caused by incorrect use rather than device malfunction. If you aren't the type to carefully read instructions and heed all safety warnings, you may want to stick to one of the simpler electric versions, instead.
November 27, 2019:
Thanks to its simple but usable design, we still like The Outdoors Way 3-in-1, especially since it lives up to its name by providing a power bank and flashlight along with its hand warming function. When you use it in conjunction with the rest of your cold-weather gear, from winter hats to wool socks, you should remain toasty wherever you roam. The Celestron Elements ThermoCharge remains a good choice, as well, and we added the Ocoopa Portable. The latter comes in a wider range of colors than many, so there is probably a choice even for pickier users.
Fans of models from Human Creations will note that we have added the Human Creations EnergyFlux G3 in place of the EnergyFlux Ellipse. The Ellipse currently suffers from availability issues, but the G3 is a fine replacement, especially with its handsome two-tone styling. Finally, we opted to add another fuel-driven model, the Peacock Japanese Giant. These attractive little devices have a long history, but they may not be for those who do not have the patience to fill and light a unit. The same goes for the Zippo Refillable.
Sharper Image 3-In-1 Most options are square or rectangular, but not the sleek, silver Sharper Image 3-In-1, which is cylindrical and looks much like a flashlight. In fact, you can use it as such, or rely on it to top up your smartphone when you're on the go. sharperimage.com
Wild Things N Airplanes Fleece The Wild Things N Airplanes Fleece are diminutive enough to go anywhere comfortably, but because they rely on a microwave for heating, they aren't helpful in all situations, such as tent camping. They're made from soft fabric rather than hard metal, however, and have rice instead of electrical components, making them more environmentally friendly than most. etsy.com
Envavo Heatbuff If you constantly find yourself battling numb digits in the office, then the Envavo Heatbuff may be the way to go. It plugs into a wall outlet, so it isn't as portable as some, but it gives off plenty of heat to keep you tap, tap, tapping away at your keyboard in comfort. envavo.com
Do I Really Need Another Gadget?
There are other conditions caused by poor circulation, such as arthritis, lupus, or scleroderma.
A rechargeable hand warmer may seem like an unnecessary luxury that would only be used by winter outdoor enthusiasts, but these multi-purpose units are built for convenience as well as warmth. Although they require a little more real estate in your pocket, in some cases they can take the place of your external power packs or flashlights. Some warmers have flashing SOS lights, so you might want to keep one in your car emergency kit, even during the summer months.
Once you have one of these ingenious gadgets, a myriad uses will suddenly present themselves. When you're hanging holiday lights, you'll be able to handle the little plastic hangers without numb fingers. If you're stuck outside at a sporting event, waiting in line for concert tickets, or somewhere else where you can't go inside, a hand warmer will keep you comfortable in the most extreme weather. Having one of these in your pocket will also make it possible for you to wear those thinner texting gloves so you can take photos of junior's first goal or continue to snap selfies. Quite a few of the hand warmers on the market can also help keep your cell phone charged even if the game goes into overtime.
You don't need to live in a locale that experiences severe winters to make use of a rechargeable hand warmer. Sufferers of Raynaud's Disease experience restricted blood flow and blue, clammy hands if they become just a little chilly. There are other conditions caused by poor circulation, such as arthritis, lupus, or scleroderma. In most cases, patients can get fast relief from their symptoms by warming their hands. A model that offers the convenience of multiple heat settings could be ideal for extra-sensitive hands.
While these battery-powered warmers are heavier and more expensive than their disposable counterparts, they are designed to be used hundreds of times, making them better for the environment and possibly easier on the wallet in the long run.
A Brief History Of Hand Warming
Before the advent of central indoor heating, keeping the extremities warm was a greater challenge than it is today. When indoors during the winter, most people couldn't stray far from the fireplace or coal stove. The primary way commoners kept their hands warm when traveling or working outdoors was to keep wrapped hot coals or even a hot potato in their pockets. For longer bouts of heating, some favored soapstone rocks because they offered greater heat retention properties and could be safely warmed by the fire without danger of exploding. In fact, larger soapstone slabs were often kept by the hearth in the evening and brought to bed for all-night warmth.
By the 1970s, the same company developed the disposable type of kairo that reached the U.S. market 10 years later.
The need to keep one's hands warm has even influenced fashion trends. The fur hand muff became fashionable in the 16th century. While the fur itself helped keep fingers from getting frostbite, ladies who could afford such an accessory might also have a tiny, heated water bottle to tuck inside for extra toastiness. The muff was even en vogue with English men during the 17th and 18th centuries, but by the early 1900s, the trend was again relegated to women's fashion.
In 1912, a Japanese man named Niichi Matoba patented the discovery that an oxidation reaction caused by a platinum catalyst produces an intense heat. He spent the next 11 years developing a product suitable for consumer usage and, in 1923, he founded the company that brought the Hakukin-kairo to market. This version of the hand warmer was widely used throughout Japan despite the facts that you needed to fill it will messy lighter fluid and that it could get hot enough to burn your hands. By the 1970s, the same company developed the disposable type of kairo that reached the U.S. market 10 years later. When exposed to air, a different kind of oxidation causes these units to heat up and stay warm for several hours.
Battery-operated versions of hand warmers soon followed, but it wasn't until the widespread usage of the USB port in the late 1990s that the rechargeable, eco-friendly models available today were possible.
Other Tips For Staying Warm
When you're stranded outside for hours on end, whether for work or for play, you'll probably struggle to keep more than just your hands toasty. Extreme weather with dangerous wind chills can pose a threat to your whole body. Everyone has heard the oft-repeated advice to dress in layers, but not everyone knows this can also apply to your footwear. If you don't have a high-quality pair of woolen socks, or a fancy heated pair, multiple layers of thin socks are your next best bet.
If you know you'll be hiking or participating in other strenuous activities, invest in moisture wicking fabrics to ensure you stay dry.
Giving your body the proper fuel can keep the digestive system humming, and your core temperature higher. You might want to rethink that sugary s'mores treat around the fireplace if you're out camping in the cold. Those simple carbs digest too quickly. Instead, choose a snack that is high in protein or fat, such as cheese or a peanut butter sandwich on whole wheat bread.
It is especially important to avoid alcohol when facing cold weather. Even a mild buzz can fool you into thinking that all is well, but the increased warmth is just the rush of blood to your extremities, which, in the end, lowers your core temperature. Alcohol also has a tendency to dehydrate, making it more difficult to stay warm.
One last piece of advice that might seem counter-intuitive is to avoid over-exerting yourself. Moving around is generally a great way to keep yourself warm, but if you start to sweat, your base layer of clothing will get wet. If you know you'll be hiking or participating in other strenuous activities, invest in moisture wicking fabrics to ensure you stay dry.