Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Riverwalker's Gear Test - Hand Warmers

With the arrival of colder weather, many people will rely on hand warmers and foot warmers for an additional measure of protection against the elements. Knowing your gear will perform as necessary is essential to your survival. Here’s a simple test that was done on a random sample of hand warmers and foot warmers to see if they would actually perform as stated on the package. These came from the local “Wally World” and were a package that was lying on the floor. So there was a possibility of the packaging being damaged, although there was none that was obvious.

The ingredients in the foot warmers was basically the same and consisted of iron powder, water, salt, activated charcoal and vermiculite. One package of foot warmers (Toastie Toes) did list potassium chloride as an ingredient instead of salt. The warmers are packaged inside a small Mylar bag and the pouch was extremely sturdy as well. It didn't tear easily but did puncture quite easily with a sharp pointy object, my Gerber STL.

The temperature range for the foot warmers was listed as 100 to 105 degrees and the temperature range for the hand warmers was listed as 126 to 144 degrees. There was also a warning that the temperatures may get as high as 165 degrees but none of the packages tested exceeded 145 degrees. The packages listed a date code that gave them approximately a two (2) year shelf life. Pretty good for something that only cost $1.97 for a package of six foot warmers.

The claim of up to 10 hours of heat from a package was affirmed. All the packages that were tested lasted in excess of 10 hours and a couple of packages were still reading temperatures in the 110 to 115 degree range after more than 10 hours.

The warmers were also tested for actual warming ability by using a boot lace that was handy (can boot laces be handy?) and tying a couple of pouches on a container of water that was 55 degrees which was the current ambient temperature outside. After several hours, the water in the bottle had warmed up to 100 degrees. To simulate the effects of clothing, the bottle was wrapped with an elastic bandage.

A simulation of being in a pocket was done by placing a candy thermometer (supplied courtesy of Mrs. RW) in a a bag with a warmer. It maintained a fairly steady temperature of about 100 degrees.

They were then tested by simple exposure to the surrounding air and maintained a temperature of about 125 degrees.

The packaging also warned of exposure to oxygen rich environments. In order to test this, a hair dryer (again courtesy of Mrs. RW) set on low speed and cool was used to simulate an oxygen-rich environment. The temperature climbed to 140 degrees pretty quickly.

A package was opened and the contents were checked. It was very gritty to the touch. Except for some discoloration on my fingers due to the iron powder and the activated charcoal, the ingredients were safe when handled. Ingestion of this powder though would be a very bad idea and a warning in this regards is stated clearly on the package.

With sturdy packaging, safe ingredients, temperature ranges that were in accordance with those listed on the packaging, a decent shelf life and a price of pennies per hour for heat make these hand warmers a great gear item. As an added bonus, they are an American made product.

Got hand warmers?



Adventures in Self Reliance said...

I just picked several of these warmers for car survival kits.
Thank you for your tests I'm feeling better about the purchases now.

riverwalker said...

To: Adventure in Self Reliance

I think their quality control is really good. Although there was a warning for temps as high as 165 degrees, the highest temp experienced was about 140. When pressed firmly against bare skin, it was a little discomforting but didn't burn the skin (Mrs. RW volunteered for this part).

Having the right chemical mixture in the packets is probably responsible for the even temps that were experienced.

I actually had two packets that lasted right at 12 hours before they started to cool off but the average was just a little more than 10 hours...sufficient for most jobs.



grannyb said...

I found these last year, when I talked hubby and grandsons into taking a spring break camping trip to Canyon of the Eagles. We got there just about the time a cold front came through, and it got really nippy, fast. We used the warmers in our sleeping bags to warm them up before turning in, and they were wonderful! We found that they stayed warm for 10-12 hours, and in fact would take them out of the sleeping bag and tuck them in our pockets the next morning! Hubby (who doesn't like cold) was much impressed!

riverwalker said...

To: grannyb

I live in South Central Texas and a dislike of cold weather is one of the main reasons. I can handle colder weather but avoid it if possible...give me the South Texas sun and a little heat anytime.

Hand warmers also work well to protect sensitive electronic gear such as cameras and binoculars from the effects of cold weather.

Stay warm!

Thanks grannyb.


One Fly said...

Good stuff RWalker. Best to you and yours in the New Year.

riverwalker said...

To: One Fly

Happy New Year back at ya!

Be safe my friend!


Unknown said...

My husband and I love the hand and foot warmers when we fish in the winter and early spring. It makes a world of difference. We usually buy 30 of each. I wear them also when I snowboard.

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