In my ever-expanding pursuit of winter warmth, I’ve begun cheating more and more. I’m not breaking any real rules; by “cheating,” I just mean “experimenting with battery-powered products.” I’m a big supporter of insulating materials, but sometimes with Raynaud’s syndrome you just need a little something more. Like the ThermaCell hand warmers, for example.
I’m almost embarrassed to admit how many air-activated chemical hand warmers I’ve gone through over the years. You know the type: open the bag, expose the carbon to the air, and wait a few minutes until the sack heats up. Those certainly work, but my inner geek wanted to test out some of the rechargeable technology out there. And as luck would have it, I connected at Outdoor Retailer – Winter Market with the folks at ThermaCell.
ThermaCell makes a host of powered heat packs. Heck, even their hand warmers come in two varieties, a large “pocket warmer” and a two-pack of “hand warmers” that are much smaller. The ThermaCell hand warmers measure 3 inches long, 1.625 inches wide and a little less than half an inch thick. At that size you can easily slip them into the wrist area of some gloves or into a jacket’s inside pocket. But I found them to work best just holding them directly in my hand.
Only one side of the ThermaCell hand warmers actually heats up, but they’re thin enough that you can easily rotate them in your hand to spread the love. The surface that heats-up, which is red for easy identification, is coated in a medical-grade silicone that’s soft and can tolerate a bunch of caressing. The only odd part is that the non-heated side is the one with the curved edges. The curved edges are designed for easier grip, but when my hands are cold I want the heated side closest to my skin, not the non-heated side. It would’ve been a really nice touch for the ThermaCell engineers to have figured out a way to have the heated side curved so I really take advantage of that curvature while getting maximum benefit from the heat.
Like many heated products, the ThermaCell hand warmers offer three different heat settings, which in turn delivers a shorter or longer battery life. The lowest temperature setting is 106 degrees Fahrenheit, while the medium setting is 110 degrees and the high setting is 116 degrees. Since I suffer from Raynaud’s, I found myself going straight for the highest setting every time I used these in the snow. So, while ThermaCell says the lower setting can deliver up to six hours of battery life before needing a charge, I found the ThermaCell hand warmers to work for closer to three and one-half or four hours.
Aside from the USB-rechargeable aspect, one of the nicest aspects is the hand warmers’ size. I didn’t test the larger size (4 inches by 3 inches by half an inch), but the smaller ones I tried fit great in my hand and also worked well for my six-year-old daughter, who also has Raynaud’s syndrome. Though it took seven to 10 minutes for the ThermaCell hand warmers to achieve maximum heat, my daughter could easily grasp them the entire time without dropping them, and then palm them easily after that. Somehow giving me the “play by play” as the devices got warmer distracted her from the fact that her fingers were ghostly white, and the gradual warming kept her from having any sort of painful heat shock.
Charging took about three hours in my tests, which isn’t bad but strikes me as a bit odd considering that’s about how much use I got out of it with each charge. Again, though, I was using the ThermaCell hand warmers at their highest heat setting, so the charge-to-use ratio could theoretically go down by 50 percent if you used them on their lowest setting. Fortunately, you don’t have to be afraid of such continual charging. The ThermaCell hand warmers can be recharged up to 500 times, according to the manufacturer.
Which brings us to price. These small powered hand warmers are $80, which at first glance seems like a lot. However, if you’re constantly using chemical air-activated hand warmers like I had been, you’re going to hit that same $80 price point far before you purchase 500 of those disposable packets. So, if you’re looking to stay warm by “cheating” over the long haul, the investment in a pair of ThermaCell hand warmers is worth it.
The ThermaCell hand warmers were provided for review. All opinions and words are my own and honest, and the article contains no affiliate links.
ThermaCell Hand Warmers
- 500 recharges = long-term payoff
- Small size works for both adults and kids
- Package includes everything you need (plug, two USB cords, two warmers)
- 7-10 minutes to heat up is tough if your fingers are already cold
- Basically a 1:1 ratio of use to recharge at the highest heat level