Hunters have always recognized the need to stay warm while engaging in their craft. Traditionally, Indigenous Peoples used fur in harsh winter climates as a means to keep their hands and feet warm while hunting. But today, hunters have access to an increasing number of options to avoid hypothermia. In this article, we will bring attention to the different features and benefits of various hand warmers, to help you determine the best fit for you and your hunting adventures.
When hunting in freezing temperatures, it is incredibly important to dress for extreme conditions tailored to the type of hunting you will be taking part in. For example, hunting involves tracking and significant movement, which requires different outwear compared to if you were sitting still. If you’re on the move, it’s imperative to dress appropriately so that sweat is reduced, as excessive sweat in these conditions can increase the risk of hypothermia. It is recommended to dress in layers and wear natural materials like wool and fur whenever possible, as natural fibers are generally much more breathable than synthetics. When on the move, it's important to layer down before perspiration begins.
Luther Cutts, a 45-year hunting veteran shares, “you can always spot the newcomers to the sport because they’re geared up in Goretex. Those who understand hunting in cold climates know that wool and fur work best.”
When examining choices for hand warmers, there are various options with different benefits and characteristics. As our society continues to transition to eco-friendly, high-quality, and high-performing products, what follows is a review of the best hand warmers for hunters based on:
- Effectiveness: how well do they keep you warm?
- Durability: how long do they last before you need to buy a new pair?
- Eco-friendliness: the impact they have on the lands we live and play
- Practicality: can they be inserted and removed as needed to avoid perspiration?
- Adaptability and functionality: can they be repurposed to keep other areas of your body warm?
The best hand warmers will enable you to hunt in multiple ways without being cold or experiencing restricted mobility. Additionally, high-performing hand warmers will ensure that your hands consistently maintain a comfortable temperature, not too hot and never cold.
Sheared Beaver Fur Hand Warmers for Hunting
Sheared beaver fur is composed of 10,000 fur filaments per square inch and has remarkable insulating properties. Beaver fur was first used by Indigenous peoples in Northern Canada to keep warm. Today, sheared beaver remains the warmest fur available as it naturally stores and circulates body heat when inserted into your mittens, pockets, or boots. Additionally, since sheared beaver fur is 100% biodegradable and has an extensive lifespan, warmers of this kind are both environmentally friendly and incredibly safe to use. Overall, their ability to maintain heat, provide comfort, and offer the flexibility to be removed when you become too warm makes them highly adaptable hand warmers for all hunting conditions. When not in use, many hunters choose to tuck them into their winter beanies to keep their ears warm.
Overall Rating: 5/5 Stars
- Effectiveness 5/5: Due to its passive warming system and insulating properties, sheared beaver fur is incredibly effective at preserving heat. This same fur is what enables beavers to remain warm in Northern Canada's freezing temperatures.
- Durability 5/5: These warmers will remain effective throughout their lifespan, which is upwards of seven years, according to Aurora Heat's fur-based warmers.
- Eco-friendliness 5/5: The entire life cycle of ethically-sourced sheared beaver fur warmers is sustainable, and initiatives such as the Genuine Mackenzie Valley Fur Program™ ensure that furs are 100% wild while preserving Indigenous cultural heritage. The fur warmers are also reusable, compared to single use options that end up in the landfill.
- Practicality 5/5: These warmers can easily be inserted and removed as needed, and can also be stored between uses without causing safety concerns. It is extremely important to be able to regulate temperature while hunting in freezing temperatures so that you do not begin to sweat.
- Adaptability & Functionality 5/5: While hunting, sheared beaver fur warmers can easily be adapted for various uses, such as by placing them in gloves, around the wrist, or in boots. They will also circulate your body heat in different conditions, and hunters appreciate these warmers’ ability to consistently maintain warmth while not overheating.
Battery-Operated Hand Warmers for Hunting
Battery-operated hand warmers generate heat for 4 to 8 hours through an internal heating plate of lithium batteries that require 2 to 3 hours to recharge. These warmers are most effective when used in milder temperatures, and if cared for correctly, they are also durable. However, they will produce toxic waste when discarded, and they will also limit users’ mobility and ability to perform certain activities when in use.
Overall Rating: 3/5 Stars
- Effectiveness 4/5: These warmers produce ample heat; however, they must be recharged after only a few hours of use. Generally, they are not as effective at generating heat in extremely cold climates.
- Eco-friendliness 2/5: Although these warmers will help reduce single-use plastic, they are not recyclable once discarded, and the need for battery replacements and energy in order to charge reduces the overall eco-friendliness of this option.
- Durability 4/5: With proper care, battery-operated warmers will have a long lifecycle and are not known to break easily. Some brands can last up to five years.
- Practicality 2/5: Battery-operated warmers can be inserted into loose fitting mitts and removed as necessary. However, mobility will be greatly impacted due to the bulk and weight of them in your mitts.
- Adaptability & Functionality 2/5: These warmers are not safe for use when actively hunting or shooting. Additionally, the heat produced by many of these warmers cannot be adjusted based on the environment.
Gel Pack Hand Warmers for Hunting
Gel pack warmers produce heat through an internal thermodynamic reaction, which involves water, sodium acetate, and a small metal disc. Once activated, heat is generated for a maximum of 90 minutes, and this process can be repeated between 200 to 300 times by boiling the warmers before each use. Although these warmers are composed of non-toxic substances, they will create plastic waste when discarded and there is the possible risk of the gel pack ripping. As these warmers are not suitable for mittens or socks when in motion, users will also have restricted mobility.
Overall Rating: 2/5 Stars
- Effectiveness 3/5: Gel pack warmers are not capable of generating heat for more than 90 minutes, and they become less effective as temperatures drop.
- Eco-friendliness 3/5: Similar to other forms of reusable warmers, they will minimize single-use waste. However, these gel packs still produce plastic waste with their packaging when discarded.
- Durability 2/5: With an average lifespan of 200 to 300 uses, these warmers may be ideal for day to day warmth. However, for extreme outdoor activities such as hunting, leaks and rips may occur.
- Insertability 3/5: Although the gel packs can be inserted and removed as needed, heat is only generated for a maximum of 90 minutes, and hunters will not be able to reuse these warmers throughout a single trip as they need to be boiled before reuse.
- Adaptability & Functionality 1/5: These warmers cannot be used while actively hunting as they significantly restrict users’ mobility. The heat generated from gel pack warmers will also not adapt based on the environment, and hunters will need to carefully plan when and how to optimally use these warmers.
Lighter-Fuel Hand Warmers for Hunting
Lighter fuel warmers produce heat through an internal combustion reaction that occurs from filling a reservoir with lighter fluid and igniting a catalytic burner. Once the burner is lit with a match or lighter, heat will last for a maximum of 12 hours before requiring more lighter fuel. This type of reusable hand warmer is durable; however, it will still produce non recyclable waste when discarded, and the fuel must be purchased regularly depending on the frequency of use. Users have also noted that the fuel often produces a foul odor, and many feel uncomfortable handling flammable liquids. Lighter fuel warmers also limit users’ mobility as they have a heavy feel and are meant to be held in pockets.
Overall Rating: 3/5 Stars
- Effectiveness 4/5: When prepared correctly, these warmers are effective at generating high levels of heat for a significant period of time.
- Eco-friendliness 2/5: Lighter-fuelled warmers are reusable; however, similar to other hand warmers, they will generate waste when discarded, and the regular use of lighter fuel will also have an impact on the environment.
- Durability 4/5: Lighter fuel warmers are durable and designed to withstand different conditions.
- Practicality 3/5: Although these warmers can be inserted and removed as needed, the fluid will eventually evaporate when not in use.
- Adaptability & Functionality 2/5: Similar to the gel pack warmers, they can not be used while actively hunting as users’ mobility will be restricted. Additionally, hunters may find that the heat generated from these warmers cannot be adjusted based on the conditions.
Muff Pak Hand Warmers for Hunting
Muff Pak warmers provide users with heat by acting as a pouch to insert hands into for warmth as needed. Specifically, these camouflage-designed warmers wrap around one’s waist, and are either fleeced-line or battery-operated. The effectiveness of these warmers will vary based on type; however, apart from deciding when you place your hands into the warmers, Muff Pak warmers have many similarities with other warmers such as the battery-operated versions. Although these warmers are durable and safe, they may not be comfortable nor effective for users that require a continuous heating system.
Overall Rating: 3/5 Stars
- Effectiveness 3/5: As previously highlighted, the effectiveness of Muff Pak warmers will vary based on type; however, this product will maintain a degree of warmth for most users and can also be combined with other warmers for added heat.
- Eco-friendliness 4/5: While these warmers will help minimize waste as they are reusable, they will still have an environmental impact when eventually discarded.
- Durability 4/5: Muff Pak warmers are durable and will have a long lifespan if cared for correctly.
- Practicality 1/5: This product cannot be inserted and removed from users’ gloves and mittens.
- Adaptability and Functionality 2/5: Although Muff Pak warmers can be used in different conditions, it is not possible to use the warmers while actively hunting as users’ hand function will be restricted.
Air-Activated Hand Warmers for Hunting
Air-activated warmers are the most familiar form of hand warmers that generate heat through an air activation process. These warmers are lightweight and provide warmth for a maximum of 10 hours. Although single-use warmers do not significantly restrict movement when worn in gloves, they are not durable nor environmentally friendly, as they must be discarded after every use.
Overall Rating: 2/5 Stars
- Effectiveness 4/5: The effectiveness of air-activated warmers is dependent on the conditions; however, they are typically successful at producing heat for a maximum of 10 hours, which reduces in length as temperatures get colder. Their small size also limits the amount of area that will feel the warmth.
- Eco-friendliness 2/5: From all of the hand warmer options, air-activated versions will have the greatest impact on the environment as they cannot be reused.
- Durability 1/5: As these warmers are single-use, they are not durable nor made of high-quality materials.
- Practicality 2/5: Although air-activated warmers can be inserted and removed throughout their lifespan, unused heat will be wasted, and exposing these warmers to colder climates will quickly diminish their heat.
- Adaptability & functionality 3/5: Air-activated warmers are lightweight and will allow hunters to remain active when using the products. However, the heat produced and trapped cannot be adjusted based on conditions. Hunters have noted that when participating in intense activities where they are producing more heat, their warmers have to be removed and stored until needed again.
Overall, reusable sheared beaver fur offers the best-performing hand warmers for hunters and outdoor sports enthusiasts when considering their effectiveness, eco-friendliness, durability, practicality, adaptability, and functionality. More specifically, since sheared beaver is a wholly natural fiber, it allows hunters to maintain comfortable levels of warmth at all times.
Although new hunting products are continuously being introduced to the market, many experienced hunters recognize the superiority of sustainable and natural materials over synthetic alternatives. We hope this article has been helpful in reviewing your options for hand warmers while hunting.