If you haven’t discovered the Wirecutter blog check it out, they have excellent in-depth reviews of all kinds of interesting stuff. Here’s what their review of the best hand warmers concluded:
Zippo Hand Warmer
Warmer is the best hand warmer, because it’s cheap, safe and provides enough heat to keep your hands warm for close to 24 hours before it needs to be refilled.
A catalytic hand warmer is heated by a the catalytic reaction of the hand warmer’s platinum-coated filament burner head coming into contact with fumes from white gas lighter fluid. In order to start the catalytic reaction, just hold a flame to the burner head for roughly five to 10 seconds. The filaments in the burner will begin to glow (sometimes visibly, other times not so much) and produce heat. The burner will continue to generate heat from the catalytic reaction for as long as there’s white gas fumes to fuel it.
The great thing about a catalytic hand warmer is that they’re easy to use, and can run for up to 24 hours on a single charge of lighter fluid, which as any smoker will tell you, is just about the cheapest part of a nicotine habit. The bad bit about this style of hand warmer is the same as the good news about it: They run on white gas. So, it’s a pain to refill one once their reservoir goes dry. But as these things can run for a full day at a time, you likely won’t have to worry about refilling it until you get back out of the cold, so that’s a minor complaint.
And the the best catalytic hand warmer is the Zippo Hand Warmer because it’s reasonably priced, easy to find, and cheap to use.
Zippo Hand Warmer at Amazon
Grabber Hand Warmers
If you just want a cheap disposable hand warmer, you could still go with the air activated kind like those made by Grabber, which cost between 50 cents and $1 a piece. They’re way more portable than the Zippo Hand Warmer. My testing proved that compared to Little Hotties or Heat Factory branded warmers, the Grabbers ran for the longest, at just over six hours and thirty minutes. But none of the air activated warmers I tried came close to being as hot as the Zippo was, so the Zippo is my main choice even if a little more complicated to set up and use.
Grabber Hand Warmers – 10 Pack available from Amazon
Naturally the BSA Policy on the Use of Chemical Fuels applies to any equipment using a chemical (whether liquid or solid) fuel during Scouting activities.
I’ll point out that the policy specifically states:
An adult knowledgeable about chemical fuels and equipment should always supervise youth involved in the storage, handling, and use of chemical fuels and equipment.
No flames in tents. This includes burning any solid, liquid, gel, or gas fuel; including tents or teepees that feature or support stoves or fires; and any chemical fueled equipment or catalytic heaters.