Best Hand Warmers for Police Officers Working in Cold Environments –  A Complete In-Depth Buyers Guide

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Boom! 

A car accident happens.

You have just been assigned to keep “crime scene tourists” away from the crime scene so that your unit, Crime Scene Investigation Unit, can work and be left undisturbed.

It’s 14 degrees F (-10 C).

And since you’re assigned to the CSI unit, you know you may be standing outside for hours  until the job is finished. 

Aaand you guessed it,  you’re already freezing! The only thing on your mind is buying the best hand warmers your money can buy the very next day. 

Has this ever happened to you?

*waits for response*

Yeah, me too.

Let’s find out more about what hand warmers are and how they can make your life a little better as a police officer. 

Why do you need hand warmers?

Easy.

If you live or work, out on a police patrol, in cold environments (like many of us do), you should definitely consider purchasing a pair of hand warmers.

Can you feel the temperature dropping? 

Wait – it’s below freezing. 

Yikes! The only thing on your mind is finding ways to keep warm.

How did you not prepare for this horrible weather?  

Yes, you could’ve avoided freezing by dressing properly.

Where are your hands now? 

You guessed it. 

They have found their way down in your pockets.

And then the light bulb comes on in your brain 

You have hand warmers. 

Breathe, your life just became a bit warmer. 

How do hand warmers work?

The name explains it all. 

Here’s how they work. 

When you activate the hand warmer it, it will slowly start to produce heat. 

Most heat warmers are made to produce a rather comfortable temperature. Please don’t fear burning your hands, you can literally hold these bad boys without an issue.

Here you’ll find a more technical explanation on how hand warmers work.

Different types of hand warmers

There are different types of hand warmers that work in various ways. When hand warmers are activated, they may use one of the methods below to produce heat. 

  • Electricity
  • Lighter fuel
  • Air activation
  • Charcoal
  • Gel hand warmer (with a supersaturated solution)

Some of these are one-time use, whilst others are reusable.

Let’s quickly find out the differences:

Rechargeable Hand Warmers

These hand warmers are powered by electricity. 

You’ll find hand warmers with proprietary batteries and even those that use normal AA batteries. There are even USB hand warmers sold on the market.

Advantages of rechargeable hand warmers

  • You can use them over and over again. 
  • They do not make a huge impact on the environment
  • USB hand warmers can be charged almost anywhere. (Most patrol cars have USB ports installed in them.)
  • Depending on the size of the battery, the rechargeable hand warmers can last for a very long time before recharging is necessary.

Disadvantages of Rechargeable Hand Warmers

  • Some of the rechargeable hand heaters use proprietary chargers. 

Quick Case Study: You’re a police officer – Would you remember where you put the charger in March when you need it again in November?

  • Rechargeable hand warmers may be larger than the typical hand warmer, due to the size of the battery.
  • The battery will sooner or later become weak before it dies.
  • You have to rely on a source of electric power to charge the hand warmer..
  • It can take a long time for the batteries to recharge.

Reusable Hand Warmers

The Zippo hand warmer is the best hand warmer in my opinion
The Zippo hand warmer is the best hand warmer in my opinion

Both charcoal, lighter fueled, and chemical gel hand warmers are reusable.

However, there are a few differences between the three.

Charcoal Hand Warmers use…..Yes, charcoal. I wouldn’t recommend this type of heat warmer – as charcoal is quite dirty.  It also creates carbon monoxide which is very detrimental to your health.

Lighter Fuel Hand Warmers use the same kind of fuel as the famous Zippo lighters do. They create the heat without a visible flame. You have to fill a fuel reservoir whenever you want to use this type of lighter. An advantage of a refillable hand warmers is that they produce a substantial amount of heat and can last for hours at a time.

Gel Hand Warmers are made of a chemical solution that reacts with microscopic bits of metal. In order to reuse them, you would need to put them in boiling water after each use.

Advantages of reusable hand warmers

  • The obvious one: You can use them several times. 
  • They are inexpensive in comparison to the electrical hand warmers. 
  • Charcoal and lighter fuel hand warmers are super-easy to use and quick to refill. Depending on how much “fuel” you supply your hand heaters with, it can work for days.

Disadvantages of reusable hand warmers

  • Refilling the lighter fueled hand warmers can be messy. 
  • In order for your hand warmer to work, you have to purchase fuel. 
  • The gel hand warmers do take a long time to re-heat.
  • Lighter fuel and charcoal hand warmers typically use fossil fuel.
  • You can’t turn it off when it’s activated. It has to exhaust itself.
  • Spilling lighter fluid can be a fire hazard.

Disposable hand warmers

Disposable hand warmers are often air-activated. It is a blend of ingredients that reacts with oxygen. They are easy to bring and don’t take too much space.

Advantages of disposable hand warmers

  • Disposable hand warmers are cheap to buy.
  • Disposable hand warmers don’t take up much space. 
  • These hand warmers are long lasting and easy to use.
  • Many of these hand warmers are TSA approved which means that the hand warmers are allowed on airplanes. 

Disadvantages of disposable hand warmers

  • The disposable hand warmers are one-time use only and increase the waste in the environment.
  • If you use hand warmers often, they will become expensive with time.

Best Rechargeable Hand Warmers

Rechargeable hand warmers are great for police officers.

You can charge them as they sit in your patrol car and you never have to worry about forgetting them as long as you leave them in your car. 

I purchased the first hand warmer I saw on Amazon.com. 

Luckily, it was a great buy!

It was the brand Ocoopa H01 series. 

Of course, I haven’t tested any other electrical hand warmers, so it’s hard for me to say that these are the best ones out there.

But what I can say is that this model is more than good enough for me! I’ve used it while at work.

I can’t even count how many times I’ve brought it with me from the patrol car when I thought I was going to stay outside for hours.

Experience with the Ocoopa H01 Hand Warmer

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It lasts forever!

Well, not really. But it does last long enough to get the job done.

I typically use my hand warmer for about 3-5 hours each time. It really depends on what I’m doing.

On average, the Ocoopa 101 hand warmer will last me about 6-8 hours each use. 

I recall using this particular hand warmer on the night shift. It lasted for 11 hours! Can you imagine a hand warmer lasting for so long?  It wasn’t until the end of my shift that I noticed that the heat began to dwindle.

It was about 20 degrees Fahrenheit/-7 degrees Celsius.

But, it charges quickly enough.

I always keep it in my police car plugged in the USB outlet. So whenever I need it, it’s ready and fully charged.

The hand warmer comes with a few things in the box. Take a look at the components below:

  • 1 x hand warmer
  • USB charging cable
  • a manual
  • a silicone lanyard
  • a portable pouch

Pro Tip: You can keep it in a pocket or inside of your jacket to help you keep warm all over. With the help of a hand warmer, you don’t need much “help” to be comfortable again! No more freezing. 

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Best Reusable Hand Warmers

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Without doubt, my favorite is the Zippo heater.

Why?

Because Zippo is awesome!

Ok, let me be serious. 

There are different kinds of reusable hand warmers. You have lighter fuel warmers and have hand warmers that are heated with charcoal.

You also have hand warmers that utilize a gel/chemical solution where you snap a metal piece and the pad gets warm!

The visual effects when it heats up are awesome, but it doesn’t last very long. Although the Zippo is my favorite warmer, I would state that it’s not suitable for a police officer. The reason being is because in order for these hand warmers to be “reusable” you would have to place them in boiling water. 

Other than this hiccup, Zippo hand warmers last very long!

The Zippo hand warmers are available in two different versions. The small version lasts for about 6 hours and the larger one lasts up to 12 hours. However, they can last even longer if you bring extra fuel. I hate to sound extreme, but depending on how much fuel you bring, the Zippo hand warmer can keep you warm forever.

I’ve had a Zippo for years that I use while outside. Before I purchased the electrical hand warmer, I used the Zippo hand warmer at work.

It worked like a breeze on cold days when I put it under my police jacket.

You can see the real difference between a Zippo reusable hand warmer and an electrical hand warmer when it gets really cold out. At super low temperatures, the battery drains much faster than when it’s warmer outside. A reusable Zippo hand warmer keeps burning the same amount of fuel regardless of the temperature. 

The few drawbacks are that it can be messy when it’s time to be refueled. You will always spill a little. Trust me!

It can also be a challenge to light a Zippo Hand warmer. You will need a lighter (or a match) and you will have to apply the flame to the “catalytic burner unit” on the hand warmer for a short period of time.

If you are looking for a hand warmer that is super hot, look no further!

So let’s have a brief recap on hand warmers:

I recommend the Zippo hand warmer. They are great!

Pro Tip: To turn it off, the manual instructs you to let it burn out on a fire safe surface. However, you can actually take the catalytic top off and let it cool down and it will stop burning this way as well. 

Pro Tip 2: Don’t use it in a small space. For example, a car. 

Yes it’s flameless, but there can still be a combustion reaction and it will emit carbon monoxide. 

Yes, carbon monoxide is deadly!

To see how to use the Zippo hand warmer check out this video on Youtube:

Best Disposable Hand Warmers

Let’s talk about the best disposable hand warmers. I’ve had experience  using disposable hand warmers a few times. I bought the first one listed on Amazon (of course). 

In all honesty, I haven’t tried many brands. I haven’t even made a side by side comparison. 

The brand that I have experience with are the HotHands Hand Warmers which worked very well. It’s a safe buy and it’s not too expensive either.

They have thousands of 5 stars reviews on Amazon by other customers. Here’s a few highlights from the review section:

Pros:

  • They last long (8-10 hours)
  • Easy to use
  • Great size, fits in gloves (of course, this depends on what size you are buying)
  • It’s possible to “pause” the heating process and start it again later.
  • TSA approved. HotHands Hand warmers can be used on an airplane!

Cons: 

  • Short expiry date, it’s around 6-10 months
  • You will experience a few pairs that won’t work sometimes. Fortunately this happens rarely 

Pro Tip 

If you need to conserve warmth for about 2 hours, you can put the used hand heater in an air sealed ziplock plastic bag. Squeeze out as much air as possible before sealing the bag. This will cut off the oxygen supply and the heating process will stop. When you need the hand warmers again, just open the bag, shake the hand warmer and start using it again. 

Alternative Disposable Hand Warmers

There isn’t much of a difference between the brands. Another alternative that you’d probably be equally happy with is “>hand warmers from Little Hotties. They have just about the same quality as HotHands hand warmers.

How hot do disposable hand warmers get?

This is the question we all would like to know!  HotHands hand warmers have an average temperature of 135 degrees Fahrenheit (57 degrees Celsius) and a max temperature of160 degrees Fahrenheit (71 degrees Celsius).

So, please don’t put it directly on the skin!

Warning: Please please please don’t be the reason we have warning labels on everything! Don’t put it in the microwave oven. Hand warmers may include iron as an ingredient, this will cause it to catch fire.

Here you’ll see a few different packages of the HotHands hand warmers:

My Choice of Hand Warmers

From my professional experience, I would recommend the following options to police officers that desire to stay warm while working in cold conditions: 

  • The Zippo hand warmer
  • The Ocoopa H01 electrical hand warmer

Both of these work great while working in cold conditions. They are easy to use and can keep you warm throughout your shift. 

Hand Warmers Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

How do you activate the hand warmer?

  • To activate your electrical hand warmers you have to turn it on using the ON/OFF button. 
  • To activate your disposable hand warmer you have to take it out of its package, expose it to air and give it a shake. It will begin to heat and will work in full in about 15-20 minutes.
  • To activate your reusable gel hand warmer you will need to “pop” the metal piece inside the package. This will start the chemical reaction which is needed to heat it up.
  • To activate your reusable charcoal or lighter fuel hand warmer you will need to fill it with the right fuel/charcoal and be prepared to use a lighter. Please review the instructions that came along with the hand warmer so that you activate it correctly.

How long do hand warmers last?

  • Electrical hand warmers last for about 6-15 hours. It really depends on the battery size, environment, temperature, and heating level.
  • Disposable hand warmers last for about 10-20 hours depending on the size.
  • Reusable gel hand warmers last for about 1-3 hours depending on size.
  • Reusable Zippo or lighter fueled hand warmers last for about 12 hours.
  • Reusable Charcoal hand warmers last for about 4 hours. However, you can light up the charcoal stick on both ends. This will half the time the hand heater lasts.

How hot do hand warmers get?

  • Electrical hand warmers are often between 95 to 131 degrees Fahrenheit/35 to 55 degrees Celsius.
  • Disposable hand warmers are about 135 to 160 degrees Fahrenheit/57 to 71 degrees Celsius.
  • Reusable gel hand warmers gets up to 130 degrees Fahrenheit/55 degrees Celsius
  • Zippo or lighter fueled hand warmers will vary in heat depending on how much oxygen it gets. Around 100 degrees Fahrenheit/38 degrees Celsius is a fair average.
  • Charcoal hand warmers: I haven’t tried them so I really don’t know. I’ve searched online, but can’t find it anywhere. If you have experience using the charcoal hand warmers, please reach out to us and we will update our information for our readers.

How long do hand warmers last unopened?

I suppose you’re thinking of the disposable ones? 

Disposable hand warmers should last for about 3 years after production. Many of these disposable hand warmers would have been in storage for some time before being purchased- thus, leaving you with at least a  lifespan of 2 years to enjoy your hand warmer.

How to dispose of hand warmers?

I’ve used my hand warmer, now what do I do with this used hand warmer?

You have to dispose them properly:

  • Disposable hand warmers go in your everyday garbage. They are made of ingredients that won’t harm the environment.
  • Electrical hand warmers are delivered for electronic recycling 
  • Reusable gel hand warmers go in your everyday garbage, just like the disposable hand warmers.

What are hand warmers made of?

The ingredients in disposable hand warmers are:

  • Iron
  • Water
  • Activated carbon
  • Vermiculite
  • Cellulose
  • Salt

All of these ingredients are environmentally friendly. They won’t hurt the environment or you.

Are hand warmers safe?

Yes- when used properly most hand warmers are safe.

There’s always a slight chance of production malfunction, as with all products.

Using Zippo/lighter fuel heated hand warmers and charcoal hand warmers might be a bit more risky than the other alternatives. 

This is due to the fact that you are burning the fuel to get heat. However, the chances are small that something will catch fire. Be sure to not leave them unattended and packed inside something that can catch fire and you’re safe.

Electronic hand warmers are safe in general, but a short circuit may occur and possibly catch fire. But what are the chances of that actually happening? 

There is a high safety factor on these devices, so the chance of an electronic hand warmer exploding is low to almost none. Please be mindful of where you shop while purchasing your hand warmers and stick to well-known brands.

A hand warmer, whether it’s reusable or disposable, can cause injury/burns. People have been experiencing something called toasted skin syndrome using hand warmers. To avoid this please read (and follow) the instructions for the hand warmers you’ve purchased and you’ll be fine. 

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