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Monday 5 February 2024

Hand Warmer

This solid-fuel pocket hand warmer has been at the back of a drawer, unused for forty years. I thought it was something from the past, but surprisingly you can still buy them. I bought mine around 1973. 


It consists of a small insulated metal case that fits in the palm of your hand and burns solid carbon fuel rods. They were mainly for climbers but I used it on wild camping trips in the Scottish Highlands when it was cold enough to freeze water inside the tent. It warns not to use it in bed, but I did. It was great for warming up your toes at the end of your sleeping bag. I could have died of carbon monoxide poisoning. 

I fired it up for one last time.

These days you can buy chemical hand warmers small enough to fit in a glove or sock. They look like tea bags. Apparently, they are not that warm and don't last very long. Mine gets quite warm and lasts all night. The only trouble is it makes you smell like you have been standing on a railway bridge above the funnel of a steam engine.

It's too nice to throw away. I'll put it back in the drawer for someone else to deal with. The kids won't use it. They are scared of matches. 

Upper Glen Nevis, 1975

36 comments:

  1. I have never seen a solid fuel handwarmer before. That's pretty neat. We bought Jon-E handwarmers for the boys to use during hunting season. They used a liquid fuel. The ones that I love best are the hotsnapz. They are filled with a gel. There is a metal piece that you snap inside, and it starts a chemical reaction that generates heat. You boil them when you are finished and they are reverted to their gel form and read to use again. I had a set for years, but I didn't use them a great deal. They finally were unable to be regenerated.

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    1. I was surprised to see the solid fuel ones still available on the internet. There seem to be a lot of other types too. I've no idea about the pros and cons of each type.

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  2. I have my own handwarmers. They are called gloves. They do not exude carbon monoxide.

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    1. Gloves may not be as effective for those who are not well covered, or have poor circulation, or need to use their hands outside. I suppose you to be more careful about hydrogen sulphide than carbon monoxide.

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  3. I would trust the modern ones over that relic any day. There's "best before dates" on everything.

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    1. As mentioned, you can still buy these, exactly the same. I never had concerns about their safety.

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  4. You just made me think. A lot of young people will have never experienced a fire, be it from a match, a lit in home fire or an outside fire. Perhaps their only exposure is lighting birthday candles. There are gas cooking tops but here at least, generally you can't buy new gas appliances and new homes are not connected to gas.

    The readily available handwarmers here work after exposure to the air after removing them from their sealed packets. They get quite hot and can last for up to 24 hours.

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    1. Even the smokers use electronic vapes! Do the modern ones really last 24 hours? Even the large microwave gel "hot water" bottles go cool after a few hours.

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  5. I have two and used them a few weeks ago, one in each pocket. I have had them for over 40 years. Very necessary when you have horses! Su

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    1. I think they are good, too, but they do give off a smoky smell.

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    2. I have never really noticed the smell when closed but then it is competing with many other stronger smells!

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  6. I suppose I'm with the glove brigade, fingerless mittens are good for round the house. To be honest your gas warmer looks a bit dangerous (and toxic) would it set your clothes alight for a start.

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    1. The charcoal burns very slowly inside the sealed metal case, so could not set light to clothing (or a sleeping bag). I don't think they are inherently dangerous.

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  7. I've never had any other handwarmers than gloves, and most of the time, they keep my hands sufficiently warm when standing around on freezing platforms waiting for delayed trains. But then I do not work outdoors or go on camping trips in inclement weather.
    O.K. tells me that many of his fellow musicians have insoles for their boots that are supposed to warm up when you remove them from the package; useful to keep relatively warm when they perform at a Christmas market or something like that. But apparently, they can make your feet so warm they get all sweaty, and when the soles cool off, you stand in cold, wet feet - not very good health-wise.

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    1. I have that problem sometimes with warm socks. They can actually make your feet cold! I find fingerless gloves leave my fingers freezing cold. Maybe I have slow circulation. The oedema caused by the medicine I take is challenging because it is in effect like having cold water bags strapped around your arms and legs.

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  8. I've always wondered about those but never used them. I don't go anywhere where there are extremes of temperature!

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    1. They can be useful in ordinary winter use for those that have cold hands.

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  9. I would call in the bomb disposal squad as soon as you can Tasker.

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    1. Vegetarians should avoid the bomb disposal squad.

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  10. The railway preservation train spotters friend. Anglers would like them I bet?

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    1. That sounds like the voice of experience. Can you not get nearer to the locomotives?

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  11. I've never seen such a thing - as kids on our way to school, we used baked potatoes for handwarmers (and lunch)

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    1. What a good idea. You can't beat the old ways.

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  12. Wow, that looks impressive - and a bit dangerous... I only know those hand warmers you can buy nowadays, but have never used one.
    To sleep in a tent where the temperature is so low that water freezes inside: adventure. A non-cozy one - but I think: unforgettable. You really left your comfort-zone!

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    1. We never thought about comfort zones. We only thought we were like Himalayan mountaineers. Of course, Chris Bonington did not expect his mum to do his washing when he got back home.

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  13. That's a heck of a choice---freeze to death, get frostbite or die from carbon monoxide poisoning. Glad that you didn't actually face any of those outcomes on Ben Nevis. Mary

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    1. I don't think there was really much chance of CO poisoning from that little bit of charcoal. Maybe I exaggerated it.

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  14. I have never seen anything like that. But then, I'm not much of a cold-weather camper. (Or warm-weather, for that matter!) I must admit the prospect of CO poisoning gives me pause, even if it's very remote. Did you buy it used at a boot sale? I'm seeing the handwritten price tag.

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    1. I bought it new at the famous NevisSport outdoor shop at Fort William. Such were the prices and price taks in those days.

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  15. I was studying that gadget a little closer. I was trying to figure out how it got oxygen to maintain its 'burn'. Tasker! Is that thing lined with ASBESTOS????

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    1. Carbon burns without or with very little oxygen, like underground peat. Hence I think it will give off CO rather than CO2. You have to blow on it to give it a good start. I blew to get the red glow. It seems to be lined with glass wool. What's the betting you are going to send away for one?

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  16. Eeeh. Scared the mess out of me. Wandering off to read about glass wool.

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    1. Which, as it turns out, is fiber glass which we use today.

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    2. It is fixed firmly in place.

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    3. Interesting. Gadgets intrigue me. But no. I'm not going to run out and buy one. This guy over in the UK has one in a drawer he's not using.... : D

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