Wave goodbye to frigid digits

Winter walks are made more comfortable with a hand warmer. Types of hand warmer include:

  • electric rechargeable
  • sealed pouches
  • charcoal
  • air activated
  • catalytic

The sealed pouches contain a supersaturated solution which crystallizes, producing an exothermic reaction, when a metal disc floating inside is clicked. After use, they can be reactivated by placing them in boiling water for about 20 minutes. They do warm up quite nicely, and the process of crystallization is interesting to watch. However, the heat lasts only about 20 minutes, and the reactivation process is a bit inconvenient.

This post is about the Whitby Hand Warmer, which is the catalytic type; a flameless pocket heater running on liquid fuel intended for wick-based cigarette lighters. It comes with a fleece pouch and a small swan-necked fuel measure.

Whitby Hand Warmer

One full measure, approximately 10g of lighter fluid, lasts for up to 12 hours, but there is also a half measure mark. Adding fuel is simply a matter of removing the top half of the warmer to reveal the catalytic ‘burner’ and a small round black rubber bung. Contrary to the printed instructions, there is no need to remove the bung, as it has a self-sealing slit which opens when the swan-neck filling tube is inserted.

To light the hand warmer, you apply a flame to the burner for several seconds. This takes a little practice, as there is no visual indication that the combustion process has started. Do not be tempted to apply liquid fuel to the burner itself to get it going, as this is likely to damage the catalyst.

Whitby Hand Warmer body

Replace the top half of the warmer and place it in the fleece pouch. This is important, because too much available oxygen will cause an undesirable increase in temperature.

The instructions say that there is no easy way to stop combustion, but I have found that placing it in a small plastic zip-lock bag does the trick, as it is quickly starved of oxygen.

The catalytic burner has a claimed lifetime of 90 x 12 hours use, after which it can be replaced with a new one.

Filling bung and 'burner'

There are many similar makes of flameless hand warmers available, but I chose the British company Whitby because I was unsure of the quality of more generic look-alikes, some of which lack the rubber bung and have to be filled by removing the catalytic burner each time.

I am very pleased with my purchase, and won’t set out on a winter walk without it!

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