Hand warmers face off in a very scientific freezer test.
Hand warmers face off in a very scientific freezer test. (Photo: Joe Jackson)
Gear Guy

What Are the Best Hand Warmers?

5 of the most popular brands designed for playing in the mountains in a head-to-head test

Hand warmers face off in a very scientific freezer test.

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Hand warmers—those small, usually disposable packets that provide on-demand heat—come in five main varieties, including some that run on charcoal and lighter fuel. The three most commons types you’ll see on the slopes are either air-activated, use a supersaturated solution, or are battery-powered.

All three can last anywhere from one to 10 hours. That’s a pretty broad range, and we wanted to find out which of these five popular hand warmers was the warmest and most useful for playing in the mountains. Here are our results, ranked. 

The Test

The first part of the test was performed indoors. We activated the hand warmers, and then stuffed each into a basic leather ski glove. After 15 minutes, we measured the temperature inside the glove. We then left the gloves—stuffed with the hand warmer and a wool sock for insulation—in a 30-degree freezer. Every 30 minutes for two hours, we used a meat thermometer to take the temperature of the hand warmer.

5. Grabber Hand Warmers (From $1.50 Per Pair)

hand warmers gear gear guy test review
(Joe Jackson)

Product: Grabbers, ubiquitous at ski areas around the country, are the classic air-activated hand warmers. Tear open the plastic package, vigorously shake the little bags, and wait less than five minutes for them to warm up. At 2 by 3.5 inches, they fit perfectly in the palm of your ski gloves.

Temperature at 15 minutes: 98 degrees
Temperature at 30 minutes: 90 degrees
Temperature at 60 minutes: 82 degrees
Temperature at 90 minutes: 71 degrees
Temperature at 120 minutes: 57 degrees

Verdict: Grabber claims its regular-size hand warmers last more than seven hours. That isn’t quite right, at least according to our test. The temperature of these hand warmers declined precipitously during two hours in the freezer. You can expect to get about an hour and a half of real warmth from the package before the temperature drops too much to make a difference for your digits.

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4. DryGuy GreenHeat ($40)

hand warmers gear guy test review
(Joe Jackson)

Product: You recharge this electronic hand warmer via USB. (Expect it to take about 65 minutes to fully power up.) Unlike classic hand warmers designed to nest in the palm of a glove, the GreenHeat looks like a medium-size candy bar that you grip in your hands. I couldn’t use these hand warmers for skiing—or any other activity where I needed my hands—because they barely fit in my gloves, but I’d recommend them for après or mellow hiking. It also doubles as a power bank for on-the-go smartphone charging. Nice touch: The GreenHeat comes with a knitted case that’s cozier on your palms than plastic.

Temperature at 15 minutes: 89 degrees
Temperature at 30 minute: 84 degrees
Temperature at 60 minutes: 81 degrees
Temperature at 90 minutes: 81 degrees
Temperature at 120 minutes: 80 degrees

Verdict: The GreenHeat never got hot (it was initially nine degrees cooler than even the Grabbers), but we have to give it credit for maintaining steady warmth. After two hours, the hand warmer was at 80 degrees, enough to keep your hands from freezing on a cold night.

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3. Yaktrax Hand Warmers ($2 Per Pair)

hand warmers gear guy test review
(Joe Jackson)

Product: Like Grabbers and HotHands, Yaktrax Hand Warmers are air-activated. Also like the other two, they fit nicely in your palm and make a great addition to a ski glove on a cold day.

Temperature at 15 minutes: 102 degrees
Temperature at 30 minutes: 101 degrees
Temperature at 60 minutes: 84 degrees
Temperature at 90 minutes: 84 degrees
Temperature at 120 minutes: 83 degrees

Verdict: The Yaktrax Hand Warmers were some of the warmest we tested (102 degrees right out of the gate), but that temperature dropped quickly during the first 45 minutes in the freezer. It leveled out at 83 degrees—enough to keep your hands warm, if not toasty. Bonus: These are the official hand warmers of the U.S. ski team.

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2. HotSnapZ ($12 Per Pair)

hand warmers gear guy test review
(Joe Jackson)

Product: HotSnapZ makes reusable hand warmers that generate heat with a supersaturated solution of sodium acetate. The result: a heart-shaped packet that gets warm very quickly and can be reset hundreds of times. Just drop the activated warmer into boiling water to return the solution to a liquid.

This would have been our clear favorite if it came in a smaller size. As is, HotSnapZ are too big to fit comfortably inside a glove while gripping a ski pole, but they would work well for hiking or outdoor concerts.

Temperature at 15 minutes: 107 degrees
Temperature at 30 minutes: 93 degrees
Temperature at 60 minutes: 81 degrees
Temperature at 90 minutes: 64 degrees
Temperature at 120 minutes: 47 degrees

Verdict: HotSnapZ got the hottest in the shortest amount of time. Granted, that heat didn’t last long—they were cool after less than two hours in the freezer—but we still really liked this product. Our favorite part: the reusability.

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1. HotHands Hand Warmers (From $1 Per Pair)

hand warmers gear guy test review
(Joe Jackson)

Product: These classic air-activated hand warmers dominated our test. About the same size as the Grabber and Yaktrax products, the rectangular HotHands easily fit in our gloves while skiing.

Temperature at 15 minutes: 103 degrees
Temperature at 30 minutes: 103 degrees
Temperature at 60 minutes: 101 degrees
Temperature at 90 minutes: 100 degrees
Temperature at 120 minutes: 100 degrees

Verdict: HotHands kicked ass on this test. They got hot very quickly and stayed hot after two hours in the freezer. They’re also the least expensive single-use option on this list.

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Lead Photo: Joe Jackson

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