Monday, October 22, 2018

Cheap Gear Review: Zippo Hand Warmers

Winter is Coming, or at least that's what I've been told, by people who read a lot of epic fantasy.

Be that as it may, I live in a chilly climate in the Rocky Mountains, especially this time of year. I have plenty of history to draw upon for stories of people who have literally frozen to death while crossing through the area I live in, brave tales of losing fingers to frostbite adorn the plaques at local parks, and there is quite literally a statue that memorializes a group of individuals who saved many others by taking them across a frozen river and later dying of related injuries.

On the other hand, I get irritated when my hands are cold while I'm at a soccer game. But I don't like spending money on disposable hand warmers, so of course I went ahead and spent $28 on reusable Zippo hand warmers. Note that this is $14 per warmer, not per set!

Now in my defense, at the time I bought these I was working outdoor construction during the winter. Having owned them for a couple of years, they've only saved me a few dollars overall, but I still think they were worth it.

I'm going to compare the Zippo to the more standard, disposable hand warmers everyone is familiar with.

Standard Hand Warmers vs. Zippo: Cons
  • They are not reusable. This means that the cost really does add up after a  time,  especially if you’re in a very cold climate and/or have to be outdoors a great deal. 
  • They have a relatively short lifespan. They are good for a number of years while still in the package, but once they are open they only last for about four hours. If you’re attending a soccer game, that’s great; if you're working overseeing a construction crew, that’s a pain in the butt.
  • Standard hand warmers are not refuelable. This is another variant on  “not reusable”, but instead of a cost in dollars, it’s a cost of space. The amount of fuel that my Zippo hand warmer requires takes up notably less space than a single packet of disposable hand warmers, and those are already fairly small.
  • Refillable hand warmers can get hotter than standard ones. Mine actually comes with a little pouch for it that allows you to restrict how much airflow it gets, allowing you to keep it burning for longer and a little bit cooler, but you don’t have to. I have actually handed mine to someone who stuffed it down the front of their shirt in order to keep their torso warm,  which does a much better job at than a traditional hand warmer.

Standard Hand Warmers vs. Zippo: Pros
  • They are smaller than the Zippo, and thus easier to stick inside a glove or similar. 
  • They're cheaper if you don’t use hand warmers a lot.
  • They don’t require you to fuel them. You open them, shake them, and use them. 
  • They store well. They take up only a fairly small amount of space and are very light. 
  • They aren't expensive.
  • They are flexible. This is the biggest advantage that I've found to this type. The Zippo style of reusable hand warmer cannot be slid into place in a boot as easily or comfortably as a traditional disposable. .
  • The Zippo catalyst eventually wears out, and you have to replace it. I haven't had this happen yet, but it does eventually happen. 
All that said…

My Zippo hand warmers have lasted me for six years, and I tend to break them out at least once a winter. I’m not outdoors as much, or at least not for work, but I am out and about just often enough to regret it not bringing the hand warmers out of storage. They're nice for when I'm outdoors all day; if I'm outdoors for less than two hours, they really aren’t worth the effort.

Rating: 4/5
If you live in a very cold climate, I seriously recommend looking into getting a Zippo hand warmer due to the savings from it being reusable. If you already use a Zippo lighter, the hand warmers even use the same fuel, which simplifies your logistics.

If you live in a less-cold environment where you only need hand warmers a few times every winter, then use disposable ones instead.

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