Help for operating in cold weather - Hand warmers.

I’ve marshalled on fellraces in some foul conditions. The task involved writing down runner’s numbers so cold hands weren’t helpful. Sometimes it looked like I’d written the numbers down with my feet.

The dodge I found was to either get myself inside a small bivi shelter/ kissu with my back to the weather. I’d wear my sack on my back to avoid direct contact with the bivi material. With just my head poking out a little bit of a warming fug could be generated. Failing this I’d just keep my hands inside a large clear polythene bag so my hands were out of the wind.

I’ve never got on with hand warmers but concentrate on good insulation from below the elbow through to the knuckles. (Wrists, ankles & neck are very vascular at the surface, a great cause of loss of heat). Long warm socks with the end snipped off do the job. Add to that some mitts that convert to fingerless gloves seems to aid retaining warmth.


I think you make a very good point there @MW7IOL . We can often give too much attention to the problem - cold hands in this case - and try and remedy it there rather than concentrating on what is causing the problem.



There is a lot of heat lost from the forearms. In summer rolling up my sleeves is a good way of keeping cool

And for those of us that suffer from Raynaud’s Syndrome, in winter the issue of adequate insulation goes further… right to the finger ends. Fingerless gloves are useless for me. I found a partial solution in medication - Nifedipine, on prescription of course. I’ve noted a significant improvement after taking this medication and my fingers no longer go white and painful. The key is to get set up quickly and use full gloves for operating, but these cannot be too thick as sending CW with the likes of ski gloves is nigh impossible.

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You have my sympathy, it’s a real bind for outdoors people. I climbed with a friend who had Raynaud’s and even in summer, if there was a drop in temperature, his fingers could go a shocking white. We had some “interesting” retreats on one or two routes.

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Indeed, it used to happen getting a bottle of milk out of the fridge, but thanks to medication that is in the past. You can imagine how dire my CW has been on occasions. At least with a straight key I could resort to thumping it. :joy:


I also use those Hakkin (or Hakukin or Peacock) hand warmers for SOTA and some POTA. I used to bring three for SOTA before started using a bothy bag. The largest one is not sold in Japan, but for export only. That is the best size for SOTA, in my experience. The platinum catalyst used by this brand is also much more reliable than other brands. I use these with lighter fuel (Ronsonol, Zippo or the like).

When I calculated based on the exact amount of fuel in the hand warmer and the heat generated, the largest Peacock handwarmer generated a bit more than 10W of heat for 12+ hours. That’s a LOT more than what you get from disposable hand warmers. It is a lot lighter and smaller than a 100Wh battery, as well. Sometimes, old technology is superior.

The downside of these platinum catalyzed hand warmers is that they need a lighter to start (there is no flame in the unit during operation, just need high temp to start the catalysis, which is self-sustaining) and so it may not be as easy to turn on and off frequently. I pre-fill the fuel in advance and light them at the summits. I used to light them at the trailhead but then the ascent gets too warm not to mention wasting a few milliliters of lighter fluid. Turning off these units is easy. You can remove the catalyst from the fuel reservoir, or just chill the whole thing on snow directly, or deprive oxygen by putting in a sealed bag.

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Okay Paul, that pic wins the daily “whooha”, hard as nails pic of the day. Hat’s office.

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