Practical Prepper

Is This Simple Survival Tool a Cure For the Cold Weather Blues?



Fighting the effects of cold weather on the body is difficult especially when you're outdoors in winter. If you can't get out of the cold, check this out.

Staying Warm in Cold Weather Conditions

Your body is a machine, and just like your car or computer, it runs best when it can maintain its operating temperature. When the weather turns cold and your body is exposed to the elements, it goes into overdrive to keep you idling along.

If you're not careful you quickly begin losing more heat than you can generate and fall prey to hypothermia.

Hypothermia: Know the Signs

Common causes of hypothermia include:

  • Being outside without enough protective clothing in winter
  • Falling overboard from a boat into cold water
  • Wearing wet clothing in windy or cold weather
  • Heavy exertion, not drinking enough fluids, or not eating enough in cold weather

As people develop hypothermia, they slowly lose the ability to think and move. In fact, they may even be unaware that they need emergency treatment. Someone with hypothermia also is likely to have frostbite.

Signs of hypothermia include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Weakness and loss of coordination
  • Pale and cold skin
  • Confusion
  • Uncontrollable shivering (although at extremely low body temperatures, shivering may stop)
  • Slowed breathing or heart rate

Effects of Hypothermia

Lethargy, cardiac arrest, shock, and coma can set in without prompt treatment. Hypothermia can be fatal. As you move through the different stages of hypothermia, your body will attempt to protect your vital organs and begin to shut down the circulation to your extremities.

If you want to get an example of what this feels like, sink your hand into a bucket of ice water for a few minutes and then try to touch your thumb to your pinky finger. This is a major concern when you need to get a fire going. No dexterity in your fingers=no fire. Basically anything that you can do to maintain your body temperature will drastically increase your survival chances, not to mention make it that much more comfortable for you.

A New Survival Tool

Luckily, modern technology has taken a step in the right direction and created a survival tool that is most widely known as a creature comfort at football games. Can you guess what it is?

I'm talking about the common hand-warmer.

I've kept a few of these in my car for times when my hands got cold, but I had never really thought about them as a survival tool, until I read this great test and review from “Riverwalker.”

Check it out below:

With the arrival of colder weather, many people will rely on hand warmers and foot warmers for an additional measure of protection against the elements. Knowing your gear will perform as necessary is essential to your survival. Here’s a simple test that was done on a random sample of hand warmers and foot warmers to see if they would actually perform as stated on the package.

These came from the local “Wally World” and were a package that was lying on the floor. So there was a possibility of the packaging being damaged, although there was none that was obvious.

The ingredients in the foot warmers was basically the same and consisted of iron powder, water, salt, activated charcoal and vermiculite. One package of foot warmers (Toastie Toes) did list potassium chloride as an ingredient instead of salt. The warmers are packaged inside a small Mylar bag and the pouch was extremely sturdy as well. It didn't tear easily but did puncture quite easily with a sharp pointy object, my Gerber STL.

The temperature range for the foot warmers was listed as 100 to 105 degrees and the temperature range for the hand warmers was listed as 126 to 144 degrees. There was also a warning that the temperatures may get as high as 165 degrees but none of the packages tested exceeded 145 degrees.

The packages listed a date code that gave them approximately a two (2) year shelf life.

Pretty good for something that only cost $1.97 for a package of six foot warmers.

The claim of up to 10 hours of heat from a package was affirmed. All the packages that were tested lasted in excess of 10 hours and a couple of packages were still reading temperatures in the 110 to 115 degree range after more than 10 hours.

The warmers were also tested for actual warming ability by using a boot lace that was handy (can boot laces be handy?) and tying a couple of pouches on a container of water that was 55 degrees which was the current ambient temperature outside.

Click here to continue reading Riverwalker's review.

A Survival Solution?

After I read this review I realized just how important these little foil bags could be in a situation. When you're in a stressful environment, anything you can do to give yourself a bit of comfort can give you a huge morale boost. And that just may save your life.

So what do you think? Do you carry these hand-warmers in your BOB now? Will you, after reading this?

Want more tips? Check out these great articles on our site:

The Ultimate Guide to Winter Storm Survival

Stay Warm in the Winter | How to Heat Your Home

That’s One Way To Keep Warm… | Winter Survival Tips

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  1. donna

    November 8, 2013 at 10:05 AM

    I live in Montana. Winters here are cold. I’m going to obtain and maintain a case of these (or maybe two cases) in my truck. Why? because several days supply of these may be necessary to wait it out until the snowplows arrive. 🙂

  2. equineshepherd

    November 8, 2013 at 10:37 AM

    I do not spend money on hand/foot warmers…we use Cayenne Pepper in the toes of our socks and tips of our gloves (just don’t rub your eyes). Working in Wilderness Search and Rescue, Cayenne Pepper has saved many a lives and has many medicinal uses, as well. It is light weight and the best hand/foot warmer that lasts for days.

  3. arja

    November 9, 2013 at 1:45 AM

    Never heard abouth using Cayenne Pepper as warmer. Very interesting!
    Tell me please do You use them whole?
    I live in Finland and we have cold and extended winters(4-5 months in South Finland and Northern parth of Finland 7 months).

  4. Boomerweps

    January 31, 2015 at 9:26 AM

    You can also seal the hand warmers in a ziplock (press NOT zipper type) bag to stop the oxygen access when no longer needed and then reuse the bag one and sometimes two times for an hour at a time. Not quite as hot but still warming.

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