Warm Hands, Charged Batteries — Electrically Heated Hunter’s Hands

Driving across the Ross Ice Field

The Ross Ice Field, as cold as the back bleachers in November. National Science Foundation photo by Kelly Speelman.

One trait I wish I had inherited from the Indian side of the family is “hunter’s hands,”the natural ability some Native Americans have that overrides the body’s tendency to withdraw blood from the hands and feet in extreme cold. People with hunter’s hands can work without gloves in very cold conditions, and their hands stay warm and agile.

In cold weather, my unprotected hands turn into icy, clumsy, crude appendages good for pawing and pounding at things but useless for detail work. I’ve experimented with training for the hunter’s hands trick, having read about someone who claimed to have taught his own hands to do this, but so far my hands refuse the lesson. I’m stuck with wearing gloves, like most people.

The Aleuts and Eskimos I’ve met never mentioned having hunter’s hands and although they might have had that trait, I get the impression it’s not all that the arctic explorers made it out to be. No matter what your ancestry, your hands will freeze solid in the worst situations. Watching a show about fishermen in Alaska recently, I noticed that the guys on the boat who had hunter’s hands were also working hard. If you’re just standing and filming instead of hauling in nets, your hands get cold faster. Many of our modern pursuits present us with that same situation, a lack of warming exertion even though we feel we’re busy. Sit in a deer stand for a couple of frosty hours or pilot a snowmobile for any distance and you need some extra heat. Ordinary gloves won’t do it, whether you’re racing across virgin snow at high speeds or sitting on the bleachers in an outdoor stadium watching the game.

Electrically heated gloves warm your hands whether you’re active or not, heating critical parts of your mitts with hidden flexible filaments. If you’re a motorcyclist or snowmobiler you can get heated gloves and other items of clothing that run off your machine’s 12-volt power supply, giving you protective warmth as long as the fuel and the battery hold out. If you’re a hunter, skier or sports fan, you need dependable battery-power built into the gloves themselves.

Best Bets

Gerbing’s Core S2 gloves run for about two hours at their highest setting, but a built-in controller allows the user to reduce heating power and turn the gloves on and off. With an energy-conscious approach, Gerbing’s claims you can get a full day’s use from these gloves, but if you’re an energy-hog and run the batteries down, you’ll need to plug the removable lithium-ion batteries into their charger for three to five hours. Carry extra batteries if you think two hours on high heat isn’t enough.

Columbia’s Bugaglove Max Electric Gloves won National Geographic Adventure’s Fall and Winter “Gear of the Year” award for 2011. The Bugaglove offers lithium-ion flat-pack battery power, three heat settings and continuous heating for from two to four hours on a single charge. Columbia’s Omni-Heat thermal reflective dot linings reflect body heat back to your hands, boosting the Bugaglove’s heating potential without adding weight.

If you don’t feel like spending a few hundred bucks on gloves this winter, there are cheaper choices, but less expensive electrically heated gloves often don’t perform well. For an inexpensive and reliable alternative, try heat packs instead. Heat Factory’s ragg-wool Pop-Top gloves hold a heat packet in a pouch sewn into the front of the fold-back mitten top. Flip the top back to work with bare fingers and flip it forward over your fingers for a quick warm-up. Heat-Max heat packs pressure-activate and heat continuously for about ten hours. Buy in bulk, and one pair of Heat-Max hand warmer heat packs costs about 50 cents.

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About JTHats

Avid backpacker and outdoorsman with old skills and interests in old ways of doing things; equally fascinated by electronics, from the days of Sputnik, to the Zilog Z80A, to the present day of black box circuitry. Sixty years of experience with growing my own food and living simply. Certified electronics technician, professional woodturner, woodcarver, and graduate of two military survival courses — Arctic and Jungle.

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