When I first laid eyes on the Whitby & Co Hand Warmer, at an outdoor show, I thought it was a novelty Zippo lighter. It has that familiar shape with slightly rounder edges, and what looks like a flip-top lid. But, whilst you do fill it with the same lighter fluid, there’s one crucial difference (well, one aside from the size) in that the Hand Warmer has to be lit by a separate lighter (or match).
Cracking open the lid of the Hand Warmer you reveal a ‘wick’ of dense fibres which look a bit like loft-insulation encased in a metal cage. There’s also a small black-rubber clad hole into which you drain – by way of the supplied cup – a measure of lighter fluid which I’d guess to be around 50ml.
Once filled with the flammable stuff, your warmer is ready to light with a match or lighter before you stride off into the cold. Holding a flame underneath the burner creates a small flame which fairly quickly goes out and leaves a sort of glowing ember that you then safely enclose under the Hand Warmer’s lid. It takes a few minutes to get hot, but once it’s going it fairly rapidly becomes warm, and then hot to the touch. For safety reasons, Whitby supply a small fleece bag into which the Hand Warmer slides. It goes against all logic, placing a lit ember inside a fleecy bag, but it does work.
The Hand Warmer stays hot for up to 12 hours, which is a full day on the hills with something to warm your chilly fingers in your pocket. A brilliant little invention, but one that’s not so easy to stop being hot when you’re home and warm. In fact, according to the instructions, there is no way to put the Hand Warmer out! You just need to place it on a non-flammable surface and wait for it to run out of fuel. Fine if you’re at home but not so good if you’re camping in the wilds.
The burner fibre will last for an impressive 90 cycles of 12 hours each, which by my reckoning is an entire winter. You can then replace the burner head very easily.
SUMMARY: Very alluring and cheap to run heat source which could save you from chilly fingers. Burns a long time with only a moderate amount of fuel. Inability to extinguish it could be a potential problem, but still it’s preferable to chemical hand warmers for longevity of use.