I’ve never been one for using these myself as I tend to run warm. So when we got our hands on a couple of these to review, and night time astrophotography being a blossoming new interest, we could finally see some use for them.
First and foremost, I’m a firm believer in taking kit that’s suited to the conditions and activity undertaken. If you’re walking under normal conditions, then in this instance the use of something like Hothands would suggest either your gloves aren’t good enough or you’ve got some sort of circulatory issues. As I’m active, I keep warm and stop for as little time as possible. No problem!
However, undertaking night time photography requires you to hang about in the cold for a significant amount of time. While I normally run warm, I find it difficult to keep warm when I’m inactive for a period of time and a couple of these helps warm the hands back up after doing some minor adjustments on the camera. This is the same if you’re out doing any sort of cold weather (in)activity which isn’t particularly strenuous. That goes from belaying to bird watching to watching the rugby. As an aside, they’re often used to keep photographic lenses warm and to prevent them from fogging up for long night exposures.
The second use for these is as an emergency item. You may have the best gloves, but for some reason you’ve had to spend much more time with your hands out of them than you’d like. Perhaps changing a MTB tyre, fixing a pack strap or just trying to get that bearing on the compass spot on. In those instances, an emergency heat pack like this would help get those fingers warmed back up again. In my experience, very cold hands are usually difficult to warm back up, regardless of using top of the range gloves.
They activate simply by opening the packet and exposing the little bag to air, which couldn’t be simpler. They claim to keep warm for 10 hours, but we used them in sub zero conditions and got around seven hours, which we thought was still rather good going. Tryfan was quite glad of the warmth these gave on a freezing cold winter trip, and begrudgingly, so was I. After messing about with crampons, or the DSLR they do provide a bit of welcome comfort I’ll have to admit.
The bottom line is if they get warm enough to be effective and last long enough as well. A definite yes on both counts. The only question is whether you buy one of these or the reusable ones.