Today, only having a power bank to charge your phone or Garmin device while cycling seems to be a waste. Combining it with a hand warmer that can be used when you get back to the car to warm your hands or when your cycling partner is fixing their bike in the cold is a sensible idea.
I’ve used one for the last two years, not just through winter but all year round. They’re especially great for keeping your electronic device topped up with power so you can use them all day on a long ride.
Types of Handwarmer
At the end of the ’90s, you only really had one type to choose that was a catalyst. You selected a fuel type solid or liquid, then set it alight to produce heat in something you can carry.
Speed up 20 years, and the choices in type, colour, size, and style seem to be endless. The catalyst hand warmers are still around, but now you have single-use chemical pouches and electronic rechargeable hand warmers.
With the advances in nanotechnology and battery technology, it’s become possible to produce a rechargable hand warmer that you can take anywhere. Some devices are better than others, but essentially, they’ll do the same job warming your hands and recharging your electronic devices while out and about.
Rechargeable Battery Hand Warmers
These are more versatile than the catalyst and chemical hand warmers in that they give you a temperature range option when used. The other two types only produce a single temperature once activated.
The electric hand warmers have a significant advantage over the other two types on the market because they also double up as power banks. They enable you to charge your phone while on the move; this is a good thing if you’re on a long ride and using your phone to follow a pre-planned route.
If you’re somebody who suffers from the cold during those winter training rides, these devices can also power a heated gilet. Another plus is it uses a standard USB connection. I’m looking to test a vest version this winter.
These devices have a higher initial expense upfront but work out cheaper in the long run as you don’t have to keep buying the catalyst fuel.
The downside to using a rechargeable hand warmer that I’ve found is that they don’t last as long as the catalyst hand warmers, and if you forget to charge the device, they don’t work at all.
Catalyst Hand Warmers
These hand warmers are rechargeable once you’ve replaced the fuel they use. The most common one found is the Zippo hand warmer. You fill the hand warmer up with lighter fuel and ignite it producing a small controlled ember that burns.
For me, the thought of putting a burning item in my pocket is unthinkable. Not only do you have a pocket that’s on fire, but you also have to contend with the smell of the fuel if not sealed right.
These types of hand warmers tend to take longer to get up to temperature. In the case of the metal Zippo hand warmer, continue to get hotter to the point you can no longer hold it. That’s when you place the item inside a hand warmer pouch that’s supplied with the device.
Although, these devices will stay warm for a lot longer, between 8 – 15 hours. That’s all they’ll do, just warm your pocket and hand. They can’t charge your phone or Garmin device on a long ride.
Chemical Hand Warmers
These disposable hand warmers are one-time use only and rely on a chemical reaction to produce heat. The exothermic reaction is caused by mixing water, carbon, and iron powder inside a pouch once exposed to the air.
They’ll get to their maximum temperature very quickly and can last up to ten hours, but just like the catalyst warmers they’ll be of limited use to those of you that use your phone or Garmin a lot during rides.
Hand Warmers Reviewed
Zippo 6 hour rechargeable hand warmer
You’ve been able to buy Zippo hand warmers for a long time in the form of a catalytic burner, which looks like a bigger version of their famous lighter. But the zippo rechargeable electronic hand warmer is a relatively new kid on the block.
The device is claimed to last up to six hours; however, if you place this on maximum power to heat your hands, it’ll last only four hours at the most.
The Zippo electronic hand warmer charged my iPhone two and a half times before I depleted the device. Not wanting to stop my ride to charge a phone, I came up with a solution to power my iPhone from my saddlebag.
This enabled me to ride for over five hours with my iPhone being charged while running an app to navigate the route I’d planned. At the end of the ride, my iPhone was 100% charged with the Zippo Electronic hand warmer having three bars of power left.
Ocoopa hand warmer
I tested these last winter and found them to be such a success that I’ve given them to friends and family as gifts. As a hand warmer, it works well with three heat settings to choose from.
As a power bank, the Ocoopa has a larger battery capacity than the Zippo at 7800mah. This meant that I was able to charge my phone over four times before it ran out. Out on a sportive ride for eight hours, I found that my phone remained fully charged.
The Ocoopa Hand warmer still had two out of the three lights lit, indicating I’d between 1/2 and 3/4 power available. Which is a good thing, as normally, when I get off the bike in the late autumn, my hands are cold, this device is an excellent way to warm my hands up slowly.
It’s also received a fair amount of abuse from my daughters, which each have one. Despite being dropped and god knows what else it still works fine with just a few dents to show for it all.
JOMST hand warmer
Very similar in design to the Ocoopa and very comfortable to hold. This model has a 7800mah battery, enabling me to charge my phone over four times before it is entirely exhausted.
Like the Ocoopa it has three settings for heating your hands. When charging your phone, turn it on and you’ll see three lights indicating the device’s battery level. As your phone is charged, these lights will go out until the last one flashes indicating you need to charge it back up again.
I found the device kept my phone charged up while out riding with no issues. I’ve never taken this on a long ride, but I’ve no doubt that it would perform just as well as the Ocoopa. Lastly, I haven’t let my kids near this model, so I cannot say if it would work if dropped.
Saferell hand warmer
As a hand warmer, I found this to be a little on the bulky side and not as ergonomically designed as the Ocoopa or JOMST. That said, it’s covered in a silicone-based product that feels nice to the touch.
There’re three heat settings indicated by different lights on the device, blue, green, and red for low, medium, and high, respectively. The battery level is indicated with four white lights; four lights indicate fully charged.
You can’t use the hand warmer function and charge your phone at the same time. As a hand warmer, the average time this will last is four hours on the green setting.
In terms of charging your electronic device while riding, it should last a full eight hours easily. But will take up more space in your saddlebag due to the shape of the device.
VANSKY hand warmer
Similar in design size and shape as the Ocoopa and Jomst and equally just as good. This device also has a larger battery capacity of 7800mah, ensuring you should’ve enough power to last the day.
As a hand warmer, you get three heat levels, with the hottest again being too hot to hold unless you place a bag or sleeve over the device.
As for charging your phone as you ride, there’ll be no issues due to the larger battery. And thanks to the device’s design, it fits easily into your saddlebag without taking up much room.
Buyers Guide – how to choose the best hand warmer
Where do you start? Well, it all comes down to a couple of lifestyle choices, do you want to use it only for riding, or do you want it for other outdoor activities as well.
I don’t just use mine for cycling. I enjoy the outdoors and walking with my wife. When we go walking, she’ll take one or two of these devices to keep her hands warm. So, it made sense for me to buy an electronic type.
I’ve also used the hand warmer at the end of several rides during winter, where I’ve driven to a starting point. When I got back from my ride, holding the hand warmer for a few minutes ensured that I got the circulation going to get sorted and everything packed away ready to leave.
The higher the battery capacity, the heavier and larger the device. I’ve found that a 7800mah battery provides the most versatility. There’s enough power in this to last, solely as a hand warmer, for about six hours.
If you use it as just a phone charger for riding, I suspect you would get two whole days riding out of it. However, I’ve not tested this theory. A 5200mah battery will last all day when just used as just a power pack. If you decide to use it as a hand warmer, it’ll only last about four hours, based on my experience.
Combine charging your phone and using it as a handwarmer will drain the battery much faster, limiting the number of times you can charge your phone.
Size of device
The size and shape will vary for each device depending on the manufacturer. It’s essential to look at the measurements and see if it will fit your saddle bag with everything else you have in there.
I placed mine at the bottom of my saddlebag as there is a compartment used for innertubes. I then ran a cable back along the frame and up the stem into the phone I use on my rides. You may decide that this isn’t something you want to do.
You could use a frame bag to achieve the same result without running wires everywhere.
Most of the electronic devices come with three temperature settings low, medium, and high. Some devices have more heat settings; the most I’ve seen is on the Zippo hand warmer with five.
As a general rule of thumb, most manufacturers set the temperature settings around low 104~113°F (40~45°C), medium 113~122°F (45~50°C), and high 122~131°F (50~55°C).
If you are outside and below 32°F (0°C), then the lowest setting as a hand warmer will be no good for you as you don’t feel the heat. Going up the power settings depletes the battery quicker.
Rechargeable hand warmer uses
- It can be used with a heated gilet. This should help keep your body warm during long training rides in the depths of winter.
- It can be used to charge your Garmin or phone when on a long ride, ensuring that there’s plenty of power available.
- Can keep your hands warm while your cycling partner fixes a puncture or changes their tire at the side of the road.
- Can keep your hands warm if you go hiking, skiing, etc., or just outside all day.
Assessing what will work for you
Commuting to Work
If your riding to work and get to the other end with freezing hands, you’ll want to warm them up slowly before attempting to do anything fiddly.
Or you could be travelling on a bus due to icy conditions or sat in a freezing car waiting for it to warm up. Rechargeable hand warmers are the best solution here as you’ll have access to electricity to charge them, and you can turn them on and off as required.
Cycling Every Weekend
Long training rides require planning, and nobody rides the same route constantly, so having a route planned is essential. Following the route on an electronic device is the easiest way to do it. As such, you’ll need to ensure you have enough power to last for the length of time you expect to be out.
I believe you’ll need to consider your saddle bag or fame bag’s size if you’re to carry a device to charge your iPhone on the move. If you pack your saddlebag to the max and don’t have room, then you may want to consider upgrading your bag. Alternatively, see if you can remove some, perhaps, unnecessary items or redistribute some items into pockets and such like.
If this doesn’t appeal, you may need to upgrade either your phone or Garmin device, which will cost you hundreds of pounds rather than the small amount for a power bank.
Cycling Ambition Recommendation
I recommend the Ocoopa 7800mah hand warmer. I believe they’re better than the others because they’ve just the right amount of power while still continuing to function. Even if they’re dropped and treated quite roughly, they’ve continued to work flawlessly.
This durability combined with the middle of the range price tag, I feel, gives the best value for money.