18 December 2018

Personal heating solutions

Camp fire
I'm what my mum always called "nesh" - a Yorkshire term (I think), which Wikipedia defines as "unusually susceptible to cold weather", so in the colder months I'm always on the lookout for solutions that make my life a little easier (i.e. warmer), whether that's in the office (which can be a little colder than I find ideal), when driving, and when out and about.
For driving, Andy's last car had heated seats and - joy of joys - a heated steering wheel.  Pure bliss.  My own little cars, and Andy's current one have had no such luxuries, so I needed other solutions. 

Heated gloves

Many battery operated gloves tend to be unisex, and therefore far too big for me to wear on my small hands to drive in safely, and there's certainly no chance of the occasional prod of a phone in my car mount (to accept or decline an alternative route in Google Maps, for instance), even with the ones with "touch screen" bits on the fingers.  

However, I have found some fingerless gloves with heated pad inserts and fold-over mitten ends that allow me to drive safely, and operate the phone when necessary.  The heated pads are removable, so could even be used in other gloves if you prefer.  They have a long-ish Y-shaped cable which you can thread through your sleeves for safety. (How many of you had your gloves or mittens attached to a piece of string threaded through your coat sleeves as kids?)  At one end is a barrel connector for the pads, and at the other is a USB-A plug, which can be plugged into a power bank in your pocket, or into a USB port in your car, if there's one in a suitable position.  I would have preferred the cable to be a bit longer to make connecting to a USB port more achievable in most cars, and for it to be black, rather than white, to be less obvious against my clothing, but hey, they work!
£9.99 per pair from Amazon.  

Heated gilet / vest / waistcoat

A few years ago I bought a battery operated heated gilet.  It takes 8 AA batteries (I use eneloop rechargeables) which go in plastic cases in pouches at the front (one of each side), and heat up two panels in the back via a USB A connector.  It's unisex (for which read "a bit too big for small women"), and it does the job, but doesn't leave much room for actual pocket contents, as the battery pocket and hand pocket sort of interfere with each other a bit, and it's not the most attractive piece of clothing.  Battery life is reasonable (a few hours, if I remember rightly from last time I wore it - to the cinema, where they always have the air-con turned up to eleventy-stupid, for those of you who are Wittertainment fans).

But I was looking for something a bit sleeker and that looked better, offered me more usable pocket space, and stayed warm a bit longer.
I'm delighted with this heated vest, and it's a bargain price at under £20 (garments of this kind are often priced around £80-£120).  Somewhat confusingly, the pictures now show two different designs, but I got the one with the stand collar, which is much more attractive that the V-necked design.

Battery life obviously depends on the capacity of the power bank that you plug it into.  I can get a few hours from the little 2200mAh ones that are often given away as free gifts at conferences, etc.

Other ideas

Hand warmers in a running pouch

I already had a running pouch, which is essentially a long stretchy tube with a few slits in it through which you insert your keys, phone, money, etc.  Running is not at all my thing, but these are also good for carrying stuff around in other situations.  On a recent trip to London in the cold snap, I stuffed it full of those reusable hand warmers with the discs in, plus one HotRocks rechargeable hand warmer.  Not bad, and I had always planned to use the hand warmers serially, as they typically only last an hour or two, so the full collection was a bit bulky - but, unlike the gilet, it had the advantage of being worn under most layers of clothing, so you get the best benefit, and your outer layers help to keep the heat in.  

The Hot Rocks hand warmer lasted longer, but I only had one, it uses a mini-USB cable to charge (I don't have many of those around the house!) and they're currently not available anywhere I can find in the UK.

So I went looking for alternatives, and found a selection of USB hand warmers / battery packs, available in a few different colours at varying prices.  There are a number of identical ones with different brands, so I'm guessing they're all manufactured by the same people, and rebadged.  I have a Cookey branded one and a Letouch one.  Which one you get will probably depend on offers and delivery timescales at any given time.  

As per the description, they also doubles as a USB phone charger if necessary.  The Hot Rocks one lasts about 3 or 4 hours and charges via mini USB.  The Cookey and Letouch use the more common MicroUSB to charge, and last pretty much all day.  At least, I haven't run out of power just for heating yet.  It has three heat settings: scorching hot / really rather warm / keeps the chill off (although I don't think those are the descriptions that they use!)  

I've also bought an extra running pouch.  The hand warmers are quite slippery beasts, and I was worried they may slip out of the slots in the waist band, so I got one with a lanyard and clip, and attached the hand warmers' lanyards to it, which means at least I won't lose them completely if they do slip out.  The pouch size I got is a touch too large for me, which means that the contents are not held quite so tightly against your body, so there's more potential for slippage.  They're plenty stretchy enough, so if you're in doubt about what size to get, don't worry about not being able to get them on, and err on the small side.  

For me, the most effective way to use them is with two hand warmers, one roughly over each kidney.  They seem to warm the back better than the stomach, for some reason, and if you place them just "wide" enough, they don't get in the way of a backrest on a firm chair.  

Microwaveable wheat pads

Another option that I tried was a much larger (non-scented) wheat-filled bag like this one, which needed a bigger running pouch.  I got the Hip Hug Pro to use with it, which is much taller that my others when worn, allowing larger contents to be carried.  The wheat bag goes in the microwave for a couple of minutes to warm up.  Since it's a bit fiddly squeezing the wheat bag through the slots in the pouch - especially once it's hot - I decided to put the bag in through one of the slots, and then manipulated the wheat through from the outside end of the bag to the inside end first (like sand running through the neck of an hour glass), and then microwaved the wheat bag inside the pouch.  Unfortunately, the wheat bag is quite thick, which makes it uncomfortable if worn in on your back in a seat (e.g. a car seat), and the heat doesn't last all that long - maybe half and hour to an hour, so I've come to the conclusion that those are probably best used as a top up on your lap, or draped around your neck, in places where you have access to a microwave to top up the heat.

I even have some wheat-filled microwaveable slippers, bought for me as a gift.  They're lovely to warm your feet when you get in from the cold, but totally impractical to walk in!

Scarves hoods and snoods

For a completely non-tech option, I love wearing decorative scarves, and I'm always conscious that what I wear around my neck makes a big difference to my overall warmth.  

For versatility, a snood-style (a loop that you can wear in a number of different ways) in a soft jersey fabric take a lot of beating.  I love them.


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