A couple of years ago, in the Fall, when I saw all of the squeeze’n’shake, “hot-hands” chemical hand warmers start showing up on all the check-out counters, I got nostalgic for my old Zippo™ lighter fluid hand warmer that I had had back when I was a teenager. I got one when I was probably 11 years old, and first started out going winter camping in Boy Scouts. I seem to remember that my brother and I were both given them one Christmas.
Back there in Michigan, they were pretty popular with the ice fishermen. You could even get a little flannel belt with two pockets to hold them over your kidneys. I remember loving having mine when I was out sledding as a kid.
I did remember them kicking around for years but not getting much use when we later lived in the Carolinas. Then I had vague memories of having used one down on Cape Cod back in the 80s when I was building houses and slating roofs… right through the winter. I hadn’t seen it since I moved to Maine in 2005… I guess it just went away…. the way things do when you move. You get rid of things and have no memory of doing so… then later on you miss having them.
I looked them up on the Internet, and sure enough, you could still buy one on Amazon. The best part was that they were still being manufactured by Zippo. So, I ended up adding one to a purchase to come up to the free shipping. [ in the same matte black that I purchased, they are currently priced at $12.92 on Amazon ]
Just in case you are not familiar with these units:
You simply pull off the little chromium heating element and add lighter fluid to the bottom half. You then hold a lighter flame under one side of the element for 15 or 20 seconds. Somehow this causes a slow, continuous combustion of the fumes from the fluid. You slip the spring-fit top half back on, let it heat up for a minute or two, and then put the whole unit in the little drawstring bag.
You can get up to eight hours, or even more, on a single fill-up… And it gets far, far warmer then the chemical units.
If you buy the chemical packet heaters over the counter at a variety store they can cost as much as $2 a piece. Doesn’t take too long to come up to the full cost of this unit even if you throw in an extra $5 for lighter fluid.
I have been really delighted to have one again. On cold mornings, even right here in the house, I will fire it up and put it inside the collar of my fleece, against the nape of my neck. It warms up the blood going to my brain, and at my age that’s probably a pretty good thing. Of course, once you head outside, it will warm your fingers up in just a few moments, even through gloves.
Imagine my surprise this morning when I was rooting around in the back corner of one of my bureau drawers… Voila!
Note that the old school unit features a large hole so that you could poke a cigarette in and then light up off of the glow coil.
At some point I had hand-sewed a replacement bag out of an chamois cloth LL Bean shirt remnant after that same hole burned a corresponding burnhole in the original red flannelette bag. Yes, this old unit would need a consumer protection warning in today’s weenie world. The chromium metal gets hot enough to cause first to second degree burns.
The design has changed only minimally. Real plated brass, real metal chrome like on yer ’53 Cadillac’s bumper, a bit heavier, and it appears to be a few/16ths thicker, so it holds a bit more fluid, and lasts a bit longer. [now going on nine hours]
I put some fluid into the old antique… it fired up instantly. I think that it’s fairly certain that it even gets hotter than the current units.
One for each pocket.