Does TSA allow hand warmers during travel?


This cozy winter is affecting everybody’s travel plan. If you are planning on being outdoors as part of your travels, a hand warmer might be on your list. There are several types of hand warmers that you can consider. Does TSA allow hand warmers during travel?

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Are hand warmers flammable?

Hand warmers are small (mostly disposable) packets. They are held in the hand and produce heat on demand to warm cold hands, commonly used in outdoor activities. Other types of warmers are available to provide soothing heat for muscular or joint aches. Depending on the type and the source of heat, hand warmers can last 10– 13 hours.  There are 4 types of hand warmers as below. Does TSA allow all hand warmers? Let us dive.

1. Air activated hand warmers

Air-activated hand warmers contain celluloseironwateractivated carbonvermiculite (water reservoir) and salt and produce heat from the exothermic oxidation of iron when exposed to air. They typically emit heat for 1 to 10 hours. It usually takes 15-30 minutes to start to heat up, although the heat given off rapidly diminishes after 1–2 hours. The oxygen molecules in the air react with iron, forming rust. Salt is often added to catalyze the process. Does TSA allow hand these warmers? Yes, you can pack them in both carry-on and checked baggage.

2. Crystallisation hand warmer

This type of hand warmer can be recharged by immersing the hand-warmer in very hot water until the contents are uniform and then allowing it to cool. The release of heat is triggered by flexing a small metal disk in the hand warmer. It generates nucleation centers that initiate crystallisation. Heat dissolves the salt in its own water of crystallisation. It is this heat that is released when crystallisation is initiated.

The latent heat of fusion is about 264–289 kJ/kg. This process can be scaled up to create a means of domestic heating storage and can produce instant heat. They contain liquid and require adherence to TSA 3-1-1 guidelines. Does TSA allow hand these warmers? Yes, you can pack them in both carry-on and checked baggage.

3. Lighter fuel

Lighter fuel hand-warmers use lighter fluid (petroleum naptha). You can reuse by simply refuelling. Typical models can generate heat for either half a day or a whole day, depending on conditions. Lighter fuel by itself is prohibited all together.

4. Battery-powered hand warmer

Battery operated hand warmers use electrically resistive heating devices to convert electrical energy in the battery. Typically hand warmers can heat for up to six hours, with heat outputs from 40-48C. You can charge rechargeable electronic hand warmers from a mains power supply or from a 5V USB power supply, with up to 500 recharge cycles possible. Does TSA allow hand these warmers? Yes, battery powered hand warmers are permitted in both carry-on and checked baggage.

5. Charcoal

Charcoal hand-warmers provide heat by burning charcoal in a special case. These can last up to 6 hours and become comfortably hot. Charcoal cases for these usually have felt on the outside and have items in it that do not produce heat, but spread the heat such as metal. A charcoal hand warmer can start heating when both ends of charcoal are struck and then extinguished to create a hot charcoal. The smouldering stick is then placed inside the case. The charcoal sticks are available from most outdoor activity shops and are fairly inexpensive. It also prohibited during air travel.

How we find the best hand warmers

We fine-tuned our approach and reviewed each hand warmer for quality of construction, ease of use, and performance, repeating each test at least three times:

  • Outdoor performance: We affixed a Bluetooth temperature sensor onto each device, set the sensor to record data in 1-minute intervals, and wrapped it in a towel to simulate conditions inside a jacket pocket. Then we stuffed the wrapped hand warmer in a freezer that averaged 4 °F and tracked the hand warmer’s performance until it ran out of power. To maintain consistency, we ran these tests at a common temperature that all of the hand warmers could reach. (We couldn’t run this test on the Zippo 12-Hour Refillable hand warmer because it starved for oxygen in the freezer.)
  • Indoor performance: We conducted the same test (minus the towel and freezer) at room temperature to see if cold-weather conditions affected the hand warmers’ overall performance.
  • Subjective performance: During a mid-fall week in New York City when temperatures frequented the mid-40s (°F), we used the hand warmers while running errands, walking the dog, or schlepping groceries home from the store (sans car). When the weather heated up, we tossed our top contenders into a walk-in refrigerator with a panel of testers, including a self-described popsicle, someone who’s unnaturally impervious to being cold, and someone with Raynaud’s phenomenon.
  • Charging capabilities: We timed how long each warmer took to charge by connecting each device to the Anker PowerPort 4 multiport USB wall charger.1
  • Puncture resistance: We squished, twisted, and pulled at the disposable hand warmers to see how breakable they were.

Does TSA allow these hand warmers?

1.HotHands hand warmers

If you need a hand warmer for only a few days a year, if you work with your hands outdoors during winter, or if you want something to keep in an emergency kit, the HotHands are for you. They’re cheap, lightweight, and get warm enough to keep your hands comfortable outdoors. At less than 70¢ a pair at the time of publishing, they are easy to find in pharmacies, grocery stores, and major retailers.

And if you work with your hands outdoors (like recreation workers and mail carriers do), the business-card-sized warmers are small enough to slip into a winter glove without impeding routine tasks. They reached 118 °F and lasted almost six hours in our tests, which is hot enough and long enough for most outdoor activities. Because they’re disposable, you can’t reuse or recharge them like our other picks, and you’ll have to open a new packet for every use.

Max temperature: 112 °F average; 118 °F maximum
Run time: 5 hours, 58 minutes
Weight: 1.6 ounces per pair

2. Zippo hand warmer on flight

If you need a really long run time or the ability to reload your hand warmer when you don’t have access to electricity, we recommend the Zippo 12-Hour Refillable. It’s a catalytic hand warmer that runs on lighter fluid and requires a flame to get started. It reaches the same temperatures as our rechargeable pick and runs for an average of 21 hours—longer than anything else we tested. The catch? Refueling is more of a hassle than simply plugging it in, and you can’t safely turn it on and off; once you’ve turned the Zippo on, it operates until it runs out of fuel or oxygen.

The Zippo 12-Hour is 3.9 by 2.6 by 0.5 inches and weighs 2.6 ounces. It comes with a carry pouch, and has a two-year warranty.

Max temperature: 105 °F average; 110 °F maximum (recorded at room temperature)
Run time: 21 hours, 48 minutes
Charging time: about 5 minutes to refill
Weight: 2.6 ounces empty; around 3.5 ounces full
Capacity: about 0.9 ounce of lighter fluid

3. HeatMax Hand & Body Warmer

Because these hand warmers are meant for both your hands and your body, they’re larger than most other hand warmers on the market. One loves that size, noting that “larger sizes just pack a lot more heat” and “last much longer,” adding, “These are a lifesaver and a game changer. Completely odorless.” Many reviewers think these are perfect for extremely cold temperatures, like one customer who calls them “so sensible.” He adds that they’re “great for keeping extremities warm in the bitter cold.” But as another reviewer warns, “These packs do sometimes get extremely hot (when left in a closed pocket) so my tip would be to hold them in your hands out in the open air to cool them off. Or if you’re trying to find an escape from the climate, alternate pockets to keep the pockets warm.

4. Celestron Elements FireCel+ 

If you can’t find our main pick, the Celestron Elements FireCel+ hand warmer is a good option. It lasts 45 minutes longer than EnergyFlux Enduro and its rounded shape is easier to hold than the blockier Enduro. It’s also the only model we tested that can charge an external device and warm your hands simultaneously. But it runs noticeably cooler than most rechargeables, topping out at 103 °F—a full 13 °F cooler than our main pick. It also takes more than six hours to charge, which is longer than any other hand warmer we tested.

Max temperature: 101 °F average; 103 °F maximum
Run time: 7 hours, 25 minutes
Charging time: 6 hours, 20 minutes
Weight: 3.5 ounces (99 grams)
Battery capacity: 5,200 mAh

5. Human Creations EnergyFlux Enduro

The Human Creations EnergyFlux Enduro is easy to use, runs hot enough to keep your hands warm on a cold day outdoors, offers a bit under seven hours of battery life at its highest temperature setting, and recharges in just four hours. It doubles as a backup battery for your mobile phone, and has the highest capacity of any rechargeable we tested. It’s also the largest hand warmer we looked at, and may be cumbersome for smaller hands to hold—but the manufacturer recommends keeping it in a pocket, so you won’t have to hold it for long periods. And it takes up to 30 minutes to fully heat up (it’s sometimes faster, but not consistently so), so you should turn it on before heading outdoors.

Max temperature: 113 °F average; 116 °F maximum
Run time: 6 hours, 40 minutes
Charging time: 4 hours
Weight: 6.9 ounces (196 grams)
Battery capacity: 7,800 mAh

6. Best reusable hand warmers – HotSnapZ Reusable Round & Pocket Warmers

“Cold people rejoice. These are awesome,” celebrates one reviewer who suffers from Reynaud’s, noting his hands get “very, very cold.” But he explains, “I use these when I go outside but also to warm up when I get home later on. I boil them every night, as part of my nighttime routine, so that I’m ready to go each morning.” A few do note that boiling them regularly is a pain, but, as one reviewer advises, “I boil them in the morning while getting ready for work and repeat the cycle.

If you can get into a routine for reusing them, they are bliss.” Another customer notes, “Because these are reusable, these things do save you a lot of money. Also, they get much hotter than most hand warmers, and they’re really fun to use, and to show off to people. Seriously.” And according to one reviewer, these reusable hand warmers can last for years: “I had some of these for 5 years, and they are now starting to be more crystalline than liquid after boiled and cooled. That is a long time, though! I hope to get an even longer lifespan out of my new ones.

7. Hand warmers gloves – Savior Heated Gloves with Rechargeable Li-ion Battery

The biggest attraction of these heated gloves among reviewers is how evenly the heat is distributed throughout — and reviewers use them to keep their hands warm while engaging in all different sorts of outdoor activities. “These gloves are a game changer with excellent dexterity and grip, more even heat and rechargeable,” writes one reviewer. Another admits, “These gloves are expensive, but I will say they work very well and seem very well made,” adding, “I use them on my snowmobile and it’s nice to be able to turn them on/off easily without having to stop my sled.”

One thinks that “everyone should get a pair,” explaining, “your fingertips do get heated up as well. I went snowboarding last weekend with these gloves and the batteries lasted all day and my hands never got cold.” As one reviewer concludes, “ I use them on my motorcycle and they keep my whole hands, including my fingers, warm as toast. They are also flexible enough to easily work all the hand controls, and have a great feel to them.

Is it safe to use hand warmers?

A hand warmer should warm your hands without burning your skin, but it may feel uncomfortably hot when you first turn it on. That’s because you’re touching a heat source that’s warmer than your body (like when you sit in a hot tub after swimming in a pool), and after a minute or two the heat should feel pleasant against your skin.3

Although a hand warmer feels hot initially,4 Dr. Danielle R. Bajakian, a vascular surgeon with NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia, said they are safe to use. “I don’t really see a downside to it,” she said. “They’re not going to be against somebody’s skin for prolonged periods of time since they’re designed to be in the pocket.” She recommends following the operating instructions and tossing the device if the battery ever leaks. And to ensure that a rechargeable model warms you up quickly, look for one that’s flatter and has a larger surface area so that it’ll heat a more uniform area of skin.

As for the ideal temperature, that depends on the person. “A device that stays around 110 to 120 °F and not above that is the safest way to go. For kids, I would aim even lower around the 100 °F mark,” Dr. Bajakian added. (Our hand warmer picks average from 101 °F to 113 °F.)

If you have an underlying condition, such as diabetes, a nerve injury, or Raynaud’s phenomenon (decreased blood flow causing your fingers or toes to change colors and feel numb in response to the cold), you should be extra vigilant when using these devices so that you don’t get burned. Only use hand warmers with multiple temperature settings at their lowest outputs and limit use to 20 minutes at a time.

Editor’s recommendations

Lead Content Editor
Lead Content Editor

I enjoy creating stuff and giving back to my community. My days are spent producing content for brands who need an internet presence and for things that I adore. I bring with me six years of experience generating content and obtaining leads from untapped markets. I concentrate on the qualities and advantages of the goods that add value for my audience. After reading my reviews, anyone who want to purchase a product from me are given my honest and open recommendation. I integrate my reviews with those of actual people to make the content authentic and accurate. Please take a moment to contact me if you see any deviations; I always value and appreciate hearing from my readers.

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