If sailors like to encounter something on their voyage, it’s definitely the wind. Calm on a serious voyage is not welcome. The wind gives the sails the right shape and the water spray from the bow provides that little bit of magic. Even though it may not be much of a threat at the time, the wind can be an unpleasantly devious and hidden enemy.
Although it may not seem so, long periods stuck behind the helm does place a strain on the human body because of the energy needed to maintain thermoregulation. In short: a sailor will freeze in the wind. Layers of warm clothing under a windproof jacket are a great thing, but why not get something a little better?
Fortunately, through years of evolution, man has invented a number of gadgets to get warmed up in adverse conditions. Certainly it would be worth considering taking one of them with you on board.
Disposable heating pads
In the lightweight plastic bag you’ll find another bag full of a black chemical mixture. Coal and ferric salt react together immediately after opening the bag and exposing it to oxygen. To speed up the reaction, it is advisable to gently wash and shake the bag at the beginning. In a few minutes the reaction reaches its optimum and the bag begins to heat to about 50°C.
Bags are available on the market in several shapes and sizes, depending on whether you want to put them in gloves, in your pocket or shoes. According to the manufacturers, these chemical pads last approximately 6 to 12 hours. More realistically in practice, it is about 30% of this time. Theoretically, the chemical reaction of the mixture can be stopped, leaving some heat for later. Do this by putting it back in the bag and sealing it with air. It does work, just bear in mind that the subsequent amount of heat will probably not be 100% of what it should be.
+ Easy to use
+ Option to interrupt the reaction
- Single use
Approx. €1 - €2
Reusable heating pads
In this case, the plastic bag is full of clear fluid, in which a flat activation disc floats. By breaking the disc, the solution inside begins to crystallize. The result of the reaction releases heat. Again, it gets to about 50°C, but the reusable bag can only heat for a few tens of minutes. The big advantage, however, is the option of re-using it after heating it in boiling water. After some time, the crystalline structure is again converted into a clear liquid ready for use.
° When boiling, place these bags in a pot wrapped with a cloth or cotton rag. This will prevent plastic from sticking to the side of the pot and damaging the bag.
° If you have the crew prepare "fresh" bags for you while you’re at the helm, you can start using the boiled bag immediately without activation (activation is only possible after it has cooled down anyway). The bag will keep the heat from the water for some time. Activate it when it has cooled down. This means you can enjoy thermal comfort for longer.
- Doesn’t last so long
- Risk of accidental activation
According to size, €1 - €4
Charcoal hand warmer
This consists of a metal case covered in fabric, lined with a non-flammable material with just enough space inside for one piece of special charcoal. The fuel itself can be modified in many ways. Depending on the time you need to warm up, you can adjust the length of the charcoal. As a rough estimation, the whole stick will heat for about 8 hours, so half of it for 4. If you want more intense heat, light the charcoal from both sides. This also halves its lifespan.
In theory, the charcoal reaction can be stopped at any time by immersing it in water. However, once you do this, you’ll have a huge problem trying to re-dry it at sea. If such a need arises, we recommend tearing off the smoldering end with pliers.
This is a very reliable and powerful heat source. The downside at sea is that the charcoal mustn’t get wet. This can be avoided by carefully wrapping individual charcoal sticks and unpacking them just before use. And of course, lighting them should be done in, at least, a relatively dry environment.
+ Powerful heat source
+ Performance varies a lot
- Need to keep fuel dry
Roughly €6 (12 replacement charcoal sticks about €2)
Lighter fluid warmer
This consists of a metal canister with a cotton swab, a flameless burner with a fine grille, a lid and a textile bag. After filling the container (beware of overfilling) the flameless burner is activated by holding the grill over a lighter flame. Then put the lid on and place the whole heater into the supplied bag.
The heat is quite intense, reaching temperatures higher than 50°C and can last up to 12 hours. The heat source is reliable and durable when using high-quality lighter fluid. The reaction is stopped by removing the burner (but be careful as it will be hot!). There is only one complication at sea - to find shelter enough to light it. But colleagues from below deck can probably help out. Maybe they don’t mind the smell of lighter fluid either.
+ Intense heat
+ Can be turned off at any time
- The smell of lighter fluid
€10 - €30 depending on quality
€4 per bottle of lighter fluid (refills it about 5-6 times)
Hot water bottle
An old school sailor may even reach for the inseparable friend of our grandmother - the hot water bottle. The rubber bottle with a screw cap is filled with hot water and ready for many hours of use. An advantage is that it is probably the most environmentally friendly to operate, but this comes at a cost - you have to be able to heat up to two litres of water somewhere quickly when needed.
Filling with water retains the accumulated heat for many hours. You can use it later in your sleeping bag and it will not fill the air with unpleasant odours. Plus, there is no potential risk that it could theoretically ignite it (unlike its lighter fluid brother). Hot water bottles are available in several sizes.
+ Lasts ages
+ Easy to handle and use
+ Safe to operate
- The need for external hot water
- Relatively bulky
€4 - €6
Also, in this field you have to expect progress. In addition to the classic and proven hand warmers, today we have also electronic devices. Have you already tried the electric hand warmer, which is rechargeable via USB? And did you know that you can also use it as an emergency power bank?
If you are getting tired of the heat, why not try some more cooler locations, such as the Baltic?. Our boats are waiting for you there and in other ports in various countries around the globe.