Cheap Heat: Make Your Own Pocket Hand Warmers

homemade hand warmers

Baby, it’s cold outside! While I may not be facing the pipe-bursting sub-zero temperatures seen in the Midwest this week, we hit single digits here in North Carolina (and here I thought I left cold weather behind when I moved to the South). Although the smart play is probably to stay inside this week, a DIY lifestyle — or, you know, a job — means venturing out to face the icy temperatures on a daily basis. Gloves are good, but I’m going to need a little something more.

Commercially available chemical hand warmers are a popular, pocket-friendly solution for keeping a little heat on hand on a cold day, but at a buck and a half a pop, the convenience isn’t all that cheap. Once again, I say y-e-s to DIY.

The same stuff that will melt the ice on your front steps can also be used to keep your hands warm as you brave the elements. These handy pocket warmers take just a couple of minutes to put together and, for just about a nickel apiece, may quickly become a cold weather habit.

I’ll admit the store-bought packets last longer than our homemade version (you’ll get about half an hour of heat out of these), but they are compact enough to bring several along if you’re stuck outside for long stretches. As for me, after half an hour or so, I’m ready to head back inside for a little hot cocoa.

Battling the cold weather? Add to your arsenal by following the steps below to make your own pocket-sized hand warmers.


Step 1

 Open Galleryhomemade hand warmers

A little sidewalk salt, water and two Ziploc bags are all it takes to make your own pocket hand warmers in just a couple of minutes. When purchasing ice melt salt, be sure the label says it includes calcium chloride as an active ingredient (some alternative salts will not produce the chemical reaction needed to generate hand-warming heat).

Step 2

 Open Galleryhomemade hand warmers

Place 1 cup of calcium chloride ice melt pellets in a sandwich-size Ziploc bag.

Step 3

 Open Galleryhomemade hand warmers

Pour ½ cup water in a snack-sized (half size) bag. Push all of the air out of the bag and seal.

Step 4

 Open Galleryhomemade hand warmers

Place the water-filled bag inside of the ice-melt-filled bag. Push the air from the bag and seal. Take care to be certain all seals are complete to avoid any leakage when activated (double bag, if desired).

Step 5

 Open Galleryhomemade hand warmers

When heading out to face the winter weather, give the bag a squeeze to rupture the inner water bag and shake. Heat will activate almost immediately and lasts about half an hour. Tuck it into your pocket to warm chilly hands between shovelfuls of snow or while waiting for the bus that always seems to arrive late on cold mornings.


  • 1 cup calcium chloride ice melt
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Sandwich-size ziploc bag
  • Snack-size ziploc bag



  • Measuring cups
About Mick Telkamp 


A former Midwesterner living in North Carolina, I write about my adventures in backyard chicken-keeping and suburban homesteading over at HGTVGardens, and my exploits in the culture of Southern cooking ...

More About Mick Telkamp

One Response

  1. @HB_Belle says:

    Mick, you are a genius! I was thinking about needing hand warmers just yesterday, but I'm just too cheap. I'll definitely have to try these :)

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