SoCalHunt Gear Review – Jon-E Hand Warmer

This week’s gear review at SoCalHunt is about the Jon-E Hand warmer.

Fortunately, or maybe unfortunately, depending on your point of view, in Southern California we don’t normally have to deal with sub-freezing temperatures during our waterfowl hunting forays. Unless you head up north you’re probably not going to run into any temperatures under about 30 degrees except for some exceptional days in December and January.

Having said that I’m going to admit I’m a wimp when it comes to cold. Being born and raised in Southern California makes me think that a 35-degree morning is way cold! Okay, all you guys and gals from the northeast can now laugh at me.

I have yet to find a pair of gloves that I really like to wear when I’m hunting. I just find them cumbersome and they make it hard to reliably feel for the safety and the trigger on my shotgun, which to me is a little disconcerting.

My solution to this dilemma, either freezing my hands (or at least feeling like they’re freezing) or trying to safely operate my shotgun with bulky gloves, is the Jon-E Hand Warmer.

I’ve tired several brands of those cheap chemical one-time-use hand warmers and, to me anyway, they just don’t seem to get warm enough to make a bit of difference. I’ve also tried those gel type hand warmers; the type you push on a metal button inside the gel pack to activate; but they only stay warm for about a half hour or so and then you have to boil them when you get home in order for you to use them the next time.

The Jon-E Hand Warmer is a cigarette lighter fluid powered chrome-plated metal hand warmer. It is made from metal and has a small platinum catalyst heating element on the top of it with a metal cover. It comes in two sizes, the #700 model “standard” size, which is about 3 ¼” x 2 ¼” x ¾”, and the #701 model “giant”, which is about 4 ¼” x 3” x 1 ½”. The standard sized warmer holds 6 tablespoons of lighter fluid and the giant holds 14 tablespoons of fluid. This is supposed to translate into 8 to 12 hours of heat in the standard model and up to 36 hours of heat in the giant model (although in my experience it goes much faster then that).

Each Jon-E Hand Warmer comes with a cloth carrying bag. This bag is not only for carrying and storing the Jon-E Hand Warmer but you must have the warmer inside the bag while it is in operation. Using the bag you can somewhat regulate the heat that your Jon-E Hand Warmer produces.

Remember with the Jon-E Hand Warmer you are dealing with fire so caution is a must! I will quote directly from the Jon-E Hand Warmer instructions regarding their warning on the unit:
“WARNING! A Jon-E Hand Warmer is made to generate heat. To avoid a skin burn always keep it in the carrying bag and change its position frequently. When removed from cloth carrying bag and left uncovered in the open air it can get HOT! Do not allow uncovered operating Jon-E Hand Warmer to come in contact with your skin. Do not use while sleeping; or with an unattended handicapped person or small child.”

To use the Jon-E Hand Warmer you must first fill it with lighter fluid. Each model of Jon-E Hand Warmer comes with a plastic fill cup, which fits on the bottom of the unit. Caution: Do not leave the plastic cup on the bottom of the unit while it is operating or you may find it melted to the unit at the end of the morning. To completely fill your Jon-E Hand Warmer takes two of these cups of lighter fluid. One of them is probably plenty for your typical Southern California morning. The first thing to do is remove the unit from the cloth carrying bag and put the bag well away from where you’re filling the unit. You don’t want to get lighter fluid on the carrying bag. To fill the unit, remove the heating element, being careful not to touch the actual element material. Pour the lighter fluid into the cotton material inside the unit. Be careful to not spill the lighter fluid on the side of the unit or around the blind or your other equipment in the blind. If you do spill some wipe it up as good as you can and let the unit sit for a short while for the fluid to evaporate.

Again, because we are dealing with fire here, I’ll quote the Jon-E Hand Warmer instructions:
“WIPE OFF any fluid on outside of case! WIPE UP spilled fluid too! CAUTION: Spilled fluid is highly flammable! Do not ignite a match or cigarette lighter flame near spillage, clothing wet with fluid, or napkin/rag used to wipe up spillage because it will flame up! Anything wet with spillage should be allowed to air out and evaporate the fluid completely before any flame is ignited nearby.”

In the Jon-E Hand Warmer instructions it says to fill and start it indoors but, for waterfowl hunting, I’ve not found it practical to start the thing at one o’clock in the morning at home and keep it running all that time until you’re actually in your blind and hunting at six in the morning.

Once you have the unit filled with fluid pop the heating element back on, once again being careful not to touch the actual element material. Right next to the heating element is a wick. Set the unit on a flat surface and carefully light the wick. Let the wick burn for one minute then blow the flame out. Replace the chrome cover over the heating element. Let the unit sit for four or five minutes to warm up and then, with a gloved hand (yes, even though I said I don’t like gloves I do carry gloves – mainly for this purpose) place the unit inside the cloth carrying bag.

You can somewhat regulate how much heat the Jon-E Hand Warmer gives off by how much of an opening you allow in the top of the bag. If you want a little more heat out of the unit open of the top of the bag a little to give it a little more air. (Just be careful not to burn yourself on the metal inside).

Once the day warms up somewhat and you want to turn off your Jon-E Hand Warmer it is a simple matter of taking it out of the bag, again with a gloved hand, removing the top cover and, with the edge of the top cover, prying the heating element off the unit. Let it sit for a minute and it should be cool enough to handle. You can then put the heating element back on it, it won’t re-light until you actually light it again.
Now, for the pros and cons of the Jon-E hand Warmer:

Pros:
Gives off a good amount of heat. It’s the only hand warmer I’ve found that gives off enough heat long enough to make a difference.
Absent extreme wind or rain it is actually pretty easy to use once you’ve done it a couple times.

Cons:
It is hard to light sometimes. If it’s windy it may be impossible to light. It also requires you to carry matches and keep them dry.
It uses lighter fluid, which means you have to cart a small bottle of lighter fluid around in your blind bag.
It is a source of fire. If you’re not cautious with it you can get burned. You could even start your blind on fire if you’re a real klutz. Just because of this it may not be a good choice for some.
You have to be careful with the heating element. If you drop it in the mud in the bottom of the blind you’re done. You might be able to clean it off at home and let it dry out but you might have to get a new heating element if that happens.

All in all, even though the “cons” list is longer then the “pros” list I would recommend the Jon-E Hand Warmer for any body that gets cold hands in those early mornings in the blind. It may not be for everybody but if you can deal with the “cons”, in my opinion, the short list of “pros” actually outweigh the “cons”.

The Jon-E Hand Warmer seems to be getting harder to find lately but I did locate both the standard #700 and giant #701 at Mountain Plus Outdoor Gear: $17.56 for the standard and $22.60 for the giant. (You also might want to check ebay for these. There are several up for bid right now, although most of them are used units.)

http://store.mpgear.com/jon-e-handwarmer.aspx

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