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How to Keep Hands Warm

How to Keep Hands Warm and How to Keep Feet Warm

So often the limiting factor in spending time outside in the winter (for adults and children!) is cold extremities. It just stops being fun when you start getting cold!

But we have some tips on how to keep hands and feet warm and products that can help make your winter super cozy and prolong your time outside including beaver fur warmers from Aurora Heat and reusable chemical warmers.

Use code MTNMAMA to save 10% on Aurora Heat

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How to Keep Your Hands Warm, and Feet too!

Layering Basics

Layering is often going to depend on the activity; if you’re moving around a bunch you’ll need less insulating layers and will focus on baselayers and outer layers that will wick and breathe while still keeping you warm. If it’s a more sedentary activity, insulating layers will be key to warmth. It’s always a good idea to have extra insulating layers handy in case conditions or activities change.

For hands and feet, start with good wool socks on the feet, and possibly a light liner mitten for the hands. It’s nice to have wool socks of varying thickness so you can choose based on your activity, and based on how much space is available in your boot.

It’s very important to make sure you have enough space in your boot for the warm air to circulate; if your boots are too tight you will get cold fast. Sometimes doubling up on socks seems like a good idea, but if it uses up all the extra space in your boots it will make you COLDER!

A small child sitting indoors, holds up fur warmers and sits surrounded by warming products
Aurora is ready for anything in her Reima wool baselayer, her warm mittens, her Aurora Heat fur warmers, and her reusable warmers for backup!

Some additional cold weather tips are described in our Below Zero with Kids post and the How Cold is Too Cold post.

Liner Mittens for Cold Hands

Liner mittens or gloves are great to have on hand. It’s nice to have extra insulation to put under a rain mitten in shoulder seasons, or under your regular mitten on days when it’s really cold if you don’t have another warmer.

Tip: Try not to wear winter mitts in the fall as the extra abrasion on rocks and rough ground will shorten their lifespan, rain mittens can usually handle that type of play a bit better without scuffing.

  • Reima makes several options for a wool blend liner mitten and fleece mitten (use code MTNMAMA for 20% off).
  • Polarn o Pyret makes several options, our favorite are the really thick wool mittens made of double knit merino – they’re really soft and plush and warm!
  • Smartwool also makes a very lightweight merino liner, they’re really nice and thin but can be less durable (not a problem if you don’t mind sewing little fingertip holes).

Socks for Cold Feet

There are lots of options for wool socks, with varying wool content. Try to choose some that have over 50% wool, and no cotton. Wool/poly blends are great and will often be more durable than wool alone (though don’t match the warmth of full merino socks).

Three children walk across a snowbank, one is wearing a purple cape, one is wearing a pink snowsuit, and one is wearing a red jacket and carrying a snowball
Keep in mind some kids will need more layers than others!

Meriwool makes a 3-pack of kids’ wool socks for $18, which is a fantastic price, and these socks hold up well. Their adult socks are 3 for $25 and are very plush. Meriwool socks are 75% wool.

We’ve had a few pairs get felted over the years but most of them are holding up great after years of washing and drying. And the ones that got a bit felted are still usable, just thicker and a bit stiffer, and got passed down to a younger child.

Two children's feet with wool socks on, pink socks on the left and red socks with a snowflake pattern on the right
Meriwool socks (left) and Pacas socks (right)

Pacas socks are another good option and are made of alpaca fibers, and they have tons of fun designs for kids (and just started coming out with fun ones for adults!) I make a habit of checking REI Outlet regularly for wool socks, and buying them up when they’re on sale.

Darn Tough makes, as the name states, really durable socks! They also come with a lifetime warranty. Unfortunately for most of us, kids socks get lost before they get holes, but if they do get holes they’ll replace them, for life!

ActionHeat Electric Socks

Electric socks are also an option for adding heat to your toes. TMM Team Member Sarah reviewed ActionHeat Electric gear and the socks kept her toasty warm, but be aware they do have cotton in them. These are a good option for adults or older kids. Because they’re electric and can get really hot, I wouldn’t recommend using them for younger children.

Why Extremities Get Colder

The human body regulates its own temperature, and when the outside temperature drops the body directs its heat inwards to protect the core. This takes heat away from your extremities so the colder it gets the more care you need to take to keep hands and feet warm.

One way to keep hands and feet warmer is movement. You can make a game out of this, running in place, jumping jacks, races, etc. The idea is you want to get blood flowing to the legs and arms. Some children love running to warm up, some will become more and more stationary the colder they get.

Image of three children with sleds on a snowy slope

Because you did all the work of gearing up to get outside, you want to make sure that cold hands and feet aren’t the things that send you running inside before you’re ready, so we have some tips and tricks to help you stay out as long as you want!

Why We Love Aurora Heat Warmers

Use code MTNMAMA to save 10% on Aurora Heat

A variety of Aurora heat beaver fur warmers of varying sizes laid out on a pink background
A variety of Aurora Heat warmers

What Are Aurora Heat Warmers?

Made of 100% beaver fur from Northern Canada, Aurora Heat hand and feet warmers are handmade from ethically-sourced pelts in the Indigenous community of Thebacha. The products are made by Indigenous women who are paid the living wage and higher. More info about Aurora Heat is available in this post, and below!

Sustainability of Fur

For thousands of years, people in cold climates kept warm using furs. In our society today we may not think too much about the impact of a few disposable chemical warmers, but from production to the landfill these products have an impact. They also have an impact on your wallet.

Fur warmers are something you’ll only have to buy once. While you pay a higher initial cost, a set of fur warmers will keep you warm instantly, continuously, and you never have to worry about running out.

Beaver fur is renewable, with an extraordinarily long lifespan. Our low-impact, handmade production process and biodegradable materials make for a circular supply chain.

– Aurora Heat
Closeup image of an Aurora Heat thumb warmer on top of other fur warmers

Warmth to Weight

Aurora Heat warmers are nearly negligible in weight, and provide warmth right away without adding any bulk. They’re easy to carry with you in case they’re needed. Chemical warmers increase in size when they’re activated, whereas Aurora Heat warmers do not.

How to Use Aurora Heat Warmers

Aurora Heat warmers are very easy to use. Always keep the fur side against your skin for instant cozy warmth! Other than that there is really no wrong way to use them!

Check out this instagram reel we put together to see how we use them.

Aurora Heat Hand Warmers

Aurora Heat’s reusable hand warmers are placed inside your mitten, either on top of your fingers (fur side down), or wrapped around your fingers (for the ultra warmers).

Inserting an Aurora Heat handwarmer into a Reima Ote mitten

The ultra warmers will provide you the most warmth, as you can have your hand completely surrounded by their coziness. With the ultra warmers and some warm waterproof mittens (that have enough space), you’ll be comfortable in any temperature!

A boy in a green snowsuit, blue mitts, and black balaclava holding up some ice formations on a cold day

Aurora Heat Thumb Warmers

Aurora Heat also makes thumb warmers, and they can be placed in most adult mittens and older children’s mittens. For smaller children’s thumbs they’ll likely be too bulky to help much unless they’re wearing larger mitts.

A thumb resting on a fur thumb warmer, taking up half its length. Background is pink.
Aurora Heat thumb warmer. To use fold in half over thumb and put in mitten.

Aurora Heat Foot Warmers

The foot warmers should be placed inside your socks, on top of your toes. You can also wrap them around the toes for ultimate coziness if using the ultra foot warmers. Anything underneath the main part of the foot is going to get compressed by your weight and will be unable to trap warm air so it will have limited usefulness. This is why their foot warmers are designed to just cover the top of the foot (and wrap under just the toes if desired).

Two ultra fur warmers shown on a tile floor next to a hand for scale
Ultra Warmers: Ultra hand warmer on the left and contoured and shorter ultra foot warmer on the right

How to Keep Your Hands Warm

One of the most common reasons young children want to come inside in the winter is because their hands are cold. Warming the extremities will extend their time and comfort in the outdoors!

Good Gear

Having well-insulated and waterproof mittens are essential for children. Mittens are better than gloves for most activities when it’s cold, but if your child needs to wear gloves they can always retract their fingers into a fist to warm them up as needed. Aurora Heat also makes thumb warmers, which work well for bigger kids wearing gloves, added in with Aurora Heat hand warmers on top of the hands.

Use code MTNMAMA to save 10% on Aurora Heat!

Some of our favorite mittens include the Reima Ote (20% off with code: MTNMAMA), Stonz (15% off with code: MTNMAMA15), and Veyo (more suggestions in our Winter Gear Post!).

A boy in a green snowsuit and helmet and blue mittens smiling as he goes down a hill on a red sled
Reima Ote mittens in action

You can save money by buying mittens second hand, but this is a place where I think it’s usually best to buy new if possible. Kids are really hard on gear and tiny holes and abrasions can drastically reduce the waterproofing of the mitten.

Check the condition of the palms and look for little holes around the seams before buying used. Instead shop off season sales, and utilize our coupon codes (our list of codes can always be found on our Gear Discounts page)!

Simple Tricks for Keeping Hands Warm

Pre-Heat your Mitts!

If you can get in the habit of pre-heating mittens in dryer, or on your car dashboard on the way to an outing, your kids will love putting on their hot mittens! You can also use reusable chemical warmers to heat them on the way to an adventure, or midway through your outing. Or use some good old fashioned friction and have everyone rub their hands together vigorously before putting on their mittens.

Two children in snowsuits with mittens raised, on a snowy landscape with sun setting in the background

Aurora Heat Warmers

Hand warmers (like Aurora Heat) are going to be the quickest way to increase the warmth in your mittens. Unlike disposable warmers which take 20 minutes to activate, they start working right away and never stop! See the section above with all the details.

Reusable Warmers

Reusable warmers like Snappy Heat or Hot Snapz work really well, and are more sustainable than disposable warmers. They work via a chemical reaction, which is activated by snapping the metal disc inside the liquid, and then massaging the package while it turns to a stiffer gel.

Three Snappy Heat reusable chemical reaction hand warmers
One used up Snappy Heat (crystallized and stiff) in the back, two liquid Snappy Heat warmers liquid and ready to be activated.

However, reusable warmers are a lot bulkier than fur. They don’t fit in most kids’ mittens, but are handy to bring along as they can be used to warm up hands in pockets or under a blanket. They turn solid after the heat-producing reaction is complete, and will turn back into liquid after boiling and will be ready for another use. While they work decently well and are reusable, they still create waste once they are disposed of – unlike the natural, fur-based warmers from Aurora Heat.

Other Tips For Keeping Hands Warm

Size up mittens to make sure you have enough space, just make sure they still fit well. Mittens with adjustable wrist straps (like the Reima Ote) are great for this, more warm air space inside the mitt for warm air, and space for an Aurora Heat fur warmer of your choice.

There are lots of other options for warmers, but keep in mind that the disposable chemical warmers should not be used directly against your skin. For feet this is no problem as you can put them on top of your socks, but for your hands you’d want to have a liner glove and outer glove to put them between.

Bringing a thermos of hot chocolate and hot soup can also not only warm your insides as you drink it, but can warm your hands holding your warm mug. Hot liquids can make a huge impact on warmth and positivity outdoors!

Best Ways to Keep Feet Warm

The other most common complaint amongst children (and adults!) is having cold feet outside. Cold feet can be a little trickier because you can’t put anything too bulky in a boot. Additional tips can be found in this post.

Good Gear to Keep Feet Warm

The most important things to think about for your boots are that they’re waterproof and that they fit you well with plenty of room for warm air to circulate. I don’t feel like I can overstate this, because so many people are wearing boots that are really too small!

Additionally, check (with your hand) the insulation on the foot of the boot. Sometimes winter boots appear to have good insulation around the ankle and up the leg, and fall short on insulation on your foot.

Every brand and shoe style has the potential to run differently, so don’t get too hung up on what you think your size shoe is, try the boots on with the winter socks you’ll be wearing and make sure they give you plenty of space! It’s always best to try boots on at the end of a day, because your feet swell over the course of a day and are smaller in the morning.

Three children in snowsuits sit on a sled in a snowy landscape at sunrise

The winter gear post has recommendations for our favorite winter boots and a separate post details recommendations for Mukluks and Barefoot Winter Boots. Boots generally hold up well through multiple children so check Marketplace or find some at gear swaps. I’ve also had really good luck finding new boots discounted on ebay.

Simple Tricks to Keep Feet Warm

Pre-Heat your Boots!

If you store your boots in the garage or arctic entry, you will want to warm them up a bit before you put your feet in them. A boot dryer works for this. We have downward-sloping pegs above one of our heating vents in the hallway and this works great too for the boots we’ll be wearing the following day.

Gear storage area with boots drying over radiator
Boot drying area of the gear storage. The pegs are angled enough to allow any liquid to drain out and heat to come in.

You can also put some extra reusable chemical warmers inside the cold boots while in the car and when you reach your destination they’ll be toasty and ready for feet!

Nalgene of Boiling Water

Bringing a nalgene of boiling water that’s kept inside a sleeping bag as a warm up tool can also help extend outings. We’ve used this trick to help keep a child who is “done” happy while the other ones continue playing. This works really well if you put the sleeping bag on a sled so they can be pulled around, or parked somewhere to watch the others play.

The nalgene will last quite a while, but you can bring Hot Snapz to activate as needed inside their sleeping bag also. Running around or playing games to generate warmth (stomping games or jumping games are particularly fun) will also help get blood pumping and everyone giggling!

Nordic Ski Boots and Ice Skates

One of the most difficult times to keep kids’ feet warm is when they’re wearing a nordic ski boot or an ice skate. Both are stiff and small, and have very little insulation of their own. If you live in a cold climate, this will sometimes lead to the temperature deciding what activity you can or can’t do on a given day.

Image of a child on cross country skis and a purple snowsuit in the snow, with the sun in the background
The only part of this gear setup that doesn’t have enough warmth as-is are the thin and stiff nordic boots!

This is where the Aurora Heat foot warmers (use code MTNMAMA to save 10%) can shine! They don’t take up very much space and can add a lot of warmth, especially if wrapped around the toes. Except on really mild days, I always have my Aurora Heat warmers in my socks, giving me the edge I need to keep skiing until I’m tired, not just until my feet are cold.

Nordic ski boot shown with the fur warmer that will increase warmth
A nordic ski boot shown with an Aurora Heat foot warmer.

Again, make sure the boots or skates have enough room. If they’re sized properly, they should have room for thick socks plus the Aurora Heat warmers since they go on top of your foot.

Extending the Warmth of Rain Boots

Fall and spring can be really tricky seasons to dress kids for. When it’s 40 degrees and pouring, you really don’t want to use snow boots. But it’s a bit cold for just rain boots. Some rain boots have some insulation to them, but if yours don’t you have some options!

Thermal Insoles

A simple wool felt or heat-reflective insole will add warmth to your boot. Just replace the liners the boots come with and add in your own. There’s a nice tutorial on that here. You can also buy inexpensive thermal insoles.

DIY Liner

Adding a DIY fleece or wool liner over the sock can help add another layer of warmth. This would usually require boots at least a size up from their regular size, so if you have next season’s boots on hand already (because you shopped those sales and stocked up) you’ll have space for the liner. Example DIY tutorials can be seen here (text instructions) and here (video).

Adding Aurora Heat

Adding an Aurora Heat footwarmer inside the socks (on top of the feet) will help extend the temperature range of your rain boots down to that “just above freezing” rain. You could also add ankle warmers, though they run quite a bit more expensive. Their plus side, however, is that they work with any pair of footwear – the ankle warmers don’t need anything to hold them in place, as they are made with an elastic band. So you can wear them comfortably and discretely around the the ankles without worrying about them shifting around.

Rain boots shown outside in cold rain with fur in and on top of them
Add some fur to your rain boots to extend their temperature range

Sustainability

Sustainable warmth is a great gift to family or to yourself, something that will keep you warm year after year after year! It’s still a good idea to have some chemical heat warmers on hand for emergencies. I keep some in my first aid kit. However they expire sooner than you might think and create waste (both the warmer and the plastic they are packaged in).

  • Aurora Heat Beaver Fur Warmers can be reused indefinitely (use code MTNMAMA to save 10%)
  • Reusable warmers (Aurora Heat or Hot Snapz) cut down on waste
  • If you’re using chemical warmers, you can prolong their life by putting them in a sealed bag (Ziploc or reusable Stasher bag) and you effectively “stop” the timer on the 8 hour chemical release when you cut off the oxygen, and can use them again another day!
A girl in a blue snowsuit and purple mittens is eating a chunk of icy snow

Don’t Let Cold Hands and Feet Keep You Inside

Cold hands and feet don’t need to send you inside this winter! Having a few key items on hand to help keep your extremities warm will allow you and your family to play longer. We hope these tips on how to keep hands and feet warm will keep your family playing outside on the coldest days!

Related Articles:

Best Ways to Keep Hands and Feet Warm

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