All About Heat Packs & Heat Pads

The humble heat pack is also referred to as a warmer, heat pad or heating pack. Millions of heat packs a year are currently used worldwide for various purposes, mostly as a portable instant heat source for simply keeping warm! Technology as produced more reliable and convenient ways of producing comforting heat. Who remembers the days of the velvet box style hand warmer containing a slow burning charcoal stick!

There are currently three types of heat pack available, the convenient instant self heating heat packs that work by way of a chemical reaction between oxygen in the air and the heat packs contents, and the re-use able gel heat pack warmer that can be heated in a microwave, and finally re-use able heat packs that produce heat at the click of a "button." Lets take a look at each of the three heat pack variations in more detail:

The air activated disposable heat pack.

As previously mentioned, often referred to as a heat pack, heat pad, warmer, heating pad or heating pack! Soft lightweight pouches containing a mixture of iron powder, charcoal, salt, sawdust, and vermiculite. When the heat pack is removed from the outer and exposed to oxygen, an oxidation reaction takes place generating heat from the pouch.

Variations of this most popular self heating packs include self adhesive heat packs especially developed for pain relief, toe warmers and foot warmers for heat to the feet, mini warmers, hand and body warmers.

Another variation is the shipping warmer for the transportation of temperature sensitive items. Heat packs are manufactured under many brand names worldwide, though the market leaders are Uniheat, Heat Factory, Grabber and Mycoal.

These heat packs are by far the most popular being a portable instant heat source as well as being disposable and biodegradable. Although heat packs are most often associated with the cold winter months, many use them year round as comforting relief for Raynauds Syndrome, Lupus, Sjogren's, Arthritis, Myalgia, RSD and fibromyalgia as well as general aches and pains.

Heat packs are also widely used for out door pursuits: camping, fishing, hiking, hunting, sailing, cycling, caving, climbing, archery, abseiling, canoeing, snowboarding, mountaineering and more.

Versatility is also a key feature, easily adapted to the users specific needs, for example some of our customers use heat packs for keeping camera batteries warm to improve performance when filming wildlife programs in ice frozen landscapes, providing heat to pet beds, warming beauty therapy products, fast food delivery, even down to keeping pampered pets warm out walking!

Used extensively as emergency heat sources in survival craft, lifeboats, personal survival packs and first aid boxes. Many people keep a few on hand in the event of central heating failure or a breakdown in a car or boat as a personal heating pad.

The Magic Button Heat Pack

Typically generating warmth for around 30 minutes, the re-use able heat pack with the magic button comes in all shapes and sizes. Inside the heat pack is normally a super saturated solution of sodium acetate in water, the magic button being a flexible stainless steel disc.

When the disc is activated, tiny particles of metal are released from the disc by friction. The metal particles allow crystals from the pack contents to attach which then cause the whole pack contents to crystallize. The pack contents rapidly turn white during the crystallizing process and generate a warm heat.

After heat generation finishes, the pack is boiled for a few minutes which causes the pack contents to return to it's liquid state. The pack can be continued to be re-generated until the activator disc eventually wears out.

The magic button heat pack is more of a novelty than of any significant use as a heat source, both for the low temperatures generated and heat duration. A novelty that quite often wears off very quickly due to the need to boil the pack to reset it!

The Instant Heat Hot Pack Compress

An instant hot pack activated by squeezing an internal compartment within the pack. A chemical reaction takes place within the pack generating heat. Typically only last around half an hour maximum, making them the most expensive portable heat source.

The Re Usable Microwave Gel Heat Pack / Ice Pack

The gel heat pack is a handy item to have around the home for those with a microwave oven. The gel pack is put in the microwave on the lowest setting for 30 seconds, the pack contents retaining heat. Gel heat packs offer a cheap heat source around the home, though provide a limited use able heat duration of around 20 minutes.

The gel heat pack is quite often used in sports injury wraps or used independently to apply heat therapy. Heat therapy is normally prescribed for no longer than 20 minutes, so the gel pack is perfect for providing reasonable temperatures for short time durations.

If the gel pack is overheated in the microwave, so the gel reaches it's boiling point, / ultimate expansion point,  the pack will inevitably burst. Quite often the gel heat pack will also double as an ice pack after placing in the freezer. Always use microwave gel packs as per the instructions, powerful high wattage microwaves may damage gel heat packs.

The wheat bag heat pack

We often get asked why we no longer stock wheat related heat products. Well, the once popular wheat bag heating pack as fallen from grace in recent years due to the many incidents of these catching fire when over heated. The wheat bag was microwaved to provide a heat source around the home.  Unfortunately due to the fire risks involved, the wheat bag needs to be used with extreme caution. The wheat bag is tagged with serious warnings and it's use has even resulted in death.


The footage shows a wheat bag catching fire

More on wheat bags

Call them what you will, the heat heating pad pack warmer can bring warmth and comfort on cold winter days, soothing pain relief, and even save lives during emergency situations or power cuts. If you are subject to cold conditions in the workplace, check out our warmer workforce program.

Heat at work

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