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  • Writer's pictureDanny McShane

Warm Bare Hands for Painters

Updated: Jan 24

As it turns wintery, plein air painting gets a bit harder to dress for and hands start to feel the sharp end of the chill. Not everyone has a problem with cold hands but as I tend to get Raynaud's Syndrome (the white finger thing) I've tried an assortment of gloves and fingerless mitts (the cycling and shooting and climbing type). Just lately I've stumbled across a toasty two-part solution.

Part 1, Wristwarmers.

Sock cuffs=wristwarmers

Made from the cut off cuffs of worn out Merino hiking socks (Costco ones, but other makes are available). These don't even need to be hemmed - the scissor cuts haven't unravelled in a few years of use and the original hem side worn toward the hand looks finished. These I've been using regularly and they add a lot of insulation to the wrist where blood is close to the surface. Surprisingly effective if you haven't tried them. Commercially available as 'Wristovers', sometimes with a thumb-hole design to cover more of your hand though I prefer just the wrist coverage to have my palm free when painting.

The original hem has a finished look

Part 2, Handwarmers. For winter climbing and skiing I'd used the single use chemical 'tea bag' handwarmers in gloves and mitts but not found a way to use them painting, other than to have in a pocket for 'rewarming' for which they're not so effective. The reuseable 'boil-in-the bag' type are similarly difficult to use while doing anything, though better for reheating cold hands. I even have the old school charcoal burning ones that are again meant for passively holding, or to act as central heating in a Barbour Jacket while you puff away on a briar pipe maybe.

USB rechargeable handwarmers

But the recent revelation has been electric (lithium rechargeable battery powered) handwarmers that come in a compact pair. These heat up to 3 levels and can be switched on and off as needed (none of the other options do this). Overall run time seems to be around 8 hours and the heat output on mine goes from hot to a-bit-too-hot for bare hands. I first found them useful in pockets while waiting for a bus on a frosty morning and at odd times when out and about and just feeling a little chilly. They seem to be effective for getting your circulation going again and the boost lets your own circulation take over. I don't know if these are all created equal, but my wife has a pair with similar performance from a different manufacturer and we'd both recommend them in principle. Recharging is quick at an hour or two with a supplied dual charging lead charging both simultaneously. Mine have a 2000 mAh capacity (each).

The Light Bulb Moment.

While painting the walled garden on Fyvie estate on a day where the ground frost didn't lift and freezing mist was starting to gather I'd been feeling the cold a bit. I was wearing my wristwarmers and remembered I had the electric handwarmers with me so got them out, switched them on, and just held them -one in my paintbrush hand and one in my palette hand. I could still paint this way, then it struck me I could tuck the handwarmers into the wristwarmers. They were now heating my wrists and the blood going to my fingers. This gave the most effective warming effect I've known for working outside, while having my hands completely free.

Tuck the handwarmer into the wristwarmer (and pull your jumper sleeve back down).:oD

They work! In January snow, Aberdeen (painting "Chanonry under Snow", photo Gregor Goodbrand

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