A little bit of warming heat can go a long way in the outdoors, particularly when it comes to warming cold hands. You can always solve the problem by gathering up wood and building a fire, but in some cases the wood may be wet, or maybe you don’t like the idea of generating a lot of smoke. There may be a better solution. With a little bit of planning ahead of time you can easily make a simple, basic heater with very little effort. All you need are three simple items:
- An empty metal coffee can (13-16 oz.) with replaceable lid
- A bottle of rubbing alcohol
- A roll of toilet paper
Unlike some other forms of fuel, rubbing alcohol doesn’t generate a great deal of BTUs, but the intended purpose of this heater is not to produce a great deal of heat. Its application is suited to simply take the chill off your hands in an easy, economical manner.
The first step is to place the roll of toilet paper inside the coffee can. (You may have to remove the cardboard tube by pressing it out with your thumbs.) The toilet paper should form a fairly snug fit. Next, simply pour the rubbing alcohol evenly over the toilet paper. Use enough to thoroughly saturate the paper, but not so much that any liquid is visible in the bottom of the can. After the alcohol has been absorbed into the toilet paper, the coffee can may be sealed until the heater is needed (this will help slow any evaporation of the alcohol). In all likelihood the lid won’t fit tight enough to keep the alcohol from leaking out if the can is tipped over, so your heater should be stored upright.
When your heater is needed, simply light the toilet paper with a match or cigarette lighter. The alcohol burns very clean with virtually no visible smoke, making it great for use in duck blinds.
Once your hands are warmed, simply smother the fire. After the can has cooled down, you can replace the lid and store until it’s needed again. I like to carry an extra bottle of rubbing alcohol with me in order to replenish the supply as it becomes low. It’s surprising how long the alcohol lasts, and as long as the toilet paper is well saturated, it too will last a long time.
It is important that this heater, or any combustion-type process for that matter, be used only in a well-ventilated area. Even though no visible smoke can be seen when the heater is burning, poisonous carbon monoxide gas is being produced and emitted into the surrounding air.