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Zippo vs. Jon-e hand warmer

Discussion in 'Gear Reviews' started by Kilted1, Nov 29, 2012.

    Kilted1 Loaded Pockets

    I've had and used a Jon-e handwarmer for some time, off and on since I was about 12 or so actually. Today I bought a Zippo warmer so I can have one in each hand pocket of a jacket as well as just for comparison. So I thought I'd share my impression of each with you all here. :)

    They both work on the same catalytic principle, consume the same fuel and produce a similar amount of heat (and odor) so there's no clear winner in these categories. Not even a preference, it's just what they do and how they do it.

    The Zippo is slightly taller and wider where the Jon-e is a tad thicker and less tapered toward the edges than the Zippo. If one were to do the measuring and calculating, I'd guess they are almost identical in overall volume but I'm going to award a point to Zippo for it's rounded corners and edges. The Jon-e however, has a flat bottom allowing it to stand up on it's own. Point to Jon-e for tailstanding.

    The Jon-e comes in a nickel, or is it chrome?, finish and as far as I know, that's all that ever has been. Zippo sells both chrome and Black finish, I opted for the black for no particular reason. Point to Zippo for simply giving us an option. Did someone say Cerakote?

    Both come with a fuel measuring device so you don't overfill it. I generally don't use these as I don't spend all day outside. I just put a good squirt of fuel in and it lasts as long as I need it to. The Jon-e has a simple cup with a fill line whereas Zippo's is designed to dribble fuel in via a spout that looks like it belongs under Barbie's sink. Jon-e's cup also fits in the cloth bag with the heating unit nested inside. Zippo has a half fill line in case you don't know how to fill it halfway without a line. Capacity is nearly identical. Point to Jon-e for nesting cup storage.

    Once filled, you install the catalyst and light. With the Zippo, you simply get out your other Zippo (or any flame source) and hold the catalyst in the flame for several seconds. The Jon-e has a wick of it's own next to the catalyst and so needs only a spark or momentary flame, whereupon the wick lights and provides it's own flame for as long as needed. This flame must then be extinguished either by blowing or simply snuff it out with the lid. Suggestion to the manufacturer: add a sparker! Until that happens, no points, just differences.

    Then the lid slides on over the burning catalyst, okay it's not actually burning but catalyzing or undergoing a flameless exothermic oxidation reaction, whatever. The lid is mainly to protect the cat head and absorb and distribute the heat, it's full of holes for air circulation. The Jon-e lid slides on rather like assembling a just filled Zippo, smooth and snug but not too tight. Though you do have to worry about the wick getting in the way. The Zippo lid fits like a cheap Chinese knockoff, barely holding on, tight or loose in spots. Perhaps it's just my luck with this particular example. It holds together well enough to get it into the bag and once there it doesn't really matter, but I wouldn't trust this thing in my pocket without the bag. Point to Jon-e.

    After you have it lit and the lid installed, you then put the unit in a cloth bag that comes with and fits just right. The bag is an integral part of the system here. You control the heat by moderating the air circulation and thereby the oxygen supply to the catalyst, you control the air by fiddling with the bag. Want more heat? Open the top of the bag a bit. The bags are different but I don't know if I prefer one over the other. Both have their ups and downs. Jon-e has a red felt bag with gold cords that pull from either side. I've always liked this method of closing for such a bag as you just pull on the cords, but it's not very secure especially if you're trying to let it breathe by leaving it open a bit. Zippo came with a dark green velour bag with a single string and stop bead. It seems effective but not yet enough experience with it to say whether it works in the field. Maybe the perfect bag would have two cords with stop beads. Points for both.

    So unless my counting toes have failed me, that's four points for Jon-e and three for Zippo. Still, the differences are small. The fact is that in the real world, these are essentially the same and they both are well designed, last a long time on little fuel and just plain work. Either one can be a great comfort in cool weather or save your or a loved one's life in more frigid conditions.
    ericbondas and nicktodorov like this.

    mbick Loaded Pockets

    I've had a Zippo handwarmer for 15-20 years (time flies when you're old) and it's been a trusty item. It spends most of the year in the drawer of a dry sink cabinet, comes out when we have a cold spell here in east Tennessee--an increasingly rare event.

    Kilted1 Loaded Pockets

    By the way, I fixed the lid looseness issue with the Zippo by simply giving it a squeeze. It now fits like it should have in the first place.

    Kilted1 Loaded Pockets

    It's been unusually cold here as it has in many parts of the US, so I've had a chance to try these things out a bit. One thing is clear, I like the Jon-e better than the Zippo. The differences are minor but they are there, here's a run-down.

    Fueling pot: In this case I like the Zippo better. The gooseneck looks quite silly but does a nice job of dispensing the fuel in a metered way with no dribbling unlike the simple open pot of the Jon-e. Though I still like that the Jon-e pot will slide into the case with it and not have to worry about losing an extra piece.

    Fuel port: Both fuel from the top after removing the burner. Zippo has a bit of a grid over the packing leaving three exposed squares of material on top to apply fuel to. The Jon-e has a wire screen on top of the packing but leaves a small well to pour fuel into, I find this much easier to use.

    Fuel: Fiddling at my desk the other day, I had the warmers sitting right next to a bottle of 99% Isopropyl alcohol that I had picked up at the pharmacy. Figuring "what can it hurt?" I gave them both a partial fill of alcohol and fired up. The Zippo only seemed to last about 5 minutes or so while the Jon-e lasted a good couple hours. It may be that I spilled more of the fuel down the outside of the Zippo but I'm pretty sure it had more to do with the design of the catalyst material. While they operate on the same principle, the actual "stuff" inside the burner is different in nature if not operation. They both work great with regular fuel but the alcohol only worked with the Jon-e.

    So why use a fuel like alcohol instead of what it's designed for? Well, cost is one factor. the alcohol doesn't seem to last quite as long but is perhaps a quarter or less the cost. The other and primary reason is odor. Regular lighter fluid has a distinctive odor and when these things are burning, it is noticeable. The smell is slight but even my not-so-sensitive nose notices. With alcohol, there is still a smell but it is much less noticeable and less noxious. Which is nice if you're using it inside or in a car, especially with other people. I've been using this in the house most of the day and my wife, who is sensitive to odors of all kinds, hasn't even noticed. It's keeping my feet quite toasty under a light blanket on the couch which I wouldn't think of trying with the regular lighter fluid.

    I don't know if the more common 91 or 70% rubbing alcohol would work. Obviously it would be less efficient due to the water content but I might try some 91% simply for cost and availability.
    trickcunningham and Anti-maven like this.
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    trickcunningham EDC Junkie!!!!!

    Just picked one of these up from amazon and found a review here; thanks! i'm really looking forward to it now!

    Kilted1 Loaded Pockets

    Which one did you get? I've decided I like the Jon-e better because of the fill port and it works much better with alcohol but they seem to have disappeared from the market.

    riot Loaded Pockets

    Wow, I used to use one of the Zippo hand warmers about 25 years ago when I had a paper route! That thing got dropped onto the pavement so many times! It had a ton of scratches, but never dented. All these years later I wonder where it ended up...I might have to dig through some boxes and see if I can find it!

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    SAKplumber likes this.

    Doc18 Loaded Pockets

    My dad sent me a zippo hand warmer downrange on my last deployment and it was convenient because I used my zippo and always had fluid. It went through fluid fast though it seems. I think the other sounds cheaper in the long run

    Evilbunny Loaded Pockets

    for the record zippo also comes in mossyoak

    rhosey Loaded Pockets

    My wife goes through quite a few of the disposable hand warmers putting them in her inner jacket pockets to stay warm on cold mornings driving a school bus.

    I thought about getting her a couple of these, but having no experience with them, was concerned about the safety & fumes. From what I read above, it sounds like the Jon-e with alcohol would probably be the best option, but I'm still not sure about the idea... What do you guys think?

    Kilted1 Loaded Pockets

    Go for it! If she's using a couple disposables a day, it'll pay for itself pretty quickly. I wouldn't worry about the safety aspect, it doesn't get hot enough to catch anything on fire. While regular lighter fluid does have an odor to it, it's nothing that I'd be concerned with in a space the size of a school bus. Unless they've changed a lot, there's probably other things on there that smell more and worse. :D

    Alcohol has less odor but still has some and doesn't seem to work as well in the Zippo. Hard to go wrong with either one though.
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    trickcunningham EDC Junkie!!!!!

    Got the zippo today. I love it! I had a hard time getting it started but once I read the directions I realized I had to fill it up twice. Once I got that it's been awesome. I found that it's actually much warmer on my pocket. Apparently they do better with less oxygen. I really think this will be great on cool days at the range.
    Kilted1 likes this.