If you’ve ever watched a professional gaming competition or eSports event you might have noticed some of the players squeezing and playing with small rectangular objects that look a bit like over sized tea bags.
No, this isn’t a weird superstition or strange stress ball but rather something called a Reflex or hand warmer. They’ve been known to sell at garage shops and gas stations in colder climates and have found their way into the backpacks of professional mountain climbers. But what does summiting Kilimanjaro have to do with eSports?
Very little actually. But the body mechanics are much the same. Competitive eSports is big business. With millions of dollars on the line and gamers turning their pastime into a full time profession, it makes sense that players begin to treat their bodies much like athletes would.
Hand Warmers are oversized tea bags (sort of) that, when removed from their sealed plastic packaging, heat up and ultimately warm up your hands while also absorbing moisture. Competing in any sport spikes your adrenaline and cold sweaty hands aren’t uncommon. When your performance is based solely on the speed of your fingers tapping keys or a mouse button, it makes sense that you’d want to ensure your hands are warm and ready. Hand Warmers are air activated and also help blood circulation.
A single hand warmer can stay warm for up to eight hours and tend to feel a bit like a warm mug of coffee in your hands. They’re not too hot and that is in part to the Science involved. Here’s how it works:
Each warmer has a variety of chemicals mixed into the Microporous pouch. These chemicals are air activated, meaning they reactions only start when Oxygen is added. You rip open the sealed plastic packaging and wait a few minutes for your little pouch to warm up.
The microporous pouch is punctured with a host of tiny holes. These holes allow the air to seep into the bag and react with the chemicals so that the Science can begin. The more holes the more air, so you find hand warmers have lots of smaller tiny holes to ensure a slower reaction with even heat distribution at a lower temperature. The bag contains Iron Powder, Activated Charcoal, Sodium Chloride and something called Vermiculite. The Charcoal holds the water that you need to ensure the oxidising reaction occurs. It is also a thermally conductive material while the Sodium Chloride works as a catalyst. Also, salt - it goes with almost everything. The Iron Powder reacts with Oxygen to create iron oxide, which you might know as rust. Iron Oxide also creates heat. See what is happening here? The Vermiculite is the final chemical and works as an insulator. When it is heated it expands to create a highly absorbent and fire resistant material. It is there to ultimately diffuse the iron powder and make sure it doesn’t burn too quickly.
So that is how the little bag works. When the professionals are playing they use it to warm up their hands and also absorb excess moisture. These little bags are also disposable and according to South African manufacturer, Reflex Warmers, many can be used as fertilizer once they’ve been used. So if you’re looking to give yourself a small advantage in game before growing your own carrots - they might be worth the splurge.