Canada wins the war on frozen fingers

The military’s finger-warming vest could be a hit with anglers
Emily Burke

Canada wins the war on frozen fingers

An amazing new invention by the Canadian military could mean you’ll never suffer from frozen fingers again.

Researchers at the Department of National Defence have developed the Torso Heating for Dexterity in the Cold system, a close fitting battery-powered vest with a built-in thermostat. Rather than covering the hands with a heated glove, the vest increases the wearer’s core temperature to the point where the body can keep fingers warm on its own. It’s the first of its kind in the world, says Darren Menabney, business development officer at Defense Research and Development Canada. “There’s nothing out there that really does the same thing.”

The vest uses a built-in control system to monitor the wearer’s finger temperature, and turns up the heat when they’re chilly. This fools the core into thinking that the body is overheating, triggering an automatic response to send warm blood to the extremities.

Defence scientists originally developed the vest for military snipers, helicopter flight engineers, medics and mechanics who do delicate work in frigid weather and can’t wear gloves. A working prototype of the vest has already been built and tested on soldiers, who took apart their rifles and put them back together again in -25° C conditions without any problems.

Now the military is accepting applications from private partners to license the technology and commercialize the product for consumers. Menabney predicts that the vest will be popular with people who want to keep their hands warm while performing detailed tasks, such as anglers, hunters, drivers who need to change a tire, or even homeowners who want to put up Christmas lights.

“It’s a neat idea, the fact that you can have your hands out in the cold and not feel it,” says Menabney. “It gives you a whole new kind of freedom.”