Body Heat: Harnessing The Power Of The Hot Patch


It’s arguably the great human goal and desire to be warm. There’s the whole “getting back to the womb' theory. There’s also the great migration of those older and fewer-fucks-giving generations who head down to Florida or Arizona the exact moment they turn 65.

I actually don’t mind being cold—I love coats for one thing. And I layer. And how! By the time I get to my train station in the morning, I’m so bundled up that I forget what my first layer outfit is—I only find out when I get to work. It makes me feel like body is a little heated cell moving around in a frozen landscape. It’s sort of romantic when you think about it.

Growing up, my house felt like a castle—not because of its size, grandeur or architecture (on the contrary)—but because the way it felt inside in the winter was that same dark, cavernous, cold, damp stillness of some abandoned stony tower in Anglo land. The house kept out the wind and rain, so it was technically shelter, but it was not exactly a tropical oasis inside. It was de riguer for my dad to be wearing a hunting beanie, quilted vest, sweater and overcoat inside, even in front of the hearth. My brother wouldn’t sleep in his own bed—he would drag his covers out in front of the fire. My dad’s got this homesteading fantasy, and we were all acting it out.

Of course, I can’t complain (although I did at the time)—it’s his house, and he can have it cold if he likes. But, in response to my past environment, I’ve developed a sort of warmth fetish. I want to be as warm as possible almost all the time. Preferably surreptitiously warm—like personally, secretly warm. And I’m always one to let a little tech help out—preferably something that has only one step, and no buttons. Self-heating stick-on patches are that thing.

These ThermaCare shoulder patches cure what ails you, and even more. Especially in winter, when you’ve got a heavy coat as well as a heavy bag, and instead of getting toned under this weight, your shoulders just get tight and slumped. I put them at the base of my neck, spanning my shoulder blades—the closest I’ll get to wearing VS Angel wings. There’s the general warmth to love, but there’s also a tender, emotional quality about the placement—it sort of feels like a heavy, paternal hand on your shoulder, reassuring you that your sand castle will hold up next time or that other boys aren’t so mean or that someday you’ll be able to buy your own car. I walked a few miles in the city with one of these on, and it’s more or less heaven. And of course, they’re invaluable on an airplane.

And the Bengay lower back patch—good God. It’s like this low, slow, relaxing, what feels like internal warmth. Plus, there’s an element of the bionic, especially with the paneled heat pads. They look like Batman’s ab piece that you’re wearing backwards. Like I said, I’m not tough. And I can’t usually be the calm, soothing one in a situation that requires any amount of forbearance or grit. But slap on a few of these patches, and you’re invincible.

And you haven’t lived unless you’ve stuffed a sports bra with HotHands Hand Warmers. Learned this the one and only time I went skiing. I say ‘skiing’, but really I just plowed down ski-runs too elementary for most 9-years-olds, and managed to give new (and literal) meaning to “hitting the slopes.” I was tired of falling and snowballing down the mountain— besides the embarrassment, you get ice and snow all down your collar and in your socks. You’re in a better position to deal with this precipitation if you’ve stuffed a few of these HotHands down your shirt. It’s kind of like IronMan’s heart— you keep this little bundle of warmth strapped to you, giving you life, energy, and enough heat to get through the damn day.

—Trace Barnhill

Photographed by Tom Newton.