Saturday, January 1, 2011

Essential Preparedness Tools of the Trade Part VII - Hot Water Bottle

Our shouse gets very cold in the winter!  We stay toasty during the day, as our wood cookstove pours out the heat, but at night, it is another story altogether.  We stoke our stove at night and it just barely boils along, putting out very little heat.  It is ready to spring to life every morning, but just keeps the shouse above freezing at night.  During most of the winter, this isn't really much of a problem at all, but when the temperatures dip below zero, it can get a little frosty.

Filling the hot water bottle
Sliding it into it's fleece cozy
One of the ways we have found to keep the kids warm and toasty, even on the coldest of nights in a metal building, are hot water bottles.  It becomes a nightly bedtime ritual.  One by one, starting with the youngest children, they bring their water bottles into the kitchen to have me fill them before they run off to bed.  Sometimes, they have me fill their bottles a little early, so they can squirrel them away at the foot of their bed, then, by the time they are tucked in, a toasty warm bed awaits them.

Tucked at the foot of the bed ready to
warm cold feet

The winter Master Calvin was born was bitterly cold.  We had an uncharacteristic arctic wind from the North and our shouse was literally an icehouse.  It was so cold, that Sir Knight and I had Master Calvin sleep with us, just so he didn't freeze.  During the day, when he was napping, I would tuck a hot water bottle dressed in a polar fleece cover into his basket with him.  He slept contentedly for hours in his cozy basket, even when we could see our breath in the shouse because of the cold.

Ice on the inside of our window,
in our bedroom
We have one hot water bottle per person in our family.  Not only do we use them for warming tootsies on cold nights, but for earaches, tummy-aches, cramps and even injuries requiring a heat treatment.  We have used our hot water bottles to warm brand new babies and brand new kittens.  There is something about hot water that soothes most anything.  Hot water bottles are the perfect alternative to heating pads, perhaps even better, due to your ability to control the temperature.  They require no electricity, only a wood stove and a pot of water.  They will slowly and effectively warm a hypothermic person, sooth a crying baby or relieve joint pain in an elderly loved one.

Hot water bottles have medical uses also.  They are available (online and at certain drug stores) with a douche and enema kit.  Although not particularly romantic to talk about, these medical instruments could be the difference between extreme discomfort (or even death) and a quick, effective remedy.

Master Calvin cuddles with his bottle
The Little Stinker!
I believe that the addition of a hot water bottle to every bug out bag is a must.  Consider having to "get out of dodge" with little children or aging parents in the middle of winter.  When making camp for the night, you have hungry, cold, tired people on the verge of panic and hysteria.  You have no ability to offer them any sense of normalcy.  You can't give them much food.  You can't provide them with shelter.  There is no heat other than what can be extracted from a small camp fire.  But you can heat water.  Immediately, there is hope, relief, warmth.

Hot water bottles are a cheap investment with a tremendous return.  I would suggest one for each member of your household, plus extra for whoever else you might be caring for.  And don't forget a few to have on hand for charity.  Hot water bottles are an essential preparedness tool of the trade.


  1. I would have never thought about those...know where I can get one of those awesome water bottle covers...hint, hint??? LOL

  2. I'm not absolutely certain of this... it's something I read someplace and I an't even remember where in order to check it out, but I thought I'd share it with you anyway.. :)

    I recall hearing that cherry pits, if you have access to them, when cleaned and dried, can be sewn into a small "pillow" and heated up and they will retain heat for a very long time. :)

    The writer of the article I was reading lived near a cherry processing outfit and could get all s/he wanted. Not everyone has access to a bunch of cherry pits, but just in case you have, may be worth a look. :)

  3. A nice reminder from my childhood. I need to round some of these up...

  4. Gotta get a hot water bottle. They're good for ice packs, too, if I remember my childhood correctly.

    My BOB has a removable hydration bladder, so it could serve as a hot water bottle. But my house could use one.

    I use a blow dryer for ear aches, but without power the dryer is merely a weird-shaped paperweight.

    Another great tip, thank you.

    NoCal Gal

  5. We are lucky where we live, however the other night it was below freezing outside and our master bedroom is cooler than the rest of the house. Anyhow, as we climbed into our bed, the sheets were freezing and I said to my dear husband " Oh man wish we had hot water bottles in the bed, burrrr!". Going out to buy one for each family member!

  6. We use rice bags (flannel bags we make and fill with rice and herbs for scent, as well) for helping warm our feet at night or soothe aching muscles. We also have a hot water bottle though. I wouldn't have thought about putting them in our go-bags though. Great idea!

  7. I never realized that hot water bottles would be that usefull. Last week it got up in the 70's here in South Texas for four days. It sounds nice in the winter but we pay dearly in August and September with 100+ temperatures and humidity.

  8. I have cloth bags about the size of bottle you showed, filled with wheat. It can heat on a stove, or in a dry fry pan over a flame, or in a microwave. Four minutes in the microwave and it works very well on cold toes. Apply to the "pulse points" of people suffering hypothermia; groin, armpits, neck, etc.

    It can also be tossed in the freezer in summer as a cold compress. Hot water bottles can also be filled with ice, or cold spring water for when it's suffferingly hot. Put a cold compress against the back of the neck of someone suffering from heat prostration, and if it's bad, again on the pulse points.

  9. My Darling Man has NO hot water bottles and they are on my "to buy" the other night during a power failure, as the house was getting frosty and the kids were getting whiny, I grabbed some empty 2 liter bottles and filled them with scalding hot water (gas water heater rocks!), wrapped each one in a tea towel and handed them off to the kids. Whining stopped!

  10. It's not as comfy to snuggle with but a fire-warmed brick will work well in a pinch. I've also seen clean gravel and/or wheat berries warmed in a fireplace popcorn popper and then placed in a tightly woven zippered bag. Just some other ideas that can be used when water may be precious.

  11. One of the ladies in our homeschool group makes cloth bags filled with feed corn. They hold the heat amazingly well. It gets pretty cold here in No. Maine and sometimes they are still pretty warm in the AM. We warm ours in the radarange or behind the woodstove. Never thought to do it in a fry pan, but I guess that'd work too. Great post.

  12. Last week we were driving home from town (we live more than an hour out in the mountains)and had our heater going full blast when my husband noticed something weird. We had ice forming on the insides of the windows in our suv. It was -4* and getting colder. The next day the ice was on the inside of our doors and windows of the house. A hot water bottle would have been nice. We just sat around in jammies, fed the woodstove and ourselves.
    Another good idea for cold weather areas, is microfiber fleece sheets. We used to have flannel sheets on the bed until finding fleece ones. So much warmer. Then we found microfiber fleece sheets at Ross and they are so much warmer than anything else. Just don't put them on your bed for the first time if you have to get out of bed early the next morning. So hard to leave the warm, soft, fluffy sheets.

  13. Precious picture of Master Calvin!

    Tricia A. (there are two Tricia's posting here)

  14. I was so glad to see the humble hot water bottle brought back to the fore front again. I grew up with my mom placing one in my bed when I didn't feel well. The comfort it provided was amazing. When my mother became ill and was dying I moved in with her and brought my hot water bottle for her to cuddle. It had a fleece cover that I slipped over it.

    She loved clutching it to her chest, but her feet would get cold and make her very uncomfortable. Placing a hot water bottle at her feet didn't work as she was too restless. I had to come up with something else. First I was placing big socks on her feet, but this didn't warm them up (her circulation was bad). And then I tried sprinkling some cayenne pepper inside the socks. It worked! The cayenne pepper kept her feet warm, even without her having any natural circulation to help out. Between the cayenne pepper and the hot water bottle, she was able to sleep as comfortably as possible in her condition.

  15. Several weeks ago when I read this post, I went right out to buy hot water bottles. The lady in the pharmacy section at Walmart had no idea what I was talking about. She came with me to help me look, just in case someone else ever needed one. I told her what I was doing with them, and she got a look like I had discovered the Holy Grail. LOL!

    Well, Walmart only had three, so I bought all of them. Now each child has one...still keeping my eyes open for more, hoping to stumble across them...

    Thanks for the tip!

    Amy E (South TX)

  16. Did you know if you add about a tsp of salt, it will keep the water hotter longer? Also if someone has an earache, if you heat a few Tbsp of salt in a pan, then pour onto a square of muslin, and tie it off (I use my girls' ponytail elastics), place at opening of ear (test to make sure its not too hot!!), it will not only soothe the ear pain, but it will draw out infection. My grandmother used this on all of her 11 children. My dad used it on us, and I still use it on my college-aged daughters!