Staying Warm: The Happy Rock

(As featured in the January 2011 issue of Practically Seeking)

Happy Rocks

There is something incredibly exhausting about a bad night's sleep, and a bad night's sleep in the cold is even worse. To those of you who can relate, say hello to your new best friend — The Happy Rock!

I've been been using this handy little trick for a loooong time now and it has kept me warm on more nights that I care to remember.

I've shared this one with a number folks over the years, but it's such a simple concept that I'm constantly amazed more people don't know it.

Warmed stones can make all the difference in a survival situation as the calories you would have had to burn just to stay warm can now be used in other activities.

How many times have I yelled at the television while watching "Survival Experts" suffer needlessly when such a simple thing could keep them warm and leave them much better prepared to face another day. There is no need to suffer and no need to be unnecessarily cold! A couple of warmed rocks inside your sleeping bag or in your shelter are enough to keep you warm through the night and make you Happy! (They can also be tucked inside your clothing to ward off a chill.)

The Happy Rock works on the same principle as the hot water bottle or Victorian Bed Warmer, but can be easily used indoors or out and requires no special equipment — just a rock, and a sock.

Step-by-step Instructions on How to make a Happy Rock:

  1. Get a good fire going, either in your fire pit, fire place or wood stove. (Since our fire pit is currently under about a foot of snow and ice, this month's skill is brought to you by the living room fireplace! :-)
  2. Roaring Fire

  3. Choose a rock that is about fist-sized or larger, (larger rocks hold more heat and stay warmer longer) and relatively smooth-sided. (Sharp corners are not nice to roll over on in the middle of the night!) The stone should be able to fit into a sock with a little coaxing. Flintknapping hammer stones work great for this, as does soap stone, which holds heat for a long time and can be easily worked into the perfect size and shape. Denser, heavier stones will also hold and disburse heat over a longer period of time.
  4. Round, fist-sized rocks

  5. Place your rock about 6-8 inches from the edge of your fire. You want it to be close enough to really absorb a lot of heat, but not so close that you can't reach in to where it sits. On top of or just inside your fire ring is often a good place, as is the inside edge of your fireplace mantel or on top of your wood stove.
  6. Carfully place your rocks

  7. Let your rock sit and absorb the heat.
  8. 6-8 inches from flame

  9. Turn your rock every once in a while, allowing it to absorb heat from all sides. BE CAREFUL when reaching in to touch your rock! Don't just grab it with your whole hand - check quickly first with a finger or two, making sure it has not already become "too hot to handle". You want to keep turning your rock so it stays at a temperature that is not so hot as to burn you, but hot enough that you will automatically jerk back your hand from the heat.
  10. Turn rocks carefully

  11. Your goal is to heat your rock long enough that the warmth has been thoroughly absorbed into the center of the rock, while remaining JUST too hot to touch with your bare hand. Where many people mess up is thinking that because the outside of the rock is hot, that it is done. The longer you leave your rock by the fire, the more heat will absorb into the stone, meaning the more warmth that is waiting to be diffused out to you over time. Since the temperature of your rock should only reach around 130-150 degrees you don't need to worry where it came from, as any internal moisture will not come remotely near a boiling point. Just don't forget about it, or you could have a very loud, very nasty surprise when it explodes!)
  12. Just too hot to touch Stays below boiling point

  13. After your rock has been heating for an hour or two (the longer the better), pull your sock on over your hand, with your fingers all the way down into the toe. Think sock-puppet.
  14. Pull sock over hand Hand down into sock toe

  15. Use your sock-covered hand to pick up your rock, then quickly pull the sock off of your hand, allowing your rock to drop down into the toe.
  16. Pick up rock with sock Cover rock with sock Drop rock into toe of sock

  17. Give the sock a full 360 degree twist just above the top of your rock, then pull the sock back over the rock once again, giving you two layers of protection from the heat and providing your rock some good insulation to hold on to it's heat even longer. (NEVER use the hot rock uncovered and never use a towel or other unsecured wrapping! The sock is for your protection — use it!)
  18. Twist sock one full revolution Pull sock back over rock Covered Happy Rock

  19. Voila! Happy Rock! Now take your bundle of heated joy to your sleeping bag or bed and tuck it down by where your feet will be and let it do it's warming thing. You may want to come back after 10 minutes or so and move your Happy Rock to a different spot, allowing it's wonderful warmth to seep into your whole sleeping area. Feel free to crawl in at any time -- your rock will keep you warm and toasty for many hours, even all night!
  20. Happy Rock in sleeping bag Keeping feet warm Stay warm all night

  21. If you're going to be outside on a cold day you can create a portable Happy Rock by using smaller stones (you can fit a couple into the same sock if you want) tucked into your jacket pockets, or dropped down the back of your shirt to ride near your kidneys, warming you from the inside out!
  22. Happy Rock between two shirts Warm kidney area

Until next time, keep warm, and Have Fun!

Want to put some Happy Rocks to the test?
Join us for Winter Shelters coming up February 1-2!