Hunter’s Reflex

I was reading Dr. Allen Lim’s fascinating article on the human body’s response to cold when I encountered the phrase “Hunter’s Reflex,” which is a response that some people have that enable people to have warm fingers and toes in spite of very cold weather.

This caught my attention because I’ve noticed people have varying levels of cold tolerances in their extremities. I do fine with what are marketed as glove liners or spring skiing gloves well into the teens Fahrenheit (minus 10°C plus or minus 2 or 3 degrees), while others are stuffing heat packs into mittens.

Toko Profi XC gloves

Wikipedia tells me that the Hunter’s Reflex is an alternating vasoconstriction and vasodilation in extremities exposed to cold. We all know about the vasoconstriction response — the body shuts off blood flow to the limbs to conserve warmth for the body core. For many individuals, blood flow begins again after several minutes to re-warm the extremities. A few minutes later, another cycle of constriction (with restricted blood flow) and dilation (with more blood flow) begins and this process repeats itself. Wikipedia then explains a subset of the population have different reactions.

Do I have a classic Hunter’s Response? I don’t have the slightest. Does anybody know how to tell what kind of vasodilation / vasocontriction response you have to the cold?

Speaking of gloves, Chris just told me about these Alago heated cycling commuter gloves. You pop these full finger gloves into the microwave oven for 15 seconds, and you get a full hour of warmth on the back of your hand. These even feature fingertips enabled for use with electronic touch devices. They’re available for pre-order now, with shipping to the USA and elsewhere worldwide from this UK based company.

H/T to Geoff for that Allen Lim article. He lives in Rhode Island, which probably explains his special interest in cold weather cycling.

One Comment

  1. This is really interesting. What seems to happen to me every time is that my fingers are extremely cold for about 10 minutes or so and I’m shoving them inside of my gloves, turning them into fists and hoping they warm up, and then all of a sudden they are perfectly warm for the rest of my ride.

    My feet thought, if they’re not perfectly protected from the cold just get more and more freezing along the ride.

    Those gloves look pretty darn cool!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.