Review: Shin Bio Heat Pack

By: Tom Prince, Photography by: Barry Ashenhurst

You won’t find Shin Bio Heat Packs at your local chandler or tackle shop but that doesn’t make them any less suitable for boating and fishing.

As the name suggests, Shin Bio Heat Packs are locally-made devices which just happen to be convenient little sources of instantaneous warmth. Each reusable Shin Bio Heat Pack consists of a liquid-filled translucent sack containing a metallic button the size of a five-cent coin. The packs have lots of applications relating to pain relief and general comfort, which is why they’re routinely promoted at outdoorsy-type expos like the various boat shows.


What are Shin Bio Heat Packs?

Shin Bio Heat Pack shoulder unit
Here’s one way to beat the winter chills. These heat packs also come with comfy pouches for holding them around your knee, back or stomach.

Each Shin Bio Heat Pack bag contains a liquid consisting of sodium acetate, which is basically supersaturated salt and vinegar. Floating in each bag is a small metal disc that when "clicked" between your fingers causes a chain reaction to spread through the liquid. This transforms it into a thick, crystalline-like substance that also happens to give off a lot of heat. You can literally see the chemical reaction spread through the contents of each bag, turning it from clear to opaque (and from cold to warm) in a matter of seconds.

This demonstration of the principles of chemistry at work will almost certainly be the first thing you notice when you come across this product, despite the fact that there’s almost no practical need for the reaction to be seen at work. However, it’s this very quality that makes it look so enticing — and which in my case made me want to find out more when I first spotted it at the Melbourne Boat Show. It’s clever marketing with a bit of "huh?" factor that gets it noticed, and I like it.

The heat packs come in a range of sizes, from the simple 9cm x 12.5cm pocket unit to the 42cm x 13cm shoulder warmers. Well-designed pouches that are easily Velcroed around your knee, stomach or back are also available, making them very portable.

Chemical reaction of Shin Bio Heat Pack
Click the small metal disc and watch — quite literally — the heat-producing chemical reaction spread through the heat pack.


The Trade-a-Boat verdict

I’m very fortunate to not suffer from arthritis but I’m told these heat packs work a treat on sore joints. Depending on size, they’ll stay warm for up to three hours. That translates into plenty of time for the sun to come up by the time you reach your favourite fishing spot.

My only nitpick was the fact that the solution transforms into an inflexible crystallised material once it’s cooled. You have to "re-set" a pack after each use, which is achieved by boiling it in a pot for 15 minutes. This has the added advantage of allowing the unit to be used twice — straight out of the pot (be careful not to burn your fingers as you handle a boiling hot pack), as well as in its intended function.


Shin Bio Heat Packs price

Boiling a Shin Bio Heat Pack
The saline solution in each Shin Bio Heat Pack becomes solid and inflexible after it cools. This means you need to ‘reset’ each heat pack in a boiling pot. The bigger the heat pack, the longer it’ll take to revert to revert back. You may also find that the heat packs take longer to boil as you subject them to extended use.

Prices on the distributor’s website range from $12 for the pocket unit to $45 for the neck and shoulders unit plus postage. They’re considerably more expensive than hot water bottles or wheat bags but that probably won’t be too great a complaint if their ability to alleviate pain can make an early morning start more enjoyable. Plus, as I said, the chemical reaction looks way cool and will be a talking point with your crew.


Shin Bio Heat Packs can be ordered from or by calling 1300 100 007.


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