This review closely follows my look at outdoor hats, and no sepia-tinted journey involving your Mum ramming a home-knitted bobble hat on your head is complete without a pair of colourful mittens linked with a length of string. Similarly, no monochrome winter mountain journey is complete without at least one pair of decent gloves. Gloves divide people – there are those that prefer a single thick glove, those that like a selection of liners with a waterproof outer and those that opt for those half-finger gloves with a flap that turns them into mittens. My personal approach varies according to the time of year – for three seasons I’ll carry one or two pairs of thin single layer gloves for use in camp or in my sleeping bag, with a waterproof shell mitt where necessary (in Scotland this is most of the time). In winter I size everything up – perhaps a thin liner glove under a well-insulated mountaineering glove. I don’t expect to be able to do everything with the outer glove on, and assuming I’ve chosen an appropriate winter pack I know I shouldn’t have too many issues with day-to-day faffing. A liner glove affords a degree of protection for fiddly work, and more importantly dries quickly in the event of an (un)expected soaking. Carry three lightweight pairs and rotate – one pair on, one in an inside pocket drying with the aid of bodyheat and one sealed in your pack. I actually adopt a similar approach for my socks on a multi-day backpacking trip – warm and dry extremities are a wonderful thing at the end of a long day, and absolutely critical in winter.
In this review I’ll be looking at a selection of styles ranging from thin liners to chunky mountaineering gloves from a number of brands including a nice sensible pair of woollen mittens. Your Mum would be pleased.
Rab Latok Glove RRP: £60
Anyone that ventures into the Scottish hills enough will have experienced the fabled dreich – not normal wet rain, simply all-pervading moisture that seems to fall horizontally and vertically at the same time and penetrate everything. With that in mind, a waterproof glove seems a good idea. The Rab Latok begins with a wicking microfleece inner, protected with an eVent insert (which actually seems to be breathable) and finished with a superbly sticky silicon palm. An elastic-cinched wrist finished with a neoprene cuff keeps things sealed and snug, and as always there’s a useful flocked patch on the back of the thumb and a carabiner loop. These are a great general purpose glove suitable for year-round use, and with the addition of a liner would be ideal for winter.
Membrane: eVent® Inner: Bemberg microfleece Weight: 138g
Extremities Guide GloveRRP: £45
Extremities offer such a huge range of gloves it was hard to select a single model for this review. The Guide glove is particularly suitable for the layering system I described in the introduction thanks to their relaxed fit and minimal microfleece lining. The beautifully supple leather palm and Windstopper membrane mean that these act like a suit of durable and windproof armour for your hands – I can fit two thin layers beneath my normal size medium and still maintain dexterity. For year-round rough handling these are ideal – but perhaps overkill for most hillwalkers unless scrambling is on the cards.
Membrane: Windstopper® soft shell Inner: microfleece Weight: 112g
Montane Thermostretch GloveRRP: £55
These are a very high quality glove – with a stretchy water resistant softshell outer and pleasing pile inner that appears to have moulded to the shape of my hand. Whilst I’ve mainly been using these gloves for hillwalking the leather palm and carabiner clip suggests alpinists are more the intended audience. There’s a soft and gentle nose-wiping patch on the back of each thumb, an easy Velcro wrist adjustment and a bit of reflective detail. Unusually for Montane these aren’t too snug to prevent the use of a liner glove, and despite relatively decent dexterity the thick pile lining makes this a useful technique. The cuff is just long enough to layer under a jacket cuff (or over if you’re climbing) and the weight is reasonable for this level of insulation and durability. These are a superb purchase for Alpinists, but again a bit excessive for most hillwalkers.
Outer: Granite Stretch Inner: DRYACTIV® 2000 Pile Weight: 167g
Icebreaker Quantum Glove LinerRRP: £27
I’ve used merino liners in the past and without fail split the stitching between the fingers – a common fault on cheaper gloves that use a simple construction technique. These liner gloves are a bit different, making use of a fourchette box-finger construction (yes, really) which removes that weak point in a similar style to the more heavy-duty gloves above. The Quantum glove makes use of Icebreaker’s 260gsm merino with a touch of lycra for added stretch and to keep them snug. A rubber grip print has been added to protect the soft fabric, but as a liner glove I wouldn’t expect to be using this glove for any rough handling tasks that would make this necessary. The fabric is soft and non-itchy and offers the necessary level of insulation – but if using a multiple-liner technique the price of merino makes these expensive when compared to similar synthetic options.
Material: 98% merino wool, 2% lycra Weight: 47g
Outdoor Designs Layer On Liner Gloves RRP: £7.50
This is my idea of a liner glove. Polartec Power Dry is a quality fabric that efficiently wicks moisture away from the skin and dries quickly when wet. It’s not as insulating as the thicker Polartec fabrics, but absolutely fine as a liner or for solo use in the warmer months. The price is good for a brand-name fabric – relevant if you’re going to be buying more than one pair for winter use – and they’re also one of the lightest in the test. Box-finger construction aids durability and comfort and the stitching seems to be substantial enough to cope. There is little stretch in the minimalist cuff which can cause a bit of a gap – but this probably says more about my physique than the glove construction.
Material: Polartec® Power Dry® Weight: 35g
Ussen Flight GlovesRRP: £6
The cheapest and lightest glove in the review, these British-made gloves are favoured by the armed forces and cold-weather adventurers alike. Simply made from polypropylene they are effectively seamless and possess enough natural elasticity to fit closely and form a decent second skin. Aimed at soldiers – not renowned for their delicate touch – I had concerns about the common failure point between the fingers, but Ussen seem to have constructed these in such a way that this shouldn’t be an issue in normal use. The minimalist branding appeals – consisting of a single tab at the base of an extra-long cuff which prevents any cold gaps between jacket and glove. At £6 these are a great purchase – and available in three alternative colours.
Material: polypropylene Weight: 32g
Mountain Hardwear Power Stretch GloveRRP: £20
Another Polartec fabric and another superb glove. Power Stretch is a thick, warm fabric with a similar feel to thin neoprene as used in wetsuits – with four-way stretch and decent wind and water resistance. I find these gloves sufficient on their own for three season use, and a particularly cosy liner for the depths of winter. As you’d expect for the price, the gloves are very well made with box-finger construction and flat lock seams. The snug cuff is covered in microfleece for added luxury, and a small clip stops them becoming orphaned in a pack. Whilst the face fabric is durable, they are not going to survive repeated contact with winter hardware and rock, but for general hillwalking these are ideal.
Material: Polartec® Power Stretch® Weight: 44g
Chocolate Fish Merino-Possum Thermal GloveRRP: £17
These non-technical gloves are beautifully constructed, and despite appearances are woven to ensure that the cosy possum is on the inside with polypro on the inside. This ensures that there are no seams apart from a small seam across the finger tips. In most applications this is not an issue, but for close work this seam, no matter the size, forms a chisel effect at the end of the finger and general annoyance. For a huge proportion of outdoor enthusiasts this will be of no relevance whatsoever, and hillwalkers should just enjoy the luxurious feel of the possum-merino-polypropylene blend which appears wonderfully hairy but totally non-itchy. The weave affords a fair amount of stretch and breathability and the substantial wrist cuff seals them against draughts. Having established that these are not designed for rough work the fabric appears pretty robust, and for camp use I’ve not managed to damage them in any way, despite the exposed finger-tip seam. The price is fair considering the ethical credentials of the manufacturer – these are made in New Zealand from locally-sourced Merino-Possum yarn.
Material: 22% possum 32% merino 32% polypropylene 14% elastane Weight: 68g
Huber Wool Dachstein MittsRRP: £25
A mitten reduces the hand surface area that is exposed to the wind and can be substantially warmer than a glove of the same material. These traditional heavy duty Dachstein woollen mitts are still made in the Dachstein region of Austria, in fact if they’re made elsewhere they aren’t true Dachsteins. They are manufactured oversized from pure new wool, then carefully shrunk to fit which gives them a hard wearing felted finish that is highly windproof. Although they are not waterproof, they retain their insulation properties even when wet, though I find them too warm for use above freezing anyway. The generous fit means that a thicker liner glove like the MHW Power Stretch Glove can be worn underneath, and a waterproof shell mitt such as the Extremities Tuff Bags
worn over the top if required. As you can imagine, these are cumbersome and heavy mitts only really suitable for serious winter conditions, but those with aspirations of alpine ascents would do well to learn from the generations of mountaineers that have gone before them and pick up a pair of these.
Material: boiled wool Weight: 165g
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