Saturday, 14 December 2013

What works for me: Gloves

Joe wrote an excellent post 4 years ago about gloves and a lot of what is written still rings true with me, I encourage you to either read or reread the post.

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Gloves like most pieces of clothing are individual choices and over the years I have tried my fairshare. I can even recall wearing Oiled Japara (waxed cotton) mittens with wool lining, they were made in New Zealand by W.K. Backhouse Ltd., and were very effective until the water seeped through and the lining got wet. As Goretex became popular so did the use of the fabric for mittens and gloves. In more recent times I have experimented with goretex mittens, and found they leaked, by far the most waterproof gloves I have used are rubber kitchen gloves, however, my hands tend to sweat inside and as there is no insulation your hands soon get cold.




When it comes to packing gloves I have adopted the “three approach” that is
1. an inner layer
2. a mid layer
3. an outer layer.

So lets take a look at Inner layers.

In liner gloves I have experimented with Silkbody liner gloves and  Ibex Wool liners, in both cases I find these to be okay but prefer the Ibex gloves. Sadly Ibex woollen liners are more difficult to obtain now that I do not live in the USA. I have often worn liner gloves when using trekking poles and as a result I usually get holes in the thumb and the top of the forefinger.

Ibex and SilkBody liners

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I then looked around for other gloves that maybe more suited for use when using trekking poles which led me to Extremities Windy Dry Lite gloves. These are synthetic and are often used when hiking in cold and damp weather. Admittedly these gloves are not really a liner glove, but as a very thin glove which can also do double duty as an outer in warm weather I have placed them in this category, your views may differ.

The fleece inner side of the Windy Dry Lite gloves enables your hand to breathe and the outer  windstopper layer protects your hands from the wind as well as mosquitos in Lapland. These gloves in my view are very effective in a range of conditions, and are quick drying, and they are the ones that I almost always pack. Windy Dry Lite Gloves shown below, for the astute amongst you, yes I cut the tags off not for weight saving but for the absolutely ridiculous location of the tag.

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Mid layer or insulation, it will be no surprise to most that I prefer Possum fur gloves for their warmth to weight ratio, I find them very effective in a range of conditions and even when damp they enable my hands to stay warm. I have been a user of possum fur gloves for more than 8 years and there has been no time when I felt I needed a warmer alternative.

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Admittedly, for cold winter nights in the tent you cannot go past a pair of handmade wool mitts.

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Outer layer, this is possibly the most problematic layer because you need something to keep you dry, protect you from the wind whilst enabling you to be able to grip your hiking poles. Ideally they will be easy "on and off" and weigh very little.

Last summer I used a pair of ZPacks Cuben Fiber Rain Mitts along the Nordlandsruta and after 2 weeks of solid use they were beyond repair and were no longer water proof. In the past I have carried a pair of the original MLD eVent Mitts for the just in case scenario but I would not feel comfortable using them on a long walk. For longevity it would appear that the Extremities Tuffbags, are an option and with a weight of 80 gms, they satisfy most requirements.

Z Packs Rain Mitts

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MLD eVent mitts, these are the original version and the design has changed over the years.

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Extremities Tuff Bags
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A new kid on the block.
Recently, Heather at Pacer Poles sent me a pair of  OverMitts which encloses the handle, with a small opening for the pole thereby providing a complete coverage of the handle. The benefit of these neoprene mitts is the easy removal of the hand from the pole if needed, and when accompanied by a thin liner glove the walker is provided with the best of both worlds in my view.  I doubt I will ever test the mitts to their lower temperature limits, but I can see them being an asset in windy and wet weather such as what I experienced last summer in Norway. My pair weigh in at 144 gms. which makes them a heavier proposition but the ease of use may outweigh, the extra weight involved. I have been able to use them briefly on my last trip where the windchill had temperaures hovering around zero. My limited use of mittens encouraged me to continue to experiment as I found them to be easy to use and provided adequate protection and warmth, allowing me to wear a liner gloves underneath. The feature I really appreciated was being able to extract my hand from the mitten, check the map or GPS and then quickly place my hand back into the mitten with a minimum of fuss.

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When not in use they can be left on the poles if preferred as shown below.

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 And if needed they can also be used as direction indicators for your hiking partners.

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