On Thursday I start a yo-yo of the Pfiffner Traverse, a 77-mile high route in Colorado’s Front Range between Milner and Berthoud Passes, and I firmly expect at least one monsoonal drenching during the course of it, if not multiple.
The backpacking conditions for which I still have the fewest answers is when it’s cold and wet. And, unfortunately, this is the exact scenario that can be brought on by Colorado’s afternoon storms: rain falls in buckets, winds pick up, and temperatures plummet.
My hands are always the first to go in these conditions. First they get wet, then cold, and finally numb, which makes for at least a suffer-fest if not a show-stopper.
Oddly, the outdoor industry has few solutions for keeping hands warm and dry when it’s cold and wet. Let’s discuss the current options, and then my experiment.
State of the market
The industry’s conventional answer to cold-and-wet conditions is a waterproof/breathable shell worn over layers of clothing. For example: hiking shirt, fleece top, WP/B jacket.
More options are available from the cottage industry:
- Borah Gear eVent Rain Mitts
- LUL WPB Over-Mitts
- LUL Cuben Over-Mitts
- Mountain Laurel Designs eVent Rain Mitts
- ZPacks Vertice Rain Mitts
I believe that these products are all flawed. I’m generally skeptical of the performance of WPB fabrics already. But handwear is a particularly bad application for it: the performance of WPB fabrics is adversely affected by abrasion and body oils (due to degradation of the DWR finish), and mitts are subjected extensively to both.
Cuben Fiber does not rely on DWR, but it still has an issue with abrasion: this is its weakest performance trait. I’m also not thrilled by the associated $80 price tag.
On this trip I’m bringing with me Grease Monkey Neoprene Long Cuff Gloves, which I found at the local Home Depot for $5. They weigh 3.0 oz in size Extra Large, which I can layer over my wool DeFeet Duragloves (size M) or my Glacier Glove Ascension Bay Sun Gloves (size L). The size Large fit well, but don’t leave me room for layering.
Gloves are not as warm as mitts, but in this case I think the root issue is that my hands are getting wet (and then cold). The ambient temperatures are not the problem. So if I keep my hands dry, keeping them warm may not be as difficult.
I’m unconcerned about fabric breathability, or lack thereof. If my hands get too hot (a reason to rejoice), I can quickly remove the gloves to vent.
They are thicker (and therefore more durable) than typical dishwashing gloves. But for long-term constant use, I’d look elsewhere.
I purchased two other pairs of gloves before finding these.
Nitrile-dipped gloves from Stanley, very similar to this Firm Grip model, also available from HD (online at least) for $5. They are the lightest option (2.0 oz), but they are only waterproof to the cuff, which seemed inadequate to me.
True Blues Ultimate Household Gloves are the most durable of the bunch, but also the heaviest (5.7 oz) and most expensive ($11) for the size Large. They seemed excessively heavy-duty.
I’ll report back after the trip. If you’ve experimented along these lines before, what was your experience?
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