Gloves or mittens – dexterity or none – that’s always the big tradeoff you need to weigh when packing for hiking trips where you expect sleet or rain. Personally, I prefer gloves over mittens, but I’ve never found a glove that I like for 3 season use that can stand up to cold rain and still keep my hands warm.
Enter Outdoor Research’s Versaliner Gloves, a 2-part liner and shell glove system which includes a Polartec 100 fleece inner glove and an outer shell glove made out of Ripstop nylon lined with waterproof, breathable Pertex Shield. At 2.8 ounces a pair, this glove system is best used during periods of high activity in late winter or cool and wet 3 season conditions. I’ve been wearing them for the three months and like them so much that I plan on bringing them on my 224 mile TGO Challenge backpacking trip in Scotland next month where I expect a mix of winter and spring conditions in Scotland’s mountainous backcountry.
The inner Versaliner Glove is made out of 100 weight Polartec fleece which has a smooth, soft-shell-like exterior. It has printed silicone dots on the fingers and palm which provide a good grip on smooth surfaces and helps hold the outer shell in place so it doesn’t slide off. The silicone dots do work with touch screens, before you ask.
The inner glove has a nifty pocket sewn on top where you can stuff the outer shell glove when not in use: perfect for keeping the components together and organized. If you suffer from cold hands, these little pockets are also perfectly sized for chemical heat packs, which can be inserted to keep you hands warm. The inner fabric is thick enough to prevent burning but enough oxygen gets through the fabric to enable the rusting process that is responsible for heat generation.
I’ve worn these inner gloves by themselves on many hard hikes and I’ve been surprised at how breathable and resistant to wetting out they are. My hands normally sweat a lot when I go hiking, but when I wear the inner Versaliner glove on a hike, I rarely have to change them during the day. Nice!
The outer shell gloves are made using a waterproof and breathable 40 denier Pertex Shield DS stretch ripstop fabric shell. While technically waterproof, the seams on the gloves are not sealed and will leak in heavy sustained rain or if you immerse them in a stream. That’s less than an issue than you might think because the outer shell fabric will wet out in rain long before the seams leak (see Why does Rain Gear Wet Out) for a detailed explanation or this short video called What is DWR and How Does it Work.) That’s been my experience anyway wearing these gloves in wet conditions.
All gloves and mittens are exposed to high level of abrasion that wears down their outer DWR layer very quickly – for example in the palms if you use hiking poles or between the fingers if you carry a mountaineering axe frequently in the ready position. I’ve found it best to reapply the DWR on the Versaliner shells every couple of trips with a spray-on DWR treatment to ensure that water beads up on the outer fabric and rolls off the gloves before it can wet out the nylon shell fabric. This prevents any water from pooling around the seams where it can leak in.
In terms of breathability, the outer shells are great when worn over the fleece inner glove layer. They block the wind but don’t add any appreciable warmth that would cause me to sweat out the inner gloves. While I haven’t used the outer gloves alone yet, they would make an excellent standalone wind barrier, particularly above treeline if there is significant wind chill.
Despite the need for regular DWR treatments, which are really unavoidable for such a heavily used piece of waterproof clothing, I really like the Outdoor Research Versaliner Glove system. It’s easy to use the two gloves separately or combine them together, they provide rain/moisture protection and warmth, and they’re easy to keep track of because the outer shell can be folded and stored in the inner gloves zippered pocket. These are keepers and worth checking out if you want the added dexterity that comes with a rainproof gloves instead of a rainproof mitt.
Disclosure: Outdoor Research provided Philip Werner (SectionHiker.com) with a sample pair of Versaliner Gloves for review.
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