I’ve been hiking with a special type of trekking pole for the past few years called Pacerpoles, which have a distinctive diagonal grip that’s quite different from the standard vertical grip ski poles that most other hikers use. Pacerpoles are made in the UK and have a very devoted following there among hikers and hillwalkers. For more information about them and their many benefits see my long term review of them from a few months ago.
Starting this winter, I’ve been using the new Pacerpole-Over-Mitts which are neoprene over-mitts that slip over the pole handles to keep your hands warm. I like the Pacerpole-Over-Mitts because they reduce the number of gloves I need to bring on long winter hikes/snowshoes and the thickness of gloves required. By wearing thinner gloves, my hands still stay warm, but I sweat out fewer pairs of gloves from exertion. I also retain a lot more dexterity which leads to much faster transition times for map reading, navigation, eating, clothing and sunglasses/goggle adjustments. That is very important when it’s very cold.
The neoprene Pacerpole-Over-Mitts create a micro-climate around your hands which blocks out the wind and keeps them noticeably warmer even though the back end is open. As you can see above, they’re flipper-shaped and very similar to the pogies that whitewater kayakers use instead of gloves when paddling in frigid winter water.
If you’re hiking in temperatures close to freezing, the over-mitts may be too warm and cause your hands to sweat. When this occurs, I remove my gloves and use the over-mitts alone or I peel the over-mitts back onto themselves so I can vent my hands and/or gloves more. The over-mitts don’t weigh much and folding them over like this doesn’t throw off the balance of the pole.
Below freezing or in cold wind, the effect of the Pacerpole-Over-Mitts is just remarkable and my hands will stay comfortable all day with just a thin softshell glove or a synthetic glove liner. I’ve done 10 hour hikes in snowshoes, up and down mountains, with just one pair of lightweight gloves and haven’t had to change them out for a dry pair all day. That is nothing short of remarkable for someone who’s always gone through several pairs of gloves per day on winter hikes.
When I don’t need poles or I’m using an ice axe and want both hands free, I simply collapse my telescoping Pacerpoles as I normally would and attach them to the back of my backpack or under the side compression straps with the Pacerpole-Over-Mitts attached. You can take them off if you want to but they don’t get in the way, so I just leave them on for a fast transition when I want to use them again.
If you’ve used Pacerpoles, you know that they’re handed: one for the right hand and one for the left which would make it difficult to figure out which is which if they were covered by a neoprene over-mitt. Pacerpole added different labels, a union jack and the Pacepole logo, under each mitt so you can easily tell them apart (the mitts themselves are interchangeable and can go on either pole).
Here’s a video from Heather Rhodes, the inventor and co-founder of Pacerpoles demonstrating how to use the Pacerpole-Over-Mitts.
If you use Pacerpoles already and you hike in winter, you should give the new Pacerpole-Over-Mitts a try. At 22.50 British Pounds, they’re relatively inexpensive compared to the cost of a heavier winter glove. If you’ve never tried Pacerpoles and you suffer from very cold hands in winter or you have Reynaud’s disease, I recommend you give Pacerpoles and the new Pacerpole-Over-Mitts a try. My hands stay very warm in winter when I hike with the over-mitts and they might add enough extra warmth to your winter glove system to make winter hiking and snowshoeing a more viable recreational option for you.
Disclosure: Philip Werner (SectionHiker.com) received a complementary pair of Pacerpole-Over-Mitts from Pacerpole but was under no obligation to review them. I just love Pacerpole’s products and belive in shouting about them from the rooftops!