Lightweight Winter Glove Woes
I’ve been having a real problem this winter dialing in my lightweight winter gloves. I sweat a lot when climbing up peaks or breaking trail and I have a tendency to soak out lightweight polypro or gore windstopper gloves. I can easily go through two pairs in a day, but it becomes a real problem if I need to dry them out on an overnight hike.
So, I tried a little experiment last week with a pair of lightweight neoprene gloves for winter hiking. I have lots of pairs of these gloves in all kinds of different thicknesses for winter whitewater kayaking, ranging from 0.5 mm NRS Hydroskin Paddling Gloves (left) to super-heavyweight 3.5 mm NRS Reactor Gloves (right).
This particular experiment was motivated by an interaction I had with an employee named Nick at the EMS store in North Conway. We were talking about light and mid-weight gloves and he recommended that I try on a pair that had neoprene in them. Unfortunately, I can’t remember who made them, but I figured I’d just try the ones I already own instead of buying a new pair.
Neoprene is the primary material used in wet suits. It provides insulation by trapping a thin film of water close to your skin where it is heated by your body, providing a layer of warm between you and the surrounding water. Thicker neoprene suits and gloves reduce the rate in which your body and this insulating layer of water dissipate heat.
When I climbed Mt Avalon a few weeks back, I wore the thin 0.5 mm Neoprene Hydroskin Gloves, pictured above. I was snowshoeing and breaking trail on that trip, and sweating a lot.
As I climbed, my hands stayed nice and warm, but when I started to descend they actually got quite cold. Anticipating this, I’d brought along a pair of eVent overmitts from Mountain Laurel Designs to act as a hard shell around the gloves and limit convection. Unfortunately, wearing them didn’t do much and my hands stayed cold until I put my heavy OR mountaineering gloves on. These heavy gloves are great, but they’re too warm for climbing and soak out quickly if worn on ascents.
Why the Gloves Failed
The Neoprene gloves were warm when I was climbing because I was climbing and breaking trail Any glove would have felt warm under those circumstances.
The Neoprene gloves didn’t work as I’d hoped because my hand sweat did not provide enough liquid for their insulating action to kick in. Ironically, I would have probably been better off dipping my gloved hands in the icy stream running alongside the trail, in order to fill them with water that I my body heat could warm up.
What Would Work?
I’m guessing that a better design would have a lightweight polypro inner glove or liner, with a thicker Neoprene outer glove or mitt that is tightly bonded to the polypro. As you exert yourself, the polypro will wet out, just like it does today. But if it is inside a Neoprene outer shell, the Neoprene can begin to exert it’s thermal insulation properties. Ironically, the wetter your hands get, the more effective the Neoprene will become.
But why bother at all? People just bring multiple pairs of thin polypro or windstopper gloves and dry them out in their sleeping bags at night. That’s true, and I do it too. But I’d rather not have to compromise my down sleep system to dry out my gloves, night after night. It would be better to have a glove that keeps my hands warm, even when the inner glove is soaked, and continues to get wetter throughout the day.
Lightweight Neoprene Hiking Gloves
A quick search of the Internet shows that some skiing gloves include a Neoprene component, but that it’s usually just used in the cuff and not on the rest of the hand.
Can anyone recommend a pair that include even more Neoprene and would be good to and keep my hands warm over a multi-day trip, even when they’re soaked out from exertion?
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