Although I generally run warm, I get cold hands. So I’ve always invested in really good quality, winter gloves intended for ice climbing. But even then, if there’s ice forming on the outside of the glove my hands turn into useless bunches of sausages. And of course if I want to do anything that takes more dexterity, like taking a picture, I have to take them off and struggle, sometimes for several minutes, to get them back on.
But no more.
I had been thinking about using some kind of mitt system when I heard the interview that Bob Cartwright did with Judy Armstrong after she’d completed more than 4000 miles of Alpine walking last summer. She said that a pair of liner gloves, a pair of mitts and a pair of mitt shells were good enough for her all the way to -18 C.
So I got hold of a pair of XXL Buffalo DP Mitts from Needle Sports (yes that’s eXtra eXtra Large). At £20 including postage they’re very reasonably priced.
It’s been a revelation. My hands have been warmer this winter than they ever have been. Despite having many a cold day on the hill, including blundering about in a blizzard on the Cairngorm Plateau, my hands have never turned into useless Wall’s bangers. They have been cold at times, particularly when holding the metal head of the axe in wind-chill of -25 C, but never to the point of numbness.
I wear them over a pair of North Face Power Stretch liner gloves. Synthetic gloves are definitely warmer than silk once they get wet. From experimenting using a liner plus Buffalo mitt on one hand and just a mitt on the other, the liner mitt combination does keep my hands warmer.
I also did what was suggested on the Needle Sports site and attached a piece of shock cord to the mitts that I loop over my wrists so that I can whip them off, drop them, do whatever I need to do and pop them back on. The shock cord is a must-have as far as I’m concerned.
The mitts are sized rather conservatively so err on the side of being too large. I find the XLs will just fit my hands with no liner gloves but with liners they’re rather constrictive.
I also carry another pair of XLs mitts (one size down from what I intend to wear) since if you’re wandering in the winter mountains, losing a glove could mean serious problems very quickly. It’s hard to keep a hand in a pocket if you need it to hold an axe. I used to carry a pair of Dachsteins but they weigh in at 176gms whereas the XLs Buffalo mitts are only 80gms.
Which brings me on to another big benefit – the weight. Not only are the mitts cheaper, warmer when it’s freezing, warmer even when wet, easier to get on, far easier to wash and dry when compared to a membrane lined glove – they’re much lighter.
Including about six or eight grams of shock cord, the XLs are only 80gms and the XXLs 100gms. The North Face Power Stretch liner gloves are 46gms for the XL and 42 for the LB’s XS (not the lightest models, they have a suede section between thumb and forefinger to take wear from ski or walking poles).
For most walking, spare gloves aren’t essential so without them the mitt/liner combo comes to only 146gms.
Comparing that with 234gms for a pair of XL Rab Ice Gauntlets means an 88gm saving or a 184gms saving if you include spares.
To be honest, if they were actually 88gms heavier than the gauntlets I’d still use them since they simply work so much better all round.