When I met Mika, her hands were (and still are) constantly cold; it is a circulation problem. I, on the other hand, always have warm hands and when they get cold, I turn miserable. How many times have you been outside and it was cold enough that your skin is tingling, and then your hands just start to get stuck, and just get too slow and numb to do anything? I have had countless times of that. I remember one particular time when working on an emergency repair on a tank in the middle of the desert in mid winter (January or February), with no gloves in the freezing cold – the skin on my hands broke to pieces. It took months to fully recover.
So how can we spare our hands? Simple – gloves. Probably one of the most under invested bits of kit that outdoor people use, unless they are avid skiers/snowboarders on climbers. My introduction to the importance of gloves was thanks to Andy Kirkpatrik – one of the best winter climbers in the world. I read his excellent post about the best glove system and that made me think about the concept of multiple gloves.
Up until my “gloves revelation” I had 2 pairs of gloves – simple Power-Stretch gloves, and a pair of heavy skiing gloves. I mean, what else do you really need? But over time and while being in increasingly different climates, I realized that having 2 gloves that are supposed to “do it all” meant I ended up being without them more often then not. The gloves were either too much or not enough.The lack of use made them pretty much redundant most of the time. After reading Andy’s post I started looking at my gloves differently.
The idea is to treat your gloves the way you treat all your clothes – do you have multi-layers for different weather? Do you add or remove layers during the day? Your gloves should work the same way.
My recommended gloves system is:
1. Base glove – liner/Power-Stretch. Your basic gloves that stay on pretty much all the time. These gloves are in my pack all the time. My North Face Power-Stretch gloves are probably one of my oldest bits of gear, patched and re-sewn, but they work.
2. Windproof gloves – running/climbing gloves. These gloves are your softshell or wind protection. They should be available for quick access and put on the moment the base gloves just don’t cut it with the wind. I use either the Nathan running gloves with the Power-Stretch gloves (together) or a pair of Mountain Equipment Windstopper climbing gloves for days that I know I will have them on pretty much all the time.
3. Waterproof gloves – skiing/shell. The gloves in this category are usually the least used and will be carried for a nasty turn in the weather or will be used instead of the wind gloves for days that will have very foul weather. Though the least used, these are the most important, and are meant to protect you especially when it is most needed and nothing else will help. I use Haglofs Gore-Tex mittens over the other gloves for the passing rain, or Level skiing gloves (with or without Power-Stetch) for very cold days.
4. Spare gloves – another pair to stay dry. This is for when you are on multiple days out, just like having an extra pair of dry socks for the night. This can make the world in comfort at the end of a wet and miserable day.
Make sure you carry multiple gloves. For many people one set is enough, but all you need is to lose one, or for the weather to change a little to get your hands freezing. Avoid cold hands with a simple investment in the right gloves. They will last for a long time (with good care), and will offer the right range of comfort so you will actually use them.
And back to Mika – her hands still get very cold very quickly, but now she has 5 or 6 different gloves, and carries at least 2 or 3 of them when we are going outdoors. This has made all difference for her. You know what, I’ll let her explain:
Hi there! I have to say, Gilad is so right about the gloves issue. I have always had cold hands, but it never was a serious issue until I started spending more time outdoors. While we got me a couple of pairs of good gloves right at the start, often I would find that my hands were still turning blue within the gloves as we walked. I would spend a ridiculous amount of time trying to warm my hands up inside the gloves, a situation that struck both of us as silly.
Using the layering system has made a huge difference, and really changes my whole experience outside (and therefore, Gilad’s days are happier also, ha!). If you really struggle with cold hands nothing is better than mittens, but having a pair of gloves with fingers on underneath means you can still do things without losing all the heat in your hands. Layering is definitely the way to go!
That is my secret weapon for outdoor comfort – what is yours? Are you using a different gloves system that makes more sense?