Sometimes it takes a while to spot a change in your habits or preferences, especially when you try as much new kit as I do. Recently I noticed there was a definite theme to the gloves that I liked and the ones I had hung on to and that was a pile lining (or hi loft fleece as it can be known). I know many of you will be tutting at me right now, saying I should have known long ago, but there it is. Until a couple of years ago I was very much a 2 part glove man with windstopper liner gloves and a nice big Gore-Tex liner gauntlet over the top, sort of marks me out as a skier really. I realised the limitations of this system when I went ice climbing for the first time a few years ago, and faffed about getting my gloves on so much that I eventually ditched the outers and just used the inners even though this wasn’t warm enough. Once the liner of a gauntlet gets wet and twisted then you are in for real problems.
There is something about a pile liner that makes it go on some much easier. I think it must be the reduced surface area having less drag as you slide your hand in. Also the liner is able to contour around your hand more easily because the tip of each pile ‘peak’ does not pull on the tip of the next peak but on the base of the lining. When you have your gloves on and off a lot then water inside is inevitable, it arrives on your hands as much as soaks in from the outside. Deep pile places a cushion between your skin and the water making these gloves a lot warmer when wet than some other styles. This is also why quite a few pile gloves have no membrane. If the glove will get wet no matter what then why not remove the membrane and allow you to wring the glove out easily and go back to having a pretty dry glove.
Whilst writing this I have realised that this is a sort of skier / climber debate. Mountaineers mainly prefer one piece gloves for the reasons above and skiers are split between 1 and 2 piece gloves. Ski tourers like to remove the outers when climbing and just use the inners. A number of Mountain Professionals like Andy Perkins do not use expensive gloves at all but use wool lined leather gardening gloves, which are very similar indeed to leather palmed one piece pile gloves. Guides in particular get through quite a few pairs of gloves a year so the replacement cost is important to them. I wonder what they would choose if given unlimited free gloves?
So what’s my point? Well I urge all those who have not tried pile gloves to give them a go even those 100% skiers who will never climb. I think it’s just a better system no matter which way you use the mountains. Read the points below and give it some thought next time you are replacing your gloves.
1. Fibre Pile takes a while to ‘bed in’. Brand new pile gloves can feel a bit spongy inside. As you use them the pile beds down where you compress it and the grip improves but retains it’s loft everywhere else for the best thermal performance.
2. Pile gloves can be too hot! It’s best to have other gloves for milder conditions. Rather than wearing one or both as in the 2 piece gauntlet system, now you carry some other lighter weight gloves. Because these gloves are not designed to fit inside another glove they themselves can have more reinforcement or insulation as you wish. Getting your liners wet with a 2 part gauntlet compromised your whole glove system and it can happen even when your are wary of it. Now trashing your liners has less overall impact.
3. You still have a choice of fully waterproof with membrane or not, that’s depends on your attitude to wet gloves.
My top picks:
If you are a deep winter all mountain skier that loves a gauntlet then the Mountain Equipment Pinnacle Glove is a great choice. It uses a long gauntlet with Gore-Tex liner. The back of the glove is insulated with Primaloft Gold for amazing warmth but the inside lining is pile for all the reasons we have discussed. Your other pair could be a Rab Vapour Rise Tour glove for spring skiing or hiking.
For ski touring then the Rab Guide Glove or Montane Thermostretch Gloves are good picks. One with a membrane and one without. These shorter gloves will either go under your cuff if you want a seal or just butt up against the end of your sleeves. Great value and very versatile. Your 2nd pair could be some Powerstretch Gloves like the ME Touch Screen Grip Glove for light weight or again the Rab Vapour Rise Tour glove.
For Mountaineering then consider the Mountain Equipment Randonee Gauntlet. Using the high performance Schoeller Soft Shell outer, no membrane, but very weather resistant. Combined with a deep pile lining. This glove is a favourite of the staff at Plas Y Brenin where Mountain Equipment are the equipment supplier.
This is one subject where we would love to hear your comments and experiences. Tell us the gloves you love and why.