gear review: when hell freezes over, you’d better be wearing these mittens

January 9, 2010

My apologies to everyone out there who could care less what I think of my mountain gear — just ignore this post.  One of the things I want to do with this blog is occasionally post detailed reviews of gear that I love, because nothing frustrates me more than looking for gear and not being able to find anything beyond the tech specs and two one-sentence reviews.

On to the mittens!  I have a pair of Black Diamond Mercury Mitts that are a few seasons out of date (I almost always buy my gear out of date, because it’s way cheaper that way).  Retail price new: $85.

Black Diamond Women's Mercury Mitt. Made of magic.

I.  Love.  These.  Mittens.  I love these mittens.  I cannot say it enough.  When I set out to buy new gloves last year, after discovering the power of the Colorado winter, I had two criteria in mind: must be waterproof/windproof, and must be warm fluffy mittens.  I have pathetic circulation in my hands, and my fingers get cold even in the plushest gloves I’ve owned.  These have more than met my goals.

The basic glove design includes a waterproof/windproof shell mitt with a velcro-in liner mitt.  The liner mitt is essentially a thin nylon shell over all the insulation, which is your usual fleecy synthetic stuff (polartec, in this case).  The newer version of the Mercury Mitt has a trigger-finger liner mitt, which means that it’s like the bastard love child of a mitten and a glove, with one compartment for your index finger, one for your thumb, and one big one for everything that’s left.  The idea is that it would improve dexterity.

To be honest, I don’t think the trigger-finger style would make much of a difference.  Perhaps it’s because I don’ t have it, but I almost never find myself disassembling these gloves, except to wash or dry them.  The velcro that holds the two layers together is quite strong, and wraps all the way around the wrist.  It’s not a convenient thing to take apart.  If I need dexterity, I just brave the cold for a moment, or if it’s really that cold, wear a thin liner glove.  Now that I think about it, actually, taking the damn thing apart would require dexterity.

The liner mitt is exceedingly warm, and actually gets too warm if it’s above 10 or 15 degrees (Fahrenheit) out and you’re wearing it for more than 15 or 20 minutes.  If you are prone to hand sweats or detest the dampness that accompanies them, these may not be for you.  Even when my hands do sweat, though, these suckers have kept me plenty warm.

When I need the waterproof factor but not the intense insulation, I remove the liner mitt and switch it for something thinner (for instance, a pair of fleece gloves, or even the little stretchy poly gloves you can get for a dollar).  Obviously, these don’t velcro in, but the scratchy part of the velcro is on the liner, so it’s not uncomfortable to wear a different liner.  This system is great for warmer ski days.

The shell mitt is built like a tank.  The entire inner surface is leather, and there is extra leather reinforcement on the webbing between thumb and fingers.  There is a nose-wipe-type surface on the back of the thumb, but it’s not really very soft, just softer than the rest of the mitt.  It’s no lotion tissue, but I guess it’s better to have your snot freeze to your glove than to your face, and if it’s that cold, your nose is going to get irritated and red anyway.  You can cinch the mitt down in two places: with a strap over the back of the wrist (this keeps them warmer), and a pull-cord where the glove meets your arm (this keeps snow out).  They also come with an idiot leash, a pull-cord that you can tighten onto your wrist or arm, that has saved my gloves from being lost upon several occasions.  It gets in my way biking, though, so I tend to tuck it inside the glove when getting around town.

Time for some bottom lines.  You should buy these gloves if: you need or want to be active outside when it’s cold enough for snow to squeak, or you have chronically cold hands in other heavy winter gloves.  You should not buy these gloves if: you hate hand sweat, or it never gets down to zero where you live.


One comment

  1. This is great information. I have friends that I’ve skied with before, especially my women friends that have cold hands all the time. I’ll pass this review along to them.

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