Alpkit's New Glove Range Review

Decent gloves don't tend to come cheap - think about all that stitching, fabric and leather - but this season Alpkit have pulled off an affordable range that, I think, genuinely compares with pricier alternatives. If you need to buy several pairs - and I can go through two or three in a day out (plus the obvious risk of losing one) - then a budget-friendly glove range has a lot to be said for it.

Giving the Frazils a test drive on Ben Cruachan  © Dan Bailey
Giving the Frazils a test drive on Ben Cruachan
© Dan Bailey

There are a great many new models in the lineup, so I've looked at just four of them here, a cross section ranging from a lightweight all-rounder to a beefy and very warm winter mountaineering gauntlet. The common theme is value...

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Haline

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Frazil

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Gabbro

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Shuga

Haline - £36

A light waterproof-lined glove, the Haline are designed for summer in the Alps and ski touring, but have obvious year-round application in the soggy old UK too. You get a waterproof/breathable insert, a soft Bemberg lining, a goatskin palm and a velcro wrist tab - and that's your lot. At just 99g/pair (size XL) dexterity is favoured over insulation here, which is minimal.

Winter scrambling in the Haline - perhaps a bit beyond their remit  © Martin McKenna
Winter scrambling in the Haline - perhaps a bit beyond their remit
© Martin McKenna

In terms of sizing, the Haline comes out very much on the small side. At Alpkit's own advice I went up from my usual L to an unprecedented (on me) XL, and even these are a borderline fit. I have long thin fingers, and though the Haline's fingers are suitably thin for me I do find them a bit stumpy in length, while the gap between thumb and forefinger is only just deep enough. I'd advise all prospective purchasers to go up a size from their usual, and better yet would be to try them on in one of the Alpkit shops. The firm are aware of the sizing issue and promise it'll be sorted for the next batch.

Thanks to their thinness there's good general dexterity, but since there are seams and a fair bit of bulk at the ends of the fingers, the fingertip feel is not particularly sensitive or precise. I've generally had to remove these gloves to fiddle with cameras or crampons. In addition, because the leather doesn't extend over the tips of the fingers, the Haline gloves won't live long if you use them for climbing or scrambling. I'd save them for less hard-wearing uses such as hillwalking, alpine summer snow plods, skiing or walk-ins to winter crags.

The short cuff can leave the wrist exposed  © Dan Bailey
The short cuff can leave the wrist exposed
© Dan Bailey

Warmth is good considering their lightness, and they keep out a fair breeze too. However for active use I think they're flawed. On a couple of sweaty morning ascents in sub-zero conditions I found the lining was soon damp, and then the gloves didn't really dry out all day. They remained reasonably warm though. But I do find that once my fingers are wet and cold, it is a struggle to put these gloves back on because the lining is clingy and has a tendency to runkle up a bit inside (a technical term).

With a fairly short cuff, the wrist is easily exposed when reaching up on a climb or scramble. The velcro closure works, to a point, but I'd have preferred a simpler (and longer) stretch cuff.

While £36 isn't peanuts I do think it's a pretty fair price for a pair of waterproof gloves - just think of all the materials and stitching that go into them. That said, a simpler stretch fleece or softshell glove would be as warm (if not warmer), easier to put on with cold/wet hands, less sweaty and quicker drying - and you could pick up a pair for less. Fundamentally I'm not sure it's worth making a pair of multi-layered gloves this thin and lightweight. The one benefit of the Haline versus a simpler stretchy glove is that it's waterproof - but there's a downside to that in terms of making it sweatier for active use, and slower to dry. On balance I'm not a big fan, and think there are better tools for this sort of job. Other users may beg to differ of course.

Alpkit say:

Designed to give you waterproof protection and keep out the chill, Haline gloves were dreamt up with fast and light alpinism and ski-touring in mind. With a waterproof insert, they come in handy in UK conditions too!

  • 3 Year Alpine Bond
  • Dexterous waterproof glove for skiing and summer alpinism
  • Close-fit with pre-curved fingers for excellent dexterity
  • Supple goatskin leather palm and reinforcement for enhanced grip
  • Waterproof insert keeps out the wet
  • Low-profile cuff with hook and loop adjustor to give a snug fit
  • Super comfortable, high-wicking, and breathable Bemberg lining for a great next-to-skin feel
  • Carabiner loops help you avoid losing them

For more see alpkit.com


Frazil - £36

Really soft and dextrous, warm for their weight, and absolutely superb value at the price, the Frazil is my pick of the bunch both for technical climbing and for fine weather winter hillwalking. This is a stretchy softshell glove, with a soft leather palm and an insulated lining that combines a snug fleecy pile with a bit of zoned Primaloft for extra warmth on the knuckle side. There's no membrane here, so while the Frazil keeps out cold wind and light moisture, it's not fully waterproof. There are pros and cons to this, and you do have to make allowances. Overall it's their simplicity and dexterity that I really like. That and the lightness - I make them just 154g/pair (XL).

Very windy and cold, but I'm happy in the Frazils  © Dan Bailey
Very windy and cold, but I'm happy in the Frazils
© Dan Bailey

In terms of fit, the Frazil also comes in under-sized, so I'd advise going up a size from your usual until Alpkit resolve the anomaly. Combined with the slight stretch in the softshell fabric across the back of the hand, the pre-curved fingers and well-cut thumb give the glove a good close fit, and once the pile lining bedded in a bit I've found dexterity to be excellent. The leather rolls over the fingertips, so there are no seams to get in the way where you don't want them. The Frazils feel nimble and sensitive enough for fiddly tasks like placing protection, making them an ideal glove for harder leads where you really need to feel what you're doing. The cuff is fairly short, but with enough length to cover your wrist and not leave anything exposed. It's a simple velcro closure, which works well to give a close and secure-feeling fit at the wrist.

Short cuff with a velcro closure...  © Dan Bailey
Short cuff with a velcro closure...
© Dan Bailey

...fits neatly under jacket sleeves  © Dan Bailey
...fits neatly under jacket sleeves
© Dan Bailey

With a pile lining throughout, plus extra padding on the back of the hand (where it won't interfere with dexterity) the Frazil is warm for its weight. When moving - be that climbing a pitch or walking - I've found these gloves to be perfectly warm enough on windy sub-zero days. Standing still is when you begin to notice that they're relatively light, so on belays or long photography stints I've been tending to swap these gloves for something heavier - at which stage they're compact and easy to stash in an inner pocket until needed again. The lining doesn't tend to get too sweaty if you're working hard, and because there's no membrane to serve as a barrier it seems to dry quickly if you do get damp (as you inevitably will when winter climbing). I've found that you can easily slip cold wet hands into the glove too.

I really rate them for hillwalking as well as climbing  © Dan Bailey
I really rate them for hillwalking as well as climbing
© Dan Bailey

The leather palm and inside of the fingers is soft, and grips well on an axe handle. Yes it wets out, but I've not yet found that to be an issue. One thing I've noticed though is that after only a moderate amount of wear - three or four winter walking/mountaineering days and just one technical mixed route - the leather had already begun to look quite aged compared to when brand new. It's not yet wearing out, as such, but I would put money on this generic leather not lasting as long as something posher like Pittards Armortan. The pile lining, too, already feels a bit less soft and snuggly than it did when brand new. Of course you'd probably pay a lot more for a similar glove made with premium brand-name materials. The price:longevity ratio is always a bit of a balancing act. But perhaps you're one of those people who is as likely to lose a glove as wear one out? In that case, spending a bit less will probably appeal.

On paper, the Frazil's only obvious drawback is a lack of waterproof membrane, the one thing that the identically-priced Haline can possibly boast over them. However, for winter use I don't think this has been a disadvantage at all (bearing in mind that I didn't get on with the waterproof-lined Haline!). But you do have to make allowances for their not being waterproof. If you are winter climbing, and it's not one of those rare cold/dry days, then it's probably best to save these for leading the hard pitches, and wear something warmer and more weather-proof (like the Gabbro or the Shuga) for belaying and seconding. For hillwalking, though, where you're constantly moving and not necessarily getting your hands mixed up with snow and ice all day, I think the Frazil is a bit of a winner as a wear-all-day glove.

In short, I love them - especially at this price.

Alpkit say:

Frazil gloves are designed to protect you from the cold but let you keep your dexterity, ideal for cold, dry and windy environments where you're less likely to be elbow deep in snow and more likely to be doing some technical mixed climbing.

  • 3 Year Alpine Bond
  • Windproof and weatherproof softshell glove for cold weather protection without sacrificing dexterity
  • Primaloft insulation on the knuckle-side only
  • Pile lining traps pockets of air for added insulation and wicks moisture away from the skin to retain warmth when wet
  • Articulated fingers and panelling around the thumb improve dexterity
  • Leather palm provides excellent friction for better grip without over-squeezing and less muscle fatigue
  • Reinforced wear points (crook of the thumb) with wrapped leather fingers for durability when using tools and poles
  • Nose wipe patch on thumb

For more info see alpkit.com

Gabbro - £48

For all-round winter mountain use, be that hillwalking, classic alpine routes, skiing or Scottish winter mountaineering, I think these are arguably the most versatile gloves of the range. Warm enough for cold days and plunging axes in snow, and waterproof-lined for wet and stormy weather, yet light and dextrous enough that you can fiddle with straps, buckles and climbing gear without always having to remove them, the Gabbro are great general purpose insulated gloves. They weigh a very reasonable 178g/pair (size XL), yet shouldn't let you down in foul winter mountain conditions.

The Gabbro is an excellent all-round winter mountain glove  © Martin McKenna
The Gabbro is an excellent all-round winter mountain glove
© Martin McKenna

Warm, robust, waterproof ...and still pretty dextrous  © Dan Bailey
Warm, robust, waterproof ...and still pretty dextrous
© Dan Bailey

The Gabbro is similar to models such as Rab's Guide Glove. This is a ski glove style model, with a mid-length cuff. Stretchy on the back of the hand, it is reinforced outside with plenty of leather. Inside you get a deep pile lining, with a layer of 100g/m2 Primaloft Gold insulation for added warmth. Apparently this has been needle-punched on the palm side to make it more malleable. The addition of a PorelleDry breathable waterproof insert boosts the Gabbro's stormy weather performance.

The low-profile cuff fits neatly under jacket sleeves   © Dan Bailey
The low-profile cuff fits neatly under jacket sleeves
© Dan Bailey

In terms of fit these are cut much like the Frazil, with curved roll-top fingers and a nicely shaped thumb. Again, sizing is tight so an XL fits me like a glove. For a midweight insulated glove the Gabbro is comparatively nimble and sensitive. On first use the depth of insulation and pile made them feel bulky, but after a bit of wear this has bedded down, and dexterity has improved a lot. Though they are markedly thicker and less dextrous than the Frazil, I've still been able to climb in the Gabbro and find I can do things like tying in and fiddling with gear. At the sort of low-to-mid grades that I generally climb in winter they're fine - while if I wanted to do something a bit harder (for me) then I'd probably opt for their lighter stablemates. Fundamentally I think the Gabbro has the edge as an all-weather all-rounder, while the Frazil is the lead climbing lightweight.

The mid-length cuff covers the wrist well and fits easily under jacket sleeves. Its one-handed drawcord works fine, but it does seem a slightly old fashioned arrangement and I think I'd have preferred a marginally longer cuff with a velcro closure, which could have made for a neater and closer fit around the whole wrist. Cleverly, Alpkit have not extended the pile lining right down the cuff. This makes it slightly thinner for neatness (I think it's still insulated), and also reduces the amount of spindrift that ends up clinging to the pile (and then melting) if you put your gloves down.

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A good general winter workhorse
© Dan Bailey

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And dextrous enough for easier climbing
© Dan Bailey

Its combination of pile inner and Primaloft Gold makes the Gabbro a good snug glove that's well judged for your average Scottish winter day. While I thought the Haline's waterproof lining something of a mixed blessing in such a thin glove, I'd say the Gabbro's PorelleDry waterproof/breathable insert makes more sense for a glove of this thickness. With a good depth of pile inside to soak things up, I've not found they get damp-feeling from sweat in the same way as the Haline. Perhaps it's a better-performing membrane too? Whether it's wet weather, wet snow or spindrift, being waterproof is a clear advantage for a thicker glove, helping it keep you warmer for longer.

The leather outer is soft and supple, and good for gripping axes and other metalwork. I don't think it's thicker or a better quality than that on the Frazil, but so far it's looking markedly less battered despite the Gabbros having received more use. A nose wipe patch and a finger clip-in loop complete the features.

Overall the Gabbro is an excellent all-round mountaineering glove, and at £48 still represents damn good value for a model of this spec. You could probably spend twice that elsewhere on a glove like this. Perhaps a pricier alternative with more brand-name materials would last longer, but the Gabbro's 3-year guarantee arguably represents an average sort of lifespan for a winter glove in any case.

Alpkit say:

The Gabbro is a durable workhorse of a winter glove, ideal for when you like your gloves waterproof, warm, not too bulky, and resistant against the regular use and abuse of mountain life.

  • 3 Year Alpine Bond
  • Durable and warm winter glove for all-round mountain use and abuse
  • 100gsm Primaloft Gold insulation and pile lining keeps your hands warm
  • PorelleDry breathable waterproof insert keeps the wet out for longer
  • Palm insulation is needle punched to be thinner and more malleable
  • Short cuff with single-handed drawcord closure fits comfortably inside your jacket cuff
  • Leather palm provides excellent friction for better grip without over-squeezing and less muscle fatigue
  • Reinforced wear points (palm, crook of the thumb) with wrapped leather fingers for durability when handling rope, tools and poles
  • Pile lining holds moisture away from the skin to help retain warmth even when damp
  • Articulated fingers and panelling around the thumb improve dexterity
  • Elasticated wrist helps to get a good fit

For more see alpkit.com


Shuga - £65

This is the comparative heavyweight of the collection, a full-sized mountain gauntlet with an extra-long cuff, thicker insulation and a waterproof insert. But weighing only 194g/pair (size XL), the Shuga really isn't madly heavy for a glove this warm and protective. For hillwalking, skiing or mountaineering in cold and stormy conditions, it's just the thing. I've been using them on winter belays in preference to mitts, since they offer better dexterity (your partner will thank you). You could climb in them too, though ideally I might stick to seconding or easy leads.

They're great for windy summit stops  © Dan Bailey
They're great for windy summit stops
© Dan Bailey

Again the fit of my review pair is tight for the stated size, a fact of which Alpkit are aware. If anything I think these are a little closer than the Gabbro, perhaps most notably at the wrist, where the elastication could be a touch too much (you don't want to restrict blood flow). Doubtless they will loosen up a fraction with more use, though by their nature I've found these gloves being used less heavily than the others, so this is taking a bit longer.

Again, you get decent articulated fingers and thumb, with wrapped fingertips so that there are no seams in the way. Despite their slightly thicker feel overall, dexterity in the Shugas is still pretty good. I might not choose to lead in them, but I certainly could at a pinch. The very long cuff gives loads of wind/spindrift protection to the wrist and forearm. It's not thickly insulated, and this helps it fit under a jacket despite its size. Sometimes it is still a bit of a faff to cram it all in though, and I've then ended up wearing the gauntlet over the top of my sleeves; you don't look like a pro, but it works.

On the back of the hand is a robust fabric. This doesn't stretch, which may partly account for the closer-fitting feel. Again, the leather is nice and soft for flexibility and grip; and you get a double layer on high-wear areas.

Hanging loop, for at the belay or carrying on your harness  © Dan Bailey
Hanging loop, for at the belay or carrying on your harness
© Dan Bailey

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For belay warmth, they're more dexterous than a mitt
© Dan Bailey

Inside it's a velvety Bemberg lining next to the skin, which feels nice and snug and seems to wick sweat effectively. You don't get the pile insulation of the Gabbro and Frazil, which I do like a lot, but instead Alpkit have gone for a double weight of Primaloft Gold, a full 200g/m2. It's certainly pretty warm, and has been needle-punched on the palm side for extra flexibility. The PorelleDry waterproof/breathable layer helps keep the elements at bay, and seems to be breathable enough to avoid getting noticeably sweaty on the move.

As with the Gabbro and Frazil, the Shuga has a nose wipe patch and a finger clip loop. There are also tabs to attach a tether or elastic loop. With a glove like this, that you'll probably be wearing on a belay or a windy summit, it makes sense to fit wrist leashes, since you can then quickly remove one glove for a fiddly task without losing it to the mountain. It would have been nice to see a set of tethers included as standard, but doubtless that would have added to the price.

Speaking of which, the Shuga continues the Alpkit value theme. £65 strikes me as cheap for a glove of this size, warmth and general quality. I can happily recommend it for belay duty, for stormy days of winter hillwalking, and for anyone who likes to carry a warm, protective pair of emergency gloves just in case.

Alpkit say:

Warm winter gauntlet with waterproof insert for cold weather protection in wet and snowy conditions. Durable, waterproof, and designed for powdery days in the mountains… Shuga is our warmest and most protective glove.

  • 200gsm Primaloft Gold insulation keeps your hands warm
  • PorelleDry breathable waterproof insert keeps the wet out for longer
  • Long cuff with with single-handed drawcord closure insulates your wrists, keeps out the snow and doesn't slide off your jacket when you're reaching above your head
  • Palm insulation is needle punched to be thinner and more malleable

  • Leather palm provides excellent friction for better grip without over-squeezing and less muscle fatigue
  • Reinforced wear points (palm, crook of the thumb) with wrapped leather fingers for durability
  • Soft Bemberg lining holds moisture away from the skin to help retain warmth even when damp
  • Articulated fingers and panelling around the thumb improve dexterity.
  • Elasticated wrist helps to get a good fit

For more see alpkit.com




26 Feb

Pity they couldn't have done an all leather one with thinsulate lining :-( doesn't matter how waterproof the material is, just add more nikwax.

26 Feb

I've got a pair of the Shuga gloves and have been happy with them. Decent fit for me, quality seems fine so far and they're nice and sensitive. The primaloft keeps you warm when they inevitably get wet which is great.

Rather than the cheaper gloves I'd probably get some all-leather ones from decathlon and just nikwax them.

I agree re the Frazil gloves, great gloves at a great price.

26 Feb

I too have a pair of the Frazil gloves, very much agree that they are priced well and work well. After a week of use the leather is looking a little more worn than I'd like though.

26 Feb

If you want a fantastic range of gloves and mitts for a great price I would check out Snowshepherd.co.uk for their own range and Kinco.

Currently using them for skiing. The "dogs".

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