Alpkit's New Glove Range
Decent gloves don't tend to come cheap, but this season Alpkit have pulled off an affordable range that we think compares well with pricier alternatives. Dan Bailey road tests four models.
Outdoor Research (OR) is a now familiar name to many in the UK, but what may not be familiar is OR's unique and very telling origin.
OR have been making outdoor kit ever since its founder, Ron Gregg, nearly lost his climbing partner to extreme frostbite on Alaska's Denali; due to poorly designed gaiters. Once safely back home, Ron immediately went about correcting the flaws in the gaiter's design and thus created the 'X-Gaiter' and a year later Outdoor Research was born.
"Ron's goals in those next formative years remained focused on creating practical, functional tools and solutions to the problems faced by outdoor enthusiasts..."
It is with the above gritty ethos in mind that I review the Arete Glove. I want to know - is it practical and functional?
The Arete Gloves are modular - meaning they have a separate liner and outer shell and are designed for Alpine and general winter use. The liners are 100 weight fleece with a silicone grip and the outer shell is comprised of a Gore-tex insert with stretch soft-shell on the back of the hand with a wrap around 'Alpengrip' palm (essentially a super-grippy fabric) and rip-stop Taslan toward the cuff.
Additional features include:
I have been using these gloves now for most of this winter season, mainly for winter climbing and all that this encompasses; long walk-ins, wet snow and ice, fierce weather conditions, long belay stints, both mixed and ice climbing, more long belay stints, easy gullies and long walks back to the car. Then the same the next day, and the next.. Such has been the brilliance of this winter!
In all this time my spare gloves have remained in my pack, redundant, while my Arete Gloves have done all the work from car to crag and back again, and they are continuing to do so now.
On the walk-in, while working hard, I have worn just the liners, as these have been sufficient to keep the chill off and the grip palms have worked well with poles, showing no real sign of wear and tear yet.
At the crag the combination of liner and shell makes for a warm glove without sacrificing dexterity too much, meaning that on a cold day you can climb with the liner on and still handle carabiners and ropes easily. However, I have mainly climbed with the liners removed, placed in my pockets ready for belay duty. I have found that the shells alone are perfect for climbing with tools, offering enough insulation around the hand to keep the worst of the cold at bay whilst remaining dexterous enough to even handle small ultra-light carabiners such as the DMM Phantom.
The 'Alpengrip' palm is very effective, grippy and durable and combined with the pre curve construction works perfectly even when climbing leash-less on steep terrain. So far it is showing only marginal signs of wear.
The idiot cords (the bits of cord that strap the glove to your wrist and stop you losing them) are essential for me (being an idiot!), ensuring I never have to pay the price of losing a glove in the cold and, for those climbers fortunate enough not to be idiots, they are removable. The one handed operated closure on the cuff works very well even when using your teeth!
In very cold conditions the gloves may not be as warm as other bulkier gloves but this could be compensated for by using a slightly thicker liner under the shell making these gloves even more versatile. The removable liner also makes drying the gloves out for multi-day adventures quick and easy. In fact, I will be packing them for a skiing trip next month and they will be my work-horse glove when out in the Alps in April.
These have, and still are performing brilliantly, wearing well, still keeping my hands dry even in very wet snow and dripping ice and have proven to be super-versatile in the winter environment. If you are to buy only one glove for all your winter and Alpine needs then you won't go far wrong with the Arete Glove.
A good, all around mid-weight glove, with a well chosen balance between dexterity and warmth.
Jon Ratcliffe is 35 years old and is based in North Wales. He worked as an outdoor instructor and in various climbing shops for 15 years where he became "hyper critical" of gear. He has now settled in to running the Indy Climbing Wall on Anglesey.
John has climbed extensively through out the UK and Europe and in Kyrgyzstan. His recent new route in Cwm Idwal, The Devil's Appendage (VII,7) has become an instant classic, but may not form again for several decades!
He climbs trad, sport, boulders, ice, mixed and plastic in equal measure and he even has an electronic timer next to his campus board.