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The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Winter Alpine and Ice Glove Choices: part 3

So I left the last glove comments with a tale of cold fingers and me using some pretty thick gloves in Chamonix last winter.  None of them the best fit inside a Nomic handle on technical terrain.

Common sense would have me climbing in a pair of wool Dachstein mitts again if I had a pair with me...which I didn't.  Dachsteins with a reasonable over shell are good down to any temp I want to climb in and warmer than anything else I have used...first time every time no matter the conditions.

But easy to use placing rock pro and screws they aren't.  They work but just barely compared to say a pair of Hydras.

Like double boots.... there is a fine line between what is fun to climb a pair of Phantom Ultras and what keeps my feet warm and happy like my Spantiks.

So a couple of gloves I looked at this fall that I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.

The first two were the Arc'teryx Zenta AR ($185 retail)  and the Alpha SV Gloves ($275 retail) and the third was the Outdoor Research Firebrand ($320. retail)

Dave's shorted lived review here on the Zenta.  They recieved high marks from Dave's comments.

Dave's Zenta's were a medium and I use a XL.  Good thing too as I was still on the hunt for a warmer glove than even the Zenta.

But get real at $300 for a pair of gloves I wasn't in too big of a hurry.  You can buy a state of the art ice tool (just one of course) or a Narrona down jacket or a damn good Feathered Friends down bag for $300 for chrimney sake!  In the right place at the right time $300 will get you a season pass.

The Zeta was impressive.  But I wanted a removable liner as well.  The Alpha SV and the Firebrand were the other two options and I wanted the warmer of the two.   Once you get your hands into a pair of each brand that is obviously going to be the Firebrand.

Simple to figure that out as the Firebrand ($320 retail) is the thickest glove intended as a cold weather technical glove that I have ever seen and with the most amount of dexterity.  Most of the insulation is on the back of the hand, fingers and thumb.  So you can actually use the  Firebrand for some pretty delicate work.  The fit on this glove for the insulation involved is simply amazing

But make no mistake this is a serious cost and where you will use it. 

While the  Alpha SV Gloves ($275 retail) is no doubt a nice glove and should be for the price, the OR Firebrand is in a totally different league and has a totally different intended use imo.  Think super charged, and armored Humvee verses a Ferrari here.  Both will do an amazing job if you know when and how to apply the technology.  Tough comparison...obvious differences and much the same like the great deterity in both.  


 But FMR...$300 for a pair of gloves?!   I still find that hard to fathom no matter how good the glove is.  May be I should just stay indoors more.

Yes, it is cold...even climbing quickly in a puffy and Typhons.


Evan said...

Great quickie article Dane!

To share my experience on the Alpha SV: I picked up a pair of these when they first came out on prodeal, since I was working at an Arc'teryx dealer at the time. I thought that the combination of GTX, pile, and 'magical 3D finger modelling' would make for an outstanding climbing glove.

While these gloves do climb very well (and the XLs do fit in the pommel of my Nomics ;), there are several wear issues that don't really have a justification in performance terms (...and for $300):

- Pile has compacted SIGNIFICANTLY with one season of use so that both the fit and the warmth are now compromised.
- Leather on palm and thumb is not designed for climbing I think. Its thin an so supple that it tears and burnishes easily. My gloves look 3 years old from handling tools and rope for just 30 days out last year.
- The elastic wrist strap/pull is pretty weak sauce. I asked the sales rep about this when he showed them to us (before I'd ordered them) and he said that it would be fine for years of use and that a shot elastic would be warranty-able. I didn't buy this brush off and don't really see the need for elastic there; I'm pretty much just waiting for it to blow up. I think its uncharacteristic poor design.

All that being said, the dexterity of this glove is ridiculous. Clipping is very close to as good as when wearing my OR Alibis (thin leather competition glove) and handling rock pro is easy too. They're obviously wind and water PROOF, so they tend to sit with my hardshell pants for early and late season shower-stall days.

For any of my fellow readers considering the gloves you mentioned, I'd also recommend the OR Alpine Alibi. Not quite as warm as the Firebrand, but has essentially the same outstanding dexterity as the Alphas - at least the way they fit my hands.

Thanks again for the great posts. Feel better mate!

Dane said...

Thanks Evan. Just wanted to make sure no one confused the insulation of the Firebrand with the level offered in the Alpine Alibi or the Alpha. Or the even warmer Typhon and Medusa (compared to the Albi)

Firebrand is a BIG glove with great dexterity for its size and warmth!

Anonymous said...

Did you have a chance to try the new Mammut Gipfelgrat Gloves. They use the Neoshell Membrane on the outer like the Gipfelgrat Jacket. Was very impressed with the breathability of Neoshell.

Chris L said...

How do the Firebrands compare to the OR Alti gloves? I've found my hands get very cold in the Altis and I'm looking for something warmer. I've been wearing the Alti Mitts but I have to take them off constantly which results in cold hands that are difficult to warm up.

Dane said...

Firebrand is a BIG step up on the Alti...

Mark said...


Any thoughts on the Firebrand Mitt vs. Firebrand Gloves? Expedition and winter use, Denali and 5,000m+ trips. Do you think the gloves would be warm enough while still retaining a little more dexterity than the mitts?

Dane said...

It is a huge glove or mitt. I'd try both on before you buy..

Dave Carroll said...

I have both the Firebrand gloves and mitts. Agree with Dane on the warmth of the glove: big warmth with admirable dexterity. No issues with warmth at temperatures down to -23C/-10F when moderately active.

The mitts: as expected with a mitt this warm, they are somewhat balky with the full liners. Because the outer mitt is warm by itself, I reserve the full liners for truly extreme conditions, and use a cheap ragg wool glove(with the gripper dots) as a liner instead and find the mitts have pretty good dexterity with this combination as the gripper dots seem to grab the interior of the outer mitt. Super warm combo at -30C/-20'sF for me, and a better grip on an axe for glacier climbs than my primaloft or down mitts(my thumbs also stay warmer in the Firebrand mitts than the primaloft/down style). Have never needed the warmth of the full liner yet.

OR's site has had the Firebrands at insane discounts...picked up an extra pair of mitts (lg) for $70.00USD! Online auction sites list big discounts too.

Rob said...

I have feedback on the Firebrand glove as I used them on Denali. I couldn't wear the glove due to the inner liners. Yes it is a warm glove but for delicate work I (i.e. getting snacks out and and eating them) I still needed to take the outer off and use the liner. Here lies the major issue- the palm of the liner isn't water resistant- any handling of snow or anything with snow on it- the snow would melt and go straight through to my fingers and I would have wet liners. My fingers went numb multiple times using these gloves on Denali and I had to ditch them after 2 days. I went back to my basic leather work gloves and liners which ended up being warmer. My wife used the Alti gloves and as the liners are water resistant she had no problems with cold fingers when using only the liners. I was bitterly disappointed as I had high hopes for these gloves. Has anyone else had this problem? My 2c.

Anonymous said...

Can vouch for Firebrand great mitt and glove, I find the liner is so warm that I substitute it for a thinner glove liner for dexterity. You can get Firebrands on eBay for under $75. They are given to US soldiers as winter gear and therefore sold cheap from army surplus stores when people leave the military. Hoping the military continues buying from good mountaineering brands, maybe black diamond can supply them with tents lol.