By Owen Clarke
Hands are arguably a climber’s most important asset. So when the going gets tough, having a durable, warm and dextrous pair of gloves on hand can mean the difference between gaining the upper hand on your route and going home empty-handed. Below are top picks from Outdoor Research’s ice glove lineup, guaranteed to hand you the send (okay, I’ll stop with the hand puns).
The BitterBlaze Aerogels are named for their PrimaLoft® Aerogel palm insulation, a revolutionary material originally developed by NASA for use in spacesuits, satellites, and space shuttles.
Aerogel consists of air trapped in a medium of ultralight silica. Basically, it’s a gel with gas in place of the typical liquid element. As a result, Aerogel is the lowest density solid in existence. It also has remarkable insulating properties, which make the BitterBlazes lightweight and warm like no other glove. Aerogel panels are layered in multiple segments over the palms and fingers of the BitterBlazes, providing unprecedented warmth without sacrificing dexterity. Coupled with the durability of Pittards® Oiltac goat leather on the palms and GORE-TEX® waterproofing, the unisex BitterBlazes tick all points of the ice glove triangle. The gloves offer pull-on loops, biner loops, glove clips, elastic wrists, and hook and loop wrist closures for a snug, secure fit.
For frigid days charging ice and mixed lines where warmth and weight are the top priorities, the BitterBlazes are what you want.
The Women’s Ouray are the female version of the unisex BitterBlazes, offering the same revolutionary Aerogel warmth at ⅔ the weight. Developed and tested by a female-led Outdoor Research team, the Ouray gloves have a fit custom-designed for female hands, and an extra 200 grams of Aerogel on the back (in response to research showing female hands are, on average, three degrees colder than male hands). The Ourays combine the same GORE-TEX® waterproofing and tough Pittards® Oiltac goat leather as the BitterBlazes, and offer all the same features and accessories (pull-on loop, biner loop, elasticized wrist, etc).
Outdoor Research’s first product incorporating Aerogel tech, the aptly-named Inception gloves combine the Aerogel palm used in the BitterBlaze and Ouray with a fleece-bonded soft shell offering protection from wind and light precipitation, with multi-directional flexibility from three layers of spandex/nylon. Touchscreen-compatible Sensor™ tech provides smartphone functionality, and a dot palm keeps the gloves ultra-tactile. The Inceptions have pull-on loops, glove clips, and secure hook and loop leather wrist closures.
For $35 and an ounce less than the BitterBlaze, the buyer gets the same unbeatable Aerogel warmth in the palms with a tactile, functional glove ideal for moderate, clear days.
With a durable goat leather palm and EnduraLoft® insulation out back, all wrapped in a Ventia™ shell for waterproofing, the Direct Contact gloves bring maximum dexterity and tactility to the table, whether handling ropes, gear, tools, or a post-climb burrito. The EnduraLoft® insulation is warm but breathable enough to perform well on high-output days, and the undercuff build keeps the cold air and snow out and the fit secure, hiding the cuff under layers. Easy storage is offered by a carabiner clip, pull-on loop, and glove clip.
At 4.9oz and $79, these gloves are lightweight, affordable, built to last, and a perfect addition to the arsenal for colder, wetter days and objectives where dexterity is of prime concern.
From climbing’s original camming devices to the v-thread anchor, Vitaly Abalakov’s name is synonymous with pushing the limits of the vertical world, and these gloves live up to their namesake. The Vitaly gloves have weatherproof GORE-TEX® inserts and the same heavy-duty Pittards® Oiltac goat leather palms found on the BitterBlazes and Ourays. With PrimaLoft® Gold insulation on both the back and palm, protective overlays at the seams and a SuperCinch Gauntlet overcuff design for security, the Vitalys maximize warmth and protection from the elements, and are made to last for seasons to come.
For extra-cold days and harsh conditions, the Vitalys will keep your digits toasty and dry.
A long-time climber’s favorite, the new Mixalots roll out with the same single-layer build bringing high sensitivity and a skintight fit, along with several new features, like more protective overlays at the seams to improve durability, a raised heat transfer logo and a molded neoprene wrist cuff. The Mixalots are naturally the lightest glove on this list, but you’ll be surprised how warm these guys are, thanks to GORE® WINDSTOPPER® soft shells on the back of the hands. Three-finger articulation brings better range of motion and flexibility than previous iterations, and these Mixalots are also the first outdoor glove with Pittards Gripster Sheep Leather on the palms. This leather actually gains grip and coverage when wet (it’s often found in golf gloves) and improves performance on techy pitches.
Whether you’re charging hard mixed and dry routes or working ice lines in warmer weather, the Mixalot gloves are an excellent choice.