As far as I’m concerned, nothing ruins a good winter trip faster than a lousy set of gloves (except maybe leaky boots, but that’s a story for another review). If they leave my fingers cold, or make my palms sweat, or make it tough to use my hands, I’m just not interested.
Not surprisingly, I go through a lot of gloves. I’ve had my hands in just about every brand on the market, testing for that ever-elusive combination of fit and warmth that sometimes seems so hard to find, and every fall I’m starting all over again.
Fortunately, the Northback glove from Outdoor Research comes awfully close to meeting my criteria. Designed for use in wet, snowy conditions, the Northback is an all-around winter glove that, according to the manufacturer, combines a full waterproof GORE-TEX liner with variable thickness EnduraLoft insulation. In short: it’s a glove for all seasons (provided those seasons are all winter).
In practice, this is a glove that stands up to its claims (which is a common feature of a lot of the Outdoor Research gear I’ve used). The leather palm and fingers make it easier to actually use your hands while out on the trail (Binding adjustments? Check. Jacket zippers? Check. Digging a power bar out of a backpack and opening the wrapper? Not so much.) While the long cuff cinches down over the wrist to keep snow and ice out of the picture. The leather bits are also a nice touch in terms of durability, as they are better able to stand up to the occasional hiking pole tip or crampon; even rock scrambles are a possibility.
The Northback gloves seems to fit true to size, though the pair I tested might be a little tight with liners, and the cuffs are long enough to offer coverage without interfering too much with a jacket. If I had to come up with one complaint, it would be the lack of a soft, nose-wiping spot on the back of the glove (and I can’t be the only person who appreciates that).
Overall, though, OR’s Northback is a great all-around glove that doesn’t sacrifice manual dexterity in the name of warmth. The leather palm really does improve the glove’s grip and durability and, excellent warmth qualities notwithstanding, the Northback still allows you to use your hands without pulling the gloves off every time you need to tweak your bindings or adjust your glasses. And, as far as I’m concerned, that’s worth a whole lot in a glove, especially one that could see use on the snowshoe trail one day and the ski slopes the next.
For more information about the Outdoor Research Northback glove, visit http://bit.ly/eaHlio.