KOMBI BACKCOUNTRY II GLOVES
TEST SERIES BY DAVID TAGNANI
May 18, 2009
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5' 10" (1.78 m)
160 lb (72.60 kg)
Backpacking Background: I have been camping and hiking for as long as I can remember, but I've really only been backpacking for a decade. I started off in the hills of northeastern and central Pennsylvania, have hiked trails from Maine to Georgia, and now I am exploring the incredible terrain of the inland northwest. I seldom do trips longer than three days, with most trips being overnighters. I do not own crampons, an ice axe, or a climbing harness, so if the route is technical enough to require them, you won't find me there. I simply like to walk in the woods.
PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECS - JAN '09
Year of Manufacture: 2008
Manufacturer's Website: Kombi Sports
Listed Weight: N/A
Measured Weight: 4.7 oz (133 g)
Colors available: black, grey
Color tested: grey
Sizes available: S, M, L, XL
Size tested: M
Other details (from their website):
- stretch woven shell fabric
- 3M Thinsulate Flex insulation
- Accu-dri lining
- cord-lock cinch cuff closure
- full-leather palm with stretch thumb panel
Kombi's website designates the Backcountry IIs as mid-weight gloves.
The Kombi Backcountry II gloves arrived with little fanfare: no hang tags, literature, warrantee info, or anything else. Just a pair of gloves and a packing slip. That's fine with me though: less garbage / waste and, well, they're a pair of gloves. What else do I need to know?
I was immediately impressed with the looks of these gloves. They are remarkably plain and tasteful, with no noticeable mention of the company name. Kombi gets a big thumbs up from me for this. Many other manufacturers have no qualms about emblazoning their logo on the back of the hand so that you become a walking billboard; Kombi refrained from doing this on the Backcountry II, and I appreciate it. The only place they have placed their name is on the cuff in light, barely noticeable stitching.
Other than that, they are clean and simple in appearance. One note about the color: though the packing slip says they are the black color option, they are clearly grey, as can be seen in the pictures. It is an interesting color of gray, too. It's dark, with a slight bluish tint, like a steel or gun metal grey.
The webbing closure at the wrist and the cord closure at the cuff offer options for customizing fit.
TRYING IT OUT
They look and feel pretty light, not big and bulky like many insulated gloves. The stretch woven shell fabric stretches easily when pulled in opposite directions.
I was instantly impressed with the trim fit of the Backcountry II gloves. For insulated gloves, they are pretty slim fitting, which makes them able to retain more articulation than bulkier gloves. My fingers reach to the tips without pushing uncomfortably against them. When in a relaxed position, they fit perfectly, with the thumb fitting a touch looser than the other fingers. The elastic at the wrist is close-fitting without being tight. When flexing my hand open and closed, the glove remains a close fit, stretching and flexing with my hand. There is an exception, however: the thumb. Though the rest of the glove fits perfectly, the thumb is a bit too long, especially when I close my hand. There is about .5 inches (1.3 cm) of excess space at the tip of my thumb. Maybe it's just my individual hand, but I've never had this problem with other gloves, including other models of Kombi gloves.
|The wrist and cuff closures|
The webbing cinch at the wrist works smoothly and is easily operable while wearing the gloves. Likewise, the cord-lock closure at the cuff is easy to adjust. Trying them on with my softshell, I found I was able to work all zippers with no problems. To further test the articulation of these gloves, I untied and retied my boots. Again, very easy with the gloves on.
Next, I went to the sink to test water-resistance. Kombi's website makes no mention of this, so I didn't know what to expect. After holding the back of the glove under a constant stream of water for about two seconds, the water beaded up and rolled right off, leaving no trace of wetness. So I plunged it back under for another few seconds. Same result. So I flipped the glove over and held the palm under the stream. The leather there seemed to get wet, though I did not feel any water transfer through to my skin. At least not right away. After about five seconds under the water, I felt my hand begin to get wet. It felt like the stretch panel near the thumb was the culprit, since that is were the water came through. But after a few more seconds, I felt water entering the glove at many different points.
So far, I am impressed with the close fit and articulation of the Backcountry II gloves, especially considering the fact that they are insulated. They are also comfortable; the lining is exceptionally soft against the skin. It will be interesting to see if they can keep my hands dry while snowshoeing.
Check back in two months for my Field Report.
FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS - Mar '09
Over the past two months, I've worn the Backcountry II gloves for nearly every snowshoeing and hiking trip I've been on. That equals about ten days of use in true field conditions and at least twice as many days of casual use.
|The conditions on Mt. Spokane|
Mt. Spokane State Park:
Mt. Spokane is a 5883 ft (1793 m) mountain that dominates the skyline north of Spokane. This has been my primary snowshoeing destination this winter. I've been on five trips there with the Kombis, the lengthiest and most challenging of which was an 8 mile (13 kilometer) snowshoe with 1400 feet (420 meters) of elevation gain. The weather has been crazy this year: Spokane recorded the most snowfall in one month since records have been kept. On most trips, the weather was grey, windy, and cold -- usually around 25 F (-4 C). Recently, it has warmed up a bit, and the temperature on my last trip was around 38 F (-3 C).
Little Spokane River Natural Area:
This area is a beautiful nature reserve along this tributary of the Spokane River. As the snow began to recede, I ventured out there to wander around off-trail. Ran into a bit of snow though, and wasn't able to gain much elevation. But I was able to stroll around quite a bit on the valley floor, where the Backcountry IIs were required to fend off brush and pine boughs.
Riverside State Park:
This is my quick, close-to-home destination. I've been on one hike and one snowshoe trip there during the testing period. Riverside is a relatively flat park stretching for many miles along the banks of the Spokane River. My trips there average 5 miles (8 kilometers) with negligible elevation change. I frequently leave the trails here and wander through the brush.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
I've been quite pleased with the Backcountry II gloves thus far. They have proven to be reliably warm, dry, and articulate gloves. They are durable as well. I've had occasion to take the off-trail a bit, where I was grabbing and deflecting brush and branches. Beside a small nick in the leather on the palms, there are no noticeable signs of wear.
Kombi categorizes these as mid-weight gloves, and I've found that to be an accurate label. I've been snowshoeing in some bitter, miserable conditions in these gloves, and never have my hands been cold. Of course when I was in these conditions, I was working hard at plowing my way through knee-deep snow up the side of a mountain. When I wore the gloves in more casual settings like waiting for the bus in town, my hands would get a bit chilled when the weather dropped below 30 F (-1 C). Not painfully cold, but a bit uncomfortable. But this seems to me to be an acceptable level of performance for "mid-weight" gloves: able to withstand low
temps and high winds during aerobic activity, but less effective when sedentary. This actually worked out perfect for me, because if they were any warmer, I would probably have had sweaty hands snowshoeing.
|On top of Mt. Spokane|
As noted in my Initial Report above, my experiment under the faucet revealed these gloves to be somewhat water-resistant, but not waterproof. They have been practically waterproof for me in the field, however. They have spent most of their time in the field gripping trekking poles as I worked my way through piles of powder. They were only actually snowed on once, and it was a light, dry snow, but they held up. Not once during the field testing period did the Backcountry IIs allow my hands to get wet.
Fit / Articulation:
I was a bit ambivalent about this criterion. Since the Backcountry IIs are not heavy-weight gloves, they fit a bit closer, allowing for decent articulation. I had no trouble, for instance, tying my boots or adjusting my bindings in the field. Likewise, opening and rooting around in my backpack was easy, too. Also, they fit great in the straps of my trekking poles and gripped them well. But for some reason, the thumb is a bit long for me. It didn't really cause any problems; it's just a minor annoyance. Lastly, I really found no use for all the adjustments at the wrist and cuff. The elastic gave me an adequate seal, and since the cuff on my jacket covered the gauntlet, I found them unnecessary.
All in all, I'm digging these gloves. They offer the perfect balance between warmth / protection and articulation for my needs. If I were to climb Mt. Rainier, perhaps I'd want a bit more protection, but these Kombis have kept me warm and dry all winter, which was, incidentally, one of the worst we've ever had.
Things I Like:
Kept me dry
Kept me warm
Things I Don't Like:
Thumb is too long
LONG-TERM TEST CONDITIONS - May 09
|Washington's high desert|
Due to increasingly warm weather, I did not use the Backcountry II gloves very often during the long-term test period.
I used them for three or four low-elevation hikes along the Spokane River in Riverside State Park. These hikes averaged about 5 miles (8 kilometers) in length with little to no elevation change. Temperatures were around 35 F (1.7 C).
I also used the Kombis on a two walks in the desert. The temperature was a bit warmer here, from about 40 F (4.4 C) up to 52 F (11 C). Again, elevation change was minimal. Conditions here were dry and windy, in contrast to the wet conditions along the Spokane River.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
Well, they have certainly proved to be pretty warm gloves for the weight and bulk. As a matter of fact, the reason that I did not use them very often during the long-term Test period is because the Backcountry IIs are too warm for spring weather. During the outings I mentioned above, I would start out wearing the Kombis. But after a few hundred feet, my hands would be way too warm. The gloves were perfect if I was just standing around, but as soon as my blood got pumping, they were too warm. My hands would overheat and start sweating.
I have determined that the upper limit of the comfort range for me is about 30 F (-1 C). This is for active pursuits. I can be comfortable in the Backcountry IIs up until about 40 F (4.4 C) if I am just standing around or not working very hard. But if my blood is pumping, then they are too warm above 30 F (-1 C). I have yet to discover a lower limit for them, which is encouraging and impressive, considering some of the conditions I had them out in this winter.
They have proven to be pretty durable gloves, too. Aside from some nicks in the leather palm, they appear to be in perfect shape. No abrasions, loose seams, or other visible signs of wear. I have certainly not taken care of them in any unusual way. I haven't even washed them yet.
Basically, nothing has changed in my assessment of their performance from the Field Test period. They continue to provide warmth and water protection. I just haven't needed much warmth during this period.
They are great gloves that balance warmth and weather protection with a slim fit that retains a lot of articulation and freedom of movement. They are not the warmest gloves I've ever used, nor are they absolutely waterproof, but they are warm enough and water resistant enough for most conditions that I encounter, and they offer the articulation that I miss in warmer, bulkier gloves. I expect to continue using them for all of my active winter pursuits.
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.
Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
Thanks to Kombi and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test the Backcountry II gloves.
Read more gear reviews by David Tagnani