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Reviews > Clothing > Gloves and Mittens > Outdoor Research PL400 Gloves > Test Report by Andre Corterier

Outdoor Research PL 400 Men's Gloves

Test Report by Andrť Corterier
Initial Report - 05 November 2007
Field Report - 09 January 2008
Long Term Report - 11 March 2008

Outdoor Research PL 400 Men's Gloves (picture by manufacturer)

Personal Biographical Information:
Name: Andrť Corterier
Gender: M
Age: 35
Height: 1.85 m (6 ft 1 in)
Weight: 80 kg (175 lb)
Standard Clothing size: L
Email: andreDOTcorterierATfreenetDOTde
Home: Bonn, Germany

Backpacking Background:
I have started out with backpacking slowly Ė single-day 24 km (15 mi) jaunts by myself or even shorter hikes in the company of my little daughter. I am getting started on longer hikes, as a lightweight packer and tarp or hammock-camper. Iíve begun upgrading my old gear and am now carrying a dry FSO weight (everything carried From the Skin Out except food, fuel and water) of about 9 kg (20 lb) for three-season camping.

Initial Report (05 November 2007)

Year of manufacture: 2007
Manufacturer: Outdoor Research

Weight: listed (size L): 72 g (2.6 oz) / pair
measured (size L): 78 g (2.8 oz) / pair

Initial Impression:
Well, guess what - it's a black pair of gloves. It says "OR" on them in white - not a very large sign, so I'm good with that. I wouldn't call them "stretch" gloves, but the material is somewhat stretchy. It appears to be double-layered as well. There's what feels like an elastic band around the wrist which I assume is meant to keep the gloves tight against the arm. On the outside of it is a little clip which mates with its opposite on the other glove so one can keep them together. There are lines of what the manufacturer assures me is silicone on the inside of the thumbs, fingers and palms to prevent slippage.

The gloves feel a little thicker than I had first expected, seeing that they are listed as "liner gloves". The liner gloves I'm used to are thin, single-layer affairs at about half the weight (and, I'm sure, half the insulation). I really don't see what other kinds of gloves I might be wearing over these, though an uninsulated waterproof/breathable shell mitt would likely work very well.

I have long fingers (22 cm / 9 in from the tip of my middle finger to the bend in the wrist) and usually choose the largest size of any type of glove on offer. OR's sizing page puts me into the "L" range, which I found curious. Sure enough, the gloves add a little webbing between my fingers, because the glove's fingers aren't quite as long as my own fingers are. However, the glove fits well otherwise and the gloves are stretchy enough that this does not appear to be a problem. While I would have tried out size XL for comparison if I'd had both sizes in front of me in a store, I did not feel tempted to return these.

I can easily grab things with these gloves and the silicone seems to be doing its job - it makes my grip stick to smooth surfaces as though it's glued on. Of course, with a 300 weight layer of fleece *and* a 100 weight layer of fleece between my fingers and whatever it is I'm holding, I did not expect to be able to make much use of finicky things like keys or small change, and find my expectation met - they seem good for adjusting straps and other larger things, but not small things.

Planned Use:
They will spend a lot of time in the pockets of my jacket and will come out whenever the temperature and/or wind suggest that being with gloves on would be more comfortable than without. This will include overnighters as well as dayhiking, jogging and bicycling. Temps in the next four months will likely range between -5 and 15 C (25 and 60 F), precipitation and wind is a given, though how much snow I'll get to go out in is anybody's guess (mild winters here).

Field Report (09 January 2008)

Field Experience:
The gloves have accompanied me daily during the test period. They resided in the handwarmer pockets of my softshell jacket well into December, and now sit in the pockets of my insulated hardshell jacket. Temperatures have varied a great deal, though I've usually worn the gloves only when temperatures dipped to around 10 C / 50 F or below. The lowest temperatures in which I've been out while wearing these gloves so far has been a thermometer-checked -5 C (23 F). I've worn them in strong wind and no wind at all and have been out in strong and light rain. Activities were backpacking, strolling along, jogging and bicycling.

I've had them on only three overnight trips, but have not worn them inside my sleeping bag (it wasn't cold enough).

Specific Questions I Wanted to Answer and my Answers so far:
Do they provide some/enough insulation by themselves for use whenever it isn't terribly cold? (Not that I'm likely to be able to test in terrible cold)
I've found them well suited for moderately active pursuits (i.e., backpacking) in temperatures down to -5 C (23 F). The heat generated by my body was enough in that situation that my hands stayed warm. If I was only strolling or not moving at all, my hands begun to feel cold whenever the temperatures were below freezing. They still kept my hands usable, but no longer inside my comfort range.
Do they resist rain (or at least fog or drizzle) for a while?
Fog or drizzle was not a problem. The gloves did not appear to pick up a noticeable amount of moisture. Rain was different - while it took a little while for the gloves to soak through, they did soak through and then provided much less in the way of insulation. No surprise there, really. I found this most noticeable when bicycling - when backpacking, most rain drips off my sleeves and bypasses my hands, so the gloves did not get quite soaked (it may also have been raining less hard.
If they get soaked, do they dry quickly? How warm will they be when wet?
Well, they dried during an afternoon left inside. They were soaked by noon when I came home, and dry by evening when I checked on them. As mentioned earlier, they were warmer when wet than wearing no gloves at all, but significantly less warm than when dry.
Do they fit closely enough that I can wear them underneath my other gloves as glove liners (as their name would seem to imply), or do I need gloves one size larger to accomplish this?
I don't possess any gloves that I could feasibly wear over these - I tried. I may go out and see if I can find some large mittens of the shell type that might do, but these gloves won't fit underneath any other gloves.
Is the fabric woven tightly enough to provide some wind protection?
Yes. It is a double layer glove, so there are two layers of fleece in the way of the wind. I can feel strong wind through the gloves, but am not negatively impacted by anything less.
Is their surface area tough enough not to quickly dissolve when handling rough items sometimes, and how slippery is it (big deal when going up really steep slopes)?
So far I can see now indications of wear on the gloves - neither on the fleece fabric of the gloves proper, nor on the silicone grips. The silicone strips do provide greater traction than the fleece fabric by itself would. In fact, I've found fleece to be very slippery indeed and have needed to grab smooth surfaces wih a lot of strength in order to attain a moderately secure hold. The silicone lines on the fingers and inside the palm substantially reduce the amount of force required. They fall short of the sort of sure grip rubber gloves give me on, say, wet dishes. I believe I've noticed the grip decrease a little in temperatures below freezing, but would not know how to test this.
Also, as they'll likely be replacing my current gloves in most situations, how do they deal with jogging/bicycling, etc.?
They work quite well for such pursuits. While not-quite-windproof means that my hands inevitably get a little chilled when I ride my bicycle to work in the mornings (temps around freezing, air speed around 30+ kmh - 20 mph), this isn't much of a bother (and I know from past experience that doing the same without gloves is painful). When jogging in temperatures just above freezing, with little wind chill (I'm a slow jogger), they seemed overkill. They were rather sweaty after a half hour or so and I felt tempted to take them off after a mere five minutes.

Long Term Report (11 March 2008)

Field Information:
Iíve been wearing the gloves a lot during the days after the Field Report was filed, nearly daily in fact. Much of this wasnít backpacking, but dayhiking or riding my bicycle (even jogging, once, though at just below freezing, my hands soon got too warm in them). My only proper backpacking trip which included heavy glove use during the LTR phase was climbing Kumotori-san in Japan, elevation between 300 and 2018 m (1000 and 6659 ft), temperatures roughly between Ė 7 and +20 C (20 and 70 F), without precipitation of any form though a bit of wind. There was snow everywhere above 1000 m (3300 ft).

The gloves remain comfortable on my hands. They are still as smooth and stretchy as they were to begin with, so I remain very happy with them in that regard.

While I have negative things to say about the thickness of these gloves (marketed as ďlinerĒ gloves), Iíve noted that even after long hours of heavy use of my poles (pushing me up 1700 m/ 5600 ft of elevation gain inside 8 hours) my hands did not show any tendency towards blistering such as hotspots or the like, even though the (cheap, no-name) poles I use do not have a very user-friendly grip. This was a comfort feature I only appreciated the next day. I get that way sometimes Ė I tend not to note the absence of problems. Some time after the temperature felt too warm for gloves on the way down, I noted that as I relied on the use of my poles to alleviate the stress on my thighs and knees, that my hands were beginning to develop painful red spots. I managed to keep these from developing into full-on blisters by alternating my grip and exercising my pain tolerance vis-ŗ-vis thigh muscles a little more. It is only now, as I type up this report, that I realize how much the gloves obviously did for my hands on the way *up*, which certainly involved much heavier, and more constant, use of the poles. I guess Iíll wear them even for cushioning my hands in the future, even though the temperatures might not call for glove use. I am a little saddened that I failed to make use of the opportunity to test to which degree this is possible before sweating of the hands inside the gloves creates its own problems. Iíve found the glovesí breathability to be quite good, though, so I imagine they could be quite helpful in that regard.

Iíve had my hands both too warm and too cold in these gloves, which in itself doesnít indicate anything other than that Iíve been able to delineate the comfortable temperature range for me in these gloves.

The range seems to depend much more on my level of exertion than on the temperature level. When Iím moving about at a sedate pace or resting, my hands have felt cold in temperatures (not far) above freezing. They would admittedly have been even colder without gloves, though itís not a temperature in which I would even wear gloves for short trips (just take it like a man). Theyíve been too warm (again, not far) below freezing when I was jogging. For the main range of a more or less brisk hiking pace in more or less hilly environments, theyíve been comfortable and good to have in temperatures both below and above freezing.

Iíve noted that wind chill is still a factor even though these gloves have two layers. While theyíre not advertised as windproof, I would have assumed that two layers of fabric create a more effective wind barrier than I have found to be the case. Of course, this was particularly notable on my bicycle, when quickly riding to work in below-freezing temperatures before dawn. My hands were clammy with cold when I arrived at work a quarter of an hour later. I should state, however, that Iíve felt more serious impact on similar trips with thinner gloves, and that doing it without gloves is downright painful, even if alternating hands on the handlebars and in a pocket.

For backpacking though, theyíve been excellent as far as warmth is concerned. Iíve been wearing them outside in temperatures from -7 to about 10 C (20 to 50 F) when backpacking. Stomping uphill through a foot of snow in the woods at night, I never worried about my hands. Being able to hold on to my poles (aluminium tubing) in between without my hands freezing was good, the occasional time I had to extend a hand into the snow to maintain (or Ė ahem Ė re-establish) my balance was also no concern (though I was of course careful to shake off any snow clinging to the gloves afterwards so as not to have them soak through). As long as I remained active, my hands never felt cold with the gloves on, even with the temperature dropping down to about -7 C (20 F). I kept wearing the gloves the next day for a while, even when I had taken off everything else except for my baselayer. The sun up on the mountain warmed *me*, but apparently did little to warm the air around me (ambient air temperature was still around freezing). As I was now following the ridgeline a lot, I was carrying the poles in my hand for a while. Their metal remained quite cold, so I left the gloves on. This worked well and my hands did not feel sweaty. It was only during the long, strenuous descent, as temperatures kept going up entering the valleys below, that I felt compelled to take the gloves off.

Manual Dexterity (or Lack Thereof):
Iíve found that I can open doors with my keys and pick out change while wearing these gloves. This is hard, however, and I instinctively pull them off for such tasks. Iíve left them on when it felt *really* cold, and was happy that I could undertake such tasks even with them on. I can use my digital camera with them on, as well Ė however, tapping the right buttons often takes more than one try.

I note that the main reason for difficulty is not that the gloves make my fingers thick Ė theyíre not that much thicker than the thin liner gloves Iím used to (which are more like thin socks for fingers). They do, however, pretty much prevent tactile feedback. I canít tell by touch whether my finger is on the button, or how many coins Iíve grabbed, or whether Iíve gotten hold of my keys or my mini-tool when rummaging around in my pack pocket. These things which with bare hands I rummage around for without looking, require me to look at what Iím doing if Iím wearing these gloves. Conversely, I have not been able to store the hood on my jacket in its collar, or even to take it out, while wearing these gloves, because I canít tell by feel whether Iím holding the right part of the collar or just a fold in the jacket, and canít look at it while Iím wearing the jacket. So this requires me to take off either the jacket or the gloves.

This corresponds with the main issue I have with these gloves, or rather the way theyíre marketed. My idea of ďliner glovesĒ hitherto has been that they are thin enough to afford some warmth while minimizing impact on manual fine control, and that they can be worn beneath other, waterproof and/or heavily insulated gloves. Neither is really true for these. Sure, I have ski gloves which prevent me from using my camera with them on, no matter how carefully I look at what Iím doing. But these do interfere with such fine control issues more than I like. They also do not fit underneath any other gloves I have, though I have found waterproof shell mittens in a store I could have worn over them.

My grip when wearing these gloves remains satisfactory. The silicone strips seem to continue to do their job. I note that the strips on the right hand show some slight traces of wear (slight enough that I couldnít get a proper picture of it) while it still looks like new on the left hand. This may in part be due to the fact that Iíve worn the right glove a little more than the left, the latter having been unavailable to me for a short period due to my own stupidity, but as this period was before my nearly daily wearing of the gloves, I believe it primarily shows that I grab a lot more things with my right hand than with the left. No surprise there.

I was particularly happy for the silicone treatment of the gloves when needing to hold on to wooden rails on the slopes of Kumotori-san. It was in the middle of the night, the trail traversed a near-vertical slope, and footing was uncertain at best (the slope faced South, so the snow iced over). Not having crampons was my own fault, of course. Anyway, as I noted that I needed to grab the very smooth wooden rails very strongly so as not slip along them, I also noted that it was the silicone treatment which made holding on possible at all. The untreated back side of the glove would have been impossibly slippery to hold on with (I tried this Ė in a more secure spot Ė by putting a glove on backward on the other hand). So I was *very* happy for this feature of the gloves.

When hiking in snow, Iíve been very happy with the warmth and comfort provided by these gloves. They managed to provide a lot of both, in a spot where it counts, for comparatively little weight.

The only thing I didnít like was the lack of manual fine control they afford me.

Iíve come to think of them as ďlight glovesĒ, located in a spectrum between my thin liner gloves for shoulder season hiking on one end and the heavy, waterproof insulated ski gloves on the other end (for the kinds of winter I only find elsewhere).

They are now firmly established in that spot of my (limited) glove collection, and will be the gloves Iíll take along whenever I doubt that the really thin liner gloves will be sufficient under the circumstances, particularly on days which feature serious elevation changes.

Iíd like to thank Outdoor Research and for allowing me to participate in this test.

Read more gear reviews by
Andre Corterier

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