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Reviews > Clothing > Gloves and Mittens > Outdoor Research Zenith Gloves > Test Report by Ben Mansfield

Outdoor Research Zenith Gloves

Initial Report


Field Report


Long Term Report

12 December 2008   17 February 2009   21 April 2009

Outdoor Research Zenith Gloves
Outdoor Research Zenith Gloves

Reviewer Profile
Name:Ben Mansfield
Height:6'0" (1.8 m)
Weight:175 lbs (80 kg)
E-mail Address:benmansfield27 AT gmail DOT com
City, State, Country:North Ridgeville, Ohio, USA

Backpacking Background
Over the past 15 years or so, I've tried to average at least one weekend trip per month year-round, primarily in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Virginia. During the last 8 years, I've tried to take a weeklong trip somewhere further, but still usually in the eastern US. I consider myself a mid-weight hiker, preferring some luxury to an ultralight load. I am also an avid fly fisherman, mountain and road biker, and snow skier, and enjoy sailing my homemade dinghy.

Product Information
Manufacturer:Outdoor Research
Model:Zenith Gloves
Manufacturer URL:
Year of Manufacture:2008 (presumed)
MSRP:US $159.00

Product Description

The Zenith gloves are actually a multi-part system comprised of a waterproof shell over an inner liner. The gloves are part of Outdoor Research's Ascent line of handwear, and are advertised as a "Durable and lightweight shell system for mixed ice and technical climbs." They are available from the manufacturer in two color combinations: sulphur and grey or black, and have a size range from small to extra-large to accommodate a wide range of users. The shell can be removed from the liner, and each can be used on its own as conditions require.

Outdoor Research guarantees these gloves (and all their products) forever.

A summary of the measured and manufacturer's weights for the gloves, as well as the liners and shells, is given below.

Zenith Gloves Weight Summary
Item Manufacturer's Measured
Weight (oz) Mass (g) Weight (oz) Mass (g)
Complete Pair 9.0 255 8.5 241
Shells Only 4.5 128 N/A N/A
Liners Only 4.0 113 N/A N/A
***Note that all measurements, including the manufacturer's, are for size large

Below is a table showing measured values for the various glove (and my hand) dimensions.

Zenith Gloves Size Summary
Item Measured
(in) (cm)
Shell - Cuff to Tip of Middle Finger 13 33
Shell - Gauntlet Closure to Tip of Middle Finger 8.5 21.6
Shell - Width Across Palm 5.5 14
Shell - Length of Middle Finger 3.25 8.25
Liner - Cuff to Tip of Middle Finger 11.5 29
Liner - Width Across Palm 4.75 12
Liner - Length of Middle Finger 4 10
My Hand - Circumference around palm, excluding thumb 8.75 22.2
My Hand - Length from wrist to tip of middle finger 9 22.8
***Note that all measurements are for size large

According to Outdoor Research (hereafter OR), the shells are fully taped Ventia™ with welded seams and a laminated nylon grip on the palm and fingertips. Ventia™ is Outdoor Research's proprietary fabric which is meant to be waterproof but also breathable. A peek inside the shells reveals quality construction with attention to detail, such as smartly placed seams which are very well taped and reinforcements in areas of the glove which might be subject to stress. There is also a laminated grip band inside the gauntlet which is about 5/8" (1.6 cm) wide, which may help to keep the gauntlet cuff in place. The shell also has an interesting cinch adjustment mechanism which OR calls DuoCinch™. With DuoCinch™, the gauntlet can be cinched tighter by pulling on the grey toggle and loosened by pulling on the black toggle. The two toggles are located opposite one another, at around 3 o'clock and around 9 o'clock. This system makes single-handed adjustment very possible, and it's a wonder that a similar solution has not been more widely adopted. Also included with the shell is a removable "idiot cord" which is girth-hitched to a loop sewn inside the cuff. This idiot cord has a rubberized disk which can be slid up or down the cord to keep the loop secured to my wrist, allowing me to take the gloves off but not worry about losing them, since they're always attached to my wrist. There's also a clip on each glove (male on left and female on right) for joining the gloves together. These features can be seen in the photo below:

Palm Up, with Annotations

The liner and shells both also have a wrist closure. The shells have a webbing and ladder-lock cinch around the wrist, and the liners have an adjustable hook-and-loop closure a little higher up my arm than my wrist. The liners themselves have a nice soft, brushed tricot lining, a soft shell material on the back of the hand, and an AlpenGrip® LT palm. This material is great for helping to pick up small objects and improving on the usually poor dexterity that gloves provide. I was even able to test this out a little, since the gloves arrived the same day I was putting Christmas lights up on the outside of my house. I was able to grab the little light bulbs for the inevitable replacement with fewer problems than I expected.

The shell, top side up The shell, palm side up Liner glove, top side up Liner glove, palm side up
Shell, Palm Down Shell, Palm Up Liner, Palm Down Liner, Palm Up

Initial Impressions

I've had a few chances to try these gloves out in a non-backpacking environment over the few days since they arrived. They fit very well, though I expected this since my hands measured up very well to the sizing chart on the OR website. According to the sizing chart, my hands are size large, which also happens to be the size I received for testing. In my limited use, they've been acceptably warm, though I haven't been out in really frigid weather yet, nor have I spent an entire day in the elements with them. As I mentioned above, the grip afforded by the liners is impressive, but this is offset by the grip provided by the shells - they are somewhat lacking, but I really don't expect to be able to grab anything smaller than a trekking pole while wearing the shell. The DuoCinch™ system is pretty smart - I'm quite impressed with it and it makes snugging up the gauntlet a cinch (pun unfortunately intended).

Field Report

February 17, 2009
Field Conditions

Thanks to some truly cold and nasty days courtesy of the Great Lakes, global warming, and a butterfly flapping its wings somewhere on the other side of the world, I've had lots of opportunities to try out the OR Zenith gloves in all three configurations. I've had a number of good trail days, both backpacking and day hiking, as well as numerous other opportunities to wear these gloves doing chores around the house and such.
Looking for the Trail
Looking for a Blaze
I did three days in Southern Ohio's Wayne National Forest, just after an ice storm where the temperatures were between 10 and 25 F (-12 to -4 C) during the day when I was wearing the gloves. It was frigid cold, though there was not much wind. I was somewhat surprised that my fingers did get a little cold during this trip, even when wearing the Zenith gloves with an extra pair thin of polypropylene liners in addition to the gloves' liner and shell.

Another trip took me to one of my favorite locales, the Allegheny National Forest in Northwestern Pennsylvania. This was right between Christmas and New Year's, and the weather actually got quite warm, ranging from around 30 F (-1 C) in the evenings up to almost 60 F (16 C) during the day. Most of the time though it was around 45 - 50 F (7 - 10 C) and damp. This was a great opportunity to try out just the shell glove, and I was quite impressed with the Zeniths in this configuration. I've been looking for a good waterproof shell that I can wear in this kind of weather for a while now, and the Zenith worked very well. There were times when it was wet but warm, and in this situation I used the shell over a different thin polypropylene glove liner to add just a little extra warmth, since the liner glove that came with the Zeniths was too warm.

There were many other days that I used these gloves, both day hiking locally in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, and in my neighborhood, shoveling snow and digging out cars, mailboxes, fire hydrants, etc. Temperatures were generally cold - down to almost 0 F (-18 C) at times, with averages probably more like 20 F (-7 C).

Closeup of the Zenith Gloves in Action

Field Observations

In general, the gloves have performed their task well. My hands have always been dry, and have usually been warm. There were some times when my fingers got a little cold, but with the temperatures that I was dealing with, I guess this can be explained or at least accepted to some extent. Putting on and taking off the gloves have been pretty simple, even with the separate liner and shell - though there were a few occasions where I inadvertently pulled off a part of the shell without bringing the liner with it (seems to be especially frequent with my ring finger, for some reason). It's not really much trouble to put them back together, though - the liner goes on first and then the shell on top and all is well.

I do find that I'm able to grasp small items, even with the shell, though I did have to learn to sort of trust the gloves in this manner, since I can't really feel little things in my fingers. Big things, such as trekking poles, wrist-size sticks, and other similarly-sized objects are very easy to grasp, and even round, smooth objects (like the handle of my snow shovel) are handled with ease. The liners by themselves provide a much better grip of small items, though the material doesn't feel as "tough" to me, so I'm reluctant to use them alone for things like breaking up dead wood for a fire.

As can probably be seen in the photos above, I didn't use the Idiot Cord a whole lot. I suppose I would have bothered with it more in situations where a glove could be easily lost (windy mountainside, for example), but for me having the gloves fixed to my wrist while trying to do something that I needed to expose my hands to do (like light a match) was more trouble than it was worth. I also find the rubber disk meant to help secure the cord to my wrist a bit cumbersome, and can't figure out how to work it without using two hands, an extra stick, and The Force. I could have removed the Idiot Cord altogether thanks to its girth hitch installation, but I chose to leave it alone, thinking that I would be an idiot if I took it off and then later needed it for some reason.

The DuoCinch™, on the other hand, is pure genius. I wish every piece of outerwear with a cinch anywhere on it that I own had this system. I find myself cinching down the cuff even when it's not necessary. There is also a "coolness" factor to it - several backpacking companions were quite impressed with this arrangement.

An unfortunate surprise for me was the development of a small tear along one of the seams. The tear is maybe only ¼ in (0.6 cm) long, and is on the seam where the thumb joins the first finger. I have not contacted Outdoor Research for a replacement yet, since the performance of the gloves has really not been diminished (yet); I haven't even noticed any loss in the glove's waterproof characteristics. Since I first found this tear, it seems to have stayed more or less the same size. A close up of the tear is in the picture below.

Small Tear in Glove
Small Tear Between Thumb and First Finger

Long Term Report

April 21, 2009
Long Term Observations

Well, it seems like March came in like a lion, and went out like a lion. I don't think it is supposed to work that way, but it was good for testing gloves. I was able to get in three more overnight trips and many additional day uses on the Zenith gloves. Pretty much all of my observations from my field report stand as-is. I do have one additional nit-pick, however... the Zenith gloves lack a suitable place to wipe snot. Why would anyone want to wipe snot on their very nice gloves? Well, it's better than letting it freeze to your face, and sometimes it is just too runny to effectively "launch." So, while it is technically possible to wipe snot on pretty much anything (ask any parent), these gloves lack some purpose-built snot-wiping area which is both soft enough for repeated wiping and easy to clean. Outdoor Research might consider adding a removable layer of fleece or similar material somewhere convenient. There are, of course, third party solutions available, but something manufacturer-direct would be a nice touch.

Another item which I promised to report back on is the matter of the splitting seam. I'm happy to report that the tear has not changed it size or shape, despite significant use. I did contact Outdoor Research customer service to ask their recommendation on waiting for the condition to worsen vs. sending it in for repair or replacement immediately. My initial contact was via email. I received a reply to my email almost exactly 24 hours later, as follows:

We have an Infinite Guarantee which covers repairs/replacements for life. If you want to fill out the warranty form below we can get you an RA number so you can send them back to us. We no longer make that glove and do not have any more available so if we were not able to repair it we would have to replace it with something similar. Here is the form, let me know what you would like to do. Waiting will not void the warranty if you would like to finish out the season.

The repair/replacement process takes between 2-4 weeks.

The above email also included a link to the return authorization form. At the time, I did not pursue repair or replacement because I wanted to do exactly as suggested, which was to finish out the season. Now that the weather has turned and I don't anticipate needing gloves for awhile, I'll likely send the gloves back to Outdoor Research for repair or replacement. Should anything unexpected (good or bad) arise from this, I'll supplement my report with the results. However, if the experience is as outlined in the email from Outdoor Research, I'll let the issue drop and count myself as satisfied.

Although during field testing I noticed cold fingers on several occasions, I have not experienced this again during the final several months of testing. This may be because the weather was not the bone-chilling cold that characterized the beginning of the year, or it may be that something external to the gloves changed without my noticing it... better circulation / different levels of hydration, holding my hands/fingers a different way, ambient humidity, solar flares, global warming, etc.


I've loosened up a bit on my initial reaction to the cold fingers I experienced during field testing. On only a few occasions over the entire winter did I experience this, so it's not so much of a concern for me now. I really appreciate the multi-layer system, and the DuoCinch™ is (still) genius. I've never really figured out the Idiot Cord, and still haven't found a reason to start using it. I've decided not to completely throw it away, though, just in case I ever find myself on an exposed, windy ridgeline with the need to take my gloves off. I'm generally pleased with OR's response to my warranty query, and will follow-through with a repair or replacement now that the winter and test is over. As I mentioned above, if there are any surprises with that I'll amend this report as appropriate.

In total, I've backpacked about 13 days with the Zenith gloves, in addition to countless additional days spent outdoors doing everything from day-hiking to yard chores. I'll definitely continue to reach for the Zenith gloves when I head outdoors. Thanks to the multiple configurations in which they can be used, and the versatility that this affords, I'll probably reach for them even more when the weather conditions are borderline on the warm side.

Key FeaturesAreas for Improvement
  • DuoCinch™, baby!

  • Shell provides good grip, even when wet
  • A little warmer around the fingertips

  • Reinforced seams at high stress areas

  • A place to wipe snot

  • I would like to thank Outdoor Research and for the opportunity to test these gloves.
    Read more gear reviews by Ben Mansfield

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