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Reviews > Clothing > Gloves > Black Diamond Powerstretch Gloves > Owner Review by Yi-Jien Hwa

In memory of our brave spirited friend, may the long winding trails continue for you.
BLACK DIAMOND POWERSTRETCH GLOVES

BY YI-JIEN HWA
OWNER REVIEW
February 18, 2008

 

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Yi-Jien Hwa
EMAIL: yijien@alumni.bates.edu
AGE: 26
LOCATION: Wilmore, Kentucky
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 6' 1" (1.85 m)
WEIGHT: 160 lb (72.60 kg)

I backpacked a few times in high school and college, but only got "into it" (ok, I'm a little obsessed) in the last few months. I'm a busy seminary student, but whenever we can, my wife and I hike in Kentucky's Red River Gorge. We have a lot of trips planned next year, including leading a bunch of youth for a week-long trip, and several week-longs and weekends in various national parks. Being relatively new, we're still figuring out all the ropes and trying to cut weight, but right now I normally pack between 40-55 lbs (18-24 kg).

PRODUCT INFORMATION AND DESCRIPTION

Manufacturer: Black Diamond
Year of Manufacture: 2007
Manufacturer's Website: www.bdel.com
MSRP: US$ 19.95
Listed Weight: none
Measured Weight: 1.8 oz (51 g) - Men's Large

While technically these gloves are meant to be liners, they are versatile enough to be used in different situations as liners or gloves. They have a smooth, almost velvety, feel to them on the outside, while the inside is fleece. They are made from midweight Polartec Power Stretch, and the palms have cowhide leather sewn on, with the overall result being a sweet, professional feel and look to them. Nice touches include additional material at the fingertips for durability and the clips that keep them together and prevent them from getting lost.

Stitching quality is very good overall. Black Diamond says they use "Kevlar stitching," which I think means that they use Kevlar threads to stitch the glove. The first pair I used, which was a medium, had no problems with the finishing; but after deciding that it was too small and exchanging it for a large, I had some minor problems. Little bits stuck out from the stitching of the leather more than I liked, making them irritating to my hands when gripping something. I carefully trimmed the knobby areas of the leather, with no apparent ill-effects. I just got my third pair of these gloves recently (see the review below) and they also had similar problems with knobby bits, so it is not an isolated defect.

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FIELD USE AND PERFORMANCE

To cut to the chase, these gloves are fantastic performers in temperatures ranging from the 20-70 F (-5 to 21 C) though they have some issues with durability. They have served me well on over a hundred and fifty miles (240 kilometers) of backpacking in Isle Royale, the Great Smokey Mountains, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, and Kentucky's Red River Gorge, as well as on an almost daily basis during the fall and winter.

Black Diamond rates these gloves at -2/7 C or 30/40 F (though I'm not sure whether they mean while exercising, or while resting). While they are not the warmest gloves worn on their own, as long as I kept moving while hiking/packing, I found these gloves warm enough for temperatures down to mid teens to low 20s F (about -12 to -5 C). Despite temperatures that dropped into the teens F (-12 to -7 C) at night and in the early morning, these gloves were the way to go while packing in the Smokies. They provided whole-day comfort while backpacking. I would only resort to my shell gloves while at camp. For more delicate camp chores like bear-bagging, when the shell gloves were impossibly clumsy, I would use these gloves even though it was way too cold, as they were still way better than the raw winter air. My shell gloves (which have undetachable fleece liners) are wearable with these gloves, but I found that they are too constricting worn together, and that the additional insulation does not make up for the loss of circulation. (An additional note: I think it is a feature of insulation in general, but I found that with low-aerobic activity like driving a car or short walks, these gloves will equally keep in the cold for awhile. Once I started moving a little though, these babies warmed up real fast.)

IMAGE 2

While hiking in Isle Royale, I was getting blisters with my improvised walking stick, so I pulled them on in day temperatures in the high 50s to low 70s F (15-21 C). Voila! No more blisters, comfortable and dry hands. In terms of the upper limit of the comfort range of these gloves, I found them comfortable while hiking in the 60s F (15-20 C). Once it reached the low to mid 70s F (22-24 C) they began to get hot. Honestly, I'm not sure whether my hands don't sweat wearing them in lower temperatures, or whether they wick the sweat away, because in either case, my hands don't emerge feeling sticky or grimy. The only time I felt sweaty in them was in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park when we were hiking down to the beach, and the mercury began to rise above 75 F (24 C) or so. While hiking, I would rate these gloves as comfortable from 20-70 F (-5 to 22 C); while resting however, these gloves are not comfortable at anything below 40 F (4 C) or so--I wanted to either pull on a pair of shells, or get on the trail again.

These gloves are supposed to be wind-resistant; but they use that term rather loosely as I felt anything more significant than a puff. While riding my bicycle around campus in the 30s and 40s F (-1 to 10 C), these gloves help a little, but my hands are inevitably chilled. Once I was in the 50s F (10-15 C) however, they were ok on a bike (which is on average 15-40 mph or 30-60 kph). Higher aerobic activities like backpacking are different here. While we were hiking on a ridgetop on the Smokies, even with the wind, they were ok for me while packing in the 20s F (-6 to -2 C). With significant wind however, I found that they chill very, very fast. Keeping breaks short or shell gloves handy solves the problem and is good for thermal (and therefore food) efficiency.

Despite being liners, these gloves reduce dexterity somewhat. However, with adequate patience I was able to do most camp chores in these gloves. The cow leather is sticky, which helps when hanging on to something slippery, e.g. trekking pole shafts. The grip of the fingers is just ok as the material feels a bit slick, but it worked fine for most tasks. In warmer temperatures, I found it faster to take them off and do my laces. It would be nice to have an all-leather grip, though this would compromise comfort on the fingers a little (with all the necessary sewing), but still something that Black Diamond should consider perhaps. I, at least, would be willing to pay a few bucks more for the added functionality and durability.

Overall, I would give these gloves a 9.8/10 for versatility and performance. Apart from the grip, I can barely imagine them being better.

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DURABILITY

The durability of these gloves, however, is somewhat suspect to me. I am by no means a gentle-user of my gear. I wouldn't say I exactly trash my stuff, but when I plunk down that much green for something, I expect it to last for awhile, and do a good job at it too. Two issues: 1) After only 3 months of use, there is more pilling appearing on my pair of gloves than I would like. 2) The gloves developed a hole in the finger tip of the index finger of one of them. I was not doing anything particularly abnormal or strenuous so I suspect the material just wore through.

These gloves are so good however, that I returned this pair I am reviewing to the retailer. They promptly sent me a new pair and I can only hope it lasts a little longer. After using these gloves I can hardly bear the sight of those old clumsy fleece gloves that are barely warmer and so much bulkier. I notice that Black Diamond also sells two other versions with thicker and thinner Power Stretch: Inner Core, and Thinner Core--as well as a windblocking fleece glove, the Jetstream. I tried about 6 or 7 different brands of liner-type gloves at an outfitter and liked these best. Moreover, of all the Power Stretch gloves, these are the lowest priced. When buying these kinds of things, however, I have to say that there is no substitute for going to the store and trying them on.

 

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A lil hole...
 

THINGS I LIKE

- Fantastic performance.
- Great versatility, 20-70 F or -6-21 C comfort while packing; maybe 40-80 F or 5-27 C or so while resting.
- Good workmanship overall.

THINGS I DON'T LIKE

- Pilling and durability issues.
- Not particularly wind-resistant.
- Some minor finishing problems.

SIGNED

Yi-Jien Hwa
Asbury Theological Seminary
February 18, 2008
www.xanga.com/yijien



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