TEST SERIES BY EDWIN MORSE
April 18, 2007
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Grawn, MI USA
5' 8" (1.73 m)
143 lb (64.90 kg)
I started backpacking in 1979 with two weeks in northern Michigan along the Lake Superior shore. My gear was cheap, heavy and sometimes painful. Starting pack weight was 70 lbs (32 kg) with food but no water. Since that first time I have made one and two week trips in Michigan, Maine, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania. I am slowly reducing my pack weight. Starting the last one week trip in New Hampshire I carried 35 lbs (16 kg). I am slowly obtaining lighter gear. I am also occasionally switching to a hammock in warmer weather.
PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS
Initial Report Date: December 30, 2006
Manufacturer: Outdoor Research
Year of Manufacture: 2006
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.orgear.com
MSRP: US $ 39.00
Listed Weight: 7.4 oz (210 g) (average size large)
Measured Weight: 6.6 oz (187 g) (my size large)
The Mitts came with hang tags and the usual plastic "threads" to hold them together.
I cut the plastic "threads" to remove the hang tags and separate the Mitts. The hang tags had the same information about technical features I found on the web site, including weight and MSRP.
The OR website provided a lot of information but one point was a little confusing to me. The Mitts are listed under the Ascent line, which is described as having removable liners. When I read the page about the Snowline Mitts is stated they had warm fleece lining. I did not really expect a removable lining but the Ascent mitten page followed by the Snowline Mitt page left me with a little doubt.
Both size (large) and color (grey/black) are as I requested. The Mitts fit the way I like mitts to fit, tight enough to not fall off and roomy enough to be comfortable. My hand measurements were at the border between a Medium and a Large. The lining is a light weight fleece material, which is not removable. I am interested in learning if the fleece lining will be warm enough when we get into colder weather. I will be carrying a pair of fleece gloves and a pair of light fleece mittens in the pack just to be sure.
This picture, showing the two Mitts, was copied from the OR Gear website.
I weighed the Mitts and then looked for the manufacturer's weight. Nice surprise for potential backpacking gear - actual weight is less than that advertised by the manufacturer. The seams and stitching are very fine. My aging eyes could just make out the stitches.
The Mitts feel very light and flexible. The wrist straps are easy to adjust with the Mitts on. The pull tabs at the top of the wrist guards seem harder to adjust. Maybe with practice I will learn to adjust them, then again they are long enough I may not want or need any adjustment.
TRYING THEM OUT
Initial experiences with the Snowline Mitts.
I did not expect to actually use the Mitts so early in the season. We got our first snow fall of the year on December 1, 2006, it is usually about two weeks later.
I know that clearing a driveway is not the same as skiing or snowshoeing, But it is frequently necessary if I drive anywhere for the fun stuff.
I wore the Mitts to clean the first snow storm of the year out of the driveway. I wore the Mitts for about six hours, using both the snow blower and a snow shovel. Our driveway is over 130 ft (40 m) long, two cars wide and we had about 12 in ( 30cm) of new snow. The temperature ranged from 18 F (-8 C) to 28 F (-2 C). My fingers were cold the first few minutes with the snow blower but soon got warm. I found that the Mitts are really water proof. I always wipe all the snow off the snow blower when finished. This is a wet snow from both a warm engine and wet bottom snow from warmer ground surface. The Mitts did not wet through at all.
I did find that when using the snow blower I want the top end tight as well as at the wrist. Just a pull on the tab makes the top tight and it stays tight until intentionally loosened. It is much easier than I had expected.
The next day I went skiing with a group from the local hiking club. The outing was planned as a hike but with the new snow it became a day of skiing and snow shoeing. Temperatures were about the same as the previous day. We skied 5 miles (8 km) in about 3 hours. I carried a GPS just to check on the distance. There were several stops to scrape snow and ice off the ski bottoms. The leaders were on dry top snow. From the fourth person on back the tracks were deeper and we sometimes got into wet bottom snow. The ground was still fairly warm when the snow started, making the snow near the ground wet and heavy. When I stopped to scrape the ski bottoms I had to take the Mitts off to get out the scraper and use it. Of course my fingers got cold but it only took a few minutes of skiing with the Mitts back on to get warm again. We also stopped a few times just to keep the group together.
I used the Mitts skiing on the North Country Trail
It was snowing pretty good. The white blobs in the picture are snow, not a camera flaw.
I found the answer to one of my big concerns with waterproof Mitts when I got home. Whether I'm hiking in the summer or skiing in the winter I sweat hard. I frequently clean the drive in the morning and XC ski in the afternoon. This often happens three or four days in a row. The fleece lining of the Mitts was very wet. The Mitts are also very flexible. I turned them inside out and they were dry in less than 3 hours.
Waterproof mittens that are wet inside will not keep my hands warm when I need mittens.
At this point I am very pleased with the OR Snowline Mitts. They would seem to be a good addition to my winter gear.
What I like: The wrist and top tabs for tightening. Together they keep all the snow out.
The waterproof Mitts do not get soaked through, they really are waterproof.
The Mitts are flexible enough so I can use them in the ski pole wrist straps. That same flexibility makes it possible to turn the Mitts inside out to dry the lining.
What I don't like: The Mitts are waterproof, so eventually the lining gets wet from sweat.
They are Mitts so they have to come off when I scrape the bottom of the skis and clean snow out of the bindings.
It is hard to get the thumb turned inside out so it will dry.
FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
Field Report Date: March 10, 2007
During the Field Test period I have worn the Snowline Mitts for trail work, hiking, XC skiing and snowshoeing. The weather has varied from cool and rainy to snowy to cold and very windy. We finally got enough snow for good skiing and snowshoeing, though still less than normal. Generally I was out about every other day just to enjoy winter. When doing trail work the temperature was generally between 30 F (-1 C) and 45 F (7 C). When I was hiking the temperature was generally right around freezing (32 F or 0 C). When I was skiing or snowshoeing the temperature was mostly between 8 F (-13 C) and 28 F (-2 C)
I've used the Mitts in the Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore, which is along the shore of Lake Michigan about 30 miles (48 km) west of Traverse City, Michigan. I have used the Mitts in the Manistee National Forest, which is about 45 miles (72 km) southwest of Traverse City, Michigan and extends south about 120 miles (190 km). I have also worn the Mitts frequently in the Pere Marquette State Forest, which is south, east and northeast of Traverse City. Elevations ranged from about 600 feet (183 m) along the Lake Michigan shore line up to about 1500 feet (457 m) in parts of the Pere Marquette State Forest further inland.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
The Snowline Mitts have performed very well during all my outings for the last two months. The waterproof fleece lined Mitts kept my hands warm and dry during late December and early January. When it got colder in late January, I first tried fleece gloves inside the Mitts. Then I changed to fleece mittens under the Mitts. This works better for me. After I was barehanded for a few minutes my hands got warm quicker by curling my fingers together inside the mittens. When the snow finally got deep enough for skiing and snowshoeing I learned to keep the top drawstring tight on the Mitts. This kept the snow out of the mitts and away from my wrists and hands when I managed to fall.
I also learned to turn the Mitts inside out when I got back to the truck so they could dry. At the end of a day the inside fleece was almost always wet from sweat. It doesn't usually take long for the Mitts to dry, when turned inside out. If I turn them inside out as soon as I get in the truck they are usually dry before I get home.
I have used the Mitts several times to sit on. This works much better when sitting on a log than it does in deep snow. Following are a few examples of what my activities with the Mitts and how they have worked for me. Note, I carry a digital thermometer so I know the temperature.
I frequently use both my GPS and digital camera when hiking, snowshoeing or skiing. The control buttons on both items seem to be made for very small fingers. I have to be bare handed and careful when I use any of the menu functions.
In late December 2006, I hiked on the North Country Trail in the Manistee National Forest doing trail cleanup. Weather was partly cloudy and windy. It was 35 F (2 C) when I started and got up to 44 F (7 C). I wore the Mitts to keep my hands warm and dry while moving branches off the trail. I only walked about 4 miles (6 km), but needed 6 hours cutting and moving branches off the trail. All the branches were wet and many were still snow covered. My hands stayed warm and dry.
In early January 2007, I went for a hike in the Sleeping Bear Dunes. The temperature was about 29 F (-2 C) all the time I was out that day. There was only a light dusting of snow. The sun was bright when I started but heavy clouds soon moved in off the lake. Attached to the pack shoulder straps was a Garmin 60C GPS, a compass/digital thermometer and a camera. After about the first 10 minutes my hands were warm except when I took the Mitts off, which was necessary every time I used the GPS. The buttons on the GPS are too small to use when wearing gloves or mittens. I have to be bare handed to operate the buttons. The Mitts worked great using the hiking poles, the Mitts are flexible enough I can work them into the wrist straps for good control. There was no problem checking the compass and thermometer wearing the Mitts.
When I decided to start back, I used the GPS to get a bearing and distance to the truck. I got back to the truck at 5:10 PM, before sundown but already getting dark. I was frequently using the GPS for directions and other information. I used the Mitts to sit on twice when I stopped to rest, drink and check the GPS for direction. When I wear the Mitts this is less fuss than carrying a pad to sit on. It generally takes about 10 minutes for my hands to get warm again after having the Mitts off. This was a comparatively short hike of only about 7 miles (11 km).
In late January 2007, I went skiing at Sand Lakes Quiet Area, in the Pere Marquette State Forest. The temperature was 9 F (-13 C) when I started. I wore the Mitts over fleece mittens. My hands were cold for about the first 15 minutes. Then the hills started and I got warm all over. I stopped to take pictures three times, each time I had to take off the Mitts to use the camera with very small buttons, my hands got cold and it took about 10 minutes to get warm again.
Skiing at Sand Lake
It was up to 17 F (-8 C) at that time. The rest of the way I had to break my own trail, with 2 more stops for pictures. When I got back to the parking area the temperature was down to 12 F (-11 C). Except when I stopped for pictures with the Mitts off and the few minutes getting warm again, my hands were warm and comfortable, though not dry. When I took the Mitts off back at the truck both the inside mittens and the inside fleece lining was very wet. Turned inside out, they were dry before I got back home.
In late January 2007, I went skiing at Muncie Lakes, in the Pere Marquette State Forest. This trip I used wide Trak Bushwhacker skis and went mostly off trail. The temperature was 24 F (-4 C) when I started and got up to 28 F (-2 C) by the time I quit. I took a few pictures using a Nikon Coolpix L3 and my new Gorilla Pod tripod, wrapped on a tree branch and braced on the tree trunk. When I stopped for lunch I walked around a lot getting the camera set up. I have to use bare hands to set up the camera and tripod. The tripod is 6" (15 cm) long with flexible legs to wrap around any available support. The menu buttons on the camera to set the timer are so small I often push the wrong one with bare hands.
The snow had softened and packed on the bottom of the boots and in the bindings when I tried to put the skis back on. It was bare hands and pocket knife work to get all the packed snow cleaned out of boots and bindings. The pocket knife I carry is a Leatherman Micra, much too small to use with any type of hand covering. I have "step in" bindings with a small bar on the boot to fit into the bindings. All packed or frozen snow in either part must be thoroughly removed.
The Mitts kept my hands warm and worked well to sit on over a wet log when I stopped for lunch and pictures.
mitts on a log, ready for lunch
eating lunch, sitting on the Mitts
In early February 2007, I went skiing at Sand Lakes, in the Pere Marquette State Forest. There was about 5" (13 cm) of new snow on older tracks. The Temperature stayed at 24 F (-4 C ) until I quit at 6 PM (almost too dark to see the trail). It was snowing fairly hard the last 2 hours. I wore the Mitts over fleece mittens. I managed to take one picture with the camera mounted on the Gorilla Pod wrapped around branches of a small pine. My hands got cold playing around with the camera and timer.
Everything functioned well. The fleece mittens inside the Snowline Mitts were very warm but both Mitts and added mitten liners were wet from sweat when I got back to the truck. It is necessary to remove the fleece mittens and turn the Snowlines inside out when I am finished for the day. Otherwise they will take several days to dry, if not turned inside out.
In mid February 2007, I went skiing on the North Country Trail in the Manistee National Forest. This trip I was exploring a potential trail reroute and learning to use the track feature of the Garmin 60C. I wore the Snowline Mitts over fleece gloves, and soon took off the fleece gloves. The temperature got up above 44 F (7 C) with bright sunlight, when in the open. I was much too warm, but I kept on the Mitts in case I fell. I did not want snow on my hands and wrists.
I skied 5 miles (8 km) of existing and proposed trails in 5 hours and 30 minutes. Most of the distance was unbroken trail with soft wet snow. About one mile (1.6 km) was old snowshoe tracks 3 of us had left several days earlier doing preliminary exploration. The Snowline Mitts kept my hands warm even though I was up to my elbows in snow a few times when I fell. I have learned to keep the upper cord of the Mitts tight to keep the snow out. I stopped twice for pictures and several times to use the GPS.
Skiing on the NCT
Again I don't have the Mitts on because the camera self timer doesn't allow that much time. I did put them on as soon as I had the camera put away.
I am very happy with the Snowline Mitts. The long gauntlet style wrists add extra warmth, with the top pulltab tightened snow can not get in to make my hands and wrists cold. I like the flexibility to wear, or not wear, other mittens inside the Snowline Mitts. This allows use of the Mitts in a much wider range of temperatures and conditions.
I cannot put on snowshoes or take them off with the Mitts on, since I can't loosen or adjust the bindings with the Mitts on. I can put on and take off skis with the Mitts on unless I get snow packed in the ski bindings. It is just a little difficult to get the Mitts into the ski pole wrist loops but the added control is worth the effort. As two of the pictures show, I usually leave the Mitts in the pole wrist straps when I need to do something barehanded.
The best thing about the Mitts is that they are truly waterproof. They don't get wet from outside but the fleece lining nearly always gets very wet from my sweaty hands. Even wet and sweaty my hands stay warm down to about 25 F (-4 C). Below that I need to add fleece mittens inside to be comfortable. Fortunately I can turn them inside out and they get dry fairly soon.
On the other hand, the worst thing about the Mitts is that they really are waterproof. Have I stated often enough that I must turn the Mitts inside out when I quit for the day? When I forgot to do this early in the testing the Mitts were still wet inside the next day.
I have worn a variety of gloves and mittens for winter activities in past years. My hands were frequently cold and often wet. I prefer my hands to be warm and sweaty wet rather than cold and wet. I may well be a permanent convert to the Snowline Mitts.
LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
LTR Date: April 18, 2007
All my experience with the OR Snowline Mitts has been in the Manistee National Forest, The Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore or the Pere Marquette State Forest. Elevations have ran between 600 ft (183 m) along the shore of Lake Michigan to about 1200 ft (366 m) inland in the Manistee National Forest and the Pere Marquette State Forest. Temperatures have varied from a high of about 40 F (4 C) to a low of about 15 F (-9 C) in the last 2 months.
Following are descriptions of 3 specific outings:
I went hiking on the NCT in the Manistee National Forest in late March.
The temperature stayed at about 39 F (4 C) and there was a strong wind up on the ridge above the river.
I started out wearing soft leather work gloves just for moving branches off the trail.
After an hour my hands were very cold so I stopped and put on the OR Mitts.
I was soon comfortable again. I was also very tired by the time I got back to the truck.
It seems to take less time each year for the body to get out of hiking condition.
I was out hiking and clearing trail for about seven hours.
I went skiing at the Sand Lakes Quiet area in the Pere Marquette State Forest in early April. Storm warnings had been posted again. The temperature held at about 26 F (-3 C) all day. It was very windy with heavy clouds and a little new snow on yesterday's tracks.
I wore the Mitts over fleece gloves. With the activity this combination was really too warm, but the skiing was fast and I just did not want to stop to change anything. The fleece gloves and fleece liners of the Mitts were both very wet when I got back to the truck.
I went skiing at Sand Lakes Quiet area in the Pere Marquette State Forest again in mid April, with a few other people. This was the morning after a cold spring snow storm that surprised everyone. The temperature held at about 23 F (-5 C) all the time we were out. I wore the Mitts over fleece gloves again. My hands were warm enough with constant activity.
Sand Lake skiing
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
Depending on activity and conditions I sometimes wore just the Mitts when it was a little cold and a lot wet, with a little colder and snowy conditions I often wore the Mitts over fleece gloves and when the temperature got down below about 20 F (-7 C) I wore the Mitts over fleece mittens.
When conditions were wet and chilly the Mitts alone kept my hands warm and dry. When the temperature got colder and we got enough snow for skiing I usually wore fleece gloves under the Mitts. When I ski alone I am very active and generate a lot of body heat and sweat. My hands have stayed warm. Generally the fleece gloves and Mitts are both get sweat soaked. My skiing is more aggression than skill so I fall occasionally (read often). I soon learned that I should keep the closure at the top of the gauntlet pulled tight to keep out soft snow.
When I ski with others of the local hiking club there are frequent stops for talk, snacks and hydration drinks. My hands might get cooled off if I take the Mitts off for a snack or pictures but quickly get warm again with the Mitts on and moving.
Only once this last winter have the Mitts failed to keep my hands warm. When snowshoeing with a temperature about 14 F (-10 C) through thick woods (not very active) I stopped to take pictures. Moving slowly my hands were a little cold. When I stopped for pictures and took off the Mitts my hands got very cold and stiff. Even with the Mitts on over fleece mittens I could not get warm again.
Most of the time when I get back to the truck the lining of the Mitts are sweaty wet.
I have worked and played out in Michigan winters for over 60 years. I have worn a variety of gloves and mittens for winter activities. I usually get cold hands when the temperature falls. I have nearly always gotten wet hands when doing anything active or working in wet weather.
I have never before worn waterproof mittens. The OR Snowline Mitts keep my hands dry when doing trail work in wet weather. They have kept my hands warm nearly all the times out in cold weather this last winter.
I am very glad to have had the opportunity to test the OR Snowline Mitts through a Michigan winter. These Mitts will be a permanent part of my cold weather wear. They will always be either worn or in my pack for all cold and wet activities.
What I see as good and bad about the Snowline Mitts:
The best thing about the Mitts is that they are truly waterproof.
The fleece lining keeps my hands dry and comfortable in rainy and chilly weather.
The Mitts fit my hands with enough room so I can add enough under them to keep warm.
The pull cord at the top allows me to keep snow out when I fall in deep snow.
The Mitts are very durable. After a fall, winter and some spring of heavy use the Mitts look just as good as new.
There are no ripped snags or split seams.
On the other hand, the worst thing about the Mitts is that they really are waterproof.
When the temperature drops to freezing and below the Mitts alone are not warm enough for me.
I expect to continue to use the Mitts whenever the weather is cold and wet or cold and snowy. The Mitts will be a part of my gear for cooler weather trail work since I always expect rain, regardless of the weather prediction. I've worked all day with cold wet hands too many times. These Mitts provide me with more flexibility than I've had before. I much prefer my hands to be warm and wet from sweat rather than cold and wet from rain or snow. They will be worn constantly for winter skiing and snowshoeing.
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.
Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
I may well be a permanent convert to the Snowline Mitts.
I would like to thank BGT and OR Gear for giving me the opportunity to test the Snowline Mitts.
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