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Reviews > Clothing > Gloves > ULA Mist Overmitts > Test Report by Richard Lyon
ŰLA-EQUIPMENT MIST OVERMITTS
Test Series by Richard Lyon
Initial Report: May 9, 2007
Personal Information and
I've been backpacking for 45 years on and off, and regularly in the Rockies since 1986. I do a weeklong trip every summer, and often take three-day trips. I'm usually camping in alpine terrain, at altitudes 5000 to 13000 ft (1500 - 4000 m). I prefer base camp backpacking, a long hike in with day trips from camp, but I do my share of forced marches too. Though always looking for ways to reduce weight, I'm not yet a lightweight hiker, and I usually choose a bit of extra weight over foregoing camp conveniences I've come to expect.
May 9, 2007
Manufacturer: Ultralight Adventure
FIRST IMPRESSIONS. My first impression was that the Mist Overmitts weighed next to nothing. Folded up they fit easily in the simple 9 x 4½ in (22.9 x 11.4 cm) Zip-Lock bag in which they arrived. The bag also included a small product tag with ULA's address.
Appearance. As can be seen in the photo above (and on ULA's website) the Overmitts are light grey in color with tiny pock marks that look like they were made with pinpoints. Each mitt appears to be made from three pieces of fabric, one that forms the back, one from the cuff to the middle of the palm that includes the thumb, and one from the base of the thumb to the top of the front. Seams run along the sides of the mitts and the palm has a seam sewn from the base of the thumb to the side seam. At the cuff is a double layer of fabric, sewn on the inside. An elastic band 2½ in (6.4 cm) from the cuff gives each Mitt the flare that ULA mentions.
The fabric has a papery feel and is extraordinarily lightweight. This feathery material allows easy compression; here's a photo of the Mitts against a standard-sized post card. I had no problem stuffing the Mitts and the lightweight SmartWool gloves that I usually take with me when summer camping in the high country into a pocket of my rain jacket.
Fit. I tried on the Mitts wearing the SmartWool gloves, and also barehanded. Size Large gives me an almost perfect fit – not constraining but not so large as to prevent my getting a firm grip on trekking poles or a coffee cup. The elastic band circles my wrist about half an inch (~ 1 cm) from my wrist, giving a good-sized gauntlet. The elastic band is not adjustable and fits loosely over my (slender) wrists.
TEST PLAN. Durability is my chief concern with these gossamer mittens. How well will they stand up to camp chores, constant contact with trekking poles, hot pots, and other normal camp abuse? I'll look at how heat, friction, and compression affect performance, particularly waterproofing.
How waterproof are the Overmitts? Will there be any leaks at the seams? ULA doesn't indicate what fabric or treatment is used; will it hold up to repeated use in steady wet conditions? Will I need to re-apply a waterproofing treatment after every trip, or not at all during the four-month test period? Will the elasticized wrist keep water from dripping in from my wrists? Initial testing under a kitchen faucet indicates that these Mitts are completely waterproof.
As for functionality, I'm especially likely to be wearing the Overmitts while in camp in the mornings and evenings. Will I be able to accomplish the same tasks that I can with heavier mittens, such as carrying buckets of water, pitching or striking a tent, firing up my stove, pulling zippers on clothing or my pack, and the like? How well do the Mitts breathe? Well enough so as not to cause my hands to sweat? I'll check this with both gloves and bare hands inside.
If these Mitts really prove to be mosquito-resistant (I note they are not claimed to be mosquito-proof) they will earn a permanent place in my pack for that reason alone. The mosquitoes in the Montana high country are ferocious.
Care. The Overmitts' light grey fabric appears to be perfect for showing the inevitable camp smudges, soot, grease, and dirt. Will they look so dirty I'll feel the need to clean them often? How easy is it to clean them? If I need to clean them for any reason, how do I do it and how does cleaning affect waterproofing? Can I clean them in the backcountry?
* * * * *
This concludes my Initial Report. Check back in early July for first results of field testing and in September for my long term report. Thanks to ULA and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test these mittens.
Field Conditions. The Mitts were in my pack or on my hands on an overnight backpack in Oklahoma in early June, clear weather and 50 F/10 C in the morning, and another overnighter in Montana in mid-June, morning temperature in the mid-40s F/8 C. I have worn the Mitts more often around the house on my daily walks with my dogs. North Texas has had record rains this June and July so taking my faithful companions for their early morning, postprandial, and pre-bedtime walks has frequently been in showers, drizzle, fog, or deluge. Temperatures have been from about 50-85 F (10-30 C). While below normal for this time of year these temperatures have exceeded those for which I had expected to use the Mitts in the field. Only on the Montana trip did I wear the Mitts as overmitts, over lightweight SmartWool gloves; all other use was over my bare hands.
Performance. The Mitts have far exceeded my expectations. Most notable, especially given the damp conditions in which I've worn them, is breathability. Even at the higher temperatures, in the rain, my hands haven't gotten sweaty. The Mitts have also remained completely waterproof, though occasionally my hands have gotten wet from rain dribbling down my arm when I put my arm down at my side; the elastic doesn't quite hold the Mitts tight to my wrists.
The fabric and excellent fit have meant that I can get and keep a good grip on a bucket handle in camp and the dogs' leashes at home. While it's somewhat against my custom to dwell on home use for gear I'm testing, the dog walking has provided a more rigorous environment than I ever could expect when backpacking. My dogs are big – a 60 lb (27 kg) golden retriever and a 105 lb (48 kg) Great Pyrenees – and both are inveterate cat and squirrel chasers. Enforced indoor life from the constant rain has driven them stir crazy, and it was a rare walk on which I didn't have one or both taking off after an invader. I defy the reader to devise a tougher test of gripping ability than the strain of a wild animal's suddenly lunging after a critter, yet I've always been able to retain a tight hold on their leashes, and this when the fabric was wet. Quite impressive. So impressive, in fact, that I seriously considered wearing the Mitts when I cleaned out my mud and leaf-filled rain gutters on July 4. I came to my senses when I realized that this would far exceed any use recommended by ULA.
I've found no scratches or other fabric deterioration, though one dog's black leash has left some minor smudges on the palm of the Mitts. As with dirt and grit that can stick to the Mitts after a camp water run, I can wash off the smudges with a mild solution of water and non-detergent soap.
Likes. Breathable, lightweight, waterproof, tough fabric, ability to grip. Overall the Mitts are an inexpensive and easy-to-pack product that do exactly what they are supposed to do.
Dislikes. Nothing, really. I believe that the space created by the loose elastic around my wrists allows some air circulation, and that this is one reason my hands don't get sweaty when wearing the Mitts. If I want to keep the rain out I'll use rubber bands over the Mitts at the wrist or pull the elastic in the sleeves of my rain jacket over the Mitts. I prefer a small amount of rain dripping in to sweaty palms or losing my grip.
Future testing. I shall be working as a Forest Service volunteer, doing trail maintenance, on a six-day backpack in the Rocky Mountain Front of Montana the first week in August. I'm looking forward to seeing how well the Mitts perform around camp on this trip. We'll have a group of ten, and camp chores in the morning and evenings will test the Mitts in the backcountry. I'm also considering a trip in the Bechler River region of Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, in mid-September. Check back in late September for my Long Term Report.
Field Conditions. As promised I wore the Mitts on two week-long trips. My service trip in Montana, from July 28 through August 4, was moved from the Rocky Mountain Front to the Scapegoat Wilderness because of a major fire in the Lewis & Clark National Forest. Conditions were warm, with temperatures ranging from about 40 F (5 C) in early morning to 90 F (32 C) during the day at about 6500 feet (2000 m). And it was tinderbox-dry, with no rain at all. All uses on this trip were over my bare hands.
In Yellowstone Park, Wyoming and Idaho, I hiked from the Lone Star trailhead to the Bechler Ranger Station from September 9 to September 16, a wonderful trip. Our first day and night were cold, a high of about 40 F (5 C) and a nighttime low of 12 F (-11 C), and snow flurries in the afternoon. Typical autumn weather for the Park returned the next day and stayed with us for the balance of our trip: sunny and clear during the day, with highs about 70 F (21 C), and clear and cold (~25 F/-4 C) at night. One afternoon we encountered intermittent thundershowers, but otherwise no precipitation.
Performance. The Montana trip provided the opportunity to verify ULA's claim that the Mitts are mosquito-proof. Despite the dry conditions and haze from the forest fires the mosquitoes attacked in the afternoon and evenings, and the Mitts and a long tee shirt kept them more or less at bay. Whether because other body parts offered a juicier target, or perhaps because of something in the fabric, mosquitoes rarely alighted on the Mitts or nearby on my wrists, and no insect bit through the fabric. The breathability of the Mitts was much appreciated on these evenings as I didn't have to trade mosquito bites for hot, sweaty palms.
I occasionally wore the Mitts to perform various camp chores, particularly carrying water from the nearby creek back to camp in water cubes. A five gallon (19 l) plastic cube that's filled with water weighs about 42 lb (19 kg) and I liked protecting my palm from abrasion. Once in a while I'd get a smudge from the handle but I never lost my grip. The Mitts also came in handy when cooking in the evenings to keep the mosquitoes away, and I could manage pot handles and a pot gripper as easily and reliably as barehanded. That prehensility though didn't extend to eating with a fork and spoon; I had to remove the Mitts to do that effectively. I found the Mitts to be too thin to serve as a potholder, as the heat from a pot on the stove penetrated to my fingers quickly. I put the pot down quickly enough to avoid any scorching or discoloration.
In Yellowstone I wore the Mitts over fingerless SmartWool gloves (included for fishing) most of the chilly first day and the next morning, and occasionally in the evenings and regularly in the mornings thereafter over bare hands. During the snowy day they kept my fingers and gloves completely dry. As a means of warming my hands they were surprisingly effective, given the thin material; though breathable and not sealed at my wrist the Mitts seem to trap some heat inside. They were particularly useful in handling kitchen containers and utensils that had picked up some frost overnight. As on the earlier trip the Mitts helped me get and keep a grip on water cubes and the converted solar shower that we used as a gravity water filter.
My testing of the Mitts in the rain was limited to use around home in the springtime as noted in my Field Report. As I could leave them to dry indoors I didn't have the opportunity to see how well or quickly the Mitts would dry in continued damp backcountry conditions, or how useful or comfortable they'd be if donned wet.
The Mitts have proven quite durable. After returning home from each of my trips I washed the Mitts along with other garments in my front loading machine, gentle cycle, using Atsko Sport-Wash. The Mitts came out completely clean and were ready to wear after three hours of air drying. While the Mitts don't look quite like new after four months' use, they don't look or feel thinner or flimsier, and I've had no tears or pinholes. They function as well as ever. I'm looking forward to many more trips with the Mitts in my rain jacket pocket.
Likes. The same as before: breathable, lightweight, waterproof, tough fabric, ability to grip. To which I can now add mosquito-proof, durable, and easy to clean.
Dislikes. Not one thing. Again to repeat from my Field Report, the Mist Overmitts are an inexpensive and easy-to-pack product that do exactly what they are supposed to do. They do that very well. I intend to wear the Mitts as long as they last, and buy another pair when this one wears out. A tip o' my cap to Brain Frankle and ULA-Equipment for another lightweight and highly functional addition to my backpacking kit.
This concludes my Report on the ULA Mist Overmitts. My thanks to ULA-Equipment and to BackPackGearTest.org for allowing me to discover this excellent product.
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