During the spring I have gathered some much needed gear and among them are Outdoor Research Alti Mitts. These are heavyweight expedition double gloves for the coldest places on Earth. These very gloves have been used by many world class mountaineers including Veikka Gustafsson and Ed Viesturs. These are also the only piece of gear which SummitClimb gives a singular recommendation for. With references like these, you can’t go wrong, can you?
Outdoor Research themselves claim:
These altitude-oriented mitts provide warmth while keeping weight and bulk to a minimum. The waterproof shells have thick fleece on the palms and synthetic insulation on the back of the hand. The removable liners have the same fleece and loft combination. The fleece provides crush resistant warmth and a secure grip, while the synthetic insulation offers compressible warmth. Leather palms give you a solid connection with your gear in all conditions.
All the comments I have read about these mitts do second all the things mentioned. The first feel these mitts bring up is robustness and durability. The fabric is very durable indeed and puffiness gives you the hint of warmness. One other notion I immediately made was “how in the hell are you going do to anything with these on”, but I’ll come into that later on. The mitts weight according to the manufacturer 344g per pair for the large size and my medium size mitts weighted 337g which is quite in line with the given weight. I also weighted the individual pieces and got 171g and 166g for the outer mitts and 51g and 50g for the inner mitts.
First, let’s take a look at some of the features of these mitts.
The mitts are fully waterproof thanks to Gore-Tex shell buried inside. The Outdoor Research website or the mitts themselves give no indication, however, about the actual fabric that has been used, but there is a mention that they have Pittards® Armortan® leather palm, if that tells someone something. Must be something really high-tech as all the words are registered individually 🙂 Inside the mitt is PrimaLoft® One insulation, the outer mitt has 170g/m2 and the inner mitt 340g/m2. They say on the website that the PrimaLoft One should keep you warm even when wet… which probably can happen with these mitts only through excess sweating or if you happen to pour your drinking flask into them.
So the whole palm area (from wrist up) of the outer mitts is covered with this Armortan leather. The leather extends a little also to the side of the mitts and the gripping side of the thumb is also covered with the same leather. Only time will tell how long it will last, but to the hand it feels quite sturdy and almost a rubber-like composition. On the inner mitts there is also leather on the very top, most part of the palm and on the grip side of the thumb. This leather, however, is on not the same as on the outer mitt, but instead much softer and also much more vulnerable to abrasion. I would assume that this will not be much of an issue as you most probably would not use just the inner mitts to do any “real” things. I think these leather pieces are there just to give a better grip on things like water bottles and such as I could see myself taking the outer mitts off on a break to do some finer coordination matters like drinking or eating.
The wash tags are pretty consistent with the other descriptions: outer shell is made of nylon, the palm is leather and outer glove lining is 90% polyester and 10% polyurethan while the inner mitt lining is just polyester at least according to the tags. For washing, the tags are allow to use machine washing, but I would still hand wash them when I have to. The tags also say that you shouldn’t iron the mitts, which would actually be quite a funny thing to try… but I think I’ll pass or at least try it first on someone else’s mitt 😉 You can’t escape the low-cost third-world manufacturing even when talking about real quality mitts like these. As it is stated above, these mitts are made in Vietnam. Even the environment gets its toll as the inner glove prints “New material only” loud and clear. I can’t really support fully using just new material on anything, but I have to trust there are good reasons for it here. At least they don’t try to hide it, so tiny +1 for that.
The tightening and loosing straps on these gloves are quite nicely designed. Don’t know if this really is a common feature or not, but on these you have a separate strap to either tighten or loosen the mitt mouth around your wrist or arm. This means you can do these single-handedly and without your teeth as it is with many other models. Excellent feature for moutaineering where you might end up quite frequently into a situation where you’ll have to take one glove off just for a second to clip something in or tie a knot here or there. Eventually it will be quite a pain in the ass to remove you gloves or mitts by gripping with your teeth to tighten them, especially if done repeatedly.
Combine those one-hand-pull-straps with idiot cord, and taking the gloves off for a second will be best thing you’ll know. Well… pretty darn good at least if not the best. The idiot cord is a very simple thing: it is a piece of thin rope that prevents you from loosing your glove and looking like an idiot. It is not very smart to be without gloves on a frozen up mountain and hence the name “idiot cord”. This version has a cord attached to the edge of the mitt and on the cord, there is a small plastic plate for tightening the cord around your wrist. You just simply put your hand through the cord loop, pull the plastic plate up and put your hand inside the mitt. Voilà, you’ll never lose your mitts again. Now if you take just the mitt off, it will remain hanging there from your wrist. Pure geniousness. In truth, if you look at almost any small child playing outside you’ll see that they have their idiot cords on most certainly. So, perhaps it’s not a world-shaking invention after all, but this is a feature that should be on any glove meant for bad weather activities. If it doesn’t, put one on it.
On the inside of the outer mitt and on the outside of the inner mitt are velcro strips which have the function of holding the inner mitts in place. When testing the strips work quite well. They are just the right size to keep them well in place, but also it is not too difficult to separate them when the time comes. Also the strips seem to lock in very smoothly and you don’t have spend any time wiggling the mitts to make them stick.
As is pretty much standard in many gloves, these too feature hanging cords which can be used to hang the mitts for drying for instance. Not much more say to about that, but it is a good thing to have and worth mentioning. The mitts also have clips on the wrist that can be used to clip the pair together. Also quite standard stuff, but again a nice feature to keep your stuff organized. It is better to have your mitts in one place rather than having two mitts sailing around your tent or backpack on their own.
I mentioned, at the beginning of the post, the fit. My hands are average size I think. From the wrist to the tip of my middle finger is 19cm and the circumference around my palm is 20cm. That is to give some comparison. Overall, the mitts are very large and now I mean just the bulk of their size. Although these are more compact than the Black Diamond Absolute Mitt, you’ll still have to remember that these are no mitts to manoeuvre anything more complicated than gripping and clipping. As you can see from the pictures, pushing the mitts through my Petzl Ascensions is quite a tight spot. It does go through with just some push, but it certainly does not glide through like a breeze. I’m not sure if any other ascender has any larger handle than these, so you’ll just have work with what you have. Personally, I would rather spend a minute or so to squeeze the mitts through than freeze my fingers off with lighter mitts. And for those requiring enhanced mobility there is another glove version available, but with the cost of somewhat reduced warmth compared to these mitts.
To tell something about the actual fit I can say that the mitts fit very well on the width, but they seem a bit long for my fingers. I could push my fingers further inside, but then the thumb edge/curve will start to snag. The arm of the mitt is nicely long and wide, so with that you’ll have no problem. The Outdoor Research size chart seems to be right on the spot, except for the length issue, which will be revealed in actual use if it is a problem or not.
Overall, the gloves would seem like something that will be in its element in a cold and snowy environment. They seem to measure up against all the recommendations and I am very confident on using them on Baruntse or any other mountain I will ever put my eyes on. If you live in Finland or some other backward country which does not have any place to by Outdoor Research products, it is sad that you don’t get to try the mitts before buying them from the Internet. With these, and with many other things I have bought recently, I have had to just trust the recommendation and reviews, and try to figure out the best options from the bits and pieces information that is scattered all over the Web. I Hope that this adds again a small piece into the puzzle for someone who is doing the same frustrating search as I have done.
I haven’t yet decided the next product to inspect, but be sure that there are plenty to choose from so no worries, there will be another post soon 🙂
P.S. Check out also the “official” video info on Youtube