Glove Buyer's Guide
By: Frank Ross
From turkey season to frozen duck marshes, learn what it takes to keep your fingers frost free.
Depending upon the season, activity and whims of weather, you could be sitting on your deer stand, walking pheasant cover or inside a duck blind in either constant cold or temperature swings of 20 to 50 degrees on any given day. When you throw in a lot of wind or a heavy dose of rain or snow, the challenge of keeping your hands and fingers warm seems daunting. How well you prepare for this roller coaster of conditions will determine your success afield as well as your personal comfort.
The harsh reality of wind, rain and plunging temperatures is that one pair of gloves will not meet this wide spectrum of demands from mild to wild. That's why you'll find so many styles and options when you open a Cabela's catalog. The question for me has always been, which pair to buy? To help sort out these numerous options, I visited with Cabela's glove expert, Doug Veldhuizen, to help separate the differences between this glut of glove options.
"We design our gloves based on application, and in all applications you're looking for performance in a glove. You want some type of grip surface in the palm and fingers so that you can grasp objects and not drop them, even when they're wet. You want dexterity and flexibility so that you can perform such basic tasks as working with calls, picking up a shell, loading your firearm and pulling the trigger, and you want the glove to keep your hands warm regardless of how long you sit still, or how wet it might be," he explained.
He continued by noting that leather gloves are very popular for moderate days because they look stylish, wear well and offer a high level of protection against snags and briars. However, when looking stylish is less important than being warm, select a pair of gloves with insulation and water resistance that matches your planned activity, time outdoors, and susceptibility to cold -the three key elements to making a selection.
Lightweight Gloves and Liners
The most basic level of protection for your hands is a lightweight glove made from cotton, fleece, MT050®, or leather. This fundamental level serves to protect your hands from cuts and abrasions as well as offering the bare minimum of warmth for those days when it's chilly, but certainly not cold. Basic gloves do not have insulation, which makes them more flexible, providing more dexterity and tactile sensitivity.
Like any tool, the ultimate use of a pair of gloves will determine the features or capabilities of your selection. It's a good idea to have several pairs of basic gloves in your glove box as well as stashed under the seat of your truck for those spur of the moment situations when a pair is needed unexpectedly. Also, a pair of uninsulated cotton camo gloves is ideal on those moderate days during spring turkey season, as well as a liner for heaver gloves. However, Veldhuizen points out that when temps really bottom out a pair of wool liner gloves is far more functional. He specifically recommends Cabela's Military Wool Liner Gloves but pointed out that the insulation in Cabela's Thinsulate™ Ragg Wool Gloves make them perform be even better than wool alone.
Liner gloves simply add an additional layer of fabric, which also holds air that the body heats. "Wool is an excellent fiber for warmth unless you tend to have sweaty palms. In that case, synthetic fabrics would be a better choice. Synthetic fibers do a better job of wicking away moisture while retaining body heat," he said.
Deer hunters, especially archers, should consider scent when shopping for glove liners, or full function gloves. Cabela's also makes both insulated and non-insulated gloves as well as liners with Scent-Lok®. Considering the fact that our hands touch a lot of things between the alarm and the action, Scent-Lok® makes a lot of sense.
Specialty gloves are a passion for Veldhuizen, who concentrates on matching fabrics and functionality that will improve every outdoor experience. He is particularly enthusiastic when it comes to Cabela's wide selection of shooting gloves.
The term shooting gloves covers a wide category for Veldhuizen. He explained that when he sets out to design a shooting glove, there are three issues that he has to deal with. What are you going to be shooting, where and when? In the summer, or early fall, when you're gearing up with sporting clays or setting up a new riflescope at the shooting range, you will want some basic protection with a lot of what we call technical features. For a warm weather glove, look for features like elastic mesh backing to release heat and an adjustable strap to keep the glove fitting snugly. When temperatures start to plunge you want some of the same technical features, such as shooting fingers and thumbs, with more insulation. More insulation makes gloves thicker, so on some of our heaviest shooting gloves we have articulated fingers for increased flexibility.
He hasn't forgotten the bowhunter when it comes to shooting gloves. Archery requires a higher degree of functionality to nock an arrow and shoot. "Finger shooters will like our full archers' glove. Smooth, double-thickness leather on the middle three fingertips lets you shoot without a separate tab. The palms are made of supple deerskin for an incredible feel and the backs are made of soft, quiet Wulusion® fleece in All-Purpose Real-tree® camo. Both gloves have matching features for either right or left-handed shooters. Also, our insulated shooter's gloves with features like Hunter's Touch™ are great for bowhunters," he said.
Upland Bird HuntingHunting activities such as walking large fields of cornstalks, hunting pheasants, generates quite a bit of body heat. Less insulation is needed in garments for these high-aerobic activities, but when it comes to gloves special features are needed.
Dexterity to handle remote control dog trainers, load shells, operate the safety and shoot accurately requires technical features such as leather trigger fingers and insulation without bulk.
"Our innovative Hunter's Touch™ finger and thumb design combines a Lycra® finger and thumb to provide increased dexterity and feel with the traditional feel of a waxed-cotton back. We also use a Pittard's® Digital leather palm and thumb pad give optimum grip. Inside, a waterproof, breathable GORE-TEX® liner keeps hands dry and comfortable. We included 40-grams of Thinsulate™ for moderately cold days, or really cold days with some aerobic activity."
"The majority of our gloves fall into the mid-weight category because they meet the widest range of protection and functionality. Mid-weight gloves have many of the same qualities that you'll find in heavier gloves, but with insulation weights that are reduced for more flexibility. These gloves are designed for early season waterfowl and upland hunting and are activity specific for functionality. For example, our waterfowl gloves have a 100% waterproof outer fabric but it's a little noisy for bowhunters who would be happier with our MT050® outer shell combined with GORE-TEX® for waterproof qualities. MT050® is much quieter, like a fleece fabric, but it's as tough as suede and highly burr resistant. We also use a soft, 100% Poly Micro Denier cloth exterior on some of our gloves. This fabric is extremely durable and quiet and doesn't get stiff in freezing temperatures," Veldhuizen explained.
Veldhuizen maintains that for moderate levels of resistance, mid-weight gloves are ideal when the day's temperature isn't too severe, or on cold days when you're involved in a high aerobic activity. When activity levels are minimal, he recommends the heavyweights. The problem is, heavyweight to one person isn't heavyweight to another. How well a glove will work for you depends on your body's resistance to cold and how much insulation you need to add to your own.
"When winter is at its worst, you need to put as much insulation as possible between you and the elements." Insulation holds air in hollow-core fibers that is warmed by the body and retained behind the glove's outer shell," Veldhuizen said.
These remarkable synthetic fabrics have been developed from a number of different fibers, all with varying degrees of loft. Loft is a critical issue, since it's the amount of air retained by a fiber that determines its insulating properties. Thinsulate is made under a number of weights and lofts as well as properties targeted to specific functions. For example, Thinsulate™ Flex stretches a full 40% in all directions and recovers. This is extremely useful in products such as gloves where flexibility and dexterity are important. Thinsulate™ Supreme is a mid-loft 100% polyester fibrous insulation that is highly durable, even when washed repeatedly. Thinsulate™ Ultra is loftier and thicker than original Thinsulate™, and provides the highest weight to loft ratio of any insulation.
40 grams of Thinsulate™ insulation is recommended for cool conditions or for high activity levels where wearer generates a lot of body heat through activity.
70 grams of Thinsulate™ insulation is recommended for cold conditions or for moderate activity levels where wearer generates a normal amount of body heat through activity.
100 grams of Thinsulate™ insulation is recommended for very cold conditions or for light activity levels where wearer generates little body heat through activity.
150 grams of Thinsulate™ insulation is recommended for extremely cold conditions or for very light activity levels where wearer generates minimal body heat through activity.
"To further improve on a glove's ability to retain heat and keep out water our heavy-duty styles have Velcro® wrist straps and fleece cuffs with neoprene panels for superior protection and fit. Other features like Calfskin leather trigger fingers and palms increase sensitivity where it's needed most."
On particularly cold days, you may want to use a muff. "The ideal muff is built large enough to allow the use of gloves, and has elastic cuffs to seal in the heat. In addition to their significant insulating properties, look for a muff with a pocket that holds a chemical hand warmer or extra gear." Muff pockets are great for stashing calls. With the muffs you can wear lighter gloves for shooting and still remain warm during those long periods of inactivity. Cabela's Big Game Fleece Muff is armored with 200 grams of Thinsulate™.
Waterproof qualitiesGORE-TEX® is legendary when it comes to providing a waterproof layer that allows moisture to escape. If your outdoor activities involve water, GORE-TEX® should be on your list of mandatory features when selecting gloves.
Another excellent waterproof fabric is Cabela's Dry-Plus® laminate that was created for maximum waterproofing and breathability. Dry-Plus® can be bonded to fabrics to provide a supple, quiet barrier against precipitation. Dry-Plus® also breathes to allow perspiration to escape.
Neoprene is also 100% waterproof, and a great material for waterfowlers, but may be heavier than you want for some applications. Fingers require flexibility as well as warmth, so when you evaluate the many options available keep in mind both application and performance. If you're not going to be dipping your hands in water you won't need Neoprene.
When Heavy Duty Isn't Heavy Enough
Two other options, both favorites of still hunters, are the mitt and glomitt. The glomitt is an innovative concept that combines the features of a glove and the added warmth of a mitten, giving you a tremendous amount of insulation when your fingers are safely tucked inside. You can easily pop out your fingers for a quick shot, or to use binoculars and keep them warm and toasty while waiting. A mitt is an advantage if you want full coverage on your fingers. On really cold days wear a pair of mitts with glove liners inside and activate a chemical handwarmer to put inside each. With Cabela's mitts you can sit still, all day if necessary, without having numb fingers.
With the wide variety of insulators and waterproof fabrics available today, you're sure to find the right combination of warmth and waterproof qualities to meet your individual needs afield. Before buying a pair of gloves, consider the three decision elements; planned activity, duration outdoors, and your own susceptibility to cold and you'll be happier no matter what your hands are doing outside.