Breathable ski gloves?

 

Breathability in ski gloves is perhaps the most important trait. It determines the glove's versatility in regards to temperature and general weather conditions. But a balance needs to be struck between breathable and waterproof. Forget the hype, no material is highly breathable and highly water-proof in the long-term AT THE SAME TIME. A glove that is 100% breathable has zero water-resistance. And a glove with 100% waterproofing (rubber) has zero breathability.

This conundrum leads to a frustrating testing protocol for a designer. You have to make a value judgement on the balance between the two competing variables. Since rubber gloves (100% water-proof) are totally impractical, we started with various membrane inserts, which are synthetic gloves placed between the liner and the shell. They are purported to be "water-proof". I wanted to find a waterproof membrane that was in fact as waterproof and breathable as advertised. It took more than 100 days of testing with a membrane glove on one hand and a non-membrane glove on the other to come to terms with the truth: one does not currently exist, as advertised. I had various levels of moisture on my membrane-gloved hand most of the time from sweat build-up, which led to a constant cold-warm-cold cycle. The temperature and environmental factors did not matter.

On the very wettest days of field-testing, my “waterproof” membrane glove got saturated nearly as fast as my non-membraned glove. Water seems to always find a way in, especially when you need to remove your gloves. The real difference was when the rain stopped: the ultra-breathable glove with no membrane dries much faster, while the membrane glove remained wet until it was finally placed on a heat source.

I ultimately abandoned “waterproof” membranes, having come to the conclusion that maximum breathability gives a glove its widest range of climatic versatility and comfort. Waterproof membranes are really just a "plastic-bag-on-your-hand" strategy of waterproofing. A better approach to "water-proofing" of ski gloves focuses on proper tanning and treatment of the leather, proper DWR (durable water repellent) treatment of the nylon, use of premium thread between sections of the gloves, proper closure system at the wrist, and most importantly, highest quality skill in stitching the seams.

Someday, when we find a "waterproof-breathable" membrane insert that works to our satisfaction, we will offer them in our gloves.

To further advance our gloves' breathability we focused on the following variables:

  • We use natural leather that is softer and more breathable than more rigid leather.
  • We do not use a petroleum-based sealant on our leather, but a fatliquor immersion that stops water from soaking through, while maintaining its breathability. When you see a leather palm on a ski glove that has no level of moisture at all on the outer surface, you will know that you are looking at leather whose pores have been completely sealed, rendering the leather un-breathable. Also note that petroleum-based sealant degrades the leather, shortening its usable life.
  • The liner: we use a combination of the thinnest, warmest insulation Breathefil with Thinsulate®and 100% polyester fleece. By maximizing breathability, the glove requires less insulation to overcome the sweat moisture problem associated with waterproof membranes. 200 grams of thinner, dense insulation is excellent for a wide swing in temperatures.
  • We use 4-way stretch softshell nylon instead of the more commonly used Cordura or Taslan hardshell nylon. It’s nearly as tough and much more breathable.

For a large percentage of our customers, a glove designed to be as breathable as possible (for a cold weather, heavily insulated glove) has completely changed their skiing experience for the better. It certainly has for me. That's why I started the company.