Friday, October 19, 2012

Marmot Basic Work Glove: a review

As noted before, I've long taken an interest in the 'outdoor sports' equipment industry: as a climber/hiker/mountaineer/cyclist/etc., as someone who has worked in the industry (albeit at the very lowest level as a shop assistant); as gear reviewer for and, finally, as someone who just uses the bloody stuff.

Belaying in the basic work gloves
Perhaps like all apparel industries where fashion plays a much bigger part than many care to admit, there is little static about it. Certain brands do keep certain models in their range year after year, but these are the exceptions and its more likely to be, for example, technical climbing gear that goes years unchanged than technical clothing. Some items of clothing do make it into the 'classic' status and stay forever. I still wear a Patagonia Snap-T fleece jumper that I bought in January 1992 - but you can buy an identical one from Patagonia now if you wish! But far more normal is finding some item of clothing or equipment that you think is great - using/wearing it loads until it starts, fairly, to wear out; trying to replace it only to find the firm has dropped that product from their line. You then end up buying an alternative model that doesn't work or fit as well as the old one. C'est la vie. It also makes reviewing many things more than a year old kinda pointless as the chances of people being able to buy the same product drops off.

Ski touring in Arctic Norway in the basic work glove

Anyways... that's a long way of saying I really want to recommend the Marmot Basic Work Glove. Not only are they good - I've had a pair for something like 4 years and have used them loads - but because the old ones were looking really tatty I recently bought a new pair for 'town use' and they seem to be identical! Yes, a product that works really well, and remains in a company's line year after year. Would you believe it?

Grubby and tatty but still going strong
The Basic Work Glove is, well, rather basic: all leather with a fuzzy warm synthetic lining. That's it really; but what you get is gloves that you can grip things with and that are pretty dextrous (meaning less taking them off); that are windproof and breathable; and that are for me at least surprisingly warm. They are not waterproof so aren't great for ice climbing due to that. I waxed mine with Nikwax and that helps a lot, wet snow isn't a huge problem for example, but still they are gloves I use whilst walking to the icefalls, and whilst gearing up and the like, but I'll put on Goretex or eVent gloves to actually climb in. I like wearing them for skiing in all but the foulest of conditions, again because of the dexterity whether that's grabbing your pass to beep at a resort, or taking off climbing skins when touring. A basic leather glove seems to be favoured by many guides for summer Alpine as well; I've not used mine for that but I suspect they would work well. Perhaps one place where they might not be the best choice would be UK winter hillwalking and climbing, where having something more designed for rain and sleet might be better.

Strong and well sewn seams
They are as tough as old boots (or "old gloves" maybe?!), I got some slices in the palms of mine from the edge of a file when sharpening an ice screw whilst out climbing once but that's the only real damage to them. It didn't cut right the way through but went pretty deep, so I painted over the cuts with seam grip and this seems to have very effectively fixed it. It's nice that being leather you can 'fix' them so easily. Perhaps the best thing about the quality of their construction is the bomb-proof stitching. On my old ones it shows no signs of blowing even after four winters of hard use, something that isn't true on many of my more expensive ice climbing gloves.

So there you go: a simple glove that works really well. Finns should note that Partioaitta always seems to have them in their annual (or bi-annual?) sale. I think the normal price is €30, but both times I've paid only €20. There are various work gloves available from other brands that look very similar and cost a bit less. They may well be just as good, I don't know, but I can say the Marmot Basic Work Gloves are the best value and toughest general winter gloves I've owned.

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