Rob's Blog Archive

November 17, 2013

If the Glove Fits










The aspen, poplar, and tamarack all display only stark, bare branches.  Most days, gray dominates the sky.  Snow comes in inches rather than a dusting.  Technically, it’s fall but with an average daily high just above freezing, and dropping, it passes as winter.  Any extended period outside means I need to wear something on my hands.  And with this, I’ve begun my annual search for gloves. 

I actually own a pair of ski gloves that are quite nice, but it ends up there’s only a limited range of conditions I’ll use them in.  When it’s warm enough, I’ll wear lighter gloves with better dexterity.  When it’s cold enough---most of the time---I’ll wear mittens.  The only thing colder than standing on runners as dogs pull a sled is sitting on an ATV while dogs pull it.  Mittens, good mittens, are the only real choice.  With these, I usually wear liners so that when the time comes to actually do something, I’m not slipping cold gloves on my hands. 

One of the most common tasks I’ll do with gloves on is opening the dogs’ snaps.  Unhook a dog from his tether, open a snap.  Hook up a neckline to a dog’s collar, open a snap.  Change harnesses around in the gangline, open a snap.  Put a dog back on his tether, open a snap.  Even the doors to the cubby-holes in the dogboxes I use for transporting my dogs are held in place by snaps.  It’s really no surprise that the wear spot that first appears on my gloves is on the outside edge of the right thumb.  The rejoinder is that I need the thumb to fit well. 

If dexterity were the only issue, I’d get a pair of stretch gloves that are a little tight.  I’ve liked variations on light fleece gloves, Power Stretch, or the equivalent. With the amount that they stretch, I can get into a small without cutting the circulation too much to my fingers.  Unfortunately, they’re poor in a wind and become worthless quickly in snow and instantly in rain.  I have a pair of “silk weight” Windstopper gloves that fit okay and are pretty water repellent, but they have the problem I usually run into, my thumb is evidently very short compared to the rest of my digits.  The thumb of the Windstopper glove extends beyond my thumb less than any other glove I own, but that’s the best I can say.  Even with this, they restrict circulation to my fingertips --- in addition to my thumb being too short, my entire hand is stubby for its length.  I’ve found gloves that fit okay, lengthwise, but getting them on can take fifteen minutes, curses included.  

The one, or perhaps two, consolations are that mittens work well and riding a dogsled or ATV doesn’t require any dexterity.  I search for gloves annually.  I bought my newest mitten in 2008.  I have three pairs that I have used during the past five years and expect that they’ll be fine for this upcoming season, too. 

Sadly, my annual glove search has always left me unsatisfied.  I’ll find a glove that seems to work, and use it for several straight days.  By that time, the infatuation is over and I’ve found flaws.  To date, I have never found a glove that I’ve been happy enough to stick with.

The coldest conditions I’ve experienced were when I drove down the Alcan during the winter of 2008.  Lows at night hit -45 F to -55 F for three straight nights, just when I was taking care of my dogs---setting them out to relieve themselves, feeding them, watering them, and putting them back in the dogboxes.  It was right before I had my hip replaced and moving in soft snow was the act that aggravated it the most---I wasn’t moving fast.  At -50 F, ice forms instantly and once it does, it sets hard like diamond.

Even on that trip, I settled on two different pairs of gloves, alternating between them by whim rather than logic.  I had a pair of neoprene gloves.  It was during this stretch that I found that wetting them first and letting them freeze made them warmer.  I also had a pair of lightly insulated elk-skin gloves.  With the cold, I used handwarmers in either pair.  I could work with them, but that’s the best I can say.

Which is ultimately the solution I settle on---two or three pairs of gloves that work okay, but not great.  One day, they’ll inexpensively make custom gloves, it’s not like that software is far away.  In the mean time, I’m stuck using a bunch of alternatives that don’t quite hack it.  I suppose I should just be happy mittens work as well as they do and shut up.  Sigh.  

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