North Face Tops Hands-on Glove Test

Editor braves Arctic elements in search of the perfect cold-weather glove.


Staying warm at sea revolves around the right choice in clothing, and gloves are key part of the mix. Unfortunately, hand warmth and dexterity are often at opposite ends of a glove rating scale, and sailors need a good showing in both realms. Add to this, underway conditions that can range from dry cold to practically being submerged in ice water, and its easy to see why smart shopping can be a tricky proposition.

So we decided to send

Practical SailorTechnical Editor Ralph Naranjo on a series of sea trials with two different glove types. The trip conditions ranged from chilly New England deliveries to an absolutely frigid junket in Antarctica. He returned free of frostbite with a distinct notion that it indeed does take two different technologies to get the job done.

North Face Gloves


North Face has developed an extreme weather product that puts a smile on the face of anyone headed on deck for an early spring or late fall nightwatch. The five finger M Montana HyVent lined glove ($45, incorporates a spray shedding skin, warm insulation, and a tough but very flexible external nylon reinforcement that leaves the hand a nimble appendage while keeping the fingers good and toasty. For additional insulation, its easy to add a pair of North Faces Polartec Power Stretch gloves ($30) as a base layer. Many cold-weather voyagers actually wear the latter in their sleeping bags when temperatures really dive (shown on the right hand in the picture above). These moisture-wicking, thermal liners are thin and flexible and easily slip into the Montana M glove.

Mitten versions of the North Face gloves are also available, and they can actually keep hands even warmer, but we found the loss of dexterity too much to concede. We also discovered that handling wet sheets in extreme conditions eventually soak these gloves, making them a candidate for a freshwater rinse and a drying session in a hot engine room. The company also makes a Gortex version with even better performance quality ($55).

Glacier Gloves ($44, live up to their name, and thanks to their neoprene construction, pre-curved finger design, and optional hypalon rubber palms, they make steering and deck work in really bad conditions much more tolerable. Their textured palms afford great gripping action, and the articulated knuckles on each finger eliminate much of the awkwardness associated with typical wetsuit gloves.

Glacier Gloves


Their fleece lining keeps hands toasty, but as with wetsuits themselves, the prospect of spending hours swathed in neoprene is less than appealing, and the best approach is to have both glove options available and only switch from the North Face to the Glacier Gloves when conditions really deteriorate.

Practical Sailor

is currently testing other cold-weather and performance gloves. Stay tuned for an indepth evaluation of these products.

Also with this article...
Darrell Nicholson, editor of Practical Sailor, grew up boating on Miami’s Biscayne Bay on everything from prams to Morgan ketches. Two years out of Emory University, after a brief stint as a sportswriter, he set out from Miami aboard a 60-year-old wooden William Atkin ketch named Tosca. For 10 years, he and writer-photographer Theresa Gibbons explored the Caribbean, crossed the Pacific, and cruised Southeast Asia aboard Tosca, working along the way as journalists and documenting their adventures for various travel and sailing publications, including Cruising World, Sail, Sailing, Cruising Helmsman, and Sailing World. Upon his return to land life, Darrell became the associate editor, then senior editor at Cruising World magazine, where he worked for five years. Before taking on the editor’s position at Practical Sailor, Darrell was the editor of Offshore magazine, a boating-lifestyle magazine serving the New England area. Darrell has won multiple awards from Boating Writer’s International, including the Monk Farnham award for editorial excellence. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master license and has worked as a harbor pilot and skippered a variety of commercial charter boats.


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