Need cold weather hand pro....
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First rule for warm extremities (hands, feet, tip of the nose, etc) is warm torso. I often end up going without gloves or using a light liner even in -20 to -40 weather, much to the consternation of my companions. You do need to be careful about bare metal/bare flesh - the bare flesh will freeze rather quickly to the bare metal at sub-freezing temperatures.
Having said that, OR makes various liners and shells, both gloves and mitts, modular "systems" that really are modular, that are probably the easiest to find in stores and catalogs and at the same time are pretty high quality. Many of the other quality names tend to have a lot of their gloves and shells that are all of a piece and not really modular. I have a pair of BD shells that came with a removeable heavy liner that BD doesn't make anymore (I'm annoyed, since the shells are getting pretty worn - I was in SLC and stopped into BD and complained at them about this, to which the reply was that they make what people buy, namely the all-in-one). BD does have a number of good gloves that have removeable liners, but that's mostly to dry the liners when you sweat them up. I do use my BD DryTool gloves as liners as well as by themselves for ice climbing (the DryTools are Schoeller - very nice).
What I have found works (and used on Denali last month) is a first layer of a thin poly liner (just enough protection for the hand if you need to do a lot of fine manipulating of metal stuff like carabiners) inside gloves or mittens, a medium or heavy poly liner glove/mitten (depending on temperatures and need to manipulate things), and a wp/b shell. The light liners are a mix of REI "purples" and Manzellas (look identical except for the label, so I suspect they might even be made in the same Chinese factory with kiddie slave labor). The medium liners are a mix of Manzella, REI, Marmot windstop, and BD (including my Drytools). The heavy liners came with the gloves and mittens, so are mostly OR, but some BD. The glove shells are BD. The mitten shells are OR (the "pro" shells are somewhat shaped and work better on ice tools than the cheapie "flat" mittens).
About windstop vs plain poly for the liners. The windstop do not breath as well, hence tend to get sweaty wet fairly quickly. But the windstop can often be used without a shell, and are slightly waterresistant for contact with snow (you can usually knock the snow off, where the snow often goes through the straight poly. It is getting hard to get plain poly medium wt liners - everyone seems to carry the windstop varieties - but you should include a couple pair of the plain ones, simply because they breathe better.
Don't forget the idiot cords - if the gloves and mitts don't have them, get some parachute cord and tie them on. You will be thankful for them the first time you are fatigued at the end of the day and pull the mitts off, forgetting to hold on to them or stuff them inside your jacket.
As pointed out, the first trick to keep extremeties warm is to keep your body warm and minimize loss of heat as much as possible. When the body gets cold a "shell to core shunt" occurs, your body reducing blood capillarity in your extremeties to optimize body heat for the vital organs. The other important things are to keep well fed and hydrated. Also as long as ones keeps moving, the heat generated by the workout will help a lot with keeping extremeties warm, you get cold only when you stop (or it is -30 outside)
Forget about keeping your hands warm while ice climbing ! hands are above the head yielding poor circulation further impeded by the leashes of your tools !
I don't use layering for my hands (I guess I haven't yet found a layering combo that works for me). Instead what I do is put on the glove/mitt most appropriate for each situation:
- carry a very thin polypro glove to be used when lighting stove for example (nameless brand)
- when climbing anything that doesn't require technical axes (ie snow slopes, ice to WI2, glacier travel, ...) and thus is more a prolonged aerobic activity, I use fleece glove. They still get wet from sweat so I carry two sets and dry one with body heat while I wear the other. (one set is MEC the other TNF windproof fleece)
- when ice climbing I wear Patagonia strech triolet gloves, because I like their dexterity for manipulating biners and gear and they are waterproof enough not to get wet from contact with the ice. They are my main mountaineering gloves.
- If stopping in very cold weather or at belays, I just throw on the down jacket to keep my body warm and if that's not enough I put on my fency TNF down&synthetic expedition mitts (they compress pretty well)
- on long trips I even bring additionnal waterproof gloves (just in case I can't get my Patagonias to dry properly). (BDs)
Gloves and mitts are not heavy nor bulky to carry and it is the kind of item you like to be redundant for the ever possible oups! I dropped by overmitts/gloves ! Last Fall in the Can Rockies, a friend of mine dropped a glove while climbing on the President Glacier... we saw it slowly slide down the ice slope for a few minutes (down at least a 1000ft)until it plunged into a bottomless crevasse ! Spare gloves were used !
Just my 2c
I am planning a mountaineering trip to AK this August and want to have an effective layered glove system. I want a few pairs of durable liners that I can do things like light a cook stove with and a good pair of shell gloves. Overmittens for cold weather when ice climbing or standing around and glove shells for dexterity. Any brand/model suggestions would be appreciated.