It's like an obsession, and we all do it. It starts off as a casual glance, then a nagging pull once you realise that there's something new on the rack. Now try as you might, you just can't get out of the climbing shop without slipping a pair on. Gloves, of course! We all know that there is no such thing as a waterproof glove, but we can't stop searching for that elusive perfect pair. But before you wander in to the store this Autumn, think carefully about what it is you want from your gloves, and learn from the mistakes of others:
First up, you are going to need three or four pairs. We often measure the quality of the shocking Scottish weather in terms of a number of gloves. A "two glove day", for example, is an average day's winter climbing, with a "four glove day" being a real stinker. With a bit of forethought, you can make your choice even more versatile:
* I go for the thinnest I can get away with on the day - as a base layer - and buy them snug. These vary from those cheap stretchy things at just over a fiver, to windproof grippy gloves on stormy days. This pair will get trashed soon.
* If you then buy your main pair big enough to go over the top, you'll be toasty all day, and double toasty if you wear them together.
* Then add a massive pair of overmitts - big enough to go over both the other pairs! Now let's be honest - these are only any good for crawling out of storms with - so don't expect to be tying your shoelaces. Buy them big, buy them warm, but don't buy them too heavy or robust as you'll hardly ever wear them.
They're not 'Just a Pair of Gloves'
Secondly, think carefully before you buy. We've all been in a shop to buy the perfect glove, on a dry day in Ambleside. They seemed perfect back then, but now your hands are swollen and wet, you just can't get them on - no matter how hard you try. So buy them big enough and think ahead:
* A long enough gauntlet is good - to keep your wrist warm. Just make sure it fits under your jacket. Too long and it will bulk up on your other layers and may no longer fit.
* Look for buckles and straps in annoying places. I know it's so old school - but make sure you don't get a buckle right under your axe leash - it'll drive you leashless!
* Warm is good, but too much bulk makes Jack a clumsy boy. Make sure you can close your hand comfortably (and remember that pile will pack down fairly soon).
* Look for seams in places of high wear, and make sure the thumb is a snug fit. That flappy thumb end will catch in krabs and cause you to drop all your wires - again!
* Beware the pull out liner, two part fancy combo thing! Go for simple gloves with a fixed lining membrane. Trust me - with a pull out liner you will be worrying about getting your little finger back in from the blizzard, when you really need to worry about that dodgy runner, and the fact that you're getting pumped.
And When You Take Them Off....
Finally, think about where you're going to put them. Manufacturers have tried everything over the years - clips and loops, strings and bungies. It's all too much faff and fankle for me, but you decide:
* If I take my gloves off I make it a habit to tuck them straight inside my jacket. Put them down, or hang them off a krab, and they fill up with snow. At worst they will blow away (for good).
* If you do want a spare pair for the belay, roll them up and stuff one in the other to seal the gaps. You can then hang them off the back of your harness, under your rucksack, so they don't fill up. My mates make this work for them, but see above - I just stuff them down my jacket again!
* Those weird little loops on the finger ends do actually work for hanging them up and drying them out. Especially important if you remember Chubster's rule of soggy gloves "They let in way more than they will ever let out". For real luxury - keep two sets so you can wear a dry pair tomorrow while the other set dry.
* Buy Nikwax glove proof and you'll be amazed how much longer they stay dry, and how much less they will absorb - we all were! (not a plug - it genuinely works!)
Bring on the Winter, and happy shopping!