Monday, March 5, 2012

Gear Review: Outdoor Research Mt Baker Modular Mitts


In this review we'll be testing Outdoor Research's Mt Baker Modular Mitts, so named for the 10,781 ft volcanic mountain found in the Northern Cascades of Washington. According to Wikipedia "Mount Baker is one of the snowiest places in the world; in 1999, Mount Baker Ski Area, located 14 km (8.4 mi) to the northeast, set the world record for recorded snowfall in a single season—1,140 inches (95 feet or about 30 meters)."

Appropriate to their namesake, Outdoor Research bills the Mt Baker Modular Mitts as “Serious high-altitude storm protection.” In this review, we are going to find out if these mitts actually live up to the hype in Outdoor Research's bold claim.


SPECIFICATIONS

Material: Shell - 3-layer 70D Taslan ripstop Gore-tex shell
Fully seam taped
Palm: AlpenGrip palm
Pre-curve, boxed construction
New thumb crotch construction for enhanced articulation
Carabiner loop on back of hand
Ladder-lock wrist cinch with easy-grip tab
SuperCinch gauntlet closure
Removable Idiot Cord
Removable Liner: PrimaLoft One, 170 g on back of hand and thumb; Moonlite Pile fleece palm
Toughtek tabs on fingertips and thumb keep liner from slipping or bunching
Lightweight ripstop shell
Heat packet pocket on back of hand
Hook, loop anchor points at top and bottom of wrist
Hook, loop tab adjustment on gauntlet
Weight: 9.6 oz (as weighed on a postal scale)
Country of Origin- Designed in the US, Manufactured in Vietnam
Comfort Range- -15 Degrees F to +15 Degrees F

The Mitts

The shell is made from 3-Layer 70D Taslan ripstop Gore-tex and advertised as being waterproof. A nice touch is the caribiner loop on the top of the mitts:


Outdoor Research uses a material called AlpenGrip on the palm. I especially like this feature because it is durable and exceptionally grippy:


This grippy material comes in handy when performing tasks like grasping wet ski poles or using a camp knife:


The mitts can be hooked together with the attached male/female snap fasteners. I felt these fasteners were too small and would like to see them made larger for ease of use:


Cinching\uncinching the gauntlet is definitely one of this mitt's strong points. The photo illustration below shows the sequence of pulling the grey plastic pull tab which tightens the gauntlet. It is then released by pulling the cloth tab with the "OR" logo on it. This is a great feature that can be easily done without taking off the outer shell:

(click to enlarge)

Mitt Liners

The mitts have removable liners that consist of a ripstop nylon shell filled with Primaloft One (synthetic goose down) insulation. These were very warm and comfortable during testing. In weather as cold as 10-15 degrees F, these liners were usually all that were needed to keep my hands warm.


The fingertips are reinforced with a synthetic material called Toughtek to make them more grippy and to better protect the thin ripstop material:


The liner locks into the outer shell via velcro strips around the wrist area of both the liners and shell. The outer shell also has an "Idiot Cord" (AKA a lanyard):


This is helpful so your mitts stay safely attached to your body when needing to go hands free temporarily:


FIELD TEST 

To see if these mitts would live up to the claim of “Serious high-altitude storm protection”, I conducted two different tests. The first was to take the mitts into the mountains with me on an overnight bushcraft trip where the temps approached -10 degrees F (with the windchill factor). The other consisted of seeing if these mitts were actually waterproof as advertised (see test below).

In the mountain test, Dave (my humble and entertaining review assistant) and I swapped them back and forth to see if they would keep us warm in the extreme conditions.


Neither of us felt any discomfort, so the advertised comfort range of -15F to +15F appears to be fairly accurate.

Submersion Test

To see if these were waterproof, I submerged the mitts for 10 minutes in a local icy mountain lake to see if they'd leak and also keep my hands warm while doing so. Before submerging the mitts, we took detailed weather readings with a Kestrel 3500 weather meter. The standstill temps were hovering around 16-17 degrees F and the winchills were as low as 5 degrees F as shown here:


Here's one very brave reviewer (yours truly!) standing in 33 degree water to see if the mitts would leak or cause my hands discomfort from the cold. I had on US made Wolverine Northman Goretex\Thinsulate boots to protect my feet while testing:


Moving out into deeper water and then standing in that position for ten minutes!


The submerged Kestrel instrument showing the actual water temperature during testing:

Coming out of the water after 10 minutes and back on shore, the standstill temp was 18 degrees F. No leakage or discomfort was noted during this test. Note the ice that formed quickly on the glove as well:


Conclusion

At the beginning of this review I had my doubts that these mitts would live up to the hype in Outdoor Research's claims. All too often, gear manufacturers advertise qualities that don't stand up to testing in the field. To my pleasant surprise, these mitts actually do live up to their description. They are waterproof, warm, and comfortable and their easy to use features make them a great pair of cold weather wilderness mitts.

5 of 5 Stars (Highly recommended)

Mt Baker Modular Mitts are available from US Elite Gear. Enter "ROCKY5" and get 5% off your pair of Mt Baker Mitts or anything else in the store.

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