Electric gloves?! That’s got to be a gimmick right? Well… maybe not!
I personally struggle with the unfortunate “cold hands” gene during long pitches ice climbing and when standing still too long on a winter hike. I’ve also experienced the dreaded “screaming barfies” far too many times while climbing (google it)! Wearing big bulky gloves isn’t an option when you’re on the lead and require dexterity to tie knots, place screws, and delicate tool placements. I’ve been on an endless search for the “perfect glove” which as led me to Outdoor Research’s Stormtracker glove with “Alti-Heat Technology“. The Stormtrackers have been a long standing product in the Outdoor Research glove line. But it was only recently that they added the heated version of this beloved glove.
- Exterior Fabric – Gore Windstopper Softshell with DWR finish
- Palm Fabric – Water Resistant Goat Leather
- Insulation – Primaloft 60g/m2 (back) Primaloft Grip 60g/m2 (palm)
- Weight – 10.4 Ounces (size large)
- Battery Life – Up to 6 hours (Low Setting)
- MSRP: $265.00 (ouch!)
The Stormtracker glove features a leather palm and supple stretchy softshell exterior that is coated with a DWR finish to shed moisture. The gauntlet of the glove features a small zipper that allows you to cinch up the glove tight around your wrist to retain heat. On the backside of the glove is a leather patch with embroidered “OR” logo. There’s a handy nylon pull tab for getting the gloves on and clipping them to your climbing harness.
The wrist of the glove features a small zippered pocket. This is where the magic happens, Inside this pocket is a funky looking 7.4v 1800mah butterfly shaped black battery that plugs in with a small barrel connector. On the opposite side of the wrist is a rubber button. This is how you enable/disable the heat. The button glows to indicate the temperature setting Red (high), Orange (medium), or Green (low). Outdoor research specifies a battery life of 2 Hours in “high”, 4 Hours in “medium”, 6 Hours in “low”.
Additionally, inside the box Outdoor Research provides a wall charger with Y-connector for simultaneously charging the two separate batteries, and a nice mesh carrying case for storing your gloves in the off season.
I’ve had these gloves for a couple of months now and I have had the pleasure to spend 6 days ice climbing while wearing them in various conditions, from a brutal -15F to mid 30’s. First off, lets talk about how these gloves heat. These gloves have a heating element throughout the entire palm AND in the fingers. This results in an evenly distributed heat through the back of your entire hand and fingers. This is pretty awesome when compared to using standard chemical hand warmers, which only emanate heat where you place them.
These gloves have performed excellently in the field for my needs. They supply just enough heat to prevent my hands from going numb on steep climbs in super cold conditions. I’ve been pleased with how much dexterity I have while wearing the gloves, I can tie knots, lace up my boots, and place ice screws without any excess fabric getting in my way. Don’t buy these gloves if you’re looking for extremely warm gloves. These gloves are not super warm but they do the job they’re designed to do by providing adequate warmth in a well fitting, low profile glove with excellent dexterity. If you’re looking for extreme warmth you’ll need to move up to one of Outdoor Research’s bulkier options.
On a typical ice climbing outing I will leave my car wearing my heavier bulky warm gloves with the Outdoor Research Heated Stormtracker gloves inside my jacket while I approach the climb. Once I get to the climb I’ll pull my somewhat warm, dry, Outdoor Research Heated Stormtracker gloves out of my jacket and kick them on “High Warmth” setting while I climb. On extremely cold days I’ll switch back into my heavier gloves at the belay and return the Stormtrackers to inside my jacket to keep them warm, dry, and to preserve battery life. This system has treated me well and greatly reduced the amount of numb finger experiences I’ve had.
So far I’ve found battery life to be reasonably accurate. On “High” they tend to last about 2 hours, while on low they will go for 6 hours or more. I’ve found that the low setting is borderline useless, I tend to leave these gloves on “High” or switch to “Medium” if the outside temperature isn’t too extreme. That said, I also carry two sets of batteries in case the first set dies and I’m considering buying a third for those brutal long days. One thing that is a little annoying is swapping batteries. I haven’t been able to replace the batteries while wearing the gloves which means removing them on a cold day to fiddle with the small battery compartment zipper with number fingers. This isn’t the end of the world but I wish it was more of a slide/clip mechanism like a power tool!
Charging and Maintenance
These gloves need to be charged regularly if you’re using them a lot. The charger is a wall wart style and features a small LED light. This light is either red, green, or flashing. Red indicating “charging”, green indicating “fully charged”, and flashing indicating that one of the two batteries is fully charged. Removing and replacing the battery in the gloves is fairly simple, you simply zip it into the small pocket at the wrist. Unfortunately there’s no real time way to check the current charge of your gloves while you’re wearing them. I’m also a little bit concerned about the longevity of the batteries. They’re constantly being flexed while being worn, I’m afraid fatigue may lead to failure, but this is yet to be seen. So far so good!
Another thing I wonder about is cleaning the gloves. After repeat use, wiping my icicle snots, and sweating into them I’m sure they’ll eventually get pretty gross. I’d be afraid to throw these gloves into the washing machine with all of the electronics inside. I guess I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.
I’m Shocked… Literally!
While I do love these gloves, I had one strange incident that I can’t ignore for the sake of this review. I was out ice climbing on a cold, but terribly wet day. My hands became saturated in water to the point that I could wring the gloves out like a wet towel. These gloves are not waterproof, so I can’t complain about how wet they got. However… the gloves started to ELECTROCUTE ME! Yes, I started feeling a dull stinging sensation in my pinky fingers on both hands. Eventually it escalated to an uncomfortable alternating tingling shock! I turned the gloves off using the button, but the shock continued. I eventually pulled out the battery on both gloves. To be clear, this wasn’t terribly painful (the battery is only 7.4 volts after all) or dangerous. However, if I was leading a hard climb when this happened it could have caused a life or death distraction. I assumed this was caused due to how wet the gloves had become.
I contacted Outdoor Research and they apologized and told me that this was not normal. They insisted that this was not a common issue and that it must have been a manufacturing defect. They promptly sent out replacement gloves without hesitation. This is why I love this company! They stand behind their product and have excellent customer support. So far, the new pair I received hasn’t exhibited the same issues and they have gotten pretty wet.
The Outdoor Research Stormtracker Heated Gloves have become one of my favorite pieces of equipment despite the possible manufacturing defect that caused the gloves to shock me in the field. Shocking (pun intended) I know! I hate the idea of relying on electronics for warmth but these gloves have proved to be a valuable tool in my ice climbing and winter hiking kit. They are my go-to glove for ice climbing. They allow me to wear a much thinner glove for fine motor dexterity, while also staying reasonably comfortable… Not an easy task! These gloves have excelled in ice climbing, they are durable, and Outdoor Research is an awesome company that will help you out if something goes wrong. Like all of their products these carry a LIFETIME warranty.
One obvious downfall of this product is the cost. These gloves aren’t cheap with an MSRP of $265! However, if you’re like me and have an issue with cold hands the cost may not be a deal breaker. After all when the screaming barfies set in $265 bucks seems kind of petty 🙂 .
At the end of the day I give these gloves two thumbs up. If you’re desperate for warm hands while climbing, skiing, or hiking and want to impress your friends with a magical LED glowing glove at night check out the Outdoor Research Stormtracker heated gloves!