Mountain Hardwear Hydra OutDry gloves

MH glove five stars

Mountain Hardwear believe their Hydro OutDry Gloves offer the right balance of warmth and dexterity. We try them out.

Finding the perfect winter gloves is something of an eternal quest for winter climbers and mountaineer. They need gloves that keep their hands warm, yet also allow them to do all kinds of dexterous things, such as feeling the rock, rope work, using protection and even just opening their rucksacks in cold and windy conditions.

In low temperatures, the risk of numb hands and even frostbite is high if gloves are not warm enough. But if the gloves are too bulky, they will inhibit the proper use of the climber or mountaineer’s hands.

Mountain Hardwear claim that their Hydra OutDry (and Hydra Pro OutDry) gloves are the perfect solution.

Features of the Hydra OutDry gloves:

  • Four-way stretch nylon, soft-shell fabric for a snug, flexible fit
  • Thermal.Q Elite insulation inside a waterproof OutDry laminated outer
  • Durable water-resistant goatskin palm and fingers
  • Wraparound finger design to reduces cold spots and improve dexterity
  • All leather palm that is rugged and dexterous
  • Soft suede thumb patch for wiping wet noses
  • Carabiner loop for hanging gloves off harness
  • Pull-on webbing loop at wrist.

Note: The main difference between the OutDry and the Pro OutDry gloves seems to be the cuffs. The OutDry have a longer over-and-under cuff design “to enhance versatility” while the Pro have an adjustable neoprene cuff gasket for warmth and weather-proofing. There is a small weight difference.

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On test: Mountain Hardwear Hydra OutDry Gloves

We asked keen Scottish climber Gordon Lacey to test the gloves. He says: “To start with, when I first looked at the gloves, I thought there was no way they would be good enough for climbing. They looked a bit too bulky and big. Although they fitted snugly I thought the materials and insulation would make them useless for climbing.

“I wasn’t sure, either, about the long wrist guard of the OutDry gloves. I thought I might prefer the shorter wrists of the Hydra Pro version. But having tried many pairs of gloves and never yet found the right balance of warmth and dexterity I decided they were worth a try.”

Gordon decided to try the gloves while ‘seconding’ a winter climb on rock and snow. He says: “I was worried about leading the climb in these gloves in case they did not allow me to properly feel the rock and use protection. So I seconded the route on the first outing with them.”

He was surprised at how good the gloves felt. Gordon says: “Although they looked quite bulky when I put the gloves on they felt snug and tight around my hands and fingers.

“Mountain Hardwear have thought about how climbers and mountaineers will use these gloves. For example, they have created a wraparound construction on the fingers by moving the seam away from the fingertips so the most sensitive part of the hands, the finger-tips, are not obstructed by big seams. This works really well and the thinner fabric over the fingertips means I can really feel things through the gloves.

“Of course, this means the finger tips can get a bit chilly but it’s all about the balance of dexterity and coverage. I like the design that Mountain Hardwear have come up with.”

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Mountain Hardwear have designed the gloves to have a pre-curved finger design. This is meant to feel more like a second skin; one that is apparently “more ergonomically attuned to the shape of your hand”.

Each curve of the fingers – including the thumb – has been individually engineered to conform to the way your hand articulates.

Gordon remarks: “The shape of the gloves is good and the medium size fits me really well. However, there is still a balance here. The gloves need to be insulated as well as fitting well and that means they still feel like gloves rather than being as good as your bare hand.”

On the inside, Thermal.Q Elite insulation keeps hands warm and dry and is shielded by two waterproofing technologies. There’s also a reinforced leather palm, thumb and forefinger.

Gordon says: “The quality of the gloves is very good. I like Mountain Hardwear products anyway and these gloves are of the company’s usual high quality. They are warmer than any ‘useful’ climbing glove that I have tried and also waterproof.

“I actually really like the longer wrist guards, too, and they have stopped lots of spindrift – light snow – getting inside the gloves when I am climbing.

“I have tried them on a few occasions, on rock and while mixed ice climbing, and now that they are a bit worn in they feel even more comfortable and useful. They have mostly kept my hands warm, too. I have used them in temperatures as low as -5C and they have performed the best of all climbing gloves that I have.

“I still do like a thinner glove for better dexterity but when it’s cold, thin gloves leave me with numb hands and then I can’t climb at all. As I said, it’s a balancing act. The Mountain Hardwear gloves are the best that I have found so far for winter climbing. They offer a cross between a summer climbing glove at the front and an insulated ski glove at the back.”
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Gordon also likes other features such as the “high quality goat skin palms for good grip, especially when using ice axes”. He says: “The palms are not as sticky as other gloves that I have but they are good enough.”

The pull-loops are a useful extra. Gordon says: “This means you can pull on and pull off the gloves more easily, even when your hands are sweaty. And the one hand adjustor for tightening and loosening the cuff is brilliant.

“I would recommend these gloves but make sure you get a pair that fits properly.”

See Mountain Hardwear. RRP is £90. On-line prices vary.

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