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Outdoor Research Northback Gloves

Ski gloves and mittens get warmer and more high tech each year, but I've found that even the warmest gloves can have fatal, finger-numbing flaws. I still have to take them off to adjust boot buckles, cinch down pit zips, or call a friend from the chairlift. Not so with my Outdoor Research Northback Glove, which keep my hands warm, dry, and fully functional from bell to bell.

The Northback Gloves, which are available in women's and men's sizes, were made for the widely variable conditions known as "mountain weather" that can get thrown at you during a typical day of skiing.

Last weekend, up at the Big Sky Resort in Montana, the day started out bone-chillingly cold and stayed below 10 degrees all morning. Each chairlift ride I longed for a hot Bailey's and coffee. My toes turned to icicles and my face was frozen between a grin and grimace, but my hands stayed nice and warm in the Northback Gloves. (I was also using hand warmers in my palms--the air activated type that you shake up--when I started my day.)

My gloves cinched up beautifully at the cuffs with a few easy tugs (I just had to pull the grey tab to seal the elements out) and were nimble enough that I could tighten my boot buckles and get into my tele bindings and leashes without having to de-glove. What a relief. A bare hand at the top of the tram on a windy day is enough to bring tears to my eyes and occasionally tarnish the powder turns below... a tragic situation I will no longer have to endure now that I have the Outdoor Research Northback Gloves.

It warmed up to a comparatively balmy 20 degrees after lunch and started to snow. I ditched the hand warmers and went up higher on the mountain for some powder turns in the Bowl. As I traversed towards my chosen line, my hands didn't overheat despite working harder. The fuzzy liner material wicked away the moisture. The Gore-Tex outer fabric and burly leather palms, interwoven with stretch fabric, provided bombproof protection against sharp edges and incoming snowflakes, while the natural curve of the glove prevented grip fatigue throughout the entire day and the next.

The Northback Gloves do not have a removable liner, which makes them simple and bulk-free, and also more appropriate for resort and sidecountry skiing rather than backcountry use.

The Outdoor Research Northback Gloves are available in Black/Grey for women in sizes S-L and for men in sizes S-XL. (Based on the Outdoor Research size chart, I was between sizes. I rounded down to the smaller size and appreciated the precision fit.)

Bottom Line: Count on these pleasing gloves to keep your hands happy in a wide range of conditions on the ski hill. --L.B. (December '10)

BUY ONLINE: $99, free shipping deals at Click to shop at Amazon.

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When hiking or camping, always carry the "10 Essentials":

Extra clothing, extra food and water, lighter or water-proof matches and fire starter, map in waterproof envelope, compass, pocket knife, sunscreen and sunglasses, flashlight or headlamp, first aid kit, emergency shelter.

Source: Seattle Mountain Rescue and Seattle Mountaineers.