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Best Sub Zero Trekking Gloves (Combination)

Cold Weather Mountain Trekking Glove Combination

Sub Zero Trekking Glove Combination Part 1. Dexterity


This review is for people who spend extended time in the mountains during winter and will be most relevant for those who expect to use an ice axe and crampons to get from A to B.

For this review we're going to depart from our normal format. This review covers four different gloves: a flexible 3-layer combination and a single emergency, purely thermal option. So we've split the review into two sections: 1. Dexterity, and 2. Emergency Warmth. Though we've rated each item in the "dexterity" combination separately, the final "offical" rating relates to the combination as a whole since the sum is intended to be greater than the parts. The stand-alone emergency mitt has its own rating, conclusion and product image gallery.

As always, we're looking at this winter glove combination from the point of view of long distance trekking over tough terrain.

Test subject: Hand Size 8.5", Typical Glove Size = Medium
Test items: Various
Kit Tests: Winter
Disclaimer: None required (items not provided by manufacturer)

Datasheet (Weight & Price)

Glove 1: Extremities Power Liner Wrist Gaiter (S/M) 37g
Glove 2: Mountain Equipment Touch Screen Glove (M) 50g
Glove 3: Azure Amara Cut Finger Sailing Glove (L or XL) ~80g
Total Weight (g / oz) 167 g / 5.89 oz
Total Full RRP / Expected "Shop-Around" Price £58.00 / ~£40

Scramble Review


Introduction: Wet Warmth & Dexterity

Many have made the point that waterproof gloves are not a good option. If you're out for extended periods in the cold and wet, your hands will get wet whether from the inside from perspiration or from the outside (afterall if your hand can slip inside a glove then so can water, and it will no matter what). Furthermore, what is designed to keep water out, will keep water in. The solution to this age-old problem is to accept this fact and then work around it. In reality we're not bothered about wet hands, what we're really concerned about is discomfort; wet hands means cold hands. So if we can keep our hands feeling warm when they're wet, problem solved.  

Polartec Power Stretch, Pile & Pertex both provide solutions to this problem. In fact, three of the four gloves in this review all use materials designed to keep your hands feeling warm when soaking wet. The one glove that doesn't is merely there as a tough / grip layer and is only relevant when winter trekking begins to morph into something that looks suspiciously like mountaineering, when ice axe, crampons (and possibly goggles) become necessities.

All three layers for ice axe useLow bulk, tough and warm enough, with Blue Ice's Bluebird

You can wrap your hands in as much insulation as you like, but there's a rough inverse correlation between insulation and dexterity; the warmest glove in this review provides minimal dexterity. For this reason we've split the review into two sections. In this section, we're interested in providing maximum dexterity (without glove changes) so that everyday trekking tasks don't become arduous hassles, whilst at the same time providing enough insulation and wind resistance so that dexterity is not handicapped by numbing cold.

Please keep in mind, this review is for winter mountain trekking, not high elevation mountaineering or ice climbing. That's a whole other category and very likely requires a different approach, afterall, we're not working with harnesses, climbing gear, ropes etc. In fact, the only additional tool we're accounting for is an ice axe.

Layering: Only what's necessary

There is an incredible array of gloves on the market promising performance miracles of all kinds. However, it's almost impossible for one glove to do everything. The question here is, can three specialised gloves do enough? If so, then there will be additional benefits from this modular approach. Later we'll give an overview of each component. But here, we'll briefly sketch out the benefits of this layered combination.

The first layer is a Polartec Power Stretch wrist gaiter. An oversimplication but generally true, the closer blood vessels are to the surface, the greater the heat loss: head, neck, wrists and ankles. These are the major extremities that require protection. The Extremities Power Liner Wrist Gaiter covers the wrist, palm and back of the hand with a thin, close fitting Polartec Power Stretch fleece. In the 2018 kit test where temperatures ranged from -2°C to -10°C and windchill reached just below -20°C, I wore these wrist gaiters all day and all night for 7 days. They were literally a permanent fixture.

At higher elevations and/or in stronger winds, the next layer, the Power Stretch (Touch Screen) Glove would go on. This duo was the mainstay combination and for basic cold weather trekking is likely all that is required. So now we have: double layered Polartec Power Stretch coverage on the wrists, palms and back of the hand, with a single layer covering the fingers.  

Layer 1 - Extremities Power Liner Wrist GaiterPower Stretch Wrist Gaiter (click to enlarge)
Layer 2 - Mountain Equipment's Touch Screen GlovePower Stretch Touch Screen Glove
Layer 3 - Azure's Amara CF Sailing GlovesHalf Finger Amara Sailing Gloves

The third layer, the Azure Amara sailing gloves, is there specifically for use with an ice axe. For the majority of the time these can be stashed in a pocket or belt bag. When required the Azure sailing gloves provide a tough outer which a) helps protect the Power Stretch gloves, b) offers additional wind resistance, c) greatly increases padding on the palm which makes long term ice axe use much more comfortable, and d) provides good grip, especially when wet, aiding ice axe use (and, being sailing gloves these will work very well with ropes). As they're half-finger gloves (more than that when you size up), after you've bitten off way more than you can chew, you can drop your ice axe and call emergency rescue without having to remove your gloves. Handy.

The fourth layer (reviewed and pictured below) is really there for when things turn pear-shaped or if conditions overshoot into the unexpectedly extreme. In such circumstances you're likely to be in hunker down mode, as such in terms of fit the requirement here is that they fit over the first two layers (the Polartec Power Stretch wrist gaiter and gloves) only. Afterall, covering the sailing gloves negates their outer purpose (toughness and grip) and removing them has little thermal effect. The Buffalo mitts are pile lined and will keep you warm down to around -20°C. Buffalo state that 2 pairs worn together (one a size larger than the other) are good down to -40°C. Buffalo Mitts are incredibly light for their warmth and are excellent for drying out wet hands, they also dry out extremely quickly.


So we have a combination of materials in use here: Polartec's Power Stretch for warmth when active; Amara, a synthetic leather, providing a tough and grippy outer; AquaTherm Pile and Pertex 6 for the Mitts. Here, we'll summarise their attributes.

Polartec Power Stretch

  • Composition: 231g/m² 88% polyester, 12% spandex plain knit
  • Lightweight: Superb warmth to weight ratio
  • Warm when wet and quick to dry
  • Wicking: Capillary action moves moisture away from the skin. Acts like a baselayer glove but can handle direct exposure to the elements.
  • Breathable with sufficient wind resistance to take the edge off harsh winds
  • Excellent dexterity: Body-hugging 4-way stretch and recovery provides unrestricted freedom of movement and reinforced elastic fibers ensure the fabric consistently rebounds after stretching.
  • Negatives: Not very durable as a pure outer glove

Amara - Synthetic Leather

  • Composition: 60% Polyamide (Nylon) and 40% Polyurethane
  • Tough and abrasion resistant
  • Soft and comfortable
  • Good grip (especially when wet)
  • Negatives: Slow to dry, adds a little weight

Pile & Pertex

  • Composition: Pertex 6 Outer (100% Polyamide / Nylon), Aquatherm Pile Lining (100% Polyester)
  • Lightweight: Extreme warmth to weight ratio (good down to around -20°C on their own)
  • Warm when wet and very quick to dry
  • Windproof up to 50 mph
  • Negatives: Absolutely minimal dexterity


The basic rule here is that you want to size normally for the wrist gaiter and the power stretch glove and then size up one size for the sailing glove and the mitts. So, if you're normally a size large for your gloves, you'd want size L/XL wrist gaiters, size L Touch Screen Gloves (with Mountain Equipment) and XL for both the sailing gloves and the Buffalo Mitts.

I'm on the cusp of Extremities' sizing between S/M and L/XL. I opted for S/M and this was a snug fit which is preferable but it put a little extra strain on the stitching across the knuckle. I could have gone with size L sailing gloves but instead use XL and they've worked fine leaving just the tips of my finger exposed.

Protecting everything but the finger tipsThe XL Azure Amara Sailing Gloves leave just the finger tips exposed.

The Buffalo Mitts, reviewed below, in a size Large make a nice snug fit. When worn over all three layers, though possible, it's just a little too snug and likely stresses the Pertex outer. When it comes to Buffalo, if unsure, I'd size up.

Next we'll look at the individual components ...


1. Extremities Power Liner Wrist Gaiter

Extremities Power Liner Wrist Gaiter


Materials: Polartec Power Stretch (Polyester / Elastane Plain Knit) 88% / 12%
Weight (Size S/M) 37g
Product Sizing Reference: 8.5" Hand (assuming layering combo, tighter / looser) S/M (tested) / L/XL
Manufacturer RRP £20.00
Scramble's Price on SYSTEM £14.80
Rating (Function / Durability / Weight / RRP Value // Overall) 9.5 / 6.0 / 9.5 / 7.0 // 8.0

Available on SYSTEM



The Extremities Power Liner Wrist Gaiter is made from a relatively thin layer of Polartec Power Stretch and when worn underneath a decent cold weather baselayer does a good job of protecting wrists and hands (but not fingers). There are very few Power Stretch wrist gaiters on the market; Marmot made one (the Stretch Wrist Gaiter, which I believe is discontinued), and Houdini offer a very basic model (Power Wrist Gaiter). I assume the reason is that people think "my baselayer or my excessively warm mid-layer (note: we're not fans of thermal mids and Power Stretch is just too warm for a baselayer) has thumb loops, so no need for a wrist gaiter". But a good wrist gaiter a) follows the contours of your hand and traps warmth more effectively, b) provides an additional layer (assuming you're wearing a long sleeve baselayer top), and c) will keep you warm when wet.

Scramble regard the wrist gaiter as an essential piece of winter kit. I wore this day and night for the entire 7 day winter kit test (2018). Well, almost. We were testing this item against the Ussen Baltic Half Finger Glove, a heavier polypropylene-based item. But after just one hour it was very clear that this was an inferior option. Aside from its love affair with velcro, the Ussen glove, strangely, was just too warm and my hands felt clammy and uncomfortably hot. Polypropylene is a great material, but it's most effective in thin layers (lightweight baselayers for example).

This highlights the balance we're after, it's not all about warmth; it's about comfort and that generally means feeling comfortably cool, not overly hot. Power Stretch's ability to keep you warm when wet is the main reason the Extremities Power Liner Wrist Gaiter is so good. You put your hand onto or, if you're feeling unlucky, into something wet and icy and although not pleasant you can get about your business and before you know it the Power Stretch material has dried out.

On its own, the Extremities Wrist Gaiter provides just enough warmth to take the edge of a bitter chill, and is all one should require trekking through the lowlands or where there's shelter from harsh winter winds (i..e under a tarp). It has zero effect on dexterity and when paired with a Power Stretch Glove the total warmth is sufficient to stave off windchill (i.e. "feel-like" temperatures) down to around -20°C.


2. Mountain Equipment Touch Screen Glove

Mountain Equipment's Power Stretch Touch Screen Glove


Materials: Polartec Power Stretch (Polyester / Elastane Plain Knit) 88% / 12%
Weight (Size Medium) 50g
Product Sizing Reference: 8.5" Hand (assuming layering combo) Medium
Manufacturer RRP £27.00
Rating (Function / Durability / Weight / RRP Value // Overall) 9.0 / 7.5 / 9.5 / 7.0 // 8.3

Manufacturer's Page



Montane, Mountain Equipment, Rab and many others all make touch screen compatible Power Stretch gloves. People's hands vary and what fits one will feel awkward for another. So, we're somewhat agnostic about the brand. Personally, I really like Mountain Equipment's Touch Screen Gloves which have a double wrist cuff and a well sized opening (some are a little small). Mountain Equipment and Montane also provide grip versions which are touch screen compatible (with some of the other brands it's a case of one or the other). Also note that grip gloves often don't layer so well, as they grip the outer you're trying to put over them.

At around 50g a pair, Power Stretch gloves provides an impressive degree of warmth. Critically, they remain warm when wet (not just damp) and do not hinder dexterity too much. I was able to thread 1.5mm dyneema cord through a small slit and hitch it to a tarp pole connector without too much fuss - this should be a reasonably fiddly operation in winter gloves. I rarely found myself having to take the gloves off to do things like fit crampons, access gear, set up a shelter, cook etc. In addition, because they are touch screen compatible you can call in your location, if necessary, without freezing your fingers off.

Power Stretch gloves are not the most durable item, they're not fragile, but they're not tough either. Which brings us to the third layer in this threesome ...


3. Azure's Amara CF Sailing Gloves

Azure's Amara Cut Finger Sailing Glove


Materials: Amara Synthetic Leather (Polyamide / Polyurethane) + 4-Way Stretch Cloth) 60% / 40%
Weight (Size L / XL) 72g / 85g
Product Sizing Reference: 8.5" Hand (assuming layering combo, tight / looser) = L / XL (tested)
Approx eBay Price / RRP £8.50 / £11.00
Rating (Function / Durability / Weight / RRP Value // Overall) 8.0 / 8.0 / 6.5 / 9.0 // 7.9

Manufacturer's Page



The least expensive of the three gloves in this combo is also the one designed to take a beating. A side benefit of layering, is that when damage is done, you only have to replace a component and not the whole. You can pick these gloves up for around £8.50 on eBay or similar versions on Amazon, as a result you don't feel overburdened by a duty of care.

As previously stated, the main reason for this glove is to provide grip and additional padding in the palm for extended ice axe use. They also work well when in scrambling mode, the Amara palm provides good protection from sharp rock as well as spikey undergrowth.

Sailing gloves are designed to provide grip in wet conditions and that's exactly what these do. In my experience, the wetter the palm becomes the better the grip.  

After sizing up, these sailing gloves should leave just the tips of the fingers exposed, maintaining dexterity whilst providing a decent amount of additional wind resistance. I used these in near white-out conditions, where very strong winds, spindrift and deep snow had blurred the lines between trekking and mountaineering. I used my ice axe for about 6 hours a day on two of the seven days, and noticed no discomfort.

The fabric around the wrist (at the velcro strap) tends to fray quite easily, and though they might look a little shabby they tend to hold together well. There are other similar half finger sailing gloves out there which use Amara; an almost identical glove is the Lomo Short Finger Sailing Glove.


Dexterity 3-Layered Combination: Any Negatives?

Generally, tougher, more durable materials will reduce dexterity, likewise, increased insulation will also decrease dexterity. However, much of our dexterity is derived via the tips of our fingers. With this layered combination, that is the area that is most exposed. So, one negative has to be that the finger tips may suffer a little more than with a glove like Rab's Boltoro (170g). But that's the cost of dexterity. However, that's also the reason for the purely thermal option reviewed below. If extreme cold becomes overpowering, then the mitts go on, perhaps just for long enough to provide sufficient respite to continue. But, without doubt, this 3-layered combination, may not be as warm as a good traditional winter mountain glove (but of course it's also far more flexible and in our opinion more suitable for mountain trekking).

A minor negative related to the Amara Sailing Gloves, is that they do not dry out quickly and care has to be taken over night to ensure they don't completely freeze up. I use an Ortlieb Dry Bag for my sleeping bag which is attached to the outside of my pack. After pitching, I turn this inside out and store all my wet clothing inside and seal it up. This is then covered with an insulated jacket and used as a pillow. The clothes won't dry out (which would create a lot of condensation), but they don't freeze either. So, some care has to be taken to ensure ones gloves don't freeze up, and this is especially true of the Amara gloves, as Amara tends to hold moisture. Something to be aware of.

The stitching at the ends of the Extremities wrist gaiter, where they wrap around the knuckle tends to wear quite easily (as this area gets the most stress, especially if the sizing is snug). Personally, this doesn't bother me as it doesn't have a great deal of effect. This can be easily repaired if necessary as it's just "finishing", and to date it's the only place where the stitching has worn.

Aside from that, this combination has performed extremely well, and after a great deal of testing with numerous combinations, we're very happy with it.


Conclusion & Rating

3-Layer Glove Combination Summary

That pretty much sums it up. If this was one glove, a manufacturer's copyrighter might write: "a tough, high dexterity, touch screen compatible mountain glove, with re-enforced padded grip palm and lined with warm-when-wet Polartec power stretch". However, this is not one glove, and thus aside from the marketing rave above, there are additional benefits. Some of the time, all you need is a wrist gaiter, and gloves that try to do it all (Black Diamond's 200g Pursuit Glove or Rab's 170g Boltoro for example) are overkill for winter mountain trekking, offer less dexterity and of course they're either on or off. Additionally, such gloves won't then fit inside a lightweight thermal mitt. So, they might be okay for climbing and mountaineering, but for winter trekking in the mountains, not so much. 

Here, Scramble are recommending a pretty minimal but flexible layered approach. Recognising that, we also recommend that it's paired with a lightweight thermal "emergency" option, in case things get out of hand (... ouch).


Product Images


Rating (out of 10)

RRP Value *

* The value score is derived from two factors:
1) Competitive Market Price (CMP). This represents our judgement of a competitive online price point if we were to stock the item. e.g. if we feel we would need to sell an item at 40% off (i.e. 60% of its full RRP) to be competitive, then our CMP score will be 6/10.
2) Customer Value Price (CVP). We then make an honest appraisal of the maximum price we would be willing to pay for the item (and we're mean). So if we'd pay 80% of its RRP our CVP score would be 8/10.
We then average the two scores to get our final value score, which in our example would be 7/10.

Part 2. Emergency Warmth

Buffalo's DP Mitts (Olive Green)

Buffalo's DP Mitts


Materials (Outer): Pertex 6 / Classic (Polyamide, i.e. Nylon) 100%
Materials (Inner): Aquatherm Pile (Polyester) 100%
Weight (Size Large, measured) 79g
Product Sizing Reference: 8.5" Hand (assuming layering combo) Large
Manufacturer RRP £37.00

Manufacturer's Page



The DP in Buffalo's DP Mitts stands for Double P which in turn stands for Pile and Pertex. Buffalo's DP system is a warm when wet, minimal but highly effective clothing system, ideal for climbers since they're either working their arses off or freezing them off belaying. As such, it has to provide warmth when static, but very efficiently move excess moisture away from the skin when active - and that's what it does.

The DP mitts are an ideal backup for when things get nasty. Their warmth to weight ratio is stunning, they wick moisture extremely quickly and are superb at drying out freezing, wet hands. Furthermore, they are not bulky. I carry a pair in my trouser thigh pocket, so I can quickly put them on without fuss.

As we recommend pushing the dexterity with our glove option, which in turn means making a certain degree of thermal sacrfice, the DP mitts are an essential part of the equation, which is why they're included in this single review. 

If the glove combo above is overpowered in extremely cold conditions, the best option is to remove the outer, sailing glove layer (if it's on) and then wear the mitts over the two power stretch layers. This will warm up your hands in extreme sub zero temperatures (the -20°C to -30°C region).


Any Negatives?

Obviously, dexterity is a major negative, but that's not what they're for; they're here for the warmth. The other negative of note, is that although Pertex (being Nylon) is a pretty tough material, it cannot compete with traditional glove reinforcements like leather. Don't expect to do anything fancy in these mitts, but they might save you a finger or two.

Simple Tasks Only PleaseMy hands are toasty, just don't ask to me to do anything complex.


Conclusion & Rating

The Buffalo DP Mitts are a lightweight, low bulk, warm-when-wet, quick drying, backup thermal option for when conditions are too much for your gloves. Their warmth to weight ratio and their ability to manage moisture makes them ideal for wet and seriously cold environments. The ideal "emergency mitt" to top off Scramble's top rated glove combination. 


Product Images


Rating (out of 10)

RRP Value *

* The value score is derived from two factors:
1) Competitive Market Price (CMP). This represents our judgement of a competitive online price point if we were to stock the item. e.g. if we feel we would need to sell an item at 40% off (i.e. 60% of its full RRP) to be competitive, then our CMP score will be 6/10.
2) Customer Value Price (CVP). We then make an honest appraisal of the maximum price we would be willing to pay for the item (and we're mean). So if we'd pay 80% of its RRP our CVP score would be 8/10.
We then average the two scores to get our final value score, which in our example would be 7/10.



Last Updated: 04/03/18

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