Staying warm is one of the most important things to look for when you’re out in the snow and ice. Your extremities are generally most at risk of suffering cold injuries since they are farthest away from the warm core of your body. Additionally, your hands and fingers are exposed to wind and weather almost always, which is why great gloves are one of the smartest investments you can make when planning to be out in the cold for a prolonged time. Today, I am reviewing several gloves provided to us by our partner, The Heat Company. Note that they offered some of them to us for free, but I will give my honest opinion regardless. When on an expedition, your kit is your life insurance, and I would never settle for anything I consider sub-par.
The Heat Company are a manufacturer of gloves and mitts based in Austria. They originally designed their gloves for military use in the harshest conditions, but have become a favourite of photographers and camera crews as well. I originally bought a set of their gloves for photography, but have since adapted to use them on expeditions as well. Their glove systems are based on a layered approach where various liner models can be combined with a shell mitt and an optional overmitt.
In this review, I am going to talk about two of their liner models, the Merino Liner and the new Polartec® Wind Pro® Liner, and how they go with the Shell mitts, as well as the new Heat 3 Smart mitts, where the liner and mitt are sewn together.
As of today, The Heat Company offer a selection of seven different liner gloves. The website does a great job describing their various advantages, so you should have an easy time picking the model that’s suited best for you. When out on an expedition, I am looking for a fast-drying glove that is reasonably windproof. There are just some tasks where it is a lot easier to take the mitts off instead off fumbling endlessly around with them on, but I don’t want my hands to freeze the instant I do so.
All the liner gloves The Heat Company offer have touch-sensitive fingertips on the thumb, index and middle finger, which is excellent when you are operating electronic devices in the field. I do not have any problems operating my phone with them, quite contrary to many other touch-sensitive gloves. They also feature pockets on the back of your hand for the company’s hand warmer pads. These react with oxygen and promise to stay at body-temperature for around 10h. Another nifty feature is that all of the liners come with plastic d-rings attached already so that you can hook them to wrist-loops or your mitts.
I first bought the Merino Liners, because they are probably the glove model that dries the fastest. That assumption certainly proved correct. Put a drenched pair of liners into my down booties, and they’re dry after a few hours. The gloves are a very thin Merino, a lot lighter than I had expected. On my first model, a seam opened up on my index finger. Luckily it took only a quick email to The Heat Company, and I had a replacement pair in my mail two days later. That’s what I call customer service. Unfortunately, the light Merino also makes them less windproof than I’d like. You will feel anything above a slight breeze, and in Arctic conditions, your hands will freeze very fast. They are a great pair of gloves for less demanding tasks, though. I do use them a lot for photography and for running in sub-zero temperatures. One thing to note is that with the light wool, it is also tough to get a tight grip on something without slipping. Screwing open a bottle or extending my ski poles would often require me to take the liners off altogether.
Before our 2019 Norway expedition, we entered into a partnership with The Heat Company, and they provided us with the brand new Polartec® Wind Pro® Liner. This new material is a lot thicker than the merino wool and thus does a great job at keeping out most winds. I skied for large stretches of our expedition with my mitts off, just using the Polartec Liners, and even in -20°C plus wind-chill my hands weren’t freezing.
The Polartec material itself is already a lot more grippy than the smooth merino wool. Combined with little rubberised bits on the palm, that almost removes the need to take them off during tasks requiring a good grip. One thing I noticed, however, was that my model lost the rubberised bits quite fast. There was notable wear already after a week of use, especially at the index finger and thumb.
As you may have assumed already, the drawback is with the ability to dry the gloves inside a tent. Once they’re wet, the Polartec Liners take quite a bit longer than the Merino Liners to dry off. They would usually dry throughout the night in my sleeping bag, though, which makes them still acceptable for use on an expedition. All in all, I am perfectly happy with the Polartec® Wind Pro® Liner for expedition use. It’s a significant step up from the Merino Liner. I am, however, also excited to try the new Merino Liner Pro, which combines Polartec and wool.
While the liner gloves are excellent in their own right, they only begin to shine in combination with a shell mitt from The Heat Company. Once you unpack these mitts, you will immediately notice that they mean business. The heavy insulation makes them bigger than any pair of gloves I’ve ever owned before. They are designed to go with the liners and fit comfortably enough to create some pockets of air in between the layers. If that is not enough warmth for you, the mitts also have pockets for the hand-warmer pads. All the shells have a leather palm to improve your grip, which is again very useful when handling your flask or poles in the cold. Like the liners, they have attachment points you can use to carabiner them to your backpack or harness. They also come with wrist-loops already, so you won’t have to worry about buying or making those extra.
The real clue, however, is that you can open the top part of the Shell with a zipper and fold it back, so you regain use of your fingers and thumb. This is brilliant for short tasks, like snapping a quick picture or pulling out the map to check your bearings. It also gives you another option to go between having the mitts off and having them fully on, and I do like having ventilation options. There are several magnets sewn into the mitts that help keep them in place when you open them up. It is a very convenient way to keep the gloves open without fiddling with other attachment ways. It is, however, a show-stopper when you are working with a compass. You have to get your gloves off and far away from your needle. It’s the only point where it shows that The Heat Company designed the Shells with photographers and camera crews in mind rather than explorers in the field. It would be lovely to get a model of the Shell that does not include magnets.
The Heat 3 Smart is a combined mitt that already has a liner sewn in instead of going with a separate liner and Shell. As you might imagine, this glove is not much different from picking two of the above and has all of the advantages and disadvantages I listed above already. Additionally, you can’t lose your liner glove, but more importantly, you lose the ability to dry the liners separately or switch them out for a replacement pair. It reduces versatility a lot, and I would not use this model for expeditions for that reason.
All in all The Heat Company gloves we tested worked well enough for our expeditions. They kept us warm, and we had no trouble getting them dry again when they got wet. The included magnets in the mitts are a nuisance we would like to see altered, but we can work around that by removing them on our own and using velcro instead. I’m excited to see what The Heat Company do next to improve their product line even further.
We’re crossing Greenland in August 2021 to celebrate the legacy of Fridtjof Nansen as an explorer, scientist and humanitarian. We are working with the UNHCR to support their fantastic relief efforts for people who’ve been forced to flee their homes or have become stateless – causes Nansen started to fight 100 years ago.
If you liked this blog post, please consider donating towards our expedition or the UNHCR. We can’t do this without your help! Any contribution is appreciated!
Keen hiker and ÖAV trekking and hiking guide, in love with Nansen. Owner of the most walk-averse rescue dog ever. Ice cream lover, kit junkie, runner and mad software genius.