Monday, January 09, 2012

The RAB Latok Ice Gauntlet and RAB Latok Glove

Despite both being called Latok-something, these two pairs of gloves are rather different beasts. Both are waterproofed using an eVent membrane, but the Ice Gauntlet is insulated with Primaloft, has leather palms and – as it name suggests – is a gauntlet-style, with it cuff coming up high over the cuff of your jacket. On the other hand, the Latok Glove is lined but does not have additional insulation, has a silicon print on the palm and fingers for grip and has a Velcro adjusted neoprene cuff that does not come so far up your arm. The Ice Gauntlet is clearly designed to be warmer and more protective, whilst the Glove allows more dexterity.

Now for the first moan – the sizing between the two different models is nowhere near consistent. I have a medium in a both and whilst the in the Glove this is perfect, with the Gauntlet model it is tighter. If you have a large outdoor store with a massive stock range and always competitive pricing near you, then this simply won’t matter. Go to your emporium of happiness, and keep trying things on until you get what fits. But for the rest of us in the real world of limited availability or wanting to get the best price by internet shopping, this is a problem. I bought the Latok Gloves from a shop so had chance to try them, but got the Gauntlets for review purposes directly from RAB so simply asked for the same size. They arrived just before leaving on a trip, so there was no chance to swap them. Obviously if you internet shop, having to swap things due to something not fitting is costly in terms of postage and a hassle. It would be really good if all gear companies could really focus on keeping their sizing consistent even when altering models for new seasons and the like. When so many of us now rely on internet shopping for buying gear it would really help and, more self-interestedly, build brand allegiance.

In terms of performance the Latok Gloves are fantastic. They have done many pitches of ice climbing and are perfect for that. You can easily place screws wearing them and grab particular quickdraws off your rack – even using smaller krabs like DMM Phantoms. I have also mixed climbed with them, and whilst fiddling with a rack on nuts is slightly more tricky, these gloves still work for that. The eVent keeps your fingers dry even on soggy icefalls and I often find I can wear the Latok Gloves all day, not needing to swap for mitts whilst belaying. It maybe psychological but I think they get less sweaty than Goretex gloves that I have used. The cuff also works very well, particular with less bulky jackets like a softshell.

The Ice Gauntlets have the same great eVent lining, are warmer the with Primaloft insulation, but less dexterous. I find them a little clumsy, and this of course means you can loose the advantage of the insulation if you have to take them off once in a while to do something fiddly. I can ice climb in them, placing screws, but taking quickdraws off my harness is a bit of a fumble. On the other hand my wife used them for a day climbing on Clogwyn y Garnedd. She put them on just after we had put our crampons on – just where the Pyg and Miners’ paths meet, wore them up Central Trinity, belaying and taking apart belays, taking a few photos with a wee camera, then walking back down again; not removing them until we got to the path intersection again where we took our crampons off. She reckons they are the best gloves she has used in winter as she didn’t suffer like normal from cold hands.

Recently, on the Latok Gloves that I have used for a bit under two seasons of ice climbing, the seam split between the thumb and index finger. I now need to try and sew it up without puncturing the eVent membrane that is visible through the hole. They gloves have been used quite a lot, so it is perhaps understandable – nevertheless I’ve had gloves that have done more service without any seam blow-outs. The Ice Gauntlets still look as new, but have been used a lot less.

Overall, they are both good gloves. Neither are cheap, although many brands have similar models (particularly to the Ice Gauntlet) that cost considerably more and in that sense represent decent value. The Latok Glove, with its super sticky palms and good dexterity is great glove for technical climbing, be that on ice or mixed. The Ice Gauntlet is more of an all-rounder for cold, lousy conditions. Don’t expect to be able to unwrap your kit-kat particularly easily in them but, as long as you don’t take them off, do expect warm hands. And finally, if at all possible, try them on before you buy and don’t expect the sizing to be consistent between the two models!