Whether you’re planning to climb Yosemite’s Half Dome Cables, navigate the boulder fields of Mount St. Helens, scramble up a knife ridge in the Canadian Rockies or just spend a lot of mornings out on steep trails this summer, gloves may very well be one of the most important tools in your pack. After all, summer adventures mean the opportunity for plenty of dirty, rocky, and high contact days. So while winter gear is all about protecting yourself from the weather, summer’s challenge is in handling the terrain, literally.
But while it’s possible to justify a spendy set of gloves for months of exploring in below freezing temps, the idea of investing $30 let alone $100 bucks on a summer set never really worked for me. Nice weather means little insulation is needed beyond light wind or light rain blocking while rock and dirt are not exactly friendly to gear. No one wants to throw money into something they end up replacing something season after season.
If you look in my gear room (ok, it’s more like a shelf in the back of my home office), you can see the remnants of many failed experiments with summer gloves. I tried wind stoppers which were great for a little extra warmth on early morning starts but useless against rock later in the day.
There are all season gloves that get far too warm, so called work gloves from outdoor brands that worked but at a price I wasn’t willing to live with and generally at a size that was overkill. But really there’s just a lot of tattered remnants and single gloves that long since lost their match off the side of some trail or into some garbage can on the drive back.
That was until I forgot to bring gloves along and grabbed the contractor pair from my car…
When you think about it, contractor gloves make perfect sense: they’re designed for a day of consistent work with padding where it’s needed. They have enough insulation to be out in the morning but also have to breath to survive a hot day on a project. They’re reinforced and rigorously tested by real use but also fairly cheap and readily available.
Basically they’re a practical, all purpose solution that has to make it the real world meaning they’re easy to put on, quick to dry, ready for day after day after day of use. Heck, many sets are touchtip friendly (take that $49.95 “work gloves”) too.
I think contractor gloves even beat the leather solution for big hikes
Gloves like the ones shown here (you can find them from a variety of brands) are also not bulky, specific-use solves like the typical leather glove I see recommended on Half Dome and scramble blogs. Sure, leather gloves are going to provide wonderful protecting for grabbing steel cables but you really have to dial them in to get a good grip (leather being slick at first and all) and forget about airflow or any sort of comfort to justify using them regularly on the trail later on.
Contractor gloves on the other hand can be found with plenty of padding, a very usable fit, and they breath. Basically they fill the same general function but are more likely to get worn on other hikes when you should be covered up as well (you can always get an extra padded version for something like the Half Dome Cables.)
Now let me be clear, I’m not talking about your gas station quality “gardening” gloves either.
All purpose / contractor gloves are something you’ll find in a hardware store, an auto store or those departments of your favorite mega store. They’re decent quality and precisely sized with a variety of options offering varying degrees of padding and nothing like the bulky, unbreathable, evil gloves you might see for a few bucks in a local town market. Simply put, if you’re not able to tie your shoes with what you find, keep looking.
It’s not exactly a revolutionary idea I realize but it is counter-intuitive to skip the beautiful glove display at the outdoor store for one in the hardware aisle. However, they work and you just can’t beat the price thus it’s no surprise that general purpose, contractor gloves are my favorite summer pick.
So when you start gearing up for that big hike / scramble / adventure, head to Home Depot, Lowes, or whatever hardware store is down the road and try a few pairs on.
- Category: Gloves
- Utility: Hiking, Scrambles
- Pros: Great all around summer glove at a low price
- Cons: Won’t last forever, not waterproof
- Style: General Purpose Contractor
- Price: $10 $15
- Rating: 5 of 5
- Example Pair at Home Depot