A few years back I did a post on the warmest photography gloves available. I’ll admit ever since being a mountaineering guide I have been obsessed with gear. In mountaineering circles, your life could depend on a simple piece of gear like gloves. Nowadays, it is more about comfort. Although when your car won’t start north of Coldfoot Alaska while photographing the northern lights, and it is -30, things get a little more serious really quickly.
As I mentioned in my earlier blog, you still can’t find a warmer mitten than down mittens like those from North Face. Add a liner glove, and you can shoot to -30F and below. But unless you are using a cable release, you have no dexterity in big down mittens. But thankfully there are two systems that will work well in very cold temps.
First is the Heat Company and their glove/mitten system. This is my first choice for photographing in subzero temperatures. I use the Shell Full Leather Pro along with the Merino Liner Pro liner gloves. These gloves were designed for Austrian military, and we get the benefits as well. This system works by wearing your liner gloves under the leather mittens lined with Primaloft Gold insulation. The mittens have zipper flaps that fold back (magnets hold them folded) exposing your fingers to work the camera buttons. But what really adds some heat is you can add chemical hand warmer pouches to both the mitten and the glove liner…just insert them in the slots designed for these warmers. This really warms things up. It was just -20F shooting the other morning in our blinds, and my hands were toasty. I prefer the Pro version because this eliminates the folding back thumb, which I don’t need, and is the warmest mitten they offer. The built in glove liner versions (Heat 3 system) are less versatile since the glove is sewn into the mitten. The Heat Company mittens also have keeper straps to hold the mittens around your wrists when you take them off. Have you ever watched your mittens blow away when you put them on the ground…not good?
But here is what really sets these mittens apart for me. The soft, pliable leather of the mitten grabs so well I can shoot my Z9 with my mittens on…I never need to fold back the mitten to expose my fingers. This is a game changer in extreme cold. Just try shooting at -20 or colder for a few minutes with the mitten folded back, and as you would expect, your fingers start getting cold fast. Zip them back into the mitten, and along with the hand warmer pouches, your fingers will start to slowly warm back up. But I just hit my buttons with the mittens on…I can find the back button focus, the shutter, the ISO and Exposure comp…it took me a little while to get used to working with the mittens on, but in extreme cold (Fairbanks high temp other day was -28F, low was -40F!) it works great. The Heat Company glove/mitten system is going to set you back $300, but warm hands are worth a lot more than that.
Okay, what about the photographer who is working in temps that aren’t below zero…say in the teens or higher? This year I have been using a pair of Vallerret Tinden gloves, and they work well. The Tiden is their warmest glove…lined with merino wool and Primaloft, and has a very sticky finger/palm material that allows great dexterity on camera buttons. The mitten also has fold back thumb and index fingers, which exposes your bare finger unless you are wearing a liner glove underneath. There is also a pouch on the back that you could put a hand warmer into, although it would warm the back of your hand instead of your fingers.
These are my go to gloves in more mild conditions. They stick great to controls, and keep my hands warm in the teens. Vallerret also offers an Alta Arctic Mitt that could be worn over the Tinden gloves giving you a warm solution to subzero temps. But the idea here is you take those off when you are ready to shoot. I like the Tinden for shooting in more mild winter conditions…they work great. And the cost is around $100, not too pricey for a heavy winter glove.
Have you ever heard of the ‘screaming barfies’? I’m guessing not….unless you are an ice climber or winter mountaineer. This term refers to when your hands get very, very cold, and when you rewarm them, the pain is so great you want to puke. Not a pleasant visual for sure. But I’ve experienced the screaming’ barfies many times, and it is something I’d rather not do again. With that said, I’m headed back out to the bird blinds in winter conditions, but I’m wearing my Heat Company Mittens so my hands stay toasty!