Monday, May 9, 2011

The rare gear reivew

I had a couple new pair of gloves I wanted to test in the cold water but they were kind of trumped in the new gear lineup when ChrisG made me an offer I couldn't refuse on a used Gore-tex dry suit. He lured me north, off my normal path, with the news that it was the 'opener' at Ethels in Bayfield. Four New Glarus taps were complimented by Bell's Two Hearted and Keweenanw's lovely Widow Makerblack ale. The deal was done and the Widow Maker tested. I paddled in the drysuit for a couple days and will need to get my head around the differences between that and my Tropos semi dry suit. The very first thing of course, was to trim the aggravating neck gasket back a bit. The second thing I did was put it on and jump into the lake to assist with installing the triple dock arrangement at Lake O'Brian. When the boys saw the suit I was pretty much forced into the water, but I told them that if I somehow tore the suit on that damn dock that they would be suffering the aftermath for years. The dock is in, the suit is unscathed and retains waterproof integrity, and I remembered how to do at least 4 rolls after my usual winter hiatus.

While rolling in the 42F LakeO water I tried out the Glacier Gloves Perfect Curve glove. I need to disclose that I was sent these gloves to check out but I already owned a pair of the 'regular' Glacier Gloves that I had picked up at the local fishing shop. The stitched and glued seams is what lured me in initially. These gloves are light years ahead of my fishing/decoy gloves. They are precurved for a paddle shaft, have fleece inside to make it easier to get them on and off with wet hands, and a velcro strap around the wrist to help keep water out. After rolling about a dozen times the combination of the strap on the gloves and the wrist straps on my tuliq only allowed water in to the wrist area at the base of my hand. A quick paddle around LakeO proved them comfortable for touring. The neoprene is a bit too grippy for easily sliding back and forth on the Greenland stick but comfort, warmth, and excellent fit offset that minor issue.

As Monty Python said, "And now for something completely different". I had ordered a pair of Reed Chillcheater gauntlets over the winter and tested them out on Gitchee Gumee on Sunday. A quartet paddled from Little Sand Bay out to Justice Bay on Sand Island in a day with air temps around 45F, water temps around 38F, and a steady 10-15 north wind. I used a pair of fleece gloves underneath the Reed gloves, which came up over the elbows. Once I got past the cracks about gutting deer and bovine rectal exams I found the gloves performed just fine. My hands were not only toasty warm but dry as well. The concept of neoprene gloves of course, is that a thin layer of water warms between your hand and the neoprene and insulates you. It does indeed but clammy hands are the result, a sure occurrence if suffering from sweaty palm syndrome. The one issue with the Reed gloves is that being a two part over the elbow set up, they are not easy to get off. Snapping a picture or grabbing a healthful dried apricot can be a prolonged operation. Also, if one did go over the result would surely be saturated fleece gloves inside the Reed gauntlet covers, a very similar situation to going over the tops of the waders when smelting. For cold water paddling with minimal fumbling they work just fine and are extremely comfortable. The liners can be mittens, gloves, wool, fleece, just about whatever conditions warrant.

The Reed gauntlets and the Glacier Perfect Curve both work nicely but the Glaciers seem to be more versatile and a bit more user friendly for normal paddling conditions involving photography, snacks, etc. We did have some interesting following seas on the way back which resulted in a bit of water swirling around the spray skirt and a quick brace or two and I did not have a drop of water in the gauntlets. Dry hands are worth something for sure. Next weekend's plan is to give the coho hell on the south shore and both pairs of gloves will be in the mix.

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