Polar explorers, it would seem, are a stubby-fingered lot. The canon of exploration literature is riddled with stories of frostbite — from Apsley Cherry-Garrard being nipped after just two glove-free minutes on “The Worst Journey in the World” to Robert Scott’s frostbitten man, Capt. Oates, sacrificing himself to a blizzard with the words, “I am just going outside and may be some time.” And as late as 2000, Sir Ranulph Fiennes literally sawed off his dead fingertips after severe frostbite halted his solo walk to the North Pole. Such are the risks when you’re battling sub-subzero temperatures for weeks on end.
As for me, I would make a terrible polar explorer. I can barely keep my hands warm through a chairlift ride in 20-degree weather. Just venturing north of the 49th parallel is enough to make my fingers tingle. That’s why the promise of the new Lucent Heated Gloves — Gore-Tex-lined, insulated gloves that heat the fingers, front and back of the hand for up to 8 hours — appealed to me. Even more so because they’re made by Outdoor Research, a brand that’s unabashedly zealous in its pursuit of functional design, even at the cost of fashion. In fact, it was a friend’s severe case of frostbite on a Denali expedition that led scientist Ron Gregg to quit his job and start the company, with the express purpose of making accessories (gaiters, hats and gloves) that actually work.
The first thing everyone notices about the Lucents is their price. At $350, sticker shock is understandable. These are probably the most expensive gloves you’ll ever own. To put that in context, though, comparable unheated premium gloves, like The North Face Vengeance Mitts ($220) and Arc’Teryx Alpha SV Gloves ($275), are pretty expensive, too. Other heated gloves, like the Hestra Heater Glove, hover closer to $400. Like all top-notch gear, you have to consider the Lucent as a long-term investment. Thanks to OR’s “Infinite Guarantee,” that shouldn’t be a problem.
Even with dead batteries, the Lucents will likely keep your hands as warm as many competitors. They are high-quality insulated gloves with rugged nylon shells, goatskin leather palms and fingers, molded EVA foam protection on the knuckles and backs of the hands, a waterproof Gore-Tex liner for damp conditions and ample synthetic EnduraLoft insulation (333 grams on the back of each hand, 200 grams at the palm, 133 grams at the gauntlet). Other thoughtful details include an oversize gauntlet for keeping snow out, a one-hand-adjustable cinch, an oversized loop for pulling them on over layers and an “idiot cord” wrist leash that ensures you hold onto them in even the ugliest of on-slope yard sales.
I’ve worn the Lucents all winter long, skiing, shoveling snow, running, fat biking and walking in temps well south of 0 degrees Fahrenheit to see if they actually work.
Of course, it’s the battery-powered heat, available at the touch of a button, that sets the Lucents apart. The heating elements are woven into the inner fabric here, as opposed to the more common method of hiding simple wires beneath the shell to heat the fingertips. Outdoor Research touts “61 percent more output than any other heated glove”, a claim that I can neither confirm nor deny. But I can say that they do crank out a lot of heat on the high setting, and it’s spread over much more surface area, including the fingers and back of hand, than it is with most fingertip-heating gloves. Battery life is comparable, too: 8 hours on low, 5 hours on medium and 2.5 hours on high.
In a Nutshell
Highly durable nylon and goatskin construction
Lots of seams and insulation = bulk = limited dexterity
Hard to distinguish setting light in bright, snow-reflected sun
I’ve used the Lucents in some pretty bitterly cold conditions this winter, down to -12 degrees Fahrenheit (shoveling snow), without my hands getting chilled. My routine is to warm them up quickly for a few minutes on high, then switch to medium or low, both of which are sufficient for maintaining temperature depending on weather conditions. In the coldest weather, I left them on high longer, until my activity was sufficient to warm my whole body up. I also took them out fat biking in Wyoming (no heat necessary after 15 minutes or so), running (too hot), Nordic skiing and walking, most of which were done in temps ranging from 5 to about 20 degrees. Each time I was able to easily and consistently regulate my hand temperatures for daylong comfort out-of-doors — a minor miracle for me.
Each time I was able to easily and consistently regulate my hand temperatures for daylong comfort out-of-doors — a minor miracle for me.
There are drawbacks. The batteries add bulk, accounting for a full 1/3 of each glove’s 8.7 ounces. That’s somewhat mitigated by the battery storage pocket being located on the gauntlet, where the extra weight is distributed to your wrist and forearm. Take the batteries out, and the Lucents weigh about the same as Black Diamond’s Guide glove. There are a lot of different fabric pieces that are sewn together on these gloves, adding bulky seams. Combined with thick insulation, it hurts dexterity, making intricate tasks like fishing keys out of a pocket almost impossible without removing a glove. The power button is located on the back of the gauntlet and is easy to use: hold it down for a couple seconds, and it turns on high power (red); quickly push the button to cycle through to medium (orange), low (green) and back to high; hold down again to turn the gloves off. My only gripe here is that in the bright, snow-reflected winter sun, it’s really hard to make out what setting you’re currently on. It’s easily solved by cupping a hand over the light, but still kind of a pain.
The bottom line with the Lucent Heated Gloves is that their efficient battery-powered heat has kept my poor, freeze-prone hands warm and toasty through the coldest Upstate New York winter I can remember, even on days when the mercury didn’t bother climbing into the double digits. That’s a game-changer for me, and well worth the $350 price tag in the long run. I’m not sure I’ll depend on the Lucents’ whiz-bang technology for my next Antarctic expedition, but they’re definitely enough to heat up my local backcountry forays.