I’m not big at reviewing things, in fact this is the first blog review I’ve done, so I apologise for the photos, they were done in a bit of a rush on the iPhone.
As a landscape photographer, especially a Mountain photographer, one of the biggest challenges is handling expensive photographic equipment in freezing temperatures and being able to fiddle with small and often recessed buttons. Often it’s a case of taking the gloves fully off which means within a minute or two you’ve lost all circulation due to the cold.
As somebody who started off hillwalking way before I started photography, I’ve had numerous types of gloves over the years and I’ve certainly learned that one type does not suit all conditions. Below are my current selection:
They are made up a mitts that I generally carry as a back up pair in winter, gauntlets for proper winter conditions (for use with Ice Axe), Sealskinz for wet but generally mild conditions, Winter “I’m not going up a mountain but might throw a snowball” gloves, convertible fleece mitts (my current immediate choice for photography), thin softshell gloves (for photography at higher altitude), Full leather Hestra gloves for full winter but no Ice Axe required…the list goes on.
Despite all of these gloves, I’ve never been content with any of them for photography, they just didn’t work well enough high in the mountains from December to March, always being a compromise. So, I’ve been on the lookout for the ‘ultimate’ glove.
Enter stage right, the Vallerret Photography Gloves. I came across these in the later half of 2015, they were a kickstart project and I immediately saw their potential. Sadly the design and manufacturing schedule meant they wouldn’t drop on our doormats until winter was almost over, but they’ll be ready to go when the snows hit next winter!
With a price of about £45 on Kickstarter, they were a little on the pricey side, but if they keep my hands warm and allow me to keep shooting, then they are worth every penny. Designed by the Swedish pair Stine Lyng Jørgensen and Carl van den Boom who know a bit about shooting in cold climates, the gloves main features are:
- Flip finger caps for your forefinger and thumb on both gloves.
- 100% Merino Wool liner, keeping your hands warm and comfortable
- Non-slip grip (in white or black)
- Microfibre wipe (so you can wipe your lens if you can’t find your usual microfibre cloth)
- Memory Card pocket (with zip closure)
- Wind and Water resistant
They come in 4 sizes, S, M, L and XL. I chose M (using their sizing chart) and I have to say the size is very good. They are snug but very easy to slide on. The only thing (which you can probably tell from the photos) is the thumb is a little long. I don’t think I have a stubby thumb by any stretch, but in any case, I think this is a minor issue and it doesn’t affect use.
I’m not sure I’d use the pocket for an SD Card, if I was to use it for something like that then a spare battery would be better…and hey, guess what, I can fit either a spare Sony NP-FW50 in there or a Fuji NP-W126. Awesome, keep that spare nice and warm ready for use. It does look and feel a bit weird though if you do that. I doubt you’d get a large Canon or Nikon DSLR battery in there though.
In use they seem very good. I’ve not used them on a mountain yet, but they feel warm and I have enough dexterity to confidently handle my camera. The flip finger caps work well allowing me to operate the more fiddly features on the camera and quickly return my finger-tip into the cosy warmth of the glove. A possible small downside is the opening for the flip top leaves a little gap when in full glove mode, possibly allowing a little cool air in. I’m not sure this will be a problem, but I’ll only know through extended use. I’ve also tried these with my Gauntlets and/or my Down-mitts and being relatively thin, they slip into those without issue, I can use these as liners for those gloves when the going gets tough, and still be able to operate my camera in relative warmth by removing the Gauntlet/Mitt to use the Vallerret glove with the camera.
Possibly they may get refined over time, but initial impression is that these are a quality glove that most certainly “Extend Your Session” as the tagline goes.
Great job Vallerret!
Ok, so I got to test these gloves out properly over last weekend. On the Saturday morning I went to my favourite quarry in Snowdonia to add some more images to my SlateForms project. When I arrived it started to rain which then turned into heavy wet snow. The Gloves didn’t perform so well. The palm, albeit very grippy is not at all water resistant. Any hint of moisture soaks straight through. This isn’t too much of a problem because of the merino wool lining, so my hands didn’t get cold, just uncomfortably wet. In use the gloves are very flexible and you’ll have noted in my earlier review above, that the thumb was a little long. Well, in use the forefinger kind of rides up too. What this means is that the finger caps end up parting, exposing your finger tips if you aren’t careful. A better design would have been to make an overlap between the finger cap and the main glove. It wasn’t too cold so I removed the gloves and continued the shoot without them. Additionally, the microfibre wipe is next to useless in wet conditions, it wetted out within seconds of the gloves being used.
In the afternoon I hiked up onto the Glyderau for an overnight wildcamp. The hike up was boggy and I slipped and fell over several times. The skies were clear but the ground was wet and again the gloves soaked through instantly. That palm really does need some waterproof reinforcement. However, as dusk approached the conditions changed. The temperature dropped dramatically. Overnight I put the damp gloves in my sleeping bag to dry out. Come the morning it was incredibly cold. The tripod (which I’d left out) was covered in frost and ice, it had snowed a little and my boots were frozen solid. However, the Gloves, performed flawlessly. They remained warm and crucially dry in the much colder drier conditions. I was able to work without hindrance from the gloves, holding the frozen tripod and operating it without issue. Handling of the camera was very good. I didn’t bother trying to use the microfiber wipe though. The finger caps stayed were they should and I flipped them on and off as needed.
In conclusion then, these really are winter gloves in the sense that they are great in cold and dry conditions. As soon as they get moist from external factors their usefulness deteriorates rapidly. Of course, they’ll still remain warm, but in those conditions I’d prefer to use something more resistant to the wet.
I’d still recommend them, but think carefully about what conditions you are likely to use these in before you choose to buy.