As with all gear purchases, there are 3 things I consider when deciding which particular one I should get from all the others that are essentially the “same” thing.
I have found that the above 3 considerations will rank differently, depending on the item in question, how it will be used, the conditions that item will be used in, as well as how often it will be used. (I am quite sure that these demands will be different for all of us, so the rest of this post will reflect the order in which I rank the above 3 considerations when it comes to “rain mitts” and my needs.)
I picked up these ZPacks waterproof/breathable cuben fiber rain mitts a few weeks after they were listed on the ZPacks website this past January (2012). As soon as I saw them on the site, I quickly decided that I wanted a pair. At that time I had been carrying a pair of MLD eVENT rain mitts, which are awesome rain mitts, however, they are a bit bigger than I would like (I should have went with a medium rather than a large) and they were a bit heavier than these.
In my past experiences, I find that I don’t typically wear “rain mitts” much while on the trail, instead, they are in my pack a majority of the time (notice I said “carrying” above). The temperatures where I generally hike doesn’t seem to get extremely cold, so I don’t find that I need to protect my hands from the elements too often. However, on occasion, the mercury will drop, and the wind will pick up, or the rain will fall, and it is in these rare instances that I do find myself reaching from something to either block the wind from cutting into my icy cold fingers, or to stop the rain from turning my fingers into icicles…
So, considering that I don’t use rain mitts probably 90% of the time when I am hiking, as well as the fact that since the temperatures rarely get cold enough for me to need to use them, and even then, a lightweight pair is all that I need, I decided that weight is on the top of the list when it comes to rain mitts. If I remember correctly, these ZPacks WP/B rain mitts were listed at 0.7 oz/pair on the site at the time that I purchased them (although they are now listed at 0.8 oz/pair). However, mine do indeed weigh 0.7 oz (21 g) for the pair on my home scale. At 0.7 oz/pair, these are some of the lightest weight rain mitts on the market, which is what I was looking for!
Right on the heels of weight, I rank durability a very close second. Of course, for those times that I do need to use these, I need them to work, and I need them to work until I am done using them. I will admit, a lot of people seem to think that cuben fiber is a very fragile material, and I will also admit that the lighter weight versions are indeed fragile. However, these rain mitts are made with 1.42 oz/sqyd waterproof breathable cuben fiber, which is indeed a very strong piece of material.
ZPacks states that their waterproof/breathable cuben fiber is a “three layer laminate with high strength Dyneema fibers in the middle.” The dyneema fibers sandwiched between the layers create a grid of super strong material, and the laminate that actually sandwiches the dyneema fibers are what allows moisture to be transported through the material, while still maintaining a waterproof exterior.
This is my first experience with waterproof/breathable cuben fiber, however, my experience so far with cuben fiber in general has been good, and leaves me to believe that cuben fiber is indeed a strong material, especially in these heavier weights, such as the 1.42 oz/sqyd (two of my packs are made from 1.43 oz/sqyd cuben fiber). As well, considering both the light duty that I require of rain mitts, as well as the amount of time that they will be used, I have no worries when it comes to the overall durability of this material, and suspect that I will have these rain mitts for a long, long time…
Then of course, price would be the last consideration for me when it comes to rain mitts. Although, I hate to say this because I am not made of money, so there is a point in which cost can override the other considerations (despite how promising they are). However, in this case, I found that the price of the ZPacks WP/B cuben fiber rain mitts were fair, and not too overwhelming. Saying this, when I bought mine, they were only $49, whereas now they are $59. I will admit, just this $10 increase is enough to make me think a bit more, however, after owning them, I feel like I would still pay the $59 price too (but it wouldn’t hurt my feelings if they were still only $49…)
So, that is essentially why I picked them up…so what about using them? As I said, I picked these up at the beginning of this year, so I have had them around 10 months. Saying that, I have probably only used them about 7 or 8 times since then, and these periods have not been an extended amount of time either. Like I said, I rarely use rain mitts…
First off, the material itself is a bit different feeling than regular cuben fiber that is the same weight per sqyd. It is not crinkly, or stiff, but instead a bit softer with a bit of a waxy feeling to it. Over time, the material has the same feel to it, however, it may be just a bit softer from crunching them in my pack, and actual use (which is also how regular cuben fiber does with use). As well, all the seams are first sewn and then taped, so these mitts are ready to use right out of the pack!
These ZPacks rain mitts have a much closer fit than my other rain mitts, which the website hints at with the comment “the mitts are sized to be worn alone...” Admittedly, I find that I like them to fit a bit closer than my other rain mitts, so this is a welcome design, but at the same time, these are a bit too short in the thumb length. The end of my thumb actually hits the end of the thumb area of these mitts, which makes me consider ordering another pair and requesting the length of the thumb area be extended by about another 1/2 inch or so. I will say that the short thumb length is not noticed unless I am grasping something like my trekking pole, otherwise it is not an issue at all. This is the only downfall I can find with this mitts though, and it is not extreme, so I am still quite happy with this particular pair.
The coldest temperatures that I have worn these rain mitts in was down to around the mid teens (F), plus wind chill. Not once have I used them while hiking in the rain, but instead during those early morning hikes when it is still quite cold outside and the wind is sharp. Only once did I use them over my gloves while hiking, and that was not long since it was just overkill for me. I can say that on all of the other times I wore them, when I pulled them off, my hands were dry. As well, I have not wore them around camp since I prefer having a greater amount of dexterity that I get while wearing gloves.
So, all-in-all, I am very happy with these mitts. As I said, if the thumb length were just a bit longer, they would be pretty much as perfect as I could ask of a product. (As I also mentioned, these are now listed at 0.8 oz/pair on the ZPacks website now, which somewhat makes me wonder if they are now being built slightly larger?) However, so far these rain mitts have performed as expected, are holding up without a problem and are indeed very lightweight! Either way, after owning them for a while, I feel completely comfortable in recommending these to others that may be in the market for a waterproof/breathable rain mitt.
Thanks for reading,
Disclaimer: I paid for these rain mitts with my own hard-earned money. I am not affiliated with ZPacks in any way and have no obligation to write about these mitts. The above article is based on my own opinions and expectations of these mitts after owning them for a period of time.