Black Diamond Guide Glove Review

Post by blogger | October 17, 2013      

Hands are difficult too keep warm and dry, especially in the damp environs of the North Cascades. I’ve seen and tried a slew of methods to combat the cold wet weather, everything from vinyl fishing gloves, various high-end ski gloves, and even training my hands with buckets of ice water.

Guide gloves, enjoying chilly wet early season turns last Wednesday.

There are tons of gloves out there and most “work” for backcountry skiing. They cover your hands and keep them fairly warm. However very few are exceptional…able to keep hands toasty and comfy in varied conditions.

Over the years of trying out and wearing out various gloves, I like to think I’ve found what works (at least for me). My needs:

They’ve got to be durable. Tattered gloves suck, and backcountry skiing is especially tough on gloves. Hanging on ski poles while trudging along a skin track wears on gloves, not to mention the plant wrangling that usually precedes the skin track in the PNWet. I’ve had several gloves that promised warm and dry hands, only to have gaping holes by the third or fourth tour.

Thick, quality leather, covering as much of the glove as possible, seems to be the only way to go. If this was the only requirement, $5 leather work gloves would be the ticket, but they lack a cavernous, weatherproof gauntlet. When the wind is howling or the pow is flying, sealing the glove-jacket interface is essential during backcountry skiing adventures.

Gloves have to be warm and weather-proof. Cold hands can be miserable and even dangerous. Besides losing dexterity, big, warm gloves have few disadvantages; the weight penalty is minimal.

Last on my list: Gloves that use sewn-in liners to achieve warmth and weather-resistance aren’t ideal. Invariably, every glove I’ve used that has a sewn-in liner becomes hopelessly tangled inside itself. Usually this happens at the worst moment. Attempting to jam a frozen digit through masses of fabric is one of the more frustrating backcountry experiences. A glove with a removable liner not only doesn’t have this problem, but it’s more versatile. You can use the liners or shells by themselves; you can separate the parts for quick drying.

So let’s see: a durable, leather glove, with a big gauntlet, tons of warmth, and a removable liner. The Black Diamond Guide gloves fit the bill perfectly. I’ve been using and abusing a pair since last winter.

Black Diamond Guide Glove

BD Guide Gloves have a burly shell that’s almost entirely leather, except areas of stretch nylon, including the gauntlet. The removable inner liner is a combination of fleece and wool, with a thin nylon shell. The two parts are secured with Velcro. The glove is also sewn with Kevlar thread, a nice touch on the durability side of things. Surprisingly they aren’t the most waterproof gloves even though they do have a Gore-tex layer. (Perhaps hard use has overcome the Goretex, or having it in the liner is less resistant to soakage.) But since they are leather that is solved with liberal and frequent applications of Sno-seal. Other features include drawstrings that can be easily released and a soft snot-patch.

I initially got the gloves for my ski mountaineering trip to Alaska last year and used them in the cold, dry mountains of Glacier Bay. They worked beautifully. I usually carry a big pair of gloves, a pair of light gloves, and a burly set of mitts. The mitts stay buried in my pack 99% of the time, only used in severe cold and emergencies. Based on the temperature, I would sometimes leave the insulated liners in the tent, and just use my light gloves and the leather outer gloves.

Back in the Northwest, the gloves faced a tougher test. I used them through the last throes of winter, and then as backup gloves for spring ski touring. They of course are incredibly warm, perhaps a bit overkill, but it never hurts to have toasty hands. I was a bit skeptical of the water resistance, but they kept the H20 at bay, at least as well as other leather gloves out there.

Black Diamond pays attention to the fit and detail of the gloves and it shows. Having a well-contoured glove makes them surprisingly dexterous, even with the bulky insulation. After months of use, they show very little wear, consequence of having copious amounts of thick leather sewn with burly thread. The strength of the gloves makes them fairly heavy, perhaps their biggest drawback, especially when used as a backup pair in warmer weather.

With the weather outside, winter seems to be here, at least for now. I don’t mind it being a little early. I’m looking forward to proving the Guide Gloves’ durability, especially their resistance to high speed powder impacts.

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26 Responses to “Black Diamond Guide Glove Review”

  1. John October 17th, 2013 7:44 am

    I keep them in the bottom of my pack and use Kincos 95% of the time, but that’s in CO. When I lived in WA, I carried a few different gloves and goggles around at all times, even riding inbounds.

    (John, I fixed my Gore-tex mistake and edited out your reference to it, to prevent confusion, Lou)

  2. Ralph October 17th, 2013 8:06 am

    In the chilly northeast, my theory is that the glove should come off the hand as little as possible: all activities except for starting a fire or excavating a nostril should be performed with gloves on, else the hands will get cold. Having a beefy glove is great, but if it’s not dexterous enough for removing skins, handling the food and clothes change at a break, you’ll take it off.

    My ideal setup consists of a leather glove (marmot work glove, Home Depot 10$ special with thinsulate) that has been well impregnated with bees wax boot polish. Add to this an old OR waterproof mitten shell (no liner) that can be worn over it when conditions get cold.

    Best of all worlds.

  3. Ryan October 17th, 2013 9:04 am

    I’ve used the EXACT same setup as Ralph for the last dozen years in both Colorado and New England, and never had a complaint. Highly recommended.

  4. john October 17th, 2013 9:26 am

    Why not install hottronics in you pole handles?

  5. Tuck October 17th, 2013 9:29 am

    I’ve got a couple pairs of BD gloves, some of them with many seasons of use. I have their old Mad Max (all leather, padded) glove, which is probably 6 seasons old at this point. It has some surface wear on the leather, but that’s just cosmetic. They are so warm that I mainly use it as a cold weather glove (0F and below). Then I’ve got two pair of another glove (maybe the Guide?) that are a couple of years old. (Two pair because I left one pair in a ski lodge and they walked away, so I wanted a back-up.)

    They’re bullet-proof: the best gloves of any sort I’ve ever owned. Unless something goes horribly wrong with BD, I’m a glove customer of theirs for life.

    I’ll also note that Patagonia used to make some nice ski gloves, and finally just gave up: they now sell BD gloves in their stores.

  6. MarkE October 17th, 2013 9:30 am

    The “old” Guide Gloves definitely do have a gor-tex insert. I’m going on my fourth season on one pair of this version. I still find myself doing 2-3 Sno-Seal applications a season though. The shell of these gloves seem as though they will last forever, unfortunately the liners have packed out quite a bit over last 3 season (no surprise), although this was easily fixed temporarily with a pair of merino liner gloves. I was disappointed to discover that BD will not sell a replacement pair of stock liners al a cart. And as for being too warm, not the case in SW Montana, these things are my daily drivers, with down mittens for cold snaps.

  7. Vindaloo October 17th, 2013 9:57 am

    I like the look of this glove but any idea if these are still made in China? Is the thick smog of SLC dimming the mind of the BD executives?…maybe the fact that it now looks like Beijing every time there is an inversion explains the close relationship with our Communist neighbors over the pacific (grin). I wore out a pair (two years ago) in less than one (3 week) ski/climbing trip. From the start, the elastic on the back of the hand was weak/nearly useless. The retaining cords that allowed one to tighten the gauntlet ripped out at the attachment point. The seams split in two places. On the plus side, the liners were very warm/dried quickly and where the seams hadn’t split, they were waterproof. I am a longtime user of BD but lately, some of their gear has been sub par. I haven’t worn BD gloves since this failure (and another with a pair of skis) owing to the memory of nightly time in the tent (BD Firstlight…great tent) with my sewing kit trying to patch up poorly made glove. Yes, foolhardy to rely on new/untried gloves on a trip and yes, I had a backup pair (albeit not quite as warm)…but the repeated failures of some of the China-made BD gear is getting old.

  8. bigsnowtrucker October 17th, 2013 10:12 am

    Sorry to point out one major flaw of your review- the Guide Gloves ARE Gore-Tex.

    I just bought a pair. The Gore-Tex is part of the removable liner. Nifty if I might say so, you can remove the liner and use a thinner, more breathable one for the days where the boiled wool/Gore is not necessary.

    Great gloves, if not a bit pricey. But again, they are GoreTex.

  9. Lou Dawson October 17th, 2013 10:16 am

    Big, that’s my fault. I was editing Louie’s review and stuck that in there as I assumed if they were getting wet they were NOT Gore. Sorry about that. I should have been a better writer and fact checked. I’ll change! Lou

  10. MVA October 17th, 2013 11:06 am

    Have had a pair going into their 5th season and they are still in perfect condition. Huge fan of these gloves and the beatings they take and the quality of work they put out. Also, on cold days, will ride the road bike with them.

  11. Jon Turner October 17th, 2013 11:13 am

    I have had these gloves and the BD mercury mitts for years. I rarely use the stock liners though, opting for a lighter weight OR liner under the shells most of the time. If it’s going to be really cold I usually have both the guide gloves and mercury mitts in my pack and the liner from the guide glove which will fit in either shell. OR ice climbing gloves work great for every day touring though. You can never have too many options with gloves!

  12. Brian Young October 17th, 2013 11:27 am

    I’ve had two pairs of these gloves that I’ve used for the past five seasons. I’ve skied in rain, zero degrees and in between and until last year was always warm and dry. I thought the problem was the liners had packed out early, talked to BD and they sent me a new pair for cost. Turns out, my hands had changed and circulation got worse as new liners and old liners performed the same. I had to switch to mitts (Arcteryx) and am comfy again. Assuming you have reasonably good circulation (I no longer do), this is an awesome glove.

  13. JQ October 17th, 2013 11:34 am

    I seem to have large sweaty hands. I have 3+ seasons on my XL Guide gloves and have recently added some Aqua Seal to repair some wear spots. I agree with Louie on the virtues of leather plus goop to waterproof. About 50% of the time I use the shells only (no liners) (I know that this doesn’t work for most JH skiers). I have a pair of bunting liners in a special pocket on my pack so dry warmth is quick to find. The Gore Tex liners are at the bottom of my pack for emergencies. I have a box full of misc leather gloves for resort days.

  14. John Gloor October 17th, 2013 12:10 pm

    I have given up on BD gloves. Not that they are not a great product. They just are not big enough. The XL gloves are too tight and the fingers are too short. If anyone from BD is reading this, please make an XXL model. I get my gloves now from Klim, who cater to big fat snowmobilers.

  15. Jeremy October 17th, 2013 1:34 pm

    I suffer from cold hands, and tried many different quality gloves, including Hestra, but still had issues below about -10C. For a few years I found the solution in the heated gloves from Snowlife, Hestra and Black Diamond.

    Unfortunately the internal wiring of each of these heated gloves has failed after 3-5 weeks of use. Thankfully each pair was replaced under warranty. I am currently waiting for this seasons BD gloves to reach Europe, as they have hopefully been redesigned. I will be sent warranty replacements has the last two pairs have failed.

    However, I can no longer wear the heated gloves in the back country, as it has been confirmed that they can conflict with Avi Beacons. Interfering in both the search and reducing the accuracy of the searchers beacons if you are buried. The BD heated gloves now have a label in the cuff of their gloves warning of this.

    I now have a pair of BD Guides, and are waiting to try a pair of Outdoor Research Alti gloves, which seem to be highly rated for cold conditions.

  16. Marcel October 17th, 2013 2:41 pm

    I’m also a big fan of BD gloves, I’ve been using their short legend glove for the last 2 seasons and it’s in like new condition. The BD gloves seems burlier than Hestra leather, but I’ve never had problems with durability on Hestra gloves. I too think it’s too bad that BD don’t sell a replacement liner for their gloves, it seems the obvious choice if you have a glove with removable liners!

  17. Edgar October 17th, 2013 8:30 pm

    Two pair: toko classic for the up & toko thermo for the down. Rotating them thru an internal pocket to dry via body heat when necessary. They pack small compared to bulky gauntlet + liner gloves. Reinforced for xc skiing. Replace ~5 years. Plenty warm & durable for 100+ days/year in the wasatch.

  18. etto October 18th, 2013 3:48 am

    Am I the only one that find the “gaiter” part to be too short and stiff? Compared to Arcteryx Alpha SV gloves (That are probably not as durable) I have to be really careful to get at good seal between the jacket and gloves.

    Will be very interesting to see how supple they get after some use.

  19. David B October 18th, 2013 10:26 pm

    They look like a great glove.

    I have been using Hestra for 25 years and the Army Leather Pro GTX is the best. They last for years and provided you treat the leather regularly will stay dry in any conditions. They’re warm and breath particularly well.

    This BD glove looks like it has taken a que from the Hestra Army Leather Pro GTX.

  20. David P October 19th, 2013 9:49 am

    I’ve had a pair for several years and unlike Louie I am not a big fan.
    They are indeed waterproof and very durable with nothing more than a few scuffs on the leather after a fair bit of use.
    My issues are they are really stiff and hard to manouever (even holding a ski pole requires fighting the stiff leather). But my biggest issue is for all the bulk of these gloves they are simply not very warm. Sure there’s no substitute for mittens in truly cold conditions but I expected more warmth from the BD Guides.

    Never tried Hestra’s but this year I’ve got a pair of beefy OR gloves to check out having had much success with their lighter weight offerings.

  21. D.A.M October 19th, 2013 2:43 pm

    Glad the guides worked for you, but I have to point out a few flaws after the same 1 season of use.

    First: Fit. I have pretty average hands, but it seems like BD’s models are de-evolving their pinky fingers. Super short and sewn at an angle that’s awkward to get into. Tough to wrestle with, and frustrating when it’s just one finger that won’t go.

    The gauntlet: Ideally the gauntlet should be two things: Long and conforming/pliable. Long, to reduce the chance of opening up a glove/cuff gap at extremes of your range of motion; Conforming/pliable, to keep the gauntlet a potential space, rather than an actual space. Having a cavernous gauntlet that tents outwards just creates a reservoir for snow to accumulate in. No bueno. Also, the drawstring design created a situation where the gauntlet rode up on the wrist, holding the gauntlet in that pooched-out position. Pretty much defeats the purpose.

    Other than that, the glove seems well-made and warm. I’ve had better dexterity in other offerings, but overall it accomplishes its purpose with a durability that warrants the high-ish price tag.

  22. David October 20th, 2013 10:34 am

    Nice review. Bulk and weight are my biggest gripes with an older version of this glove but I grant that it’s warm and has lasted pretty well.

    I suggest an over/under cuff debate sometime. Seems like a mostly pointless exercise that the internet was built for.

  23. Hugh Patterson October 22nd, 2013 11:25 am

    Thanks for the review. I’ve been rocking a pair of BD glove from 1998 but they’re finally waaaaay more duct tape than gortex and I get cold hands a lot. Will probably head out and get a pair of these shortly

  24. David B October 23rd, 2013 6:38 am

    The best glove I have found for offpist skiing is The Hestra Army Leather Heli Ski.

    Enough leather to withstand wear, removable liners, which is an absolute must.
    I usually use the 5 finger version. But when it is Cold I go for the mitten instead. There is also a 3 finger “lobster” version.

    If it is a wet day I throw an extra pair of liners in the backpack so that I can change when they get wet.

    For uphill I use XC gloves most of the time. They withstand wear much better than windstoppper gloves.

  25. Richard October 26th, 2013 12:40 am

    I’m looking for the ultimate spring ski touring/ski mountaineering glove.

    I want something that isn’t particularly warm, but waterproof for when you pick up slushy skis & booting up a chute with axe in hand. Also needs the general durability you mention that is commanded by ski touring/mountaineering. Gauntlet style is probably inappropriate as it’s for good weather.

    I have some great basic windstopper gloves that I use for touring but as soon as I touch something wet they get soaked, and you can’t climb anything steep in them for the same reason.

  26. Lou Dawson October 26th, 2013 6:23 am

    Richard, me too. I’m on a constant quest for a thin glove that’s still full-on Gore-tex. One of the best I’ve found and what I’m currently using is the Mountain Equipment Cascade Xtrafit . They fit tight, so watch your sizing if you get some. Only downside is they don’t have a knit cuff but rather fiddly velcro that’s hard to keep tight around your wrist. I like knit cuffs with this sort of glove, as you get a snow-proof seal that never goes away, and you don’t have to fool around with velcro flaps and such. But nothing is perfect, they’re still one of the best warm weather ski gloves out there. MEC has them, it looks like from Google, anyway.

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