Arc’teryx Lithic Glove Review, Straight From Glacier Bay, Alaska

Post by blogger | July 28, 2015      

(Editor’s note: The author wrote this review while at glacier camp in Alaska this spring. It was embargoed until the Lithic began retail, hence the post title.)

The Arc'teryx Lithic gloves wandering around in a whiteout in Alaska.

The Arc’teryx Lithic gloves wandering around a whiteout in Alaska.

A few years ago Arc’teryx began constructing gloves. Their initial offerings were fairly traditional leather-palmed gloves, albeit with typical Arc’teryx build quality and attention to detail (with a correspondingly high price). I had not tried any of their handwear until their new Lithic glove.

As opposed to Arc’teryx’s first gloves, the Lithics are a radical departure from regular ski and mountaineering glove design. In place of the traditional leather palm, they utilize a burly Gore-Tex fabric. The textile is apparently typically used in waterproof-breathable motorcycle jackets, and is similar in strength to Cordura or backpack fabric. That means that they are the first warm gloves (to my knowledge, commenters at the ready!) that are entirely waterproof breathable, even in the palm. The textile palm also makes the gloves quite lightweight.

A closer view of the Lithic gloves.

A closer view of Arc’teryx Lithic.

The Gore-Tex palm of the Lithic gloves. The burgundy fabric is the burly high-denier fabric, while the orange fabric is lighter weight Gore-Tex. The black patches are laminated reinforcement patches.

The Gore-Tex palm of Arc’teryx Lithic. The burgundy fabric is the burly high-denier fabric, while the orange fabric is lighter weight Gore-Tex. The black patches are laminated reinforcement patches.

The gloves are sewn into a nice “pre-curved” ergonomic shape. This is approximately the shape of the gloves at rest.

The gloves are sewn into a nice “pre-curved” ergonomic shape. This is approximately the shape of the gloves at rest.

Gloves are one of the many gear categories that I think could stand substantial improvement. When it’s cold out, it’s often a struggle to maintain warm hands, and if it’s wet, keeping your gloves dry in many cases is basically a lost cause. Unfortunately many of the issues with gloves are difficult to solve, so it is nice to see solid innovation on Arc’teryx’s part.

Besides the Gore-Tex palm, Lithic gloves incorporate other excellent features. They are sewn into an ergonomic “pre-curved” shape, which makes them quite comfy, and they feel more dextrous than they would otherwise. The gloves are insulated with fleece on the palm, thin Primaloft on the top of the hand, and Primaloft in the gauntlet. Pretty standard. The gauntlet on the gloves is nice and big, with a one-handed adjustable drawcord. They also have a removable wrist-loop cord, a nice touch that I think all gloves should incorporate.

I got the gloves a few months ago and have been using them throughout the winter. They’ve been in my pack or on my hands on almost all my ski days from the PNW, to Japan, and finally out to Glacier Bay, Alaska where we spent a few weeks digging out our tent on a glacier. Excellent glove testing.

The gloves have turned out to be perfect for wet, warm PNW skiing. Makes sense, since they are designed up in Vancouver. They aren’t super warm, but are incredibly waterproof, and also breathe well. They definitely seem to soak through slower than other comparable gloves.

Along with wet testing, I’ve used the gloves in colder climates, mainly Japan and Alaska. They work well during pleasant colder days, but in really cold temps, they definitely don’t have the warmth of a thicker pair of gloves.

Compared to my other favorite gloves, Black Diamond Guide Gloves, the Lithics are significantly less warm, more waterproof, and less durable. I still often carry the Guides, especially on colder days or in colder places. The pairing of the Lithic gloves and the Guides makes a great combo that covers a wide variety of temperatures and conditions. The Lithics are perhaps more similar in warmth to standard Kinco insulated leather work gloves. Although similar in warmth (perhaps slightly warmer), the Lithics blow leather gloves out of the water when it comes to breathability and water resistance. Leather gloves take forever to dry out as well, while the Lithics dry out incredibly quickly.

I’ve only been able to use the gloves for about four months, so I haven’t been able to give them a complete durability test. But they have held up ok so far for backcountry ski touring, again with the caveat that these are not leather palm gloves. The only wear that I can see is some fuzziness on the tips of the fingers, and a few tiny spots where the black reinforcements have started to wear a bit to show the Gore-Tex underneath. My overall sense while observing wear is they won’t hold up nearly as well as a leather-palmed glove. However, that may be just the trade-off that has to be made for a lightweight, fully waterproof-breathable glove.

Another issue is the gloves don’t have a removable liner. Almost all waterproof gloves could benefit from a removable liner; it makes them easier and quicker to dry, and makes the gloves more versatile. This could be a deal breaker for those of you who really really need to dry a moist pair of gloves quickly, so take note.

An additional benefit that I really enjoy is the Lithic’s light weight and pack-ability. They crunch down quite small, less than half the size of the competition.

Overall, I’ve been quite impressed with the Lithic gloves. I was curious whether the extra breathability would be noticeable during normal backcountry skiing use. They breathe better than other comparable gloves and are more waterproof as well, especially compared to gloves that incorporate leather. I find myself using them often, and haven’t found any major problems. They’re especially well-suited to PNW skiing, an environment that’s traditionally hard to find gloves for.

To sum up: Agile, waterproof, packable — with a question about durability as compared to leather and a non-removable liner.


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12 Responses to “Arc’teryx Lithic Glove Review, Straight From Glacier Bay, Alaska”

  1. gloves July 28th, 2015 3:18 pm

    Bummer, no removable liner. No sale. Backcountry gloves should always have them so that you can tour in the cooler shells, and dry them faster in huts, sleeping bags etc.

  2. JonnyRyall July 28th, 2015 3:39 pm

    Prolly the most notable thing about these gloves will be the price – $249.

  3. swissiphic July 28th, 2015 4:26 pm

    I live and ski in Terrace B.C. and the only coastal lift skiing glove that really stands up to the worst case scenario conditions of slightly above freezing sleet and rain conditions and at freezing +/- temps wet snow are long gauntlet rubber work gloves with a very thin liner/insulation built in. No, they don’t breathe and get damp from sweat and the dexterity sucks…but, they are bulletproof true waterproof. Buy three for 40ish bucks on sale and just swap ’em out as the day goes on.

    The lack of dexterity renders them kinda useless for ski touring but in a pinch do work in worst case weather situations; especially for long snowmobile approaches/deproaches below the freezing level.

  4. Lou Dawson 2 July 29th, 2015 6:21 am

    Swiss, I’ve experimented with the rubber work glove options for years and found they’re usually too cold, even dangerous due to how easy it is to get frostbite. My hands have good circulation, so it’s not me…. perhaps I need to look at the same gloves you’re using? Can you find them on Amazon and comment with a link? Thanks, Lou

  5. Mark Worley July 29th, 2015 6:52 am

    Eschewing leather seems to make some sense. I like leather in dry climates, but can see how it doesn’t dry as quickly, making it less useful in wetter climes.

  6. Ryan July 29th, 2015 9:44 am

    Pretty much all gloves with Gore-Tex are waterproof. There’s a baggie inside. Imagine the Hamburger Helper mascot made out of Gore-Tex and then you sandwich that inside of the glove inner and outer materials. It’s not sewn but rather connected inside the glove via seam tape material so no holes are put in. Some spendier methods eliminate the seam tape and make for a more intimate connection between the layers with less slop and thus greater dexterity. The point is that pretty much all gloves that say they’re waterproof are actually waterproof. You’ll find that all ski boots are pretty much waterproof too, at least once buckled up.

    The problem is that gloves, and obviously ski boots don’t breathe nearly well enough for how much our hands (and feet) sweat. On top of that, dirt, sweat and oils will clog the pores that are in the waterproof-breathable laminate and while water may not get through, sweat doesn’t get out either. Now, at least in that microscopic section that gloves is now waterproof but not breathable. 9 times out of 10 when people say their gloves aren’t waterproof what they actually mean is their gloves aren’t breathable enough. Either way they’re wet so maybe it doesn’t matter but it’s important to at least understand where the problem is and it isn’t because the glove isn’t waterproof.

    The fact that Arc’teryx is using a Gore fabric in the palm doesn’t really change anything to effect the waterproofness of the glove. If there’s a Gore baggy inside the glove you could put Kleenex as the palm fabric and it would still be waterproof though there may be some durability concerns (but think of the nose wiping comfort!).

    What the Gore fabric on the palm may be doing is helping that portion of the glove to keep from wetting out as fast which is what kills the breathability and thus what makes the use feel wet and think their gloves is leaking.

    Now durability is a whole other factor and Gore can absolutely wear out and no longer be waterproof but brand new gloves are totally waterproof 99.99% of the time.

  7. Lechero July 29th, 2015 9:44 am

    $250!? Ha ha ha

  8. Lou Dawson 2 July 29th, 2015 9:47 am

    I’d agree in one sense the price is high… but if these are as dexterous waterproof and breathable as they claim, they could be worth it for some folks. The non removable liner, to me, is the biggest downside. Truly surprising, though if the liner fingers never invert, that could be a plus. I’ve had gloves that I took off, liner fingers bunched up and froze, and I couldn’t get them back on. Dangerous. Lou

  9. XXX_er July 29th, 2015 12:02 pm

    I can buy alot of gloves on sale for 249$ and carry several pair in the pack which I already so, a dab of aquasel will fix worn spots on gloves which i already do, and most of the moisture I encounter is from sweaty hands so I wear a vapor barrier next to skin … not buying them

  10. swissiphic July 29th, 2015 3:29 pm

    Hi Lou and all: Reading the description these aren’t exactly what I wear but pretty close for a general idea.

    Further to my description of conditions of use; I agree, Lou, that they do run a bit ‘cold’…they’re only really useful in temps above or just at freezing when it’s precipitating and you’re fairly active; where the benefits of wearing light, rain/sleet shedding rubber outweighs the cons of lead weight heavy rain/sleet soaked outer leather/fabric and inner wet from sweat ‘normal’ gore-tex bladdered ski glove.

    There’s probably a ‘just right’ combo of a slightly oversized outer rubber glove with an also ‘just right’ liner…but so far i’ve just gone with the quick fix for those ‘special’ days…they ain’t that frequent.

    The other longer term wear issue of the rubber glove is the stink. Detergent and apple cider vinegar baths for these units. Probably more effective to use bilge cleaner. 😉

  11. gloves July 31st, 2015 12:21 am

    The Gortex baggy inside the glove breaks pretty easily, and water gets in. I found the OutDry technology to be much more effective, but unfortunately very few brands seem to have licensed it.

    As for rubber styled gloves, waterproof trumps breathable for my application. I’ll take internal wet from my own sweat over wet from external snow melt any day. Water from melting snow is cold!

    Leather in coastal climates during a storm = not ideal.

  12. Jim July 31st, 2015 2:47 am

    I got a pair of these glacier gloves for a kayaking trip to Glacier Bay. They were pretty warm and comfortable, pre curved, and totally waterproof. They are made out of neoprene. I’m going to bring them on a New Zealand ski trip and use them for changing tire chains in the muck, and digging out huts and setting up tents which gets most gloves soaked right at the begginng of a trip which is no good. These will be the extra gloves for those wet jobs around camp. Possibly with some wool liners they might be warm enough, on a wet warm day. Neoprene is not very durable tho. I’ll report back.

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