Aerobic activities in winter call for thinner, more dextrous handwear that doesn’t cause epic sweatiness while still keeping the chill out. I love my svelte softshell gloves, but on many days, they wet through while cutting hand shears or simply because of too much precip. Think of the Modular Mitts as a synthetic puffy insurance system for your hands when the thin gloves fail.
The removable liners are dextrous enough to warm my hands while cranking down touring boots at a transition, or writing snow nerd notes in a field book. And it is in warm, wet conditions when just the shell — without the liner — shines. And even better, many sizes and weights of lighter gloves fit inside the shells, allowing you to customize how you want to roll while saving the stock liners for when things get miserable.
To be clear, though: if you’re headed to Denali or the Himalaya, you’ll want a bigger mitt for summit day than the Modular Mitts. But for everyday winter use in the Less-Than-Greater ranges, the Modular Mitts work very well.
The exact niche of the Mt. Baker Modular Mitt is relatively unfilled in the outdoor glove world, so this makes direct comparisons hard. It’s less high-altitude-oriented and more waterproof than the Arc’teryx Alpha SV mitt, but avoids the Gore insert and leather palm of Arc’s Fission mitten. The Black Diamond Mercury Mitt (which is a cheaper and warmer staple in this category), is more heavily insulated in the shell than the uninsulated Modular Mitt. It also uses an unspecified insert for waterproofing.
Hestra’s most comparable offering would be the Army Leather Gore-Tex mitten. Again, that mitten uses an insert for waterproofing, and the leather on the palm absorbs water when the Mt. Baker Modular mitts are still easily shrugging off the wet stuff.
With more than 35 days in these mittens, I’ve only found one small durability issue: within the high-wear area between thumb and index finger and palm, the ripstop fabric is picking up a bit of abrasion. In addition to all the ski edges and deflecting tree branches at high speed, I’ve belayed for about an hour while ice cragging, and there’s no noticeable wear on the palm from lowering or managing the rope. That’s impressive
However, I wouldn’t recommend these for tons and tons of belay/rappel work, because they are expensive to be ruining with that sort of use. They can certainly handle the occasional rap, but don’t expect these to possess the durability of a thick leather glove.
The same pair of $17 lined Kincos has been a staple of my skiing kit since 2012. I’ve long advocated the benefits of the work glove selection at hardware stores over outdoor brands that cost four times the price. When it comes to gloves, I generally don’t believe in spending much on something I will destroy.
But there are two reasons to drop the dough on the Mt Baker Mitt:
(1) These take forever to destroy, as in, they’ll hold up to at least a few years of really hard use
(2) It’s hard to find a big mitt that functions this well, and the Baker Modular Mitt is far more technically detailed than the hardware store options
In other words, at $140, I think this mitt is totally worth every penny. Better still, you won’t find another non-insert Gore shell mitt for this price. Even with the spring sales in effect, I can’t find a match for the Modular Mitt’s normal price online.
It’s simple: if you need a versatile, durable, reasonably priced, warm winter mitt that isn’t a high-altitude hand oven, the Outdoor Research Mt. Baker Modular Mitt is pretty much the best choice out there.