Saturday, 13 June 2015

Montane Prism Mitts - Review

Montane Prism Mitts. How small?!
As you may or may not know, I am a bit of a fan of mitts for keeping the hands warm in adverse weather. (the fact I wear gloves everytime I go running, even in mid summer is actually less to do with cold hands and more to do with the large amount of time I spend falling over and getting up and not wanting to graze my hands...) that being said, I do get very cold hands in the winter, and also when it rains. So.... a lot of the time then.

In previous posts I have mentioned Montane - both for their £80 Resolute Mitts and the somewhat more reasonably priced £35 (but not quite as waterproof) Extreme Mitts.
Both of those mitts were based off the old fleece pile and hard wearing outer - buffalo type of garment technology, and hence were relatively bulky and heavy. I use the term relatively as I was quite happy carrying them around with me in a bumbag, so its not like they were made of lead or anything. (about 147g, since you're asking)

In recent times, Primaloft has become the darling of clothing manufacturers looking to create light and warm clothing solutions. That, complimented by insanely light pertex has meant that options for stuff to keep me at a temperature slightly above hypothermic have come on lots, and it was only a matter of time before someone (ie Montane) decided to meld it all together into a glove and a mitt.
The Prism range is basically Montane's hyperlightweight clothing section, and generally is pointed toward the fast&light population. Everything is shelled with pertex and is characterised by ridiculous lightweightness.... (55g for the pair)
so a pair of primaloft gloves in this category are going to be a winner.... right?

I got myself a pair of these a few weeks ago, and even though it is allegedly turning into summer right now, I have still used them on a couple of occasions.
Lightweight and warm
The first thing you notice is not only how light they are, but how ridiculously packable they are. When I originally got a pair of the Extreme mitts I was rather excited about how small they packed down to - about the size of a medium-ish apple... the Prism mitts comfortably go into the supplied bag, which is about the size of a modest tangerine, and then can be squished even smaller, should you need to get them into a bit of a
tight space in your bag.

That's tiny.

Taking them out of the bag, the mitts themselves feel a little on the thin side - down to the minimalist amount of primaloft actually used, and the superlight and thinness of the material. If I was honest, I'd say that my very first impression was... crikey, that seems a little fragile. The Pertex is used throughout the construction of the mitt, with no re-inforcement on the palm or gripping area - which saves weight, but seems like a bit of oversight, as mitts tend to be used quite harshly once the going gets tough.

Putting the mitts on, (I have quite small hands, and usually take a size small), the size small threatened to be too small for me, as the elastic which ends up encapsulating your wrist seemed to be quite tight going over the fat part of my hand. However, once over and on, the mitts were pretty much the right size.
Again, they feel very light indeed, almost too light.
Handy clip point for stash/retrieval on the go
When I wore them outside in the biting wind the other day, I could almost feel the cut of the wind through the fabric, which makes me wonder about their potential for deep winter mitts. I do, as I pointed out, have very cold hands though, so for a "normal" person, it might be no problem whatsoever.... but for me, I have a
couple of doubts over using these for a massive run where I'm not producing crazy amounts of heat.

Having said that, while wearing them, I didn't actually get cold hands, which is the point... they just didn't FEEL as warm as the Extremes. A little more primaloft would have done wonders, but that's just my opinion.  There is ample room for hand warmers in them as well, so should I end up with actually cold hands, I could whack a couple of them in there.

As for usability, a friend of mine recently used hers on the Highlander mountain marathon. Snow, hail, high winds etc, and said they were pretty toasty throughout the day.
Post Highlander. Slightly screwed over.
However, (I'm saying that a lot), when they were used for other things than just keeping her hands warm (for example anything you use your hands for.... holding things, putting up tents, cooking, clambering over rocks etc.) they basically got shredded.

Which is a little disappointing, but not entirely surprising.
I remember a person coming back from a skiing holiday with a new jacket that he had been wearing while carrying skis over his shoulder and they had cut through the swanky material. He wanted a replacement and the company wouldn't give him one as the jacket had performed well and was "fit for purpose" - ie. it kept him warm while skiing.... the jacket wasn't designed to carry skis over the shoulder....

So I wonder if the same thing can be said for these mitts.... they perform well doing what they are supposed to do - that is keep your hands warm, but anything outside of that remit - doing stuff that you normally do with your hands- is outside of the remit, and therefore voids warranty? I wonder.

(UPDATE - they got replaced free of charge)
Montane Extreme on the left, Prism on the right. The Extreme is a whole lot more robust - but heavier. 147g as opposed to 50g for the pair.

So anyway. I have a great pair of very lightweight mitts that fold down to nothing and keep my hands warm in pretty cold and gnarly conditions (sorry, I haven't managed to try them in the rain yet.... don't know about that), but tend to destroy themselves on contact when used in situations that you might find yourself in while negotiating challenging terrain.
These are a great pair of mitts for running, and running alone, at £35 a pair, you don't want to trash them too quickly, so if you want something that's going to stand up to some abuse and can manage the weight(!) the Extremes are probably a better buy.


  1. Update - I originally posted this as a review of the Minimus mitts- I kind of got caught up with myself and didnt notice my mistake til a friend pointed out that HIS minimus mitts felt like they were just a shell, no primaloft.... so I thought... bugger, I must have got something wrong somewhere... and lo and behold, yes, I should have simply said - PRISM, not minimus...

    However, luckily, I have the impressions of the Minimus mitts from my friend to hand.... here you go....
    I read your report on the montane minimus mitts, I got a pair too, they kept my hands toasty on the highlander. :)

    Just thought I'd check we are talking about the same mitts though, I don't think there is any primaloft in the mitts at all. I'm fairly confident that they are purely just a pertex shell with no insulation material at all.

    I viewed them as an "overmitt" rather than something to be worm by themselves. I used my normal (non-waterproof) running gloves on the highlander and pulled the minimus mitts on over the top of my gloves when the weather got knarly. I'd normally take my 'normal' gloves and a pair of big thick warm waterproof ones for when it gets wet and/or cold. Being able to pull the mitts on over the top of the normal gloves kept my hands as warm/dry as they normally are in the big thick gloves and saved having to carry the big gloves around. I don't think my hands would have been warm enough in just the mitts without the normal gloves underneath. So in other words I ran around with my normal gloves on all the time and kept pulling the mitts on over my gloves/taking the mitts off when I wanted my hands warmer (or dry) or cooler.

    I found the transition of pulling mitts on over gloves much easier than taking gloves off and putting bigger gloves on. The mitts being so small I could just keep them in a pocket and whip them on/off with no need to rummage in my bag for alternative gloves....

    Have to admit I took the mitts off for the couple of proper scrambly bits because I didn't want to tear my new expensive purchase. :)

  2. I too get cold hands, years of this I could not tolerate as a 15 year old runner, climber so I decided to use a layer system, it's good enough for me core, so why not feet, fingers and noggin, now I'm almost 50 and this layering has worked, yes I get strange looks as I take my waterproof hat off my liner hat. Silk glove wool gloves then prism mitts for hands.