Arc’teryx rightly claim to be the inventors of a multitude of modern construction techniques in mountain clothing and equipment. The water resistant zip, use of lamination and narrow seam tape all originated somewhere in the minds of Arc’teryx designers past and present. Most of these developments have gone on to become industry standards in design and construction.
When Arc’teryx released their first line of gloves a few years ago the Canadian company didn’t follow the rule book and produce a bog standard range of hand wear. Instead they looked at the usual methods of glove construction, identified the areas that needed working on then went about improving the end product. The highlight glove in the range, and the one that best showcased Arc’s new design philosophy, was the Alpha SV.
The big move Arc’teryx made with the Alpha SV, along with a couple of other styles in the range, was to utilise a fully taped 3 layer Gore-Tex shell with a removable fleece liner. This had been done before with mitts in the past but never with an inherently more complex glove. They then went to work on the overall fit and shape of the glove. The 3 panel TriDex finger construction that resulted gave a superior fit and feel and improved durability by eliminating finger end seams. High quality Lezanova leather and premium Gore-Tex face fabrics rounded off a pretty impressive package and, as it happens, a pretty expensive one too.
For winter 2015 / 2016 Arc’teryx have completed a total overhaul of their glove range. The Lithic Glove replaces the Alpha SV as the key product in the line. It’s the product that displays Arc’s new and improved design and construction methods this time around.
The main concept behind the Lithic Glove is to make it as hydrophobic as possible. Most gloves use a waterproof drop liner behind the outer layers; this method is simple and relatively cheap from a construction point of view as the waterproof barrier is usually just a basic over sized hand shaped bag without any seams. However, there are two big issues with this method – the first is that dexterity is compromised due to the need for multiple layers of fabric. The second is that moisture can build up between the outer layer and the waterproof barrier underneath. This means the outer layer often becomes saturated which has a detrimental effect on the overall breathability of the glove. This build up of moisture from both the outside and the inside then leads to greater heat loss, as water can transport heat faster than air. By making the outermost layer as waterproof as possible (like you would in a clothing layering system) these two issues can be addressed.
The Lithic Glove keeps the taped waterproof outer shell of the Alpha SV but this time Arc’teryx have added to the overall system by making the outer face fabrics not just waterproof through construction via a membrane, but also as hydrophobic as possible. Gone is the leather palm of the Alpha SV and in comes a synthetic material called N333p-X, which in turn is laminated to a Gore-Tex membrane. N333p-X is used in the motorcycle industry, it’s super durable and doesn’t absorb water as quickly as leather. Added to that are laminated TPU reinforcements on the fingers and palm to provide even more durability and grip to the glove. TriDex finger construction is still present on the Lithic too.
Insulation in the Lithic Glove is provided by 2 different weights of Primaloft; 133g Primaloft Silver and 100g Primaloft Gold Eco. The big deal here is that on the palm Primaloft Gold 100 has been bonded to the shell and lining to eliminate slippage within the glove’s materials, thus improving grip and control. Arc’teryx have used bonded Primaloft in jackets before and it’s a technique that really does make sense in glove construction.
I tried a pair of Lithic Gloves on recently and they felt amazing. Soft and flexible yet also durable. Warm, but not in the least bit bulky. Definitely a potential step up from any waterproof insulated glove I’ve tried on before. Arc’teryx have designed them primarily with backcountry skiing and snowboarding in mind but they’ll make a great cold weather alpine and ice climbing glove too I think.
With an RRP of around £200 they are expensive and will be overkill for many users but on the flip side they should last for years. I’m still using my 5 year old Alpha SV gloves and the Lithic should be even more durable. With the Lithic Glove, it looks like Arc’teryx may have set the standard in glove design for the foreseeable future.
The Lithic Glove will be available in Autumn 2015. Thanks to Arc’teryx for the images.
FutureProof is a series on The Path Less Trodden that takes a look at the most exciting and progressive outdoor products and technologies around.