Komperdell has developed a new "seamless bonding" construction method to produce gloves that are entirely free of seams. Their latest line of gloves are made of a new three-layer softshell fabric with four-way stretch, which are claimed to be waterproof and breathable. All these innovations made us eager to test them out and report on their performance.
In the seamless bonding process, glove parts are assembled using a narrow seam tape (about 13 millimeters wide) and a special adhesive-plus-heat-plus-pressure process. The result is a glove in which all of the joints are butted and taped; there are no sewn seams, and the taped seams are hardly noticeable.
Equally innovative is the unique fabric used in the gloves. It is a three-layer softshell construction with four-way stretch. The sandwich consists of a soft nylon outside layer, waterproof-breathable membrane, and a merino wool mix inner lining. According to Komperdell, the membrane functions according to c_change technology. In warm temperatures, the polymer structure opens up, and water vapor and heat escape; in cold temperatures, the polymer structure compresses, becoming wind and water tight and providing more insulation.
The first thing we noticed when we donned the gloves was that they run small, so it is best to size up. Will found that size extra-large was a snug fit, but comfortable to wear because the snugness was compensated for by the stretchiness of the fabric. The stretchiness was very noticeable when we closed and expanded our hands and made it easy to grip trekking poles. The silicon pattern on the palms provided a good grip on trekking pole handles - more so on EVA and cork grips, less so on plastic or smooth leather grips.
A range of models is available that utilize the same construction, differing in insulation, wrist closure, and palm coating. Insulated models are a four-layer construction that adds an Isopren layer. We chose the Touring model because it is one of the lightest and most versatile. We used it for hiking using trekking poles and for snow sports using ski poles.
For warmth, we found the Touring glove to be moderately warm, down to about 25 Fahrenheit when active and down to 35-40 Fahrenheit when less active.
During our four months of testing (eleven trips), we found these seamless gloves to be quite durable. Upon close inspection, we did not find any failed seams or areas of specific wear. We used them a lot with poles, and the palm side has held up well to intensive use.
These gloves are claimed to be "breathable"; so how breathable are they? In our field testing in cooler weather, we consistently found that the gloves accumulated moisture (from sweat) inside and felt clammy. Because of the moisture inside, our hands got cold and we had to switch to dry gloves. While hiking uphill at a brisk pace in 50-60 Fahrenheit temperatures, the gloves were damp inside, but our hands did not get cold. It appears that their c_change technology provides some breathability at moderate temperatures.
We tested the gloves waterproof claim by filling the inside of the gloves with sand (in a plastic liner glove) and immersing them in water down to the wrist for one hour. It did not take long to get our answer; after twenty minutes the water level inside the gloves was the same as the outside! Not waterproof, sad to say. Our immersion test was done after three months of use; upon close inspection we found that the gloves leaked in multiple locations, but primarily from the taped seams between the fingers. If you look closely at the second photo above, you will notice that the tape has shifted a bit between the fingers.
Besides a lack of breathability and waterproofness, we found that snow and debris stick to the gloves exterior fabric, and the fabric also absorbs a significant amount of water. We weighed Janet's size small gloves after wetting the exterior and found that the outside fabric absorbed one ounce of water, which is 28 percent of the gloves weight.
Overall, we are impressed with the materials and construction in these gloves, but we are disappointed with their performance. A lack of breathability is a common problem with waterproof gloves, so the gloves get as wet inside from sweat retention as they would from water leaking in. Also, their lack of waterproofness came as a surprise, considering the fabric and construction. Their leakage, combined with water absorption of the exterior fabric certainly does not make them very useful for hiking in wet weather!
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