UKC

Mountain Equipment Super Couloir and Hyper Couloir Gauntlets Review

© Dan Bailey

Waterproof-lined, insulated gloves, with a longer cuff to maximise warmth and protection, the new Super Couloir and Hyper Couloir Gauntlets are designed for winter and mountain use in challenging conditions. I've had a pair of each on test for the last couple of months.

Super Couloir (left), Hyper Couloir (right)  © Dan Bailey
Super Couloir (left), Hyper Couloir (right)
© Dan Bailey

Though they're listed separately under men's and women's categories on the Mountain Equipment website, both these gauntlets are unisex (ME do other female-specific models too, with a slightly narrower fit).

I'll cover the Super Couloir in greater depth, since that's the model I've had more occasion to use, before looking at what the Hyper Couloir does differently. 

Super Couloir Gauntlet - £130

The Super Couloir Gauntlet is the lighter, less insulated, and more dextrous of the two. This is the one you'd be more likely to wear in Scottish winter, especially if there's any technical climbing involved. If you don't want the added length and bulk of a gauntlet, a Super Couloir Glove (£125) with a shorter cuff is also available. Keeping your wrists and the blood supply to the hands well covered will go a long way to maintaining warmer digits, so in harsher conditions there's a good argument for choosing the gauntlet version; however it can be more of a struggle to fit it into tighter sleeves, and you do end up with a bit more bulk at the wrists. I guess you've got the option of going with gloves over sleeves.

A cold day with a biting wind, but my fingers are fine in the Super Couloir Gauntlets  © Dan Bailey
A cold day with a biting wind, but my fingers are fine in the Super Couloir Gauntlets
© Dan Bailey

Fit and dexterity

For fiddly uses such as climbing, the dexterity is pretty good by the standards of an insulated mountain glove. These may not quite have the supple tactility of a thin glove you might be carrying for use on the sharp end of a more technical mixed route, but fit permitting, they are certainly a decent all-rounder for winter walking, mountaineering, and climbing into the mid grades, with a sensible balance of warmth/weight/dexterity if you want one glove that can do it all. I've also found the feel has improved as the gloves soften and the insulation beds down with use.

With pre-curved, articulated digits, and no seams right on the fingertip, this glove has been made, say Mountain Equipment, for the 'biggest and hardest routes'. Of course that's hyperbole in the sense that you don't need to be in the tiny minority at the cutting edge to appreciate them. I can vouch that they're good for smaller and easier fare too.

However the success of any glove is going to depend on how well it fits your own hand. As with feet, hands come in many different shapes and sizes, and the respective length of the digits must be a perpetual headache for glove designers. What hand shape a particular model is based on will very much make or break your own experience with it. Personally I've tended to find Mountain Equipment's fingers quite short and broad compared to my rather long thin digits. The fingers on the glove are all of relatively similar length, while I would prefer a longer middle finger and a deeper gap between fingers and thumb. Neither my little finger nor my thumb come near the end of the glove, which clearly compromises my dexterity; luckily the all important index and middle fingers are a closer fit, so I can still tie knots, belay and handle gear.

I get on well enough with the Super Couloir Gauntlets to spend a day climbing in them, but there are models I'd pick over this for leading anything I'm going to find challenging. Other people will inevitably fit them better, so as for footwear, the only sensible advice would be to try them on in a shop.

It's a good all-round winter mountain glove  © Dan Bailey
It's a good all-round winter mountain glove
© Dan Bailey

Weight

My digital scales make it 196g for a pair of size L, including wrist tethers, while Mountain Equipment's quoted weight is a very conservative 240g (size not specified). For their warmth and toughness they feel pretty light, and the weight is equivalent to other similar gloves in my gear stash.

Insulation and lining

While no glove stays fully dry in real world use (thanks to that big hole you put your hand in, according to the cliche), a Gore-Tex insert gives a good level of moisture protection here, helping to keep the insulation dry enough. Inside that there's a combination of linings for warmth, with a deep fibre pile on the back of the hand (where you need the most insulation thanks to all those blood vessels), and a thinner microfleece on the less vulnerable palm side, for increased dexterity.

Hands got pretty wooden on the belay, but I'd warmed up by the time I'd seconded a pitch  © Dave Saunders
Hands got pretty wooden on the belay, but I'd warmed up by the time I'd seconded a pitch
© Dave Saunders

In varying degrees of cold and hostile Scottish mountain weather I've found the Super Couloir Gauntlets warm enough on the go, but when hanging around for a long belay they can start to feel under-powered. I definitely have warmer gloves that I can climb equally well in. If you're on a route and able to swap between pairs, then these might be best saved for climbing, with something a bit beefier for belays and the cold, windy walk-off at the end of the day. For less technical mountaineering, or winter hillwalking where you're generally moving all the time, they are a good wear-all-day option (with a heavier pair kept in reserve for emergencies).

One thing worth noting is that with wet and/or cold hands, the microfleece lining gets clingy, and it can be very hard to force the glove back on if you've taken it off to do something fiddly. I find that my fingers work their way back in after a few minutes, but if you're just setting out on a lead this will be an annoyance.

Enough dexterity for climbing  © Dan Bailey
Enough dexterity for climbing
© Dan Bailey

Enough insulation for cold and wind  © Dan Bailey
Enough insulation for cold and wind
© Dan Bailey

Fabric

Much of the glove is finished in a softshell fabric, which feels tough enough to take the inevitable abuse, and has a bit of stretch to aid freedom of movement. The palm and fingertips, meanwhile, are covered in a soft and supple Pittards Armortan Goatskin leather. This feels hard wearing - I've not yet scuffed it - and grips nicely on a metal axe shaft. After a few more uses I'll probably treat the leather with Nikwax to maintain its condition and water repellency.

Extras

With a soft, stretchy wrist band, the tethers are comfy and fit well under clothing. It's a good idea to use them, especially on days of variable weather, or for on-off tasks for which you might occasionally want to slip a glove off to do something fiddly; however they're removable if you want. You also get a little loop on the back of the middle finger, for clipping the gloves upside-down at a belay (to prevent spindrift getting inside); that's not something I often use but it could easily be cut off if you wanted.

We like the wrist tethers  © Dan Bailey
We like the wrist tethers
© Dan Bailey

The pull-on loop and one-hand drawcord are both decent. Unusually for insulated gloves, however, there's no clip to keep the pair together. I find that mildly annoying when hunting for them in a pack, and it definitely increases the chances of losing one glove, or of mistakenly leaving half the pair at home when packing. I'm not sure why Mountain Equipment chose to omit this small but useful detail.

Value for money

With quality materials, a refined cut, and a lot of fiddly workmanship, gloves made for technical winter climbing are rarely going to come cheap. Pretty similar Gore-Tex-lined mountain gauntlets from other brands can be had for less money, but not loads less. Nevertheless, gloves are easily lost or trashed, and inevitably wet out, so you're going to want to carry several pairs on a typical winter day, whether you're walking, mountaineering or climbing. If you spent a premium on them all it would soon add up. I don't think £130 is unreasonable for what you're getting here, but it does feel top-whack.

Ethics and environment

Mountain Equipment were first awarded 'Leader Status' by Fair Wear Foundation in 2016 and have been given their highest accolade for performance every year since. Fair Wear work to ensure living wages, reasonable working hours, safe and healthy working conditions, and the prevention of child labour.

Mountain Equipment say:

Warm, waterproof and dexterous, these highly protective gauntlets are optimised for serious cold weather climbing. A waterproof GORE-TEX insert and Pittards® Armortan® Goatskin leather palm combine with our super dexterous Climbing fit to make these an exceptionally protective gauntlet for the biggest and hardest routes. Pre-curved and articulated fingers ensure secure handling of krabs and screws as well as a firm grip on tools.

  • Sizes: XS-XXL (unisex)
  • Weight: 196g pair size L (our weight)
  • GORE-TEX insert is durably waterproof, windproof and highly breathable
  • EXOLITE 210 stretch double weave soft shell outer
  • Pittards® Armortan® Goatskin leather palm, back of hand, and palm overlay
  • Climbing fit with pre-curved and articulated fingers and thumb
  • Fibre pile inner on back of hand
  • Micro fleece inner lining on palm
  • Gauntlet design for added protection
  • Single-handed drawcord closure
  • Removable wrist tethers
  • Karabiner carry loops

Hyper Couloir Gauntlet - £150

The Hyper Couloir has a core design and features in common with the Super Couloir, but adds a whole load of insulating power. This beefy gauntlet is Mountain Equipment's warmest glove, designed for expedition use in really demanding conditions. It's overkill for anything I've yet been able to throw at it in Scotland, but if you're climbing in the depths of an Alpine winter, or perhaps skiing over the the Cairngorm plateau on an exceptionally cold day, it should offer full-on hand protection while remaining slightly more dextrous than a mitt.

The Hyper Couloir Gauntlet is about as warm and thick as you'd probably ever want a glove to be in a UK winter  © Dan Bailey
The Hyper Couloir Gauntlet is about as warm and thick as you'd probably ever want a glove to be in a UK winter
© Dan Bailey

Fit and dexterity

The difference in size between the two models is down to the depth of insulation, while the fit feels pretty much identical. As with the Super Couloir, the Hyper Couloir would probably best suit hands with comparatively shorter, broader digits, and with all fingers quite similar in length.

It's worth emphasising that dexterity in this context is very much a relative term. The bulk of insulation makes the Hyper Couloir a comparatively clumsy glove versus its lighter weight sibling, compromising both sensitivity and finger mobility. There's more dexterity than you'll get in a big mitt, but with the sheer depth of material at the fingertip, and the overall stiffness inevitable in a glove this thick, I doubt I could easily tie a knot or confidently fiddle protection on the lead. While all gloves soften up as the fill beds down with use, I'd say the Hyper Couloir is only worth considering for technical climbing if you're heading somewhere exceptionally hostile. But for big, cold snow plods it would be ideal - think one of the easier routes up Mont Blanc on a windy day, or an Andean giant like Aconcagua.

Weight

For the size and thickness of glove you're getting, the weight seems surprisingly low - I make it 275g for a pair of size L (ME say 290g, size not stated). It's a lot of warmth for not much weight.

Insulation and lining

You get the same Gore-Tex insert, but in other respects the innards of Hyper differ from the Super's. Against the skin there's a deep fibre pile on both the palm and back side of the hand; this stuff feels really snug, and it's a lovely material to line a glove with, albeit thick. On the back of the hand, the side more vulnerable to cold and less hampered by bulk, there are also two layers of Primaloft Gold, a top-of-the-range synthetic fill. As a result this is one of the thickest gloves I've worn, and without doubt among the warmest.

Cold hands aren't going to be an issue in these...  © Edith Bailey
Cold hands aren't going to be an issue in these...
© Edith Bailey

Fabric

As with its lighter stablemate, the Hyper Couloir Gauntlet combines tough-but-stretchy softshell fabric with Pittards Armortan Goatskin leather over the palm and fingers. I really like this stuff.

Good for use with poles or a one-axe plod, but I can't imagine climbing anything tricky in them  © Dan Bailey
Good for use with poles or a one-axe plod, but I can't imagine climbing anything tricky in them
© Dan Bailey

Extras

Again, there's a single-handed drawcord closure, a karabiner loop on one finger, and a detachable elastic tether. And again, annoyingly, no clip to secure your pair together.

Value for money

The Hyper Couloir Gauntlet isn't really a knock-about Scottish winter glove. It's just too thick; but more importantly, there's that hefty price tag. Yes, £150 is loads to pay for a pair of gloves, but I don't imagine there can be many cheaper alternatives quite as warm. If you're going somewhere seriously cold, and prefer gloves to mitts, then you may well consider this an investment worth making. What price your fingers?

Mountain Equipment say:

An exceptionally warm and waterproof gauntlet designed for expedition use and climbing in the coldest conditions. Developed to provide the warmth and durability required at altitude whilst maintaining the dexterity needed for technical use the Hyper Couloir Gauntlet is our warmest glove. A GORE-TEX insert and a goatskin leather palm combine with double layer PrimaLoft® Gold insulation over the back of the hand.

  • Sizes: XS-XXL (unisex)
  • Weight: 275g pair, size L (our weight)
  • GORE-TEX insert is durably waterproof, windproof and highly breathable
  • EXOLITE 210 stretch double weave soft shell outer
  • Pittards® Armortan® Goatskin leather palm, back of hand, and palm overlay
  • 2 layers of PrimaLoft® Gold [200g and 100g] insulation on back of hand
  • Mountain fit with pre-curved and articulated fingers and thumb
  • Gauntlet design for added protection
  • Fibre pile lining throughout
  • Single-handed drawcord closure
  • Removable wrist tethers
  • Karabiner carry loops



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