Back in 2014 we did a comparison review of winter gloves. Most of these were the waterproof/insulated gauntlet style, which should provide a good combination of insulation, weatherproofness and dexterity for all-round winter mountain use, be that hillwalking, skiing or climbing. One of the best performers in that test was the Rab Guide Glove, which we felt offered a brilliant balance of warmth, robustness, feel and value. This glove, indeed that very pair, has been my favourite handwear for Scottish winter ever since. When I saw that Rab had brought out a new version, a review seemed like a no brainer. So is it better, or just different?
Spot the difference
Fundamentally the Guide Glove Short is still a Guide Glove - it's just as durable and warm for its weight - but as the name suggests, it features a shorter and less bulky cuff.
The original Guide Glove is now a few years old. In the interim the cut of the fingers has changed very slightly - they're now a fraction less roomy. It feels as if the fit around the heel of the hand is now a tad closer too, though this could be down to there having been a bit of give in the old pair. In terms of weight there is not much difference - 222g per pair for the guide versus 180g for the Guide Short (both size L, weighed on my kitchen scales).
The price is close too, £100 for the Guide and £95 for the Guide Short. It is worth pointing out that back in 2014 the Guide was only £65, which we felt at the time was exceptional value for a glove of this sort. Damn that inflation. Compared to similar models on the market now I think £95 still looks reasonably fair, but it has to be said that it's a lot of money for a pair of gloves. Don't drop one.
Gauntlet versus short cuff
The Guide Short's cuff opens wide for easy access, then pulls tight with velcro for a neat fit around the wrist.
Replacing a gauntlet style cuff with something shorter and lower profile means the Guide Glove Short fits more easily under your sleeves. In my experience that's an issue with the Guide Glove only when wearing tighter-sleeved jackets - there are far bulkier gauntlet style gloves out there. The disadvantage of the shorter cuff is that it offers a bit less protection for the wrist - and keeping your wrists warm is at least part of the battle when it comes to maintaining warm hands. In compensation however, there's a slightly more nimble feel. I'm happy climbing in both Guide and Guide Short, but if pressed, in tems of ideal use I'd say the gauntlet style Guide is a better choice in extreme cold or wild weather, while the Guide Short just has the edge for more fiddly technical climbing. But there's not a lot in it.
The fundamental requirement for any glove, especially if you're going to be juggling with gear, ropes, axes, zips and cameras, is that it fits your hands. You don't want them tight enough to restrict movement or circulation, but on the other hand baggy fingertips are going to compromise dexterity. From overall hand size to the relative length of your digits, everyone's hand shape is different, and so it follows that not all models of glove will fit every user equally well. Nothing I say in this review is going to beat trying the glove on before you buy it.
Compared to some brands, I think it's fair to say that Rab's standard glove shape is long-fingered. In the case of the Guide and Guide Short, there is also quite a marked difference in length between the various fingers, with a particularly long middle finger and a far shorter little finger for instance. Now it just happens that this general shape fits my long-fingered hands like a... well, like a glove. It would be disingenuous to suggest that this has no bearing on my affection for the Guide and Guide Short. Some other brands favour stubbier fingers and a more regular finger length, so if that better describes your hand then you might do well to shop around. One such is the new Mountain Equipment Super Couloir. These were no good on my long fingers but luckily fit another of our review team perfectly - a review is coming soon.
You'd expect a glove called 'Guide' to be built for wear and tear, and true to promise the Guide Short makes liberal use of leather in the places that take most abuse from ropes, axes or rocks. Pittards Armortan leather covers the palm, the front and back of the fingers, and much of the cuff. Having had several years to try trashing my old pair I'd say this is good stuff, soft and supple yet hard wearing enough for regular heavy use. After a few days of outings with the new Guide Glove Short, including some mixed climbing with a fair bit of brushing snow off holds and handling the rock, there's only some light superficial scuffing to show for it. Extra protection is given to the palm by a second leather layer, textured for grip (a bigger patch than on my old Guide Glove). The leather is not really waterproof - it tends to wet out over the course of a day's climbing - and a bit of discolouration has already occurred as a result. Perhaps I ought to treat it with something like Nikwax Glove Proof.
To aid freedom of movement Rab have not gone for leather throughout, but have added panels of something called Matrix. Covering the back of the hand (including the knuckles) and the sides of the fingers, this softshell type fabric has a bit of stretch, which compensates for the fact that leather doesn't. It is also pretty weather proof, and very hardwearing (there's barely a mark on the fabric of my 2014 Guides).
For all-weather use, the outer is backed with an eVent lining, a waterproof/breathable membrane that I have always found performs very well if kept clean. I've certanly had no issues with sweaty hands yet this season (but when would you, in a Scottish winter?). Inside this, next to the skin, Rab have gone for a two-part lining - a deep soft pile on the back of the hand for maximum insulation, coupled with a thinner Bemberg (silky-feeling rayon) lining on the palm, where thicker insulation would hamper dexterity. Insulation is always going to be a counterweight to dexterity, so I think the combination used in the Guide Short offers a very sensible compromise for all-round mountain use in a range of conditions.
As someone who suffers from more that averagely cold hands, I can't claim to have always been warm enough in the Guide Glove Short. There have been numb fingers on the lead on occasion, and hot aches at the belay. But having tried all sorts of winter handwear over the years (none of which has been a magic bullet) I'd say that these gloves are as good as any for their weight. If I wanted warmer hands I'd probably have to look at a thicker glove or a mitt - and either way I'd lose dexterity. For climbing in the higher grades, some will prefer a thinner glove still - but my choice of glove has never been a grade barrier to me (not like lack of talent, or a strong survival instinct).
Dexterity and feel
It took a couple of outings for the gloves to soften, and now they feel close-fitting and dextrous. The pre-curved box wall construction of the digits makes them good for general nimbleness, and for fiddly tasks it helps that all the seams have been kept away from the fingertips. I've found I can climb well in the Guide Short (up to tech 5 so far this year), handle quickdraws, nuts and cams without fumbling, and tie in and belay fine. Zips can still be operated, and even a camera (depending how small the controls). For a waterproof, midweight insulated glove, the feel is about as precise as you could expect. Nice one Rab!
No wrist tether is included with this glove, but you do get a tab to fit one to - so I have. Just like the full length version, there's a nose-wiping patch on the back of the thumb, which gets plenty of use. A clip for joining the gloves together in transit is also provided, but on the Guide Short this is rather closer to the business end of the glove, which if I'm being picky does get in the way more than a clip located towards the cuff would have (think axe wrist leash, for example, if anyone still uses those). Finally, as with any decent insulated climber's glove, Rab have sewn a clip loop on the back of the middle finger. If you ever carry gloves clipped to your harness this lets them hang cuff-down, to save them filling with snow.
Robust, dextrous and warm for their weight, the Guide Glove Short are a stripped-back version of Rab's excellent Guide Glove. With less bulk at the cuff they are easier to fit under a jacket, and perhaps slightly more nimble-feeling as a result, though the tradeoff is marginally less warmth at the wrist. For climbing in the low-to-mid grades the dexterity is good, while if winter hillwalking or skiing is more your thing then the Guide Short's toughness should guarantee years of reliable use. They are not cheap, but for a pair of insulated waterproof gloves of this quality it seems fairly standard. All in all, if they fit you then they're hard to fault.
Our Guide Glove Short is a short-cuff, waterproof glove that is highly durable yet sensitive enough for rope handling in the extreme cold. Designed to meet the exacting needs of Alpine Guides, the original Guide Glove features a long, gauntlet-style cuff that extends up the wrist for extra protection. For the Guide Glove Short, we have pared down the cuff to sit snugly under a softshell, reducing obstruction and increasing mobility.
With a flexible Matrix outer, hard wearing eVent® DValpine™ waterproof insert and reinforced leather palms, this glove is tough. Combine this with the Guide Glove's pre-curved shape and boxwall construction and you can be sure of a precise fit with excellent dexterity for handling poles, ice axes, tying knots and belaying.
- Price: £95
- Sizes: S - XL (unisex)
- Weight: 180g pair, size L (our measure)
- Matrix™ main fabric
- eVent® DValpine™ waterproof insert
- Pittards® Armortan® leather palm
- Pittards® Armortan® leather reinforced cuff and back of hand
- High-pile lining on back of hand
- Nylon Bemberg lining
- Back of thumb flocking patch
- Short cuff
- Pre curved design
- Boxwall finger construction
For more info see rab.equipment