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With touch screen devices like iPhones, tablets and GPSs becoming more common, it’s not surprising that a whole host of accessory businesses have sprung up to get in on the act. One such accessory is the touchscreen-friendly glove – afterall, what good is a touchscreen device if you can’t use it in the middle of winter without first taking your gloves off?
If, like me, exposing your keyboard-softened fingers to the frigid cold of a southerly snow storm while attempting to find your way off Mt Tongariro by navigating your way around the topo maps on your iPhone is a quick-fire way to develop frostbite, then the answer would be not a lot.
Fortunately, Mountain Designs (see review below) and Agloves have come up with a solution. The Agloves can be used as a liner in extreme cold or as an outer glove when the temperature hasn’t quite got to freezing. They allow you to use touchscreen devices thanks to the use of a silver-nylon thread which conducts the body’s bio-electricity across the glove membrane.
The silver thread also serves to reflect heat inside the glove and distribute that heat from your palm to your fingertips, helping to keep digits and hands toasty warm.
They work brilliantly on the touchscreen devices I used including my iPhone and Magellan GPS – there was no difference that I could tell between using the gloves and using my bare fingers. Importantly, users can type on, or navigate around, the touchscreen with all fingers – not just the thumb and forefinger.
Because they are thin I also found I had good dexterity and could easily perform tasks such as removing batteries from my GPS. Typing on my iPhone was as simple as doing it bare fingered and I didn’t appear to make a greater number of spelling mistakes than I normally make. They even work well when wet.
While the gloves feel nice and warm on, I’m not a big fan of acrylic, which is the main (68%) material used in the glove. Acrylic tends to really heat me up – to the point where, in the case of socks, it feels my feet are on fire. My hands never felt that hot in these gloves, but I would much prefer it if they were made in a natural wool version.
Due to the short battery life of many touchscreen devices, these gloves are more suited to those who do their adventures in the frontcountry. I can imagine skiers in particular getting great use out of them.
- Alistair Hall
Mountain Designs OnTip Softshell Glove $99.95
Isn’t it funny how the technology of the times affects the clothes we wear? The sword in the 17th century, the horse in the 18th, the steam locomotive in the 19th, the car in the 20th all had a huge impact on how we dressed and now in the 21st we’re starting to see things like Mountain Designs OnTip Gloves; clothes designed with computers in mind.
These softshell gloves are fairly standard in most aspects; they’re made from lightweight (just over 100g for a large pair), windproof, breathable material with grippy silicone printing on the fingers and an abrasion resistant palm. But they depart from the norm in their ‘ground breaking, patent pending OnTip technology’ (in English: a wee conductive bobble at the tip of the finger and thumb that lets you use a touch-screen with them on).
Great idea right, but the question is: do they work?
They do… sort of. Mountain Designs’ user testimonials saying “I can text better with my gloves on” are a bit far fetched – I found they took a bit of getting used to. But once you became accustomed to the slightly different feel of using the OnTips, I could use a touch screen smartphone almost as well as with naked fingers – and certainly better than with frozen ones.
The bad news is they didn’t seem to be super durable (in fact I managed to damage mine on some sharp Remarkables schist in testing). The actual OnTip bits themselves, which dangle off the tip of the finger and thumb seemed particularly at risk from being worn off, torn off or otherwise mangled. In version 2.0 I’d like to see the OnTip become part of the fingertip, but that’s probably just me being picky.
On the whole they’re an ingenious idea. If, like me, you’re bringing your smart-phone with you into the outdoors with increasing frequency then you’ll definitely want a pair of these when winter kicks in!
- Mark Banham