Karbon Heated Gloves

Heated Gloves: A Massively Easy Way To Beat Frozen Fingers

If you’ve ever been snowmobiling on a cold day, with a machine that doesn’t have handle warmers and cheap gloves, you’ll learn the definition of pain! Frozen fingers that is. And let’s correct that as even good gloves can fail miserably. Just imagine flying down a frozen lake at 100 km/hr on an exposed sled and it’s not hard to see why. But so is sitting dead still on your backside for 4 hours on a hunting watch in December. I’ve learned both the hard way! But there is a solution, it’s call heated gloves and it works! Let’s discuss it and look at some options.

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The Human Body is Flawed

Actually, our bodies are a marvel of engineering. It has its ways of protecting us and thermal regulation is the mechanism we want to look at today. The body likes to keep a constant temperature and it’s an example of homeostasis which we may have long forgotten. That’s because the last time we heard that was in grade 6…

The human body likes to be at 37 degrees celsius, so much so that the body will eventually reduce blood flow to our extremities in order to preserve vital organs. You know what I mean, it’s pretty much everything in your chest at the expense of cold fingers. This is great in a serious survival situation where you could lose a hand or foot to frostbite but still be alive to talk about it – and there’s a viral blog post for you that no one wants to read.

But in good times, it’s that same mechanism that makes for an uncomfortable Sunday skate when the old hands and fingers get a little frostier than they should. Everyone also “feels” cold a little different and if you can relate to the frozen finger issue, this is a great post for you.

Let’s Re-Think Gloves

We all know man invented gloves long ago to combat cold. But at some point, some smarter man (or woman as I’m not sure who to credit) invented a satchel that when exposed to air generates heat. This probably made them a gazillion dollars by solving an age old problem. But does it? These hand warmers don’t really work, not if you wear gloves. Let me explain.

Hand Warmer Packs

I went muzzleloader hunting in December this year and packed your typical winter gloves. Of course a spare “dry” pair is in the pack at all times, only in the form of shooting gloves. As it turns out, the winter gloves aren’t so warm anymore. Perhaps the insulation is wearing or flattened out, I wouldn’t know other than my fingers were absolutely freezing!!! Confidently whipping out the hand warmers, it didn’t take long to realize they weren’t doing squat.

The problem is that our palms don’t get cold, it’s our fingers that’s the issue! Some may argue that warming up the palms sends warmer blood to the fingers but that’s simply not the case. On that hunting trip of mine, the warmers did nothing with the winter gloves. As to the shooting gloves which are much thinner, they at least have exposed fingers that tuck into a mitten like pocket. That helped better than the winter gloves since there is contact between the fingers and the warmer. However, the relief is marginal at best on top of simultaneously being a royal pain in the ass. Those who wear gloves instead of mittens do so because they need their fingers!

Heated Electric Gloves

Now we’re talking! Let’s go back to that hunting trip for a minute. My hunting mate had this pair of Holmes Workwear heated gloves. After complaining of frozen fingers, he told me to try them on and crank the heat on high. Relief came within minutes and on the fingers. Each and every finger that is and all the way around!

In a split second, it’s a moment of financial pain knowing your bank balance is about to diminish thanks to a newly minted glove budget. But it’s also like hitting the lottery for anyone that enjoys the outdoors in the winter. The suffering is finally over.

Karbon Heated Leather Gloves

Karbon Heated Gloves Close Up
Close Up of the Karbon Heated Gloves

The moment you decide to get electric gloves, it’s not an easy item to find. It took me a month to find a pair in store, a liquidation store of all places. Based on the heading, you’ll know exactly which ones they are.

Technically a ski glove, the Karbon heated gloves are made of supple, black, goatskin leather. Apparently they even have a reflective black print which was news to me until really examining the box for specs. More importantly, these are really thick, insulated gloves. Even without turning them on, they are thicker and warmer than most gloves out there. Yet they are soft and supple allowing for good grip and dexterity.

Electric Features

The gloves advertise up to 6 hours of heat. When you investigate, as usual, that’s on low. Medium provides 3.5 hours and high comes in at 2.5. I can confirm 2.5 hours on high is accurate and it’s impressive considering the amount of heat they generate. Charging back up is roughly 6 hours or so.

The batteries are LiPo which is great. On the LiPo (Lithium Polymer) vs Li-ion (Lithium Ion) debate as to which is better, it’s hard to tell. Both are modern battery technologies and LiPo is a big player in the RC car industry. Modern RC cars pack an incredible amount of power these days pushing 10 lb cars to 60+ mph. That’s reassuring enough for me that the manufacturer made the right choice in battery technology. We are certainly way passed NiMH (Nickel Metal Hydride) and shouldn’t even mention NiCd (Nickel Cadmium). Those would be a deal breaker for a purchase.

The batteries store neatly into a YKK zippered compartment of the gloves and the charger of course will charge both at the same time.

One really nice feature is the large LED square button on each glove. It lets you know with confidence that your gloves are on. A long press to turn them on and off and a short press to switch between the 3 heating levels. Of course the buttons are big enough to easily operate them with thick gloves. Don’t overlook that either, it’s mind boggling how many cold weather pieces of gear are not glove friendly.

Glove Features

This post is more about electric gloves in general but these Karbons are so nice they deserve a mini review. In addition to water repellent leather, the gloves have a hipora water barrier membrane. The insulation is thermolite and if I didn’t read the box, I’d never notice the carabiner hook slot on the index fingers. This allows the gloves to hang dry with the fingers pointing up so as to drain any water out. It’s kind of brilliant.

Karbon Heated Gloves with a Carabiner Hook on Fingertip
A loop on the index finger allows for hanging with a carabiner

The opening of the gloves are huge and they easily wrap around the cuffs of just about any thick coat. Further, they can cinch down with a drawstring that is easily adjustable via a clip. In other words, it’s hard for cold, wind or water to get in. My favourite feature is the nubuck on the back of the thumb – for nose wiping. Yes, you read that right and its even manufacturer advertised. But it works and solves yet another problem of being out on a cold day. Just don’t take your gloves off the next time you shake with someone who’s wearing gloves!:)

Holmes Workwear Electric Gloves

This is the only other pair I can speak to thanks to that hunting trip and it’s the pair I was seeking before finding the Karbons. Honestly, it would be shocking if they weren’t made by the same company that manufactures the Karbons. The batteries, buttons, general layout and so on of both gloves are almost the same. Even the leather is goatskin on either pair. While this seems like a branding ploy, it’s not as there are some differences. The Karbon heated gloves are more money and deservedly as they have more leather. The insulation is also thicker in addition to the Karbons just being a more premium glove all around.

The interesting part is the perceived electric heat is higher on the Holmes Workwear gloves. Perhaps the heating element has less insulation to work through, who knows? For someone who prefers more intense heat, the Holmes are the way to go. For others that venture deeper out with longer day, the Karbons may be more suitable providing a thicker, warmer glove for when the batteries die.

The Verdict

Based on my friend’s smiles and warm fingers, he’s VERY happy with his Holmes Workwear gloves. So much so, it inspired him to run out and order all sorts of electrically heated items. As to the Karbon heated gloves, I am beyond pleased with mine. Now if only I can steal them back from my wife and kids, there might be a shot at enjoying winter… If I didn’t have one or the other, I’d buy the first pair I come across in a heartbeat and can recommend either one.

Some Tips Before You Go

You Can Cycle Your Electronics

It’s something you already know but you can stretch your batteries simply by cycling your gloves off and on. Say you’re on a hunt and have 3 more hours to go but the gloves have been cranking on high for an hour already, shut them off. If you run them for 10 minutes every half an hour or something along those lines, your heated gloves will have a longer reach.

When You Don’t Have Electric Gloves

A trick to nurse some frozen hands and fingers back to health is using your exhaust! If you are sledding, ATVing or even working alongside a road by car, you have an incredibly powerful source of heat as long as you have an engine running. While it does stink, it’s not the end of the world nor will you care when your fingers are screaming for some relief. Simply putting your open gloves right into the path of hot exhaust gasses can make for a piping hot glove in a minute! Call it low tech if you will, but it delivers results every time.

Don’t Forget the Toe Warmers

While we bashed the hand warmers, that’s not the case in the foot department. Toe warmers really work!

Hopefully your boots are one size bigger than your shoes. Winter boots should always be a bit bigger so they don’t constrict your feet. That constriction means less blood flow and colder feet. On top of that you can wear thicker socks if you have the room.

Let’s take this a step farther. Put thin socks on and slap a toe warmer pack right under your toes. The warmers’ sticky backer will adhere well and the thin socks will let the heat through. Then put some thick socks over top of all that. It will help hold the toe warmer in place, hold the heat in and add a thick layer of insulation around your feet. Pair this technique with some quality winter boots and you can be outdoors ALL DAY long with warm feet! Now if gloves were that easy, we wouldn’t have this post today.

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Stelios Lazos
Stelios Lazos

Stelios comes from the corporate world where he was a highly successful executive. Inspired by his love for the outdoors he has re-located with his family to live to the BushLife where he blogs about his adventures. Finding inspiration in the never-ending questions from aspiring outdoors people, Stelios aims to share his knowledge, one post at a time.

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