Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Super warm, very tough
Cons: Not very dexterous, super stiff and take a while to break in
Best Uses: Cold weather climbing and skiing, works well for ice climbing belay, high altitude mountaineering
The Black Diamond Guide is our OutdoorGearLab Top Pick for colder weather skiing and snowboarding and it is seriously warm. It was the overall warmest contender we tested making it a excellent option for arctic lift rides, folks whose hands get cold easily, and high altitude mountaineering. Tester Ian Nicholson wore this product all the way to the summit of Denali on a day with a daytime high of -38F and summited during -42F. It features a removable liner making drying them a breeze and the molded EVA foam padding on the knuckles and fingers adds protection and warmth. These gloves are super tough and easily one of the the most durable in our review. The Guide sports a thick goat skin leather covering all the high wear areas and a higher denier nylon covering the Gore-Tex XCR laminate, which means they're built to last. All of this leather, foam, insulation and beefy fabric means they aren't as dexterous as most of the other products we tested. They're also one of the stiffer models we tested especially off the shelf, almost to the point of making us shy away. But after three or four days of use, like a good baseball glove, they broke in nicely.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
We gave our OutdoorGearLab Top Pick award to the Black Diamond Guide for skiing and snowboarding in colder climates. It was straight up the warmest contender in our review, but that warmth comes at a price. Because there is so much insulation in it, that insulation equals bulk and in turn reduces dexterity. In some ways you could almost compare it to a mitten, because it is so warm, but lacks dexterity. It is even warmer than more basic mittens but is more dexterous. It uses a very stiff leather that is super beefy and incredibly durable, but that same stiffness reduces "feel" and dexterity. Though they soften up quite a bit once you get three or four days of use in them, they are still a little stiffer than average and once you have used them ten days or more they feel even better. During our side-by-side comparisons for dexterity the Guide scored below average. They could accomplish simple tasks like buckling boots and unlocking car doors, but started to suffer during our more complex tests like tying shoes and taking a photo with a traditional point-and-shoot camera. We thought they were just barely behind the Hestra Heli and way behind the Arc'teryx Alpha SV Glove when it came to dexterity, though they were warmer than both. The Black Diamond Guide was significantly warmer than all the other competitors we tested.
Warmth and Breathability
The Black Diamond Guide is the warmest in our review. Tester Ian Nicholson used them to summit both Denali and Aconcagua in -42F and -25F temperatures, respectively. Its thick beefy shell and compression molded EVA foam added hand protection and insulation. The Guides liner is the warmest of any model we tested; it uses a combination of Primaloft One insulation on the outer part of the liner and boiled wool on the inside. The wool on the back of your hand is super nice on cold days and feels warm and fuzzy all day. The wool also provides noticeably but not above average breathability and temperature regulation. The palm side of the liner sports 100g of fleece that wicks moisture and dries quickly to eliminate annoying clammy hand issues. Though super effective at insulating, all this bulk again means they are a little less dexterous. The Guide was warmer, but not a lot warmer than our next warmest challenger the Hestra Heli, which were both a little warmer than our OutdoorGearLab Editors' Choice, the Arc'teryx Alpha SV.
The Guide features a goatskin leather palm, with that same leather on the inside of the fingers and on parts of the back of the hand. They also sport EVA foam padding and a beefy nylon covering the Gore-Tex insert. All this makes them tough enough for even the harshest user and offering well above average durability. We have used this model well over 60 days and it's still going strong. Even the liner still seems to be going strong and hasn't packed out much with all the use. It's hard to say for sure without using all these contenders 60+ days, but the Guide might be the toughest contestant in our review. The only other option that might be close to being as tough are the Black Diamond Legend, the Black Diamond Rebel, the Outdoor Research Magnate and the Arc'teryx Alpha SV.
The Black Diamond uses a Gore-Tex insert, a very water resistant leather and a beefy nylon shell for waterproofing. While several models did well in both our real world tests and our side-by-side comparisons using a bucket of water, we did think it was one of the more water resistant designs we tested. It wasn't quite as waterproof as our OutdoorGearLab Editors' Choice, the Arc'teryx Alpha SV but it wasn't far off and was either better or quite comparable with all the other top scores in the review like the Outdoor Research Magnate and the Black Diamond Rebel. We did think it was significantly more waterproof than the similarly warm, Hestra Heli which uses a leather palm with no seam tape or waterproof insert underneath. Even when the Hestra Heli's leather palm was freshly treated it wasn't quite as water resistant. That said, for cold snowy climates were you are likely facing the wet of snow, using either of these contenders worked great. The Guide is significantly warmer and more water resistant than the double layer but much cheaper than the DaKine Scout.
Features and Ease of Use
The Guide has a well designed liner that is secured with Velcro strips that never came out when we didn't want it to. It cinches nicely with one gloved hand but is harder to loosen. The nose wipe on the thumb is comfortable and effective. Other than that, it is a relatively simple but user friendly product.
Most people size up from there normal size when they buy these gloves. This is mainly because of all the warmth and insulation and climbers going to higher altitudes who might want to add a thin polypro or wool liner underneath should go up one size but not two. Despite most people sizing up, the Guide, like other Black Diamond gloves, run slightly on the wider side compared with others we tested.
Value and The Bottom Line
This solid and super warm glove make it a killer option for resort bound New England and Upper Mountain West skiers and snowboarders. It's also a great choice for folks who simply get cold easily and don't want the cumbersome feel of mittens. Besides colder weather resort riding it excels at high altitude mountaineering and is one of the two favorite choices along with the Outdoor Research Alti, among climbers venturing into arctic temperatures. The Guide also works great as an ice climbing belay option. It is the the second most expensive model in our review, though it is still $125 less and noticeably warmer than our Editors' Choice the Arc'teryx Alpha SV. If your looking for a warm glove for resort skiing and snowboarding but don't want to spend the money, you could look at the Hestra Heli but it isn't quite as warm or as waterproof.
Black Diamond Squad
Black Diamond Legend
— Ian Nicholson
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Most recent review: November 14, 2013
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