Black Diamond Solano Heated Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Warm even when unheated, watertight, durable
Cons: Poor dexterity, heavy
Manufacturer: Black Diamond
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Overall, these gloves perform highly. Warmth and weather resistance are featured, while dexterity suffers. They are the only heated glove in our review to feature heated wrists.
The Solano is a warm glove, thanks in part to its internal heating element. A rechargeable battery fits in a compartment on the underside of the wrist and provides three levels of heat for cold conditions. Of note, these are the only heated gloves in the review to provide heat from the fingers up through the wrist gantlet. When the battery is turned off, these gloves remain warm, thanks to plenty of PrimaLoft Gold insulation on the back of the hand and the palm. We wish the glove lining was a bit softer and more comfortable.
On the low setting, the battery lasts for 6 hours and provides adequate warmth for most cold conditions. On the highest setting, these gloves are extremely warm, enough to bring fingers back from the brink of frostbite. In this high setting, the battery lasts around one and a half hours.
The main downside to the Solano is its lack of dexterity. Bulky, loose fingers, and poorly placed seams on the fingertips rendered these gloves unusable for most fine tasks like unlocking a car, writing, or tying knots. They even had a hard time moving goggles from the helmet to the eyes and back. They become slightly more dexterous after a lengthy break-in period, but still, there are plenty of other gloves on the market with better dexterity. Even the other heated gloves in our review are more dexterous. One missing feature that could help with dexterity is a wrist cinch strap. Other bulky heated gloves have this feature, and it helps keep the glove in place.
The Solano proved to be highly water-resistant in our testing, both on wet, sloppy slopes of British Columbia and in our water bucket immersion test. The outer shell is made of durable and water-resistant goat leather, while the gauntlet is constructed from waterproof Pertex Shield fabric. The glove features a Gore-Tex membrane, which kept all water from penetrating the interior of the glove during our bucket test, and the goat leather takes a while to get soaked through. The gauntlet is large and easily fits over a jacket cuff, and the easy-to-pull gauntlet cinch-cord seals out the elements. We also appreciated how easy it was to pull a jacket cuff over the gauntlet on the stormiest days.
We were impressed by the durability of the Solano. Right out of the box, it felt like a well-constructed glove, and that impression proved true over months of testing on the ski slopes. The stitching on the fingertips is tight and well-hidden, meaning they last longer at this common failure point. Leather reinforcement patches on the palm and through the thumb-forefinger gap add to this glove's lifespan. After most of a winter of testing, we have found no signs of significant wear.
The only source of concern for us is the lithium-ion battery. Other models on the market use a similar battery, which has been reported to have a lifespan of about one winter if used often. BD sells replacement batteries, but they are not cheap. So far, we haven't noticed any problems. Given the high durability of the rest of the glove, we would expect that users will have to replace the batteries at least once during the lifespan of the rest of the product.
The Solano is a bit light on features. Of course, it comes with an internal heating element, which many consider to be the pinnacle of glove features. It also has a soft patch of fabric on the thumb for wiping runny noses and a clip to keep the gloves together for drying, travel, and storage. The padded knuckle is nice to protect against chairlift bars and tree branches. It does not come with wrist leashes. Our main gripe with the design is the placement of the heating adjustment button on the gauntlet. When tucked underneath the cuff of a jacket, it is harder to control the heating element. Other heated gloves in our review place the button on the back of the palm, which is a much more thoughtful location.
These gloves are expensive, but for skiers and riders who suffer from cold hands, who live in the coldest winter climates, or who just want warmer hands for that first hour or two of the day, the investment may be worth it. They are less expensive than many high-performance heated gloves available today, but also the lowest-scoring (not by much). The Solano's durability is noteworthy, as is Black Diamond's warranty program, which will quickly replace any defective glove.
These gloves are warm and weather-resistant for the gnarliest days on the ski hill. They are durable as well, but a significant lack of dexterity makes these gloves less useful for most skiers. For the price, they are hard to beat in the warmth category, but overall, there are better heated gloves on the market.
— Jeff Dobronyi