Outdoor Research Southback Review
Cons: DWR doesn't hold up as long
Manufacturer: Outdoor Research
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Southback was average among contenders during our side-by-side dexterity tests. They could perform many of our basic and moderately difficulty tasks; like buckling boots, zip a jackets, tie shoe laces, and open a locked car door. However during more difficult tasks like attaching a lift ticket to a jacket and writing the Southback began to struggle. The Southback, like several other gloves in our review, use thinner insulation (133 grams of Enduroloft) on the palm and slightly thicker insulation (265g of Enduroloft) on the back of the hand to help maximize warmth without reducing dexterity. We thought they had about the same dexterity the Outdoor Research Revolution and Black Diamond Legend, but weren't quite as dexterous as the Outdoor Research Mute Sensor, Arc'teryx Lithic or Hestra Seth Morrison Pro Model.
Warmth and Breathability
The Southback was in the middle-of-the-pack for warmth and we felt most users could comfortably use them while resort skiing and snowboarding down to around 10-15F. They were a little less warm and had a little less insulation and weren't quite as warm as either the Arc'teryx Lithic or the Outdoor Research Olympic Sensor, but were noticably warmer than the Outdoor Research Centurion. The Southback uses Outdoor Research's propitiatory EnduraLoft instead of Primaloft. We thought the EnduroLoft was good, but when comparing similar amounts of Primaloft and EnduroLoft in some of the models we tested we didn't think EnduroLoft was quite as warm. That said, OR still packs a lot of EnduroLoft into their Southback with 265g on the back of hand and 133g on the front which still makes it relatively warm. Its also good to keep in mind that they are $40+ less than most other options that featured Primaloft.
The Outdoor Research Southback was among the most waterproof products we tested both in real world applications and in our side-by-side bucket of water comparison. The Southback along with the Outdoor Research Centurion were the only products in our review that were less than $100 to use a Gore-Tex insert. This combined with their well treated goatskin leather palm, made them one of the most water resistant options under $100. Even after 10 days of skiing in wet conditions we were very happy with how they performed. We think they are very similarly water resistant as the much more expensive Outdoor Research Mute Sensor as well as the Hestra Seth Morison Pro Model and far more water resistant than the Hestra Heli or the DaKine Scout.
The Southback is a fairly tough design with goatskin leather covering the whole palm and fronts of the fingers. We thought the Southback ($100) was easily one of the more durable options under $100 with only the FlyLow Goat Ridge Glove, and the Rab Guide Gloves being as tough for the price. Overall when compared to all the more expensive contenders they were average for longevity and durability. While we didn't think they were as durable as many of the all leather or mostly leather models like the Outdoor Research Mute Sensor, the Hestra Seth Morison Pro Model or the OR Magnate because of Southback's back panels. These panels are pretty tough but the fabric and the abundance of seams make them less durable than other options. If you are someone who is super hard on gloves then it could be worth spending a little more, but for average resort skiers and snowboarders logging 10-20x a year these will last you at least a few seasons and likely more.
Features and Ease of Use
The Southback is a fairly no frills option with only a few extras, it has all the more common basic features like removable wrist leashes and a comfortable nose wipe. They have a fairly easy to use one hand tighten and loosening system on the gauntlet of a design. Another small feature that we really liked was pull strap. The pull strap on them is just a small loop of webbing to help pull them on. This doesn't seem like a big deal at first but when our hands were really cold or wet it made getting them on much easier and we missed this feature on competitors.
The Southback is best for more resort oriented skiers and snowboarders who ride in temps. down to around 10-15F. They are so water resistant that they make for an excellent choice for folks who ride in wetter areas like the Pacific Northwest. You can use them for touring but mainly as a down option. They are too warm for most people to ski uphill in and don't breath quite well enough for most people. They have enough dexterity to be an okay mountaineering option and we have seen several people use them to climb Mt. Rainier, but you wouldn't want to use them for anything too technical and you wouldn't want to ice climb in them.
The Outdoor Research Southback is $30-$40 more than some of the other more price-pointed products we tested, though we thought they were far nicer in every way. While we don't think you'll get twice the life out of them as the Da Kine Scout ($47) or the Columbia Air Chamber ($50) we do think you will be happier later in the day when your hands are both warmer and drier. You could spend more money to get something that is warmer, more dexterous or has more appealing features like the touch screen enabled Outdoor Research NorthBack Sensor Guide, but for $89 the Southback will do great for most people.
The Bottom Line
The Outdoor Research Southback is straight-up one of the best options for under $100. While you can buy less expensive options the Southback is more water resistant and more durable than most sub-$100 models. The Southbacks are pretty warm but if your hands get cold easily or you are an East Coast or Upper Mountain West skier or snowboarder you might want something warmer like the DaKine Scout, the Hestra Heli or our OutdoorGear Lab top cold weather pick the Black Diamond Guide.
— Ian Nicholson