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REI Co-op Guide Insulated Review

A more dexterous but less durable deviation from inexpensive Kinco leather gloves, this model is an OK choice for resort, side-country and short backcountry missions.
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Price:  $50 List | $37.39 at REI
Pros:  Very dexterous, breathable, great fit, fair price
Cons:  No wrist leash, soft-shell construction can wear out quickly, overall durability
Manufacturer:   REI Co-op
By Travis Poulin ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Jan 17, 2020
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47
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#20 of 20
  • Warmth - 25% 2
  • Dexterity - 25% 10
  • Water Resistance - 25% 4
  • Durability - 15% 2
  • Features - 10% 4

Our Verdict

The REI Co-op Guide Insulated delivered some good and some not-so-good. The soft-shell construction makes these gloves pre-broken in so the incredible dexterity is there from the beginning. They are super comfortable to wear, and they became our favorites for morning drives through our wintery mountain towns. Double-stitched reinforced leather palms and thumbs add to the durability, but it is doubtful that they would hold up to multiple seasons, or maybe even just one. The wristguards will likely lose elasticity over time, too. The Guide gloves are a good pricepoint option for moderately cold days. When tested in windy conditions at around 28 degrees Fahrenheit, these gloves did fine. Once in the lower teens and single digits (F), though, you might prefer more leather and insulation on your hands. Despite their looks and specs, these are not burly, beat-'em-up leather winter workhorses.


Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

The REI Guide gloves are adequate for moderate-temperature backcountry and resort skiing and riding, performing best when cold hands were not a threat, but gloves were required. Don't expect them to last forever.

Performance Comparison


On a backcountry ski tour high in the Selkirk Mountains of British Columbia in the REI Guide Insulated.
On a backcountry ski tour high in the Selkirk Mountains of British Columbia in the REI Guide Insulated.

Warmth


The Guide provides warmth for temps around 20-25F, but when temps dropped to the teens and below, they were not nearly as warm as some other gloves we tested. While skiing, the soft-shell construction on the back of the glove held up decent to the wind when it was exposed, but it's better to tuck that part mostly under a ski jacket sleeve. Riding the lift is where the cold was felt most in the fingers, and we often found ourselves hiding the entire glove in our sleeve to avoid the wind when sitting idle.

Water Resistance


Moisture was not an issue inside the Guide gloves while skiing unless the breathable soft-shell material on the back of the hands was exposed to snow. This construction was a significant weak point for these gloves and the coldest area of the hands while tested in snow.

Our submersion test. The soft-shell back of the hand takes on water readily when submerged. These gloves aren't our first choice on days with wet (rain or heavy snow) precipitation.
Our submersion test. The soft-shell back of the hand takes on water readily when submerged. These gloves aren't our first choice on days with wet (rain or heavy snow) precipitation.

The ice bath submersion test was also a setback for the Guide but was not surprising given the lower price and simplicity of the construction. The synthetic upper proved to be the weakest point for moisture. Over a few months, though, these gloves began to wet out more and more readily.

Dexterity


Dexterity is where the Guide gloves picked up the slack left in other categories. The soft-shell construction allows for prime mobility while the sleek stitch pattern stays out of the way for the most important tasks. These gloves arrived pretty soft and didn't really need a break-in time, unlike many burlier leather gloves we have tested. The Guide excelled in many dexterity tests, including knot tying, buckling boots, zipper adjustments, and compatibility with ski pole straps. More technical tasks like managing ropes would be easy with the Guide, but the durability holds them back from being a versatile go-to glove.

Our testers were able to perform a wide range of tasks in these gloves. Their dexterity adds to their usefulness while backcountry skiing. They're also lightweight and don't take up that much pack space.
Our testers were able to perform a wide range of tasks in these gloves. Their dexterity adds to their usefulness while backcountry skiing. They're also lightweight and don't take up that much pack space.

Durability


There are several strikes against the Guide for durability. The soft-shell design shows red flags against a long-lasting product. The leather reinforced palms and thumbs will help, and the stitching in the fingers seems top-notch, the extra-soft leather in the fingers showed wear after a month and a half of use (though this softness does add to dexterity). One tester wore holes through the inner lining fingertips in the first few days of use. These are single-season gloves, at best.

You can see the wear on the fingers in the areas of frequent contact. This became obvious within the first few months of the ski season -- not a great signal to their longevity.
You can see the wear on the fingers in the areas of frequent contact. This became obvious within the first few months of the ski season -- not a great signal to their longevity.

Features


The simplicity of the Guide gloves may be what makes them most appealing. They fit extremely well and do not have the need for a wrist cinch due to the rib-knit, under-the-sleeve cuff design. They are easy to slide on and off and a breeze to use with a jacket on. The hang loop adds convenience for drying or attaching to a harness. This glove design (part work glove, part ski glove) typically lacks features, so we weren't surprised in any way here.

Simple. These gloves don't offer many features for resort riding. You can clip them together  and you can hang them from a carabiner.
Simple. These gloves don't offer many features for resort riding. You can clip them together, and you can hang them from a carabiner.

Value


The cost-to-performance ratio for the Guide gloves is surprisingly high. They are not the warmest, toughest, nor most versatile glove on the market, but that is reflected in the appropriate pricing.

Conclusion


The REI Co-op Guide Insulated is not an all-encompassing solution, but it's appropriately priced for what it is. If you run warm in the hands, these gloves are an ok choice, especially if you have a backup pair or liners with you. They are also useful for backcountry skiing in warmer weather when dexterity and weight are more important than warmth and water resistance.

Touring on Rabbit Ears Pass in the appropriate REI Guide gloves.
Touring on Rabbit Ears Pass in the appropriate REI Guide gloves.


Travis Poulin