Gear Review: Columbia Sportswear Women's Cliff Grabber Gloves

Staying warm on the Pinchot
Trail. (D. Herscovitch)
Imagine you're on a backpacking trail in the Northeast early December. You've been walking for hours, the chilly sun-soaked sky is giving way to night, and you've just found the perfect campsite. You drop your pack, pull out your tent, and start preparing for the evening. Your hands become numb as soon as you stop walking, but the bulky warm gloves you brought make it impossible to set up the tent. Your lightweight glove liners do little to help. You're in for a long night.

Though the first half of this scenario is true, thanks to the Women's Cliff Grabber Gloves from Columbia, the second half is not. I spent this past weekend backpacking trip in Northeastern Pennsylvania, and although we’re experiencing mild weather so far this December, it still got pretty cold on the trail. With temperatures in the low 40s during the day and high 20s at night, it was a perfect weekend to test out the gloves.

The Cliff Grabber gloves aren’t meant to keep your hands warm in sub zero temperatures, but are designed for activities like autumn hikes or spring skiing. I’ve also found they’ve been a great way for me to ward off the pre-winter chills on my morning walking commute here in Philadelphia, and on short jaunts through the woods in Upstate New York.

The gloves use Columbia’s Omni-Heat technology, and the little silver dots printed on the inside of the gloves are meant to hold in the warmth your hands naturally generate. My hands don’t generate much heat on their own and my fingers are always cold in the winter. So when I do get some warmth going, I want to hang on to it. On the backpacking trip, I did find my fingers were chilly while I was sitting around at camp, or on long breaks. But as soon as I got moving and started generating my own heat, the gloves kept the heat in, especially when it was windy.

In addition to the Omni Heat technology, the gloves are constructed with Columbia’s OutDry technology, which means they have a waterproof membrane laminated directly on the outermost layer of fabric. Since we haven't had any wet snow in my neck of the woods this year, I decided to employ the “dunk test” to see just how good the OutDry technology is. The "dunk test" involves donning the gloves, then sticking gloved hands into a sink full of water. My conclusion? OutDry is pretty darn effective.

The wrist cuffs on the Cliff Grabber Gloves - one of
my favorite features.
Aside from the effectiveness of the Omni-Heat and OutDry Technologies, I love the palm grip. The polyurethane palm is super grippy, which makes hanging on to things like trekking poles and gear around camp a piece of cake. It’s frustrating to have bulky gloves that you have to take off to actually accomplish anything. When I do that, I lose any warmth I generated, and that’s a problem.With a liner underneath, I could see these being amazing for ice climbing.

I also love the length of the cuffs. Some of the other warmer gloves and liners I have don’t keep my wrists warm, but the Cliff Grabber gloves do. The cuff goes well over my wrist, and it’s tight enough that I can tuck it right under my jacket without the gloves sliding around.

The bottom line? They’re a great addition to any cool weather gear stash. One important thing to mention with respect to the fit - the gloves do run a bit small. The medium fits my hands pretty well, but if my fingers were any wider, they’d be too tight. If you know you have larger hands, or want more room, I’d suggest going up a size.

Disclosure: Columbia provided Adventure-Inspired with a complimentary Women's Cliff Grabber Glove free of charge for this review. For more information about the Adventure-Inspired gear review policy, please click here.

UPDATE: It's been a few weeks since the review and I've already managed to lose the gloves. I left them on the bus this morning en route to work, and blame the fact that I've been on holiday overdosing on sleep and hot cocoa. Regardless, I'm already cataloging websites I can buy them from - that's how much I love these gloves. Even though Columbia sent my first pair free, they're definitely worth buying again.