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Keep Those Digits Warm by Paul Burwell

As a photographer not afraid to go out in the cold, I’ve been on the lookout for some sort of glove that would allow me to keep my fingers warm while still letting me operate the hundred or so buttons and dials my camera uses to control its operations. The Heat Company recently Photograph of Snow taken by Paul Burwell sent me a pair of its Heat 3 Smart Gloves. Originally designed for special combat forces in Germany and Austria (SEK, Cobra), I was excited to determine how they’d work for an outdoor Canadian photographer.

When it’s cold, and by cold I mean below -20ºC (-4ºF), you still need dexterous fingers to operate a camera. I’ve found it unbearable to be barehanded or even wear a pair of thin “photography” gloves to facilitate the required dexterity at those temperatures. My fingers quickly numb to the point of becoming non-nimble meat popsicles. I’ve tried donning a combination of thin-ish cotton hunting gloves and then wearing warm winter mitts over top. This works OK until I want to adjust my camera; then I need to remove the mitt in order to work the controls and my digits start to numb up.

The Heat 3 Smart Gloves seemed like a well-engineered solution, and I was anxious to try them out. At their essence, they’re a mitt with a stitched-in glove insert. However, they’re a lot more than that too. The designer of these mitts obviously put a lot of thought into the needs of their intended audience: who require digit dexterity and fingertip control.

The mitts feature two weatherproof zippers. The first zipper opens the palm of the mitt so you can get your glove-covered fingers out to operate your gear. The second zipper opens a pocket on the back of the glove and is a great place to keep extra memory cards or a cuddly pocket warmer. During colder weather, the use of pocket warmers is the only way my hands stay warm enough to operate my camera for any amount of time.

Folding the finger flap back exposes the gloved fingers. You secure the finger flap to the back of the palm with a magnet to keep it out of the way. A separate flap allows for the removal of the gloved thumb from the mitt for extra thumb dexterity. That flap is pinned out of the way via a piece of Velcro. For your fingers to stay warm, it’s critical that your wrists stay warm. Unlike some other mitt/glove combinations I’ve tried, the Heat 3 Smart Gloves feature long cuffs that easily covered an extra 11 cm (about 4.5 inches) above my wrist.

The exterior of the mitt is made of an elastic microfibre that’s water resistant and breathable. Goat leather, covering the palms of the mitts, provided excellent grip on anything I tried. To make it easy to remove the mitts, there’s a strap that runs between the first, second and third fingers.

Finally, each glove has an elastic safety strap that attaches around your wrist. I found this served multiple purposes. It allows you to remove a mitt and keep it attached to your arm (think of the mitts with strings between them your mom used to send you to school wearing). Additionally, this elastic strap provides a great way to hold a pocket warmer against the bottom and top of your wrist to help keep the blood nice and warm as it finds its way to your fingers.

I had the opportunity to use these gloves while photographing in actual non-wind chill temperatures between -30ºC (-22ºF) and 0ºC (32ºF). With the temperature between 0º and -10ºC, I found I could use the gloves on their own and they provided plenty of warmth for my fingers. Below that temperature,  Heat 3 Smart GloveI added one to three pocket warmers to each wrist/hand and was able to photograph “ The mitts feature two weatherproof zippers. The first zipper opens the palm of the mitt so you can get your glove-covered fingers out to operate your gear for extended periods without experiencing the dreaded numb-thumb.

Like most photography accessories, these gloves aren’t inexpensive. They sell for €154.90 (that’s Euros, including shipping) through the Heat Company’s website (www.theheatcompany.com). As I write this, that translates to about $235 Cdn. The Heat 3 Smart Gloves aren’t cheap but are, in my opinion, an essential and extremely well-engineered accessory for the cold weather outdoor photography enthusiast. I highly recommend them.

Paul Burwell Head Shot© Paul Burwell

Paul Burwell is a professional photographer who also runs the Burwell School of Photography in Edmonton. For more information visit www.bsop.ca and www.PaulBurwell.com.

www.opcmagazine.com 2014 Spring/Summer 37 Keep Those Digits Warm

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