Navigating maps, taking and sharing photos, tweeting, listening to audiobooks and checking in with loved ones – I use my smart phone a huge amount when enjoying the outdoors. Phones are getting better – with rugged phones like the Motorola Defy (or a standard phone in an Aquapac), they can survive the elements more and with power solutions like the PowerMonkey Extreme, battery life for multi-day trips is becoming possible. Screen technology has also progressed away from the single tap resistive screens (remember those styluses?) towards multi touch capactive screens. This however creates a problem for outdoor use – capactive screens need contact with skin which means cold hands in bad weather! The North Face Pamir Etip gloves (slogan: “Get cold weather phone friendly function without removing gloves”) aim to solve this problem and I have spent the last three months trying them out.
[Disclosure – The North Face Pamir Etip gloves were provided by Webtogs for me to keep and to give my own personal opinions on and they have no influence on these views and no editorial control]
The Pamir Etips are winter gloves that are designed to be useable with capactive touch screens – on the thumb and index finger of each hand are silver pads permanently bonded to the fibre face which creates an electical connection between your finger and the screen. North Face call this technology ‘X-Static’ – rather bizarrely their website stresses this technology “inhibits growth of bacteria”…. whilst silver does indeed have anti-bacterial properties, they presumably are implying that whilst your thumb and index finger tips will stay bacteria free, the rest of your hand will suffer glove rot!? (silly marketing people).
Here is Gareth from Webtogs running through the key features of the North Face Pamir Etips:
So could I use my phone satisfactorily whilst wearing them?
Generally yes. The pad on the thumb covers quite a large wide area (see photo below) and I found it too inaccurate however, with a little bit of practice, I found I was able to use the smaller index finger pad with sufficient accuracy. Navigating and browsing on the phone worked well and, albeit with a bit of practice, it was possible to use the full keyboard in portrait mode and to tap on small targets on the screen with only some errors. I found long presses more unreliable and these were often interpreted as multiple taps. Typing takes longer but, whilst I would not want to write a long email (or this blog post) with them, typing tweets and other small amounts of text is fairly painless. I did try using Swype on my keyboard, but it was difficult to maintain a constant contact point, which produced poor results.
It is worth noting that it seems to be personal preference whether the thumb or index finger pad works better – @divescidiva for example finds the thumb pad more usesble. [I also have to admit to rather stupidly trying a normal under glove to see if the inaccuracy of the thumb pad was due to the glove fit…….. I know. I am an idiot!]. I cannot help feeling that the index finger pads are not in the best place – they seem too low on the finger which feels unnatural when touching the screen.
Over three months of occasional wear, the silver pads are showing a little amount of wear – mainly some tiny holes where the gloves have caught on prickly bushes. It is easy to imagine that the pads are the weak point of the gloves and are likely to wear first. Nick (@Astronick) kindly shared this photo of his old etip gloves after 6 months wear (NB Nick’s gloves are the first generation standard Etip gloves, and were worn regularly during the 6 months)
How are they as gloves?
The Pamir Etip gloves are made of Gore Windstopper fleece. This material proved really good at blocking the wind – I headed out into a storm and despite barely being able to walk, the gloves did a fantastic job of blocking the strong winds. The material is also meant to be good at managing moisture and regulating temperature – I run hot whilst hiking, but my hands did not overheat or sweat and even in sub-zero temperatures my hands remained at a comfortable temperature (although I would not say that they are toasty warm gloves). The gloves have a water resistant coating, and shower drops bead on the glove rather than being absorbed (I also did a snowball fight test – my hands remained dry although the material was beginning to get wet from the outside). I am always dropping my phone, but thanks to the Pamir Etip silicone gripper pattern on each palm, my phone did not once slip out of my hands.
As far as fit goes, the Pamir Etip gloves have ‘5 dimensional fit’ and ‘Radiametric Articulation’.. yeah I had no idea either, so I researched them (you know you are Googling marketing gumph when the first hit for both terms is the trademark details):
5 dimensional fit uses 5 measurements, taken from a single index point of heel of the hand to construct gloves with an accurate and consistent fit
Radiametric Articulation uses fabric patterns that mirror the relaxed position of your hand which improves warmth and blood flow
I do not know about the improved warmth and blood flow from the ‘Radiametric Articulation’, but the gloves do allow a good range of movement for your fingers, and they are comfortable to wear. I have a large pair, but whilst my finger tips are up against the top of the fabric, there is plenty of excess material around each digit – for the thumb especially this excess material is what makes the wide thumb pad hard to use accurately with a screen.
Want to make your own?
As you only need a conductive connection between your fingers and your screen, it is of course possible to make any pair of gloves touchscreen capable, as this video demonstrates: (thanks for @Beuteltiere for sharing)
As winter gloves, the North Face Pamir Etip gloves are pretty decent, and they are certainly usable to operate your touch screen device (although in my opinion the pads could be better positioned). Even after three months I still find myself taking of a glove sometimes to type a message, but in bad conditions or just to check the map or take a photo it is handy to be able to keep your gloves on. Overall if you use your phone as much as I do outdoors and want a basic winter glove which you can use on a touch screen, then the extra cost is probably worth it.
You can pick up North Face Pamir Etip gloves for £35.99 from Webtogs (available for men and women). Webtogs also have a range of other outdoor gloves including the three season standard Etip gloves.