If you happen to be a winter photography enthusiast, there are more challenges than technical difficulties with your equipment. Rather, the challenge of physically keeping warm determines the success of your photography session. After all, having functionality in your fingers is just as important as having the right camera equipment to shoot with.
There was a time when I barely endured taking 5 shots at the summit of Teide Volcano, about 4000 meters high with a spectacular view. I bought Thinsulate thermal gloves on for this occasion, where the label claimed “Fine fabric that keep your hands warm and comfortable”. Well, it took less than half an hour before I lost all feelings and mobility in my hands and I was forced to return to the shelter much earlier than expected.
So, I decided I would be better prepared for the next trip. I splurged for the North Face GTX gloves which are waterproof and designed for subzero temperatures. They worked perfectly for those two things, but just wasn’t quite what I needed for Arctic photography.
While it was warm inside the gloves, they restricted my hands’ mobility, which is not efficient for a shoot when you have to keep taking them off to use your hands and putting them back on for warmth.
Then I started looking for other brands that were aimed at photographers who shoot under extreme conditions, and I found The Heat Company. When I told them about my situation with other gloves, they decided to send us a pair of their HEAT 3 SMART model so we could try them and tell you our experience. This allows us to freely express our opinion about their flagship product, gloves that were designed specifically for the German and Austrian combat forces.
The following are included in the package we received from The Heat Company:
- 2 pairs of HEAT 3 SMART gloves in separate wraps
- 2 packs with 5 pairs of toewarmers (8h duration)
- 2 packs with 10 pairs of handwarmers (12h duration)
- 1 pack with 10 pairs of bodywarmers (12h duration)
- Protective balm to preserve the leather of the gloves.
They informed us that the Heat 3 Smart gloves and handwarmers are the perfect combination to ensure hand warmth and mobility. As such, they send a pair of warmers as a gift with all purchases of their gloves.
the HEAT company GLOVES FEATURES
The Heat Company gloves are made of 3 main parts: liner, shell, and hood.
The star feature is the “Heat Layer System” which provide the best protection against the cold along with maximum comfort through different combination of liners and shells. To bear even more extreme temperatures, one can add a “Polar Hood” over the liner and shell.
The gloves tested in this review are the Heat 3 Smart, where the inner gloves and shells are sewn together, unlike the others described above. This model can be combined with a Polar Hood cover if desired, although we do not recommend this for photography purposes.
At a first glance, the Heat 3 Smart gloves can appear excessively large and you may question how comfortable they are when using with a camera.
Great news! There are zippers on both front and back sides of the palm where your fingers can come out, giving them full mobility while still covered by a thinner but warm glove.
The unzipped part of the mitten ties up like a hood to the back of the hand with magnets to keep out of the way during a shoot.
For the thumb, the operation is a little different. It uses Velcro to attach to the same place on the backside of the glove as the magnetic parts. *Note: In the last 2018 version the Velcro was changed for a new magnet.
The material appears highly resistant, with well made seams and few weak parts.
The inner glove is made of Polartec® Power Stretch ® PRO ™, soft and warm to the touch. It is also very flexible which allows total mobility of the hand, even for motions such as pressing a small button on our camera. The material protects against the wind and is breathable at the same time. Add on the mitten, and you have a water-resistant set up.
The mitten is made of elastic Microfiber and leather on the hand palms (since we need more grip for the camera). It is water-resistant but breathable at the same time. It features a Primaloft Gold insulation filler that allows up to 95% of heat storage. Other features include:
- Silver fabric for using all touch screens
2. Full goat leather on palm side for more warmth & grip
3. Primaloft filling ensures optimal warmth
4. Elastic mitten allows total freedom of hand movements
5. Thumb flap also allows for optimal warmth and movement when needed
6. Mitten finger flap allows for maximum warmth
7. Additional 4 oz Primaloft for even more warmth
8. Extra pocket on the back side of the mitten keeps the handwarmer (and other items such as keys etc.) in place.
9. Safety strap with elastic wrist band prevents the gloves from falling off
The mittens, along with the inner gloves, are easy to put on and take off without any help. Their insulating effect is superior to any gloves tested previously. Despite their inherently large volume, they are very lightweight.
Your fingers can begin to sweat after a long walk with them on, but they are breathable and the humidity is not retained.
With the mittens on, it is impossible to handle most tasks, including using your camera and inserting handwarmers it to prepare for a photoshoot.
REMOVING THE MITTENS
Great thing is, we can open the zippers to let our fingers out without having to take off the mittens. With that, we can handle any tasks that require mobility of the fingers. In addition to using them during photo sessions, we also used them to handle our drone without any problems.
The fastening system on the back side the mitten is very simple and reliable, both the Velcro for the thumb and magnet for the rest of the fingers. Within no time I was able to interchange between warm and comfortable hands inside the mittens and camera working hands out of the hood.
ease of USE DURING THE PHOTOGRAPHIC SESSIONS
The inner glove is quite warm and insulating even without the mitten. With the addition of the handwarmers I put in the glove pockets, my hand was able to stay warm during the photo shoot.
PUTTING THE MITTENS BACK ON
I did encounter minor difficulties while putting back the mittens back on. The rest of fingers goes back into the mitten with ease except for the thumb, where glove fabric tend to overflow outside the thumb of the mitten upon insertion, making it impossible to close the Velcro.
After several sessions, the best thing that worked for me was using the other hand to push the glove back inside the mitten before closing the Velcro. *Note: In the last 2018 version this was amended by changing the Velcro for a new magnet.
The closures of the zipper can be a bit complicated the first few times but gets easier with time.
The Heat 3 Smart gloves stand out for their removable mitten system. The gloves are very insulating, with and without the mittens, making them suitable for use in sub-zero conditions.
With the mitten removed, the glove is very elastic and flexible so it can be used in activities where precise movements of the fingers are required, such as photography.
Opening the mitten is very easy and fast, however, closing it requires a bit of practice.
Compared to other similarly priced, heavy duty insulating gloves that do not allow as much mobility, this is definitely worth it. You can also use the discount code capturetheatlas18 to get 10% off on any of their products.
My opinion overall: this is an essential product if you want to enjoy photography activities in the Arctic and other extreme cold conditions.
I’m confused about these gloves.
I want to buy a pair specifically and only for photography but can’t workout which model to buy.
It seems there are options for different liners and outers and some models come with the liner sewn in.
Can you please advise me which are specifically for photographers operating at say -20 degrees
As you said, there are different options for photographers.
I have been using the Heat 3 Smart described in this article in different trips in the arctic at -10 and they worked great. They are very convenient and easy to use as the inner liner is sewn in.
If we talk about -20 or even lower temperatures you can also consider a polar hood for extra warmth, but that also depends on the humidity and overall conditions you are facing.
Please let us know if you have any doubt and we will be very happy to help you ?