How some fishing gloves from Japan have revolutionized climbing and skiing in the PNWet
Note: This post was originally written for the Turns-all-year blog. I was asked to write about one piece of gear that is essential in the PNW.
Anyone who skis and climbs in the Pacific Northwest knows that wet hands are part of the deal. After a few good days out there, we return to the domestic world with pruny, blistered hands, ravaged by moisture and the demands of an alpine environment. Put simply, we are not about to win a hand modeling contest.
Before I got into mountain sports, I had exactly one pair of snow gloves. But as I started snow climbing, skiing, and then ice climbing, my closet started looking like a Imelda Macros collection of gloves. Climbing demanded dexterity. Storm skiing needs water resistance. Aerobic activity needs breathability. I developed “systems” of gloves: multiple gloves that worked together for a particular activity and condition. But multiple gloves are expensive and heavy. Enter the Showa Tem-Res 282 Gloves, the quiver killer.
I first caught a whiff of these mysterious blue gloves in a report about Colin Hailey’s alpine kit. Showa is a Japanese company that makes gloves for fishermen. Fishermen have very similar demands as alpine climbers – they operate in cold, wet environments and need great dexterity and durability. The Showa Tem-Res 282 is a midweight glove with a waterproof outer with a light fleece lining on the inside. Simple, yet brilliant.
I ordered myself two pairs ($20 per pair, less than a low end ski glove) and quickly put them to the test. When sized correctly (go one size up, because these are sized for Japanese people), I was immediately impressed with the dexterity. Leading ice and placing screws was no problem. The waterproofing allowed me to climb wet ice, dig in the snow, or whatever wet things I like to do and stay completely dry. They particularly shine on long snow slogs, where your hands and tools are frequently in the snow. They even are warm enough for me to belay in, essentially removing the need for a glove “system” while ice climbing. One glove to rule them all.
Naturally, I started using these gloves for skiing also. They are a perfect weight for me in the backcountry, where my body stays warmer with continuous motion. On storm days, they can keep my hands dry the entire day, while other gloves, even $100 ones, wet out extremely quickly. The breathability is okay, but I can definitely overheat on the uptrack, so I often take them off while skinning. Once you sweat inside of them, they will stay moist for the rest of the day, so it is important to not get them too sweaty. On sunny spring days, I’ll usually opt for a different softshell glove, unless there will be a lot of snow climbing, and then I’ll bring the Showas.
As the cult of the Showas grew, all its disciples were still yearning for one thing: a cinch closure on the cuff. Obviously, these are fishing gloves, not skiing gloves, so they did not have a cinch. Thus, many DIYers were sewing on their own cinches. Credit adventurer Andrew Skurka with contacting Showa directly, explaining the use case. And credit Showa for listening to an unintended customer segment. 2020 may be a bust in many ways, but it also has given us the new Showa Tem-Res 282-02 Gloves – the original Showas, colored black, with a cinch! The Holy Grail has been achieved.
I immediately snatched up 5 pairs (for me and some friends) of the new Showas the moment I found out they were available at a Marine Supplies Shop in Bellingham. Call me a Showa dealer, or a Showa evangelist. I love my Showas – they have been life changing. Wet hands, wet gloves, frozen fingers – they are all artifacts of the past. I play in the snow more than ever now, but my hands are always dry and happy. Heck, maybe I should give that hand modeling thing another shot.