Outdoor Research Sensor Gloves Work Like Magic, Mostly [Review]

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I have a complicated relationship with gloves. On the one hand, I love that they keep my fingers from falling off in frigid weather. But then there’s the frustration at their complete lack of cooperation when I’m trying to use the touchscreen on my phone. As a result, I end up either constantly removing and re-donning my gloves in an endless cycle that freezes my delicate fingers anyway — or abandoning my phone altogether in disgust.

The problem is that most touchscreens rely on our fingers to act as conductors, and conventional gloves block that conductivity. But glove-makers have rolled with the times, and there are solutions — gloves that allow conductivity to pass through the glove’s fabric and onto the screen. One of the most buzzed about is Outdoor Research’s Sensor Gloves ($69), which use real leather that doesn’t appear or feel any different than leather used in non-conductive gloves.

The Good:

The fingers worked beautifully on a touchscreen. It was almost impossible to get either an iPhone or a Samsung Galaxy Nexus to ignore my inputs. The magic here is a fabric called TouchTec, a real leather that lets a finger’s conductivity pass through unimpeded. The fingertips are squared and hardened, making for satisfyingly precise actions.

I tried a medium, and the gloves were a snug fit for my larger hands (except in the thumbs — see below). The sleek cuffs made it easy to slide on/off layers.

The Sensor’s breathed well; hardly surprising considering their lightweight, minimal-bulk approach. The temp range for these gloves is three-season-ish; I’d be fine wearing them all-year-round in Phoenix or Southern California (or San Francisco), but would find them lacking in a real winter.

There’s a bit of rubber over the knuckles, which would probably afford a little protection from rough stuff.

The Bad:

A 19-degree morning tested their ability to insulate, and the gloves didn’t block the wind as well as I’d hoped. But as noted earlier, they’re really designed as more of an aerobic glove, so nothing unexpected here.

The biggest issue was with thumb performance. I couldn’t fire off quick emails or texts because my thumbs didn’t fit all the way up the Sensor’s thumbs, making it difficult for the screen to recognize input. This could be a big issue if you’re a constant texter.

Verdict:

Remarkable touchscreen accuracy. Best for cool-weather pursuits, and situations where typing anything longer than “having fun!” would just get in the way of the action.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

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