Last winter Arc’teryx updated their entire glove line with new styles, featuring new fabrics and technologies. The Lithic Glove sits at the top of the new range, a direct replacement for the Alpha SV Glove which as the Canadian brand’s previous flagship model. I’ve had a pair of Alpha SVs for years now and was interested to see how Arc’teryx would attempt to improve on the glove. At first glance the Arc’teryx Lithic Glove is similar to its predecessor. However, Arc’teryx have actually made some pretty big changes.
Shell Materials – a step forward
This is where Arc’teryx have tried to up their game with the Lithic Glove. They’ve totally overhauled the shell materials on the palm of the Lithic in an attempt to make the glove as hydrophobic as possible. You’ll notice that there is no leather whatsoever on this glove – something the guys at Arc’teryx were keen to stress was a conscious decision during a product presentation I sat through. Leather has many great qualities and lends itself to use in hand wear for sure, but it can and does absorb moisture. Wearing a glove that has a sodden palm isn’t great where heat retention is concerned. Neither is it good for breathability – hands can quickly become clammy and moist when wearing a glove with a soaked shell.
So, the idea behind the Lithic is to make sure it absorbs as little water as possible and therefore retain heat better. To achieve this the glove has a taped Gore-Tex outer with a separate layer of insulation behind it. By placing the waterproof barrier on the outside – as opposed to using a separate drop liner behind a water-resistant shell layer – both weather resistance and breathability are optimised. There are also fewer layers and less opportunity for water to become trapped within the glove which does happen with gloves that employ a conventional shell / membrane / insulation / lining approach to their construction. The N333p-X face fabric used on the palm is a special textile used in the motorcycle industry that is also designed to resist water absorption as much as possible. TPU reinforcements are added to the palm and fingers to increase durability too. The palm materials don’t feel as immediately soft and plush as a high-end leather palm does, but they’re still pretty flexible all the same and will presumably break in even more with extended use.
Insulation – Primaloft with Grip Control.
The old Alpha SV Glove had a removable fleece liner as insulation. This had its pro and cons – on the plus side you could take the liner out and easily dry it overnight, even without a heat source. On the down side the fleece compacted down pretty quickly and the glove lost some of its warmth over time. The fleece liner also moved around inside the shell which wasn’t great for dexterity. This problem has been addressed in the Lithic by the use of Primaloft insulation with Grip Control. This is a process whereby the 100g Primaloft Gold insulation in the palm is glued to the shell fabric and the lining. This stops the liner, insulation and shell materials from sliding against each other and increases the amount of dexterity on offer. It works pretty well too, though a little warmth is presumably sacrificed in the process.
Over the back of the hand are two layers of Primaloft Silver insulation – one 133g layer and a 100g layer. The idea is that a thinner, denser insulation is on the palm and fingers and thicker, loftier insulation everywhere else. This composite approach mirrors the design principles Arc’teryx often employ in the construction of their clothing. Placing the right materials and level of insulation in the right zones to maximise the item’s efficiency in design.
Warmth – moderate, trending warm, especially in wet conditions.
So just how warm is the Lithic Glove? Well, I’d say moderately warm. Warmth always comes at the expense of dexterity and I think Arc’teryx are clearly trying to tread that line carefully. If you’re looking for a glove for super cold temperatures, or if you really suffer from cold hands, don’t go thinking that the Lithic Glove’s high price tag will guarantee it’s the warmest glove out there; it isn’t. It does really shine in wet conditions though as the outer materials absorb very little water. I expect over time the shell fabrics will probably become more prone to wetting out, but I can’t imagine them ever becoming sodden.
Overall I reckon the Lithic Glove provides a level of insulation that’s just about right for regular lift served riding, although it may be a little warm for spring temps and some folks might wanna stick a liner underneath on really cold days. When splitboarding, the Lithic’s warmth levels mean for me it’s a ‘descent’ glove – something to stick on at the summit after using a thinner glove on the ascent.
Fit and dexterity – helped by Grip Control.
The Lithic Glove features Arc’s TRI-DEX construction – a pattern that is designed to maximise the amount of dexterity a glove can provide. Each finger and thumb is made up of 3 pieces of fabric and the whole shape is curved to closely resemble the natural curvature of the hand when holding ski poles or ice tools. The TRI-DEX shaping combined with Grip Control mean dexterity is high with this glove, especially considering how much insulation it provides. Sizing wise I find them about average and went for my usual size small (yea I know, I got small hands), no problem.
Features – some nice details
The Lithic is an over the cuff gauntlet style glove with a simple elastic wrist tightener and an elastic drawcord on the hem. The hem drawcord is captured and can be easily tightened and loosed with one hand. The gloves come with a wrist retainer to help avoid dropping them when fumbling for that hip flask full of Jägermeister deep down in a pocket somewhere.
As you’d expect from a flagship Arc’teryx product, there are some nice little details too. I particularly like the internal Primaloft draft / snow tube that runs around the inside of the wrist and the super soft wicking material that gives a cosy initial hit of warmth as soon as you put the glove on.
Verdict – high-end, great for the backcountry and gauntlet lovers.
So I figure that if you are thinking about dropping this much cash on a glove you probably want them to last the distance. Unfortunately I haven’t logged enough time in the Lithic Glove to really provide a solid opinion on durability. It’s certainly looking good so far though – they’ve a few marks left over from a recent splitboard trip but that’s about it. No where near done yet, in fact they’ve hardly even broken in.
Where everything else is concerned the Lithic Is without doubt a primo glove. Materials and construction are both top-notch and warmth vs dexterity levels are about right, for me at least. I have to admit that I prefer an under cuff glove to a gauntlet, although the cuff on the Lithic is a little shorter than some, so you don’t get that Darth Vadar thing going on quite so much and it is just possible to wear the gauntlet under a cuff that has a wide opening. The Arc’teryx Rush Glove shares some of the Lithic’s features such as Grip Control and a taped Gore shell, but has a leather palm instead of the Gore / TPU combo on the Lithic. It’d be cool to see an under cuff version of the Lithic in the future…..
Gauntlets most definitely have their place though, for touring especially. The Lithic’s cuff is nice and wide which makes it super easy to slip on and off – a definite plus when splitboarding. In fact I’ve come to like the Lithic most as a glove for splitboarding. They’re really nice to stick on for the descent and they give enough dexterity so I don’t have to take them off to do moderately fiddly stuff. I found myself transitioning from split to solid without removing the Lithic which is a real bonus. This is testament to the Grip Control on the palm insulation which works really well to increase precision when handling hardware and other kit.
It seems that Arc’teryx’s main aim of making the glove as hydrophobic as possible has also paid off. So far they have repelled moisture with aplomb. At the end of several days of riding Whistler mountain in the damp conditions that are typical of the BC Coast Range, the Lithic remained near as dammit completely dry on the inside and the outside. Not once have they felt clammy either.
So overall then the Lithic Glove is probably right about what you’d expect from a top end Arc’teryx glove; beautifully designed and put together, but you gotta pay for it. With a retail price of £185 / $250 the real test is in the long run as a glove like this can only really be called a success if it proves to be durable and long-lasting. With that in mind I’ll make sure to keep this review updated next winter too.