I know its not the most macho thing to be putting on before a paddle, but hey, I admit to rocking paddle gloves. And over the years I have used gloves from DaKine, West Marine and Water Sports Warehouse. So when these new paddle gloves, called the "Cascade", from a Canadian paddling company called Level Six came to my attention as I was gearing up for a 4 day 120 mile paddle adventure, I figured what better way to give them the ultimate test!
Find them online here at West Coast Paddle Sports.
Gel Padding: I don't always get blisters, but when I do, its always in the same place(s) on my hands. And whether I am paddling OC6, OC1 or SUP, once the blister starts, it is hard to let it heal and still paddle as much as I want. Once my mileage goes over 12 miles I usually start to have them start. I have found gloves to really help buy me another 8-10 miles on top of that. But most gloves don't offer well-placed padding, just leather to reduce the friction. And that helps. But these gloves offer 2mm gel padding in several pockets on the hand, in addition to offering protection from the friction that other gloves offer. The padding helped me in the base of my hand by the wrist not have the usual tender spot that accumulates after many miles of pushing down on the paddle handle. There is gel and padding also along the main blister spots for me, at the base of each finger. For me, my middle and ring fingers tend to get it the worst. So those spots are protected with these a bit as well.
Pull-off strings: This was a feature that I have never asked for, but once I figured out what they were for, I was immediately grateful. If anyone has ever taken wet, half-finger gloves off, you know it can take several minutes to pull them little fingers off, grab the glove, and get the darned thing off. And if you do, chances are you got impatient by the end and turned the whole thing inside out! So more time spent having to fix them before you get on the water the next time. Well, these gloves have little fabric bridges that are unnoticeable while paddling, but you can pull on each on to help get the glove off quickly. Each glove has two, between pointer and middle, and rind and pinky fingers. Pulling on those helps get the glove off. Subtle touch, but actually pretty sweet!
Nose-Wipe: Ok this one made me laugh out loud! They actually list on the marketing that these gloves have a nose wipe. But as someone who is way to often trying to wipe sweat, spray, snot and spit off my face, it makes sense. There is a little spot on the back of each glove by the thumb and pointer finger that is a soft non-abrasive material with no seams. Unlike rigging gloves and other glove alternatives I have paddled with, these are actually designed with a paddler in mind. And yes, we do sometimes need to wipe our face, nose, eyes while paddling. And do this was pretty welcomed!
Most gloves out there will last me a good year of paddling. I wear them 1-3 times a week, for 5-25 miles a paddle, depending on the time of year. Sometimes intervals, sometimes long slow paddles. Even some 9man change races sprinkled in there where I am grabbing the gunwales of moving canoes 8-9 times to hoist myself up. The Level Six gloves tested here have not had a full year of testing, but 120 miles in a week was certainly enough to notice any defects. The gloves held up great so far. No loose stitching, no separation yet on the fingers where the circle of material meets which often fails on the other gloves I use. The gel packs seems as full and cushy as when I started. The only thing that fail was one of the finger pull-off strings I mentioned above broke its seems where the stitching met the glove. If they weren't so darned useful I would not have cared, but I was disappointed by this. The other ones are solid and working fine still. I will reach out to Level Six and see what they say.
I don't wash my gloves after every paddle. In fact, they usually get left in the van and never fully dry. So I know what kind of funk they can incur. These went 4 days of camping and paddling, 8 hours of water time, then sitting wet overnight when I would then put them on again the next morning. About as gross a circumstance I would throw at them. And they don't have an ounce of odor to them. I have to say, I was pretty pleased, since I had a long drive after with them sharing the car-ride home. When I got back I hosed them in fresh water and let them dry in the sun. Smelled brand new and odorless when I paddled a few days later. (Too bad my towel can't have this same result.:)
I could care less what they things look like really. But the fact they are black with red accents makes them more noticeable than my normal DaKine gloves, but less flashy than the West Marine gloves that were a bright Cali Paddler turquoise blue. The only bummer with black is being a dark color it shows salt stains more, but a quick rinse on these and the salt washed right away. I was in cold water in Monterey, so maybe black is good for heat; bad for Hawaii and warm weather paddling though. So take that into account, if you are sensitive to heat in your hands as it could be a plus and a minus. Coverage is important with sun exposure. And I never got a sunburn on my hands when wearing them, as some gloves on the back of my hand leave an uncovered half-circle portion by the velcro of skin exposed which gets burned.These were full back of hand coverage. One last thing of note, the velcro-like attachment was not something that catches on other fabrics, only itself. Plus smoother and less abrasive if rubbed on your skin which can sometimes happen when you wipe your brow mid paddle-stroke.
I usually pay $30-35 for gloves. My wife who steers OC6s more, prefers full finger gloves and pays a bit more. These were actually cheaper than what I usually pay though. They were listed at ~$25 bucks at West Coast Paddle Sports and I was super pleased to put that extra 10 bucks back into my wallet. (Actually, who am I kidding, towards another accessory, a floating cellphone case I will review another time.)
I paddled more miles in 4 days than I ever have. Even at the Gorge, or on previous adventures. And the final results? A single blister when it was all said and done. Compared to my normal blisters, this matched what used to occur after a 15 mile paddle. So really, this was minor and pretty much was a non-issue within 24 hours. I would have loved no blisters, but considering this was all I got, and less than what I usually am facing, I am pretty thrilled! The gloves were comfortable and never intrusive to my technique. And while wearing them and not paddling (carrying gear, rigging, helping load the canoe) they for practically not noticeable when worn. The padding on the palm helped my comfort at the end of each long day as well, since there was no bruising.
I will update after a few months of use, but I have to say, I just found my new gloves of choice! They were better performing, just as comfortable and much cheaper then other gloves worn.
- Gloves actually designed for paddling, vs. rigging or dive gloves.
- Better protection than normal gloves from blisters with gel padding not just leather.
- No bruising on hands due to padding.
- Didn't stink after paddling with gloves fr 4 days and never properly rinsing.
- Gotta love the finger pulls for easy removal.
- Gentle non-abrasive and seamless 'Nose wipe' sections are actually welcomed.
- Full back of hand coverage, no sun exposed semi-circle.
- Sad that one of the finger pulls broke, as that was a great feature. Not sure design flaw or just a one-time production QA issue.
- I miss the snap-to-each other feature that some gloves have where each glove can snap to the other and helps keep me from losing them. I go old-school though and just velcro them to each other which works.
Team Writer Clarke Graves - If there is water, he will paddle it (regardless of craft). Clarke is a surfer turned paddler who grew up in San Diego but has traveled every corner of California enjoying its beauty and appeal. He has had the privilege of racing SUP, OC6, OC2, OC1, Prone, Dragon-boat and surf-ski.
One of Clarke's goals is to paddle as much shoreline in California as he can, with as many paddling friends who are willing to join him. If you have an idea for Clarke to write about or any questions, send it our way and we will pass it along!