It’s December, it’s cold, and no matter what your Platoon Sergeant says, it’s okay to admit it. I’ve had the old Mechanix Insulated Originals for years now. They were one of the first bits of kit I bought specifically for the Army, and they’ve always been in my bergen ever since. They remained a mainstay part of my gear even when I dropped the non-insulated variant to move over to the PIG Deltas.
I found the old insulated originals to be a warm yet dextrous solution, and they stood up to punishment better than the civilian alternative from the likes of Sealskinz and Rab. Whilst I never found anything to better them, there were always some drawbacks like the velcro at the cuffs wearing out allowing dirt into the gloves, and the fact they took about a year to dry, not ideal for a glove you will be wearing in snowy conditions or when taking detours through rivers in Brecon.
The Next Generation
Having always stayed on the lookout for something to replace my now ageing Insulated Originals, I was very excited to see that my new go to brand were coming out with a solution: Insulated PIGs. It’s no secret that I love the PIG Deltas (I wrote a whole post about them here), and so getting my hands on an insulated variant became a priority. What made this subject more interesting though was that Mechanix brought out another alternative at the same time that would undoubtedly be cheaper, and if the old ones were anything to go by, could be worth investing in.
Let’s kick off with the PIGs. If you have ever owned a set of Deltas, you know what to expect in terms of build quality. PIG didn’t piss about with the insulated variant. The backs of the gloves are made from a slick, spandex feeling polyester that gives just enough stretch to prevent pinching in the folds of the glove, whereas the palms are made from very high quality leather. The entirety of the glove is lined with a soft fleece that cuts no corners when keeping your hands warm. These fabrics together make for a very supple glove once broken in that does a very good job of keeping the outer elements at bay.
The fingers of the insulated variant are slightly different though. PIG are famed for making super high dexterity combat gloves, and it is evident that they weren’t giving up feeling for warmth. The insulated gloves are definitely less dexterous than their thinner cousins, but they are by no means clumsy or uncomfortable. I’ve been wearing these gloves every day for about the past month, and now that they’re broken in I can perform the fiddly tasks that gloves can often hinder (e.g finding and doing up zips in the dark, fiddling with headphones and getting cards/money out of a wallet). The fingers are made from what seems to be a cotton/suedette fabric for extra mobility, but is liberally coated with a very sticky polyurethane that helps your grip to compensate for the loss in feeling.
One of the biggest selling points of PIGs has always been the ability to use a touch screen through the gloves, and with the growing prevalence of smartphones on the battlefield it’s not hard to see why. This feature is retained in the insulated version, although it is definitely not as refined as it is in the Deltas. That being said, it is still fully useable. In the Deltas, I have often just whipped my phone out and gone straight into it without having to change how I hold or use it at all, the gloves may as well had not been there. With the insulated version this feature seems limited to just the finger tips, and I haven’t comfortably used my thumb at all. This isn’t necessarily a deal breaker though, as everything is a trade off, and the super grip provided by the coating on the palms means that lancing your phone with your finger tip like an 80 year old won’t easily lead to you knocking your device to the ground, and will let you carry out basic “one-tap” functions with warm hands.
The downsides of the PIGs are few and far between. It could be argued that the lack of total smartphone useability is a negative, but as mentioned above it will get your far enough, and if you need to type, just take a glove off for a second. The other downside I found is that the fit on the fingers isn’t as prophylactically perfect as it is on the Deltas. I hate having floppy fingertips, and unfortunately there is a little bit of it in the insulated version, but again it’s a trade off of dexterity for warmth and so may not be a dealbreaker.
Finally some considerations I found for the Insulated PIGs are: a) buy them in a size down from the non-insulated version, these are more roomy and especially in the finger. B) Don’t fucking wash them. I was a dick and washed genuine leather. I now have grey/green palms on my gloves and I need to polish them. Don’t be a dick.
Back To The Mechanix
So I think I’ve waxed lyrical on the SKDs, what about the Mechanix? Unsurprisingly they’re the inferior glove, but they retail for a considerable amount less, and still pack enough of a punch to be relevant. Putting the Mechanix on, I would say they feel less executive and more like a “combat glove”. This is due to the more hardy materials used in the palms and the back, and lack of any comfortable fleece inside. The Mechanix rely more on layers of fabric than warm materials themselves to insulate your hands, and they do a good job of it, but they definitely lack the same comfort that the PIGs provide.
In wearing and using the Mechanix, they end up in the same trap that every other pair I have owned before falls into, and that is the feeling of a “slab-palm”. Mechanix gloves simply don’t have the same contouring as some of the more expensive gloves out there. The palms take some breaking in and even then don’t have the same mobility as that found in the PIGs, and the total lack of any gripping material to compensate for the loss of feeling is something that definitely makes me lean towards the more expensive gloves.
All of the above being said, Mechanix has always filled the role of being strong enough to work, and cheap enough to be easily replaced. The Cold Weather/Insulated gloves are no different. In use they are not terrible, and after half an hour or so you become used to the feeling they give and I found that they were perfectly adequate for actions like manipulating a safety, reloading and pulling pins on smoke grenades. I also feel that the Mechanix will probably stand up to more punishment in the long term, as the materials used to make them are simply thicker have less give to them, which I suspect will make them less vulnerable to sharp objects. This thicker fabric does mean that using a phone through the Mechanix is difficult to impossible.
A problem I had with the old Mechanix Insulated gloves was that they took about a decade to dry, which is inconvenient in a glove that you will likely be wearing in wet and cold conditions. I found that this isn’t an issue with either the new Mechanix or the PIGs. I inadvertently tested this by washing both pairs, and when I took out my soaking combats, I was very surprised to find two pairs of clean, and about 90% dry gloves hiding behind them. It’s not often that you can take something straight out of a washing machine and put it straight on, but that was comfortable enough to do with both of these gloves. Now I know you’re reading this and thinking “that’s hardly a high speed representative test”, but it is enough of an indicator for me to say that there is definitely an improvement over the older version.
So Which Should You Buy?
Both pairs of gloves have their merits, but for me there is a clear winner. I always recommend “buy nice or buy twice”, and the PIGs are by far the nicer option. I prefer the cut of them, the shorter wrist, superior dexterity and more perceived “warmth” from the feeling given by the materials. I have been wearing these in everyday wear and they don’t stand out at all, meaning that while they may cost more, you’ll find yourself fitting them into more scenarios than a combat specific glove. The ability to use a touch screen also means that you won’t feel like the PIGs are getting in the way. PIGs have always come with one screaming downside though. They cost a fair amount of money. £60 is a lot to pay for gloves that you will only wear for one season even with the wider useability over the alternative.
This is where the Mechanix come in, if you are funding your own glove habits then these are the sensible option. They work perfectly adequately, and will give you a higher level of protection from the cold than most regular combat gloves. If you are someone who can look after their gear, then invest in the PIGs, if you like to lose gloves or use them to scale barbed wire, buy the Mechanix. They are far from a bad glove, but the merits of the PIGs just blow them out of the water in all areas except cost.
Thanks to Tactical Kit for the loan, and thanks to you for reading my comparison of the new PIG Insulated and Mechanix Cold Weather Insulated gloves. If you have any questions don’t hesitate to head over to my Instagram page @thegeardocrow.