There aren’t many winter tasks that require as much glove sensitivity as placing ice screws, especially when you add in cold, wetness, arm pump, and fear.
While balancing on 2-inch-long steel teeth, high above the ground with one hand gripped to an ice tool high above your head, you’ve got to fish around for the right length screw on your harness with your free hand, get it out of the racking carabiner, spin it around without dropping it, get it started in the ice, pop the handle and spin it in, fold the handle back, find a quickdraw on your harness and clip it to the hanger’s eye — and then you clip the rope.
Bumbling around with a clumsy glove isn’t going to cut it when your grip strength is waning like sand through an hourglass.
In short: I’ve put three pairs of Hestra’s Ergo Grip Active Gloves ($115) through the wringer over the better part of a decade. They are my go-to gloves for ski touring, spring alpine skiing, ice climbing, mountaineering, and cool-weather backpacking. The dexterity is simply unmatched for a glove of this weight. They breathe well, and their durability is top-notch. At the cost of some breathability, Hestra also offers a waterproof version, the Ergo Grip CZone Tactility ($175), which maintains the other characteristics of the original.
- Outer GORE-TEX Infinium windstopper, impregnated goat leather
- Lining Brushed polyester
- Cuff Neoprene with Velcro closure
- Ergo Grip design provides maximum mobility and fingertip sensitivity
- Highly dexterous
- Specific sizing
- Excellent finger length and curvature
- Lightweight and breathable
- No carabiner clip loop at wrist or finger on the Active Version
- Waterproof version loses some breathability
- Not touchscreen compatible
Hestra Ergo Active Glove: Review
The first lesson I learned in ice climbing was “bring more gloves.” Like, more than you think you need. The issue was that I only had one pair of Hestra Ergo Active Gloves at the time, and this was before I had the waterproof version.
So I’d save them in the drop pockets of my big puffy jacket and only bring them out for leads. I’d end up using the rest of my glove collection 90% of the time. But I don’t like the rest of my glove collection because they’re nowhere near as precise as the Ergos.
I’ve purchased and tried more pairs of gloves than I care to admit. Most of them suffer from the same thing: generic fit. The finger length-to-size ratio is just off (of course that’s subjective). I typically wear a size large glove and most of the time the fingers are just too short by a few centimeters. It seriously impacts dexterity.
The first time I put on the size 10 Ergos, it felt like they were custom-made to fit my hands. Each finger was exactly the right length. Six different size offerings means it’s easy to find a great match for others too.
The volume and shape of each finger further set them apart from my other gloves. There’s no extra fabric at the fingertips or bulky seams to interfere with more delicate tasks. The fingertips mimic the shape of my actual fingers.
Instead of a single flex point or seam, the leather underneath each finger has three segments, mimicking the joints in an actual finger. It allows for a natural bend without bunching in the joints or any loss of dexterity.
They’re so precise that they’re the only leather gloves I’ve been able to keep on while poking around in a snow pit, writing notes, and looking at snow crystals. The only precise task they can’t accomplish is anything on an iPhone screen. Siri definitely comes in handy while wearing the Ergos.
For Ski Touring
The Hestra Ergo Active Gloves have been my go-to ski touring gloves for over 5 years. They’re the only gloves that I can wear for a full mellow tour without taking them off. They breathe well on the up, and they are typically warm enough for the down unless it’s exceptionally cold outside.
But most of all, I love the combination of durability and dexterity for ski touring. They’re one of the few lightweight gloves that I’m not afraid to adjust or transition my bindings with. Most of my ultralight liner gloves, the ones that I love wearing while charging uphill, disintegrate the moment they come within a foot of a tech binding.
I’ve also used the Ergos extensively for mountaineering, another realm where they shine. For one, their ability to handle and manage ropes, tie knots, and fiddle with carabiners is unmatched. I ended up wearing them both up and down Mt. Baker and Mt. Rainier over the last two summers without needing to switch to anything warmer.
But the Ergo Gloves do a lot more than just ice climbing, mountaineering, and ski touring. Though they’re on the expensive side, they’re just a phenomenal outdoor, any-time-of-the-year kind of glove. I take them backpacking and hiking regularly, they’re a great camp cooking glove, they’ll chop wood, and I know hunters who swear by them.
I also regularly employ them for shoulder season gravel riding and chilly morning commutes. They’re a little too thick for mountain biking, but they’ll do the job on a frigid day.
The activity I almost never use them for is alpine skiing before about March in Colorado. They’re just not quite warm enough for that and once they get wet, they do get cold. Conversely, I find them too warm for winter running. Plus they’re just overkill with all that leather.
Warmth: Hestra Ergo Active Glove
Speaking of warmth, The Ergos are not designed to be a warm glove, and alas, they’re not particularly warm. In the darkest days of winter, I’ll typically swap between the Ergos on the uphills and my warmer Mountain Hardwear Exposure Light gloves when it’s time to rip the skins. The Exposure Lights have a light layer of PrimaLoft insulation.
For long spring tours when things start to warm up, I’ll typically swap between bare hands and the Ergos. I rarely need to pull out anything warmer at that time of year.
My hands run warm generally and I have yet to run into a pitch of Colorado ice climbing when the Ergo Gloves weren’t warm enough (while relatively dry). Before I had the Hestra Ergo Grip CZone Tactility, I’d typically jump to my Black Diamond Terminator gloves once the Ergos got wet. The Terminators are a small step up in warmth given their lightweight lining, but I’ve found their fit somewhat generic and their partially fixed lining annoying.
Overall, the Ergos can accommodate a very wide temperature range, especially during high-output activities.
Breathability and Protection
On the flip side of warmth is breathability. There are much more breathable gloves out there than the Ergo Grips, including a vast number within Hestra’s own lineup. It’s because leather doesn’t breathe all that well during high-output activities.
The majority of the breathing takes place on the back of the hand, thanks to the GORE-TEX Infinium stretch fabric. When water vapor can escape the glove, it stays warmer. The Ergos strike a great balance between breathability and protection.
To make gloves waterproof, some sort of membrane is required. Hestra went with the CZONE for the waterproof version. It’s similar to GORE-TEX, but it doesn’t breathe quite as well. Therefore, less water vapor can escape and the inside of the gloves can get a little bit damp during high-output activities. Then they get cold.
That’s the main difference between these two gloves and the reason I’m selective when I pull the waterproof version out, which is usually for lower output, wet activities, like waterfall ice climbing through dripping or powdery conditions, or setting up camp in the rain, or flaking wet ropes.
The waterproof version is not just a better version of the Ergo Grip. They both fill a niche, and I don’t consider them interchangeable. If I had to describe it in a sentence, it would be Ergo Grip Active for fast and dry, Ergo Grip Czone Tactility for slow and wet.
A sentiment that stuck with me from Yvonne Chouinard’s “Let My People Go Surfing” was a section on durability and quality. He uses Levi’s jeans as an example of a high-quality product. His general point was that Levi’s only fail when they’ve reached the end of their life. Their components don’t fail prematurely, rendering the pants junk.
Hestras are a lot like that. I absolutely tortured my first pair for 3 full years before they finally gave up. When their time came, they collapsed all at once. The stitching gave out, the leather finally wore through, and the Velcro stopped sticking. But I wasn’t annoyed. I was impressed at a life well lived. Instead of scrolling the internet for a different brand’s version, I went and bought two new pairs.
Gloves don’t live forever when they’re being used to their full potential. So yes, these gloves died within a few seasons, but they’ve outlasted many other gloves that saw far less use. For a light glove, these ones get a gold star for durability.
Room for Improvement
In my first pair of Ergos, the Velcro wrist fastener was pathetically weak. The top flap wouldn’t stay closed for more than 5 minutes before pulling open and flopping around. Thankfully, Hestra has definitively fixed the issue on the newer iterations. They sport improved Velcro that stays put how it should.
There’s one significant addition to the Active version that would promote them from my favorite gloves to the greatest gloves of all time: Loops or wrist holes for clipping to a carabiner. I very often pull my gloves off while ski touring or mountaineering to fiddle with my phone, eat a snack, cool off, etc.
My Mountain Hardwear Exposure Light gloves have loops on both the ring fingers and at the wrist that I can easily clip to a ‘biner and hang from my backpack shoulder strap or my ski pole strap.
The Ergo Actives don’t have anything like that, which is strange considering that they are such phenomenal climbing gloves. Most climbing gear is designed to clip to a harness. I’ve tried clipping through the loop-tag in the wrist and adding my own 1mm paracord loop, but both have ripped from the glove. Dedicated loops like those on my Exposure Lights, or holes in the wrists like Hestra’s own Climbers Long gloves would be a big improvement.
Hestra Ergo Active: Conclusion
My hunt for a better lightweight winter glove ended years ago. Hestra’s Ergo Grip Actives have a permanent spot in my kit. They’re just so dang versatile. They’re dexterous enough for ice climbing, breathable enough for ski touring, durable enough for mountaineering and backpacking, and the combo of fit and weight makes them tough to leave behind on any outdoor adventure where my hands need protection.
The waterproof Ergo Grip CZONE tactility version fills an important niche for slower, wetter activities. I don’t pull them out as often as the Active version, but I’m always relieved to have them when conditions get nasty, especially when dexterity remains a top priority.
While not the cheapest lightweight gloves out there, the quality and durability of Hestra’s Ergos are one of the few products that warrant a higher-than-the-competition price tag. I’ve found the investment worth it over and over again, and I think outdoorspeople who like to explore the backcountry all year long will too.