Depending on where you reside in the Northern Hemisphere, this winter has so far offered everything—record-cold stretches, intense blizzards, super-soaker rainstorms, and high winds. It’s been a winter of extremes thus far. While I’ve found it fairly easy to keep the layering systems dialed in for my tops and bottoms through all this weather, it’s always been–and remains–a bit of a mystery with regard to hands, head, and feet. Because of this, I keep my eyes out for interesting accessories that might make a key difference in overall comfort on longer runs in adverse weather.
DexShell is a new-to-me company that focuses on element-repellent socks, hats, and gloves. They feature Porelle (polyurethane) membranes in most of their pieces which is the key aspect of the element-repellent, breathable concept. This membrane is sandwiched between highly breathable, moisture-wicking materials such as wool, bamboo rayon, and modal layers, making for extremely comfortable items for our more sensitive body parts. Helpfully, the weather in my Colorado home has ensured I’ve had a complete testing process on the four pieces reviewed in this article, and all have achieved regular-wear status in a variety of activities.
DexShell Waterproof Beanie Solo
Have you ever gotten an ice-cream headache from running into the wind? You won’t with this hat. The DexShell Waterproof Beanie Solo ($29.99) is a low-profile beanie and one that ensconces even my large head as long as my ponytail is down low. The only time I add an ear band to this is when the wind chill means I want coverage to touch my sunglasses and extend down to my jawline. I did that recently with a thin ear band and a secondary neck gaiter I used as a make-shift balaclava as I ran into a wind chill of zero degrees Fahrenheit with steady snowfall. The hat breathes well enough that as I dropped in and out of more protected areas, I didn’t overheat. The combination of the outer shell (100% acrylic) and the seamless waterproof technology keeps driving snow, freezing rain, and all the nastiness on the outer aspect of the hat where I can shake or brush it off if needed. I’ve yet to have it permeate the Porelle layer and affect the interior even over the course of several hours. The interior is a super-soft microfleece that keeps my head cozy—not a hint of itchiness—while wicking away sweat that builds up on hard climbs or if the sun starts warming me up. It tucks away easily in a waistband or the back pocket of my running pack when I don’t need it. It comes in a wide variety of colors and is relatively inexpensive given its technology. If I was running the Susitna 100 Mile, this beanie would be in my gear pile.
DexShell Ultra Weather Outdoor Gloves
The DexShell Ultra Weather Outdoor Gloves ($45.99) have moved into first place for my super-cold-weather running gloves and they double as fat-bike gloves on warmer days. (I add a wool liner for the bike.) Instead of the Porelle lining previously described, these utilize a slightly different material of the same technological angle called Porelle Ski-Dri which is specifically designed for snow sports. Highly waterproof material covers the entire back of the hand ensuring complete protection from the elements where you need it most. The palm is a more breathable synthetic material that resembles the feel of leather with varying densities and pore sizes. The non-slip palm further enhances grip, making it easy to manage dog leashes and poles. The lining of the Ultra Weather Outdoor Gloves is very similar to the beanie—the softest microfleece ever that keeps moisture moving away from my hands while keeping them feeling comfy. There’s also a 3M Thinsulate layer.
Though these gloves come with conductive-touch fingertips for smartphone use, they have a looser, ski-glove fit in a trimmer package, so the dexterity suffers a bit. Given my proclivity to Raynaud’s-type symptoms in cold/wet weather, I’ll choose warm hands over dexterity every time. I received a medium unisex size and it was perfectly roomy to allow for a liner without being too bulky when I wore them by themselves.
I like to wear the Ultra Weather Outdoor Gloves when temperatures are below 25 to 30 degrees Fahrenheit. I do get sweaty in them unless until temperatures go down to the teens Fahrenheit, but I don’t mind because I’m warm and the glove’s inner layer eventually dries. Once temperatures reach the single digits Fahrenheit, I don’t sweat in them at all. In even-colder weather, I add a wool liner for further warmth.
DexShell has included a few other thoughtful features in these gloves. There are hearty reflective strips of fabric surrounding each finger, breaking up the black color nicely while lighting up under a headlamp, bike light, or car headlight. A few other reflective hits are also seen in the brand name near the wrist. The velcro wrist strap allows for more adjustment over sleeves and coat arms. You really can seal out the gusty elements well. This pair of gloves would also be in my mandatory winter-endurance-race kit particularly if sled pulling is involved.
DexShell ThermFit Neo Waterproof Gloves (Touchscreen)
The DexShell ThermFit Neo Waterproof Gloves (Touchscreen) ($45.99) are for those of you who require dexterity during your cold, wet, and wintry endurance adventures—and bonus points to you if you have long, slender fingers. My hands resemble baseball mitts, so the fit of the Ultra Weather Outdoor Gloves previously reviewed is a bit more dialed in for me. I had to really squeeze my fingers into these in the same size, a unisex medium. When you first see the ThermFit Neo Waterproof gloves, you might wonder if they’re actually gardening gloves. They have a very different feel and texture than most running gloves, and slipping them on will not necessarily change your mind. The performance, however, far exceeds these initial impressions. I’ve been shocked by the warmth and comfort of these trimmer gloves even on days where the temperatures are in the teens Fahrenheit with windy precipitation. The key for me with these is to start with warm hands. Over the course of 2.5 hours of a cold wind, my hands did not stay as warm with the ThermFit Neo Waterproof Gloves as compared to the Ultra Weather Outdoor Gloves, but they weren’t truly cold either. My guess is many other people with more normal hand circulation will find them perfectly adequate.
The breathability of these gloves is a bit better and not once did I ever sweat out the interior. The seamless construction features an inner layer of terry loop (37% merino wool, 37% anti-piling acrylic, 18% nylon, and 8% elastics) for enhanced warmth and moisture management. The interlining is again the Porelle membrane, and the outer shell is an integrated 84% nylon, 2% elastane, and 14% elastics. What this means to the less-techy runner is that these gloves are soft inside, fit really snuggly, and ward off the elements rather well. I wouldn’t choose to get in a snowball fight with these, but they work really well under fat-bike pogies should you choose to dabble in wheeled sports on cold days as well. The touchscreen capability integrated in this glove is more user friendly since the material fits so snuggly to your hand. Sticky grip dots make holding bike handles, leashes, shovels, coffee mugs, keys, phones, and everything else really easy.
DexShell Ultra Thin Socks
The DexShell Ultra Thin Socks ($29.99) are really interesting. If you’ve ever experimented unsuccessfully with Gore-Tex, Sealskinz, or similar socks, or if you’ve tried to layer a vapor barrier comfortably between two layers of wool for hard-core winter-endurance adventures, then you know it’s nearly impossible to come near breathable on the continuum of waterproof-breathable while still retaining warmth. It’s, of course, better than frostbite, but it’s annoying at best and can be downright uncomfortable on the trench-foot end of things. Then, in warmer weather, frostbite isn’t a concern but the moisture build-up is a huge factor in creating a potential race-ending situation due to unhappy feet.
The Ultra Thin Socks are DexShell’s thinnest waterproof, crew-length sock consisting of a shell made from modal (made from pulp), nylon, and elastane; the Porelle membrane interlining; and an inner layer of bamboo rayon (from pulp) and nylon. The goal of this combination is to create a sock that stays low-profile and smooth within the shoe while working even in warmer temperatures where waterproofing is still desired. The warmest temperatures I tested these in was 35 degrees Fahrenheit (alas, no tropical trips this year) and I had no issue with significant sweat on the interior of the sock, nor did any of the snow moisture make its way through. I tried them with standard shoes with no waterproof membrane to give them the full test and they handled it well.
On the colder side of things, I found these socks to be warm in winter-running situations between 10 and 35 degrees Fahrenheit provided I had the correct shoe. The socks don’t hug my foot quite as snugly as I have grown accustomed to with my go-to brand of trail socks. The Ultra Thin Socks take up a bit too much space in my Salomon Speedcross shoes which created the start of a hot spot in an hour, but not quite enough space in the La Sportiva Blizzards resulting in migrating socks within 15 minutes. Just like “Goldilocks and the Three Bears,” my La Sportiva Akashas were just right with the DexShell socks, and so those are the shoes I wore for the rest of my testing. With a thin wool liner inside, I bought myself another 10 to 20 degrees Fahrenheit of temperature drop, but my shoes were almost a bit too snug to be ideal. DexShell could add an arch wrap to the sock to improve the fit, but I think these socks have great potential. I’m not doing an Arctic race this year, but if any Arctic-adventuring readers get your feet in a pair of these, report in!
Overall, with the fit not quite as I prefer, I found these socks to be more useful and completely stress-free with fat biking in both trail shoes (warmer days) and my standard non-bike-specific winter boots. They were also great to throw on to shovel snow in a variety of footwear choices. While these would not make my cut (yet) for a grand winter-endurance adventure, I think they have serious potential, and I’d love to see DexShell link up with the folks from races like Susitna, White Mountains 100 Mile, and Fat Pursuit-style events to really figure out the winter options for racers. Perhaps there’s even a market for people who like to race in warm swamps and bogs?
A final sock note, it looks like DexShell may have recently started making running-specific socks with the DexShell Running Waterproof Socks ($33.99), which appear to have fit updates for run-specific use. We haven’t managed to try them yet, however.
I’m really excited to have become acquainted with DexShell and their element-repelling accessories. The Waterproof Beanie Solo and the Ultra Weather Outdoor Gloves are winter game changers for me on the days I remind myself of that saying that there’s no bad weather, just bad gear.” I’m very happy with the performance of those two items in particular, especially at their relatively reasonable price points. I’d also have no issue recommending the ThermFit Neo Waterproof Gloves (Touchscreen) for when dexterity takes precedence. The Ultra Thin Socks are off to a great start, but I’d like to see an improved fit even though that’s rather picky given how much of an upgrade they are from the other options on the market. Check DexShell out if you want to increase comfort and warmth during your winter endurance outings.
Call for Comments (from Meghan)
- Do you wear any DexShell products for running or other outdoor activities?
- If so, what do you wear, for what activity, and what do you think?
[Editor’s Note: If you’re affiliated (i.e., an employee, ambassador, etc.) with a brand, please share your relation in each of your comments on this article. Thanks!]