Look on the hands of the person wrangling chairs or patrolling at your local ski hill. You’ll probably see an old-school insulated leather glove made by workwear supplier Kinco. Now, there are slightly warmer and more dexterous technical gloves out there made specifically for skiing, but would you change your oil or weld with $100 Hestra Army gloves? I haven’t found a more durable, warm, or better value work glove than Kinco’s for the cold and snow.
The pair I have so far has lasted through four years of welding, skiing, snow shoveling and carpentry. They’ve been drenched in motor oil, covered in antifreeze, and nearly frozen solid in an ice storm while I was skiing. My hands have stayed happy.
The most care they require is a coat or two of Sno-Seal every season. Unlike synthetic gloves, they aren’t fazed by heat and flame. I’ve found that the Kinco 901 gloves paired with some cheap silk liners is enough to keep my hands warm until it gets below 5F or so.
I’ve never used their ski gloves, but Kinco insulated pigskin gloves with the knit cuff are staples at our farm. Pigskin is durable and most importantly dries soft after getting wet, whereas cowhide gloves can become useless after getting wet as they dry stiff. The knit cuffs are important if you work with chainsaws or hay, etc., as they keep debris from getting in and permanently clogging the fingers of the glove.
We go through a few pairs a year, but that’s because we use them hard. I often get them at Gempler’s for about 15 bucks. The uninsulated styles are good for working in warm weather, but often I use the insulated ones even in summer as they damp vibrations from power tools pretty well. They are widely available elsewhere but often stores only stock the large size which are too big for my hands. Gempler’s was a subject of Cool Tools a long while back and is a great source for workwear and general outdoor/light industrial tools and supplies.
I’ve lived in Michigan for 20 years and know that whether you’re hiking, sledding, skiing, mountain biking, or dog sledding, one thing is certain: parts of your body will get wet and cold. This year I discovered a sealer that makes that less of a certainty: Nikwax Aqueous Wax.
In prior years I put the previously-reviewed Sno-Seal, Mink Oil, or other waterproofers on my boots. While these can last the better part of a season, I found my toes eventually got damp. Nikwax Aqueous Wax is meant for leather boots, and and is approved for use with Goretex or Sympatex membranes.Though it will darken leather, it leaves a very light feel and the leather still breathes. I’ve found it penetrates better than Sno-Seal and Mink Oil and any of the silicone treatments that are, in my opinion, intended for keeping your dress shoes looking nice, not for protecting your outdoor gear.
Unlike most waterproofers, Nikwax Aqueous Wax can be applied when the leather is wet. On one particularly nasty dog sledding trip, I tried reapplying Mink Oil and Sno-Seal, but the leather was already soaked and neither would penetrate. The rest of trip was miserable. For my toes at least. Not an issue with this stuff. Since Nikwax Aqueous Wax
is water soluble, it naturally concentrates in areas which are more porous and prone to leak. It’s available in brown or black, and more or less restores your boots to a factory look, not greasy at all.
After trying Nikwax Aqueous Wax on several pairs of boots, I decided to try it on my SympaTex gloves. The leather palms and fingers were always getting soaked while I was igloo building. Though my hands stayed dry, the leather was soaked, which was compromising my grip on tools. This stuff solved the problem. I’ve since put it on several
pairs of roping gloves, two pairs of ski gloves, a pair of driving gloves and two pairs of leather work gloves. There is a waxy residue, but after buffing the gloves off with a dry towel, the leather has little to no tacky feel. It’s worth noting that Nikwax also makes
something called “Glove Proof,” but I have never tried it.
Russell is a hundred-some-odd-year-old shoemaker I’ve been ordering from for the past 15 years. In addition to the quality of the workmanship and materials, you get the simple, timeless pleasure of a hand-crafted, made-to-order shoe/boot. Options include any number of various soles, hides (including supplying your own!), styles, insulation, toe cap, steel shank, and other custom options. For me, the Vibram sole was perfect. But others might be after oil resistance, traction, silence, longer life, etc. For instance, I’m not a hunter, but for those that are, Russell also has snakeproof boots and options for preventing thorns/cactus. That ability to customize your sole/leather/style per application is great.
There’s a downloadable instruction form for sending in your measurements, which they keep on record for a decade. I am very flat-footed and they were able to accommodate the necessary additional space for orthotics. Not that unusual, but I recommended Russell to a friend with extraordinarily narrow feet (especially for how long they are). They were able to create his size no problem; and he’s since ordered a half dozen different pairs over the years. One other thing I’d add is they do repair work as well, so you won’t need to toss them as they get really old — and you get the added bonus of having someone who knows the shoe doing the work. I have both the Cavalier boot and the Buckle Chukka. They’re not cheap, but the Cavalier boots I mainly wear now I’ve had for at least 10 years, and the pair has only gotten better with age.
I have been a horse owner for over 15 years. Throughout that time I’ve tried a variety of different leather cleaners and conditioners on my saddles and tack. Leather Therapy is by far the most effective cleaning & conditioning system I have ever used. It is easy to use, has a pleasant smell, and never leaves the leather feeling greasy. The Leather Wash comes in a convenient spray bottle. I’ve used this on several pieces of forgotten tack that were covered in dust, grime and mold upon their re-emergence from a damp old barn. This spray dissolved the grime like magic, allowing me to wipe away years of neglect with nothing more then a soft cloth. There is no need to rinse off the spray once applied. It leaves the leather with a nice shiny finish and also helps the leather regain some suppleness.
The second product I’ve used is the Restorer and Conditioner. It has the consistency of thin oil and is absorbed readily into most leathers. I once used this conditioner on an antique saddle, which was horribly dried out and moldy as a result of 20+ years of neglect. It restored the leather’s sheen and much of its flexibility after only a few treatments. The conditioner also helps to prevent mold from reappearing. This is a huge plus for horse tack as once mold takes hold it is often very difficult to keep it from coming back.
This product is also great for giving new life to ‘cheap’ leather. I’ve bought several new bargain bridles for training purposes, some of which were made of such a low quality leather it was reminiscent of cardboard. After a couple of treatments with the Restorer & Conditioner these items suddenly had a respectable amount of suppleness. I believe the life of these items will be greatly extended as a result of using this treatment. The Restorer and Conditioner has become an integral part of my brand new saddle’s maintenance routine. I treated this saddle immediately after purchasing it, and I do believe it helped to speed up the break-in time. (The same goes for my riding boots as well.)
Of course, these products aren’t just for horse owners. The manufacturer’s website states the products work well on leather jackets. I don’t have anything like that to try it out on, but I use these products quite often on my $300 leather riding boots. I’ve also sprayed the wash on a cloth and used it on my car’s interior. I haven’t yet tried it on my new leather couch, but I will not hesitate to do so once the time comes. I really would use it on any smooth leather surface without hesitation, as it is not sticky or greasy at all. There are a variety of leather cleaning, conditioning, and waterproofing items on the Leather Therapy website. You can order online and each product comes in several different sizes. The products are listed as being biodegradable, which is another big plus in my book.
I bought this jacket three years ago while shopping for welding supplies, but it now doubles as a motorcycle jacket. Convection is the enemy of anyone on a motorcycle. Leather is naturally wind proof, so its brown cowhide suede finish has kept me warm while riding around on my Harley. The jacket’s really well made and an amazing value for about $55. I’m just learning how to weld (my particular interest is to build furniture), so my experience is rather limited. However, it’s my understanding the sparks created from arc welding have a tendency to melt through most synthetics, and that heavy cotton and leather seem to work best at shielding sparks. The cheaper welding jackets made by Black Stallion are made of cotton and may work fine, but because they can allow air to pass through, they wouldn’t work well as a motorcycle jacket. With this one, I get two jackets for the price of one.
Sno Seal waterproofs leather products. The beeswax formula is long lasting, doesn’t harm or weaken leather like animal fat waterproofing products do, and still allows the leather to breath. Easily applied by heating your leather boots with a hair dryer and simply rubbing Sno-Seal into the leather.
I haven’t seen or used another product as good. I’ve been using it for the last tens years on the four pairs of prospector Gortex/leather boots that I’ve owned. Because of the Sno-Seal I wear out the soles (multiple times) before the leather shows any kind of deterioration.
A 3 1/2 oz. (100g) tub of the stuff will last me two years for one pair of boots, reapplying every three to four months, depending on use.
[Please see the more recently-reviewed Nikwax Aqueous Wax.]