Up until the last week, the 2011-12 Minnesota winter has pretty much been a joke. Mild temperatures and little snowfall has meant some unbelievable late season cycling, but sooner or later we are going to have to pay the winter piper.
For those of us who choose to keep riding throughout the seasons the challenge of staying warm is a battle that we fight every winter, constantly trying new things to get a leg up on cold weather. This year, local company Trash Bags, has given us a new weapon for our arsenal, the Trash Picker Mitten.
Fingers and toes are probably the most challenging body part to keep warm as the mercury drops. Fingers are especially troubling and we have tried just about everything; gloves, mittens, lobster gloves, double layer (see picture). In the last two years, we have found a winner, the chopper mitten (golden mitten second from the right). Mittens perform in a way that individually finger gloves, and lobster claws just can’t. By keeping your fingers together in one place, the resulting warmth truly proves that there is strength in numbers.
While, we will swear by the chopper mitten, it is by no means perfect. The extra bulk of a wooly liner limits your mobility, and at least in our experience, durability is a problem. That’s where Trash Bags decided to come in, the Trash Picker Mitten looks to solve both of those problems, with modified design and improved materials.
Andy Larson and Trash Bags are a Minneapolis staple. A still working messenger, Andy spent seven years as a full-time messenger before deciding that he needed a better bag, and set off to make one himself. Since 2008, Andy has been making bags and accessories for anyone looking for durability and locally made craftsmanship. Two weeks ago we stopped by Trash Bag headquarters to meet Andy, pick up our mittens and learn a little bit about the design behind the Trash Picker.
After each of the last two winters we were left with the mitten damage that you see in the picture. A worn through finger tip area was the result of everyday use, and while the first time it happened, we figured it was due to shoddy manufacturing, however, a second incident with new gloves caused us to re-think our purchase for this year. The Trash Picker Mitten is constructed from sturdy cordura, the same water-resistant material used for Trash Bags messenger bags, which are recognized for standing up to years of heavy messenger use. Only time and use will tell if this product will hold up, but Trash Bags stand behind every stitch with a lifetime guarantee, you might wear through them eventually, but they won’t fall apart.
Cutting the bulk:
In trying to decrease the bulk of a chopper mitten, while retaining the warmth, Andy was left with a challenge, one that was ultimately solved by surplus military wind-resistant fleece. The inner removable and fully washable liner does an admirable job of replacing the thick wool of a chopper mitten, and in about half the thickness. This reduction in size allows you to more easily fit your fingers between the handlebar and brake and switch quickly to a braking position when necessary.
The last two weeks have been the perfect testing ground for a new item of winter clothing. We have ridden with these through all of the following conditions; Mild (around freezing), cold (teens and 20’s), super-cold (below zero), windy, snow, and sleet. With a few small exceptions, we think that we have found the perfect solution to our problem of the winter time finger freeze.
When the Trash Picker didn’t work; since having these I have experience two rides when I wish my hand were in something else,
- Mild temperatures. The definition of mild varies from rider to rider, in this case we are using the word mild to describe temperatures right around freezing or higher. At this temperature our hands were so hot a sweaty by about mile 4 that we had to consider taking them off. This is really going to depend on the rider, how hard you are going and how much you sweat, but consider leaving these at home when the snow is melting.
- High wind + cold. This is a tough one, and maybe an unfair knock, because in these conditions, there is probably no mitten to keep you warm. Last Thursday was the coldest day on record this year. Riding to work in -8 degree weather and the weather at my back, the Trash Picker performed perfectly, my fingers, thumb and hand stayed toasty warm the entire ride, on the way home was a different story. With windchill reaching around the -20 degree range, my fingers had the pain immobility that only freezing cold temperatures can bring. In weather like that the only warm place for your hands is inside.
When the Trash Picker did work;
- Every single other ride during the last two weeks. The Trash Picker finds a nice balance between bulk, coverage and warmth. When the mitten really had a chance to shine was during our recent mix of every type of precipitation imaginable. We have had wet snow, dry snow, freezing rain and sleet. The Trash Picker kept our hands warm and dry through it all. Another added bonus to the mitten is the added material above the wrist. The elastic kept the mitten close to our wrist while allowing enough room to stuff a jacket sleeve down in for added coverage and warmth.
A glove or mitten can’t be all things to all people, but this one is close. It provides the right amount of coverage for the majority of the wintertime weather, and has the construction to last for many seasons to come. These mittens don’t come cheap ($75.00), but they are fully customizable, and most importantly they are made right here in Minneapolis.
We live in an age where almost every single article of clothing is made by someone in another country being paid next-to-nothing. The Trash Picker carries a tag that says “Courier Made in MPLS” and you can shake the hand of the person who designed, tested, and stitched it.
To us, that makes these worth every penny.
Trash Picker Mittens are available on the Trash Bags Website. Andy has graciously extended an offer of $10 off a pair of mittens to Cycle Twin Cities readers with the code “cycletc” at checkout on the website.