Water-proof mitts: Easiest MYOG?

Many people tell me that they wish they coulds sew and make their own gear as I sometimes do. One thing this proves is that they have never seen anything I have sewn. Cause I am not very good at it. But for me function has a higher priority than looks. However, if you cannot sew you can always use tape. And make your own water-propf ultralight mitts from Cuben fiber. Here is how.

By Jörgen Johansson


Making your Cuben fiber mitts is of course much easier if you happen to have some leftovers from making a tent or a tarp or two. Cuben fiber is pretty expensive and the tape that you use is even more expensive since it comes in a big roll. The roll is 55 meters however, so till last a long time. Here is how I did:


The advantage with using very thin material is that you need not complicate things. In mitts the thumb is usually not included in this brutally simple fashion. But here it works very well. The space you see around my hand is a minimum. These mitts do fit like a glove (note: pun...). Be particularly cautious not to skimp with the fabric around your wrists. To narrow and you wont be able to slip them on easily. If they are too roomy around the wrist you can always add a bit of elastic there.

After having made the cardboard mold you just outline it on a piece of Cuben, using a felt pen.


My scissors were probably below par, they could not cut material this thin and slippery. Since I always use a soldering iron for the thin nylons I normally work with, I used this here as well. A sharp knife would also do the job. Since Cuben is not a woven material the edges won't fray anyway.


Having made four pieces to make up your two mitts it is now taping time. What you see is the first instep, and the paper layer protecting the tape. The tape itself is extremely thin, almost invisible, as well as very sticky. Still, it is surprisingly easy to work with. I have made tents and tarps and the taped seams have not shown any tendency to leak or break.

For the straight lines you can use long strips of tape, for the rounded edges you have to use shorter bits. If you take pains to overlap the tape pieces a millimeter or two these seams will be waterproof. However, my plans for these gloves are not that they should be waterproof enough for you to work with your hands in water. I only want something that will keep my hands reasonably dry and wind protected in really nasty weather.



Voila. After taping you do of course turn them inside out, the seams ending up on the inside. Not pretty but they do work.

Normally I use these mitts with a pair of quick drying, membrane free fleece gloves underneath. The combination is pretty warm. Of course they will collect moisture from your skin, but that is usually less of a problem when the cold rain is whipping horisontally along the tundra. They weigh only six grams, so it is a no-brainer to alway bring them. For occassions when they might not work ideally you can bring some heavier mitts instead.

8 comments:

Joni said...

Thanks for a great idea, was just wondering what to do with excess sheets of cuben (+ tape) I have laying around, one only needs that many stuff bags :)

Question: I haven't had very good experience on the taped seams - no complete failures, but some of the seams on the stuff sacks have started to come undone, and collecting dirt; should I heat treat them?

Jörgen Johansson said...

My experience with the tape has been very good for tarps and tents. Have never made any stuff bags, but the strain on the seams there might be different. For tents and tarps you just put one piece of cuben on top of the other, with tape in between. The mitts and stuff sacs are different.
It is recommended that you reinforce taped seams by sewing, but I've found that sewing through the tape is very difficult. You get goo on the needle everyhing gets screwed up. It might be an idea though, to sew an inch or two at stress points in the stuff bags.

Joni said...

You're right, sewing might be useful on the stress points. Regardless of the issues I've had, this tape is very strong and building stuff with it is easy. Now off to cut some mittens :)

Nathan said...

Thanks, definitely seems like an easy enough project even I could do it. Of course if this was the only thing I would be using the Cuben Fiber for it isn't worth it. Wouldn't it be cheaper/easier to just bring a couple of pairs of food service gloves like these? They are like $4.50 US for about 25. Guessing they'd be fine in rain, just durability issues.

Jörgen Johansson said...

Absolutely. It is only worthwhile on a rational level if you happen to have the Cuben and the tape. However, most Cuben products are probably not purchased on a rational level :-)
Most people probably have some plastic bags in their pack that can be used as protective mitts in a pinch. They will break easily, but probably will do the job anyway.

Andy said...

This is great! I just ordered some w/b cuben for rain mitts, and your post makes it look so easy. Thanks.

Jörgen Johansson said...

Andy,
It is pretty easy, hope it works out well for you. Not the most stylish thing though ;-)

Juris Magone said...

What about breathability of such mitts?

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