My boy GhostBuster is a winter-loving pup. A true Canadian dog, he doesn’t start lifting his paws off the sidewalk until we’re well beyond blizzard conditions. As a furry Lab–Golden mix, GhostBuster grows his own protection against this frozen season. Unlike my smaller dog, Marshmallow, he doesn’t need a parka — but I sure do.
I’m in full winter gear when we head out into the freezing temps, and that includes a pair of thick mittens. I prefer mittens to gloves because my fingers get to hang out together and keep each other warm. Unfortunately, the thumb on my leash hand ends up too far from the group and gets painfully cold. That’s why I was excited to try the Winter Leash, a new product that bills itself as the only leash that keeps your hand warm.
The folks at Winter Leash sent me two versions of the product to test out: the Full Winter Leash and the Swivel Shackle. The Full Winter Leash is essentially a leash with a built-in mitten, ideal for walking one dog and perfect for my nighttime strolls with GhostBuster. It’s not always just me and my boy, though. We also walk with Marshmallow during the warmer parts of the day, and that’s when the Swivel Shackle comes in handy. Unlike the Full Winter Leash, there is no lead attached to this mitten. Instead, the shackle allows the walker to attach multiple leashes or a coupler (great for walking GhostBuster and Marshy simultaneously). Both versions of the mitten are thumbless, so your whole hand stays together inside the mitt for maximum warmth.
Inside the mittens are two handles to control the leash or shackle. There’s a small loop and a big loop, so you have a few options for getting a good grip. I like to use both handles for maximum control (especially handy when my Marshmallow spots one of the many wild neighborhood rabbits or that sassy Beagle she hates so much). The Full Winter Leash also has an extra handle at the top of the leash so you can control your dog with two hands if need be (again, super handy in rabbit emergencies).
Both Winter Leashes (as well as another option with a carabiner) are made in the USA, and both have a cool utility pocket on the outside, which was perfect for carrying my keys and a few poop bags. The two mitts I tried were made of different materials. The Full Winter Leash mitten is comprised of a blue, limited-edition fabric known as
Polartec PowerShield, while the black Swivel Shackle mitten uses Polartec’s Windbloc material. The blue leash is a little softer inside, but both kept my hand nice and toasty while braving the winter weather with GhostBuster.
I really liked walking with the Winter Leash because my thumb was no longer lonely and able to keep warm with the rest of my fingers, but it did put me at a disadvantage when it came to picking up poop. When I wear my regular mitts, I don’t have to expose my hand at all if I’m using a large bag with handles, and only have to expose my hand briefly if using the small poop bags that come in a roll. Because the Winter Leash mitts are thumbless, I have to take my hand out in order to peel open a bag, pick up a poop, and tie the bag shut. I’m trying to train myself to use my non-leash hand for poop grabbing, but getting a bag open and tying it requires thumbs.
Quality: A+. The fabrics are great, as is the hardware. The trigger-style snap on the end of the Full Winter Leash isn’t something I’m used to, but works well. The webbing for the full leash is great quality and sourced from a manufacturer on Rhode Island.
Style: I’m way more concerned with function than style when it comes to walking during the winter. That being said, these aren’t ugly. Certainly no worse than most heavy-duty mitts.
Function: My hands stayed warm and I still had great control — even with two dogs.
Creativity: The guy behind Winter Leash, Mike, is a former Army Ranger who used his experience with military textiles in developing the product. The Winter Leash is unlike anything I’ve seen at my local pet stores.
Value: At $49.99 – $54.99, the Winter Leash isn’t inexpensive, but the high-quality materials of this American-made product mean you can expect to be using this thing for multiple seasons. The Full Winter Leash won’t set you back much more than a quality leash and a pair of thermal mittens would.
If you live in a cold climate and suffer from frozen thumbs, the Winter Leash is a good buy. Before using this product, the thumb on my leash hand would always be freezing cold long before the rest of me. Cold hands can mean shorter walks, something that’s fine by Marshmallow but not cool with GhostBuster. Inside the Winter Leash, my thumb stays warm and my leash hand is actually warmer than my other hand now.
Who’s got two warm thumbs now and can stay outside just as long as GhostBuster? This lady!
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About the Author: Heather Marcoux is a freelance writer in Alberta, Canada. Her beloved Ghost Cat was once her only animal, but the addition of a second cat, Specter, and the dog duo of GhostBuster and Marshmallow make her fur family complete. Sixteen paws is definitely enough. Heather is also a wife, a bad cook, and a former TV journalist. Some of her friends have hidden her feed because of an excess of cat pictures. If you don’t mind cat pictures, you can follow her on Twitter; she also posts pet GIFs on Google+.