After Outfitting Scientists and Astronauts, a Maine Firm Uses Its Technology for Winter Gloves

Mainers, a new line of extreme-temperature winter gloves and mitts, is manufactured by the leading maker of PPE used in COVID-19 vaccine distribution.

Tempshield, a Maine manufacturer of safety gear for ultra-cold temperatures, has boomed during the pandemic. The company’s Cryo-Gloves, personal protective equipment used in labs at NASA, NATO, and John Hopkins, are made to protect against temperatures as frigid as negative-320 degrees Fahrenheit, and now they are playing an unexpected but critical role in the distribution of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine. Vials arrive at their destinations in boxes packaged at 80-degrees-below zero, which means if a person touches them barehanded, their skin will be severely burned. The majority of Tempshield’s small staff are working seven days a week to meet demand.

None of this was on the agenda when CEO Jim Woldenberg took over the factory in Trenton in 2018. He had his sights set on expanding the company’s world-class expertise to fit into another part of the economy. “I started to ask myself, who else [besides lab workers] needs highly insulated hand protection?” Woldenberg says. “Snowmobilers, cross-country skiers, ice fishers—winter outdoor enthusiasts.”

Enter “Mainers,” new-to-the-market insulated gloves and mitts handmade by the same stitchers who have been manufacturing Tempshield’s highly technical cryogenic safety products for 40 years. Mainers products are constructed using a unique combination of materials: a GoreTex liner with a water-resistant weave, Polartec on both the palm and the back of the hand, 3M Thinsulate insulation, a rope pull on the cuff by Biddeford-based climbing rope manufacturer Sterling Rope, and the softest goat skin the team could find. And, unlike what you’ll see on the shelves at your local outdoor retailer, these have 360-degree insulation built around each finger as well as 250 grams of insulation over the back of the hand.

A successful Kickstarter campaign with 155 backers pledging $26,910 helped bring the project to life, and for over two years Woldenberg’s team researched, developed, and tested prototypes—including submerging their own hands in ice baths—before coming up with two products: the Mainers Extreme Cold Glove and the Mainers Extreme Cold Mitt ($195). Roll out has been slower than planned, but surely no one will balk at the company’s top priority: helping to save lives. As the website stated this January, “We look forward to bringing you the very best winter gloves and mitts you’ve ever worn, but we have some work to do.”

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