What’s worse than hiking in the heat? Hiking with numbed hands in the wintertime. Hikers, mountaineers, and trekkers are often faced with inclement weather obstacles such as wind, rain, snow, or a mix. When you have the proper equipment, anything is possible, of course. That is why you need to make sure you have winter hiking gloves to protect the part of your body most prone to frostbite: your hands.
Differences Between Spring, Fall Gloves and Winter Gloves
There is a reason why you wouldn’t wear the same hiking gear you do for the desert as you would for a snowy mountain. The same rule applies to your gloves. Hiking and mountaineering gloves that have been designed for the spring or fall usually are comprised of a single layer to keep your hands warm. These gloves usually lack an outer shell and don’t resist moisture for periods of time.
Conversely, winter gloves have three layers that work like a layered clothing system. The one closest to your skin will wick away moisture. The middle layer keeps the heat of your body contained, and the final layer will be a protective shell protecting your hands from wind, snow, and rain. You can even think of gloves as a modular clothing system, in this sense. You can always buy a moisture wicking pair then wear waterproof mittens over them.
What to Consider When Purchasing Winter Gloves
Though it’s already been mentioned, having gloves with insulation, a lining, and a shell is your top priority when selecting your new pair. There are indeed some other factors that help you decide though. Let’s have a look:
- Insulation - Make the warmth of your hands one of the priorities. Winter gloves usually are made with synthetic filling, fleece or wool to sufficiently trap body heat. Always choose your level of insulation based on the weather conditions you expect. Some materials work better in some temperatures and conditioners than others.
- Lining - One of the most important parts of the winter hiking glove is the lining, because it will wick away the perspiration and thus reduce the overall conductive heat loss that comes with wet clothing.
- Shell - On gloves, the shell is usually made of Gore-Tex, Membrain, Pertex and similar waterproof yet breathable materials. Aside from keeping your hands dry, the shell should always be durable.
- Mobility - The gloves should be bendable enough that you don’t have to take them off when adjusting your equipment, setting something up, or going through your backpack. Though it seems like a small detail to keep in mind, being able to stay dexterous is a huge convenience.
- Durability - Buy a cheap pair and watch them fall apart during your first hike. No one wants that scenario, so be sure to choose a pair that is top-quality and high-rated. Chances are that if people in the review section are complaining about ripping and popped seams, the same could happen to you. If you tend to hike often in wet regions or through snow, get a glove with a reinforced palm grip that won’t wear down overtime.
- Styles & Features - First, are your a five-fingered person or a mitten-lover? For warmth, mittens are better, but they lack in overall functionality. There are also three-fingered gloves, sometimes called lobster gloves, that are preferred by cross-country skiers or winter hiking when using poles.
If you get unisex sizing, be sure that you are getting the proper size for your hands. Too big or too small can be quite uncomfortable.
You will find when you begin your search that most gloves are relatively basic. Some will have features like removable lining that can be worn separately, which is great because you can dry these parts overnight, for example. Other features you might want would include a single-pull adjustable system, designated nose wipe areas (because that’s important), and carabiner loops.
You might also be someone who wants touch screen compatible gloves to ensure you don’t need to remove your gloves to check your phone or take a photograph.
Best Winter Hiking Gloves of 2017
Now that you’ve been introduced in what to look for when shopping winter hiking gloves, let’s have a look at some of the best winter hiking gloves available right now.
1. Black Diamond Mercury Mitts
If you loathe five-fingered gloves, then Black Diamond’s Mercury Mitts are going to keep your hands warm and dry in a number of wintry weather. The mitten was designed to keep the heat generated by your hands locked inside. Though they aren’t the best choice when using poles, they are made with nylon and spandex for additional mobility. There is also a goat skin palm that makes gripping items easier.
The interior features a 100% waterproof, meshed, removable liner. The material is PrimaLoft insulation, so you know your hands will stay warm for prolonged periods of time. To increase durability, the Mercury Mittens also come with an abrasion-resistant PerTex Shield shell to prevent ripping and fraying.
People have reported that these mittens run a little small. For example, if you usually wear a large, your fingertips might be scratching the seam. To prevent this from happening, order a size up.
2. Outdoor Research Alti
The Alti gloves by Outdoor Research are not only the most expensive on this list, they are considered the most technical. Expert level alpine climbers, mountaineers, and those who look to brave the harshest conditions of winter should pick these gloves up. Features include a strong shell and 100% waterproof Gore-Tex inserts, as well as a AlpenGrip palm. Under the shell is another insulation layer containing 100 grams of PrimaLoft Gold synthetic insulation fiber. The innermost section of the gloves are removable and also made of PrimaLoft Gold (170 grams).
What makes these gloves a great investment is that you two gloves for the price of one that are both very warm, durable, and allow for a lot of dexterity. There’s also pull loops for size adjustment, carabiner loops, and gauntlet closures.
One con with these gloves is that they are sized smaller than what you’d might expect. Make sure you get the appropriate sizing!
3. Black Diamond Soloist
These gloves by Black Diamond are considered superior to many on the market, but that is not the only reason they are on this list. The gloves are perfect for hikers and mountaineers who endure the coldest of conditions. The Black Diamond Soloist gloves have a thin yet durable shell made out of Pertex Shield. Pertex is known for being highly waterproof but breathable. The palm is made of goat leather, and there is even Kevlar stitching to increase durability. Another plus is that the liner can be removed and used on its own.
Insulation is PrimaLoft Gold insulation at 170 grams backside and 133 grams palm. An insert of BDry is also available. The gloves are also equipped with single-pull adjustment around the wrist, and you can even attach them to a carabiner. You can even choose between five- or three-fingered designs.
The only downside that has been noted is that they aren’t the most insulated gloves available, but if you don’t like your hands getting too hot, these are more than enough.
4. Sealskinz All Season Gloves
Maybe you’re not going to be slogging through snow, but you are still headed towards conditions that can get wet and cold. You don’t necessarily need something as heavily insulated as the first 3 options on this list. The 87% polyester and 13% spandex shell of the Sealskinz All Season Gloves are going to keep you warm without adding bulk.
These gloves are thin, but they still have 3 layers of waterproof, breathable fabric. On the palm is flexible goatskin leather. The thumb and index finger are also touch-screen compatible, and you can tighten them with a hook-and-loop closure.
For the price, the product is reasonable quality. The only downside that seems to be a recurring theme is that they run small.
5. Black Diamond Windweight Mittens
These cool looking mittens are made of Polartec fleece combined with Petards suede. There are Petards suede palm patches, and the top of the mittens can fold back, securing with a magnetic closure so that you can also wear them as 3/4 fingerless gloves. While these are definitely not recommended for wet conditions, they will keep your hands extremely warm and offer that nice feature of being able to grasp things you wouldn’t wearing plain mittens.
If you purchase these according to the sizing chart, you shouldn’t have any problems. The cost is relatively cheap, and Black Diamond is a good brand. You can expect these to last for several years and keep your hands warm when hiking.
6. Marmot Randonnee
Great performance for a decent price is hard to come by these days. Luckily, there are the Marmot Randonnee gloves to meet you in the middle. The gloves have a shell made from 2-layer MemBrain material. MemBrain is like Gore-Tex and offers a wonderful shield from water and wind without sacrificing breathability.
The insulation is Thermal R, made of polyester; and there is DriClime lining made from two different denier yarns that keep your skin moisture-free and also really comfortable. The Randonnee are single-pull around the wrist. A drawcord is at the back.
The only negative to these gloves is that the lining isn’t removable, so they may take longer to dry than other options.
Having decent winter hiking gloves is as essential as having insulating socks, boots, and shirts. You don’t want your hands, the part of your body most susceptible to frostbite, to be exposed to the elements. Besides, nothing is more distracting during a challenging hike than cold appendages! Keep yourself warm, dry, and comfortable with any of these choices. Once you have warm gloves, you can get out and enjoy fresh powder and mountains!