Choosing Right Hiking Gloves

When Choosing Right Gloves, Consider:

  • conditions you will be using the gloves in
  • What activity you will use the gloves for
  • What is the main purpose of you want your gloves to do (Keep your hands warm, protect your hands from abrasions, etc)
  • How much dexterity you will need
  • Do you want gloves or mittens
  • What is the shell material
  • Insulation
  • Cuff length
  • Membrane
  • Lining
  • Palm
  • Size and fit

Gloves or Mittens?

Do you prefer the dexterity of gloves or the warmth of mittens? Mittens usually gives more warmth because your fingers will share one compartment and they generate more heat that way, but in a glove they all are separated. However, mittens limit mobility in and may have to be removed to access your pockets, answer your phone or adjust your goggle strap while on the slopes, but you might have to take off your gloves to do these things as well. You’ll also find 3-finger hybrids “lobster mitts” that fall between gloves and mittens.

Shell Material

Synthetics – Most gloves and mittens has synthetic fabric body, usually nylon. High quality models use waterproof breathable fabric, and utilize a membrane or coating of ePTFE (expanded Polytetrafluoroethylene, also known as Teflon®) or PU (Polyurethane). GORE-TEX® models include a separate ePTFE insert between the outer fabric and the insulation layer. Waterproof breathable fabrics used in gloves and mittens are available in hard and soft-shell versions where usually these fabrics are combined with leather or synthetic protective materials in high abrasion areas like the palms and fingers.

Leather – Leather is naturally water resistant and normally is cowhide or goatskin, it can be more durable and pliable than nylon materials. With a combination of treated leather (grease, wax, or resin added to it) and a micro-porous membrane, leather gloves can be waterproof, windproof and warm. If maintained properly with leather waterproofing treatments, these gloves can last for many years.

Insulation

Down – nature’s best insulator is an excellent choice for very cold, but dry conditions with moderate activity. Down’s insulating qualities are hard to beat in cold and dry conditions, but its advantages are reduced when wet and it can be slow to dry.

Primaloft® is using patented synthetic microfiber insulation material to help the body retain warmth and conserve energy. This is a very good insulation choice for wet conditions. Primaloft is not as warm as down by weight, but it’s breathable, water resistant and compressible, and provides good insulation even when wet.

Thinsulate™ is made of unique ultra thin microfibers, it provides excellent insulating properties with less bulk, making it ideal for use in glove and mittens where dexterity is a priority.

Cuff Length

Short Cuffs – Short cuff lengths usually end at the base of your wrist, offering greater mobility in the wrist area and the ability for your jacket cuffs to overlap your gloves.

Long Cuffs – Longer cuff lengths extend over and past the sleeve of your jacket and will offer more protection against snow creeping in. Whether your gloves overlap your jacket cuffs or not is a matter of your personal preference, but check the cuffs of your jacket for adjustability before deciding.

Membrane

GORE-TEX® membranes for gloves and mittens are an insert placed between the outer shell and insulation, they offer some of the highest level of waterproof breathability.

Hipora® fabrics are waterproof, windproof and breathable with a polyurethane (PU) coating, which is famous for being more stretchable than other PU coatings. It has microscopic pores all over the polyurethane coating to prevent liquid water penetration, but also allow moisture to evaporate out.

Polyurethane – Most waterproof and breathable fabrics have a laminated membrane or coating made of polyurethane (PU). PU coated fabrics make up a large portion of the glove and mitten market, offering a good combination of waterproof breathability and cost. Many manufacturers offer their own proprietary PU membrane, and combine this fabric with leather or synthetic materials in high wear areas.

WINDSTOPPER® fabric is made with an ePTFE membrane that it is only windproof and breathable, but not waterproof. By combining durable wind protection and high breathability, this type glove will keep you warm and comfortable with fewer layers and less bulk and is suitable for cold and dry climates. Like most soft shell fabrics, WINDSTOPPER® products are typically coated with DWR (Durable Water Repellent), which provides them with a good water resistance. They may get wet in heavy rainfall, but can be worn comfortably in light drizzle.

Lining

The lining is an extra layer of material built into gloves to create a comfortable feel, increasing warmth and comfort. Lining material will vary depending on the brand and glove. Fleece and wool are two examples. Typically the lining uses a synthetic material that has moisture wicking qualities to help pull sweat away from your skin and pass it through the membrane.

You may also want to consider separate glove liners. They fit inside of an exterior shell glove as an extra layer of protection against colder days, giving you the ability to add warmth when needed.

Palm

Most gloves and mittens have grips and reinforcements located on the areas that get the most use, like your palms, fingertips and thumbs. Grips are included on gloves for durability and better grip. The palms may be made of various materials, such as leather or vinyl, which adds to their longevity.

Size and Fit

Gloves or mitts that fit properly, provide greater dexterity, warmth and comfort. Gloves should fit snugly and allow enough room at the end of outstretched fingers for you to pinch about a quarter of an inch of fabric. Also, make sure your wrist remains covered and when you make a fist, the fit shouldn’t be so tight that is constricts your fingers from curving fully.

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