You may have the best winter shoes and jackets on the market, but if you go without properly protecting your hands from the elements, you'll quickly notice that it’s quite a chink in your armor. Choosing the right pair of winter gloves can certainly be an overwhelming experience. With so many styles, brands, fabrics, sizes, and durability levels to choose from, you may just settle for the first pair you see. However, to truly battle the cold—and get the most out of your outdoor adventure—take a moment to learn about the various kinds of winter gloves and mittens (or mitts), and which of these are best for your preferred activity.
Winter gloves and mittens are of course meant to, above all else, keep your hands warm. While mittens naturally offer more warmth than gloves by grouping your fingers together (think lots of people in a small, crowded room), the different forms of insulation used also have a major impact on warmth. If you're looking for a lightweight glove with outstanding resistance to extreme cold, take a look at goose down gloves. But if you suspect moisture could be a part of your outdoor experience, gloves or mittens with PrimaLoft insulation may be better suited for you.
You'll also find several forms of fleece gloves, which, being made of polyester, dry quickly and can come in a variety of different levels of wind- and waterproofness. Generally, any synthetic snow gloves, including fleece and PrimaLoft, will keep your hands warmer in wet conditions than down.
When deciding on the type of insulation, keep in mind how important it will be to have complete control over your hand movements. If you choose a heavily insulated glove, you may be shielded well from the elements, but it could also restrict movement—a bad situation when you're ice climbing or working with tools outside. If it's dexterity you need, first focus on the stretch of the fabric, then decide how well it will suit you in the cold. Mittens, you may guess, trade-off warmth for dexterity.
You may notice that winter gloves come in a wide range of shapes and sizes. A smaller glove or mitten may end at the wrist, which can be handy when you're actively working with your hands in the cold. But if you're using your gloves for snow sports, like skiing, you may want to check out gloves with coverage that goes well beyond the wrist to keep out snow and cold.
There are several forms of gloves that offer unique benefits, such as the ability to work touchscreen devices; liner gloves that can be worn under heavier gloves or mittens for added warmth; and fingerless gloves, which provide the most possible dexterity. But remember, with more dexterity comes greater exposure to cold, so be sure to balance which you'll need most.
Get Out into the Cold
At the end of the day, it will be most important for you to know which gloves to use for the activities you'll be doing. For intense sports that need extreme cold-weather gear, like ice climbing, look for gloves with a good balance of warmth and dexterity, and waterproofness. For ice climbing especially, find gloves with leather palms, which are more durable and better resist rope burn while rappelling on a climb. A pair of warm mittens will also keep you warm between climbs.
If you'll mostly be doing downhill skiing, insulation should be your main focus, rather than dexterity; and remember the more wrist coverage, the smaller the chance for snow and cold to get in. If you're cross-country skiing, however, look at dexterity over insulation. For day-to-day activities, like driving, a solid pair of fleece gloves should suit you just fine.
Choosing the right pair of gloves or mittens can make all the difference when it comes to keeping your hands toasty and dry all winter.