To get our hands on the best gloves — for active wear, everyday casual, and dress wear — we evaluated 23 pairs for water repellency, washability (where applicable), and insulation performance. In the GHRI lab, we inserted a temperature probe inside the gloves, put them in our temperature-controlled room set at 30 degrees F, and timed how long it took for the inside to cool down to 30 degrees (the best time: 160 minutes). We then recruited testers to wear the top 10 performing gloves inside the cold room to determine if their hands stayed warm, as well as to assess fit and style.
Gloves for outdoor winter activities should be constructed with three layers — a waterproof outer shell, an insulation layer all the way to the fingertips (down feathers or a synthetic like Primaloft), and an inner liner that can wick away moisture. If gloves will be used in active pursuits like skiing or shoveling snow, look for a liner that can be removed in case you start to sweat.
For everyday casual gloves, polyester, spandex, and fleece offer warmth plus dexterity. Glove construction should have at least two layers (an outer shell and a lining) to trap air for warmth. When trying gloves on, be sure the elastic at the wrist is snug but not tight, and the glove is long enough to go under or over your jackets' cuffs.
With dress gloves, opt for leather with a water-resistant finish (to avoid spots) and a wool or cashmere lining. Dress gloves tend to be sold in traditional sizes and still use the old scale where the wrist length is measured by the number of buttons needed to fasten them — to be sure there are no gaps between your coat cuff and the glove, pick a 3 or 3.5 button length. For gloves that are dressy and washable, chose those made with spandex/polyester/fleece combinations.
Next, find out which gloves didn't make the cut.
Other Winter Gloves for Active Wear
Although these gloves proved only average in insulation, they were above average for water repellency: Burton Leather Pipe Glove ($65), Columbia Sportswear Leaping Lion ($55), Lands' End Windfall ($30), and Outdoor Research Esteema ($65) (which also showed moderate wear on wash tests). Burton Baker Under Glove ($50) also was average in insulation, but performed excellently in water-repellency tests. The loser: The North Face's Dexter ($70), which was below average in both insulation and water repellency.
Other Winter Gloves for Casual Wear
Kombi Foldable gloves ($30) and Marmot Glide Softshell ($50) both had average insulation scores, with the Kombi showing moderate wear after our washing tests and performing average for water repellency, and the Marmot performing fine on the wash test and excellently on the water-repellency test. Isotoner Package Sport ($32) also has excellent water repellency, but below-average insulation. Swany Microfiber and Ottoman Lightweight ($35) rated above average on water repellency but showed moderate wear after washing and did poorly on insulation.
Other Dressy Winter Gloves
Isotoner Suede with Back Vent ($30) and Swany Quilted Sheepskin ($90) had average insulation but below-average water repellency — in fact, the Swany glove flat-out failed that test.