Boise Mountains, Idaho.

Review: The Best Gloves For Winter

In Gear Reviews   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   4 Comments

By Michael Lanza

I love getting outdoors in winter, especially skiing in all of its varieties—climbing up and sliding down mountains in the backcountry, skate skiing, resort skiing with my family, and touring on gentler terrain in the forest. Problem is, I have the worst fingers for being outside in sub-freezing temperatures: My Raynaud’s disease is so bad that my fingers turn white and numb even when I’m chopping vegetables that are still cold from the fridge. That’s made me picky about gloves. I’ve tested many over the years, and I use different models depending on the activity and temperature. Here are the best gloves I’ve found for winter.

I tested the following gloves on numerous days of backcountry skiing, skate skiing, ski touring, and resort skiing in Idaho’s Boise Mountains and Galena Summit area, on multi-day, backcountry yurt trips, and mountaineering on California’s 14,505-foot Mount Whitney in April. I used these gloves in a wide range of temperatures from the high 30s Fahrenheit to below-zero wind chills, and in snowstorms, cold rain, graupel, and most other forms of water that fall from the sky.

Besides coming in a range of prices and styles, the gloves reviewed below have different strengths and weaknesses, making each better for varying activities and circumstances, which I specify in each review.

I’ve divided the reviews below into two categories:

1.    Under-the-cuff gloves, which have shorter, closer-fitting gauntlets designed to be worn under a jacket cuff. They vary in degree of warmth and dexterity, but (with one exception among those reviewed here) are usually less warm and expensive and more dexterous than over-the-cuff gloves. They are typically used for high-intensity activities like classic Nordic or skate skiing on groomed trails, but depending on your needs and typical temperatures encountered, can be used for winter hiking, climbing, ski touring gentler terrain in the woods, and snowshoeing in “moderate” winter temperatures from the 20s to 30s Fahrenheit.

2.    Over-the-cuff gloves, which have longer, adjustable gauntlets designed to be worn over a jacket cuff. They have more insulation and often better water resistance than under-the-cuff gloves—or are fully waterproof—and usually cost more. I chose only two-piece gloves, with removable liners, for versatility in activities like backcountry skiing, snowshoeing, ski touring, climbing, or winter hiking and backpacking, where temperatures and your exertion level vary.

 

Skiers above the Baldy Knoll yurt in Wyoming's Teton Range.

Skiers above the Baldy Knoll yurt in Wyoming’s Teton Range.

How to Choose Winter Gloves

How do you choose between under- and over-the-cuff gloves? While either style can be worn for most of the activities I’ve mentioned, consider these factors:

•    Your activity.
•    Your usual range of weather conditions and temperatures.
•    How easily your fingers get cold.
•    Thicker, warmer gloves are overkill for high-intensity activities like skate skiing.
•    Under-the-cuff gloves are usually best for outings of a few hours or less.
•    Over-the-cuff gloves are usually best for multi-hour, all-day, or multi-day activities, especially when your hands are repeatedly in snow (such as when backcountry skiing).

I’ve listed the products below in ascending order by price and pointed out the pros and cons of each and what they’re best for.

 

Under-the-Cuff Gloves

 

Outdoor Research PL 400 Sensor Gloves

Outdoor Research PL 400 Sensor Gloves

Outdoor Research PL 400 Sensor Gloves
$39, 2 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s S-XL, women’s S-L
backcountry.com

Pros: Lightweight, warm liner, excellent dexterity, touchscreen fingertips.
Cons: Not weatherproof.
Best For: When dexterity is needed in cold temperatures, or when active in temps around or just above freezing.

For the dexterity and warmth they offer, these double-layer gloves stayed on my hands much of the time on a four-day, April climb of the Mountaineers Route on California’s 14,505-foot Mount Whitney—at times alone, often under a shell glove. Made of stretchy, 300-weight fleece with a 100-weight fleece liner, they strike a balance between more warmth than most liner gloves—which are lighter—and optimal dexterity for delicate tasks like firing up a stove.

They extend slightly beyond the wrist for better warmth. The fabric breathes really well, wicks sweat, and dries quickly, and fingertips and palms have an no-slip, silicone print. The forefinger and thumb tips are reliably touchscreen compatible, though you have to tap a little more deliberately than with bare hands. There is a quick clip for mating the gloves. They’re ideal as a single glove in temperatures from the 20s to the 30s Fahrenheit (depending on your activity and how easily your fingers get cold), or as a liner under a shell glove or mitten in colder temps.

BUY IT NOW You can support my work on this blog by clicking either of these links to purchase the men’s Outdoor Research PL 400 Sensor Gloves at backcountry.com or the women’s PL 400 Sensor Gloves at backcountry.com.

 

Outdoor Research Afterburner Gloves

Outdoor Research Afterburner Gloves

Outdoor Research Afterburner Gloves
$59, 5 oz. (unisex medium)
Sizes: unisex S-XL
backcountry.com

Pros: Touchscreen fingertips, weather-resistant, lightweight, and great value.
Cons: Unisex sizing not best for most women, no quick clip to connect them.
Best For: High-intensity activities in any weather, or any activity in moderate temperatures.

The best value in this field of under-the-cuff models, the Afterburner Gloves covered my hands on many winter days, for everything from Nordic skiing to cold-weather bike commuting. For two hours of skate skiing in temps in the 20s Fahrenheit, on a sunny day with little wind but lots of long, fast downhills that create my own wind on shaded trails, my fingers never actually got cold, as they often do. On a four-day family ski trip to a backcountry yurt in Idaho’s Boise Mountains, I took an 11-mile hike on snow on a February day in the mid-30s, when it was misting nearly the entire time, and my hands stayed warm and dry.

The stretchy, 40-denier nylon fabric, with water-resistant suede palm overlays, molded neoprene around the wrist for water repellency and breathability, and a polyester fleece lining, kept my hands comfortable through many Nordic skiing outings. They offer good dexterity for manipulating pack buckles and zipper pulls, and the touchscreen-sensitive index fingertip on each glove let me use a smartphone without removing a glove—although they’re more precise for swiping than tapping. I really like the oversized nylon loop at the wrist for easily pulling each glove on even when you’re wearing a glove on the other hand (brilliant!). But there’s no quick clip to mate them when storing, and the unisex sizing will typically fit men’s hands better than women’s.

BUY IT NOW You can support my work on this blog by clicking this link to purchase the Outdoor Research Afterburner Gloves at backcountry.com.

 

The Big Outside is proud to partner with sponsors Backcountry.com and Visit North Carolina, who support the stories you read at this blog. Find out more about them and how to sponsor my blog at my sponsors page at The Big Outside. Click on the backcountry.com ad below for the best prices on great gear.

 

 

 

Marmot XT Glove

Marmot XT Glove

Marmot XT Glove
$75, 4 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s XS-XL
moosejaw.com

Pros: Water-resistant, lightweight, good fit and dexterity, palm pad.
Cons: No women’s sizes or touchscreen sensor.
Best For: High-intensity activities in any weather, or any activity in moderate temperatures.

I wore the XT Gloves for numerous one- and two-hour, skate-skiing workouts from the Harriman Trail in Idaho’s Wood River Valley to my local Nordic trails above Boise, and for cold-weather biking around town. Even in temps in the low 20s and some wind on a sunny, two-hour ski tour in the Boise Mountains, and a four-mile dayhike in the Boise Foothills on a 15° F morning, my chronically cold fingers stayed warm.

The proprietary, water-resistant, breathable MemBrain stretch fabric on the backs of the hands repels snow and light rain, while the DriClime lining wicks sweat. Falcon Grip articulation and Pittards leather in the palms and undersides of the fingers deliver good dexterity, fit, and easy gripping for manipulating pack buckles and zipper pulls; that leather makes the palms more durable than nylon, too. A small palm pad cushions the ulnar nerve, especially useful when using poles. The hoop-and-loop wrist closure seals out cold air. There is a quick clip for mating the gloves, but no touchscreen sensor.

BUY IT NOW You can support my work on this blog by clicking this link to purchase the Marmot XT Glove at moosejaw.com.

 

Do you like The Big Outside? I’m Michael Lanza, the creator of The Big Outside, recognized as a top outdoors blog by a USA Today Readers Choice poll and others. Get email updates about new stories and free gear giveaways by entering your email address in the box at the bottom of this story or in the left sidebar, and follow my adventures on Facebook and Twitter.

 

Ibex Kilometer Glove

Ibex Kilometer Glove

Ibex Kilometer Glove
$80, 4 oz. (unisex medium)
Sizes: Unisex S-XL
backcountry.com

Pros: Extended cuff, fast-drying, water-resistant, lightweight, good fit, dexterity, and grip.
Cons: No women’s sizes or touchscreen sensor.
Best For: High-intensity activities in any weather, or any activity in moderate temperatures.

In hour-long outings Nordic skiing, in conditions ranging from sunny to snowing, and single digits to the 20s F, the Kilometer Gloves kept my fingers warm most of the time—which impressed me because my fingers get cold easily and those temps pushed the limits of most under-the-cuff gloves. With a lining made of Ibex’s 230g/m² Woolies 2 Merino wool base layer, the Kilometer is designed for aerobic activities like Nordic skiing and running in temperatures ranging from the teens to the 30s Fahrenheit (depending on how easily your hands get cold), and crosses over well to snowshoeing and cold-weather hiking, backpacking, and walking. They provide warmth in chilly temps, dexterity for lacing up boots or running shoes, and breathability for expelling sweat.

The silicone grip logo on the middle finger and leather suede overlays on forefinger, thumb, and palm enhance grip and durability for using poles. The synthetic suede palm and synthetic fabric shell repelled snow. The wool blend, rib-knit cuff extends about two inches beyond the wrist bones—farther than many under-the-cuff gloves—and keeping wrists warm also keeps fingers warmer. (Google “vasoconstriction.”) But that wool cuff also dries quickly, to avoid the feeling of wet, cold wrists. Plus, the cuff fabric stretches enough to fit over a close-fitting jacket sleeve as well as under—unusual for an under-the-cuff glove. The gloves also have a nose wipe on the thumbs and reflective accents on the knuckles.

BUY IT NOW You can support my work on this blog by clicking this link to purchase the Ibex Kilometer Glove at backcountry.com.

 

Enjoy your cold-season activities more. Read my “12 Pro Tips For Staying Warm Outdoors in Winter.”

 

FlyLow Blaster Glove

FlyLow Blaster Glove

FlyLow Blaster Glove
$100, 8 oz. (medium)
Sizes: unisex XS-XL
backcountry.com

Pros: Waterproof, all leather, very warm.
Cons: Unisex sizes only, minimal dexterity.
Best For: Deep cold while backcountry skiing, snowshoeing, snowboarding, ice climbing, and mountaineering.

Snow dumping often during four days of backcountry skiing in the mountains around Lake Tahoe was exactly what two friends and I were hoping for. But winds reached over 50 mph, and the white stuff came in wet at times. Not a problem with the Blasters, though. My hands stayed warm and dry for several hours a day, despite me frequently immersing the gloves in snow, whether shoveling a pit to evaluate avalanche hazard, digging a quick hand pit to look at surface snow layers, or simply telemark skiing in fresh powder. That’s thanks to warm, PrimaLoft Gold insulation, and that fact that FlyLow “triple bakes” the pigskin leather in ovens heated to 215° F, then coats it with SnoSeal bee’s wax three times to make them durably waterproof.

I wore the gloves over the close-fitting cuffs of an insulating jacket that has sleeve thumbholes, and under the cuffs of a shell jacket. The Blasters have the warmth of some over-the-cuff gloves, while allowing you to slip on a shell jacket without having to pull the gloves off to tuck sleeves inside a gauntlet. The stretchy, hook-and-loop cuff closure keeps out snow and cold. The soft polyester lining doesn’t stick to wet fingers; hands slide easily in and out. While the gloves provide minimal dexterity, it’s enough to deal with a jacket zipper and boot buckles, and the Blasters may outlive me.

BUY IT NOW You can support my work on this blog by clicking this link to purchase a pair of FlyLow Blaster Gloves at backcountry.com.

This blog and website is my full-time job and I rely on the support of readers. If you like what you see here, please help me continue producing The Big Outside by making a donation using the Support button at the top of the left sidebar or below. Thank you for your support.


 

Black Diamond Legend Gloves

Black Diamond Legend Gloves

Black Diamond Legend Gloves
$130, 8 oz. (medium)
Sizes: men’s S-XL, women’s XS-L
backcountry.com

Pros: Waterproof, all leather, padded, very warm.
Cons: Too warm for moderate temps, minimal dexterity for under-the-cuff gloves.
Best For: Deep cold while backcountry skiing, snowshoeing, snowboarding, ice climbing, and mountaineering.

BD’s Legend Glove achieves a successful marriage of the warmth of a three-in-one, over-the-cuff glove with the fit of an under-the-cuff glove. With 170g of PrimaLoft Gold insulation on the backs of the hands and 133g of PrimaLoft Gold Eco in the palms, these are the warmest under-the-cuff gloves I’ve ever used—and they come loaded with high-end features. Shoveling out our tent after a night of wet, heavy snowfall, and taking the tent down later—with my hands repeatedly in heavy, sloppy snow—I found the Gore-Tex-lined Legend Gloves lived up to their fully waterproof claim. Ditto when I shoveled about a half ton of wet snow off the deck of a backcountry yurt in Idaho’s Boise Mountains. They’re built for hard use, with goat leather construction, Kevlar stitching, and compression-molded EVA padding on the backs of the hands. The soft suede nose wipe on the thumbs and a neoprene cuff with hook-and-loop closure close out a rich feature set.

Not surprisingly, I also found these gloves too warm for highly aerobic skate skiing in temps around freezing. They’re best for moderate-exertion, cold-temperature activities like ice climbing, resort skiing, skiing downhill in the backcountry (or skinning uphill in very cold temperatures), or hiking, snowshoeing and ski touring in temperatures well below freezing.

BUY IT NOW You can support my work on this blog by clicking this link to purchase the Black Diamond Legend Gloves at backcountry.com.

 

Over-the-Cuff Gloves

 

The North Face Triclimate Etip Glove

The North Face Triclimate Etip Glove

The North Face Triclimate Etip Glove
$90, 9 oz. (medium)
Sizes: men’s XS-XL
moosejaw.com

Pros: Waterproof, warm, elasticized wristband on leash, touchscreen compatible, relatively affordable.
Cons: Slightly large fit may compromise touchscreen compatibility; some skiers will consider the wristband inconvenient.
Best For: Backcountry skiing, snowshoeing, ice and alpine climbing, winter hiking and backpacking.

On a full day of resort skiing in wind chills below zero, I was surprised that my hands never felt cold in these gloves—except once, when we stopped for a short break and cooled down. I wore them on multiple days of backcountry skiing with similar results, thanks to 200g of insulation on the backs of the hands and 100g in the palms. I also wore the fleece- and tricot-lined shell glove alone when I didn’t need the full system, such as when skinning uphill in relatively cold temps. The removable liner glove is made with a thin, light, wicking fabric for skinning uphill or touring in relatively warm temps.

The proprietary, waterproof-breathable Hyvent lining and extended gauntlet with a one-hand adjustment drawcord kept my hands dry when digging and working in a snow pit to evaluate avalanche hazard. Synthetic leather in the palms and undersides of the fingers provide good grip and durability, while nylon fabric throughout the rest of the shell repels moisture. The shell glove’s fingers are curved, keeping your hands in a natural position when resting.

Fit is slightly large: The liner glove fingers on the medium were slightly long for my fingers, which was only a problem when using a touchscreen, because the extra fingertip fabric would get in the way of swiping or tapping, rendering the gloves’ touchscreen compatibility inconsistent for me—although it works perfectly well. The shell glove has a wide, elasticized wrist band at the end of its leash, to guarantee you won’t lose the glove in extreme situations, like ice climbing or ski mountaineering, when dropping a glove could really mean losing it forever. But the wristband, which you have to slide over your hand whenever taking the gloves off or putting them on, is overkill for most skiers and somewhat inconvenient.

BUY IT NOW You can support my work on this blog by clicking this link to purchase The North Face Triclimate Etip Glove at moosejaw.com.

 

Dress and spend your money wisely. See my “10 Smarter Ways to Think About Your Layering System.”

 

Outdoor Research Luminary Sensor Gloves

Outdoor Research Luminary Sensor Gloves

Outdoor Research Luminary Sensor Gloves
$129, 8 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s S-XL, women’s S-L
backcountry.com

Pros: Warm, versatile, fully featured, excellent touchscreen compatibility.
Cons: Not the best choice for relatively mild temps or spring skiing.
Best For: Backcountry skiing, snowshoeing, ice and alpine climbing, winter hiking and backpacking.

In temperatures ranging from the single digits and sub-zero wind chills to around freezing, and skies from bluebird to snowing, these three-in-one system gloves became my go-to hand wear for backcountry skiing. My hands typically get cold during the first 30 minutes of skiing—even when I’m skinning uphill the entire time—but that didn’t happen in these gloves, which seem warmer than many in this category. That’s due to the combination of the removable, wool-blend inner glove, which delivers significant warmth, and the water-resistant Gore-Tex Windstopper soft-shell outer glove, which blocks the chilling effects of wind.

This system places its insulation in the liner rather than in the shell glove, which translates to a specific strategy for hand-temperature management: You wear the outer glove when you’re working hard (e.g., skinning uphill), and add the liner when you need more warmth, such as when digging a snow pit or skiing downhill. That means you still have wind and weather protection without making your hands sweaty, and it also makes this glove better for cold temps, or for people who get cold hands easily, than a system glove with a thin, removable liner (which is better for milder temps, like spring skiing)—although you could always supplement this system with inexpensive liner gloves for spring.

The Luminary also sports high-end features like water-resistant, tricot-bonded, goat leather palms for grip, plus leather overlays on the palm for added durability, and tricot lining in the shell glove. The touchscreen compatibility in the thumb and index finger works well even while wearing the full system (inner and outer glove). A one-hand drawcord closure on the extended gauntlet keeps out snow and it has a removable and adjustable leash. And I like the big nylon loop for pulling the glove on, and the loop on the shell glove’s middle finger for clipping them to a harness fingers-up (to keep snow out).

BUY IT NOW You can support my work on this blog by clicking this link to purchase the Outdoor Research Luminary Sensor Gloves at backcountry.com.

 

Outdoor Research Mt. Baker Modular Mitts

Outdoor Research Mt. Baker Modular Mitts

Outdoor Research Mt. Baker Modular Mitts
$140, 9.5 oz. (medium)
Sizes: men’s S-XL
backcountry.com

Pros: Super warm and waterproof, two-piece system, glove dexterity with mitten warmth.
Cons: Too warm except in temps well below freezing, no women’s sizes.
Best For: Deep cold and expeditions.

Skiing in a wind chill around zero at times during a four-day, January trip to a backcountry yurt in Idaho’s Boise Mountains, my fingers—which get cold very easily—stayed toasty in this two-piece system of removable, insulated gloves inside a Gore-Tex shell mitten.

The warmth comes from 170g PrimaLoft One synthetic insulation in the glove insert, which has a soft, fleece lining. The Gore-Tex mitten shell kept moisture out and is made with the same 70-denier taslan ripstop polyester used in OR’s tough gaiters. Dexterity in the gloves is good enough to fuss with pack straps, boot buckles, and the like.

The mitts have smart details, like the one-hand gauntlet cinch on the shell mitten that’s manipulated easily with a gloved hand; adjustable straps at the wrist on both the mittens and gloves; and the carabiner loop on the mittens for clipping them to a harness or pack wrist-down, to prevent precipitation from getting inside them. AlpenGrip pads on the thumb and fingertips help you hold onto things. Note: With so much insulation, they’re made for temps in the teens and colder Fahrenheit. However, because the mittens have no insulation, they can double as three-season rain shells.

BUY IT NOW You can support my work on this blog by clicking this link to purchase the Outdoor Research Mt. Baker Modular Mitts at backcountry.com.

 

You deserve a better backpack. See my “Gear Review: The 10 Best Packs For Backpacking.”

 

Arc'teryx Lithic Glove

Arc’teryx Lithic Glove

Arc’teryx Lithic Glove
$249, 7 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s S-XL
backcountry.com

Pros: Warm, absolutely waterproof, fully featured, highly dexterous.
Cons: No removable inner glove for temperature versatility.
Best For: Backcountry skiing, climbing, snowshoeing when dexterity is critical.

Designed with a rare degree of intricacy, and lightweight for the amount of warmth they deliver, these gloves kept my fingers warm and dry through four days of sub-freezing temperatures and strong winds on an April snow climb of the Mountaineers Route on California’s 14,505-foot Mount Whitney. Although lacking a removable inner glove, the Lithic has better dexterity than many gloves with this much insulation—ideal for managing carabiners, buckles, and rope knots—thanks to Arc’teryx’s Tri-Dex patterning technology, which maps the thumb and each finger separately, to accommodate the hand’s natural grasping motion. Seams are also minimized and positioned to avoid interfering with grip.

Two types of waterproof-breathable Gore-Tex and taped seams make the gloves absolutely waterproof—my hands stayed dry despite repeated contact with wet snow. The water-repellent and durable TPU laminated to the fingers and palms provides not only enhanced grip (thanks in part to lamination eliminating the bulk of seams), it doesn’t wet out, meaning you don’t get the kind of heat loss that can occur with wet leather.

Three types of PrimaLoft synthetic insulation balance warmth and dexterity: 133g PrimaLoft Silver Insulation on the back of the hand, where you need more warmth, buffered by a layer of 100g PrimaLoft Silver Insulation Hi-Loft for better durability in areas that flex frequently; and denser 100g PrimaLoft Gold Insulation Eco with Grip Control in the palm and fingers, for maximum dexterity, grip, and durability.

The gauntlet extends to the forearm and adjusts with one hand, and an internal draft tube at the wrist—a smaller version of what’s found inside a sleeping bag zipper—helps keep heat inside. One demerit: The thin, removable wrist straps loosen too easily, sliding off your forearms. The Lithic Mitten for women is $225.

BUY IT NOW You can support my work on this blog by clicking either of these links to purchase the men’s Arc’teryx Lithic Glove at backcountry.com or the women’s Arc’teryx Lithic Mitten at moosejaw.com.

NOTE: I tested gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See categorized menus of all of my gear reviews at The Big Outside.

See also my stories:

The Simple Equation of Ultralight Backpacking: Less Weight = More Fun
5 Tips For Spending Less on Hiking and Backpacking Gear
10 Smarter Ways to Think About Your Layering System

 

Subscribe to the Big Outside

Enter your e-mail address for updates about new stories, reviews, and gear giveaways!



4 Responses to Review: The Best Gloves For Winter

  1. Kim Neill   |  February 16, 2017 at 8:22 am

    Nice glove review. As a cold hands person, I have found that ragg wool gloves, with thinsulate and fleece liner, are the warmest option for dry, cold days (or light snow) in the single digits and teens (or anything below 25 degrees). Make sure the fit is not tight. I use them for running, hiking, snowshoeing.

    • MichaelALanza   |  February 16, 2017 at 8:43 am

      Thanks, Kim. Do you have any favorites?

      • Kim Neill   |  February 19, 2017 at 8:48 am

        Fox River, Woolrich, and Millet. I have all three (you can probably tell, I have very cold hands). Fox River used to make a sherpa-lined ragg wool glove. I still have an old pair, and they are excellent even to below zero. But they discontinued that model. All three mentioned brands have a ragg wool w/fleece lining glove and mitten models.

    • Michael Lanza   |  February 19, 2017 at 9:19 am

      Thanks, Kim. I’m going to check them out. I like getting good suggestions from readers. Much appreciated.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*