The Best Mittens for Winter 2021

By Michael Lanza

Let’s start with two truths about mittens: 1. We know they’re warmer than gloves. 2. We often choose gloves over mittens, anyway, for some reasons that make sense and some reasons that, well, don’t make as much sense. Whether you need them for resort or backcountry skiing or snowboarding, hiking, walking, snowshoeing, bike commuting, trail running, clearing snow, or something else, this review covers the best mittens for a wide range of temperatures and cold-weather activities.

As someone who gets cold hands very easily, spends many days outside in winter, and has been a professional gear reviewer for about 25 years—formerly the lead gear reviewer for Backpacker magazine for about 10 years and for even longer running this blog—I’ve used innumerable models of mittens and gloves and learned a lot over the years about how to select the right type of both for specific uses. See also my review of “The Best Gloves for Winter.”

The mittens reviewed below include models appropriate for a range of activities. I’ve tested them in temperatures from the 30s Fahrenheit to far below freezing, cold wind, snowstorms, and every kind of frozen precipitation, on numerous days of resort and backcountry skiing, cold-weather hiking and trail running on very chilly days, and shoveling snow and other yard work. I also offer tips below on how to choose the right mittens for your needs. Scroll past those tips if you want to jump directly into the reviews.


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I bring to this review my perspective and experience of field-testing and reviewing a huge variety of outdoor gear as the former lead gear reviewer for Backpacker magazine for 10 years and now even longer running this blog. I’ve learned to identify the minute differences between excellent, mediocre, and poor gear.

I’m confident you’ll find a pair of mittens in this article that meet your needs. You can support my work on this blog, at no cost to you, by making purchases through the affiliate links in each review below. Thanks for doing that.

If you have a question for me or a comment on this review or any mittens in it, or other mittens to recommend, please make it in the comments section at the bottom of this story. I try to respond to all comments.

A Nordic skier in Idaho's Boise Mountains.
My wife, Penny, Nordic skiing in Idaho’s Boise Mountains.

The Pros and Cons of Mittens

Mittens generally have an advantage over gloves in colder temperatures when dexterity is not a top priority, which can include resort and backcountry skiing and snowboarding, snowshoeing, hiking, walking, bike commuting, and clearing snow—although those activities often include moments when the poor dexterity of mittens becomes disadvantageous, such as when lacing up boots or shoes or dealing with some type of bindings.

Still, while the warmest gloves certainly have better dexterity, it’s somewhat limited, and mittens will rewarm your hands much faster than gloves after you pull off handwear for a moment when you need to use your fingers.

Mittens take a back seat to gloves when you’re not dealing with extreme cold and you need or prefer having the use of your fingers.

The benefits of mittens include:

• Keeping hands and fingers warmer by enclosing all your fingers in the same space.
• They’re generally softer and less stiff than the warmest gloves, negating the need to pre-curve the fingers (as on heavier gloves).
• With fewer seams than gloves, mittens typically feature more insulation and better waterproofing and durability.

The drawbacks of mittens include:

• Minimal dexterity and use of fingers.
• Often no touchscreen sensitivity.

See “12 Pro Tips For Staying Warm Outdoors in Winter.”

A backcountry skier in Idaho's Sawtooth Mountains.
Scott White backcountry skiing in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains.

How to Choose Mittens

How do you choose between different models of mittens? While many styles can be worn for a variety of activities, consider these factors:

• Your activity.
• Your usual range of weather conditions and temperatures.
• How easily your fingers get cold.
• Lighter mittens with less insulation and a shorter cuff or gauntlet are usually best for activities that don’t require good dexterity in temps ranging from around freezing to well below.
• Heavier, warmer mittens with more insulation and a long, usually adjustable gauntlet are typically best for activities that don’t require good dexterity and that last for several hours in cold to frigid temps, especially when your hands are repeatedly in snow (such as when backcountry skiing or snowshoeing), but are overkill for moderate temps.

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What to Look For

• Leather thumb and palm for grip and durability.
• A pull loop big enough to grip while wearing a mitten on one hand, for pulling on mitts; or lacking a loop, cuffs or an extended gauntlet that are easy to grab.
• An elasticized short cuff or some kind of one-hand closure on a gauntlet seals out snow and traps heat inside.
• Whether the mitten’s cuff or gauntlet layers under or over a jacket sleeve—or in some cases, can be worn either way—and its compatibility with the jacket(s) you’ll wear.
• A wrist leash prevents the mittens blowing away when you pull them off for short periods to use your fingers.
• A long gauntlet and more insulation for deep-cold or activities like skiing and snowboarding, where hands are often in snow.
• Durable materials and construction, particularly for activities where you’re using your hands more and mitts can get abused.
• Weight per pair often correlates with degree of warmth, features, and cuff or gauntlet length.

The mittens reviewed below are listed in ascending order by weight.

Active in the cold? See “The Best Clothing Layers for Winter in the Backcountry
and “How to Dress in Layers for Winter in the Backcountry.”

The Best Mittens

Outdoor Reseach Phosphor Gore-Tex Infinium Mitts.
Outdoor Reseach Phosphor Gore-Tex Infinium Mitts.

Outdoor Research Phosphor Gore-Tex Infinium Mitts
$90, 5 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s and women’s XS-XL
outdoorresearch.com

Pros: Warm, windproof, and water-resistant.
Cons: Too warm for temps just below freezing, no wrist leash.
Best For: Resort and backcountry skiing and snowboarding, hiking, snowshoeing, walking, bike commuting, and clearing snow.

On freezing days of hiking, skiing, and ski touring, OR’s Phosphor Gore-Tex Infinium Mitts have delivered good warmth for their low weight. Stuffed with responsibly sourced, 650-fill goose down, these mitts keep digits toasty in wind and temps down to the low teens Fahrenheit, but they’re too warm for temps in the upper 20s.

The Gore Windstopper membrane and water-resistant and tough, synthetic suede palm shed snow and offer good grip. The soft polyester tricot lining doesn’t cling to damp skin. The big loop on the gauntlet makes them easy to yank on and the gauntlet extends past the wrist and can be worn over the close-fitting cuff of an insulated jacket or under the adjustable cuff of a shell jacket.

With a comfortable fit that’s true to size and similar to OR’s Stormbound Sensor Mitts (see below), they represent a less-expensive option suited to a similar range of activities, but aren’t as warm or as technically designed and do not have a wrist leash.

BUY IT NOW You can support my work on this blog, at no cost to you, by clicking any of these affiliate links to purchase the men’s or women’s Outdoor Research Phosphor Gore-Tex Infinium Mitts at outdoorresearch.com, or the Outdoor Research Phosphor Mitts at backcountry.com or moosejaw.com.

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Backcountry Gore-Tex Mitten.
Backcountry Gore-Tex Mitten.

Backcountry Gore-Tex Mitten
$100, 6 oz. (unisex size 8)
Sizes: unisex 5-12
backcountry.com

Pros: Moderately warm, windproof, water-resistant, and durable.
Cons: Less warm than other mittens, no pull-on loop.
Best For: Hiking, snowshoeing, walking, bike commuting, and clearing snow.

Looking for a basic, comfortable, and durable leather mitten? This Gore-Tex mitt fills a niche for a range of winter recreationists who don’t want or need a heavier or ultra-warm model—but do want one with reasonable warmth and protection that’s designed for years of regular use.

The PrimaLoft synthetic insulation—100g on the back of the hand and 60g in the palm—and a fleece lining felt warm enough while cross-country ski touring in blowing snow and temps around 20° F and hiking steep hills on a cloudy day with temps in the low 30s—though not as warm as the others covered here. The waterproof-breathable Gore-Tex membrane sealed out moisture, aided by leather throughout much of the hand, which also has padding on the back.

Worn under a jacket sleeve, the stretchy soft-shell cuff extends barely beyond the wrist and its—not as far as other models reviewed here—and its hook-and-loop closure doesn’t achieve a snug seal. Consequently, keep snow out as effectively as mitts with a longer cuff or full gauntlet, but it worked fine on a chilly hike and with a shell jacket’s adjustable cuff wrapped snugly over it.

These mitts have a wrist leash but lack a pull loop, although it’s not very hard to grab the cuff with one mittened hand when donning the second mitt. They are also unusual in lacking a clip to keep them together. The unisex sizing covers a range of size 8 fits like a men’s medium.

Best for activities where your hands aren’t frequently in snow, the Backcountry Gore-Tex Mitten is a waterproof-breathable option that’s likely to last you for years.

BUY IT NOW You can support my work on this blog, at no cost to you, by clicking either of these affiliate links to purchase the Backcountry Gore-Tex Mitten at backcountry.com or the Backcountry Gore-Tex Glove at backcountry.com.

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Flylow Unicorn Mitten.
Flylow Unicorn Mitten.

Best Value

Flylow Unicorn Mitten
$65, 6 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes: unisex XS-XL
backcountry.com

Pros: Warm, windproof, water-resistant, and durable.
Cons: Not quite as warm as other mittens, no wrist leash.
Best For: Resort and backcountry skiing and snowboarding, hiking, snowshoeing, walking, bike commuting, and clearing snow.

From resort skiing to local trails, the Unicorn proved itself suited for a variety of activities in all but the most bitter temps. They’re built for durability, with high-quality pigskin leather pre-treated for waterproofing, and tough, upcycled canvas (leftover from Flylow’s pants production) on the back of the hand. A waterproof inner lining helps keep hands dry even in wet snow, while the silky interior lining against the skin and the leather exterior both feel soft on hands and your nose.

The 220g Spaceloft synthetic insulation on the back of the hand and 100g on the palm kept hands warm while resort skiing in the low 20s Fahrenheit and on winter hikes with temps from the 20s to just above freezing in steady wind, and quickly warmed my hands after they’d gotten cold in gloves during a snowstorm and I switched to these mitts. They’re not as burly or nearly as warm as heavier models like Flylow’s Super Mitten (see below), and lack a long, adjustable, weather-resistant gauntlet. But the elasticized cuff extends beyond the wrist, enhancing warmth and making the mitts easy to pull on and off while keeping the design minimalist—no pull tab needed, but there’s also no wrist leash, and it easily layers under the cuff of any jacket.

The unisex sizing falls between sizes for men and women: I normally wear men’s medium in mittens and gloves, but the unisex medium felt snug and the large fit me better.

The Unicorn delivers enough warmth for many resort skiers and riders on all but the most frigid days while being light enough for everything from walking and snowshoeing to clearing snow—at a very good price.

BUY IT NOW You can support my work on this blog, at no cost to you, by clicking this affiliate link to purchase the Flylow Unicorn Mitten at backcountry.com.

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Outdoor Research Stormbound Mitts.
Outdoor Research Stormbound Mitts.

Best All-Around

Outdoor Research Stormbound Sensor Mitts
$110, 6.5 oz. (unisex medium)
Sizes: unisex XS-XL
backcountry.com

Pros: Warm for their weight, water-resistant, good wicking, outstanding construction.
Cons: Too warm for exerting in temps around freezing.
Best For: Resort and backcountry skiing and snowboarding, hiking, snowshoeing, walking, bike commuting, and clearing snow.

Arguably the most intricately design, technical, and versatile mittens covered in this review, OR’s Stormbound Mitts covered my hands while skiing resort groomers, on backcountry ski tours, and on local winter hikes, in cold wind and temps and falling snow. They’re remarkably warm for their low weight, and yet my hands didn’t overheat in them until temps rose above freezing, and they stayed absolutely dry whether dabbing them repeatedly in snow or sweating while hiking steeply uphill.

OR’s warmest mitten for skiing combines three types of insulation: responsibly sourced, 800+-fill goose down surrounded by water-resistant, 340g PrimaLoft Gold synthetic insulation on the back of the hand and 133g in the cuff, plus 133g PrimaLoft Silver insulation in the palm and back of the thumb—meaning the Stormbound Mitts keeps hands warm even when wet. The polyester tricot lining at the back of the hand and moonlight pile fleece polyester with ActiveTemp technology in the palm lining wick perspiration, and individual finger slots inside the mitts seem to enhance wicking.

The breathable Pertex Shield+ shell provides waterproof protection and the palm consists of durable, water-resistant and grippy goat leather. The comfortable and secure rib-knit cuff seals in warmth and the extended gauntlet has a hook-and-loop wrist closure, a large pull loop, plus an adjustable wrist leash, and can be worn over the close-fitting cuff of an insulated jacket or under the adjustable cuff of a shell jacket. The unisex medium fits like men’s medium.

With a thoughtful design and high warmth-to-weight ratio, the Outdoor Research Stormbound Sensor Mitts offer great versatility for a variety of activities.

BUY IT NOW You can support my work on this blog, at no cost to you, by clicking any of these affiliate links to purchase the Outdoor Research Stormbound Sensor Mitts at backcountry.com, moosejaw.com, or outdoorresearch.com.

Planning your next big adventure? See “America’s Top 10 Best Backpacking Trips” and “The 25 Best National Park Dayhikes.”

 

Black Diamond Recon Mitts.
Black Diamond Recon Mitts.

Favorite for Skiing or Riding

Black Diamond Recon Mitts
$90, 7 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s and women’s XS-XL
moosejaw.com

Pros: Exceptional warmth and durability, waterproof-breathable.
Cons: No wrist leash, too warm for moderate cold.
Best For: Resort and backcountry skiing and snowboarding and snowshoeing.

Skiing multiple runs at a resort in temps in the low teens Fahrenheit and below-zero wind chills, my fingers and hands stayed toasty for hours in the Black Diamond Recon Mitts. Stuff painfully cold and numb hands inside these mitts and they warm up instantly, thanks to 340g PrimaLoft Gold insulation on the back and 170g on the palm side.

On other days of resort skiing, the Recon Mitts remained comfortable in temps in the 20s Fahrenheit with wind in terrain pockets. For most people, these mittens would only get too warm in temps around or above the high 20s Fahrenheit, depending on weather conditions and exertion level. Moisture never penetrated the BD.dry waterproof-breathable insert when skiing in dumping snowstorms and over many days of resort and backcountry skiing (downhill only) in Utah’s Wasatch Mountains.

The goat leather palm offers good grip and durability and the adjustable Pertex Shield gauntlet, worn over the sleeve of any jacket, extends nearly halfway down the forearm to seal out snow and cold and is easy to grip when pulling them on. The men’s and women’s versions run true to size and feel good—hands are neither cramped nor slipping around inside them. Dexterity is decent for mittens: Using zippers, holding poles, uncapping water bottles, and even tearing open wrappers was fairly easy. One demerit: The Recon Mitts lack a wrist leash.

With exceptional warmth and durability and waterproof-breathable performance, the Black Diamond Recon Mitts are an all-around top performer for downhill skiing and riding in cold conditions—at a good price for this level of performance.

BUY IT NOW You can support my work on this blog, at no cost to you, by clicking any of these affiliate links to purchase the men’s or women’s Black Diamond Recon Mitts at moosejaw.com or blackdiamondequipment.com, or the Recon Glove at backcountry.com.

Buy gear smartly. See a menu of all my reviews and expert buying tips at my Gear Reviews page.

 

Flylow Super Mitten.
Flylow Super Mitten.

Flylow Super Mitten
$90, 7.5 oz. (unisex medium)
Sizes: unisex XS-XL
backcountry.com

Pros: Exceptional warmth and durability, waterproof and breathable.
Cons: No wrist leash, too warm for moderate cold.
Best For: Resort and backcountry skiing and snowboarding and snowshoeing.

While making downhill ski runs in the backcountry through hours of wet snow puking from the sky and wind chills in the low teens (wearing the mittens only when skiing downhill), the Super Mittens were more than warm enough and kept my hands absolutely dry. Flylow’s warmest mitten marries pre-treated fully waterproof cowhide leather on the palm side and thumb to tough nylon on the back and gauntlet and a durable, water-resistant treatment (DWR) to shed snow and water.

Breathable PrimaLoft Black Eco synthetic insulation—240g on the back and 120g on the palm (not quite as much as the BD Recon Mitts)—ranks them among the warmest mittens you’ll find: Like the other burly models, the Super Mittens warm freezing hands moments after you pull them on and are overkill for temps just below freezing, although they release moisture building up inside better than some heavy mitts.

Most uniquely, the adjustable gauntlet, worn over sleeve of any jacket,reaches halfway down your forearm, the longest of this bunch—helping keep hands warmer and drier. The fit runs true to size, not excessively bulky, and the soft lining and leather flexes quite easily; for such a toasty mitten, dexterity is good for basic tasks like handling zippers and buckles. But the Super Mittens have no wrist leash.

The Flylow Super Mitten is best for skiing and snowboarding on frigid days at the resort or going downhill in the backcountry—and they come at a good price for this quality.

BUY IT NOW You can support my work on this blog, at no cost to you, by clicking any of these affiliate links to purchase the Flylow Super Mitten at backcountry.com or the Flylow Super Glove at backcountry.com.

Don’t let red tape foil your plans. See my “10 Tips For Getting a Hard-to-Get National Park Backcountry Permit.”

 

Gordini Polar Mitt.
Gordini Polar Mitt.

Warmest

Gordini Polar Mitt
$110, 9 oz. (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s S-XXL, women’s S-L
backcountry.com

Pros: Exceptional warmth and durability, waterproof-breathable.
Cons: Too warm for moderate cold.
Best For: Resort and backcountry skiing and snowboarding and snowshoeing.

Backcountry skiing in heavily falling, wet snow, I repeatedly pulled on the ultra-fat Gordini Polar Mitt for the downhill runs and they kept my hands as warm and dry as if I were lying zipped up inside my fattest sleeping bag. In fact, I failed to find conditions too cold for these mitts, which are good for the frostiest outings that the rest of your body can tolerate.

The waterproof-breathable and windproof AquaBloc insert keeps moisture out, while the water-repellent, 750-fill Downtek feathers on the back of the hand combined with Megaloft synthetic insulation on the palm side retain heat even when damp. That’s likely to only come from perspiration, so the Polar Mitt also has possibly the plushest moisture-wicking lining you’ll find in any mitten. Not surprisingly, the Polar Mitt is much too warm for high exertion like skinning uphill—wear lighter gloves for that—and overkill for relatively mild winter days on snow.

Durability is assured by the deerskin and four-way-stretch nylon softshell. The mitts have a wrist adjustment strap and leash, soft nose wipe on the thumbs, textured palms for better grip, and an adjustable gauntlet that extends beyond the wrist and is worn over sleeve of any jacket. The fit runs true to size and feels spacious, with a soft flex that’s not at all fatiguing for hands the way the warmest and stiffest winter gloves are.

The burliest and warmest mitten reviewed here—and consequently, with probably the poorest dexterity, although that’s not the strength of any mittens—the Gordini Polar Mitt is a great pick for those dead-of-winter frigid days resort skiing or riding or downhill turns in the backcountry.

BUY IT NOW You can support my work on this blog, at no cost to you, by clicking any of these affiliate links to purchase the men’s or women’s Gordini Polar Mitt or the Gordini Polar II Glove at backcountry.com or moosejaw.com.

Outdoor Research Mt. Baker Modular Mitts.
Outdoor Research Mt. Baker Modular Mitts.

Outdoor Research Mt. Baker Modular Mitts
$145, 9.5 oz. (medium)
Sizes: men’s S-XL
backcountry.com

Pros: Warm, waterproof-breathable, two-piece system, glove dexterity with mitten warmth.
Cons: Too warm except in temps well below freezing, no women’s sizes.
Best For: Resort and backcountry skiing and snowboarding and snowshoeing.

Skiing in a wind chill around zero Fahrenheit 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 fully seam-taped Gore-Tex mitten shell kept moisture out and is made with the same 70-denier taslan ripstop polyester used in OR’s tough gaiters. Fit and dexterity in the gloves is good enough to fuss with pack straps, boot buckles, and obviously better than mittens.

The Mt. Baker have smart details, like the one-hand gauntlet cinch on the shell mitten; adjustable straps at the wrist on both the mittens and gloves; an adjustable leash on the mitten shells; and the carabiner loop on the mittens for clipping them to a harness or pack wrist-down, to prevent precipitation from getting inside. AlpenGrip pads on the glove thumb and fingertip enhance grip.

While the Mt. Baker Mitts do not match the warmth of the BD Recon, Flylow Super Mitts, or Gordini Polar Mitt—because the insulation is a glove, not a mitten—the unique, two-piece system gives them superior versatility: You can wear the glove alone (useful for climbing uphill); the glove and mitt together going downhill or in deep cold; and because the mittens have no insulation, they double as three-season rain shells.

BUY IT NOW You can support my work on this blog, at no cost to you, by clicking any of these affiliate links to purchase the Outdoor Research Mt. Baker Modular Mitts at backcountry.com, moosejaw.com, or outdoorresearch.com.

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