Glove Buying Guide
When colder temperatures kick in, keeping your hands warm is vital to both your enjoyment and safety outdoors. That’s why having the right gloves for all eventualities makes all the difference. Whether you’re looking to take the chill off on low-level walks, are seeking something more durable for winter climbing, or need advice on the perfect glove system for winter mountaineering or autumn trekking, our expert guide will take you through the key styles and features to look out for when choosing a pair.
What do you need from your gloves?
First things first: whatever gloves you go for, making sure they fit correctly is paramount for optimal performance and to avoid limiting your dexterity or flexibility. Fingers should extend far enough to comfortably control grip and movement in the entire glove, and you should be able to put them on and take them off without it being a struggle.
When it comes to choosing the right gloves, it’s worth remembering that you’re trying to keep your hands comfortable rather than them overheating. Sweaty hands can lead to damp gloves which don’t insulate as effectively. There’s no single glove out there that does everything, but rather certain gloves that perform better in different environments or for different activities. So, it’s worth thinking about where you are going, what you’ll be doing, and how cold it’s likely to get. This will help you determine what features you’ll need your gloves to have and how warm they’ll need to be.
In many cases, one pair won’t be enough. For technical activities like winter mountaineering or climbing, you’ll need a combination of different glove types to meet the varied challenges and conditions you’ll face. Lightweight gloves on the other hand are usually sufficient when working hard on a low-level winter walk or run, even when it’s very cold. That said, if you’re moving slowly, have poor circulation, or if it’s way below freezing, you may want something warmer. Much like the layering system with your clothes, having a combination of different glove types that can be swapped on and off at different times of the day, or to serve as a backup pair in case of emergency, will give you maximum flexibility on your adventures.
With gloves, a lot of it comes down to personal choice and finding out what system works for you. However, some simple truisms exist to help keep things simple.
- Thicker gloves are almost always warmer than thin ones, and mitts are usually warmer still
- Having a thin pair and a thick pair with you is a good combination
- Accidents happen and conditions can change rapidly, so you can never have too many gloves (even if you end up not using some pairs on the day)
Most gloves fall into one of the following three styles:
The most common style, five finger gloves offer the most flexibility and dexterity, allowing you to use zips, operate electronics or better undertake more technical activities like climbing or scrambling. Since each finger is isolated, gloves also tend to be more breathable.
Although less dexterous than gloves, mitts tend to be warmer and are easier to pull on and take off. The best option if you’re looking for maximum warmth, they’re great for adventures in the extreme cold, or times when you are either standing around or moving very slowly in low temperatures. Some mitts also come in a ‘lobster style’ where the thumb and index finger are isolated, making them slightly more dexterous than full style mitts.
Simple, lightweight liners are great for high-activity pursuits like running in cold weather or as an extra layer underneath a glove or mitt. Look for breathable, sweat-wicking fabrics and a slim, stretchy and secure fit, so they fit comfortably inside your mitt or glove when layering.
The outer shell of the glove needs to keep out the elements you’ll be facing yet be durable enough to withstand any activity in which you’ll be using your hands. These might range from lightweight, stretchy fabrics that are windproof and breathable to waterproof, durable fabrics for tougher use.
Waterproof gloves aren’t necessarily better than non-waterproof ones. Even if the outer shell is waterproof, water can still get in through the cuff and they are less breathable and slower to dry out. Although gloves without a waterproof membrane will get damp in wet conditions, they tend to dry out quickly and have a simpler design.
Warmth and thermal insulation depend on the ability of a material to trap as much air as possible within its structure. Typical materials for glove/mitten insulation are wool (which will keep you warm even when wet), fleece, and synthetics. Primaloft is one of the best man-made materials for glove linings because it’s water-resistant as well as soft and comfortable. Thinsulate, Thermolite, and Kevlar are also excellent when operating in cold environments.
If grip is a priority, look for the palm of your glove to be made of leather, which offers exceptional toughness, grip, softness, weather resistance and dexterity.
Cuffs can range from low-bulk options that pull on or use a Velcro strap, to larger gauntlet-style closures. Although bulkier and heavier than gloves with smaller cuffs, gauntlet-style cuffs are great at keeping snow out when your arms are raised above you while climbing. They are also easier to take on and off and give you the option of wearing them over your jacket’s cuffs for added protection from the elements.
In cold conditions your nose is likely to run, so choosing a glove with a soft patch of fabric near the thumb or index finger allows you to wipe your nose rather than use your sleeve or having to dig around in your pocket for tissues. Look for materials like suede leather, which is both soft and comfortable, without sacrificing durability.
Having small loops on a finger allows you to hang your gloves from a harness or pack using a karabiner when you’re not using them. Being able to hang gloves without inverting them prevents them from filling up with rain or snow, whilst making sure they are secure and close to hand when you need them. Ideal for activities like climbing.
Many lightweight gloves now feature small patches on the fingers or thumb that allow you to operate a touch screen on your smartphone, ahelpful feature that prevents the tiresome task of having to remove your gloves every time you need to check something on your phone or GPS.
Our Top Gloves
Unless you really feel the cold or are hiking at higher altitudes, one pair of thin gloves is usually all you need for a hike in the British winter. If your hike is also going to incorporate some scrambling, where you’ll require the use of your hands, look for something with leather palms too.
A combination of two or three different pairs is best when heading to higher altitudes. A thin hiking pair for milder days or when you’re on the ascent, a durable thicker option for when you stop or the weather worsens, and/or a pair of lightweight mitts as an emergency backup or if you really feel the cold.
Thin windproof soft shell gloves are perfect for ski touring; however, if the weather is foul then a pair of thicker gloves are the ideal foil. Even if the thicker pair of gloves lives in your pack most of the time, the reassurance of a backup option is worth carrying. If it’s really cold, then mitts are the best option.
Dexterous but warm gloves are the perfect option for technical lead climbs in colder conditions. Carrying a spare pair is essential in case they get lost, dropped or soaked on the climb. A pair of big mitts as back up or for use at belays is always a welcome addition too.
Glove liners are thin gloves that are usually worn inside other mitts or gloves to provide an extra layer of protection, absorb sweat and increase warmth. Wear them alone when temps are moderate and dexterity is a priority. Wear them under your insulated gloves for even more warmth in frigid temperatures.
Getting out for a walk on a cold day is one of our favourite things about winter; the lack of crowds and frosty landscapes make it the perfect relaxing escape. We’ve picked some of our favourite locations in the UK to visit on a chilly day, and the best walks to make the most of everything this season has to offer.
Let us know you agree to cookies
We use marketing, analytical and functional cookies as well as similar technologies to give you the best experience. Third parties, including social media platforms, often place tracking cookies on our site to show you personalised adverts outside of our website.