Camping Gear

Review: The Best Gloves For Winter

Posted On February 17, 2016 at 11:24 am by / Comments Off on Review: The Best Gloves For Winter

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 from the fridge in my kitchen. 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 several favorites I’ve been using this 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, including a four-day family yurt trip, 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 in winter. 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.

 

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.

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

 

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

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

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 Afterburner Gloves

Outdoor Research Afterburner Gloves

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

Pros: Touchscreen fingertips, weather-resistant, lightweight, and affordable.
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 ranging from 22° to 26° F, 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.

 

Marmot XT Glove

Marmot XT Glove

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

 

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
blackdiamondequipment.com

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

BD’s Legend Glove is like 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 moderation-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 cold temperatures.

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
thenorthface.com

Pros: Waterproof, warm, elasticized wristband on leash, touchscreen compatible, affordable.
Cons: Slightly large fit may compromise touchscreen compatibility; wristband is overkill for most skiers.
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.

 

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
outdoorresearch.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 this winter. 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.

NOTE: I’ve been testing gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See all of my reviews by clicking on the Gear Reviews category at left or in the main menu.

See also my stories:

“Why and When to Spend More on Gear: Part 1, Packs and Tents, and Part 2, Rain Jackets, Boots, and Sleeping Bags
The Simple Equation of Ultralight Backpacking: Less Weight = More Fun
Buying Gear? Read This First
5 Tips For Spending Less on Hiking and Backpacking Gear
My 10 Most-Read Gear Reviews
Ask Me: How Do We Begin Lightening Up Our Backpacking Gear?
10 Smarter Ways to Think About Your Layering System

Wind4-016Did you enjoy this story? I’m Michael Lanza, the creator of The Big Outside, and I appreciate connecting with my readers. I invite you to subscribe to this blog by entering your email address in the box at the top of the left sidebar or on my About page, and follow my adventures on Facebook and Twitter.

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