Best Winter Gloves and Mittens of 2020

From cold-weather adventuring to everyday use and work, we break down the top gloves for winter

By: Switchback Travel Staff  |  Last Updated: February 07, 2020

Gloves may not get quite as much attention as your other winter clothing, but they offer invaluable warmth and protection when the temperature drops. Our picks for the best winter gloves and mittens of 2020 below span the spectrum from high-performance models for extreme conditions to functional pieces for everyday use and work (many of our favorites blur these category lines). In general, these gloves are unisex and come in a range of sizes, but we've also included a link to the women's-specific version when available. For more background information, see our winter glove comparison table and buying advice below the picks. To complete your cold-weather kit, see our articles about the best winter boots and winter jackets.

Best Overall Winter Glove
1. Smartwool Ridgeway Glove

Category: Casual/work
Shell: Leather
Waterproof: No (water-resistant)
What we like: Excellent comfort and versatility for both everyday and performance use.
What we don’t: Not fully waterproof and sizing runs a bit small.

Many winter gloves are made with a specific purpose in mind, whether it be casual use around town, skiing, or outdoor work. The Smartwool Ridgeway glove—with cozy merino insulation, a tough leather exterior, and a great fit—blurs these lines better than most. Subtle branding and classy looks make it a popular choice for urban use, but the glove is warm and durable enough for the occasional day on the slopes. Further, the Ridgeway’s reinforced thumb and index finger add durability for light work tasks. All in all, it can be your Swiss Army Knife glove for cold winter days. 

What are the downsides with the Smartwool Ridgeway Glove? As with any all-rounder, it’s not the top of its class performance- or durability-wise. There is a bit less dexterity in the fingers than we would like, and the glove lacks the waterproofing and windproofing of an option like the Outdoor Research Illuminator Sensor below. Moreover, the Ridgeway cannot compete with the toughness of a true work glove. But for a design that can be worn day in and day out, it’s more robust and weatherproof than most and looks good in the process, making it our top overall pick. Size-wise, we found that the Ridgeway runs a bit small, and a tight cuff can make it slightly difficult to get on and off.

Best Budget Winter Glove
2. Carhartt WB Glove

Category: Casual/performance
Shell: Polytex synthetic
Waterproof: Yes
What we like: Solid performance at a low price.
What we don’t: Bulkier and stiffer than more expensive options.

Carhartt’s large lineup of gloves ranges from thin liners to burly camouflaged hunting models, and their popular WB glove lands right in the middle. It’s reasonably soft and moves well enough for casual activities, but with features like a waterproof membrane, nose wipe, and reinforced palm, the WB is a serviceable option for mild days on the slopes. Plus, priced at $35 (and often available for less on Amazon), the WB offers a lot of bang for your buck.

The main pitfall of going cheap is that in temperatures below freezing, you’ll likely find that the WB’s thin layer of cheap synthetic insulation isn’t enough to keep your hands super warm. Furthermore, this glove lacks the versatility and good looks of more expensive all-rounders like the Hestra Fall Line below or Smartwool Ridgeway above, and the polyurethane palm doesn’t move as well as leather. But as a simple and affordable option, the Carhartt WB is one of our favorites. It’s worth noting that there is also a mitten version of the WB, which offers a boost in warmth at the sacrifice of dexterity.


Best Winter Mitten
3. Black Diamond Mercury Mitt

Category: Performance/casual
Shell: Pertex Shield
Waterproof: Yes
What we like: Super warm and well built. 
What we don’t: Overkill for all but the coldest winter conditions. 

For the ultimate in winter warmth, check out the Mercury Mitt from Black Diamond. Simply put, it’s designed to keep your hands toasty in some of the coldest places on earth and does a pretty darn good job at it. You get thick PrimaLoft Gold insulation throughout along with a handy removable liner that makes these mittens more tolerable in less-than-Arctic conditions. And we like the split-finger design on the inside, which allows your index finger to roam free for better movement. 

Who should consider buying the BD Mercury Mitt? With features like a removable liner (for faster drying), a fingertip carabiner loop, and Kevlar-reinforced leather palms, it’s certainly made with alpinists in mind and served as an ideal belay glove during our tester’s ice climbing trip to the Canadian Rockies. But the Mercury Mitt also is a great every day/commuting mitten in frigid places like Chicago, Minneapolis, and the East Coast of the United States. In particular, this mitten makes a lot of sense for people who run cold and just can’t get enough warmth. And at about $50 cheaper than the Outdoor Research Alti below, the Mercury Mitt is a good value to boot.

6. Hestra Fall Line

Category: Performance/casual
Shell: Leather
Waterproof: No (water-resistant)
What we like: Premium build quality and dexterity. 
What we don’t: Expensive and not waterproof.

Hestra gloves are kind of like a work of art. The Swedish company has a long track record of craftsmanship, and their Fall Line glove is our favorite everyday model. This all-leather glove nails the essentials: it’s comfortable, well built, and tough. Importantly, the Fall Line also is highly versatile: it offers sufficient insulation and cushioning on the back of the hand for most winter sports (it earned a spot in our article on the best ski gloves), but is dexterous enough to use while driving, shoveling, and simply walking around town. And the Fall Line is made to last—our well-worn pair has softened and conformed to our hand, giving it a custom feel that still looks and performs like new.

The biggest downside of the Fall Line is its steep $165 price. You’re paying for quality and the feel is phenomenal, but this is a hearty investment for a glove you won’t wear on the coldest days (if we’re inactive, we’ve found that it’s only warm enough down to about 20°F). Also, the Fall Line is not fully waterproof, although occasionally treating the leather will keep it from soaking up too much moisture. All in all, the Smartwool glove above arguably is a better value, but the Hestra’s premium look is something we appreciate each and every time we slip them on.

7. Dakine Titan Gore-Tex 

Category: Performance/casual
Shell: Polyester
Waterproof: Yes
What we like: A ski/snowboarding glove that can pull double duty around town.
What we don’t: Bulky construction impacts dexterity.

Dakine’s Titan has built a solid reputation among skiers and snowboarders alike, but we’ve included it here thanks to its well-rounded nature. With a Gore-Tex insert, the glove provides reliable wet-weather protection, and a grippy palm does well with everything from shoveling the driveway to hauling sleds. Plus, unlike many snowsport-specific gloves, the Titan’s styling translates rather nicely for wearing around town. To top it off, you get removable fleece liners that are touchscreen-friendly and a good weight for wearing on their own while running in the cold.

Where the Titan feels more like a ski glove is the thick insulation and bulk that hurts dexterity. The removable liner plays a role here too, and it can be difficult to do things that require fine motor skills like zipping up jackets or handling car keys. The upside is that you get a lot of warmth at a fair price, and for obvious reasons, we’ve found the Titan to be among the better designs listed here for resort skiing.

8. L.L. Bean Buckskin Chopper Mitt 

Category: Casual/work
Shell: Leather    
Waterproof: No (water-resistant)
What we like: Buckskin leather and Shetland wool: as classic as it gets.
What we don’t: You’ll have to waterproof them yourself. 

Nothing spells classic quite like a leather chopper mitt, and the Buckskin Chopper from Maine-based L.L. Bean is as ageless as they come. On the exterior, wind-resistant deerskin leather is nicely constructed with exposed seams. On the inside, there’s a layer of Shetland wool along with a removable and cozy wool/nylon liner. For a mitten style, the Chopper also is reasonably dexterous: the glove flexes quite a bit to provide a decent grip around a shovel or handrail.  

What are the downsides of the L.L. Bean Chopper Mitts? They do not have a waterproof membrane, and therefore the leather requires a wax or DWR treatment to keep moisture out. But these mitts are made to last—there’s even an extra “wing” of buckskin on the crook between the thumb and index finger for durability. For a traditional look around town or for those who don’t mind chopping wood or shoveling snow in a mitten, the Buckskin Chopper is a great option for cold and dry conditions.

9. Black Diamond Midweight Softshell

Category: Performance/casual
Shell: Softshell/leather
Waterproof: No (water-resistant)
What we like: Dexterous but still warm and durable.
What we don’t: The tight cuff makes it difficult to put on.

Softshell gloves’ stretchy construction provides excellent dexterity, comfort, and breathability, making them a popular choice for anything from daily wear to serious backcountry pursuits. Among the myriad options, Black Diamond’s Midweight Softshell hits a nice middle-ground for shoulder season endeavors or high-output activities during the colder months. Its snug fit and goat leather palm make it easy to grip tools, and it’s reasonably warm with 60-gram insulation protecting the back of the hand. Further, the Midweight’s low-profile design and touchscreen functionality on the thumb and index finger are ideal for pulling double duty as a warm liner glove.

Our biggest gripe about Black Diamond’s Softshell glove is the cuff—we like the comfortable and warm neoprene/fleece mix, but it’s not as stretchy as we would like. The glove fits well once on, but pulling it on can be a battle. Additionally, the Midweight is not waterproof and may not be warm enough for some deep winter sports like mountaineering, yet it’s a bit too hot to wear while running. For those needs, we’d recommend checking out BD’s Heavyweight Waterproof and Lightweight Softshell gloves, respectively.

11. Outdoor Research Alti 

Category: Performance
Shell: Nylon
Waterproof: Yes
What we like: Very warm and waterproof. 
What we don’t: Heavy insulation results in a limited range of movement. 

Outdoor Research’s popular Alti, touted as an expedition glove for the harshest of environments is a performance design through and through. Simply put, this glove is very warm, waterproof, and protective. Its Gore-Tex membrane, burly nylon fabric, and PrimaLoft insulation in both the outer shell and inner liner make it a great choice for bitterly cold and wet conditions. And the Alti comes with a number of features ideal for high-mountain endeavors, including a removable leash, high-grip palm, and extended gauntlet design.

We wore the Alti through a season of ice climbing and backcountry skiing, and our only real complaint was regarding dexterity. We were still able to clip ice screws and get a solid hold on our ski poles, but the heavy insulation and removable liner do have a noticeable impact on fine motor movements. In addition, the glove is overkill for high-output activities on all but the most frigid days. That being said, the glove and mitten versions of the Alti are common choices for skiers and other outdoor adventurers who are prone to running very cold. Keep in mind that fit may be an issue as these gloves tend to run small and tight.

12. Flylow Gear Ridge

Category: Work/performance
Shell: Leather
Waterproof: Yes
What we like: Classic looks and performance.
What we don’t: Not long-lasting and a bit stiff.

Flylow’s Ridge glove is a classic. From lifting and backcountry skiers to being stuffed under the seat of a car for emergency use, it has a loyal following that few can match. And for good reason: the combination of pigskin leather, elastic cuff, and Sno-Seal waterproofing is comfortable and offers no-nonsense performance. It’s not the warmest leather glove available, but at $50, the Ridge is a better value than options like the Smartwool Ridgeway or Hestra’s Fall Line above.

What pushes the Flylow Ridge down our list—and below the aforementioned Smartwool and Hestra—is its build quality and dexterity. The glove is prone to packing out, so it won’t last as long as pricier models, and the generic fit makes it hard to do small tasks like grabbing a phone from a zippered pocket. If you want an even more budget-friendly option from Flylow, check out their Tough Guy, 

13. Patagonia Nano Puff Mitt

Category: Casual
Shell: Polyester
Waterproof: No
What we like: A high dose of warmth and weather protection in a sleek and proven design.
What we don’t: Fairly expensive and mittens inherently limit performance.

It doesn’t get much more classic than Patagonia's Nano Puff Jacket, and new for this winter, similar materials and construction have been combined to create a warm, weather-resistant mitten. The Nano Puff Mitts feature 100 grams of synthetic PrimaLoft Gold Insulation Eco, a fairly generous amount of warmth for such a casual glove (consider that the ultra-insulating Arc’teryx Fission SV above is lined with 133g of PrimaLoft Gold on the palm). Further, they’re windproof, have a durable water repellant (DWR) coating, and are so lightweight and packable that they can virtually disappear in a corner of your pack when the mercury rises.

Patagonia’s mitten style makes it quite warm, but keep in mind that it’s not as versatile as a standard winter glove. If you need to do anything substantial that requires your fingers, you’ll have to remove your hands completely, leaving them vulnerable to the frigid air. If you want dexterity to tie shoelaces or use your phone in the cold, we’d instead point you toward a glove with smart-phone-compatible fingertips like The North Face’s Denali Etip below. But there’s no denying the coziness of a mitten, and we love the protection and high-end materials you get with the Nano Puff Mitts.  

 15 SealSkinz Waterproof All-Weather Glove

Category: Performance
Shell: Synthetic
Waterproof: Yes
What we like: Waterproof, durable, and dexterous.
What we don’t: Could extend further up the arm for more coverage.

SealSkinz stands out in the winter glove market with its unique waterproof designs. And the All-Weather is arguably their best effort to date: it’s articulated for good movement, touchscreen compatible, and includes a suede palm for added grip and durability. Bike commuters in particular like these gloves and we think the Waterproof All-Weather also works great for climbing, winter hiking, and other activities where you need waterproofing and minimal bulk.

It’s important to note that the SealSkinz is essentially a beefed-up liner glove and isn’t all that warm. This isn’t an issue for many high-output activities, but it can’t cross over into the downhill ski world. Additionally, the waterproof protection means that it doesn’t breathe as well as a non-waterproof model, which can lead to sweaty hands while running. And our final gripe about the SealSkinz is the length: we wish the All-Season extended a bit further up the wrist for more waterproof coverage while cycling.

16. Arc’teryx Fission SV Glove

Category: Performance
Shell: Nylon/leather
Waterproof: Yes
What we like: The best in materials and design.
What we don’t: Potentially overkill and expensive.

The Fission SV is Arc’teryx’s warmest winter glove, made for everything from backcountry skiing and ice climbing to snowshoeing. And as we’ve come to expect from the British Columbia brand, it’s extremely well-designed and made with top-quality materials. The softshell and leather exterior is stretchy and tough, and the mix of insulation (the palm has 133-gram PrimaLoft Gold, the back of the hand has 200-gram Primaloft Silver, and both are lined with a thin but warm layer of Octa Loft) balances warmth with hand feel for gripping a tool or ski pole. A waterproof Gore-Tex insert, leather palm, and full-coverage gauntlet round out the Fission’s full-on performance build.

Why is this premium offering from Arc’teryx towards the bottom of our list? For most people and uses, we think it’s overkill in both price and features. Most of the time you can get away with a much more affordable glove—in fact, we know several seasoned ice climbers who opt for a design like the Showa 282 TemRes over the Fission SV. Furthermore, you get similar warmth from OR’s Alti above for $40 less (with a notable drop in dexterity). But if the price is not an issue, the Fission SV delivers typical Arc’teryx craftsmanship and high-end performance for the most discerning of outdoor enthusiasts.

17. Outdoor Research Transcendent Mitten

Category: Casual/performance
Shell: Polyester
Waterproof: No
What we like: Cozy down-filled mittens at a great price.
What we don’t: Not intended for wet conditions.

On the face of it, a simple down-filled mitten may not appear to be a practical choice. But for $59, Outdoor Research’s Transcendent can match or beat the insulation provided by gloves that cost twice as much or more. In addition, sliding it underneath a waterproof shell only increases its viability for season-long use. It’s true the Transcendent is rather bulky and significantly inhibits range of movement, but the mitten is a super cozy option for anything from heading out for a walk on a classic sub-zero day in the Midwest to winter camping. 

How does the Transcendent compare with the synthetic-filled Patagonia Nano Puff Mitt above? Down is hard to beat in the cozy department, and the OR also manages to undercut Patagonia in price by $10. On the other hand, the Nano Puff is more versatile in wet snow as the Transcendent’s goose down will clump up and stop providing warmth should moisture get through its thin shell. In the end, wearing a down mitt by itself will only work in certain situations where the snow is dry and temps are low, but it’s a fun option nevertheless.

18. REI Co-op Guide Insulated 

Category: Performance/work
Shell: Leather/softshell
Waterproof: No (water-resistant)
What we like: Work glove looks with useful performance touches.
What we don’t: Not waterproof or very warm.

In the past, we’ve been underwhelmed by the quality of REI Co-op’s in-house line of gloves. But we like what they’ve come up within the Guide Insulated: a mostly leather design that mixes traditional work glove looks with techy details like a softshell material on the back of the hand. The unisex model is offered in a range of sizes (from XS to XL), provides moderate insulation with a combination of synthetic fill and a fleece lining, and includes nice touches like a suede nose wipe on the thumb. For a very reasonable $50, the Guide Insulated packs a serious punch.

How does the REI Co-op Guide Insulated stack up to the Flylow Ridge above? Both have durable leather palms and good decent dexterity for anything from chopping wood to backcountry skiing, although the Flylow is a bit tougher with its full leather build. Further, the softshell material on the REI helps keep you comfortable when working up a sweat but does compromise some warmth and protection. We give the edge to the more proven Flylow for now, but that could certainly change after more time with the REI.

19. Canada Goose Arctic Down

Category: Casual/performance
Shell: Nylon
Waterproof: No (water-resistant)
What we like: Warm and stylish.
What we don’t: Expensive and will struggle in the wet. 

Down jackets are a staple for cold weather climates, but down gloves and mittens are much more of a rarity. Why is this? By nature, down must be lofty to provide warmth, which adds a level of bulk that compromises dexterity. Furthermore, it loses its ability to keep you warm when wet, and nothing is quite as susceptible to getting wet as your hands. But given the right design and environment (think urban use and commuting to work), a pair of down gloves can provide a lot of cozy warmth.

Perhaps no brand is better suited to make a down mitten than luxury winter apparel company Canada Goose. Their Arctic Down is a decidedly casual piece but provides generous warmth from its tough shell and 525-fill goose down. Unfortunately, the nylon exterior is water-resistant rather than waterproof, so you need to take care to keep it from absorbing moisture. But for the cold and dry climate of East Coast cities like New York and Boston, the premium build offers an attractive combination of warmth and style.

20. Fox River Four Layer Glomitt

Category: Casual
Shell: Wool
Waterproof: No
What we like: Fingerless design. 
What we don’t: Not to be worn in very cold or wet conditions.

The glomitt hybrid design is a wintertime favorite. Combining a fingerless glove and a mitten-like cap that slides over the top, you get excellent dexterity as well as the efficient warmth of having your fingers together. Fox River’s Four Layer take on this style is nicely appointed with a fleece lining and detailing like a leather palm and strategically-placed 3M Thinsulate fill. Often sold online for less than its full MSRP of $35, the Glomitt also is a very good value. 

Keep in mind that the Fox River Glomitt is not made to be pushed past its comfort zone. For one, it has five more openings (one for each finger/thumb) than other gloves, making your hands more vulnerable to getting cold and wet. Moreover, the knit wool exterior isn’t rugged enough for much more than very light outdoor use. But for casual wear around town and cold-weather driving, we really like this glove.

Winter Glove Categories

Performance

Performance gloves are designed for sustained use in demanding winter conditions. For mountaineering, skiing, or winter bike commuting, these are the top performers. Obviously, a glove made for high-output activities such as cross-country skiing will have vastly different traits than an arctic expedition glove, so this is a wide category. But consistent features include wind and waterproof materials, quality insulation, good dexterity, grippy palms, snug-fitting cuffs, and often expensive price tags. Leading options include the Outdoor Research Alti, Arc'teryx Fission SV, and Black Diamond Midweight Softshell.

Casual


Casual gloves and mittens are our top picks for day-to-day activities such as walking around town, driving to work, or short winter hikes. Some of these gloves are designed with full functionality in mind—the Fox River Glomitt, for example, gives you complete use of your fingers—while others prioritize styling and warmth (the Patagonia Nano Puff Mitt). All casual gloves are made to keep your hands protected for brief periods of time in the cold, but many won’t stand up well to precipitation. In this category, look for features like touchscreen-compatible fingertips, reinforced palms, the use of wool, and mitten designs. And because they’re not intended for high-end performance, casual gloves are typically among the most affordable.

Work


Gloves in our work category put a premium on durability. For uses like chopping wood or operating a ski lift, a tough leather glove is hard to beat (it’s no coincidence all our work gloves above are made primarily with leather). Also, look for simple feature sets, dexterous styles, reinforced palms, and short, under cuff designs. Most winter-ready work gloves are fleece-lined or synthetically insulated for added warmth, but you can always double up with a liner (at the cost of some dexterity). 

In general, work gloves are not made for extreme conditions like true winter sports options, although there are some notable exceptions. The Smartwool Ridgeway and Flylow Ridge gloves, for example, cross over into the performance category with designs that balance weather protection, durability, and warmth. We know many winter enthusiasts who routinely wear models such as these for skiing, snowboarding, or ice climbing rather than gloves specifically made for those activities. But take note: although work gloves often come with a lower price tag, they do not offer the full weather protection of a nylon glove with a long, sealable gauntlet. 

Warmth 

Warmth is a defining feature of a winter-ready glove, and the amount of insulation provided varies widely between styles. On the very warm end of the spectrum are the Outdoor Research Alti and Black Diamond Mercury Mitt, which have thick synthetic fill, windproof shells, and waterproof inserts for keeping you protected in extreme conditions. On the other end is a lightweight fleece glove like The North Face Denali Etip that is only useful for short stints outside in freezing temperatures. And many designs fall in between, like Hestra’s Fall Line. The premium leather build is dexterous for day-to-day activities, while the moderate level of foam insulation has kept us comfortable on mild-weather ski days and while shoveling snow. The good news is that there is a suitable glove for just about every possible use. Your ideal level of warmth will depend on the expected low temperatures, what activities you’ll be doing, and if you are prone to running hot or cold.

Insulation Types

Synthetic
For a seriously warm glove, synthetic fill is our preferred form of insulation. It has all the right properties: synthetic insulates when wet, is an efficient insulator relative to its weight, is reasonably durable and resists packing out, and is cheaper than down. Many of the top performance gloves on our list use this type of fill, including the Outdoor Research Illuminator and Arc'teryx Fission SV. It’s worth noting that the quality of the synthetic fibers is important—gloves that use PrimaLoft and Thinsulate are warmer for their weight and longer lasting than cheaper options that use generic polyester fill.

Fleece
Synthetic gloves may dominate the performance category, but fleece is a popular insulator among casual and lightweight designs. A fleece glove-like The North Face Denali Etip is cozy, warm enough for short walks outside, and affordable at 18$. Downsides of fleece gloves are that they don’t provide much wind and weather protection (on the other hand, they often breathe well), and aren’t as warm as a synthetic glove. But for a cheap and comfortable option to wear around town, fleece is a good way to go.

Wool
Wool, and the merino variety, in particular, is our favorite material for next-to-skin base layers and socks, but it isn’t as popular among winter gloves. It’s true that some of the gloves above use wool—the Fox River Four Layer is made primarily of wool, and the L.L. Bean Chopper has a wool lining—but it has its fair share of drawbacks. Wool generally has a shorter lifespan than fleece and is heavier, bulkier, and significantly less durable than synthetic. But there’s no denying its warmth—we like wool for a lightweight liner (worn under a shell) or for casual use in dry conditions.

Down

Among insulation options, down is the one you’ll see the least. The main reason is that down must be lofty in order to insulate (read: less dexterity), and natural goose or duck plumage loses its ability to insulate when wet. You can mitigate this issue with a burly, waterproof shell, but even the sweat from your hands can compromise the down fill. As such, you’ll run across the occasional casual down piece like the Canada Goose Artic above, but synthetic gloves are far more practical (and affordable) for wet and snowy conditions.
 

Waterproof vs. Water-Resistant Gloves

Many winter gloves are not fully waterproof, but those that fall into two basic styles: an outer shell that blocks out moisture, or a waterproof membrane sandwiched between the shell and liner. Starting with the waterproof shell design, these gloves are typically made with leather, which resists wind but is naturally prone to absorbing moisture. As such, they require treatment of Sno-Seal or equivalent product to create a water-blocking barrier. It’s important to note that these gloves also need routine maintenance (washing or reapplication of treatment) to stay in working order (more on this below).

A waterproof shell does the trick in dry snow or if you stay on top of the maintenance, but it can’t compete in terms of all-out water resistance with an internal membrane. The highest quality waterproof layer on the market is Gore-Tex, known for its combination of long-lasting moisture resistance and breathability. Most high-level gloves are made with Gore-Tex, while more budget-oriented gloves feature various off-brand designs, such as BDry, C-Zone, MemBrain, etc. You can expect varying levels of performance from these fabrics, but in general, a lower price point will mean compromised waterproofing, breathability, or both. Again, cheaper gloves will be fine for most purposes—including mild-weather resort skiing and outdoor work—but if you really want a glove to hold up in wet and miserable conditions, expect to pay a bit more.

For casual use or if you’re not outside for extended periods of time, a non-waterproof glove often will be sufficient. Fleece and wool models offer the least amount of protection, while some, like the leather Hestra Fall Line, are highly wind and water-resistant. In general, we recommend a waterproof glove if you’ll be out in the elements for long stretches and will run the risk of wet hands. But more air-permeable designs are a fine choice for wearing around town while shoveling snow, or even on the occasional snowshoe adventure.

Treating Your Leather Gloves

As we touched on in the waterproofing section above, leather gloves require occasional treatment to avoid absorbing moisture. Some models come pre-treated, including Flylow’s Ridge glove, while others like the Kinco Pigskin glove are just plain leather. The most common and effective coating is Sno-Seal. This beeswax-based solution requires a fair amount of effort—including baking the glove in the oven—but it’s a proven formula that’s extremely popular among skiers in wet climates. Simpler and less-involved options that still provide a good level of protection include Nikwax’s Waterproofing Wax and Hestra’s Leather Balm, which can be applied quickly by rubbing in the treatment with a cloth and drying overnight. Depending on how often you wear your gloves and in what kind of conditions, you may need to re-treat the leather one or more times a winter (it’ll be clear when you need to reapply because the gloves will stop shedding moisture).
 

Shell Materials and Durability

Durability should not be overlooked when it comes to choosing the right glove. After all, what gets more use than our hands? The most long-lasting gloves fall into the work category and are made of ultra-tough leather. An additional waterproofing treatment—such as Nikwax, Sno-Seal, or similar product—provides a barrier from moisture but also serves to extend the glove’s lifespan. Nylon shells are another long-lasting option, particularly well-made performance designs like the Outdoor Research Alti. Simple wool and fleece models are the most prone to developing holes and tears and should be limited to casual activities. It’s worth noting that some nylon, wool, and fleece gloves are reinforced with leather in high-use areas (such as the palms and fingertips).

Dexterity

For many wintertime uses, from putting chains on your car in a snowstorm to texting on your smartphone, it’s important to have a pair of highly dexterous gloves. If this is a priority for you, the supple and stretchy nature of leather (even lined leather) makes it a popular choice. Another factor is the level of insulation: in general, thinner and less warm gloves are more dexterous. Finally, the construction plays a role—Hestra’s Fall Line has external seams along with the fingers that make it surprisingly easy to perform fine motor movements despite the glove’s warm foam insulation. Keep in mind that dexterity doesn’t need to be the top consideration for everyone—thick or bulky gloves can still be useful in many situations, including shoveling snow, skiing, or just walking in extreme cold. 

Cuffs

Gauntlet Style
Gauntlet gloves extend over the cuff of a jacket (rather than under), providing excellent weather protection and warmth. When done right, a gauntlet effectively seals out cold air and virtually eliminates the possibility for the snow to enter. Gauntlet gloves are easy to get on and off, with large openings and one-handed drawcords that tighten and release. They are often heavier, bulkier, less agile, and less ventilated than other styles, but worth it if you really want to batten down the hatches. We like the gauntlet style best as high-performance gloves for winter sports and expeditions. 

Undercliff


Undercliff gloves—usually incorporating a cuff made with stretchy wool or synthetic material—sit under the winter jacket and hold the glove close to the wrist. The cuff provides both a barrier from the elements and keeps the glove from slipping off the hand. While an under cuff glove is less bulky, lighter weight, and better at ventilating than a gauntlet style, it can’t compete in terms of weather protection. Even if you tighten your jacket sleeves snugly over the top, there’s a chance your sleeves will ride up during activity. But for outdoor work or everyday use, the simplicity of an under cuff design is very appealing.

Removable Liners

Many gloves come with either a built-in or removable liner (the latter often are referred to as 3-in-1 gloves). Made from synthetic or wool, a liner wicks moisture away from the skin and adds an element of warmth, even when wet. A liner that can separate from the glove provides added versatility—you can wear the liner or shell separately, or combine them for maximum warmth. Furthermore, separating the layers allows for faster drying and the ability to swap liners in the middle of a particularly wet day. 3-in-1 gloves are bulkier, heavier, and less dexterous, but certainly have their merits. And keep in mind that even if a glove is not sold with a liner, you can always layer it with a thinner set for added warmth.

Touchscreen Compatibility

We’re on our phones more now than ever, and in 2020 we see this reflected in glove design. Over half of the gloves on this list feature, touchscreen-compatible pointer fingers and thumbs and the number of available designs are increasing each year. In short, the technology uses conductive fabrics in the fingertips so that your body’s electric current—what the screen must recognize to be responsive—is transferred through the glove (interestingly, you can make this modification yourself with a simple needle and conductive thread). As expected, thin gloves work better on a touchscreen than thick gloves (a simple matter of accuracy). This makes a glove with a touchscreen-compatible removable liner appealing: you get the warmth of a heavy winter glove but the ability to use your phone without fully exposing your hand to the elements. 

Additional Winter Glove Features

Winter gloves can range from simple leather designs like the L.L. Bean Buckskin Choppers, to fully-featured models with wrist cinches, nose wipes, zippered pockets, and carabiner loops for carrying on a harness. These features generally increase with performance—every day and work gloves are usually the simplest (sometimes with touchscreen compatibility as the only noteworthy addition), whereas winter sports gloves often include all the bells and whistles. Some gloves even come with a battery-powered heat pack for particularly cold environments—or particularly cold hands

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