Choosing the Best Winter Gloves

October 26, 2016
best winter gloves
Martin PlanteChoosing the best winter gloves for your needs will keep your fingers toasty on your next winter adventure.

This season, don’t let Old Man Winter take a nip at your fingers. Instead, slap him in the face with the right pair of gloves. For maximum warmth, function, and comfort, you’ll want gloves that fit properly and have the appropriate features for their intended use. Here’s what to consider when comparison shopping.

First check your fingertips, which should almost, but not quite, touch the end of the glove. The goal is to leave a tiny air pocket around your fingers to trap warmth. Compressing the insulation at the end of the glove is a surefire recipe for colder, more painful fingers.

Next evaluate the overall fit. The glove should be comfortably snug without being tight, restrictive, or compressed anywhere, all of which can compromise warmth. Lastly check for dexterity, which will vary depending on the glove style. How easily can you manipulate small objects while wearing the gloves? Test your range of movement with a few fine-motor skills, such as lacing your boots or adjusting snowshoe straps.

Remember that everybody’s hands are shaped differently. Try on a variety of glove styles and brands to find the pair that matches you best. Most manufacturers feature a similar cut across all of their glove lines: bigger or smaller palms, longer or shorter fingers, and so on. Identify the brands that most closely mimic the shape of your hands. Note that women’s gloves typically feature smaller palms and longer fingers than men’s versions.

Few things freeze your hands faster in cold conditions than icy wind or damp gloves. This is a particular challenge during breezy, aerobic activities, such as downhill skiing and cold-weather biking.

To block the wind, gloves should feature either a nylon shell, a windproof layer built into the glove itself, or both. For playing in the snow—and keeping the melt out—a nylon shell is a must. A waterproof layer in your gloves (Gore-Tex or the equivalent) provides additional protection. If you’re wearing gloves made of fleece, wool, or other fluffy fibers, avoid direct contact with the snow. These materials attract powder like Velcro and are a fast track to wet hands.

As a general rule, the thicker the glove, the warmer the glove—assuming you can keep wind and water out when needed. The trade-off is a loss of dexterity.

For extra warmth, consider a two-layer system: a thicker, waterproof, windproof outer glove or mitt, and a lighter-weight liner glove that provides additional warmth. You can think of liner gloves as long underwear for your hands. Liner gloves also can provide full dexterity for small tasks, avoiding the need to bare your fingers in the cold.

Note that mittens are significantly warmer than gloves. Your fingers are toastier and happier when they’re snuggled up together. Mittens are pretty clumsy, however; just zipping your jacket can be a challenge.

Twenty-first century gloves can include a dizzying array of features. Here are a few to look for:

  • For serious snow play and adventure, be it ice climbing or snowball fighting, look for gloves with a longer cuff, or gauntlet, that extends over your sleeves, fully protecting your wrists from cold and snow. Also test out any adjustment straps for ease of use while wearing the gloves.
  • An increasing number of gloves offer touchscreen-compatible tips on at least the index finger and thumb—a nice feature for today’s device-centric world.
  • A soft, fleecy swatch on your gloves for wiping your nose in the cold may seem like a good idea. It’s not. It’s gross. Leather palms, however, offer superior grip and durability, especially in very cold conditions.
  • Some gloves and mitts feature removable liners—nice for faster drying and adjusting the glove’s warmth as needed.


Search AMC Outdoors and Blogs

Search for:

Matt Heid

Equipped blogger Matt Heid is AMC's gear guru: He loves gear and he loves using it in the field. While researching several guidebooks, including AMC's Best Backpacking in New England, he has hiked thousands of miles across New England, California, and Alaska, among other wilderness destinations. He also cycles, climbs, and surfs.

Most Recent