There is a fine line between joy and despair, and when it comes to spending time in the outdoors in winter, that line comes down to exactly one thing: gloves & mittens.
And no, we’re not being hyperbolic. Getting cold hands is the single quickest way to turn your adventure into a real drag, not to mention expose you to dangerous frostbite, or worse, a bad case of Hypothermia, which the CDC has some alarming stats on.
The best hiking gloves and mittens for men are not just going to protect you from the frigid cold, but they’ll do it in a way that makes you look good, stay dry, and now, even use your smartphone. Here’s what we found to be the 8 of the Best Gloves and Mittens, ranked by their ability to keep your fingers nice and toasty:
Best Gloves for Hitting the Slopes – Outdoor Research Men’s CENTURION Gloves
|MATERIAL||Nylon exterior / GORE-TEX insert|
|COLOR||Cobalt / Navy / Burnt Orange|
|WATERPROOF||Water & Snow Resistant|
We’ll begin with the CENTURION gloves by Outdoor Research, one of the most respected companies when it comes to durable cold-weather gear. This is a pair of gloves that delivers an impressive degree of both durability and style for a glove that is under $60. It is not uncommon to see this style of glove go for well over $100 by some manufacturers.
But what good is a cheap glove if it doesn’t perform? We were eager to stick our hands into these babies, and once we did, the results were clear. The CENTURION is not only comfortable, but sturdy enough to stand up to the more brutal aspects of backcountry hiking.
The reinforced palm is a must for skiers and hikers with poles in their hands. It’s a thick nylon weave, and by the feel of it, it will be several seasons at the very least before these start to go.
One of the big problems with GORE-TEX gloves is that they can be notoriously sweaty, especially in high aerobic conditions like out on the ski hill. That is not the case with the CENTURIONS. The woven layered construction offers warmth when it matters and venting when you need it. This feature along makes these gloves more than worth the price.
Our only note is that the CENTURION gloves are not highly dexterous. While they are prefect for keeping your fingers warm as you bomb down the hill, they will be far less effective as performing delicate tasks.
Best Ultralight Hiking Gloves – SmartWool PhD Insulated Training Glove
|MATERIAL||Body:46% Nylon / 37% Merino Wool / 17% Elastane Lining: 70% Wool / 30% Nylon|
If the CENTURION gloves look a bit thick for you, then these SmartWool training gloves might be more of your style. You might think that they wouldn’t be able to offer the same degree of warmth as the last pair we looked at, but you’d be wrong.
The secret is in the high-performance weave that was designed specifically for the PhD line of gloves and products. Densely woven merino wool is such an amazing insulator that these training gloves are just as warm as even some of the thickest ski gloves that are out there.
Our biggest issue with the SmartWool training gloves was that the fit was a bit awkward and inconsistent. It was also difficult to achieve a tight enough fit. Overall we just wanted something that stayed a little closer to the hand.
But overall we just adored these gloves. They’re the perfect thing for early morning running or cold weather hiking. What we were really surprised by was this glove’s ability to provide the level of wind-proofing that it did.
Best Winter Hiking Mitts – Outdoor Research Men’s ALTI MITTS
|MATERIAL||Nylon exterior / Polyester insulation (100%)|
Although they reside a bit higher on the price spectrum than the other gloves we have looked at so far, it is worth the time to take a few moments to consider the impressive insulating capabilities of the ALTI mitts. While a weekend ski trip to Taos Mountain might not warrant spending this much on gloves, the dedicated enthusiast or hardcore adventurer might be interested in getting the warmest, most weatherproof gloves around.
The reason we decided to combine gloves and mitts into the same review was a simple one. To be honest, we don’t think there is that big of a difference between the two. While some people might argue that mitts offer no dexterity, I challenge the person who says that to see just how dexterous they would be with my ski gloves. Honestly, you can’t to a darn thing with your fingers while the glove is on. So what’s the difference?
The problem with these mitts is that the thumb compartment just can’t stay as warm as the rest of the glove. Even when you add a heating packet to the compartment, the heat has a hard time finding its way into the thumb compartment.
Best Tactical Outdoor Gloves for Men – FREETOO Tactical Gloves Military Police Glove w/ Rubber Knuckle
|MATERIAL||Nylon / Spandex / Rubber|
Looking for the tactical advantage? Then look no further than the FREETOO Tactical gloves, a pair of rough & tough military-style gloves with re-enforced rubber knuckles and proprietary anti-slip palm panel and armored wrist. These things are designed to handle the most sensitive of missions, while still providing protection from bumps, scratches, cold, and cuts.
They also happen to be one of the most affordable pairs of gloves on our list by a significant margin. They’re at such a great price in fact that we decided to order a second pair to keep in the glove box for that next unexpected mechanical failure that will require us to spring into action.
We know they look super cool, but how do these gloves perform?
Our team found the overall construction to be slightly above average, however, some of the seams had weak spots where we could imagine some tearing to occur in the not too distant future. The rubber knuckle panels are well placed and firmly installed, but we are wondering why the manufacturer decided to switch from hard plastic to rubber. Their previous model felt like it could handle a little more of a beating if it came down to glove vs. pavement, which unfortunately it always does sooner or later.
For the price we are giving this pair of gloves our full recommendation, however don’t expect that they’ll last you a lifetime, especially if you are as active as these gloves suggest that you are.
Best Hiking Gloves for Winter – Marmot Men’s 8000 Meter Mitt
|MATERIAL||GORE-TEX, 700+ Fill feather down / Nylon Ripstop|
Now we’ve come to the big ticket item … the main event so to speak. The Marmot 8000 METER MITT is perhaps the most professional-grade mitt on our review, utilizing some of the most advanced materials and construction methods to craft a powerhouse of a mitten that can keep your hands warm and dry even in the hairiest of circumstances.
First thing to note: these are the only down-fill gloves that we looked at here, and for good reason. There are very few manufacturers who have figured out how to produce an effective down-fill mitten, when synthetic layers have become so much cheaper and more popular to use. But Marmot seems to have figured it out. It’s also a whopping 700+ fill, which is significantly better insulation than my own sleeping bag, if that says anything.
The second thing to note is that the 8000 Meter Mitt is actually three gloves in one. The first is a 100% waterproof GORE-TEX shell, followed by a breathable mitt insert and finally a removable 700-fill goose down mitten. All in all, this is a high-performance glove for high-altitude conditions, and it is not likely to disappoint you anytime soon.
There can really be only one complain about a glove this good, and that’s the price. The 8000 METER MITT is well into the professional price range, but why shouldn’t it be? It is basically unmatched.
Best Ultralight Hiking Gloces – The North Face Unisex ETIP Glove
On the complete other side of the spectrum from the 8000 Meter Mitt is the ETIP glove from outdoor powerhouse The North Face. This is a lightweight and closely fitting ultralight glove that is capable to follow you on a number of different adventures, from a snowshoe trek through the San Juans to the cold brisk walk to University.
The ETIPS are named for their touchscreen capabilities, which is a feature that we are seeing more and more on ultralight gloves. Perhaps that’s not surprising considering how frustrating it can be to have to take your gloves all the way off just so you can answer the call.
But the real functionality of the ETIP gloves goes beyond this minor convenience and really stems from the gloves wonderful fit. The whole glove is made of a comfortable and flexible fleece that has enough flex in it to really grip the hand. This just might be the most comfortable gloves in that sense.
The downside is that there is no real wind protection here. Fleece is not really the best windbreak, and it certainly isn’t waterproof either. So these gloves aren’t the best option for wet conditions or a day on the slopes, but they would work incredibly well as a pair of liners for a lager pair of mittens.
Best Heavy Duty Glove for Winter – Gordini Men’s THE POLAR GLOVE
|MATERIAL||96% Nylon, 4% Spandex|
Here’s another high-performance goose-fill glove, however, this one isn’t going to break the bank. Perhaps that’s because it uses more synthetics than the aforementioned 8000-METER MITT from Marmot, the other goose-down mitt that we looked at. In addition, it’s a 70% / 30% blend of goose down to waterfowl down, which apparently makes a significant price difference in the consumer’s favor, however, it is unclear if this blend ratio negatively or positively effects over warmth factor.
Best feature hands down is the deerskin fingers. They give this glove a very nimble grip and agile dexterity that you would not expect to find in such a thick and bulky glove. It also happens to be a great way to prevent the smartphone from slipping right out of your hand while you’re on the ski lift.
We put these gloves to the ultimate cold-fingers test, which was basically putting our hands into them and then sticking those into a cooler full of ice cubes. It isn’t the most scientific way to get things done, but hey, we aren’t technically scientists, either. But we like to know how a piece of gear is going to perform in extreme circumstances. The straight skinny: these just aren’t the warmest gloves out there, and in fact, our fingers got chilly a lot earlier than we expected from such a burly looking glove. We expect that waterfowl down might have had something to do with it, but we are going to have to get back to you on that.
Best Three-Fingered Hiking Gloves – Outdoor Research Men’s HIGHCAMP 3-Finger Gloves
|MATERIAL||Nylon / Fleece / Leather|
|COLOR||Black or Ochre|
We’ve been big fans of Outdoor Research’s HIGHCAMP series for some time now, ever since it hit the scene a few years ago. We became instant fans when we learned just how dependable the warmth was and how great the overall weatherproofing was. But we have to admit that we didn’t know exactly what to think of the three-fingered style of gloves. I mean, we get the concept of it. It’s a middle ground between a glove and a mitten, or some fraction of the way there.
But what exactly is the point of having a single additional finger in its own pocket? For us it just made our index fingers cold. But, you have to admit, they do look pretty dang cool. And for winter sports like skiing and snowboarding, that is actually pretty important.
But let’s talk warmth. The signature HIGHCAMP quality is present here, so there is basically nothing you need to worry about in terms of warmth. Like we said, that one lonely finger is probably going to get chilled well before anything else does, so maybe this isn’t as much of a long-day glove and more of a “few runs then done” kind of glove.
Very durable, though. We imagine this would last even the most rough & tumble adventurer at least a few good seasons before showing signs of wear.
How about a hand for all of the gloves and mittens that we reviewed today?
We aren’t kidding: the best hiking gloves of 2020 are far above anything that we’ve seen before in terms of sheer warmth and overall performance. We saw some ultralight liner-type gloves, like the NORTH FACE ETIP GLOVE, which is really the perfect option for a base-layer liner or a simple set of thin gloves on a chilly morning.
We also saw some of the heavy hitters with products like the 8000-METER MITT, which is particularly popular amongst professional climbers because of its incredible ability to keep those fingers warm. It is however a little too far out of our price range on a gear reviewer’s salary!
Choosing a Great Pair of Hiking Gloves: What to Look For
Selecting the right kind of hiking or skiing gloves can be the difference between a fantastic day on the mountain or a miserable, shivering experience that you will not soon forget about. And let’s be honest: nobody wants to be known as the whiner.
The first step to choosing a glove is taking a moment to consider what you might be using that glove for. For instance, a glove that keeps your fingers warm while walking across the city might not have the same warming capabilities if you took them up on a mountain.
Similarly, a pair of thick down-fill mittens might not be the best option for somebody who is about to jump on a downhill bike and cruise down the mountain at breakneck speeds.
We’ve assembled some of the most basic information that you are going to need to find the perfect pair of gloves for you.
The Different Types of Gloves and Mittens
Our review guide includes a few different styles of gloves, each with a different set of advantages and disadvantages. Here are those different types, including some of the recommended uses.
Liners & Ultralight Gloves
These are the thinnest and often the lightest type of glove, and are usually not used on their own in very cold or wet conditions. They are generally not waterproof or windproof and provide minimal insulation against the elements.
- Base layers
- Chilly summer mornings
- High-aerobic activities
These are the standard, with five finger construction. These are still preferred by most people because they offer more dexterity, meaning that you can accomplish more tasks without having to take off your glove.
- Great all-purpose glove for any activity
- Activities that require dexterous hand motions
The big thing about mittens is that they do not separate your fingers with all that fabric. This means that a greater amount of heat can be retained within the mitten and recycled to other fingers. So even with the same construction materials, mittens tend to be a lot warmer than traditional gloves.
- Extreme low temperatures
- Snowboarding & Snowshoeing
Hybrid / Lobster / Trigger Mittens
This is one of the newer developments in glove technology to hit the scene in recent years, and the concept is fairly simple. Basically it goes like this: someone somewhere decided that their mittens were too mitten and that their gloves were too “glovey”, so the only logical thing to do would be to blend the two into some kind of midpoint. These types of mittens separate some of the fingers, but not all five of them individually, so there is some extra warmth kept, as well as some extra dexterity added.
Plus, we think they just look really cool.
- If you’re gloves aren’t warm enough and your mittens are too clumsy
Insulation Materials in Gloves, Mittens, & Hybrid Mittens
For all intents and purposes there are two different kinds of materials that are used to create that warming insulation that we all love so much in our gloves and mittens.
Down insulation is known for its amazing weight-to-warmth ratio, providing some of the best loft and most breathable warmth while also being supremely compressible and easy to transport. However down fill is also far less effective when it gets wet, which is why it is not often used in ski and snowboarding gloves.
Synthetic insulation in gloves is more affordable by a long shot, making it the most popular choice for skiing and snowboarding gloves. But that’s not the only thing we love about it. It also dries out a lot quicker and is able to retain much of its insulation capabilities even when it is wet. The downside is that it is heavier and bulkier than down.
Get a Grip: Finger Pads & Palm Pads
Our favorite gloves of 2020 have one awesome feature in common, which is leather pads lining the fingers and palms of the glove. This provides such an amazing sense of grip that is simply unmatched by plastic, rubber, or vinyl. The leather is also supremely durable compared to plastic, so leather lined gloves are likely to last you a long time.
Knuckle pads are another option that have become available on some tactical style gloves. We can think of a few reasons why knuckle pads would be helpful, but chief among them would be for cyclists and dirt bikers who might be dragging their knuckles across the pavement at some point.
How to Find Your Glove Size: A Quick Guide
If you are trying to find out your own glove size, there are only a few things to keep in mind.
First, measure all the way around your hand with a tape measure going across your palm. You want to make sure that you are using your dominant hand, as there can be subtle but significant size differences between the two, and you want to make sure you are getting the best fit on the hand that you use the most.
Next, measure the longest part of your hand over the top of your longest finger. Then record the number.
You now have two numbers. Take the larger of these two and then round up to the nearest whole number. This is the number that you can use to determine what size gloves to buy. Now all you need to do is consult a sizing chart, which are available everywhere online, but you are going to want to try to find one that was made by the manufacturer of the gloves that you are interested in purchasing.
Frequently Asked Questions
That’s a great question, and we thought that someone might ask it. That’s why we have included in our guide a very special side-section on that very subject.
Check out How to Find Your Glove Size for everything you need to know.
There’s a debate that isn’t going to end in our lifetime. That’s because there are positives and negatives to each style, but in the end it mostly comes down to user preference.
If you are interested in learning more about the different kinds of gloves that are on the market these days, check out our handy guide on The Different Types of Hiking & Skiing Gloves.
But it is not difficult to explain. Basically, gloves separate your fingers with fabric, meaning that they tend to be not as warm as mittens, but more nimble as they allow you greater use of your fingers.
Mittens, on the other hand, let you fingers all hang out together, which saves a lot of body heat over time, so they tend to be warmer, however, you can’t do as much with your fingers, so they are somewhat clumsy.
Some of the gloves on our list are completely machine washable, and others that have real leather as a part of their construction might not fare so well with a trip through the laundry. Be sure to check the product specifications before you buy to see if you are going to be able to clean the gloves on your own, or if they’ll need something more special to get the job done.
Because touchscreens are able to recognize the texture of human skin, it does not recognize something as coarse as nylon or GORE-TEX as a valid input. For this reason, some glove makers have included small rubber or vinyl pads on one or more of the fingers, because it allows it to be recognized by the touchscreen.
For the most part, if a glove features touchscreen functionality, then it will be advertised as such, because it tends to be a popular selling point.
Some of these gloves are going to be a lot more cut resistant than others. If you are looking for a glove that has a little bit of extra ruggedness to it and you want to know it will stand up to a beating, then you might want to take another look at the FREETOO TACTICAL GLOVE that we reviewed earlier. It’s got a lot of the features you are looking for, making it the perfect option for dirt biking or motorcycling.