Warmth and comfort can become everything when you’re out on the trail and find yourself in rapid cold-weather climate changes. If you’ve ever felt like you were freezing outside, then you know how important having the proper cold weather gear can be.
Being prepared for harsh weather conditions is the starting advice that any survivalist would give you. When you have the right gear, all weather conditions can be made comfortable.
That’s why it’s important to understand what you’re looking for in your gear, and plan for the worst, while hoping for the best, and packing your kit for both (lightly, of course). As the saying goes, “it’s better safe than sorry.”
In this HykLyt post, I’ll describe what to look for, and what the difference is, between gloves and mittens. It turns out, they aren’t only for cosmetic purposes.
Gloves vs. Mittens
Offering versatility and dexterity, gloves are a common pick when people shop for hand protection from the cold.
Offering more warmth, with less dexterity, mittens provide a “buddy-system” (finger to finger) insulation component for your hands, essentially locking in more heat for the harshest conditions.
Down vs Synthetic
Down gloves and mittens will be more breathable yet still stay very warm, the same way a down jacket works. Just don’t get them wet. Most down protective gear will come with a waterproof shell or system to keep them dry. Otherwise, they won’t hold any heat and actually work against you!
Synthetic fill is cheaper than the down version for gloves and mittens. Though synthetic fills are usually not high quality manufacturing and don’t hold up in the long run. These are better at staying dry without a cover, but some people tend to believe they aren’t very warm in comparison to down.
Gore-Tex vs Polar-Tec
You’ll want to find gloves or mittens with Polar-Tec or Gore-Tex if you’re looking for gear that’s fully impenetrable to water. There are other materials that can accomplish this task as well, but those two are the most common on the market and both are true to their word.
GoreTex is waterproof but still breathable. This technology is found in many different types of outdoor gear, from shoes to coats and many more. GoreTex is pricey, but worth the extra cost. It will keep moisture out of the glove while still allowing sweat to escape. a con to GoreTex is that it’s hot when you don’t want it to be. Although breathable in a one way valve system, it doesn’t allow for much penetration. If you are in the mountains and being rained on while it’s sunny, you’ll find yourself collecting a lot of sweat while attempting to stay dry. This is counterproductive at time.
PolarTec is less pricey but more breathable so will eventually “rainout” under heavy rain conditions. The pro to this material is it doesn’t overheat you because of the extra breathability.
To oversimplify, GoreTex when it’s cold and rainy/sleeting, and PolarTec when it’s warmer but rainy.
Keep this gear clean, as both tend to buildup dirt deposits over time.
Liner vs. Base vs. Shell
Liner gloves are great for 25-50 degree Fahrenheit weather. These can be worn year-round. Often found in wool or shearling, these can be stretchy and form-fitting. These typically are not waterproof.
Base gloves are great for temperatures less than 25 degrees Fahrenheit down to -30. These are usually waterproofed and can be worn layered with a liner for additional warmth, or work alone.
She’ll gloves are an improvement to either liner gloves or base gloves. These will increase insulation for either. They can also be worn as the third layer in your full glove system, if you prefer.
Leather vs. Polyester
Leather has been the primary water-resistant material that adapts for the weather conditions. Leather materials need proper care but will last a lifetime with the right amount of TLC.
Polyester, grouped with all other synthetics, unlike leather, are easier to care for, but not as durable. They are, however, better at heat regulation, and cheaper than leather.
It’s a hikers paradise out there when it comes to gear selection. There are so many different brands and different materials to try out that there may never truly be a definitive answer to which are the ultimate “best”.
Let me know in the comments below if you have a favorite glove brand (mines Overland currently, but Hestra is wearing on me).
Happy trails, and as always, thanks for reading.