Do you prefer your fingers frostbite-free? Me too. Having cold hands on a hike tends to make us more than a little grumpy. The fact is that it’s your extremities, like your fingers, that will feel the cold long before the rest of you will.
A regular pair of gloves may be fine for taking the dog for a walk but if you’re hiking or trekking you might need something better. We’ve reviewed some of the best hiking gloves and mittens on the market. We’ve also put together some top tips on how to choose the right pair.
- Outdoor Research Men’s Alti Gloves: Best for very cold conditions
- TrailHeads Elements: Lightweight all-purpose glove
- Outdoor Research Men’s Versaliner: Best fleece gloves
- Columbia Fast Trek Glove: Budget buy
- Outdoor Research Alti Mitts: Best mittens for hiking
- Black Diamond Soloist Cold Weather Gloves: Best mountaineering gloves
- SmartWool Liner Gloves: great for sensitive skin
- Outdoor Research Activeice Sun Gloves: prevent sunburn with these!
- North Face Etip: best gloves for women
Note: Clicking the above links will take you to further information, current prices and customer reviews on Amazon
What You'll Learn
- Best Gloves for Very Cold Conditions: Outdoor Research Men’s Alti Gloves
- Best Lightweight Hiking Gloves: TrailHeads Elements
- Best Fleece Gloves: Outdoor Research Men’s Versaliner
- Best Budget Hiking Gloves: Columbia Fast Trek Glove
- Best Mittens: Outdoor Research Alti Mitts
- Best Mountaineering Gloves: Black Diamond Soloist Finger Cold Weather Gloves
- Best Gloves for Sensitive Skin: SmartWool Liner Gloves
- Best Gloves for Sun Protection: Outdoor Research Activeice Spectrum Sun Gloves
- Best Hiking Gloves for Women: North Face Etip
- How to Choose Gloves for Hiking
- Your Activities
- Weather Conditions
- When will you use your hiking gloves?
- What Level of Protection do you Need?
- Glove Sizing – How can I get a good fit?
- Cuffs and Gauntlets
- Waterproof Performance
- Warmth – How do gloves keep your hands warm?
- Breathability and Moisture Management
- Manual dexterity
- Glove Material
- Style – What’s the difference between mittens and gloves?
- Need More Advice on Gear and Footwear?
Choosing the best gloves for hiking has a lot to do with the conditions, activities, and your specific needs. Here are some hiking glove reviews that focus on some of these factors
Best Gloves for Very Cold Conditions: Outdoor Research Men’s Alti Gloves
At a Glance:
- Super warm
- Good waterproof breathable performance
- High grip palm
- Excellent construction and durable materials
- Liners bunch up a little when taking hands in and out
- A little stiff at first – takes some breaking in
If you want to keep your hands warm in single-digit or sub-zero temps but still be able to handle your gear then these are hard to beat.
The glove is a two-part construction with an inner lining inside a water resistant shell. The Gore-Tex insert uses PrimaLoft insulation in the shell offering excellent warmth and moisture performance.
The gauntlets are long and wide enough to cover a jacket sleeve and cinch closed with a drawstring that you can operate with the gloves on.
Note that the sizing on these runs a little small with the lining, in particular, being a bit tight.
We like that the inner lining also has a pocket for a hand warmer so it doesn’t shift or fall out when you lift your arms.
There’s always a compromise between warmth and dexterity but these gloves hit a sweet spot. If you absolutely need more warmth and you’re OK with reduced dexterity then go for the Alti mittens we reviewed lower down.
Best Lightweight Hiking Gloves: TrailHeads Elements
At a Glance:
- Lightweight stretch fabric fits well
- Good moisture wicking and fast drying
- Mesh panels offer venting
- Excellent dexterity
- Wrist cuff is a little short
These lightweight gloves are ideal for high-intensity activity in cool spring and fall temperatures.
They’re designed for running so they have a snug fit and offer great wind resistance. If you’re hiking in weather that’s cool enough to call for a pair of gloves, you sometimes end up taking them on and off as your hands heat up and sweat.
We liked how well this pair wicked moisture and the mesh panels help to vent excess heat so you can keep them on for longer.
These aren’t going to be warm enough for winter, but they’re perfect for shoulder season hiking and work well as liners in thicker, warmer gloves.
The cuffs are a little short so make sure your sleeve is long enough to compensate.VIEW ON AMAZON
Best Fleece Gloves: Outdoor Research Men’s Versaliner
At a Glance:
- Good breathability, wicking and is quick drying
- Versatile – use in cool to cold and rainy conditions
- Non-slip silicone palm print
- Shell storage pocket doubles as heat pack pocket
- Sizing runs a bit large
With the Versaliner gloves, you get lightweight, fleece-lined gloves that are great for spring and fall hiking.
They have a two-part construction with a removable fleece lining and a waterproof, breathable outer shell.
The fleece-lined inner can be worn on its own and the insulated shell gives you the option for better wind and rain protection.
The zippered pocket on the rear of the inner can be used to stash the outer shell and also doubles as a handy place to keep your pocket warmer.
The outer shell is excellent in wet weather while the inner offers really effective wicking and breathability. If you do manage to get them sweaty they dry pretty fast.
These offer excellent versatility in moderately chilly and wet conditions but the lightweight insulation isn’t enough for really cold winter use.
They’ll work well as liners in a winter glove with better insulation for those icy days.
Best Budget Hiking Gloves: Columbia Fast Trek Glove
At a Glance:
- Microfleece has soft feel and is very warm
- Elasticated wrist seals in warmth
- Machine washable
- Not water resistant
These soft microfleece gloves are super comfortable and surprisingly warm considering the low price tag.
Even in temperatures in the low 30’s these winter gloves still keep your hands pretty toasty. As you’d expect from gear bearing the Columbia brand, they’re well-made from high-quality fabric.
Being all fleece, they’re not water-resistant at all nor are they going to perform very well or offer wind protection if the wind gets up.
If you’re looking for some budget hiking gloves for spring or fall or even a pair of comfy liners then these are a solid choice.
The sizing runs a bit small and they’re designed for a snug fit so bear this in mind if you prefer a looser fit.
Best Mittens: Outdoor Research Alti Mitts
At a Glance:
- Super warm
- Kevlar stitching and leather palms – high durability
- Great moisture wicking and breathability
- Wind and waterproof
- Excellent grip
- Reduced dexterity
When keeping your hands warm matters more than anything else, then these mittens are as good as it gets.
These are the mittens you want to be wearing when you pause at the top of that 8,000m peak!
They’re fully seam-taped and keep wind, rain and chill out as few other mittens will. The reduced dexterity can be an issue but the three-panel thumb and the seam on the palm help a bit.
We like the heat pack pocket on the back of the liner and the zips, cinch cords, clips and pull loops round out this full-featured mitten.
The price tag is a little high but in extreme cold these are the mittens you’ll want.
Best Mountaineering Gloves: Black Diamond Soloist Finger Cold Weather Gloves
At a Glance:
- High-loft fleece lining offers excellent warmth
- Kevlar-reinforced goatskin palm offers high durability and good grip
- Split-finger design
- Not touchscreen compatible
If you’re into technical alpine climbing in freezing conditions, then your hands will feel a lot happier in these.
The split finger design and high-loft insulation give you the best of both worlds when it comes to warmth and dexterity.
The waterproof shell offers protection from rain, snow and wind and can be worn on its own in warmer weather.
The removable liner incorporates PrimaLoft Gold insulation that insulates even when wet and dries quickly. We like the Kevlar reinforced goatskin palm.
It has a durable feel about it and offers good grip. The generous gauntlets fit nicely over a jacket cuff and the single pull adjustment makes them easy to cinch down.
Best Gloves for Sensitive Skin: SmartWool Liner Gloves
At a Glance:
- Merino wool blend feels soft against skin
- Excellent breathability
- Touchscreen compatible
- Fabric pills if it comes into contact with velcro/rough surfaces
If you’ve got sensitive skin you’ll want gloves to breathe well, have a snug fit and offer protection from bumps and scrapes.
It’s best to go for a Merino wool blend lining as this is a lot less likely to irritate your skin than some other natural fibers will.
These liner gloves work well on their own in temperatures of 40 to 50 degrees, or as inners when it’s colder. Also, the Smartwool fabric is made of Merino wool and a blend of synthetic fabrics that feel comfortable, even on sensitive skin.
They breathe really well and the Smartwool fabric wicks moisture and resists odors. We like that it’s got a nice snug fit so there’s no chafing. However, these don’t have a waterproof membrane, so they aren’t ideal if you plan on winter hiking in wet weather.
Keep these away from anything with velcro as the fabric pills easily.
Best Gloves for Sun Protection: Outdoor Research Activeice Spectrum Sun Gloves
At a Glance:
- UPF 50+ sun protection
- Good breathability, wicking and fast drying
- Anti-slip palm print
- Active cooling keeps hands cool as you build up a sweat
- Very lightweight
- Not very durable
- Note: very much a ‘summer’ glove!
Why your hands need protecting from the sun is not something you want to find out the hard way.
These offer 50+ UV protection and do a great job of keeping your hands cool. The fabric is super breathable and uses xylitol crystals to cool your hands as the fabric wicks moisture away from your skin.
They are lightweight and the fingerless design gives you unrestricted movement. Heck, I can even type this blog post whilst wearing them!
The anti-slip palm print gives them a nice grippy feel but the lightweight fabric isn’t durable enough to hold up to a lot of abuse – so go easy on them.
If you tend to sunburn easily then these are ideal for those long summer hikes.
Best Hiking Gloves for Women: North Face Etip
At a Glance:
- Four-way stretch, women specific fit is super-comfortable
- Full-palm conductivity offers excellent touchscreen performance
- Lightweight and highly breathable
- Stylish design
- Not very warm
If you struggle to find gloves that fit your finer, feminine hands then try these on for size. The four-way stretch fabric and women-specific fit offer excellent comfort in a snug design.
This pair not only feel great, but they also look stylish too. They perform well with most touchscreens so there’s no need to take them off to check your phone.
They’re not as warm as we were hoping, and are really only suited to cool spring or fall conditions and not meant for winter hiking.
They’ll work well as liners in some well-insulated gloves though. This makes them better suited as part of your layering strategy rather than as standalone gloves.
How to Choose Gloves for Hiking
Hiking gloves need to keep your hands warm and protected. What makes a good pair different is that they need to do this in a harsher environment and under more extreme conditions.
There’s also a trade-off between how warm they are and how much dexterity they allow for. Broadly your choice will be determined by the following criteria:
If you’re going to be wearing your gloves while walking or at night around the camp then higher insulation at the cost of reduced dexterity is a decent option.
If you’re picking up the pace then a lighter weight, breathable material will be more comfortable when your hands warm up. Activities that need a fair degree of dexterity will inevitably need a compromise in the amount of insulation.
The amount of warmth or dexterity you need will also determine whether you go for a finger, lobster or mitten design.
You’re unlikely to find a pair of gloves that offer great all-year performance.
If you hike regularly throughout the year you’re better off getting a decent pair of winter gloves and another pair for Spring through Summer.
For the best versatility invest in a good pair of winter gloves and a pair of breathable fleece ones that can be used on their own in spring and fall or as inners in winter. For cold weather hiking, you want to keep your fingers and avoid frostbite, so its wise to buy the best winter hiking gloves you can find. But if rainy conditions are part of your adventure, then waterproof gloves will keep your hands dry throughout your trip.
Aside from the fabric and design of the glove, it’s worth noting other helpful features you may be after. Do you need to be able to use your touchscreen device without removing them?
How about a pocket to stash a hand warmer in, or single pull cuff cinching? Even something as simple as a nose-wipe area on the back can be the clincher that helps you decide between two pairs.
When will you use your hiking gloves?
Are you looking for a pair of all-day gloves or just something to put on when it gets really cold at night?
If you’re wearing them all day, then you’ll need to pay attention to breathability. High-intensity activity, even in cold weather, will get your hands sweating pretty fast.
If you’re planning on wearing them mainly at night then a well-insulated pair of mittens are a good choice. You’re less likely to need high dexterity once you’ve made camp and you’ll appreciate the cozy warmth they offer.
What Level of Protection do you Need?
Your gloves need to protect your hands from all the elements. This includes cold, wind, rain, and the inevitable bumps and scrapes that go along with hiking.
Obviously technical alpine climbing in the dead of winter is going to call for more protection than you’ll need on a single-day hike in spring.
Figure out the lowest temperatures that you’re likely to encounter, and choose accordingly. More cold weather protection means increased bulk.
Have you checked the weather? Are you likely to be wearing them in rain? Make sure they are waterproof, or that they come with a waterproof shell that you can slip on top.
The palms of your gloves are going to experience the most wear. Will you be gripping a walking pole or scrambling up some rocks? You’re going to need a reinforced palm area to handle that.
If you’re just going to be walking with them then you’ve got the luxury of going for a lighter pair.
Glove Sizing – How can I get a good fit?
When you think about “fit” you might just think about the comfort factor. Sure, you want your gloves to feel comfy but those that fit poorly aren’t going to perform well either.
Loose gloves and cuffs won’t seal at your wrists nor keep you as warm. Certainly, ones that are too tight won’t breathe well and will limit your dexterity.
Most people know their shoe size but finding your hand size might take a little trial and error. Buying online will save you some money but doesn’t offer you the opportunity to try them on first. Go to a local hiking gear store and try on a few pairs to get a feel for the size that fits best.
The sizes quoted by the manufacturer are a guide but check reviews to see if the sizing runs true, small or a little larger than normal.
Cuffs and Gauntlets
Longer cuffs can limit maneuverability but are great for extra warmth. Keeping the blood that flows near the surface of your wrist warm will make a big difference to how warm your hands feel.
You can also tuck your sleeves into the cuffs to block any chilly air from getting in. Larger, winter gloves will sometimes have gauntlets, or flared cuffs, that are easy to slip over sleeves and cinch down with a pull cord for a good seal.
And I’ve finally got a context for “throwing down the gauntlet” – it’s amazing what you learn from a simple pair of gloves!
You’re not going to be reaching into water with your gloves on, but you want them to keep the rain and snow out as far as possible.
The only way you’ll get 100% waterproof is if they’re made from rubber or vinyl but they’ll have zero breathability. If maximum water resistance is your main concern, then be prepared for some sweaty hands at some point.
But, if you’re heading out into wintery conditions, then it might be best to opt for a waterproof pair. On the other hand, if you’re going to be moving fast or getting pretty active, then go for a glove that breathes well and take along a shell or mitten to pull over if you encounter rain or snow.
As with the rest of your hiking apparel, good layering results in the best performance. In cold weather, your best bet is to wear a lighter pair of fleece-lined gloves inside a separate outer pair with high-loft insulation.
Additionally, you’ll get good breathability from the inner, with insulation and water protection from the outer shell.
Warmth – How do gloves keep your hands warm?
Your gloves keep your hands warm primarily by doing the following:
- Trapping the heat generated by your hands. Choosing the right size and good seals at the cuffs are important.
- Insulating, or creating a barrier between the chilly air outside and the inside of the glove. The insulation material type, loft, and quantity all affect how well they do.
- Blocking the wind. Affected by the tightness of the weave and material type.
- Staying dry by keeping rain and snow out. Shell material type or coating determines this factor.
- Breathing and wicking away moisture to prevent sweaty hands. Improved by layering and incorporation of materials like GoreTex, or venting panels.
Breathability and Moisture Management
Material with a good degree of breathability will get rid of the moisture vapor that builds up around your hands as they get warm and will help them not to feel sweaty.
In addition to the breathability, the best hiking gloves will use fabrics that wick away moisture from the surface of your skin to the outer layer.
Winter gloves will usually have a synthetic fill made from fluffy polyester fibers like PrimaLoft. When a manufacturer says they use high-loft insulation it means it traps plenty of air, keeping warmth in.
The more insulation the mitten has, the warmer it will be and the bulkier it will be. Gloves for spring and fall use normally rely on fleece for insulation. These are less warm but lighter and less bulky.
Durability is dependant on the quality and thickness of the materials and stitching. The palm is going to experience the most wear.
If you expect to be scrambling up rocks or making your way through some thick brush then make sure the material is up to the job. A leather or silicon palm will offer better grip and durability.
You want your hands to be warm but you still want to be able to use them. Being able to open and close your hand as well as rotate, or flex around the wrist is important.
The amount of dexterity you need depends on what you’ll be doing. Do you just need to grip a walking pole or do you need to work a clip or undo a knot?
The dexterity a glove allows decreases with the amount of insulation it offers.
Old-school gloves were made from cotton or wool. Both of which keep you warm but are terrible at keeping water out or getting rid of sweat.
Modern hiking gloves are generally made from combinations of synthetic materials like nylon, spandex, and polyester.
Some of the more expensive brands will incorporate Merino wool for extra warmth and comfort or special fabrics like GoreTex for better moisture management performance.
Style – What’s the difference between mittens and gloves?
Hiking gloves come in three main design styles:
- Gloves, or finger gloves – will have a single compartment for each finger.
- Mittens – have a compartment for your thumb with another single compartment for the rest of your fingers.
- Lobster – Has individual compartments for your thumb and index finger with your other three fingers in a single compartment.
When might you use mittens?
Mittens might look a little weird but because your fingers are up against each other and there’s less exposed material area, your hands stay way warmer.
The problem is that this comes at the expense of the dexterity you get from a finger glove. Lobster design gives you warmth with improved dexterity because you can grip things between your thumb and index finger.
What Else Should I Look Out For In A Hiking Glove?
Besides the key performance areas there are some other nice-to-haves that are worth considering:
- Nose wipe patch– Yes it’s gross, but in cold weather, you’re going to need to wipe your nose. Now you can do so without having to reach into your pockets for a tissue. Some gloves have a nose wipe area on the back of the glove or thumb area. Hey, it’s still better than using your sleeve!
- Attachment points – loops, carabiner clips or hooks are great for attaching to the outside of your pack, or even to save you from having to put the glove on the ground when you take it off for a second.
- Zippers – These are great for making them easy to get on and off but are also a great way to vent without having to remove the glove.
- Grip pattern on palm – Worth considering if you plan on using an ax or holding walking poles.
- Cinching – single pull straps or cinching cords make it easy to get a good seal around the cuffs
- Pocket warmer storage – Pocket warmers have a habit of shifting or falling out of gloves. Some have a pouch to keep the pocket warmer in place.
Touch screen compatibility
Just because the manufacturer says it’s touch-screen compatible doesn’t mean it’s going to work with your phone’s screen.
Phones and handheld GPS devices have varying degrees of touchscreen sensitivity. Even if the glove is touch screen compatible it’s not going to give you the same precision you get with your bare finger.
Some brands have a mini stylus built into the index finger and these are worth considering if you need precision when operating your device.
Alternatively, leave the thing at home and stay off Facebook and Instagram in the backcountry!
Hiking Glove Tips
Even if you’ve bought a great pair of hiking gloves there are a few things to remember if you want them to do a good job:
- Don’t sweat in them. If your hands are getting sweaty, switch to a lighter pair of fleece gloves. Getting the linings of your winter gloves wet will hamper their performance and are a pain to get dry in cold weather.
- If you did end up with wet inner linings, remove them and place them between your base layer and your skin when you go to sleep. They’ll be a lot dryer the next morning.
- For intense activities in cold temperatures, it’s best to carry a couple pairs of light fleece liners. Rotate between them as soon as they start to get damp.
Hand size, conditions, and cold tolerance vary – what I thought were super-warm mittens had my hands freezing when I was climbing Kala Pattar. Turned out, they were the wrong size, I’d borrowed them. Get yourself a decent layering system of inner, fleece and outer gloves and you won’t go wrong whatever the weather!
Product Image credit Amazon.com
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Last update on 2022-02-27 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API