The Best Ski Gloves and Mittens for Men
What are the best glove and mitten choices for skiing and snowboarding? We purchased over 20 of the top competitors this past season and our testers put them up to the challenge by skiing at resorts, touring in the backcountry, and skiing via snowmobile. We evaluated all of the contenders to determine which gloves and mittens came out on top. We ranked each one's performance in dexterity, water resistance, warmth, durability, ease of use, and features, while testing in the Cascades, the Wasatch Range, Alaska, and the European Alps. Dozens of testers provided valuable analysis for this review and helped identify the best all-around product, the best model for more moderate climates (above 15F), the best cold weather option (below 15F), and the best value.
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Test Results and Ratings
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Analysis and Award Winners
The Runners Up
Arc'teryx Lithic Glove
The Arc'teryx Lithic glove was very nearly our Editors' Choice award winner and was only barely edged out by the Hestra Seth Morrison Pro Model in our overall scoring, though it remains a superior glove for wetter conditions. The Lithic uses only the nicest fabrics and materials and is sewn and assembled in a unique pattern not seen in any other ski/snowboard glove. This is really what makes it special; instead of a waterproof insert sandwiched in-between a liner and an exterior layer, the Lithic is constructed like a typical 3-layer Gore-tex jacket with an extremely ergonomic patterning that mirrors a human hand fantastically and offers an amazing freedom of movement. In the end, the winner of our Editors' Choice award was nearly a toss-up and the Lithic was only barely edged out because it isn't quite as tough, nor did it offer as nice of an interior feel when compared to the Morrison Pro Model. The Lithic remains slightly warmer, noticeably more water resistant, and far lighter and more packable.
Second Highest Rated Mitten: Hestra Army Leather Heli Ski Mitt
The Hestra Army Leather Heli Ski Mitt is an awesome mitten that is super warm and surprisingly dexterous considering how much insulation it offers. We think the Hestra Army Leather Heli Mitt is a fantastic mitten that just barely missed out on being our overall Editors' Choice award winner for two reasons. One, its leather palm just wasn't as water resistant as the Black Diamond Mercury's and we found it needed to be retreated more often. Two, while it is warm, the second warmest product in our review in fact, it just wasn't quite as warm when compared to the Mercury. We found that the Army Leather Heli is more dexterous than the Mercury and we thought its more basic fleece liner lasted longer and took longer to pack out than other gloves and mittens that had lighter, but less durable PrimaLoft or similar synthetic insulation.
Great for Dexterity: Hestra Army Leather 3-Finger Mitt
The Hestra Army Leather 3-Finger Mitt was our OutdoorGearLab Top Pick because of its unique "trigger finger" design. We think the 3-Finger Mitt is best for people who live in colder climates like Montana, Alberta, or New England that need a warmer option than most gloves can provide, but dislike the lack of dexterity, or clumsy feel that mittens often create. The 3-Finger is warm enough for most of those frigid climates, but certainly feels less clumsy and more glove like.
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Analysis and Test Results
Gloves and mittens are often the only thing that protects our hands from winter's harsh bite; we have great expectations, including those of overall performance, and we ask a lot of our gloves, whether we're heli-skiing in Alaska or backcountry touring in the Cascades. We do not want them to be too bulky or cumbersome, yet we do not want to sacrifice them being waterproof and toasty warm. We want them to completely protect us in the various weather conditions that we face, yet we like to feel as if we aren't even wearing them.
Which contender offers the best performance while skiing or snowboarding? While backcountry touring? While skiing fresh powder in the colder weather? Over the span of three years, we compared each competitor side-by-side and extensively tested them in the field. We broke the testing down into five categories to help determine which product is the best choice during specific applications.
For information on materials, types of gloves, and additional features, check out our Buying Advice guide.
The Age Old Debate: Gloves or Mittens
Black Diamond Guide and the Hestra Heli, are comparable and may even be marginally warmer than the lightest mittens we tested, the North Face Montana Mitt.
On the flip side, the Montana Mitt offers around the same dexterity as the super warm gloves that we referenced above; we found that this was a result of their thick, yet high quality insulation. For those that want the best of both worlds, the Hestra Army Leather 3-Finger Mitt features an independent index or "trigger finger", resulting in a hybrid option that is nearly as warm as most mittens and comes close in dexterity to several gloves.
Gauntlet vs. Cuff Length
Gauntlet Style: These models feature a much longer cuff that extends past the wearer's wrist to their lower forearm. Gauntlet style gloves are typically easier and quicker to put on because they do not require tucking your glove in or pulling your jacket sleeve over the cuff. Gauntlet gloves are generally warmer and offer decent protection from the elements; however, if you're skiing in wet snow or rain, water can end up running down your sleeves and into your gloves. In drier snow, this is almost never a problem, as nearly all gauntlet gloves feature a cinch-system that is effective enough to keep snow out.
Cuff Length: Cuff length models are exactly that, gloves whose length extends to around the wearer's wrist (or cuff). During stormier conditions, it's important to tuck your jacket over the tops of the wrist of your gloves; this takes a little extra effort, but ensures that water won't run down your sleeves and into your gloves. Cuff length gloves are typically more dexterous and often not quite as warm (though this is not always the case).
Criteria for Evaluation
Below we describe the specific criteria by which we evaluated each contender.
In the dexterity category of our tests, we performed a series of side-by-side tasks, including buckling ski boots, unlocking a car door with average sized car keys, tying running shoes, attaching a lift ticket to a jacket, zipping a jacket, taking a photo with a point-and-shoot camera and writing our name. If we encountered a tie, gloves that allowed us to write more legibly did receive a higher score. We also compared each contender during real world use, often changing them multiple times a day. In the end, the Arc'teryx Lithic Glove along with the Rab Guide Gloves were both strong favorites. The Mountain Hardwear Jalapeno and the Hestra Seth Morrison Pro Model weren't too far behind and are the last options that are deemed dexterous enough for easy-to-moderate ice climbing. Scoring a little behind the Jalapeno was the Outdoor Research Mute Sensor, which performed well in all of our tasks and could be used to write fairly legibly; however, the Mute Sensor wasn't quite dexterous enough for technical climbing, primarily because it's just a little too stiff and lacked the same freedom of movement as the previous models.
With gloves, it is often a case of dexterity versus warmth; as you add more insulation (i.e. bulk), you lose sensitivity and in turn, dexterity. The Arc'teryx Lithic really stood out, as Arc'teryx implemented several new technologies that affected both the design and style, with the new techniques being used during construction. They managed to reduce bulk and eliminate unnecessary material in order to maximize dexterity - all while maintaining a high level of warmth.
We performed the same set of tasks mentioned above with all competitors - both mittens and gloves. After we concluded our side-by-side testing, we thought the two most dexterous mittens were the Hestra Army Leather 3-Finger because of its obvious trigger finger advantage; for any task where having a "third" digit wasn't high priority, we found the North Face Montana Mitt to be on par. Despite not having a trigger finger or an internal index finger slot, the Montana Mitt excelled at nearly every task as it is not only designed thoughtfully, but it fit most of our testers well and does not have too much insulation, or bulk, on the inside of the hand. The elastic band fit nicely around our wrist, increasing feel, and enabled us to do almost any basic task. The Black Diamond Mercury Mitt wasn't very dexterous at all despite featuring an optional trigger finger. The trigger finger is optional as the internal mitten is sewn wide enough to keep all four fingers together, should you opt to do so.
In addition to extensive use during a wet winter in the Pacific Northwest, we also performed a series of side-by-side tests. We held each of the gloves in a bucket of water for two minutes; the gloves were submerged, with the fingers pointed downward, and with one inch to spare towards the top of the cuff, never fully submerged. In the end, we were left with several that performed well, but the Arc'teryx Lithic glove scored a bit above the competition. Arc'teryx, using a Gore-Tex pro-shell, chose a design that is sewn more like a hard shell jacket rather than the typical oversized Gore-Tex insert (that is crammed into an outer layer of leather and nylon). There are also fewer seams on the Lithic glove, thus fewer places to leak and less thread that can absorb water. Even the leather reinforcement, which is laminated on instead of sewn, reduces seams and leak points.
The Outdoor Research Mute Sensor, and the Black Diamond Rebel finish closely behind the top competitors in the water resistance tests. Both proved to be incredibly weather resistant and performed fantastically in both the bucket of water test and in real world applications. Not far behind those two contenders are the Outdoor Research Olympus Sensor and the Outdoor Research Southback, along with the Black Diamond Legend and The North Face Montana Mitt, all which scored remarkably well. We recommend any of these products for resort skiing or snowboarding, even during the wettest of winter storms. This is the one and only category where our Editors' Choice award winner, the Hestra Seth Morrison Pro Model did good, but not great. It proved to be water resistant for all but the wettest storms, but its leather exterior had to be retreated slightly more often than many of the previously mentioned competitors.
Testing overall warmth is not as easy as it might seem. There are many outside factors that can contribute to the comparison, including your body's core temperature, how much you've eaten, and how long ago you last snacked. Possibly the most challenging aspect is that a tester might have already been standing around in the cold. We did our very best to present you the most accurate data in the warmth category and did so by having a group of skiers stand around in a ski parking lot, while trading pairs for five minutes at a time. We also spent over 100 days skiing and snowboarding, always with a backpack full of contenders, changing them all day long.
In the end, the warmest glove we tested was the Black Diamond Guide, our OutdoorGearLab Top Pick for colder climates. Tester Ian Nicholson used them to summit Denali, never changing into his mittens on a day with a high of -38F, while summiting in -42F. He also summited Aconcagua in them in -25F. The next warmest contender was the Hestra Heli; while they weren't as warm, they were a bit more dexterous and the leather was much softer, allowing more freedom of movement for our hands. These are the two best options for New England or Upper Mountain West skiers and snowboarders or for folks whose hands simply get cold easily, but wish to wear gloves instead of mittens. We think most average people could use them for resort skiing down to around 0F, but not much colder. For those on a budget, the DaKine Scout retails for an amazing $50 and is a darn good option for above average warmth, though still nowhere near as warm as the Guide or the Heli.
It was a tough decision on which is truly the warmest mitt in our review. In the end we found the Black Diamond Mercury Mitt to be a little warmer than the Hestra Army Leather Heli Ski Mitts. The Hestra Army Leather 3-Finger Mitts were warm, but certainly a step down when compared to the first two aforementioned gloves.
We measured durability not only during our own use, punishing these products over hundreds of days during the past two seasons, but also from valuable input from dozens of other users and OutdoorGearLab friends. We think the toughest contestants are the Hestra Seth Morrison Pro Model, Mountain Hardwear Jalapeno, Black Diamond Legend, Black Diamond Rebel and the Outdoor Research Olympus Sensor - all have a beefy leather exterior. Almost as durable, the Black Diamond Guide was in solid shape even after 40+ days of use, though its very lofty insulation packed down a little quicker than other options. The Rab Guide and Arc'teryx Lithic are tough, but not quite as tough as those listed above.
Features and Ease of Use
The features and ease of use category includes interesting and additional features that will help you make the most of your gloves. We compared features such as how well they kept snow out and how easy they were to tighten and loosen. We also gave higher marks for wrist leashes (a.k.a. idiot/keeper leashes). While these might seem a little dorky and old school for some, we think that once you use them, you won't want to give them up. Leashes add peace of mind while taking your gloves or mittens off on the chairlift; you'd be amazed by the number that are found every spring. We also compared features like nose wipes and the ease at which we were able to take the contenders on and off.
Two models that that really stood out when it came to additional and useful features were the OR Mute Sensor and the OR Olympus Sensor; both sport a touch screen sensitive thumb and index finger that worked even better than a normal finger (especially when it is cold out). This means you don't have to take your gloves off to answer your smartphone, take a photo, push play to hear your favorite playlist, update your Facebook status, or check the latest reviews on OutdoorGearLab.com. We used the Mute Sensor in pretty frigid temps while it was dumping snow and regardless of conditions, it worked unbelievably well.
All skiers can agree that keeping your eyes protected can be just as important as keeping your hands protected. We recommend products like the Oakley Airbrake and the Spy Targa 3, which offer great protection while still being extremely comfortable. Check out The Best Ski Goggles Review for a more in-depth comparison of all of the goggles that we tested.
Be sure to check out our Ski and Snowboard Gear Dream List and the Best Ski Gloves and Mittens for Women.
Shopping for a pair of gloves or mittens in this category can be cumbersome. Not only do we want them to be waterproof and warm, but we want them to perform well in an array of different scenarios. It is our hope that you can use our testings in this review to find the best options available. Reference our Buying Advice Article for tips on how to purchase the best pair of ski gloves or mittens according to temperature, body type, and fit.
— Ian Nicholson
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