The Best Ski Gloves and Mittens for Women

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Britt Jeck, one of our main testers, takes the Pow Gem Gloves out on a mid-day hike in the the beautiful San Juan Mountains.
Credit: Amber King
Choosing the perfect ski glove or ski mitten for women can be a tall order when you take into account the different styles, the different branches of skiing and snowboarding, and ultimately the different needs each woman demands of her product. In this review, we compared eleven of the top women's ski mittens and gloves in some of the most demanding environments to evaluate for warmth, water resistance, dexterity, breathability, features, and durability. Each product in this review endured extensive rounds of testing in Washington's damp North Cascades, in frigid wet Canadian weather, in Colorado's moderate dry mountain climates, as well as bitter days in Montana's Bridger range. Our testers are women who demanded certain features and function out of each pair, whether they were snowmobiling to Washington Pass, skinning up a sunny road in the San Juans, or a spending full day days of lift riding at 10,000 ft in Leadville, CO.

If you're looking for men's models, take a look at The Best Ski Gloves and Mittens for Men.

Read the full review below >

Review by: & Stephanie Bennett

Top Ranked Ski Gloves - Women's

Displaying 1 - 5 of 11 << Previous | View All | Next >>
Our Ranking #1 #2 #3 #4 #5
Product Name
Hestra Heli Mitt - Women's
Hestra Heli Mitt - Women's
Read the Review
Arc'teryx Beta AR Glove - Women's
Arc'teryx Beta AR Glove - Women's
Read the Review
Swany X-Cell II Mitt - Women's
Swany X-Cell II Mitt - Women's
Read the Review
Outdoor Research Arete - Women's
Outdoor Research Arete - Women's
Read the Review
Mountain Hardwear Skistar - Women's
Mountain Hardwear Skistar - Women's
Read the Review
Editors' Awards  Editors' Choice Award  Top Pick Award    Best Buy Award   
Street Price Varies $87 - $125
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Varies $164 - $235
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$94
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User Rating Be the first to rate itBe the first to rate itBe the first to rate itBe the first to rate itBe the first to rate it
Pros Super warm, super soft and articulate liner, interchangeable liner system, great leashes, standout fit, versatileMost breathable glove, completely waterproof, lightweight design, maintains same level of warmth throughout the daySuper warm, excellent water wicking and soft liner, waterproof, great features, optional ventingGreat features, long gauntlet to keep the snow out, great price, carabiner loopsMost well-featured cuff-length glove, good water resistance, carabiner loop
Cons Limited features, can get hot on warm days, limited dexterity, no carabiner loopNot very warm, takes a long time to break in, leaves muppet fleece on your hand, might pack out long-termTakes a long time to dry out, bulky feelingNot as warm as others, fraying in the finger tips after 3 days of use, no wrist adjustmentBulky and short finger construction, takes a while to break-in, questionable durability
Best Uses Resort skiing, cold weather in all climates, backcountry skiing, deep powderWet weather (coastal snow), backcountry skiing or snowboarding, cross country skiing in cold weatherResort skiing, very cold weather (tested to -20F), dry weather, most cold weather disciplinesBackcountry skiing, resort skiing, moderate temperaturesGood work gloves, resort skiing, ice climbing
Date Reviewed Feb 06, 2015Feb 06, 2015Feb 06, 2015Feb 06, 2015Feb 06, 2015
Weighted Scores Hestra Heli Mitt - Women's Arc'teryx Beta AR Glove - Women's Swany X-Cell II Mitt - Women's Outdoor Research Arete - Women's Mountain Hardwear Skistar - Women's
Warmth - 30%
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Water Resistance - 25%
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Dexterity - 25%
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Features - 10%
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Breathability - 5%
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Product Specs Hestra Heli Mitt - Women's Arc'teryx Beta AR Glove - Women's Swany X-Cell II Mitt - Women's Outdoor Research Arete - Women's Mountain Hardwear Skistar - Women's
Waterproof Material Hestra Triton 3-layer polyamide fabric N80px, GORE-TEX 3-layer Pro, DWR finish Leathershield & Nubuck Leather, Dryfinger II insert 100% nylon shell, GORE-TEX insert Hydraspan shell, OutDry Membrane, DWR treatment
Insulation Type Fiberfill Insulation Polartec Triplex insulation [back of hand] 200g/m3, [palm] 150g/m3 100% polyester fleece Thermal.Q.Elite [back of hand] 200g/m3 [palm] 100 g/m3
Palm Material Goatskin Leather Goatskin Leather Nubuck Leather, reinforced AlpenGrip Palm, synthetic leather Goatskin Leather
Inner Glove Material (if applicable) Bemberg/Polyester, removable Polartec WindPro & ThermalPro lining, removable Dynatherm lining, you can pull out to dry but not removable Polyester fleece liner, removable 100% Polyester fleece liner, nonremovable
Double or Single Construction? Double Double Single Double Single
Gaunlet or Cuff Length? Gauntlet (longest length) Gauntlet (short) Gauntlet (mid length) Gaunlet (mid length) Cuff, w/ velcro enclosure
OGL Dry Weight (pair) (oz) 7.85 6 9.9 7 6.55
Water absorbed per pair (oz) 0.45 0.1 3.44 1.65 1.05
Special features (nose wipe, leashes, carabiner loop, hard warmer pocket) Removable glove leashes Removable glove leashes Removable glove leashes, hand warmer pocket on glove Nose wipe, glove leashes, carabiner loop on finger, hard warmer pocket on glove insert Nose wipe, carabiner loop on finger
Sizes (Women's) 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 XS, S, M, L S, M, L S, M, L S, M, L
Fit A little small, measure your hand for optimal fit & size up one. On spot On spot Runs small Runs large
Color 5 color combinations Pink, Black Black, White, Brown Grey on black, blue on grey Black
Treatment Required? Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Warranty Lifetime Warranty Lifetime Warranty 30 day money back guarantee Lifetime Warranty Lifetime Warranty

  • Review Photos
  • Editors' Choice Winners

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review



Selecting the Right Product


After two full months of testing in an array of harsh conditions, we learned a few things and awarded some prizes! The Hestra Heli Mitt - Women's showed off its enduring warmth, versatility, and comfort winning the Editors' Choice Award. The Outdoor Research Arete - Women's was our Best Buy Award Winner, and the Arc'teryx Beta AR Glove - Women's proved to be our most waterproof and durable product, earning the Top Pick for Wet Climates Award. Our awards provide a great glimpse into the pros and cons of ski mittens vs. gloves, which we'll get to next.

Types of Ski Gloves and Ski Mittens


During our testing period, we looked at eleven products, each of which fits into one of three basic categories that prioritizes a different use. Before buying, make sure you identify what winter activities you'll be doing most, and what aspects of these categories are most important to you.

Ski Gloves vs. Mitts


Many women suffer from what we deem "Cold Hand Syndrome" during the winter season, turning typically fun winter activities into suffer fests. As a result, women tend to waffle between ski mittens and gloves, trying to seek out the best option to prevent their fingers from going numb. Our testers are these women who have tried both options, noting the trade-offs involved in each method.

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Amber, the author, shredding it down Sheep Chute while testing the Heli Mitt - our Editors' Choice Award winner. This mitt is incredibly versatile allowing great warmth, thermo regulation, and protection to keep you playing all day!
Credit: Jared Vilhauer

Ski mittens like the Hestra Heli Mitt and POC WO Mitten are typically warmer than ski gloves since less surface area is exposed to the elements, and fingers stay warmer when kept together through body heat and movement. However, gloves provide significantly more dexterity. In most cases, you may have to take mittens off to perform tasks that gloves can do without any issue. But, you may need to get a more heavily insulated product, like The North Face Montana Glove - Women's to perform as well in the warmth category as a thinner ski mitten.

If you are prioritizing warmth and don't care much for dexterity, check out a mitt like the Swany X-Cell II, Hestra Heli (our Editors' Choice winner), or the POC WO. If you care for dexterity, look at a glove instead. Those included in this review are the Arc'teryx Beta AR, Outdoor Research Arete, Outdoor Research Southback - Women's, Mountain Hardwear Skistar - Women's, Black Diamond Mercury Glove - Women's, Pow Gem, and Marmot Randonnee - Women's.

Gauntlet vs. Cuff Length


Gauntlet Style: These models have a longer cuff that extends past the wrist till about mid forearm. They are perfect for keeping snow out and fit over top a jacket. They are highly versatile, warmer, and can be used during any winter activity including resort skiing, backcountry skiing, and any other winter endeavor (depending on how warm they are).
Products with a gauntlet length in this review include: Hestra Heli, Arc'teryx Beta AR, Swany X-Cell, Outdoor Research Arete, Outdoor Research Southback, Black Diamond Mercury, and the Marmot Randonnee.

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The POC WO Mitt on the left is cuff length, meant to fit nicely underneath a jacket. The Heli Mitt on the right is gauntlet length, perfect for wearing over a jackets. A gauntlet mitt or glove is warmer, while a cuff length glove or mitt tends to be more breathable.
Credit: Melanie Silber

Cuff Length: Cuff length models are normally single construction (we'll get to that in a second), have fewer features, and are designed to fit underneath your jacket cuff. These are typically used for work/doing chores, backcountry skiing, or resort skiing (depending on warmth). We found them more breathable, and depend and less warm than gauntlet length single construction ski gloves. Cuff length models that we reviewed include: POC WO, Pow Gem, and Mountain Hardwear Skistar.

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Both the Pow Gem (left) and POC Wo Mitt (right) are cuff length.
Credit: Amber King

Single vs. Double Construction


Single Construction: These have an inner liner sewn into the shell that is not removable. Gauntlet length single ski gloves tend to be warmer than models with removable liners with a little less breathability. Though single cuff length gloves don't have as much warmth, but more breathability and dexterity. Single construction products in this review include: the Outdoor Research Southback, Swany X-Cell, Mountain Hardwear Skistar, POC WO, Pow Gem, The North Face Montana, and Marmot Randonnee.

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Both The North Face Montana (left) and Mountain Hardwear Skistar (right) are single gloves with different lengths.
Credit: Amber King

Double Construction: These have a removable liner which makes them more versatile than their single sisters. You can chose to wear the liner and shell separately or together. If you don't like the liner it comes with, you can buy some that appeal more to you. As a result of this construct, you can get a more dexterous glove that you can choose to add warmth (with a heavier liner) or to make more breathable (with a thinner liner). Double gloves in this review include the: Hestra Heli, Arc'teryx Beta AR, Outdoor Research Arete, and Black Diamond Mercury.

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The Outdoor Research Arete (our Best Buy Award winner) has a removable liner, making it more versatile, quicker to dry, and ultimately more dexterous. Pick a double layer glove for anything that goes above and beyond skiing at the resort.
Credit: Amber King

Figuring out what is most important for you in a ski glove or mitt is the first step to buying your perfect paw protector. To learn more, check out check out our How to Choose the Best Ski Glove or Mitten for Women, which is sure to help you become a savvy shopper.

Criteria for Evaluation


In the winter months of our test period, our testers spent nearly every evening and weekend out in the damp cold of the Cascades, the bitter, dry cold of Bozeman, moderate temps of the SW San Juans, and the frigid deep cold of Mont St. Anne, just outside of Quebec City, Canada. A ski mitten or glove is an integral piece of gear, even though it may seem like an afterthought to the correct shell or pant for your outing. Ultimately, warmth is the key to not only enjoy your winter activity but actually participate in it. With cold or frozen fingers, basic functions such as zipping up your jacket or buckling your helmet becomes nearly impossible. However, a product with better dexterity will ultimately allow you to keep your gloves on and avoid getting your digits cold when the temps dip below 0F. Here, we discuss the characteristics that make an excellent, high-performance glove or mitt, and how all the products we tested compare to one another.

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Pictured here are all gloves and mitts tested enduring a dunk and dry test. This - in combination with a wide variety of activities like trail skating, backcountry and resort skiing, skating, cross-country skiing, and running - is just one of a few ways we really put these gloves and mitts through the wringer.
Credit: Amber King

Warmth


Warmth and water resistance are the two most important, protective features of ski gloves and mitts. The idea of warmth is not limited to the product's ability to keep you comfortable in incredibly cold situations, but also the ability for you to regulate heat and prevent your hands from becoming sweaty when you are working hard. Does it perform just at the beginning of the day or throughout? One of the hardest things to recover from while skiing is having a wet liner or a saturated shell that wets out the liner. When it becomes cold, the liner becomes stiff and transmits the cold temperatures to your fingers. One way that manufacturers have addressed the need to regulate heat is by creating a removable liner with a comfortable shell. Products like the Outdoor Research Arete and Hestra Heli have super comfortable shell and liner combination.

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The Hestra Helis are the warmest of them all! Combine an insulating, removable liner with a waterproof shell, and you have an incredibly versatile, breathable, and warm mitten! These were ready for our ski tour up MacMillian Peak in Colorado.
Credit: Amber King

The liner in the Arete is incredibly breathable, allowing for moisture to wick away from your skin and through the liner. This product is especially versatile since you can remove the liner and use only the shell, which has a micro-fleece liner. This liner aids in avoiding chafing or blisters during active use of your hands. Some liners like those found in the Hestras rejuvenate and pop back after intense use and washing, while the liners of the Black Diamond Mercury, for example, began to pack out and actually lost loft. Read on to learn which products exhibited the highest amount of warmth.

Through our testing, we learned that ski mittens are much warmer at colder temperatures (down to -20F). Our warmest ski glove, the North Face Montana is super thick and burly and kept our hands extremely warm on cold days, but had terrible dexterity (even worse than some of our ski mittens). That said, if the temps reached above 10F, we found our hands sweating. Even though it was the warmest glove, it didn't compare to the ultra warm and breathable Hestra Heli Mitt that kept our hands warm all day through all ranges of weather.

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Going Nordic skiing just outside of Quebec City in -20F (w/ windchill)! Here we tested the Outdoor Research Southback and Arete. The Southback was much warmer, but neither could keep our hands from freezing within minutes in this weather. We would have preferred the Swany X-Cell or the Hestra Heli mitt for these conditions. Or some hand warmers would have been nice.
Credit: Jared Vilhauer

In order to test the warmth and comfort of the ski gloves and mitts, we wore each on the chairlifts of Bridger Bowl on a -20F day, the chairlifts of Leadville, CO in 20F weather, and while cross country skiing in Quebec City during -20F wet weather. Of all the gloves tested, The North Face Montana did the best job keeping our hands warm, but all others needed a hand warmer to ensure our paws didn't freeze. Products that feature the ability to place hand warmers into either zipper pouches or pockets, like the Swany X-Cell II and the Outdoor Research Arete, allow for another successful way of regulating heat.

If your ski glove does not have a pocket for a hand warmer, it is possible to place the pouch between the liner & the shell. If it does not have a double construct, like the Outdoor Research Southback, then it may not be your best option for super cold days. Of the ski mittens and gloves tested, there were a few that did not come with a removable liner or warmer pocket. These included the single layer gauntlet length models and like the Marmot Randonnee, Outdoor Research Southback, and The North Face Montana. Cuff length products tested without this feature included the POC WO, Pow Gem, and the Mountain Hardwear Skistar.

Another thing to consider is if there is too much warmth. On days where it hovers just around freezing and the birds are bringing in spring, a burly model like the Hestra Heli Mitt just may not be the answer. For days like this, consider a cooler choice like the Outdoor Research Arete or Pow Gem to keep you riding all day long without too much warmth. Read on to learn about our most breathable ski gloves and mitts for days like these.

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In order to enjoy a day like this in the mountains, you need to make sure you have the best gloves on your hands to keep you warm and dry! Here we test gloves on Mt. Shuksan.
Credit: Stephanie Bennett

Water Resistance


When testing water resistance, we performed a few different tests, in the field and at home. During our in field tests we dug snow pits and caves, wore them while skiing at the resort, skied in the backcountry, and just had fun building snowmen. At home, we exposed each product to a dunk test. Here, we took every model, recorded its dry weight, dunked it in a sink full of water (about 1 inch from the cuff), squished the glove around to see how much water it would absorb, then wrung it out and reweighed it. We also put our hands into the glove to see if the moisture transferred to the liner. During these tests we were able to see which absorbed the most water and which had shells that absorbed and repelled water. For the gloves and mitts that recommended it, like the Black Diamond Mercury and Hestra Heli Mitt, we treated the gloves prior to use. The other products we did not treat, since the manufacturers did not direct us to upon opening.

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Pictured here is the perfect evening to test how well the liners wick moisture from our hands. In this test, the Swany and Hestra models really stood out!
Credit: Amber King

Water resistance goes hand-in-hand with warmth. All eleven products tested either came with some kind of waterproof insert or a shell fabric that was waterproof in nature. For example, the GORE-TEX inserts found in models like the Arc'teryx Beta AR, Outdoor Research Southback, Outdoor Research Arete, Black Diamond Mercury, and Marmot Randonnee have pores smaller than the size of water droplets but larger than the size of water vapor, making it impossible for water to pass through the membrane and come inside. When you sweat and the water vaporizes within the glove, the water molecule is small enough to be transferred from the inside out. The Swany X-Cell II uses a similar Dryfinger II insert that works in a similar fashion and, in our opinion, had a similar level of performance as those with GORE-TEX inserts.

Shell fabrics are also pertinent when looking at different levels of water resistance in gloves or mitts. Some use leathers while other use synthetics. Our most waterproof glove, the Beta AR, uses GORE-TEX 3-layer Pro with a DWR finish and a super heavy fabric that doesn't let any water in. It absorbed only 0.1 ounces of water that basically just sat on the face fabrics. We were super impressed with these results, which earned its place as our Top Pick for Wet Climates. Its performance didn't compare to any other model tested. Second place went to the POC WO ski mitten with 100% goatskin leather. The product that performed third in line was the Hestra Heli Mitt. Instead of GORE-TEX, the Heli uses a 3-layer polyamide fabric that performs at a similar level as the GORE-TEX Pro.

On the other end of the spectrum, gloves that integrated synthetic "leathers" into the shell did not perform well during water resistance tests. For example, the especially warm North Face Montana absorbed a whooping 4.45 ounces of water and the liner was completely soaked after our dunk tests. Even though this model has a Hyvent insert, it did not suffice during this soak.

The Swany X-Cell Mitt, with 100% Nubuck leather did a good job of keeping the interior liners dry, but the exterior shell was super saturated and absorbed 3.44 ounces of water during the dunk test. That said, while performing field tests we noticed that when the soft Nubuck leather became totally saturated. It almost froze up making our hands colder in field. No bueno for a super cold weather mitt.

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Mush mush! These gloves were perfect for this warm day dog sledding in Leadville, CO. The 3-layer GORE-TEX with a fancy face fabric cuts the winds and kept our hands toasty. This is our Top Pick for Wet Climates for a reason!
Credit: Karlotta Arztz

But when do you really need the most water resistant glove or mitt? Keep in mind if you are a beginner learning the basics on a blue bird day, water resistance really isn't that important…unless you are a snowboarder and your hands are going to be pushing you off the ground the first couple of times on the hills. Though, more often then not, the only time you'll really need a super waterproof glove is when you are in wet weather storms! If you find yourself in this situation…A LOT…then opt for one of the most water resistant gloves like the Arc'teryx Beta AR. But if you're just a recreational skier or snowboarder getting out just a couple times a year, then think about something less expensive and a little less waterproof. It will still keep you protected.

Overall, we found that the Arc'teryx Beta AR was the most waterproof overall thanks to its combination of GORE-TEX 3-layer fabrics on the back of the hand, and the thick, uber waterproof goatskin leather on the palm side. As a consumer, look for goatskin leather (most waterproof leather tested), and shell fabrics that are 3-layer - especially GORE-TEX. This combination will leave your hands dry, happy, and ready to play all day. Remember that we only recommend these if you're going to be in wet weather constantly. If not, check out a less expensive, less technical glove like the OR Arete. To learn about how breathability fits into water resistance, take a look below at our breathability metric.

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Using a 3-Layer GORE-TEX shell, the Beta AR was the most waterproof glove tested.
Credit: Stephanie Bennett

Dexterity


The ability to use your fingers while still in a glove is quite important; if you can't use your fingers, you might as well be wearing ski mittens. If you ever have to take your glove off in order to perform an everyday task, it is failing you. In most cases when using our mitts, we had to take them off for tasks where our gloves simply stayed on. The best products should keep you warm without hampering your ability to zip up your coat, start your car, pull your lift ticket out of your pocket, rip your skins, and buckle your boots. However, do consider the mild days where its okay to remove the shells to perform simple tasks with just say smart phone-compatible liners. On these days it's OK to lose your gloves or mitts - but when it's cold, it's important to have something that can still perform.

In order to fully test the dexterity of the products in our review, we ran them through the gamut of various winter activities and performed a variety of tasks that include zips, clips, and dealing with smalls bits. An important item to consider with dexterity is fit. If you try on a glove and there is space between the tips of your finger, and the tips of the glove, then you will see less dexterity. If the shell is thinner (as opposed to super thick bulky insulation), you will also see more dexterity. Test different ones out and really make sure that it truly does "fit like a glove."

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Testing out the dexterity of the Pow Gems. We learned that while we couldn't necessarily tie skates THAT well, they did perform above and beyond all other gloves and mitts tested.
Credit: Amber King

We found the cuff length Pow Gem to be the most dexterous model due to its wetsuit like fit, and because it wasn't inundated with insulation. The grippy goatskin material on the palm with reinforced fingers and finger tips (without the seam at the tip) both allowed it to grab onto things well. The Outdoor Research Arete came in a close second in dexterity, but didn't quite make first because of the thicker design and the seams coming together at the tip of the fingers. During an instance on a backcountry ski with the Arc'teryx Beta AR, one of our testers could not get her skins off without removing her gloves. Another tester close by was wearing the Arete, and was able to remove the skins easily. That said, we were surprised to learn that when we wore the the Hestra (without its liner), we were able to pull off our splitboard skins without problem. This earned it higher marks in the dexterity department than the Swany and Pow Gem. This is largely due to the thin, but protective leather outer. The product that struggled most in dexterity was The North Face Montana due to its very thick liner and bulky feel, which made delicate tasks difficult.

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Trying to write for a raffle submission at the 2015 Ouray Ice Festival proved to be very difficult wearing the Montanas. They are stuffed with insulation which makes them warm, but not the most dexterous. Avoid heavily insulated gloves if you are looking for good dexterity. Instead, go for thinner leather with high-quality insulation and hand warmer pockets.
Credit: Jared Vilhauer

Features


Many of these products have bells and whistles that make them more useful and more comfortable. We think the most important feature is having removable liners, especially ones that have textured fingers or palms for added grip. Removable liners make the gloves more versatile for different weather conditions and essentially provides the user with two pairs in one. The products in this review that have removable liners are the Hestra Heli, Arc'teryx Beta AR, Outdoor Research Arete, and the Black Diamond Mercury.

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An easy-to-use cinching mechanism on the Outdoor Research Southback cuff keeps snow out and your hands warm.
Credit: Stephanie Bennett

Other beneficial features are:
  • Softer material on the thumb for a nose wipe

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The thin, soft material pictured here will keep your nose from chafing after multiple wipes on particularly bone chilling days.
Credit: Amber King
  • A hard piece of plastic or other material on the index finger that can be used for cleaning goggle lenses (none of the models tested here donned this feature)
  • Cinch cords that attach to your wrist, which prevent that dreaded moment of dropping your glove off the lift.

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After a day of dogsledding, we give the dogs some love in the kennels. The cinch straps on the Arc'teryx Beta AR were handy here!
Credit: Karlotta Arztz
  • A small pouch or zippered pocket to place a hand-warmer for those extra cold days.

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The zippered pouch on the Swany X-Cell II mitt is both a vent and a hand warmer pocket.
Credit: Amber King
  • A small buckle or clasp that allows you to keep your gloves together as a pair when you are storing them.

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Features are minimal, but some of our testers loved the POC's minimalist construct and its fancy connector to keep the gloves together.
Credit: Amber King
  • Easy to cinch and release cuff, with a large enough mechanism that can be used when gloves are on.

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The Hestras come with features like a one-pull tightening system, removable wrist straps, and wrist adjustment. Not only that, but is has a long gauntlet that fits over your jacket comfortably to keep snow out.
Credit: Amber King
  • An easy pull-on strap located in the cuff. This is incredibly useful when you already have one glove on, and just need a tad bit more help.
  • Carabiner loops located on the finger so climbers could attach and hang gloves on the harness without snow or ice getting inside.

One feature that we didn't see with any of these products that we think ALL gloves should have in this day and age of technology is compatibility with touch screens. As a result, no model was able to score a 10/10 for features. Of all those tested, we found our Best Buy Award winner scored 9/10 for donning most of the features listed above. On the end of the scale, the Pow Gem and POC WO Mitt were our most minimalist pieces, featuring only nose wipes and no other features. However, we found most of our female testers reached for these because they were not bulky or feature-ridden. If you are a lady who loves features, check out the Outdoor Research Arete or Swany X-Cell II. If not, look into the Pow Gem or POC.

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The carabiner loop on the finger is super helpful on alpine or ski mountaineering missions. This way you can clip your gloves to your harness and avoid getting snow inside!
Credit: Amber King

Breathability


A waterproof glove that can breathe, regulate temperature throughout the day, and has your hands at the same level of warmth is also imperative for a successful adventure. To test breathability, we took all these models running, skinning uphill, and skiing downhill to see which ones we could leave on, and see which ones we couldn't.

We found that the most breathable products were those donning a double construction like the Arc'teryx Beta AR, Outdoor Research Arete and the Hestra Heli Mitt. On the single construction side of the spectrum, we were surprised to see the POC Wo Mitt and Pow Gem making their mark in the breathability sector due to the minimalist materials. One of our testers wore the Pow Gems on a 10F day both skinning up and skiing down. This product did a fantastic job regulating heat. Even when her hands became sweaty, the Hyporia lining was still able to wick moisture away and keep her hands warm.

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Taking a minute to dry our hands out while testing gloves up at Washington Pass in the North Cascades of Washington.
Credit: Stephanie Bennett

The model that scored a 10/10 for breathability was the ultra durable Arc'teryx Beta AR. During an incredibly damp ski tour at Washington Pass in the heart of the North Cascades, Washington, with intense bursts of sunlight followed by 30 mph wind gusts peppered with snow, sleet, and rain at the lower elevations, these gloves truly shined. The GORE-TEX Pro shell did an incredible job keeping our hands dry both during the hike and during the descent - another reason it earned its place as our Top Pick for Wet Climates.

Durability


It's a bummer to go out and spend money on an expensive new pair of gloves that disintegrates after one season. Each model we tested endured sixty plus hours of intense use in different climates to ensure that our scoring was not only fair but reflected what a glove would look like after a full season of use. We also washed each liner to see which ones bounced back and which ones didn't - reflecting which ones would lose warmth after just a few big days out.

After much testing, we found that the models with goatskin leather outers were far more durable than those with Nubuck or hairsheep leather. The reinforced synthetics used in the Outdoor Research Arete and The North Face Montana were by far the least durable; we noted scratches and wear after just one or two times of use. The most durable outer that we recognized was the Arc'teryx Beta AR, followed by the Hestra Heli Mitt, showing little to no wear and tear.

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Pictured here is the Mercury used in a comparatively wet ice climbing day. Both gloves are dry. The one on the right shows hard use, while the one of the left shows very little. This was after just one ice climb. We did not treat the glove as directed when receiving it and are showing you why. Had the glove been treated, it would still look more like the one on the left. Make sure to treat all leather gloves at least one to two times a season.
Credit: Amber King

One thing that's it is important to note with leather and durability is that it NEEDS to be treated one to two times a season. So if you buy a pair of leather gloves, treat them with a leather sealant (as directed) before using them, and one to three times per season depending on use. This will ensure the leather won't dry out, crack, and will maintain its waterproofing.

Liners are also important when considering durability. You want to look for a product like the Hestra Heli Mitt that has a liner that will retain its warmth through multiple uses (it doesn't pack out) AND after washing. When the liner becomes packed out, the loft is reduced, as well as the glove's ability to keep your fingers as warm. We were disappointed with a few products we tested.

In particular, after just twenty hours, the lining of the Marmot Randonnee began to pack out. The Outdoor Research Southback fared longer than the Randonnee, but the liner also became packed out after just a few days. The POC WO lost loft after just 8 hours of use, similar to the Outdoor Research Arete. Of all the products tested, the Hestra Heli Mitt and Arc'teryx Beta AR stood above the rest, withstanding driving a snowmobile for over 30 miles, three days of eight-plus hours of ski touring, multiple days of riding lifts, shoveling driveways, and constant wrenching on skiis, snowboards, and split boards. In all, buy a glove or ski mitten with a goatskin leather palm and a liner that will not pack out for the ultimate in durability.

How to Water Seal your Leather Gloves or Mitts


If you invest in a pair of fancy leather gloves/mitts, it is very important that you take care of them to ensure they maintain waterproofing and durability. Leather is made from animal skin and when it dries out, it cracks - losing its waterproofing properties. Most buyers don't know that gloves with leather on the shell like the Hestra Heli Mitt and Black Diamond Mercury come with a water sealing balm to use before your first time use. This ensures the leather stays supple, soft, and waterproof.

So how do you know when to seal them? The short answer is when you suspect it's time. Follow the steps below to learn how!
  1. The first thing to do is test if your gloves are still waterproof. If they are absorbing water and not repelling it, it's about time for a treatment.
  1. Take a damp rag with wipe off any excess dirt. Dirt particles can get into the leather and clog up its porous surface. As a result the leather can't breathe and it dries out instead.

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Sno Seal is one of the many leather protectors that will help you seal your gloves to keep them waterproof all season long!
Credit: Amber King
  1. Take a glob of sealing wax, (like Sno Seal) and massage it into the leather. With a heavy layer, coat the glove the snow sealant wherever the leather is prominent. Avoid massaging it into any material that isn't leather.

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Take a glob and massage it into the leather of the glove thoroughly. Then leave it out to dry for at least 8 hours.
Credit: Amber King
  1. Let the gloves dry by laying them outside or near a fan. This should take about 8 hours. The wax needs a time to absorb in the leather. Softer leathers like Nubuck will take less time than a harder leather like goatskin.
  1. After you have allowed at least 8 hours the pair to dry, you can wipe off the excess wax with a rag. Your gloves will be a little sticky at first, but as the wax takes more time to settle, it will become less sticky.
  1. Finally, enjoy your newly waterproofed gloves!

So how many times should you do this a season? Most recreational skiers will require this one to two times per season depending on use. The big take away here is if it seems like their not doing their job, then its time for a wax treatment.

Editors' Choice Award: Hestra Heli Mitt


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A blue bird day on MacMillian Peak in the San Juan Mountains is a perfect scenario for our highly versatile, warm, and cozy Editors' Choice Award winner.
Credit: Jared Vilhauer

A true treat for any deep powder charger, the Hestra Heli Mitt - Women's won its place as our Editors' Choice Award winner for its unique fit, warmth, double layer design, and cute exterior. Unlike the other products in this review, Hestra utilizes a unique sizing system that ensures the right fit. When taking these out on days where the temps dipped below -20F, our hands were still toasty (without handwarmers!). The double layer design doesn't only give you the option to use just the shell or liner, but it allows enough space for you to add another if needed. Not only that, but the long gauntlet design keeps snow out and warmth in. Its no wonder our testers fell in love with the Heli Mitt! For a reasonable price of just $125, we thought this was quite a deal.

Best Buy Award: Outdoor Research Arete


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One of the authors on the summit of Mt. Baker while testing the Outdoor Research Arete and its liner.
Credit: Stephanie Bennett

Scoring top marks in the features and dexterity categories, the Outdoor Research Arete - Women's is a highly versatile glove that only costs $89. It can be used for just about any winter activity including ice climbing, backcountry skiing, resort skiing, and just wear around town. The liner was a favorite among our testers for its grip and integrated handwarmer pocket. The nylon palm is less durable than full leather palms, but we find it allows for a secure grip. For this price, you can't find a better, more versatile glove. Just make sure to bring hand warmers with you on the days the mercury dips below 20F. If you're looking to build a quiver of gloves for different weather conditions, pairing the Arete and the Heli is a great combo that will allow you to tackle both warmer and colder days on the hill.

Top Pick for Wet Climates: Arc'teryx Beta AR


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Melanie Silber taking the Arc'teryx Beta AR glove out for a spin on a very humid and wet weather day in Ontario. These puppies kept us dry and warm, allowing us to hit as many runs as the heart desired.
Credit: Amber King

With its waterproof Gore-Tex shell, durable leather palm, and removable liner, the Arc'teryx Beta AR Glove - Women's is hands-down the most durable and waterproof model we tested. It offers excellent dexterity and the two separate pieces allow for more versatility and use in a wide range of weather conditions. We miss having a nose-wipe patch, but ultimately love how warm, dry, and dexterous this model is. One of our testers was a dedicated ski mitten-wearer and switched over to this glove after trying it out!

Ask An Expert: Kelly Ryan


Kelly Ryan is a mountain woman who knows winter gloves. She is an avid backcountry skier, a big mountain guide, and a small business owner. Currently, she runs the San Juan Hut System in southwestern Colorado. Her experiences have taken her to Greenland via sailboat, through Argentina on a horse, and up big mountains like Denali, Rainier, and Aconcagua. Through her lifetime, she has owned over 140 pairs of gloves and mitts and put them through every possible weather, from cold, wet, and windy to warm, dry, and stagnant. We met up with her to see what more we could learn about ski gloves and ski mittens.

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Kelly Ryan, our glove expert, gets ready for the descent on Hayden Mountain, just minutes away from one of the huts she operates.
Credit: San Juan Hut System

What do you consider to be the most important thing in a glove?
A good balance between warmth and dexterity is key. In cold weather, your body shunts blood to your core and the circulation to your fingers is decreased. As a result, your hands get cold quickly. Ensuring warm is essential to make sure you enjoy your day.

Dexterity is important so you don't take your gloves off (especially when it's cold outside!). If you don't have to take off your gloves, then your hands stay warmer. If you have better dexterity, you have reduced muscle fatigue when it comes to holding a pair of poles or ice axes. As a result, better dexterity means more warmth and less fatigue through the day.

What is best for resort skiing?
I look for a glove that is really warm. On the hill you don't need a huge amount of dexterity because all you are really doing is clipping and unclipping bindings, and doing up your boots. If you need to attach a lift ticket, there are options to go inside. So dexterity isn't so important. I look for a warm glove or mitt in resorts, and I don't spend too much either.

So which do you choose on a typical day: ski gloves or ski mittens?
Well…that's a tough one simply because gloves and mittens have different functions. So it really depends on the activity. Ski mittens are typically warmer than gloves because your fingers can move freely and generate more warmth. Gloves have better dexterity - but there's a point where they become so filled with so much bulk that they might as well be mittens.

For me, I use gloves 90% of the time - while out touring, working, and just hanging out in town. But when I'm resort skiing in cold weather or it's summit day on Denali, I will wear mittens.

Are there ways to wear a ski mitten for better dexterity?
Well, mittens and dexterity don't generally mix, but there are ways to get around that. For example, when it's time for summit day on a big mountain like Rainier, Denali, or Aconcagua, I wear a really beefy ski mitten like the Outdoor Research Alti Mitts. I love these because they are packed with insulation and you can choose to take out or put in more liners. For example, since I can't do much with my hands, I will wear a gloved liner underneath the mitt shell. So when I need to use my hands, I can slid them out of the shell without exposing my skin to subzero temperatures and have the freedom of my fingers. It's not the most ideal, but its a way to use mittens and still have dexterity.

What do you look for in a glove with good dexterity?
A good, dexterous glove will allow you to keep your gloves on, without having to take them off. I look for fingers that are shorter with no seams at the tips. The seam actually gets in the way, and doesn't allow you to perform fine tasks. The most important thing to look for is a thin versus thick material.

In your experience with wet climates, what are the most important factors to consider?
Well, there is a lot of focus on materials that are waterproof, but honestly…the most important thing is how fast the glove can dry out and how much water it absorbs through the day. Typically I look for a glove with a removable liner that I can take out at night to speed up the drying process. I also look for a removable liner that doesn't bunch up. It's one of the most frustrating things to buy a glove with a sticky liner. If you have a glove that absorbs water readily or just isn't quick to dry out, it's not a good option for multi-day missions or wet climates without an arsenal of gloves to alternate between.

What about dry climates like Colorado? What do you look for here?
I look for a glove that has high functionality, versatility, and breathability. Since the weather isn't as wet, a water resistant shell will do. But having a glove that you can make warmer or cooler in just a quick motion is important where the weather changes frequently throughout the day.

How often do you treat your gloves?
Oh, glove treatment is so important. I treat mine at least two - three times a season depending on use.

What should consumers know about fit?
A tight glove is far worse than no gloves! If you have a glove that feels tight around your fingers, wrists, or it restricts in any place, send it back. You don't want restricted circulation.

If you're not sure about fit, simply take out a measuring tape and measure your hand. Just wrap a measuring tape around your hand in the palm area, between your thumb and pointer finger. You can go online and look at a table to see where you fit in for sizing based on the circumference of your hand. Here is a great resource!

If you're looking for a warm glove, for say climbing a big mountain like Denali, what do you look for?
In general I look for something that will keep me warm down to -20F. If you can, find something that works at an even colder temperature. Find glove features that cover your wrists. This is pertinent blood flow to your hands and your hands will be warmer and functioning longer.

What features do you use and which are best for what activities?
Personally, I look for a glove that is bare bones and not too fancy. Less is more for what I do, but there are a couple of things I do look for. For example, I really like having a carabiner loop on the finger so that I can take my gloves off without getting snow inside of them. I look for a long loose fit that will go over top of my jacket's cuffs. I also hate wrist straps because I think they get tangled on more things…so I make sure a I buy a glove that has removable straps.

Aside from that, features like a nose wipe are nice, but not a necessity. I believe that less features equals more functionality…so a clean, featureless glove for me is preferred.

What have been your favorite gloves throughout your years of testing?
Well one year on Denali I fell in love with a Hestra Glove, and I'm not sure of its name. It's a gauntlet length glove that is warm, durable, and extremely versatile. I also trust the company. Hestra has only been making gloves and mitts for 79 years, so they really know what they are doing when it comes to making a good glove.

I like how you can take the liners out and just use the shells for touring. The fingers are short for great dexterity and there are no seams at the ends. The leather is also very thin and supple which decreases bulk and again makes it more dexterous. They are also super durable. I have used them for hundreds of days over the last few years. I treated them one to two times per season and it's only now that the seams are blowing out. This for me, equates to great construction. I've never had wet hands and always stayed warm, so the Hestra gloves are highly recommended.

How much would you pay for a pair of gloves or mitts?
Haha. Well, it's been a while since I've had to pay for gloves. They have been sent to me for years. So, free is optimal. But if I had to spend money, I would look at what kind of functionality is the most important. For example, I ski patrolled for a year in a simple pair of Kinko gloves that cost only $20-$25 at the time. So cheap gloves will work if you don't need top performance. But if you are looking for something that performs well over multiple days, then expect to spend between $60 - $130.

Amber King & Stephanie Bennett