If you've had the opportunity to explore the women's ski glove and mitten market, you've probably encountered a plethora of options. There are countless models available today and to maximize your purchase decision, it's worthwhile to take a critical look at exactly what you want and need. Looking for an all-around model that does it all? Need a breathable backcountry pair? Hoping to save on gloves to spend on skis/boards? Or do you want the warmest pair of all? Choosing the right ski glove or mitten for you requires an understanding of what you need in performance while you adventure on snowy escapades.
Ski Gloves vs. Mittens
Many women suffer from what we deem "Cold Hand Syndrome" during winter, turning typically fun activities into a suffer-fest. 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 women who have tried both, noting the tradeoffs involved in both gloves and mitts. So which do you prefer?
Ski mittens are a perfect choice if you're looking to keep your hands warm. Mittens are warmer than gloves, because air can circulate in a glove, and you can keep your fingers together in a mitt. That said, mittens do not have high dexterity, which is a deal-breaker for many.
Ski Gloves are good for those looking for better dexterity but not the warmest product on the market. Ski gloves can be highly insulative or not. Those that have less insulation are typically more dexterous, while gloves stuffed with insulation have less dexterity.
Which do you prefer?
Anatomy of Ski Gloves and Mitts
Like an onion, the anatomy of a ski glove or mitt is comprised of many layers. All function to enhance breathability, warmth, and weather protection. In this section, we asses the materials and fabrics used in the outer shell, palm, and insulative layer. In addition, we outline the main function and importance of each component so that you know what materials to look for and the performance that you require.
Outer shells are typically constructed of either nylon, Gore-Tex materials, or leather. Some models have a combination, while others are a full construct of one kind of material. For example; the Arc'teryx Fission features a full Gore-Tex Construction while the REI Co-op Gauntlet GTX Glove is a mixture of Gore-Tex and nylon. Below, we outline the major pros and cons of each material. The main function of the outer shell main is to provide weather protection and ventilation options, so the more weather resistant the shell, the better the protection. Overall, Gore-Tex provides the best weather protection, followed by Leather then Nylon.Nylon
Nylon resists water and allows the glove to stretch and flex more easily than a full leather model, though it will often be less durable and feel more slippery. Nylon, however, is not waterproof, just water-resistant. Water typically absorbs into the material after long periods, saturating the material. The material is typically a little more breathable, making hands sweat less.
Two- or Three-Layer GORE-TEX
If you're looking for fabric that wicks away moisture and sweat, Gore-Tex is where it's at. By design, GORE-TEX wicks moisture and sweat away, not allowing it to penetrate through the shell. Water vapor, on the other hand, has a small molecular size so sweat transfers out of the interior to the surface. This type of shell is stiffer than nylon and does not provide as much grip unless it has a different type of material on the palm. Three-layer Gore-Tex is a higher quality option then two-layer, offering better weather protection overall. It's also far more durable. If you seek a glove that will provide exemplary weather resistance, look for Gore-Tex.
Sometimes a ski mitten or glove will not only use leather on the palm but throughout the entire shell. There are different types of leather that you will come across when shopping, but what you want is goatskin. It is far more durable, harder, waterproof, and less likely to crack or rip than other types used. We didn't review any gloves or mitts that were completely goatskin, but the Hestra models feature this on the palm of the glove. Pigskin, like that used in the Kinco Pigskin Leather is also a great option but requires a little more treatment. If left untreated, the leather can saturate, crack, and lose its water resistance.
The palm material is important because it provides friction with ski poles, ice axes, anchors, snacks, or whatever else you might need on snowy adventures. Without a grippy material, you may be forced to take your ski mittens or gloves off, exposing your fingers to the cold (which is never ideal). The two material types you traditionally find on the palms are leather and synthetic. Leather offers better waterproofing and durability, but synthetics offer a little more dexterity as the materials are typically thinner.
Insulation and Liners
After peeling back the exterior of the glove or ski mitten, you'll find the primary source of warmth. Either a liner (thick or thin), an additional glove, or a ball of insulation that is attached to the shell. Gloves and mittens that don't have a removable liner are single construction while those with a removable liner are considered double construction. Take a look at the major differences.Glove Construction
Removable Liner - Double Glove Construction
Liners that are removable offer more versatility and faster drying options than those that aren't. This is because you can take the glove apart and choose to use just the shell or just the liner on its own. By taking the glove or mitten apart, the fabrics can dry much faster than those with single construction. Not only that but if the shell of the glove or mitten is big enough, you can swap it out for a thicker or better-performing liner.
There are a few options when it comes to liner construction. Some are made with a waterproof shell, making it a great ski glove for skinning uphill or cross-country. While others are simple and soft, perfect for ventilation when it's warm outside, but not when its wet. Some are thicker and while others are thinner. When considering what you need, make sure you identify what you require in your removable liners. If you don't like the one that comes with your glove, consider switching it out.
In single construction glove, the liner is built in and can't be removed. While this offers great warmth, and some are designed well, the glove isn't nearly as versatile, and it doesn't dry as quickly. Not only that, but we found that the liners can sometimes get bunched up, making the glove harder to put on. While we prefer double construction in general, some readers might be more inclined to buy single construction as these gloves are typically less expensive and offer a minimalist appeal.
Types of Insulation
PrimaLoft and Polartec
PrimaLoft and Polartec are common brands of synthetic insulation, with PrimaLoft being a puffy style of insulation (think women's insulated jacket) and Polartec being a thick fleece. Both add loft and warmth to an item. As with most other synthetic items, the fibers can be crushed over time, thus losing loft. This can result in gloves that don't keep your hands as warm after some time. Gloves like the Arc'teryx Fission uses PrimaLoft insulation in varying quantities around the construct of the glove to provide better dexterity and warmth. Look for a glove or mitten like the Fission that features thin insulation along the palm (for dexterity) and thicker insulation at the back of the palm (where insulation is needed the most).
Wool vs. Polyester
Some models still use the time-tested standard of wool, but thanks to new technology, most manufacturers treat it to give it a smoother, more comfortable feel. Wool is not waterproof, but it does insulate your hands and continues to keep them warm if they wet. So, if you typically get snow in your glove, or live in a wet climate, this may be a great option to look for. The Kinco Pigskin glove is a contender that uses polyester as the liner for this glove.Down
Some gloves feature down feathers as a form of insulation. In our testing, we learned that it is super warm, lofty, and provides more heat than synthetic insulations. The Gordini Gore-Tex Down III is an incredibly warm glove that features both great dexterity and warmth. Reach for down if you are looking for the ultimate in warmth.
Identifying the Right Ski Glove or Mitten For You
When mulling over what type of glove or mitten you may need, there are a few questions you should stop and ask yourself. By taking these questions into consideration, you can quickly narrow down your options to find a glove that fits your needs.
Do your Fingers and Hands get Cold Easily?
If so, you need to prioritize warmth in your ski mittens or gloves. If you are just riding the resort and don't need dexterity, a mitten is a better option for cold hands. You can keep your fingers together which generates more warmth, and ultimately more comfort
What will you Primarily be Doing when Wearing Your Ski Gloves?
Think about where you'll be playing in the snow. Will you be riding mountains in the backcountry, or riding lifts at the resort? Both situations require different performance from your gloves. Consider what you'll be using your gloves for before you buy.Riding Ski Lifts at the Resort
If you only ride ski lifts, prioritize a glove or mitten with superior warmth, especially if you're planning to ski less advanced terrain. Breathability can be important on warm days, but warmth is key most winter days. Consider a super warm mitten, like the Outdoor Research Alti Mitt, that packs 340-grams of warmth into its two-layer construction. Or take a look at the Gordini Gore-Tex Down III ski glove that offers both a high value and ample warmth.
If you're spending your off days in search of perfect powder in the backcountry, be ready to sweat. The perfect backcountry glove or mitt is extremely breathable, waterproof, with good dexterity (to take off skins and switch to different settings). The OR Arete is a double-layered glove that exemplified these traits. As an added bonus, it has excellent water resistance as well! If you prefer single glove construction, check out the Arc'teryx Fission Glove. It balances warmth and breathability.
Do you Need Dexterity on the Mountain?
The ability to use your hands easily is pivotal to your success throughout the day. If you need to take your glove off to zip up your jacket, you expose your hands to the cold you are trying to protect it from. While trying on different gloves, try dropping your car keys or a pen on the ground and see how easy it is to pick up. If you struggle, or the item continues to slip out of your fingers, this is a warning sign that you should consider a glove with either a better fit, less insulation, or a gloved-construct.
Do you Like your Gloves or Mitts Fully Loaded?
As with the dexterity of a glove, added features help you enjoy your day out in the snow while adding function to your hands. When looking at what your next glove may be, really think about what you are missing from your current glove.
SkiGee: On wet days when you're on the chairlift, do you find yourself reaching for a SkiGee or trying to wipe wet snow from your goggle lens unsuccessfully? Thankfully, some glove designers include a little rubber slide on the index finger of your glove that allows it to act as a windshield wiper. Unfortunately, none of the gloves in this review had this feature.
Nose Wipe: Do you find yourself constantly reaching for a tissue at the convenient Kleenex kiosk at the chairlift? If so, then think about getting a glove that has a nose wipe on it like the Gordini Gore-Tex Down III and Black Diamond Guide.
Touchscreen Compatibility: We know that one of the most annoying things at the ski resort is trying to coordinate a meet up with friends. You take out your phone on the ski lift, send out a text, and put your phone away. Nine times of out ten the gloves one wears is not compatible with touchscreen technology, forcing you to take off your glove. The Burton Gore-Tex glove is touchscreen-compatible. This is a great feature to keep fingers warm when it's cold outside.
Wrist Leash: If you're just learning how to ski, or take your gloves off a lot, a wrist leash is a great feature to prevent the loss of gloves on both the lifts and at the warming hut. Many models in this review feature a wrist leash that is removable…choose to wear them, or choose to take them off!
Glove Cuffs: Do you prefer if your glove or mitt fits under or over your jacket? If you prefer to wear your glove tucked beneath, opt for a gauntlet glove or mitt like the Kinco Pigskin Leather. If you like a long cuff that you can cinch down over your jacket, check out models such as the Hestra Three-Finger Glove or the Arc'teryx Fission Glove.
Finally, Are you Going to Thrash Your Gloves?
If you happen to be someone that wears gloves or mittens over 50 days a winter season and need a new pair each year, then it is time to consider investing in an incredibly durable glove. Granted, the sticker shock might be more than what you previously have been paying, but then you are not recycling gloves at the end of June each year. If your glove falls apart after only ten days out in the snow, then your hands were probably wet and cold after only day two. The durability of the materials is ultimately what leads to a water-resistant, warm, dexterous and functional glove, and a happy woman playing in the snow.
Look for gloves loaded with goatskin leather or three-layer GORE-TEX type waterproof materials for great durability options. For example, even though the Arc'teryx Fission may have a high price tag, it is the best-crafted glove tested. You can opt for a super inexpensive pair of gloves like the Kinco Pigskin, care for them well, and get a few years out of them.
Whether you charge down double black diamonds or sip tea between laps on your favorite green run, a fantastic ski glove or mitten is the first step to a comfortable outdoor wardrobe on the mountain. Consider performance you need, then take a look at all the best options on the market today.