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Skiing, ice climbing, winter camping: There’s no one-size-fits-all way to spend the winter, and no one-size-fits-all glove for every activity. From pillowy mittens for Arctic adventures to breathable liners for fast-paced Nordic days, match your handwear to your fourth-season dreams.
Read more: The Best Ski Jackets of 2023
Number of testers: 11 Number of products tested: 30 States and countries tested in: 6
We recruited 11 testers ranging from casual enthusiasts to professional guides scattered across the U.S. and Canada, surveyed them about their winter plans, and matched them with the gloves and mitts best suited for them. Our testers put the samples through their paces while fat biking, ski touring, ice climbing, winter camping, and snowshoeing, in places like Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, and Oregon. At the end of the season, we asked them all to fill out a form judging each test pair on durability, comfort, waterproofing, dexterity, and warmth, and telling us whether they would recommend them to a friend. Their top picks landed on this list.
Adam Roy is the executive editor of Backpacker. He lives with his wife, small son, and smaller dog in Colorado’s Front Range, where he spends his summers hiking, trail running, and rock climbing, and his winters ski touring his local peaks. He prefers mittens to gloves.
It wasn’t what we noticed while wearing the Tactility Heat Liner that got our attention, it was what we didn’t. Where other heated gloves boast bulky heating elements and wiring that yields an awkward fit, we could barely tell the difference between these sturdy polyester and elastane liners and any other baselayer gloves in our arsenal. What we did notice: how perfectly comfortable they kept us. The rechargeable battery pack tucks out of the way into a compartment on the end of the extra-long cuff, making it easy to control heat output with the push of a button (or via the connected app). This power pack runs the Tactility for two hours on high or six hours on low, providing enough heat to banish the chill without making your hand feel sweaty. In other words, our hands never felt toasty, but they also never felt cold—and that’s exactly what we want in a heated glove for active pursuits. (There’s also an included boost mode, which allows you to unleash a burst of extra heat that lasts five minutes.) On a single-digit day at Colorado’s Arapahoe Basin, we slipped the Tactility on below our shell gloves and barely noticed the cold temps—or the fact that we were wearing heating devices on our hands. That’s thanks to the flat, laminated heating wires that zig-zag up the back of hand, fingers, and thumb—they’re much lower in profile than the wires used in most other heated gloves. While not the thinnest liners we’ve ever used, they were dexterous enough for a pro photographer to handle his DSLR confidently (the fingertips are touch-screen compatible), and they slipped easily under almost any glove in our closet, which helped the exorbitant price feel worthwhile.
Bottom line: Heated liners without the bulk and the sweat.
Weight: 2.4 oz Size range: XS-XL
If your Nordic ski days tend towards wild snow and forest trails instead of groomed terrain, your gloves need to be able to vent while standing up to the backcountry’s abuse. Enter the Trail Creek, which occupies a sweet spot between liners and insulated leather gloves. On the back, a waterproof-breathable softshell fabric bled heat efficiently in temperatures up to the low 40s while still shedding damp spring snow during day missions to Colorado’s Brainard Lake Recreation Area. The goatskin palm was supple enough for us to manipulate buckles and tie knots, but tough enough to stand up to ski edges and sharp granite boulders without sustaining so much as a scratch during testing. A fleece nose wipe and smartphone-compatible tips on the thumb and forefinger meant that we rarely peeled them off.
Bottom line: Cross-country skiers and snowshoers who like to get off the beaten path will find a lot to love here.
Weight: 4.3 oz Size range: XS-XL
Call them a crisis puffy for your hands: Montane’s Anti-Freeze Mitts pack enough insulation to keep your fingers functioning in near-Arctic temperatures while nestling comfortably into the bottom of your pack. Montane starts with a Pertex Quantum Eco outer, then stuffs it with pillowy, recycled, non-waterproof 750-fill down. After packing the Anti-Freeze on ski touring and ice climbing trips around Alaska, one tester singled out the glove’s top-class warmth-to-weight ratio, which kept her cozy in temperatures as low as five degrees Fahrenheit (and that didn’t feel like their lower limit). That’s warmer than other comparably-light insulated mitts in its category. An elastic wrist and cinchable cuff keep out spindrift. Ding: You’ll want to keep it out of the rain and snow. Like most crisis puffies, our tester said that the mittens wet out when subjected to rain or wet, heavy snow.
Bottom line: Great for expeditions to frigid climes, or as a camp and summit layer on any light-and-fast winter outings
Weight: 6.4 oz Size range: S-XL
From after-hours inbound skins to bell-to-bell lift-served days, Outdoor Research’s updated Revolution II was our go-to whenever we headed to the resort this season. The sturdy, beefy glove feature a tough 75 x150 denier recycled polyester back with just a hint of stretch, while a textured polyurethane palm was durable enough to stand up to a season’s worth of ski edges and poles. Meanwhile, 200 grams of synthetic insulation kept one male tester who runs cold comfortable riding chairs from the low thirties down into the mid-teens—and lower than that when we paired them with a thin wool liner. The drawstring-equipped gauntlet-style cuff kept both flurries and slush from sneaking in, while smart features like a built-in nose wipe and touch-compatible fingertips served us well for group photo time.
Bottom line: A solid workhorse for inbounds skiers that want one glove that can do it all.
Powerful warmth that can keep you out there even on the coldest days? The Heattouch Atlas Mitt from Seirus brings it. When you’re ready to recharge after a day of skiing or winter trekking, give the gloves four hours to juice up using the convenient USB adaptor. Plus, with three heat settings to choose from, you can personalize and adjust the warmth as needed.
Weight: 6.8 oz. Size range: XS-XL
Full leather gloves are a popular choice for ski mountaineers or anyone else who needs their equipment to stand up to a season’s worth of beatings. This techy take elevates the category. The buttery goatskin palm and fingers are precurved to lessen finger fatigue and enhance grip on long tours. Meanwhile, Pertex on the back of hand adds breathability without sacrificing protection against dumping snow, and an under-sleeve neoprene cuff sealed out the worst weather. Primaloft Gold insulation (60 grams in the palm, 170 on the back of the hand) kept our tester’s digits warm on Alaskan ski tours and winter camping trips when the temperature dipped below zero, but didn’t swamp out when the mercury rose into the 30s. “If someone was only going to have one pair of gloves for the winter,” he wrote, “these would be them.”
Bottom line: If you only have the budget for a single pair of gloves, make it these.
Weight: Size range: Men’s S-XXL / Women’s S-L
When Gordini introduced its trademarked Clutch synthetic leather a few years ago, they touted it as a tougher, more ecologically friendly alternative to animal leathers. And while we haven’t done the math on its environmental impact, we can attest to its strength: It’s hard to put a scratch in this stuff. The Foundation, one of the newest models, looks fresh after a season of use. Designers boosted the durability of the wraparound Clutch palms and digits by moving seams off of the fingertips to the back of hand. There, the ripstop nylon back and cuff shrugged off direct hits from tree branches and newly-sharpened ski edges during long days at Colorado’s Arapahoe Basin. The glove is also fairly dexterous without sacrificing warmth: its Thindown insulation (150 grams per square meter around the hand and 80 in the cuff) kept even our most cold-prone tester’s paws comfy into the low teens without feeling pillowy. And while it’s a little less flexible than some comparable full-leather gloves we’ve tried, it’s also much cheaper than many such options, coming in at roughly half the price of the Legend.)
Bottom line: This practical, and well-priced glove can stand up to a lot of abuse for a synthetic.
Weight: 8.8 oz Size range: 6-11
If comfort is what you’re looking for, try these luxurious full-leather, under-cuff gloves. Made of full-grain cowhide (goatskin for the white version) with a silky Rayon and polyester lining, they feel buttery inside and out, with supple-yet-sturdy leather, solid construction, and a fit that feels bespoke. Outseams meant that the stitching didn’t press into our fingers, though our tester did complain that they lessened the gloves’ dexterity. The Fall line’s foam insulation isn’t quite as thick as some heavier-duty competitors, but one (admittedly hardy) tester found they performed fine on a splitboarding trip to Idaho when overnight temps dropped to negative five degrees Fahrenheit. For this season, Hestra made the Fall Line’s silky, stretchy liner removable, allowing skiers to use it solo on the skin up or dry it quickly after your day of adventure is done.
Bottom line: This supremely comfortable leather glove is ready for the chill.
What you need from a glove will depend largely on how you plan to use it. If you’re ice climbing or Nordic skiing, you may want to sacrifice some warmth for dexterity and grip; if you’re riding the lifts, you’ll need enough insulation to keep your mitts from freezing while you sit still. Across the board, leather offers a more supple feel, while synthetics tend to be more durable over time. Can’t decide what to get? Spring for a 3-in-1 glove system, which pairs a (usually fleece) liner with a waterproof (usually insulated) outer shell.
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