How To Buy Snow Gloves

Well-made win­ter gloves pro­tect not only against the cold but also against wind and mois­ture that cause heat loss and lead to dis­com­fort and even­tu­al­ly frostbite.

We spoke with Arc­tic Explor­er Eric Larsen to get his opin­ion about glove design and found out that this arti­cle of cloth­ing is tough even for the experts.

“I’ve spent my life search­ing for the per­fect glove,” Larsen said. “A lot of glove char­ac­ter­is­tics pre­clude oth­er ones.”

In super cold con­di­tions, mois­ture man­age­ment becomes increas­ing­ly impor­tant as even slight damp­ness can lead to dan­ger­ous loss of heat. In mild con­di­tions, repelling mois­ture from the out­side while allow­ing sweat to leave the body is also dif­fi­cult, lead­ing to com­pro­mis­es in glove design that allow for quick evap­o­ra­tion and min­i­mal water repellency.

Mate­ri­als: If you decon­struct a basic glove from the inside out, you’ll find: inner lin­ing, insu­lat­ing lay­er, and shell. Some gloves have few­er com­po­nents (think a sol­id wool mit­ten) while oth­ers are more techy.

Larsen says he prefers syn­thet­ic insu­la­tion in a glove, which is gen­er­al­ly the fastest dry­ing and best wick­ing mate­r­i­al avail­able that will move sweat away from the skin. If the glove will be used in snow or rain, a water­proof and breath­able out­er shell lay­er is crit­i­cal. Many great shell mate­ri­als will pro­vide this pro­tec­tion and are cou­pled with durable palm mate­ri­als like leather.

Cuff: The cuff of a glove will pre­vent snow from enter­ing from the wrist. Some insu­la­tion in the cuff will also enhance the warmth of the gar­ment. Larsen says he prefers a taller cuff that is some­what ridged and won’t bunch.

Design: Gloves and mit­tens come in a cou­ple of styles. Remov­able insu­la­tion can be handy for dry­ing gloves at night, how­ev­er the insu­la­tion can be tough to re-install in some mod­els and may inad­ver­tent­ly be removed when pulling a hand from the glove.

Lin­er gloves: These light extra lay­ers add warmth to any pair of gloves with enough space to accom­mo­date the added mate­r­i­al. They are also handy in very cold weath­er if you must remove the main glove.

Fit: A glove needs to fit per­fect­ly to func­tion cor­rect­ly. It should not con­strict any area, which could lead to reduced blood flow and cold hands. It also can­not be too bag­gy or it will be hard to per­form tasks while wear­ing the glove.

Dex­ter­i­ty: Larsen says it’s impor­tant to be able to do sim­ple tasks, like zip­ping up a jack­et, while wear­ing a glove. Oth­er­wise you will be forced to remove them reg­u­lar­ly which can be poten­tial­ly dan­ger­ous in sub­ze­ro environments.

Frank Kvi­etok, the direc­tor of advanced devel­op­ment at Amer­i­can Recre­ation and insu­la­tion expert, says the breatha­bil­i­ty of a glove is impor­tant par­tic­u­lar­ly when they’ll be worn for long, mul­ti-day outings.

“You can get away with poor breatha­bil­i­ty in day use. The game changes pret­ty dra­mat­i­cal­ly if you need that sys­tem to dry out and be ready to go the next morn­ing,” Kvi­etok said. “For overnight trips a high­ly breath­able, lay­er­ing sys­tem works best. If my hands aren’t in the snow or mois­ture I want my hands to breathe as best they can and will remove the shell layer.”