So, if you’ve read my post on the best winter boots, your feet should be thanking you now. But feet are only half the equation. Don’t forget your hands. That means you’ll want the best winter gloves, too.
When it comes to extremities (and we’ve got 5 of them or so), hands can be even more vulnerable to cold weather than feet.
Personally, when I’m doing something outdoors and it’s below zero, it’s usually my hands that start giving up the battle against the cold first. (Have your hands ever gotten so cold you didn’t have enough strength to turn the key in your car’s door lock? Inconvenient, you know. And painful.) So it might be even more important to have the right stuff to wear on your hands to keep them warm.
Warm hands = fun outdoors during the winter.
Cold hands = excruciating suffer-fest.
And hey, just because you’re shoveling snow off your driveway or walking your dog in a sleet-storm doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have the best cold-weather gloves (or mittens) you can get — gear designed for extreme cold-weather comfort.
Because you know that if they will work for, say, ski mountaineering or ice climbing, they will work in Buffalo, New York in the dead of winter when you’re trudging to the train. Following is a review of the best gloves and mittens to protect your precious paws from winter’s frigid, damp days. Prices cover a range of budgets. And I list the best places to obtain them.
(By the way, these are also the best gloves for skiing, snowshoeing, snowboarding, climbing, winter camping, and any other fun activities you want to pursue when water is frozen stiff.)
Best Men’s Winter Gloves
I’ll start with the Cadillac of gloves: Arc’teryx Alpha SV Gloves. (After all, my website is not called Pretty Good Stuff for Men).
Let’s be clear: if your hands are cold and you want to keep them warm in winter’s worst conditions, these are the gloves you put on.
I could have said they are the BMW or Lamborghini of gloves, too. Yes, they’re rather expensive. But these gauntlet gloves are worth it for the quality, durability, design, and workmanship.
Arc’teryx is known for making innovative, smart, supremely functional outdoor gear. When the testers at Backpacker magazine got hold of the Arc’teryx Alpha SV Gloves and took a look at the price, they thought there would be no way they could endorse them. But then, as they would later write: “We tried it during a dismal day of crevasse rescue training with Rainier Mountaineering, Inc.” One of their testers described his experience with these gloves this way: “Working a wet rope in wet snow in a steady downpour in 35°F weather is the perfect recipe for wooden finger tips — if not full-on hypothermia. But my hands stayed dry and warm through 6 hours of mucking about.” Bottom line? Backpacker endorses these gloves, price and all. Another of their testers said, “Has better dexterity than any glove this warm I’ve ever worn.”
The editors at Outside magazine were equally impressed. They stated, “The folks up in Vancouver [meaning Arc’teryx — which, by the way, is an abbreviation of Archaeopteryx, the first bird to appear on earth] have created an Armani suit for your hands… Best full-gauntlet glove we’ve ever tested.” National Geographic Adventure named them “Gear of the Year” for 2010. And Arc’teryx has improved them since then.
The guys at Adventure-Journal chimed in, too: “May be the best gauntlet glove ever made.” (See the video below.)
Those are some darn good reviews for these top-of-the-line gloves. Yes, the Alpha SV is pricier than most other gloves. But then, how often can you buy a Lamborghini for around $275? I’ve included some good places to get them online, linked to below, so you might find a discount at one of these outdoor gear retailers. (There are all kinds of good deals being offered right now at the outfitters I mention in this post. Also see more deals at top-rated stores on my Good Deals and Outlets page).
If the sunset-copper color of the pair pictured above doesn’t do it for you, you can get them in black or blue. Find Arc’teryx Alpha SV Gloves at Backcountry.com and Moosejaw. Don’t wait, because inventory of these gloves is selling quickly.
Columbia’s Omni-Heat® technology is really catching on in outdoor-equipment circles, and they’ve applied it in their Majik Wands Gloves. Omni-Heat thermal insulation incorporates a metallic layer that reflects heat back to you. In the Columbia Majik Wands, it’s combined with an Omni-Tech waterproof and breathable bladder and 100 grams of insulation. Testers have found that Omni-Heat can increase the insulating properties of a garment by 20 percent — just what you want when it’s 5 below zero and windy.
As with most all their products, Columbia has included other thoughtful features, such as material on the thumb for wiping a drippy nose and shock-corded hem adjustment that can be operated one-handed.
Outside‘s testers said of these gloves: “The Columbia Majik Wands are toastier than they look. Breathability is so-so. Great chairlift-riding gloves.” But in their review, Snowshoe Magazine stated: “I can confirm that the 50 percent recycled content Majik Wands is wicked warm in real-world use and doesn’t seem to get ‘too hot,’ as sometimes happens with backcountry gloves. It breathes well, too.” And, if cost is an object, you can get them for about a third of the cost (or less) of the Arc’teryx Alpha SV’s. There are 4 color combinations available. Find the Columbia Majik Wands Gloves — in many cases, for a discount right now – at: Rocky Mountain Trail, Backcountry.com, Sun & Ski Sports, and DepartmentOfGoods.
As I mentioned earlier, if a glove is designed for ice climbing, it’ll probably handle most of your typical outdoor winter situations. This year, Outside singled out the Mountain Hardwear Minus One Gloves as a recommended choice for not only ice climbing but a variety of activities, from backcountry skiing to cold-weather mountain biking. Their editors state that Mountain Hardwear Minus One Gloves are “waterproof, light and supple, reinforced in all the right places, and surprisingly warm.” They also note that they tend to fit snugly, so consider ordering a size up.
As you might expect from Mountain Hardwear, only the most up-to-date materials are incorporated in these gloves: goatskin leather palms with Pittard’s Oil Tac reinforcements for excellent grip, OutDry® Waterproof Technology, mesh tricot lining to wick moisture and sweat away from your hands, corded nylon material for the body. Dane, an alpine climber who blogs about equipment at Cold Thistle, put these gloves through their paces (both climbing and in everyday use) and found that they got the job done. They’re tough, light, waterproof, and sort of cool-looking. You can find Mountain Hardwear Minus One Gloves at Backcountry.com and Moosejaw.
Now, maybe you’d enjoy a glove with a bit of attitude — something inspired by the edgier things a guy can do. Something that suggests aspects of shredding. But of course will still keep your digits toasty. Well, for that there’s Hestra.
Specifically, the Seth Morrison Pro Model Gloves.
First of all, Hestra is a Swedish company. As you’re probably aware, it gets pretty cold in Sweden. Second, Hestra makes gloves for the Swedish Army. In fact, they’ve been making gloves since 1936, and have developed a reputation for producing some of the best gloves in the world.
Case in point: in the 1980s, Hestra began working with Lars Fält to design gloves. Lars is an interesting guy. He spent 5 years as a member of the Swedish Army’s Special Forces, then became a paratrooper. In the 1970s, he created the first Swedish Armed Forces survival school. Then he trained with the Special Forces in the United States, England, and Canada. For fun, he adventured on the side. And, though he is now retired from the military, he still spends each winter at Lappeasuoando Wilderness Camp, where he teaches courses on how to survive in the wilderness in the winter.
Lappeasuoando is one of those distinctive Swedish places where, in the winter, temperatures regularly dip to 40 below zero (a temperature at which pine trees will crack). The Lappeasuoando Wilderness Camp cannot be reached by road. It has no electricity or running water. Participants in the courses learn how to bivouac overnight in the snow and how to make soup from lichens. Fält likes to cite the camp’s motto: “The prepared will survive.”
That’s the kind of professional Hestra works with to design their high-performance gloves. But not the only kind. They worked with free-skier Seth Morrison to create a glove that would meet the needs of the most daring and skilled extreme skiers in the world.
Even before he was being paid by Hestra, Morrison wore their gloves. Since 2005, he has been refining the Hestra Seth Morrison Pro Model.
Drawing on that outdoor-survival and Swedish-military tradition, these bombproof gloves also incorporate design elements from motocross gloves. They are warm and tough. Each year Morrison refines them a bit more.
After spending part of a recent season skiing in the desolate mountains in Alaska’s Petersburg region, Morrison observed: “Almost no one had skied there before us. The hands were exposed to cold temperatures, as well as impacts. Such environments require the best gloves you can get.”
The Seth Morrison Pro Model Gloves are made of Army Goat Leather and cowhide; Thermolite insulation; and an integrated windproof, waterproof, breathable CZone membrane. They have a side zip for quick on/off, protection on the knuckles and fingers, and a handy nose wipe. And some attitude. Find them at: Backcountry.com, DepartmentOfGoods, and Skis.com.
See some of what Seth Morrison does (while wearing his Hestra gloves) in the following video:
If you want a versatile cold-weather glove for not a lot of money (around $50, depending on discounts), check out the POW Tanto.
POW, based in the Pacific northwest, makes a broad range of gloves for everything from snowboarding to bicycling to golf. The Tanto is one of their most popular models.
It’s comfort-rated from minus 10 to 32°F and is suitable for activities from skiing to snowmobiling to gripping the steering wheel of your car when it’s 5 below zero and you’re peering through a little hole in the frost on your windshield as you commute to your job on icy streets.
They incorporate goatskin leather, a waterproof/breathable Hipora insert (a 3-layer microporous coating structure), a microfleece lining, and Primaloft insulation, and offer style options from flamboyant to stealth.
The snowboarding gear review site The Good Ride said of the POW Tanto Gloves:
“The Tanto has a good all around feel and is one of the most comfortable gloves we have experienced… The inside is very comfortable and doesn’t have that grippy feel that many micro-fleece liners have. It’s ideal to get wet hands in and out without pulling the liner out.
The Tanto is reasonably priced and offers one of the best glove experiences out there for the $100 and under price range. The Tanto doesn’t have Gore-Tex but it does have a 20,000 [mm] waterproof insert that is outstanding. Yeah, the Pow isn’t any more reliable than Dakine or Burton but we feel you get a better glove for a lower price. That being said, we were able to get a very long season out of this glove and it still has more left for next year.”
The Good Ride rates comfort, fit, and waterproofing for the Tanto as “Excellent,” and dexterity, warmth, and durability as “Good.”
Customer reviews for the POW Tanto at the retailers I mention here also tend to be almost uniformly positive. Outdoor enthusiasts appreciate these gloves. Miles Clark, professional free-skier, guide for Rainier Mountaineering, Inc., and all-around adventurer, uses POW gloves and is a member of the POW ski team. Here’s a video of Miles Clark (and friends) showing some of the ways POW gloves can be used (his job might be a little more fun than yours):
POW is a company that stands behind their products (another criterion I look for in any product I recommend on Best Stuff for Men), and you can also find good customer support at all the online shops I mention here.
Here’s a video of the POW guys introducing some of their 2010-2011 gloves at a recent SIA (Snow Sports Industries America) Snow Show in my neck of the woods, Denver:
Best Mittens for Men
As Maxx von Marbod said in the video above, mittens (or mitts in the contemporary vernacular) are once again coming into vogue, but there are places where they’ve never been out of vogue: places where you have to keep warm.
Since your fingers stay together all cozy-like, mittens are generally acknowledged as being warmer than gloves, and I would be remiss if I did not mention some of the best mittens available for those who are facing super-cold temps on a regular basis (say, utility linemen in Minnesota).
If you only occasionally need additional warmth to reinforce your gloves, you can simply wear something like a Gore-Tex mitten over them. But for the most challenging situations, dedicated mittens — i.e., a system – are best. Check the following mitts to keep your digits dry and toasty.
Termed “a sleeping bag for your hands,” the Marmot Expedition Mitt is the warmest handwear Marmot makes (which means they’re pretty damn warm).
They’re intended to complement Marmot’s 8000 Meter Suit. Priced around $100, you get Marmot MemBrain® waterproof/breathable fabric, a bunch of Primaloft insulation (which is basically synthetic down that’s waterproof), DriClime Bi-component wicking lining, a reinforced palm, a quickdraw gauntlet cinch cord, a safety leash, a wrist strap, and a nose wipe.
The gents at UKClimbing did a bit of mountaineering in Alaska using the Marmot Expedition Mitts and were kind enough to write a review. (They liked them.) If these are good enough to take on Everest, they should be good enough to get you through your job as a newspaper deliverer in Caribou, Maine. In addition to the text link above and the link from the photo at left, you can also find the Marmot Expedition Mitt at REI and Moosejaw.
One of the customer reviewers of the Marmot Expedition Mitt wrote:
“I bought a pair of these 7 years ago. These were the first mitts that I found that I could be outside in sub-zero temps in Wisconsin and still have warm hands. I find above freezing I end up taking them off every 15 minutes or so to let my hands cool off. The best part is the wicking is so good, I never feel that I have sweaty hands.”
You can get your own pair of Marmot Expedition Mitts at REI and Backcountry.com and Moosejaw. Some are offering good discounts on these mittens now. Other retailers carry them, including Rock Creek, but they’re sold out of these mitts right now (go to the retailer’s site and use the search function to check if they’re again in stock. Some offer the option to sign up to be emailed when they’re available).
A worthy alternative to the Marmot Expedition Mitts would be the Mountain Hardwear Masherbrum Mitten – a technically-sophisticated mitt designed for high-altitude mountaineering. When performance matters, these mittens fit the bill.
They’re somewhat more expensive than the Marmot Expedition Mitts, but performance might be a bit better. Click here to see detailed specifications and to order from Moosejaw.
By the way, right now you can get 20% off Mountain Hardwear stuff at Moosejaw. This sale is good through 11/21/12.
Finally, if you want an economical mitten that still gets the job done (though I don’t think I’d necessarily take it to Everest), check out Dakine’s Fillmore Mittens, a good-looking mitt for $40 or less.
For that price you get good technical features and better-than-average performance from a mitten that Dakine guarantees for a lifetime. They’re non-bulky, tough enough for a variety of outdoor activities, and pretty stylish. And hey, you want to look good while keeping warm, right? You can find Dakine Fillmore Mittens in a variety of colors at better outdoor retailers, including: Backcountry.com, Dogfunk, and DepartmentOfGoods. Click the links here, check customer reviews, buy them, and keep warm.
And wipe your nose.
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