Hiking gloves are an important piece of gear for any type of hiking adventure. Regardless of the weather outside, it is always a good idea to throw a pair of gloves in your daypack. Keeping your hands comfortable can make or break your experience outside.
There are dozens of different hiking gloves on the market, and at the same time, those dozens of gloves can be used for a dozen different situations!
When it comes to gloves, there are several different types of gloves to consider when heading out on a hiking adventure. A lightweight liner can be perfect for mild temperatures, while a waterproof insulated glove is great for winter hikes. For technical terrain, it is a good idea to have a durable glove with a leather palm, or durable synthetic fabric. While stand alone gloves can work well, it is a good idea to consider using a layering system.
A layering system includes using multiple articles of clothing. That way you can shed and add layers based on your body’s warmth. While hiking, our body temperature will heavily fluctuate In this case, for gloves, we want to make sure fingers and hands are warm enough, but not sweating. If your hands are too cold or too warm, your body will be wasting energy!
Gloves can be thought of as an extension of an upper body layering system. Like jackets, gloves can be used as a stand alone piece, or layered to improve warmth or waterproofing.
In order to choose the perfect pair of gloves, first we’ll take a look at different types of gloves, and different fabrics used.
Different types of hiking gloves
Hiking glove liners
Hiking glove liners can be used as a stand alone layer in warmer conditions or can be used underneath a heavier insulated pair, or even a waterproof shell of a glove.
Glove liners are most commonly made of wool, polyester, leather, and nylon. Wool tends to be warmer and more expensive, but will not retain their warmth if they get wet. Glove liners, as well as insulated gloves, can also be made of polyester or nylon, or a combination thereof. Nylon tends to be a stronger and more durable fabric, while polyester will be much better at wicking moisture away. A useful function of some of the synthetic liners are the electronic friendly fingertips, making it easy to use a smartphone with gloves on. The stretchiness of liners can be attested to the small amount of spandex that is often added to nylon or polyester. Leather hiking gloves can be very useful for navigating more technical terrain where you would be using your hands on rougher surfaces.
Hiking glove liners can be a perfect stand alone pair for mild conditions in the spring or fall and are useful for stability when navigating more trivial terrain. Liner gloves will always be the most lightweight hiking gloves. Something to consider with liner gloves as that they tend to be tight fitting, and are not always windproof or waterproof. Liners are lightweight and easy to store, making them an easy pair to stash in your pack.
Insulating hiking gloves
This covers a much larger category. Insulated gloves tend to have an outer durable coating made of polyester, nylon, or waterproof fabric, and are likely insulated with synthetic insulation or down. Insulated hiking gloves can range from heavy winter gloves for below zero temps, or a lightweight water-resistant insulated glove for your fall and spring-time hikes.
In terms of insulation, down will be a warmer material and will be a better choice for someone that tends to have colder hands. However, sweat and moisture will clump up the down and your down gloves will lose their warmth. If choosing a down glove, it is important to consider how warm your hands run, the durability of the outer fabric, and if you are anticipating wet precipitation on your hike. For this reason, there are not too many gloves with down insulation on the market, more often mittens use down.
Synthetic insulation can be made of many different materials, top outdoor companies often use insulation fabrics such as PrimaLoft, or Polartec. Synthetic insulated gloves will have some sort of outer layer, such as nylon, or waterproof fabrics such as Gore-Tex or a fabric created by the company, known as an in-house brand. Gore-Tex is a highly waterproof fabric that is debated the most durable, breathable and waterproof fabric in the outdoor industry. A synthetically insulated glove with a Gore-Tex outer layer would be the warmest, most waterproof, and durable option for a glove.
Shell Gloves for hiking
Another option for changing up your hiking glove layering system is to add a waterproof outer shell. These thin gloves are perfect for throwing over a liner in wet hiking conditions. For winter hiking conditions, one could also use a shell glove in conjugation with a heavy insulated glove. Shell gloves tend to be made of waterproof materials such as Gore-Tex or other in house brand names. Shell liners are often sold with their insulated glove counterpart, few waterproof glove shells are sold on their own.
Special note on cold weather hiking mittens
Special note on mittens. Mittens are another type of product to consider when packing for cold weather hikes. Hiking mittens will typically use an outer waterproof layer, and synthetic insulation and possibly down as well.
With your fingers closer together, the right type of mitten can be tremendously warmer than a glove. For extremely cold weather, a mitten can be the best choice for handwear. It is important to remember that your dexterity will be diminished when wearing mittens.
Best hiking glove brands
The Seattle based brand is known for using a wide variety of materials for their large glove line. Their craftsmanship with gloves is also evident in their tactical glove line, where they have won U.S. military contracts. From PrimaLoft insulation, to Gore-Tex, to 800 fill down, Outdoor Research has dozens of different hiking glove options for an array of environments.
Black Diamond is a Salt-Lake City based brand that is most known for its warm weather and durable gloves. Many of their gloves are designed for rugged alpine conditions, which speaks to the roughness, warmth, and value of the product. Like Outdoor Research, Black diamond also uses PrimaLoft and gore-tex, as well as their own in house waterproofing known as BD.dry.
Founded in the mid- 1970s as a mountaineering apparel company, Marmot has many different glove options. Marmot tends to be at a lower price point by using their in-house brands.
Best hiking gloves 2020
Best glove liners
These liners are easy to use and can be fitted easily in conjugation with other gloves. The polyester and elastane mix makes it fitted and stretchy. A great feature of this glove is the e-tip on the index fingers, which allows one to use the gloves when operating a smartphone.
Another polyester and elastane gloves make these tight fitting, and moisture wicking. Perfect for fall temperatures, and are even more fitted than the North Face E-tip gloves. Arc’teryx is known for their durable fabrics, and do not shy away from doing so with this liner. While they may work, these gloves are not necessarily marketed to be compatible with smartphone technology.
These liners are smartphone compatible and are incredibly comfortable with their merino-wool material. This is a great price for merino-wool and would be great for a dry fall or spring hike. Wool does not do well in moisture, so that is important to keep in mind.
Best cold weather hiking gloves
Gore-tex shell, leather palm, Primaloft, and wool insulation. It doesn’t get much better for a durable, weather-resistant, and warm glove. Consider this for your below zero hiking days.
Polyester and spandex with an outer coating of gore-tex will keep your hands dry and warm in this streachier glove. The velcro strap on the bottom will ensure no snow gets onto your hands this winter.
Polyester with an outer layer of gore-tex will keep the moisture out of these gloves. The inner removable liner is a lightweight polyester fleece that can be worn alone in milder temperatures. The synthetic palm will work, but will most likely not be as durable as gloves with a leather grip.
Best Hiking gloves for rain and wet weather
This is an activewear glove for wet conditions in the backcountry. It uses a combination of neoprene, which is a fabric often used for water sports, as well as the BD waterproofing material known as BD.dry. This glove also has a durable, leather palm.
This product from Sealskinz has an in-house waterproofing membrane made of three layers, designed to be breathable as well as waterproof. The leather palm of the glove will make it useful for rough trail conditions, and increase the longevity of the glove.
These waterproof liners would be an option for wet weather in spring, summer, and fall. The polyester material with an outer waterproof layer makes it easy for these gloves to wick moisture away. Throw these under an insulated glove for added warmth in cold conditions.
Best mid-weight hiking gloves
Take a look at these comfy gloves. The Polartec fleece will be very comfortable on your hands. Additionally, these gloves have a durable leather palm, making it durable and versatile for a variety of conditions.
These fleece gloves from marmot are made from fleece with an outer layer of polyester. They will not be the most water resistant, but the fleece makes these gloves quite comfortable. These gloves are compatible with smartphones.
Comfortable fleece gloves will be breathable and warm. There is also a synthetic suede palm, increasing the durability of these gloves. Fleece gloves would not be the best idea for wet conditions, they will not wick water as well as other materials can.
Women-specific hiking gloves
These gloves have an outer gore-tex waterproof shell on top of a polyester fleece liner. Warm, durable, waterproof, breathable, and designed to be a women’s fit. A neat feature of these gloves are the pockets in the shell gloves that are meant for heat warmers.
These Marmot gloves are a great option for shoulder season hiking in windy and dry conditions. It includes a leather palm and it is coated with GORE Windstopper, a fabric from the same company as gore-tex. Windstopper makes the gloves windproof.
This women’s specific fit is perfect for a 3 season fleece glove. A simple, warm polyester fleece glove, something to consider is that these gloves are not e-tip compatible.
Special category, cold weather hiking mittens.
It is hard to beat mittens that go halfway down your forearm. These mittens are a combination of two different mittens, a removable gore-tex shell, and an inner Primaloft mitten. They can be used separately, or together for extreme wet and cold conditions.
These mittens are designed for extremely cold weather conditions. These mittens also have a removable liner that could be used solely for warmer and wet conditions. Together, both pieces make a great combo for the dead of winter. The palms of the gloves are made from goat leather, making it an extremely durable mitten.
These mittens are also made for below freezing temperatures but are not as versatile as the above products. The 650 fill goose down is incredibly warm and makes it very easy to stuff into your pack. Something to consider with this product as that it would not do well in very wet conditions. The down will clump up when wet, and not retain its warmth. Consider this for dry, and extreme cold.