Gloves or Mittens - that is the question

12:23 a.m. on October 30, 2010 (EDT)
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Hi all,


I'm looking to get a new pair of gloves or mittens before the start of the winter hiking and climbing season. I'm going with Gortex, but I'm torn between gloves or mittens.


I know the benefits of both - gloves provide more dexterity, while mittens provide more warmth.  


There is a pair of Guide Gloves made by Eddie Bauer First Ascent. There are videos of the First Ascent sponsored climbers, using the gloves on Everest, as high as the summit. Most videos I've seen of Everest shows folks using mits.


I'm thinking if the gloves are good enough for an Everest summit day, where even on a clear "warm" day temps are pushing 0 or lower, then they must be good enough for what I'll be seeing in New England.


But then again, I don't know if I'll need a "technical" glove right away on mountains such as Mt Washington.


So what's the verdict? Gloves or Mits? My father in law has climbed Mt Washington more than 30 times in the winter, in some pretty nasty storms at -40F and he swears by mits.

4:08 a.m. on October 30, 2010 (EDT)
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Mittens are often warmer than gloves because the fingers are allowed to stay together. But the benifits of gloves weighs out too because of the use of individual fingers to grasp tools and open buckles.

But there is and has been for many years the multi-glove/mitten  (Glomitts). a special cover that has both. The fingers are allowed when needed to be use individually while when needed the mitten section is pulled over to help insulate them more.


I like to use my bicycling gloves when hiking too because they can keep my hands and forefingers warm, plus protect my palms from hard use during rocky climbs, but still have full use of my finger tips.


9:41 a.m. on October 30, 2010 (EDT)
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thanks gary. I'm actually going to be buying gortex heavy duty gloves that can handle extreme weather and extreme cold temps. I'm not sure something like this would do that.

12:16 p.m. on October 30, 2010 (EDT)
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My vote would be for mittens, perhaps with light fingerles gloves underneath.

Very retro, but I still like boiled wool mitts. I have a pair of Dachstien mitts that are nearly 40 years old and still are terrific.  Hard to find a vendor (back in the day I got mine from Chouinard Equiptment (pre-Pacific Iron Works & pre-Patagonia days) 

I did find this source on the web.




12:54 p.m. on October 30, 2010 (EDT)
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It seems like every winter, I see posts from people looking for Dachstein mitts and that site may be the only one in North America that has them. Good find.

If you want some mitts for extreme cold, check out these from ECW-

Not suitable for wet weather since they are cotton, but the guys in Canada who have them, love them.

Telemark Tips and VFTT have threads on gloves and mitts.

7:33 p.m. on October 30, 2010 (EDT)
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When snow camping, I pack one pair of mittens for use around camp, and at least two pairs of gloves for use while under way.  The extra gloves permits assures I always have a dry pair.


9:46 p.m. on October 30, 2010 (EDT)
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I don't remember what brand they are, and haven't unpacked them for winter yet but I bought a pair of gloves from Cabelas last year that were fairly thin but pretty warm and had water-repellant mittens with the fold back finger sections that you could wear over the gloves.  I bought them for Trapper's Rendezvous(a January mountain man encampment that we attend each year).  It was warm enough last year that I didn't end up using the mitten layer but I think they would be very warm with both.  The inner gloves weren't really rugged so they might not be adequate for what you want but could be worth looking into.  If I get them out soon, I will check the brand.

10:41 p.m. on October 30, 2010 (EDT)
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Hestra make 3 finger gloves which may be a good compromise for you. You can choose from a range of liners also.

They're high end gloves but you get what you pay for IMO.

12:10 a.m. on October 31, 2010 (EDT)
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Ed, that may be the best bet. I'm thinking I'll get some gortex waterproof mits with an inner liner for extra warmth, and I have several pair of liner gloves and windproof insulated gloves I can use if there's no precipitation.

10:59 a.m. on October 31, 2010 (EDT)
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a few thoughts:

-keeping your hands warm is essential, but cold hands and feet are often a symptom that something else isn't keeping your core temperature up.  keeping warm is a package deal - you need warm mitts or gloves, but also the right layering system and clothing on the rest of you, and you need to eat right for the conditions. 

-i have shell mittens with a removable synthetic liner, and a pair of well-insulated shell gloves.  never hurts to have a backup, and in some situations, mitts impose critical limits on dexterity.  if you spend enough time hiking or climbing in really cold weather, you may find having both mitts and gloves is useful. 

-dachsteins are my backup mitten liner.  very durable.  not as warm as today's high-loft liners.  i swapped them in the last leg of a trip, temps around -20, a few years ago.  while they would have saved my fingers in a pinch, i had a lot of tingling - not in the same league as the synthetic liners.

-best insulating liner i have used is thick primaloft on the back of the hand, thick fleece in the palm.  OR's alti-mitt or black diamond's absolute mitten would be my choice if you are planning on extended time in really cold weather.  expensive, but you can't put a price on fingers. 

-rei used to sell shell mittens with removable primaloft 1 liners that were excellent, and a bargain.  they still appear to sell the shell, but i don't see any liners on their website.  too bad.   they sell it with primaloft insulation built-in, no removable liner, but that's not optimal.  much easier to dry out damp mittens if you can remove the liner and put them in your sleeping bag at night.  maybe they will have primaloft liners later in the winter. 

-when i don't expect brutal cold, i sometimes carry a pair of fleece windblock gloves with grippy material on the palms and first two fingers.  sized them large enough to fit a good pair of glove liners.  useful when you need use of your fingers for short periods of time; not as warm as insulated gloves, but a helpful alternative if you don't want to spring for very warm mitts and gloves separately. 

2:26 p.m. on October 31, 2010 (EDT)
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leadbelly 2550 said...               " keeping your hands warm is essential, but cold hands and feet are often a symptom that something else isn't keeping your core temperature up.  keeping warm is a package deal - you need warm mitts or gloves, but also the right layering system and clothing on the rest of you, and you need to eat right for the conditions."                                           

I don't think that can be overstated, very good point.

I love to wade fish in the winter, I usually have the whole stream to myself at that time of year. Being able to tie and strip line, manipulate small tools, and manage proper control of a rod is crucial. I fought for several seasons trying to keep my fingers warm trying different gloves, different methods, etc.

  Learning to keep my forearms and wrists warm has made a big difference. Since I wear a warm vest instead of a jacket to give me good arm articulation, I think my arms were not staying as warm as needed to keep my fingers as warm as they could be. So adding a short fleece sleeve over my forearms and wrists gave me the insulation needed.




11:47 p.m. on October 31, 2010 (EDT)
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From the original post, it sounds like you are approaching the winter hand cover question as an "either/or" situation. As hinted in several of the posts, you should have a minimum of two full hand cover sets, since there is always a possibility of dropping or otherwise losing one hand or a pair at a very needy moment. I have actually witnessed this happening. Also, when wearing your hand covers, use a long cord around your neck to tie both hands together (less chance of dropping one and having it blow away when temporarily removing it when trying to manipulate something).

As long as you have 2 pairs, you can make one gloves and the others mittens.

Second thing is layering, again hinted at in several posts in the references to removable liners. Even in the absence of removable liners with a glove or mitten shell, you should wear a thin liner glove (some like silk, others like poly - I personally carry a couple of spare liner pairs since they are very small). The idea here is that, although the liners offer little insulation or wind protection, they allow you to remove a glove or mitten (tethered to you, of course) and have full manipulation almost as if you were using bare hands, but still minimally protected (no sticking to a cold metal surface, and a bit of wind and warmth protection if you are quick about it, even at -30 or -40). Gloves like the Guide model you mention allow little feel and limited flexibility, so the thin liner glove provides some momentary touch and flex with a bit of protection.

As already mentioned, mittens are definitely warmer for given insulation thickness than gloves, which provide cooling surfaces completely around each finger, so much greater area for heat loss. If your torso and head are sufficiently covered, your hands (and feet) will remain warm, even in fairly thin gloves or (better) mittens. And when you are moving, your hands and feet stay warmer. That's part of the secret of the Himalayan climbers - warm body, warm hands. Plus some people, like me, tend to have warmer hands and feet anyway (there is a fairly common inherited trait, Raynaud's phenomenon, that gives a person poor circulation in the extremities, as do constricting garments, and prior cold injuries).

My personal practice is to take 2 pairs of shell gloves with a medium and a heavy liner for each and one pair of mittens with a medium and a heavy liner, plus 3 or 4 light poly liner gloves when heading into temperatures below 0F for extended trips. The glove and mitten shells are all "gauntlet" style, coming several inches up the arm above the wrist, plus they are made with a natural curve for the fingers (there are some on the market with straight fingers, which tends to hold you hand fully open instead of draped around your poles, ice ax or ice tools).  Each pair of shells is joined by a cord long enough to go around my neck. The medium and heavy liners will stick to the shells by the built-in velcro patches (I have BD, OR, and Marmot shells, the BDs being almost completely worn out, with the OR and Marmot shells being current models). On day trips, I do use gloves similar to the Guide model you mention, but by Black Diamond, Cloudveil, and OR. I also carefully check the weather forecasts and plan for the worst case of non-forecast storms (on Mt Washington, non-forecast storms are common).

Something to consider is putting a foam pad on the head of your ice ax in the area where your hand will rest when walking. That metal ax head will drain heat from your hand through the glove very rapidly in subfreezing temperatures. Cut to the right size and attached judiciously (remember duct tape?) the cover will not interfere with any use of the tool.

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