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Dachstein 4 Ply Boiled Wool Alpine Mittens

rated 4.5 of 5 stars
photo: Dachstein 4 Ply Boiled Wool Alpine Mittens soft shell glove/mitten

Thick wool mittens for winter weather. The key distinguishing factor is that boiled wool is thick and more resistant to wind and moisture than most other wool mitts. Because the weave is so tight, there is limited room for layering underneath them, but layering a shell over them, they’re a good option for cold weather. Durability is another plus.

Pros

  • Thick and warm wool
  • Very durable
  • Price vs. warmth
  • Resistance to wind and wet

Cons

  • Not much stretch
  • Roll up cuff can be a pain

Introduction

Old but good. Made in Austria of boiled wool. Breaking down the science behind this, washing some kinds of woven wool in hot water causes it to shrink, making the wool thicker and the weave tighter and more compact. They feel a bit like the thick felt liner you might find in an old pair of winter pac boots. 

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Back of the mitt, cuff rolled up

Boiled wool is an excellent material for warm winter gear because the wool is thick, the tighter weave resists a decent amount of wind, and snow and ice might be caking the outside of the mitt but doesn’t soak in. 

The cuffs on these mitts are tight. If you wear a watch or fitness tracker, the rolled up cuffs struggle to fit over those, and it can be mildly annoying…though not as bad as having painfully numb fingers.

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front of the mitt, including thumb

This is my third pair of Dachstein wool mitts. I bought the first pair when I started winter hiking in high school, more than 35 years ago, then replaced them when they disappeared in college. I still have that old pair for shoveling snow; bought these as a backup winter hiking mitt about ten years ago. The price has gradually increased, they cost $50-75 now.

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back view, cuffs not rolled

 

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front view

How warm are they?

Very. I spent half the day outside today in weather that was low-mid 20s Fahrenheit, winds in the 20s. I was well-dressed for the weather, two fleece layers and a hard shell, and I wore these mittens alone. I had a pair of fleece liner gloves but didn’t need them.

The first ten years I hiked in the winter in New Hampshire and upstate New York, these were my winter mittens—worn under an oversized pair of cordura nylon shell mitts with a gauntlet and occasionally with wool glove liners. With the cuff unrolled, you can put these mitts on, then layer up, and the long cuff helps keep snow and spindrift off your wrists. Because they don’t stretch much, removing them to use your fingers and putting them back on can be a chore. 

I have worn these mitts, with a liner and an uninsulated overmitt/shell, in temperatures down to -35°f. Anyone who says their hands were "toasty" at those temperatures is probably exaggerating, but if you’re otherwise appropriately insulating your head and core, your fingers and thumb might get a little tingly in these; I never got frostbite with this setup.

It’s important to get the right size. If you plan to wear liner gloves underneath, size up. Boiled wool doesn’t stretch much, so wearing too much underneath boiled wool gloves can constrict your circulation.

Wind and water

More appropriately, wind and snow/ice. If you dip boiled wool gloves in a cold stream, they’ll wet out and water will get in, but in cold temperatures, snow and ice don’t penetrate. if it’s really windy, in excess of roughly 25-35 mph, you’ll start to feel cold air penetrating, which is why I paired them windproof shells in deep cold and the high winds often present on tall mountains in the winter.  

In the mid-Atlantic, boiled wool mitts could be your primary winter mitt/glove. In very cold weather, persistently below zero and dipping toward -30°f and colder, there are modern options that I think work better. A good pair of down or synthetic-fill winter mitts like Outdoor Research’s Alti Mitt provide more insulation and wind resistance, and they’re easier to take on and off. One of these modern shell/insulated insert mitts serves as my primary winter mittens when we’re heading up the Lion’s Head to the summit of Mt. Washington in frigid weather. A boiled wool mitt with a mitten shell are still an able backup, though. 

Boiled wool is exceedingly tough and durable. Unless they are badly abused or neglected, they will last a long time.

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I rarely wash these—some ground-in dirt

Conclusions

A warm and relatively inexpensive option to keep your hands warm, compared to more expensive shell/insulated options. They’re simple, they work, and they’re sturdy. They can be a hassle to take on and off because they don’t stretch much, and they obviously lack modern features like a leash to prevent them from blowing away. Though I have many insulated mitts and gloves, I keep coming back to these and using them.

Background

Over thirty years of use (three different pair) for winter hiking in New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, Minnesota, and western Pennsylvania, and as a stand-alone shoveling, dog-walking, and snowblower-operating mitten.

Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $55

About the Author

Andrew Friedman is a New Hampshire native who loves the Presidentials and spent his college summers guiding trips in the Adirondack High Peaks. He loved introducing his children to hiking and the outdoors. In addition to New England and the Adirondacks, he has hiked the shores of the Great Lakes, the Tetons, a number of California's state and national parks, the Albanian Alps, and trails in India, Asia, and the Middle East. Andrew logged his first review on Trailspace in 2007 and joined the Trailspace Review Corps in 2011. Andrew lives and works in the DC metro area.

The warmest wool mittens available! Excellent mitten liners for extreme cold. Proven on many mountaineering expeditions for decades.

Pros

  • Warmest wool mittens
  • Excellent severe weather insulation
  • Very windproof if worn without shells
  • Dense and thick
  • They cover the wrists

Cons

  • $60 a pair

These mittens are legendary. Made in Austria of 100% wool they are knit from 4 ply wool yarn and boiled on a form until they are very dense and thick.

I bought my Dachstein boiled wool mittens in 1978 for $45. In 1979 I was a National Nordic Ski Patroller at the '79 World Cup Nordic games at Lake Placid, N.Y. (the "Pre-Olympics")

Temperatures that week were mostly in the -20° F to -10° F range with the last day being -40° F. I wore my Dachsteins inside a nylon gauntlet mitten shell with leather palms. My hands were always warm, even at -40° F.

I still use these Dachsteins today for bitter cold weather. Durability? YEP!

Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $45

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Specs

Price MSRP: $65.95
Current Retail: $74.95
Reviewers Paid: $45.00-$55.00

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