Everything you need to know about buying gloves

Our very handy guide to keeping your fingers happy

Gloves are surprisingly hard to get right. While warmer-blooded folk might happily use a spring glove all winter long, others will be left holding a hot chocolate for warmth despite wearing a fully-insulated mitten. Whatever your needs, choosing the perfect glove can be the key to on-slope happiness, so here’s how to do it.

Gloves vs Mitten

It’s a debate worthy of Prime Minister’s Questions: do you go four-fingered or opt for the mitten-enforced claw? There’s really only one big advantage of the mitten: it’s considerably warmer thanks to your fingers sharing the same compartment and generating warmth (remember that old survival tip from Blue Peter about squeezing into the same jumper as your mate to share body heat? It’s the same idea).

This Slytech glove offers a compromise between glove and mitten
This Slytech glove offers a compromise between glove and mitten

But what you gain in warmth you lose in dexterity, which often means baring your hand to Instagram that tasty pow shot/adjust your goggle strap. Alternatives include three-fingered trigger designs and clever hybrids such as Slytech’s Powder 3-in-1. 

Guantlet vs Under-the-cuff

You’ll see two lengths dominating our glove picks: short-cuffed gloves that can fit under your jacket (known as under-the-cuff) and arm-dominating cuffs designed to fit over your sleeve (gauntlets).

Gauntlets keep snow from sneaking in | Callum Jelley
Gauntlets keep snow from sneaking in | Callum Jelley

The short cuffs offer great wrist mobility, while gauntlets keep snow from sneaking up your sleeve. What’s best? It’s all down to personal preference, though some jackets work best with certain cuffs, so try before you buy!

Warmth vs Breathability

No-one wants cold fingers, but breathability is just as important as insulation. You can have the warmest glove in the world, but if sweat can’t escape then it will turn cold, fast. Striking a balance comes down to the glove’s composition, and the right combination of membrane, insulation and liner will give you a glove that is both dry and warm.

Materials like Gore-tex, as found in the Arc'teryx Lithic, offer exceptional breathability
Materials like Gore-tex, as found in the Arc’teryx Lithic, offer exceptional breathability

The membrane is especially key in keeping your digits dry, with materials like Gore-Tex and Hipora offering waterproof, windproof and breathable properties. In terms of insulation, Primaloft and Thinsulate dominate, offering low-bulk warmth that’s breathable enough to let moisture escape. Last but not least, the lining should wick moisture away from your hand and through the membrane – synthetics and wools are best for this.

Leather vs synthetics

Leather is the traditional glove-maker’s shell of choice. Usually cowhide or goatskin, it’s durable, supple, dextrous and naturally water-resistant.

Leather: the glovemakers material of choice
Leather: the glovemakers material of choice

Synthetics, especially high-end ones such as Gore-Tex, offer exceptional waterproofing and breathability, but look for palm and thumb reinforcements if you want them to last.