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Layering Gloves and Mitts for Cold Weather

A fair amount of people ask what to wear on the hands for cool and cold weather hiking. Here’s Joe's take. Keeping your hands warm during cool and cold weather activity can be difficult.

The body naturally wants to keep the core and the brain the warmest and concentrating less on our extremities. Unlike our feet, our hands are often exposed to the elements and required to perform many different functions where dexterity is needed.

Wear too bulky of a glove or mitten, and it is hard to rig up a shelter, start a stove, fish out some trail mix and other needed functions.  Expose your hands and your hands can even get cold or frost bit.

Being able to perform needed tasks while keeping  hands warm AND dry is something even experienced outdoors people can have a difficult time achieving.

Most people started off by using one glove or mitten for all tasks. Be it winter or three season use.

So the hands get cold. They get wet. A miserable time is often had outdoors.

So, what to do? How to thrive and even enjoy the various elements  Nature throws at you?

The simple solution is to LAYER.

Layering provides much versatility.  You are able to fetch your thermos of hot chocolate easily and walk through the wet and cold Algoma Highlands in early spring. 

Rather than one bulky glove or mitten, you have a system.  Yeah!

So what system to use? Here’s what works for Joe:

Base Layer – Liner Glove

Gloves allow more versatility; mittens are warmer.  Bring them both.  The first layer  Joe wears is a liner glove. Liner gloves are worn all four seasons.A thin glove provides moderate warmth when stationary and often plenty of warmth when moving in cool to cold and dry weather.

There are many choices to choose from. From thin Smartwool liners, to polypro liners to very thin spandex liners. 

For three season backpacking, Joe often wears liners by themselves. On warm and sunny winter days, especially when moving. 



Shell Layer

For all four seasons, Bring a shell mitten of some sort.On particularly cold and/or windy days, a mitten over a base layer helps retain heat.   When it is snowing or raining out, the shell layer helps keep my inner layers dry.

Try to find one that is a bit larger than your normal glove size so as to layer comfortably and for dexterity so you can avoid exposing your base layer gloves as much as possible. You will want a moderately loose fit.  Too tight, and your hands are constricted and actually have less warmth. Too loose and there is more cold air to heat up in the mitten and it will not be efficient.

With the liner glove and shell mitt system, Joe has been comfortable in temps below zero when moving while ski touring in Searchmont and in the cold and wet weather in  Pukaskswa.

So what to do when it is really cold, you are in camp and can’t seem to generate enough heat? You need a mid-layer

Mid-Layer : Thicker Mitten

Joe prefers a mitten versus a glove because they are warmer. 



As with other pieces of outdoor clothing, layering is key.  It is better to layer your hands than to rely on one bulky mitten or glove. The combo of a base layer glove with a mid-layer mitten and  shell mitten over both is warm, good for all weather conditions, versatile and is favoured by many experienced outdoors people for solid reasons.

The specifics of the system will vary from person to person. Some like one brand over another. Some prefer fleece or polypro to wool. But the liner/mid-layer/shell mitt combo works. And it works well.

Talk to staff at Joe's Sports and Surplus about layering with gloves and mitts.   We stock the finest from Outdoor Research,  The NorthFace, Columbia, Marmot, Gordini,and Baffin, Choko and GKS.