Gloves and Hand Warmth

One of the most important things when hiking in the cold and snow is keeping your hands warm. Your hands can quickly lose heat (and fine motor skills) when exposed to the cold, and the last thing you want is the inability to use your hands – or even worse, frostbite.

Just like with my clothing, I also use a layering system with my gloves.

Inner Glove

I wear a thin, inner glove, that allows me to easily work my cameras, drone, and phone without having to expose my bare skin to the elements. These gloves fit almost skin tight, and can easily reach into pockets, open zippers, etc. In previous winters, I had only used a one glove system, and had several hikes where my hands were in physical pain from the cold after fumbling with my cameras for a few minutes. I learned my lesson, and now my hands stay warm and mobile throughout the hike.

I currently use a Marmot glove, which has worked quite well, but the thumb on one of the gloves is having some trouble with touchscreens. I will likely be looking for a better option in the near future, but these still have been great for the most part. Here is the link to buy on Amazon, but if you live somewhere where it is cold and have a Marshalls/TjMaxx/Ross store near you, they usually will have this or a similar glove for $10-15.

Outer Glove

The outer glove is the one that does the bulk of the work in keeping your hands warm, as this will have the insulation to keep that warmth in and the elements out. You won’t have nearly as much tactile control as you do normally, but most gloves still give you the ability to pull zippers (if you’ve got loops), hold gear, etc.

The glove that you prefer comes down to personal preference, but you should make sure that they are:

  • Waterproof
  • Insulated (3M Thinsulate, down, etc)
  • Have a skirt to go over your jacket
  • Touch screen ability is a plus, but likely won’t perform well through 2 gloves.

Like most of my gear, I strongly urge you to carry a backup set of outer gloves for winter hikes in case you drop one (or both). Cold hands can make doing anything in the cold extremely difficult and dangerous.

Here are several of the outer gloves that I have used and would recommend. Like I mentioned above, various brands such as Spyder, Northface, Columbia, Marmot, etc. can often be found at deep discounts in stores like TjMaxx/Ross/Marshalls. Most of these pairs have been acquired there, usually for around $15-20.

If you are doing serious, sub-zero alpine hiking and climbing, you will need to look for down gloves with a heavy fill power. I would consult a mountaineering website such as Eastern Mountain Sports or REI for more info about gloves to use in much colder scenarios.

Hand Warmers

In addition to gloves, you may also want to carry some air-activated hand warmers for additional warmth. These can be put inside of your gloves, or your pockets, and can get very warm – avoid having them in direct contact with skin for extended periods of time. Some can provide warmth for up to 18 hours, and can even be preserved/used again later by storing them in an airtight container. Click here to buy them from Amazon in bulk pack that should last you through multiple winters.

In addition, I usually keep several of the larger ‘body sized’ warmers (about 4″ x 5″) in my emergency kit, as they can help to warm up the space blanket emergency bivy in the event that I have to spend an unexpected night in the elements awaiting rescue. Click here to buy the larger body sized warmers.


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