Should You Pack Gloves? Why Mittens May Be a Better Choice

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When it comes to whether you should pack gloves or mittens, the hiking community is quite divided. According to some, gloves are better. And for others mittens are the way to go.

If you are new to hiking in the cold weather then you might be wondering which one to take on your next hiking trip. Good thing for you, I’m here to relieve you from this confusion.

Mittens are much better at preserving heat. In gloves, each individual finger is surrounded by the glove which allows more surface area for the heat to be absorbed and radiated. This is not the case for mittens. But gloves do provide a much superior grip which might be important in some hiking scenarios.

Throughout this article, I explain the benefits and shortcomings of these two a bit in detail and tell you exactly how these two compare. There are valid arguments for both camps. So, I hope that at the end of this article you will have a clear idea of whether you should pack gloves or mittens.

A man hiking on a cold snowy hill, with boots and gloves and full thru hiking backpack setup
A man hiking on a cold snowy hill, feel the cold in your soul

Why Mittens Could be Better Than Gloves

A good comparison must have two things. Arguments for both sides and finally a conclusion where one side is victorious given its pros and cons.

That is exactly what I will do for these two. Let me give you a breakdown of how these two fares when put against each other and what the arguments for each are.

Why Some People Prefer Gloves

I am assuming you have worn gloves at least once in your life. Who hasn’t really? One of the primary arguments for gloves over mittens is apparent the moment you see a glove. It all comes down to dexterity.

Glove devotees will tell you that gloves provide much more dexterity and flexibility compared to mittens. They feel much freer and can use their hands better. And in a hiking situation, you would want to use your hands the best you can.

Another argument for gloves is that they insulate each finger individually. Each finger is separate from one another unlike mittens – which only does it for the thumb.

Why Some People Prefer Mittens

As for people on camp mittens, their argument is you don’t really need that much dexterity and mittens are warmer. Mittens keep all your fingers close together, except the thumb. This allows them to be warmer.

This is great for when hiking in cold climates, as I already mentioned. And the truth of the matter is, mittens do not restrict your dexterity all that much either. You can still hold ski poles, grab onto things and just generally use your hands as you normally would.

I am not at all saying they provide the same dexterity as gloves. But the tradeoff isn’t that significant.

The combination of being warmer and still not restricting hand movement all that much ultimately makes mittens the better choice.

When hiking you might need to tie a rope, cook food, put up a tent, etc. Imagine yourself wearing a mitten in those scenarios.

You can still perfectly do all those things easily without much hassle. As a bonus, your hands will be warmer too. That is a win-win in my book.

On top of that, mittens are easier to take off and put on. When hiking, the last thing you want is to struggle with your gloves when putting them on. Mittens are easiest to put on – at least for me.

In this, mittens are the obvious winner here and they are definitely warmer than gloves.

Why Do Mittens Keep Your Hands Warmer?

Now that I have settled which one is warmer, you might be wondering, why do gloves not keep my hands warm?  Time for some science.

The basic reason is simple. Body heat. You already read one of the main reasons why mittens are more effective in keeping your hands warm is they lack the individual finger slots. All four of your fingers are together. 

The fingers will automatically produce more heat since they are all close and snug. Your thumb is separate from others though. That will not be a problem as the heat generated will keep your whole hand warm.

Synthetic Insulation

Apart from that, you need to make sure you get the right mitten for the job. Not all mittens are made equally. Make sure to get a mitten that has good synthetic insulation or down insulation (more on this a bit later). Synthetic insulation will insulate even when wet and dries faster too.

Down Insulation

Down insulation is fantastic. They work the best when it comes to insulation. There is one big downside though. It loses its ability to insulate when wet. That is why you will see a lot of mittens that use down insulation have some form of waterproofing.

Down is breathable, durable and also light. They are more expensive than synthetic insulation. That is something you need to keep in mind.

These are the ways mittens keep your hands warmer. So, the next time your friends ask you why mittens are warmer than gloves on a cold day, you can be the smart guy and tell them the exact reason.

Which One is Right for You?

All this is fine and dandy. But at the end of the day, you need to pick one for yourself. Choosing between gloves and mittens can be difficult. There are advantages and disadvantages for both.

Go with gloves if you absolutely need the dexterity. That is their primary advantage. Other than that, mittens are the winner for most people who don’t want the utmost dexterity.

Mittens are warmer, easier to put on and also don’t actually restrict your dexterity all that much (of course, they don’t give you the same level of dexterity as gloves). Personally, I would pick mittens for hiking and snow sports like skiing.

You will find a lot of advanced mittens as well. Some are made especially for winter sports and hiking. You can find ones with waterproofing, better insulation and durable materials.

All these together will give you a perfect mitten that you can wear and keep your hands warm and cozy at all times. Winner? Mittens.

Something to Consider

Mittens vs gloves are one thing. But if we are talking about keeping your hands warm, there is one particular thing you need to do regardless of which one you are wearing. Be it gloves or mittens, you need to make sure your hands are moisture-free.

Hiking experts, winter sports experts all will tell you this. Wet hands are not the best for warmth. If your hands have moisture built on them, they will get colder no matter whether you wear gloves or mittens.

That is why it is important to keep your hands as dry as possible. If you follow this advice and wear mittens on top of that, the cold doesn’t stand a chance.

Final Thoughts on Gloves and Mittens

There you have it in mittens vs gloves debate I hope this answers your question; are mittens warmer than gloves once and for all.

If I am being honest with you (which I always am), what works best for you, whether it be gloves or mittens, will depend on multiple factors.

It depends on what activity you will be doing. The temperature and how much dexterity you need for said activity. This article is intended to give you all the tools and an analysis of both gloves and mittens.

That way you can make an educated decision for which one works best for you. Having said that, if warmth is your priority, mittens are hard to beat.

With so many great mittens from different brands, you can buy right now, your options are practically endless.

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