Best Backpacking Gloves: For A Wonderful Winter Recreation

glove snowflaxes close up
Written by Dennis Owens

While cold weather is ideal for many classic winter activities such as skiing, snowboarding and ice climbing, frigid temps shouldn’t be able to keep you away from some of your favorite summertime outdoor activities, either.

Typical “summertime” activities like backpacking, trail running and climbing are sometimes made even more enjoyable in the winter because of a change of scenery and fewer people on the trial or wall.

All it really takes to have a great winter recreation experience is the right gear to keep you comfortable, and one important component of that is your hands. We’ve compiled a list of six of the best backpacking gloves for winter and cold weather use so that not even cold temperatures can keep you from enjoying time on the trail.

A few considerations for choosing gloves: Features, Materials, and Sizing

The material from which gloves are made and how you plan to use them are the main things to take into account when deciding which gloves to buy. For downhill skiing and other snow sports where you plan to expose your gloves to wet conditions, waterproof material is very important for keeping the insulation and your hands dry.

A grey glove covered with snow on a tree branch

Many gloves designed for this purpose are made with synthetic materials  like nylon. Sports requiring more dexterity or aerobic activity where you plan on working up a sweat should be made of a material that gives your hands and fingers more dexterity. Some gloves take this into account by the positioning of the finger stitching, which allows for better tactile function.

For backpacking, dexterity is especially important at camp when you need to set up tents, cook food, adjust straps, etcetera. Fingers get especially cold after you quit moving on the trail. Another component of many gloves is a material on the palm and fingers of the gloves to help with abrasion resistance. This material can be synthetic or leather, commonly made of goat leather. Abrasion resistance, as well as grip improvement, is important for activities like climbing and rope handling as well as skiing.

As far as waterproof gloves and mittens go, manufacturers vary in the technology they use to waterproof their products. GORE-TEX is commonly used as it is a trusted, tried and true material for breathable waterproofing. Once your hands get wet, it often leads to discomfort or even danger in extremely cold circumstances. This is where wrist closures come into play: more protection against snow or moisture getting inside the gloves is best.

Many gloves on a fence

Some gloves go high up onto the forearm before closing (commonly called gauntlet cuffs), while others employ drawstrings or elastic for guarding against invading snow and moisture. Even the best external waterproof material on the shell of the glove is useless if snow and moisture are able to wet the insulation from the inside.

Many of the gloves in this review feature removable liners. Liners are great because they can be washed separately or used only in cold conditions.

In warmer, wet conditions you can use only the shell of the glove because it keeps your hands dry without overheating them. Different manufacturers use different types of insulation in their gloves. PrimaLoft is a common one.

Good insulation has a high warmth to weight ratio.  Insulation with this property often has a high loft and hollow fibers for trapping warm air without having too much weight. This is especially important for backpacking because gloves can be stashed in pockets or packs without taking up too much space or being too heavy.

A red glove on a tree stump

Gloves with varying types and quantities of insulation are rated for use in different temperatures. For even more warmth, you can find gloves and mittens that are heated, which usually cost substantially more than unheated gloves. Wicking properties of materials are also important for keeping moisture away from the skin. Sweat and condensation can spell trouble in cold weather, especially on hands. Extra features that some gloves have include suede patches on the thumbs for wiping your nose when it is wet, and zippered pockets on the back of the hand for storing heat packs.

The gloves we have included in this review are men’s gloves, but most of them come with a version designed for women’s hands. Sizes for gloves are not universal between brands, so it is a good idea to either try on gloves or if ordering online to take a look at the company’s sizing chart. A size Medium from one company is not the same as a Medium from another in many cases.

Fit is important because large gloves can get in the way and be more apt to allow snow in through the wrist, while small gloves are restrictive and expose skin on your wrists. Most sizing charts require you to measure your hands and wrist, which correlates to the proper size.

Top Gloves on the Market


Weight: 2.8 ounces

Dimensions: Size S (7-7.75 inches circumference; 6.5-7 inches length) through XL (9.5-10 inches circumference; 9-9.5 inches length)

Special features: Tapered wrist, anti-slip silicone palm print, heat pack pocket, reflective logo and trim

Best for: Mild weather skiing or other outdoor activities

Description: The Outdoor Research Versaliner gloves are a lightweight choice for cold and wet weather. They are both insulated and weather resistant, with a 100-weight Radiant fleece liner and a removable Pertex Shield DS ripstop fabric shell. The fleece liner can either be worn by itself or coupled with the nylon ripstop shell.

The shells use a polyurethane film laminate for breathability, durability, and waterproofing. Some extra features in the construction of the Versaliners include the incorporation of silicone on the palms and fingertips of the fleece liner gloves, which helps to improve grip when worn alone and keeps the liners in place when worn with the shells.

They also feature zippered pockets on the back of the hand which can be used to store a heat pack or for other storage. The Versaliners have a tapered wrist to help keep out snow and ice and have reflective logos on the shells to improve nighttime visibility. They are designed for a comfort range of 25 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit, so they are best used for warmer weather activities such as skiing in wet conditions. For $50, they are a great choice for a lightweight, versatile, quality pair of gloves.

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Weight: 12.8 ounces

Dimensions: Size S (7-7.75 inches circumference; 6.5-7 inches length) through XL (9.5-10 inches circumference; 9-9.5 inches length)

Special features: GORE-TEX, Moonlite Pile fleece, PrimaLoft Gold insulation, Kevlar stitching, Pittards leather palms

Best for: Arctic expeditions; extremely cold weather

Description: The Outdoor Research Alti mitts are some of the best you can buy when preparing for very cold weather activities. The Atli mitts are advertised as “built for 8,000 meter peaks and Arctic expeditions,” and their multi-layered construction is certainly designed to withstand extreme weather.

Although they are constructed to hold up in the most extreme cold weather, the Alti mitts are also versatile and feature removable liners, which are insulated with PrimaLoft One on the backs of the hands and the thumbs, while the palms are insulated with fleece. Most of the glove is made of GORE-TEX, which is known for its durability and breathability.

The Alti mitts feature Kevlar stitching, a pocket for storing heat packs, removable leashes, carabiner loops and AlpenGrip tabs to help prevent slipping. The Prima Loft insulation is water resistant and insulates even when damp, which is useful not only for external water exposure but also for sweat.

The mittens also have leather palms in order to improve grip in icy and wet conditions as well as protect the mitts from wear and tear. They also have gauntlet closures, which seal the wrists of the mittens against cold air. While the Alti mitts are expensive, if you need durable mittens with plenty of features to keep your hands extra warm in extreme weather, these are a great choice.

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Weight: 4.5 ounces

Dimensions: Size S (7-7.75 inches circumference; 6.5-7 inches length) through XL (9.5-10 inches circumference; 9-9.5 inches length)

Special features: WINDSTOPPER soft shell fabric, water resistant goat leather palm, polyester tricot lining

Best for: Cold weather multisport use

Description: The Outdoor Research Stormtracker gloves are the “middle of the road” Outdoor Research product we have included in this review. While nowhere near as extreme as the Alti mitts, the Stormtracker gloves are a step above the Versaliners. The back of the Stormtrackers are made of polyester to deflect wind gusts, and the polyester lining is designed to retain heat.

One unique feature of the Stormtracker gloves is that they have a goat leather palm, which helps to maintain a grip on ski poles or ice climbing gear. Leather palms are a great design feature for people who need a glove that will hold up well to extensive handling of ropes. The goat leather helps to extend the life of the Stormtrackers by holding up well to repeated rubbing of ropes.

This makes them a great choice for climbers in cold weather, particularly ice climbing. They also feature an anatomic curve design to promote better dexterity and circulation. While these gloves are not completely windproof, they offer great dexterity, which is great for climbers. Like the other two Outdoor Research gloves featured in this review, the Stormtracker gloves also have an elastic wrist closure to keep out snow and cold windy gusts. For $70, these gloves are durable and a good choice for multisport outdoor use in cold weather.

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Weight: 8.3 ounces per pair

Dimensions: Sizes S (7.75-8.25) through XL (9.5-10)

Special features: Goat skin leather palm; Kevlar stitched palm patch; Removable liner

Best for: Multisport winter outdoor use

Description: The Black Diamond Soloist gloves are another very versatile option for outdoor activities in cold weather. The Soloist gloves have a removable liner made with PrimaLoft Gold insulation, which packs down well for tucking gloves into pockets or other tight spaces. PrimaLoft Gold is also known for its high warmth to weight ratio and water resistance. The Soloist gloves also feature a removable BDry insert, which is waterproof. The shell of the glove is made of four-way stretch nylon for improved abrasion resistance, flexibility, and dexterity.

Dexterity in gloves is important because it allows you to do fine scale tasks without having to take your gloves off and compromise safety or comfort. The Soloist gloves also feature a leather goatskin palm for improved durability and grip, which is stitched on with Kevlar stitching.

Another unique feature of the Soloist gloves is that they have a suede patch on the thumb for wiping your nose when it is wet. Anyone who has ever dealt with an annoying runny nose while trying to enjoy the day outdoors knows how handy this simple addition would be. While the shell can be worn alone on warmer days, the insulating inserts for the gloves make for a warm addition to your winter gear closet. The Soloist gloves are rated for comfort in -15 to 15 degrees Fahrenheit. For $170, these are thoughtfully designed and reliable gloves.

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Weight: 6 ounces

Dimensions: Sizes XS through L

Special features: Suede thumb patch, Thermal Q Elite insulation on inside of gloves

Best for: Climbing in the winter

Description: The Mountain Hardware Hydra Pro gloves are designed for climbing, but like the other gloves included in this review, they can be used for many different outdoor pursuits in the winter. These gloves are thoughtfully designed with dexterity in mind. One unique feature is that they have the seams away from the fingertips, so you get a more tactile sensation in the fingertips without that being hindered by a seam. Additionally, the gloves were designed to conform to your hand for better dexterity.

The glove is made of a nylon shell with four-way stretch and includes a waterproof liner. The palm and fingers are reinforced with goatskin leather for better durability and handling of climbing ropes. The wrist is closed with an adjustable cuff and includes a carabiner loop to hang gloves and keep them dry. Mountain Hardware is a trusted brand for high-quality outdoor gear, and these gloves are no exception for outdoor activities in cold weather.

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Weight: 6 ounces

Dimensions: Sizes XS (6.5-7) through XXL (11-11.5)

Special features: WINDSTOPPER fabric; TEXGlove insert; Polartec Fleece panel

Best for: Skiing, mountaineering, winter multisport activities

Description: Marmot is known as another trusted outdoor gear brand. The Randonee gloves combine several different materials to make a durable and weatherproof glove for multisport outdoor winter activities.

The main material of the gloves is Marmot’s own MemBrain nylon, which is a lamination technology that Marmot uses to reduce internal condensation for material that is both breathable and waterproof. The gloves’ liner is DriClime wicking lining, and the insulation is Thermal R, also manufactured by Marmot. Thermal R has a good warmth to weight ratio and wicking properties due to hollow fibers and high loft.

Unlike some of the other gloves in this review that use a goatskin leather palm, the Randonee gloves have a “Falcon Grip” material on the palm, which is textured for improved grip. The gloves also feature a GORE-TEX insert for waterproofing. One thing to note when ordering these gloves is that the sizes run small, so you might consider going up a size when ordering these gloves. For $100, the Randonee gloves are very comfortable and a great value for ski and backpacking gloves.

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Hold them warm

Cold temperatures and wet weather should be no excuse to keep you from your favorite outdoor activities like climbing and hiking when you have the proper gear. Keeping your hands comfortable, warm and dry is one of the best ways to keep you outside for longer. Depending on the activity you plan on using them for, you can find gloves from the lightly lined and simple to $500 heated mittens.

Having the proper gear can open up a whole new part of the year for you to pursue outdoor fun with fewer people on the trail, not to mention gorgeous winter scenery. If you have any favorite gloves that we did not include in this review, please let us know in the comment section!


Dennis Owens

Dennis Owens is a graduate of National Camping School and REI Outdoor School. He knows everything about what gear to take with you, how to plan your trip to stay safe and what to do if you get lost in the mountains. We are lucky to have Dennis with us as he is a ‘walking encyclopedia’ when it comes to the wilderness.