Gloves vs. Mittens: Which is Better?

Erin Spence – December 18th, 2021

Wearing mittens or gloves is a highly contested topic in the ski and snowboarding world. Gloves offer more dexterity, because there are individual pockets for each finger, allowing you to do things like zip up your jacket without taking them off.

Mittens offer more warmth, as they keep all four of your fingers together in one pocket, with only your thumb being free. Because all those fingers are together, they all share the body heat they create, thus keeping your hands warmer.

The compromise between mittens and gloves is the lobster, which keeps your pinky, ring finger, and middle finger together, while your thumb and pointer finger are free, like a lobster claw.

While it is a matter of personal preference, we recommend that you reach for a pair of mittens next time you head up to the mountain because of the warmth factor. We’ll break down all of the considerations you need to make before choosing a pair of mittens or gloves.

Types of Mittens vs Gloves

Gloves

The main benefit of wearing a pair of gloves over mittens is the added dexterity that you get because all of your fingers are separated, making it easier to use your hands.

This will help you hold your ski poles better, unzip pockets and zippers, and buckle and unbuckle your boots. You can save yourself a lot of discomfort if you’re able to do all of those things without having to take off your gloves in the cold.

While gloves are great for when you need to use your hands, they aren’t as warm as mittens. Because each finger is in a separate pocket, they don’t produce as much body heat as they would if they were all together.

This makes gloves a great option if you are skiing or snowboarding on a day when it’s not too cold, or when you’re going to be using your hands a lot throughout the day.

Pros:

  • Gloves are the best option for dexterity
  • Make it easy to hold your poles, or buckle and unzip gear
  • Can be a good option on warm days or if you tend to run warmer while skiing

Cons:

  • Less warm than mittens as they don’t have shared body heat throughout the fingers

Mittens

Mittens can offer substantially more warmth than gloves. Because mittens keep all four of your fingers together in one pocket, they share collective body heat, and will keep you warmer.

However, because your fingers aren’t separated, it can be much more difficult to do certain things with your hands, and you may need to take your mittens off to do certain tasks.

Some mittens have individual finger slots for each finger to go into, which can help give you more dexterity as it forces the mittens to move with your hand.

Mittens with individual finger slots are great if you ski, as it will make it easier to hold your ski poles comfortably.

Pros:

  • Mittens are the warmest option to wear
  • Individual finger slots help with dexterity

Cons:

  • Not as much dexterity as gloves can make it difficult to handle certain things

Lobster

Lobster mittens, also sometimes called lobster gloves, are the best of both worlds. Lobster mittens are shaped like a lobster’s claw, with three pockets for fingers.

Your pinky, ring finger, and middle finger are all in the same pocket, while your thumb and pointer finger are free. This means that you get the warmth from your fingers sharing body heat, but also the dexterity of having some fingers separated.

While lobster mittens are a great way to compromise between mittens and gloves, they can also be more difficult to find because they aren’t as common.

They are very unique looking, and some may not like the way they look compared to the common look of mittens and gloves.

Pros:

  • They offer more dexterity than mittens
  • They are warmer than gloves

Cons:

  • They aren’t a very common style, so they can be difficult to find
  • Not as classic of a look as mittens or gloves

3-in-1

The 3-in-1 glove offers a versatile option for warm or cold weather. These gloves have a separate liner that you put on first. This liner is thin and flexible, and often made out of a fleece material.

Once that liner is on your hand, you’ll put on the second layer, which is just like regular gloves, and will generally be insulated and waterproof. The double layer adds a lot of warmth, but you then also have the option to ditch the outer layer if you just want to wear something lighter.

This also provides you with some warmth on your hands if you need to use your phone, as many of the liners have touchscreen capability.

Pros:

  • Added warmth from wearing two layers
  • Liner provides touchscreen compatibility
  • Option to wear the liner alone as a more breathable, warm weather option

Cons:

  • Less convenient as you need to put four separate gloves on

Types of Insulation

Gloves and mittens are made from a few different types of insulation. Insulation is a very important part of choosing gloves, as it is what will actually keep your hands warm by trapping body heat. The most common types of insulation in ski gloves and mittens is down, synthetic, fleece and wool.

Down

Down insulation is awesome on really cold days. Down works as a great insulator because the down loft traps heat so well.

A pair of mittens with down insulation would be best used on cold but dry days. Although down is one of the warmest insulators, it doesn’t do well when it gets wet. Moisture causes the down to clump up, and then it will fail to insulate you entirely, so be sure to use down mittens only on days when there isn’t wet snow or rain. I

t’s also important to note that down mittens can take up a lot of space, and look larger than other mittens because they are so full of down.

Synthetic

Synthetic insulation is a common go-to option for many types of gloves and mittens. Synthetic insulation offers great warmth, even in rainy conditions.

Because it’s synthetic, this insulation won’t clump when it gets wet, and will still provide warmth. Synthetic is also often more breathable than down, making it a versatile insulation option. 

Fleece

Fleece is a good insulator in warm condition gloves.

Oftentimes, these thin gloves or mittens will be lined with fleece, providing you with light insulation in warmer weather.

Wool

Wool can act as a great insulator in gloves and mittens, but might not be as easy to find as down and synthetic insulation because it isn’t quite as common.

Wool is heavy, but stays warm when it gets wet and can also provide good breathability.

Mittens vs Gloves for Skiing?

Bottom Line

If you are a skier, you may find that you like gloves more because of the dexterity. They can help you to do more things while keeping them on, such as zip jackets and unbuckle boots, but you also need to consider that you will be holding your poles in your hand for the entire day.

You may find that mittens don’t allow you to grip your poles as well as gloves because they restrict your fingers too much.

If you’re in the market for ski gloves, we recommend :

1. Flylow Ridge or Flylow Savage Gloves

2. Black Diamond Guide Gloves

3. Gordini Mens Gore-tex Storm Trooper II

Mittens vs Gloves for Snowboarding?

Bottom Line

For snowboarding, mittens would most likely be your best choice. Because you most likely don’t constantly need to be holding something while snowboarding, you don’t need the constant dexterity that gloves provide.

Mittens will keep your hands warmer, and are generally the most common choice for snowboarders. If you feel that you need a bit more dexterity for a day of snowboarding, you can opt to find a pair of mittens with individual finger slots.

If you’re in the market for Snowboarding Mitts, we recommend :

1. Kinco Lined Pigskin Mittens

2. Black Diamond Spark Mittens

3. Burton GORE-TEX Mittens

Mittens & Gloves Features

Warmth: Which is warmer Mittens vs Gloves?

Mittens are substantially warmer than gloves. Because your four fingers are all together, they will be able to generate more warmth and share that warmth. Gloves are less warm because the fingers are entirely separated. This means that there is more surface area in contact with the cold, and it’s easier for each individual finger to get cold.

When choosing mittens or gloves, make sure that you get a pair that is insulated and has a strong outer material that will prevent cold air from coming in contact with your hands.

Mittens vs Gloves: Breathability

Generally gloves are more breathable than mittens for the same reason that the fingers are separated. This allows each individual finger to come in contact with the cold air more.

On warmer days, this is a large benefit of wearing gloves. Breathability is also very dependent on the material that the gloves or mittens are made out of.

If they are fully waterproof and insulated, they probably will not be the most breathable option because they block cold air and moisture and insulate the hands.

However, some mittens and gloves are made of thinner materials for the purpose of using on warm days, and will be much more breathable.

Mittens vs Gloves: Waterproofing

Waterproofing is something that won’t be different if you have gloves or mittens. It all depends on what they are made out of. Waterproof mittens or gloves are a necessity if you live in places like the Northeast or Pacific Northwest where rain and wet snow conditions are common.

There is nothing worse than a wet pair of mittens or gloves. Once they get wet, your hands will get cold immediately.

Because mittens and gloves are made of so many different materials, you really need to be sure that you are purchasing a pair that is made from a waterproof or water resistant material. Note that sometimes the waterproofing is inside the outer layer of gloves.

Keep in mind that it is also common for skiers or snowboarders to purchase a waterproofing solution to apply to their gloves or mittens. These waterproofing solutions are generally easy to apply, and can be a great option for those who want to waterproof a pair of gloves that isn’t waterproof enough.

Mittens vs Gloves: Touchscreen Compatibility

Touchscreen compatibility is something you really only see in certain types of gloves. It isn’t extremely common in cold weather ski gloves, because they are generally too thick to be compatible.

However, some gloves that are thinner or designed for warmer weather may be made of a different material on your thumb and pointer finger which would allow you to use your device while you’re wearing your gloves.

Mittens vs Gloves: Size and Fit

Although the fit is different between the two, the size and fit of gloves and mittens is the same. They should be snug on your hands but not too tight or too loose. If they are too tight, they can be constricting and uncomfortable.

If they are too loose, they will be less dexterous with the excess material. It’s always best to try mittens or gloves on in person so you can make sure that you get the best size to fit your hand and fingers.

Heated Gloves and Mittens

Heated gloves and mittens look just like regular gloves and mittens, with the addition of a battery powered heater. If you tend to get really cold while skiing or snowboarding, heated mittens can be a great option.

We recommend that you opt for heated mittens rather than gloves, so that you can get the natural warmth benefit of mittens in addition to the heater.

Additional Features of Mittens & Gloves

Leather Palms

Many mittens and gloves are equipped with leather palms, even if the rest of the glove or mitten isn’t made of leather.

This is because leather offers a durable and grippy material, which will help you to hold your ski poles better.

Long Gauntlet Cuffs

There’s nothing worse than the gap of exposed skin that can occur between your mittens and the cuff of your jacket. Long gauntlet cuffs help to prevent that issue, as the cuff of the mitten extends a few inches past your wrist.

Some people opt to tuck that cuff into the sleeve of your jacket, but you can also tuck your jacket sleeves into the cuffs of the mittens. It really depends on the thickness of your jacket and what feels more comfortable.

Wrist Cinches

Wrist cinches help mittens and gloves to stay on your hands better. Sometimes, if you have a jacket made from a stiffer material or a jacket with longer sleeves, the sleeves can push your mittens off of your hands throughout the day.

Wrist cinches allow you to tighten your mittens or gloves around your wrist to make sure they stay in place.

Zippered Pockets

Some mittens and gloves offer very small zippered pockets that you can put small items inside.

Most of the time these pockets are designed for hand warmers to go in, but you could also put your ski pass or even cash if it fits.

Thumb Wipes

The thumb wipes on gloves or mittens is an underrated but important feature. The thumb wipe is a small patch of softer, velvet-like fabric located on just one or both of the thumbs.

This softer material allows you to wipe your nose with your mittens or gloves on without irritating it with the material that your gloves are made of otherwise.

Leashes or Wrist Cords

Leashes, also known as wrist cords, allow you to take your mittens and gloves off without the fear of losing them. There is a small cord that gently wraps around your wrist, and the other end is sewn into the glove.

They are small enough that they don’t feel uncomfortable inside of a mitten. Leashes can be great to have on the chairlift when you want to let your hands breathe on a hot day, because your mittens will just hang below you, and you don’t have to worry about dropping them off the lift.

How to Keep Your Hands Warm

Tip 1:  Making sure that your hands are dry from sweat or moisture before you put your gloves on is very important to keeping them dry. Dry hands are warm hands!

Tip 2:  If you are worried about having cold hands while skiing or snowboarding, you should opt for mittens as they will keep your hands warmer than gloves.

Tip 3:  Choosing the right size of mittens is extremely important for hand and finger warmth. If the mittens are too big, there will be extra air space on the inside, making it more difficult for your body heat to heat up the extra space.

Tip 4:  Make sure that you get a pair of mittens that are specifically designed for skiing and snowboarding. They should be water resistant, and thick enough to accommodate the airflow from traveling down the mountain.

Tip 5:  You can always add a pair of hand warmers inside gloves or mittens to keep your hands extra warm. Hand warmers work slightly better in mittens because of the extra room, and are a great way to add some extra heat to your hands and fingers for a few hours.

FAQs

Why do snowboarders wear mittens instead of gloves?

Snowboarders wear mittens instead of gloves mostly because they do not need the dexterity that gloves offer.

Because they don’t hold poles, they don’t need to be constantly gripping something with their hands. Also, in terms of style, mittens are just a more classic style option for snowboarders.

Are fleece gloves good for snow?

Fleece gloves are not adequate for being in the snow, and definitely not a good option for skiing or snowboarding.

Because they aren’t waterproof, they won’t stay dry in the snowy conditions. Fleece gloves are also generally far too thin for skiing or snowboarding.

What kind of gloves keep your hands the warmest?

Any glove or mitten that has a waterproof or water resistant shell material and a warm insulation, either down or synthetic, will be your warmest option.

They will protect you from the elements and trap body heat.

Should gloves fit tight or loose? 

Gloves shouldn’t fit tight or loose. They should feel snug or your hands, but shouldn’t be too tight or feel like they are falling off.

There are many detriments to wearing gloves that are too big and wearing gloves that are too small.

How much should I spend on ski gloves?

The price of ski gloves can range anywhere from $40 to $200. Leather gloves are often the most expensive. Luckily, there are many options when it comes to price, so you will always be able to find something that works for you.