Gloves and mittens are two different styles of hand coverings that are designed to do the same thing – keep your hands warm. So how do you pick between them? Is one better than the other?
There’s a reason gloves and mittens get so much attention. British researcher Markham Heid reports that the temperature of your hands and feet dominate your overall feeling of how comfortable you are. So even if you’re bundled up in the perfect coat for frigid winter temperatures, it won’t help as much as expected if your fingers are exposed.
Gloves and mittens are also essential tools for preventing frostbite, and they’re required in order to properly dress in layers. Here is everything you need to know about gloves and mittens and how to choose the correct hand protection for every situation.
What’s the Difference Between Gloves and Mittens?
While both gloves and mittens are designed to completely insulate your hands, in gloves the fingers are individually separated. In mittens the thumb is separated by itself and the other four fingers are together.
Many people believe mittens keep them warmer because of the heat that comes from having those four fingers touching each other. However, mittens can be more awkward to use, as anyone who has tried to zip up a coat while wearing mittens can tell you.
Gloves don’t give the fingers the advantage of warming each other up. But hands are more useful and have more dexterity in gloves instead of mittens.
Mittens may be the best choice for:
- Downhill Skiing
- Mid-western peninsulas
Gloves may be the best choice for:
- Cross-Country Skiing
- Winter Fishing
- Any activity that requires taking gear on or off or opening and closing latches or buckles or zippers
You should be wearing gloves or mittens for every winter sport—even the obscure ones. Being prepared with the right clothing now can protect you from frostbite later.
The Glove and Mitten Test in Antarctica
One researcher decided to put gloves and mittens to the test in extreme winter conditions in Antarctica. In a study published in the International Journal of Circumpolar Health, this scientist tested out gloves and mittens by taking the same 20-minute walk in temperatures that were less than or equal to -10 degrees Fahrenheit with a wind chill between -25 to -35 degrees Fahrenheit. He took the temperature inside each mitten or glove at the end of each walk to determine if the hands were comfortable. His results found:
- Heated gloves and mittens work about the same at keeping the hands warm.
- Mittens that include a warm liner layer were the next warmest.
- Mittens that didn’t have warm layer liners were the next warmest.
- And unheated gloves came in at the bottom of the test.
This researcher also concluded that it didn’t matter if he chose gloves or mittens. Fine motor skills were difficult to do in either.
How Do You Choose Between Gloves and Mittens?
The perfect hand covering for you is the style that comes with the features that work best for you. Do you need them to be waterproof? How much insulation do you need them to have and are you looking for down or a synthetic? Do you want a removable liner? Is it important to you that the cuffs seal? What kind of fabric is covering the palm of the glove or mitten? Do you have to have a built-in leash so you don’t lose them?
Think carefully about the activities you need these gloves or mittens for and how much dexterity is necessary, especially if you’re dressing a child to keep them warm in the cold. Then, look for a good fit in either a glove or a mitten. If they are too big and there is too much space in the fingers or at the wrist, they are not going to keep you as warm.
When your hands are warm, you feel warm. Pick a glove or a mitten that works best for your lifestyle made from the materials you like. And don’t forget to have fun out there!