As a top-certified snowboard instructor and avid rider, I’m here to shed some light on the age-old debate of gloves versus mittens. Many claim that mittens are warmer than gloves, but let’s dive deeper into this topic and separate fact from fiction.
First things first, let’s dispel a common misconception. No piece of clothing is inherently warmer or colder than another. The concept of warmth is subjective and depends on the garment’s ability to retain our natural body heat in a comfortable manner.
When it comes to hand coverings, clothing manufacturers face a unique challenge. Gloves and mittens need to strike a delicate balance between durability and dexterity. A high-quality pair of gloves or mittens can be just as expensive as a nice jacket or pants, and for good reason. The real challenge lies not in the fabric itself, thanks to advancements in waterproof/breathable materials like Gore-Tex, but in the construction of these garments.
The Seam Dilemma
To shape a hand covering that accommodates all four fingers and an opposing thumb, numerous seams are required. These seams create hundreds, if not thousands, of tiny holes in the material, raising concerns about both structural and performance integrity. The ability of a hand covering, or any clothing item, to keep you warm depends on two key factors:
Creating a Micro-Climate: An ideal micro-climate is one that keeps the elements out and minimizes moisture levels.
Maintaining Blood Flow: Proper blood flow through the hand area is crucial for maintaining warmth. Any restriction in blood flow can lead to discomfort and chilly fingers.
The Mittens Advantage
Now let’s address the gloves versus mittens debate. Mittens often outperform gloves in two crucial areas:
Design and Durability: Gloves, especially less expensive ones, may lack proper materials or taped seams, leaving room for failure over time. Mittens, on the other hand, have fewer seams and, therefore, a lower chance of structural issues.
Blood Flow: Gloves, with their numerous internal seams and insulation surrounding each finger, can inadvertently restrict blood flow. Even slight pressure can hinder circulation. Mittens, with their simpler design, have a reduced chance of causing this restriction.
For either one, I highly recommend getting a pair that are waterproof / breathable with taped seams. You will be much more comfortable and happier for it.
So, are mittens truly warmer than gloves? Sometimes, but not necessarily. With the right pair of gloves tailored to your needs, you can conquer even the coldest days on the slopes. Personally, I have a pair that works like a charm! They keep my hands warm and dry and have that familiar feeling that gloves provide. However, I also enjoy the comfort of mittens — especially on the coldest days. Ultimately, it comes down to personal preference.
Bonus Q & A about snowboard gloves and mitts:
Q: Is there a difference between snowboard gloves & mitts for snowboarding and those made for skiing?
A: In short, not really. Manufacturers sometimes make some claims to the contrary, but in reality the differences between alpine ski-specific gloves and snowboard-specific gloves are minimal. For the most part, the hand coverings cross over from one activity to the other.
Q: What should I look for when buying gloves or mitts?
- Material: Choose gloves made from waterproof/breathable and insulating materials like Gore-Tex, GORE® WINDSTOPPER™, or Hipora that can keep your hands dry and warm in cold weather conditions.
- Fit: Make sure the gloves fit comfortably without being too tight or loose. Proper fitting is essential for good dexterity and warmth retention. A little on the roomy side is good for dexterity for things like strapping bindings.
- Powder cuff: A powder cuff can be a useful feature for snowboarding gloves or mittens as it helps prevent snow from entering the glove when you’re riding through deep powder snow. It is essentially an an extra piece of material from the wrist up the arm with an adjustable elastic band that wraps around your lower arm. It creates a seal between your jacket sleeve and the glove to keep out snow and cold air.
- Grip: Check for gloves with textured palms or silicone grips to provide better control when adjusting bindings, or grabbing onto equipment.