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Experimental rain gloves: Handwear for cold-and-wet conditions

Will these keep my hands warm & dry when it’s cold and wet? Medium-duty latex gloves, 3 oz and $5, layered over my liner gloves.

On Thursday I start a yo-yo of the Pfiffner Traverse, a 77-mile high route in Colorado’s Front Range between Milner and Berthoud Passes, and I firmly expect at least one monsoonal drenching during the course of it, if not multiple.

The backpacking conditions for which I still have the fewest answers is when it’s cold and wet. And, unfortunately, this is the exact scenario that can be brought on by Colorado’s afternoon storms: rain falls in buckets, winds pick up, and temperatures plummet.

My hands are always the first to go in these conditions. First they get wet, then cold, and finally numb, which makes for at least a suffer-fest if not a show-stopper.

Oddly, the outdoor industry has few solutions for keeping hands warm and dry when it’s cold and wet. Let’s discuss the current options, and then my experiment.

State of the market

The industry’s conventional answer to cold-and-wet conditions is a waterproof/breathable shell worn over layers of clothing. For example: hiking shirt, fleece top, WP/B jacket.

Whereas rain jackets and pants are widely available, I know of only one mass-production shell: the Outdoor Research Revel Mitts, which weigh 3.5 oz and retail for $60. REI still shows their Minimalist Waterproof Mittens on their website, but they haven’t been in stock in 6 or 12 months.

More options are available from the cottage industry:

I believe that these products are all flawed. I’m generally skeptical of the performance of WPB fabrics already. But handwear is a particularly bad application for it: the performance of WPB fabrics is adversely affected by abrasion and body oils (due to degradation of the DWR finish), and mitts are subjected extensively to both.

Cuben Fiber does not rely on DWR, but it still has an issue with abrasion: this is its weakest performance trait. I’m also not thrilled by the associated $80 price tag.

My experiment

On this trip I’m bringing with me Grease Monkey Neoprene Long Cuff Gloves, which I found at the local Home Depot for $5. They weigh 3.0 oz in size Extra Large, which I can layer over my wool DeFeet Duragloves (size M) or my Glacier Glove Ascension Bay Sun Gloves (size L). The size Large fit well, but don’t leave me room for layering.

Gloves are not as warm as mitts, but in this case I think the root issue is that my hands are getting wet (and then cold). The ambient temperatures are not the problem. So if I keep my hands dry, keeping them warm may not be as difficult.

I’m unconcerned about fabric breathability, or lack thereof. If my hands get too hot (a reason to rejoice), I can quickly remove the gloves to vent.

They are thicker (and therefore more durable) than typical dishwashing gloves. But for long-term constant use, I’d look elsewhere.

3-oz latex gloves from Home Depot for $5

Other options

I purchased two other pairs of gloves before finding these.

Nitrile-dipped gloves from Stanley, very similar to this Firm Grip model, also available from HD (online at least) for $5. They are the lightest option (2.0 oz), but they are only waterproof to the cuff, which seemed inadequate to me.

These nitrile-dipped polyester gloves seemed inadequately waterproof.

True Blues Ultimate Household Gloves are the most durable of the bunch, but also the heaviest (5.7 oz) and most expensive ($11) for the size Large. They seemed excessively heavy-duty.

These are the more durable, heaviest, and most expensive option. They seemed overkill.

I’ll report back after the trip. If you’ve experimented along these lines before, what was your experience?



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36 Responses to Experimental rain gloves: Handwear for cold-and-wet conditions

  1. Darkness Falls July 9, 2017 at 10:38 pm #

    Typo: The Boarh Gear link goes to the MLD page. It should link to http://borahgear.com/eventmitts.html.

    • Andrew Skurka July 10, 2017 at 7:19 am #

      thx

  2. Matt July 10, 2017 at 12:29 pm #

    What are your thoughts on thicker wool gloves, knowing that they’ll get drenched but keep you somewhat warm? When i was in iceland a glacier guide had a pair during a pretty cold and wet day, afterwards I decided to try a pair (from RAB) and so far I’ve liked them although there is a comfort factor since the hands do get wet.

    • Andrew Skurka July 10, 2017 at 12:35 pm #

      I’ve tried that multiple times, and it’s never worked. I’ve tried wool and fleece. The idea that wool is “warm when wet” is the second greatest myth of the outdoor industry, behind waterproof-breathable fabrics. The only way for wool to be warm when wet is if you pee on it, and even that only provides short-term relief. Wool is warmer when wet than polyester, but it’s not warm.

      • Bug Juice July 10, 2017 at 8:24 pm #

        Thank you for acknowledging the myth of “warm-wet-wool” !

  3. Nick Gatel July 10, 2017 at 1:54 pm #

    The biggest problem is for folks who use trekking poles. I don’t use them. The thin nitrile gloves are tougher than you may think. Auto mechanics use them to keep their hands clean, although they’ll go through a few pairs a day… usually because when they take them off to clean their tools and do paperwork it is just easier to throw them away and get a new pair for the next job.

    I use the thin nitrile gloves from Home Depot. 100 gloves for $10. I wear them next to my skin, they work like a vapor barrier liner. When the wind howls, your hands can still get cold. Then, thin wool glove liners and cuben mitts over the nitrile gloves cover the bases for me except in winter. Mix and match. Nitrile only; Nitrile and Cuben mitts; Nitrile under wool glove liners and Cuben mitt. Yes, the cuben is expensive, but I’ve had mine for a few years now, and the dollar cost average per year gets better each year.

  4. FuMing July 10, 2017 at 2:01 pm #

    the problem with these would likely be the way water gets into them…
    once water gets in you’ll likely face the same issue, though it rubber does block out the wind… not the icy cold rain( if u manage to get some into the gloves while wearing)…
    considered making a water absorbent “protection” at the glove opening?
    since the arms would be less skeptical to cold it might work 🙂

  5. Steffen July 10, 2017 at 2:49 pm #

    How about those: http://bit.ly/2v5ctGO – not exactly lightweight (5.1 oz.(145g)/pair) and mainly tailored for being used with Pacerpoles, but I liked them a lot in cold-and-wet conditions on my last two hikes in northern Scandinavia. Maybe a general principle worth considering?

    • Andrew Skurka July 10, 2017 at 4:31 pm #

      I like the idea, but I’d rather see them made of WP fabric rather than neoprene, at least for rain. Neoprene takes a long time to dry out, especially in humid and sun-less places. A heavy-duty WP fabric could almost be flicked dry.

  6. Bob S. July 10, 2017 at 6:17 pm #

    How about a pair of cold-weather paddling gloves like the NRS Hydroskin gloves?

  7. Brad R July 10, 2017 at 6:27 pm #

    It’s been a long time, but I have seen some silnylon mitts made for runners, that when seam sealed might be better than WP/B shells.

    I had a pair of eVent rain mitts that delaminated quickly, I assume from body oils and trekking poles.

    I look forward to your results.

  8. Louise L. July 10, 2017 at 6:31 pm #

    I have used thin wool gloves as a base layer, plus too big for me and therefore nice and loose latex gloves as a mid layer, plus homemade boiled wool mittens (cheap and fun) as the top layer. Boiling the wool “felts” it, making it almost waterproof. I make sure nothing is tight nor constrictive.

  9. Louise L. July 10, 2017 at 6:36 pm #

    A plastic bag works well as a midlayer too!

    Here are instructions for the boiled wool mittens:
    https://youtu.be/IErJLN2EQhU

  10. Matt July 10, 2017 at 8:51 pm #

    McGuckin in Boulder has a wide selection of gloves including ice fishing gloves, winter work gloves, etc.

    • Andrew Skurka July 10, 2017 at 8:53 pm #

      McGuckin’s might be the greatest store in Boulder.

  11. Gary D July 10, 2017 at 9:33 pm #

    Dont know if this fits the bill or not …. I was looking at the equipment for climber Colin Haley’s Begguya ascent and my interest was piqued by item #13 in his clothing list-Tem Res 282 gloves. Since they were used on an Alpine Climbing trip they may be overkill for hiking but might be worth a try as they are not too expensive.
    https://www.petzl.com/US/en/Sport/News/2017-6-5/Colin-Haley-s-Begguya-Kit#.WWRCr-mQzIU

    • Andrew Skurka July 11, 2017 at 2:10 pm #

      Someone recommended those on the associated FB thread, too. I will try to get my hands on these. They sound too warm for summertime conditions, but it’s good to know about them as a colder weather option.

  12. Alan Smith July 11, 2017 at 2:11 pm #

    http://www.mountainhardwear.com/plasmic-outdry-glove-1678781.html

    BLUF:
    Worked well November bicycle tour Oregon (cold, wet)

    Background:
    – 3.1 oz., Listed
    – $70 maybe too expensive
    – cuff maybe too short for you
    – tricot(?) Lining felt nice even on wet bare hands
    – pretty durable

  13. David Colbert July 12, 2017 at 6:07 am #

    I’d love to find a similar solution for my feet. I haven’t had good experiences with neoprene socks, and plastic bags are a compromise, but I could see a latex sock working well.

    • Andrew Skurka July 12, 2017 at 6:54 am #

      I wouldn’t recommend that in most conditions. In this context, the difference between socks and gloves is that you can easily remove gloves and allow your hands to get fresh air. That’s hard to do with socks. Latex is a non-breathable fabric, so any foot perspiration will remain trapped between your skin and the latex. If you have a liner sock it will be less bad, and if you are in really cold conditions (e.g. 15 degrees F or colder) then your feet won’t sweat much. But in normal 3-season conditions, even on the cooler end of the range, I think you’ll end up with some difficult maceration issues.

      My solution for cold-and-wet conditions is a thick merino sock. I’ve written about it before:
      https://andrewskurka.com/2017/backpacking-footwear-early-season-conditions/
      https://andrewskurka.com/2016/conditions-hiking-waterproof-footwear-winter-system/

  14. J. Regan July 12, 2017 at 7:28 pm #

    Yama Mountain Gear is making silnylon pogies, which are an interesting approach to the problem. They’re waterproof on the top and sides and breathable through the bottom.

    https://www.yamamountaingear.com/pogies-rain

    • Phil July 29, 2017 at 2:32 pm #

      I sewed two pairs of pogies for our 2 month trip to NewZealand. They worked really well for my girlfriend and me. We use poles most of the time and they kept our hands protected from wind and rain, even without liners underneath

  15. Zachary July 13, 2017 at 11:29 am #

    Have you ever used just plain sil nylon mittens (considering waterproof breathable doesn’t work)? Also, how do you think sil nylon mittens with mesh areas either in the palms or under the pinky finger (the least exposed areas) would work? That could help with the breathability.

    • Andrew Skurka July 22, 2017 at 4:55 pm #

      No, I have not, but I would like to try. Except it would have to be sil/PU fabric since you can’t seam-tape sil/sil fabric.

      Don’t put mesh areas in them. That’s only going to undermine the point, which is to keep the hands dry. If your hands get too sweaty, remove the mitts.

  16. Roman Vazhnov July 14, 2017 at 1:48 am #

    Neoprene gloves.

  17. Ito July 20, 2017 at 3:48 am #

    In Japan many UL and not UL hikers or back country skiers do something similar as what you propose. There are these workmen gloves for people in the fishing industry etc. That have to deal with ice and cold water a lot. They have latex gloves that have a thin thermal filling.
    http://www.showaglove.co.jp/product/detail/professional/457#0
    You also have without filling of course and then you can add your own liner.

  18. Mike July 28, 2017 at 5:54 am #

    Hi Andrew,

    I ran into this issue while hiking in Iceland. My wool gloves quickly became useless in the wind and rain. I had a silnylon rain skirt and made some rough mittens out of it. I put the mittens over my extra pair of socks. It worked really well.

  19. Chad August 15, 2017 at 4:39 pm #

    Any post-trip report on how this experiment performed? I’m about to depart on a trip with expected cold and wet conditions. Thanks.

    • Andrew Skurka August 15, 2017 at 4:51 pm #

      It didn’t rain on me often enough for me to say conclusively. It’s definitely the best thing that I’ve found, BUT: gloves are not as warm as mitts; the latex is inherently cool to the touch; dexterity is fair but not perfect. If worn over a true liner glove, not just a sun glove as I was doing, I think the system would work better.

      A friend of mine bought the Showa 281 Glove prior to his Pfiffner trip, and sounded more positive than I am sounding. “They’re amazing. Totally worth $25, and I’ll be using them as my new go to for bike commuting in cold/wet weather.” But he says they run small, so size up.

  20. Chris Smith September 6, 2017 at 1:17 pm #

    Hi Andrew – I wore the grease monkey large gloves over a pair of light fleece gloves during UTMB this year. Between the rain and snow affecting back of the pack runners like me, I probably had them on for 8-10 hours. i think the combination was a great solution and my hands stayed warm. Over time, moisture from sweat did build up but it did not affect heat retention. Also, gloves were durable and I had no holes or tears despite the fact that the entire time I was using poles.

    My running partner used the same setup but with a thicker glove and had a negative experience. I think the problem was that if the inner glove is too tight, the neoprene can restrict blood flow to the fingers. Ideally, the neoprene shell should be over-sized to ensure that the inner glove is not compressed.

    I will likely continue to use this setup, but will look for even larger sizes than the grease monkey to allow for thicker undergloves.

    • Andrew Skurka September 6, 2017 at 1:46 pm #

      During the Pfiffner Traverse I was able to use the Monkey Wrench gloves for a few short periods, but nothing long enough to fully assess the system. Sounds like you did. My limited experience is consistent with yours: it works well IF (1) you’re also wearing liner gloves and (2) circulation is still adequate. Without liner gloves, your hand stays dry, but the cool precip sucks warmth from them. If circulation is insufficient, warm blood can’t get to your hands.

      I wore the Showa gloves and thought they performed very well. They’re a two-in-one system: very waterproof shell (and supposedly breathable, too) with an acrylic liner. I carried liner gloves anyway because there were many hours where I only wanted a liner glove, not WP/B protection, too.

  21. Max September 8, 2017 at 5:19 pm #

    Hi Andrew, have you ever tried a pair of convertible mittens designed like this https://www.mammoth-shop.de/?cl=details&anid=c502f83fb038eb8c8c427ec117489f16&gclid=EAIaIQobChMI0rG-09mW1gIViEAbCh0W8wTIEAkYASABEgL3xfD_BwE ?
    I don’t have much outdoor experience (yet), but on my first trip up to the Snowdon I used a cheap pair of wool mittens designed like this and even though they got pretty wet, my fingers could still warm each other, and when I needed something from my backpack, I could simply flip back the front part without having to take off the whole glove. Do you see any huge disadvantages of this design, especially for longer trips (which I haven’t done yet)?

    • Andrew Skurka September 11, 2017 at 3:53 am #

      It’s been a long time since I used mittens like that. Don’t derive any meaning from that — I simply found some other gloves and mittens that worked better for me.

      For me at least, in wet conditions simply having a thicker wool or fleece glove does not cut it. My hands will get very cold when exposed directly to moisture. Your hands may run warmer, which is great for you.

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