What type of insulation is best in ski gloves and how much should it have?
There are many types of insulation, including wool (natural Old-School), Thinsulate®, Thermolite®, Qualofill®, PrimaLoft®, Breathefil, cotton, fiber pile, and goose down to name a few.
The different options and their effectiveness:
Cotton - Terrible. When it comes to insulation it's best to never use cotton as an insulator due to the reality that when it gets wet, it stays wet - and cold.
Wool - Decent. Wool is a bit heavy, and breathes significantly less than modern synthetic materials. It stays warm when wet but it drys slowly.
Goose Down- Excellent when it's dry. Natural goose down feathers are warmer than synthetics per ounce of weight, but their loftiness is often too warm, lacks breathability, and decreases dexterity. Your hand feels like they're floating in there - which can be really good, really bad or somewhere in between. Lofty insulation for your gloves is great when it's brutal cold, or when you require less dexterity.
Lofty synthetics (Primaloft® and others) – Good all-around when dexterity is not as important. Loftier synthetics are not as warm as down by weight, but they're more breathable, water resistant and stay warm when wet. Similar to lofty natural down feathers, these synthetics are often is too warm, lack breathability (compared to less lofty synthetics), and they decrease dexterity. Your hand feels like they're floating in there - which can be really good, really bad or somewhere in between.
"Thin" synthetic insulation (Thinsulate™, Thermolite®, Breathefil™)- The best all-around insulation for most days. For general everyday use in skiing and snowboarding, I prefer less lofty insulation like Breathefil™ or Thinsulate™ because it is really warm for its lack of loftiness, so you are not sacrificing grip and dexterity for warmth, or vice versa.
How much insulation in ski gloves?
The amount of insulation is usually measured by its weight in grams.
Best for warm days and spring skiing condition:
Anything under 100 grams is for warmer days, 30+ degrees F, or for those whose hands are always warm (hot hands people).
Best for average ski days:
100 grams is just about perfect for your average winter day, 20-30 degrees F. Unless you get cold hands easily.
Best for cold days, mid-winter:
100 grams or more is for cold days, below 20 degrees F. It's great to have thicker gloves or mittens for the cold days, but they are less versatile unless your hands are always cold, you are outdoors with low activity level, the gloves are extraordinarily breathable, or you are on a seriously cold expedition in the high mountains or Arctic.
What's best all-around?
Something to consider, the more breathable the glove, the more insulation it can use without making your hands too sweaty when the temperatures rises. When a glove uses a "waterproof" membrane insert like Gore-Tex, then you have to be conscious of too much insulation because the membrane is much less breathable than no-membrane. And those sweaty hands are going to turn cold. Gore-Tex is not insulation, it is a moisture barrier. It is mostly desirable when it is wet and warm, not when it is cold. If you are going to buy a ski glove with a membrane, make sure it does not have too much insulation for the conditions.
In our gloves, we use 200 grams of highly breathable "thin" dense insulation called Breathefil™. Learn more