How to keep your hands warm while skiing
How do you keep your hands from getting cold and keep them warm while spending the entire day outside skiing and snowboarding?
I shall offer my thoughts... my experience and expertise:
- I have suffered from a cold hands problem my entire life. I have poor circulation in my extremities (often referred to as Raynaud's Syndrome).
- I am the owner and head designer of a ski glove company whose focus is making gloves that are super warm without forgetting about the importance of optimum dexterity.
Lets start by listing things you do not really need (other things are more important):
- Gore-Tex® (membrane insert). It is not insulation. It is a moisture barrier. Water-proof membranes' purpose is to prevent water from exterior penetration (rain, wet snow). They only delay water from getting inside your gloves when it's really wet and they prevent moisture (the real culprit of cold wet hands) from escaping when sweat builds up from the inside. They are much less breathable than non-membrane gloves. And when it's really cold, it's probably not wet, so wet protection is even less important.
- Lofty insulation. Lofty insulation is really warm when it has it's maximum loft, but it loses its' thermal dynamics when compressed (gripping a ski pole) and especially when it gets wet.
- Thick liners. Most of the time they cut off circulation and even worse, they cause a cold-warm-cold cycle. You're hand gets too warm and sweaty when your activity level is high, then that moisture freezes when you slow down, then gets warm and sweaty again and so forth...
- Much of the time, you do not get what you pay for with gloves and mittens. Expensive brands and name brands are not necessarily better and warmer.
- Try to avoid thin liner gloves. They decrease breathability of your gloves and often compress on your skin. Get a glove that has enough insulation to keep your hands warm without the liner.
- Heat packets. A lot of people love them, but you can make them a thing of your past with a glove or mitten that has a better design.
- Very expensive heated gloves ($400). A properly designed warm glove/mitten makes these unnecessary and saves you a lot of money. Batteries run out of juice at the worst times.
- Gloves that are too small and/or rigid. You want the glove to break in and fit properly.
So what do you need to keep your hands warm?
- Gloves and mittens that breathe exceptionally well. They stop the biggest cause of cold hands, sweat moisture.
- Mittens that do not separate the fingers.
- Heavily insulated glove wrists. The blood vessels that deliver blood to your hands and fingers come very close to the outer surface of the skin on the inside of your wrist. They need to be protected and insulated.
- Insulation that is dense, yet still relatively thin to avoid compressing on your skin. Your skin has to breathe! (Unless it's Arctic cold, then go for super loft and hope the Lodge is close by).
- Around 200 grams of insulation. Less, you just don't have enough to deal with sub 20 degree F temps and more, you risk the cold-warm-cold cycle from sweat. Conditions that are just plain cold, sub-zero, require thick insulation but these mittens are not meant for normal cold, above 10 degrees or so.
- The glove needs to balance it's "water-proofness" by focusing as much on interior sweat moisture production as exterior water penetration. Forget "waterproof" membranes unless it's really wet, where air temperature is not the problem.
If you are concerned about very wet weather making your hands cold, you need to find a glove with insulation that matches the temperature outside when you add the waterproof membrane. When it's 35 degrees and wet-snowing you need much lighter insulation wrapping around the waterproof membrane. Don't buy heavily insulated membrane gloves. They are a contradiction in design variables. The only thing that really works in wet weather is a spare pair of gloves because water always finds a way inside.
Before I began designing and making gloves I mostly wore mittens. That changed with my Free the Powder Glove designs. But when it gets really cold, I still use trusty mittens.
Learn more about -how to keep your hands warm while skiing: