Learn everything about ski gloves!
Welcome to our Ski Glove Buyer's Guide. In order to assist you in buying the right gloves or mittens we have created a series of informational pages about every variable that goes into ski gloves. Finding quality and buying does not have to be as confusing as it seems to be. You will find links to pages that focus on outer materials, liners, and "water-proofing" choices.
There are two main styles for gloves and mittens: Short-cuff (Racing-Style that fits under or over your coat sleeve) or Long-cuff (Gauntlet-Style with forearm closures):
This ski glove buyer's guide is for the average skier or rider who only wants to buy one pair of gloves or mittens that works best for most days.
1. Which style? This really comes down to whether you prefer to wear your glove cuffs under your jacket sleeves. Short-cuffs are essential for wearing under your sleeve. They are functional irrespective of weather. Long-cuff (gauntlet-style) gloves offer an ease of putting them on/removing them that short cuffs with Velcro® do not. Long cuffs are King when the snow is deep and the weather is foul. Read more about ski glove styles
2. Removable or sewn-in liners ? Removable liners can be really nice. The liners can be used by themselves as an effective second pair of light mittens/gloves. But the problem with removable liners is that they are often difficult to re-seat in the correct position inside the shell. And when your hands are sweaty, it could be big trouble. That's less of a problem with mittens, but gloves can be a crap shoot, depending on the design of the glove. When you try them on at the store, make sure they come apart and go back together really easily, because when you're out in the elements it will be much harder. The fundamental problem with removable liners that's hard to avoid in most ski gloves is that the liner is not fixed so the gloves rarely fit exactly right, and dexterity is then decreased. The liner (in most designs) moves relative to the shell every time you move your hands. Learn more about ski glove liners
Knowing all of this, Free the Powder designed a removable liner glove that fixes all these issues. It is called the RX Glove and RX Mitten. Check them out.
3. What type of insulation, and how much? There are many types of insulation: wool (Old-School), Thinsulate®, Thermolite®, Qualofill®, PrimaLoft®, Breathefil, cotton, fiber pile, and goose down to name a few. Rule number 1: never use cotton as an insulator because when it gets wet, it stays wet - and cold. Both wool and synthetic materials stay warm when they get wet, and they dry very fast. Wool is a bit heavy, and breathes significantly less than modern synthetic materials. Natural goose down feathers and PrimaLoft® synthetic are warmer than other synthetics per ounce of weight, but their loftiness often is 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. 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.
The amount of insulation is usually measured by its weight in grams. Anything under 100 grams is for warmer days, 30+ degrees F or for those whose hands are always warm. 100 grams is just about perfect for your average cold winter day, 20-30 degrees F. 100 grams or more is for cold days, below 20 degrees F. It's great to have such thick gloves or mittens for the cold days, but they have very limited use 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.
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. Learn more about ski glove insulation
4. Dexterity: Gloves are better for dexterity, but you give away something really important, warmth, which gives a mitten much more versatility on a given day. Dexterity can be achieved in a mitten if you choose one size smaller than you would normally wear in a glove. Learn more about ski glove dexterity
5. Grip: The grippiness of a glove or mitten is created primarily by the surface of the palm. Sometimes grip patches, common in work gloves, are helpful, but in my experience they are mostly just cosmetic. They exist to make you think they grip well. Soft leather offers the best grip. And the real secret is in the tanning process of the leather. Free the Powder makes the grippiest gloves on the market due to our process of emulsion in fatliquors. Learn more.
6. Mittens or Gloves? For many of the reasons listed above, a mitten gives away some dexterity but offer more flexibility in a range of temperatures. Your fingers together retain a lot more heat, which might make you think your hands would get sweatier than wearing gloves. Not necessarily. I find having more air around my fingers allows for better circulation and breathability. I have poor circulation in my extremities so mittens are a much better one-glove solution for me. It really is up to individual needs and preference. Learn more about Gloves v. Mittens
7. Water-proof membrane, or not? This depends on temperature, wetness of the environment, and especially activity level. If you are using the glove or mitten during low activity levels or when it's really wet, then water-proof membranes can be really nice. The membrane keeps most of the wetness out, while the low activity level keeps the hand from creating its own moisture through sweat. Forget the hype, Gore-Tex® and every other water-proof membrane are essentially plastic bag liners that keep the water out, but also keep the water in. Even the best of them are much less breathable than no-membrane. Once wet inside, they are very slow to dry. Backcountry skiing and riding throws a bit of wrench into this question, because it depends on the activity: if strenuous hiking and skiing is your game, then breathability is by far the most important variable to consider. That is when water-proof membranes may be a liability. But if you are ice climbing or heading out onto a backcountry tour that may include rain, then a water-proof membrane is probably important. Read more about water-proof membranes
As a glove designer, I spent an entire ski season (100+ days) wearing a membrane glove on one hand and a non-membrane glove on the other. The rest of the design characteristics were exactly the same. Most of the time, membranes caused me to have clammy hands, whereas the non-membrane glove was almost always dry. On days when it was raining, both gloves got saturated with water. For me and my team of testers, the membranes were much less effective in most conditions than the ultra-breathable, no-membrane gloves. More on breathability of ski gloves
Someday, when we find a "waterproof-breathable" membrane insert that works to our satisfaction, we will offer them in our gloves.
Perhaps a better "waterproofing" option for your ski gloves is shell material that is made to be water-resistant using DWR (durable water-repellent) or other substances. Learn more about water-proofing of ski gloves
8. Wrist leashes: (often referred to as glove leases, wrist straps, idiot leashes, or retention straps) these sometimes-helpful additions to gloves and mittens are very popular, especially with snowboarders, climbers and kids. It's really up to your personal preference whether you want to be tethered to your gloves. Here are instructions to add wrist leashes to our gloves or any others.
9. Leather or Synthetic? A glove that is all leather is form-fitting on your hand and looks cool. But, leather is less breathable than nylon Taslan, Cordura or softshell material. A leather-less palm will cause the glove/mitten to fall apart much faster and significantly decreases grip and dexterity. The best combination is a nylon glove with leather palms. Learn more about leather in ski gloves
10. Type of leather, treatment, and reinforcement: Leather palms are essential for a ski glove designed to last. But not all leather palms are created equal: the quality of the leather and the use of reinforcement patches are essential:
Three types of leathers are most common: cowhide, goatskin, and deerskin. There are always exceptions based on their tanning process,treatment, thickness and quality, but in GENERAL:
· Deerskin (typically shiny yellow colored) is the softest and most dexterous, but it gives away significant toughness due to its thinness.
· Goatskin is tougher, but a little less soft and dexterous than deerskin. A great balance which is quite popular.
· Cowhide is by far the toughest, but often gives away a bit of softness and dexterity. The interesting thing (and something to look out for) about cowhide is that the range of thickness and quality vary greatly.
More important than what animal the hide came from, is what type of tanning process it went through when it was made. Learn more about how leather is made for ski gloves
Free the Powder uses premium soft cowhide. Our leather uses a unique tanning process to maximize grip and toughness, while maintaining the highest possible softness and dexterity. We then put a cowhide leather reinforcement patch over the already tough cowhide leather palm.
The history of ski gloves is ruled by the axiom "you get what you pay for," but not with Free the Powder Gloves. We sell the highest quality gloves for less. Why? Because that's what we always looked for when shopping for gloves ourselves. And after too many years of being unable to find them, we decided to make them ourselves. I hope our ski glove buyer's guide was helpful in your buying process.
Free the Powder Gloves