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Outdoor Tips and Topics - keeping your hands warm

Posted: Thursday, December 22, 2011

Winter time does not necessarily mean we need to put an end to our outdoor adventures. We can still hike, run, snowshoe, cross country ski, dogsled and even paddle (at least in places where the water isn't frozen!)

What it does mean, though, is that we need to pay more attention to our clothing.  One increasingly important area of focus is on our hands.  If you spend time in the outdoors someplace where the temperatures are in the 30sF and below, you will have noticed that your hands tend to get cold much more quickly, sometimes even if you are staying warm in the rest of your body.

Gloves work similarly to your sleeping bag: it is not the glove/mitten that is what keeps us warm.  It is the heat we put into the spaces in the gloves/mittens that provides the warmth and the amount of insulation in the glove that keeps that heat in. A good hand covering is not only for comfort, but also can be a safety issue as well (i.e. frostbite) so I recommend getting a variety of weights and styles.

So how do you choose?

1) What activity are you doing? Is it highly aerobic or slower paced? Running in NYC will need a different type of glove/mitten than dogsledding in Northern Minnesota.  Are you going to be digging/falling into the snow so that you need a waterproof/Gore-tex glove? Will you be out all day or only a few hours?  All those glove you see in the store are designed to meet the needs of all the various cold-weather activities.

2)How warm of a person are you?  Some folks just generate more heat to their hands than others.  Just like our general layering principles, you want a glove/mitten that is warm enough but does not make your hands sweat.  Once your hands get sweaty, your gloves will absorb that sweat, and they may ultimately end up colder.

3)Do your hands actually stay warm in gloves?  For some of us, a nice insulated pair of gloves keeps our hands plenty warm. And for others, no matter what weight glove we have, our fingers are still cold.  That is me.  I need the warmth of my other fingers to keep my hands completely warm. I can only wear mittens whenever I am out in the winter.  This is a common occurrence; so if you have tried every kind of glove and your hands are STILL cold, try switching to mittens.   

4) To liner or not to liner? A lot of times we recommend a pair of glove liners under a pair of thicker gloves to really protect your hands and keep them toasty.  However, if you are someone whose fingers do not stay warm in gloves, wearing glove liners under mittens is actually going to make your fingers colder than if you just wore the single pair of mittens.

So, don't stop your outdoor activity in the winter, just dress well for it! 

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