The Best Mountaineering Glove System

Keep your hands warm with liners and gloves or mittens

Ice Climbing
 Christopher Kimmel/Getty Images

It’s difficult in winter to keep your hands and fingers warm, especially when you’re climbing mountains or ice climbing up frozen waterfalls. Climbing requires a lot of digital dexterity—putting on crampons, tightening boot laces, taking climbing photographs, and zipping and unzipping coats and packs. If it’s really cold out, it can be hard to do these mundane tasks without risking frostbite to your fingers and hands.

When it’s freezing, you can’t risk frostbite by taking off your gloves for even a few minutes. To keep warm and save your fingers from frostbite, you'll need to use a good glove system to ensure that your hands and fingers are warm and undamaged. Read on to learn the best glove system to keep your hands warm.

Use Glove Liners

Start with glove liners that fit snugly, yet allow freedom of movement and good circulation to all your fingers. The glove material should be able to retain warmth even when wet. You should be able to tie your boots, open your pack, and manipulate your climbing gear while wearing glove liners. Glove liners help seal in the heat, so never take them off while you’re outside.

Add Gloves or Mittens

Add warm mountaineering gloves or mittens. Don’t buy liners that are too thin and inadequate because you first bought mountaineering gloves that are too snug and won’t accommodate a proper liner. Gloves offer greater dexterity, while mittens provide more warmth. Select the glove liners first, and then buy insulated gloves or mittens that fit over them. Also, make sure the gloves and mittens have a leash that attaches to your wrist, so you won’t lose them if you take them off to manipulate gear while wearing glove liners.

American Alpine Institute recommends that you consider a few things so that you will buy the right gloves. Estimate the conditions in which you'll be climbing. If you're planning to do some glacier climbing, your needs will be very different than they would be for winter mountain climbing. If you're planning to do ice climbing, you'll need gloves that will allow for dexterity but may sacrifice a bit in terms of keeping your hands warm. In that case, your liners will be even more important. If you're planning to join a group for expedition climbing, you will need a mid-range glove with some insulation, waterproof properties, and durability says the institute.

Bring Taped Mitts

Use a pair of taped mitts—mittens made of a windproof material with taped seams—when the weather turns cold and windy. Taped mitts are very thin and quite large because they fit over your liners and gloves or mittens. They provide an extra layer of insulating air and prevent wind from entering your glove system.

Store the taped mitts in your pack and add to your glove system as needed. The taped mitts should also have leashes that attach to your wrists; a strong gale can quickly tear a mitt from your hands, leaving you in a dangerous situation. Using leashes could save your hands.