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When it comes to mountaineering, sure you'll need your ropes for rappelling and crampons for traversing over hard-packed ice, but it's also important to not overlook specialized gloves that can help mitigate the real threat of frostbite, arguably the most common injury in the sport.
Most high-elevation mountaineering gloves cover the basics: waterproof/breathable protection from the elements, enough insulation to keep your digits warm and functional as the temperature plummets, big cuffs to easily layer over bulky jackets, and internal fabric liners that wick sweat away from your hands so it can evaporate and keep you at the optimal temperature without overheating.
Gloves that offer dexterity win points as you’ll probably have to manipulate ice tools, ropes, and harnesses, and little features like draw chords at the cuffs, wrist straps to avoid dropping them when you take them off, and carabineer loops are just a few of the little details that can add up to a great glove. Mitten-shaped gloves are warmer than the five-finger variety, but you do sacrifice some dexterity, while fingered models flip that equation.
Some brands offer mountaineering glove systems, incorporating an inner glove (fingered or mitten-style) that slips into the waterproof/breathable outer shell, so you can wear the inner model solo in milder conditions or inside your shelter. Some companies also sell liner gloves as a stand-alone product, so you can slip them into your favorite winter glove for an added touch of wicking, warm layering. Here are a handful of the best options on the market right now.
Best Overall: Marmot 8000 Meter Mitt
Denali, Aconcagua, and Karakorum extend beyond 8,000 meters and rank as the trinity of must-ascend peaks for serious mountaineers. The 8000 Meter Mitt is made for precisely those expeditions, though they’ll also perform admirably at lower elevations where conditions — and cold temps — are still a reality. This three-in-one glove comes with a completely waterproof Primaloft-lined Gore-Tex Paclite shell, a Gore-Tex waterproof/breathable mitt insert for added warmth and weather protection, and a removable 700-fill goose down mitten that can be worn solo when conditions mellow.
A DriClime three-dimensional wicking lining helps keep your hands dry, pushing the moisture out to the glove’s outer layers so it can evaporate to avoid the dreaded clamminess that comes from overheating. The Pittards Armortan leather on the palms delivers assured grip on ropes and tools, with no-slip silicone-treatment on the trigger finger for even better control.
A smartly placed vertical carabiner loop won’t interfere with your climbing harness, ropes, and ascenders, and a wrist strap makes it easy to shrug off the glove for quick fixes without losing them. Draw chords at the deep gauntlet cuff keep out the white stuff.
Since both the outer and inner gloves are mitten-style, you may need another fingered glove to execute fine-motor skills without exposing your skin to the elements, but otherwise, the 8000 Meter Mitt provide serious armor against all high-elevation conditions.
Best Value: Mountain Hardwear Absolute Zero Mitt
Athlete-tested on the world’s highest peaks, this mitt packs some serious warmth at a (relatively) approachable price point. It employs Mountain Hardwear’s OutDry weatherproofing, which uses a construction technology that bonds a waterproof/breathable membrane directly to the shell fabric, removing the gap that exists in lesser three-layer gloves to keep things light, dry, and comfortable.
Insulation comes from the highest-quality 700-fill Q Shield down, with an embedded soft, high-pile fleece liner that wicks sweat to the glove’s outer layer so it can evaporate. The extra-long gauntlet cuff fits easily over bulky jacket sleeves, with a smart two-stage cinch system — at the wrist and the end of the cuff — to really seal out the wind and snow.
In the palm, high-quality leather that extends through the thumb and over the tip of the fingers delivers reliable dexterity and durability. They also clip together at the wrist, which helps avoid the dreaded “why can I find only one glove?” moment at the start of the season.
Reviewers do report that the glove fits a bit large, so if you’re between sizes, think about sizing down.
Best for Lightweight Alpine Assaults: Black Diamond Helio Three-in-One Gloves
Designed for weight-conscious mountaineers, alpinists, and skiers, this three-in-one glove system includes a 100 percent waterproof/breathable Gore-Tex outer layer made of ultralight Dyneema ripstop fabrics, as well as goat leather palm and fingers. A removable fleece liner glove with a weather-resistant soft shell backer works well on its own as a go-to for cooler-weather belays and camp-side activities.
The shell also features an additional 40 grams of PrimaLoft Gold insulation, with powder cuffs anchored by one-hand drawcords and a reflective logo to make it easy to find when hunting by headlamp.
Given it’s a full-fingered glove (both inside and out) it may not perform when temps get truly frigid, but the -30 degree Fahrenheit rating means it’ll perform admirably in most alpine situations.
Best for High Altitudes: Outdoor Research Alti Mitts
The Alit Mitts just look warm. And that’s no optical illusion. Designed for 8,000+-meter peaks and extended Arctic expeditions, the Gore-Tex outer layer breathes well while keeping the elements at bay, made of 2.5-layer 40D ripstop nylon partnered with Kevlar stitching that’s been fully taped and a 100 percent nylon ripstop liner.
Warmth comes from 170 grams of insulation in the shell itself, while the removable mitt liner adds another 340 grams of PrimaLoft Gold. The gloves also include a heat pack pocket, a pull-on loop, an elasticized wrists, an easy-to-cinch gauntlet cuff, and a carabiner loop.
Fully waterproof Pittard leather palms, as well as AlpenGrip tabs at all the vital touchpoints, provide assured grip on ropes and ice tools, and the pre-curved construction means the glove will fit…like a glove should, contouring to the natural curves of your hand.
Best for Supplementing Your Existing Glove: Smartwool Liner Gloves
Make no mistake — these Smartwool Liner Gloves are not mountaineering gloves. But they can be added to your mountaineering kit to amp the warmth from your already-insulated gloves. Made of 45 percent merino wool, arguably the most miraculous all-natural fabric on the market, they wick away sweat, keep you warm (and cool if things heat up), don’t retain body odors, and are machine-washable.
The wool is supplemented with a mix of acrylic, nylon, and elastane to deliver a svelte, tight fit that still stretches. The rib-knit cuff also lets you easily slide inside a bigger glove or mitten without adding bulk, and the index finger and thumb are also touchscreen-friendly, making it easy to check your devices or take photos without exposing your skin to the cold.
Best for Max Dexterity: Arc’teryx AR Glove
In configuring their new glove architecture, Arc’teryx didn’t start with a flat hand pattern. Instead, they built their AR Glove with the natural position that the hand is in when gripping equipment. The result? When you slip them on, you feel ready to attack the mountain with best-in-class dexterity that’s so dialed you can pick up a quarter off the floor. Rest assured you’ll be nimble enough to perform all the activities baked into the sport like belaying, fixing ropes, and handling ice equipment. Much of this comes from the bonded palm, which minimizes slippage between material layers.
You also get fully waterproof/breathable performance, thanks to the Gore-Text insert, with impact protection over the knuckles and back of the hand and strategically reinforced palms to amp durability and touch. The long gauntlet cuffs will fit over bulky outer layers, with a pull-to-open/pull-to-close cord that makes it easy to seal out the elements.
This isn’t the warmest glove in this round-up, but a mixture of 100-gram PrimaLoft Gold and Silver insulation can handle most conditions and temps for the casual mountaineer, while its overall svelte profile works well for efficient movement in all alpine environments.
Best for Roped Ascents: The North Face Summit G5 Gore-Tex Pro Belay Mitts
Mitts are seldom the most dexterous glove option, but The North Face has bucked convention with their Summit G5 Mitts. Radiametric Articulation keeps the hands in their naturally active position, making it easy to work ropes and ascenders, with a lobster-claw inner configuration that adds a bit more dexterity because the index finger is separated from the other fingers. The 100 grams of PrimaLoft Gold insulation has been thermal-mapped to deliver superior warmth, with full side-seam baffles to provide max heat where it’s needed most without making you feel like you’re wearing an oven mitt.
Kevlar threat adds durability, with water-resistant leather palms and goat-leather-reinforced finger caps. A carabiner loop on the trigger finger lets you hang them when not needed, and the wrist leashes can be removed if you’re a serious ounce-counter.
In addition to the pull cord at the cuff, you also get a ladder-lock strap at the wrist to seal in heat.
Best for Skiers: Black Diamond Solano Heated Gloves
Black Diamond’s Solano Heated Gloves combat the inevitable negative temperatures with a supplemental battery-powered heating system. Just toggle the LED switch on the cuff, and the low-profile AddHeat systems' three levels of serious warmth; the rechargeable lithium-ion battery is housed in a waterproof zippered compartment, and the included carrying case comes with outlet adapters to make it easy to charge and store while traveling.
But the Solano isn’t just a wired glove. The outer shell is made of Gore-Tex for waterproof/breathable protection, along with premium goat leather and 170 grams of PrimaLoft Gold on the back of the hand and 100 grams of fleece on the palm to pack serious warmth even when you’re not running the heating system.
For mountaineering skiers, it’s never been easier to dial in the exact level of warmth, easily adjusting to variable conditions (blizzard to blue sky) and activities (long, skinned ascents to vertiginous carving).