Best Mountaineering Gloves 2019 | Top 9 - Outdoors Magic

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Best Mountaineering Gloves 2019 | Top 9

Lightweight to heavyweight. We cover the top gloves for four-season mountain use

Gloves that encompass climbing, winter walking and ski touring  (aka mountaineering gloves) come in a plethora of shapes and sizes; all using different insulation-types, padding, waterproofing and various other features. They all have one big similarity though – or they should anyway – and that’s their end goal. Each one should be designed to make life in the UK mountains that bit more comfortable when frosty digits could be the order of the day.

With all of the variations out there, it can all be a little confusing when you’re looking to find the best mountaineering glove for your personal preferences, and so to help with this, we’ve created a short round-up laying out the basics.

You’ll soon be thankful for a dexterous glove when the temperatures drop and the wind kicks up.

Gloves soon become one of the connections between yourself and the mountain, particularly when winter climbing. Therefore, it’s essential to have something that’s dexterous. We’ve all been in the situation where we’ve been fumbling around with ropes, compasses, jackets, etc, wishing that we had a pair of gloves on our hands that actually allowed us to perform the job in hand.

However, this dexterity must be coupled with warmth, particularly in typical UK winter mountain conditions. A barrier from the wind, low temperatures and rain is essential for keeping yourself ticking in the mountains.

Related: Best Mountaineering Boots 2019

Some people are lucky to be gifted with great circulation consistently pumping warm blood from our heart into our extremities, but others are reliant on a solid glove to keep their hands toasty. This circulation is personal and will thus influence the type of glove that you decide to go for.

When ski touring, walking or climbing, I’ll be carrying a minimum of two pairs of gloves. I’ll have a ‘workhorse’ pair that is dexterous and lightly insulated (my hands never get too cold, as long as I keep moving) and then a warmer pair that is stuffed into a dry bag at the bottom of my pack, only to be changed during lunch or belay positions.

Related: Best Softshell Jackets 2019

The idea of carrying two gloves is to keep the warmer pair as dry as possible. When winter climbing, on particularly wet days, I’ll travel with a third pair that I can switch over at belay stances, or when my main gloves become a little too damp to perform.

Waterproof Gloves

Waterproofing is a fundamental feature of UK mountaineering gloves. You’ll be spending a lot of time in contact with the snow when daggering your ice axe up steep snow slopes – and as you know, our snow is rarely of the light, fluffy and dry variety.

You do pay a premium and give up a little breathability with increased waterproofing, so we’ve included a few non-waterproof gloves in this test. These are more suitable for winter walking/running where you’re spending little time with your hands on snow.

Mountaineering Gloves: Mitt or Glove

Gloves have individual fingers that allow you to move each finger separately. Mittens usually only have a separate thumb (although there are some on the market with a separate index finger that gives you increased warmth with decreased mobility.

In short, gloves tend to offer more dexterity, but less insulation, whilst mitts offer more insulation but less dexterity.

Gloves are usually used with just a very slim liner underneath or with nothing at all. Mitts tend to be worn with a separate thin glove, giving you the option to take the mitt on and off when you do need more dexterity for short periods before stuffing your hand back into the mitt for increased protection.


Aside from the choice between a mitt or a glove, insulation also has a big influence on how dexterous a glove is. In short, more insulation equals more warmth, but that trade off is a less flexible glove. You’ll have an idea yourself how much insulation you require.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that the amount of insulation required depends on the activity you’re buying the glove for. For example, a winter climbing or ski touring glove will need slightly less insulation than that of a walking glove. A glove that will be specifically used when sitting on belay ledges on the north face of the Ben will require a fair bit of insulation.

If you’re unsure then I’d err on the side of caution and go for a slightly warmer glove than you imagine. There’s nothing worse than a numb pair of hands halfway through your day.

Palm Durability

I’ve gone through heaps of gloves following my time spent crashing around the mountains. Almost all the failures have involved the palm or fingers wearing or splitting apart. This makes sense, of course. The palm takes the brunt of the wear whilst out in the mountains, so it always helps to have gloves that have a high quality leather – or something equally durable – in that area as well as clever stitching methods to avoid the seams splitting open.

Leather is the time-tested material that glove makers reach for. If you’re just looking for a budget option lightweight glove, then leather quality may not matter so much but I’d highly recommend it f you’re after something that will last year after year.

Rab Guide Long

Price: £105
Key features: Waterproof eVent insert, PrimaLoft Gold.

‘Guide’ is a common name choice for brands when it comes to gloves. A mountain guide, of course, is highly reliant upon them, having to constantly handle ropes, skis, equipment and sharp rocks, whilst spending a fair amount of time waiting around for their clients. What they require is a glove that is dexterous, durable and warm – so I guess it’s a good way to describe an ideal pair.

Rab’s own attempt to uphold the reputation of the guide name has the classic shape of the ‘gauntlet’ style glove, with a long cuff to keep any snow and water from leaking into your wrists. It’s been given a little toughening up with reinforcement in the palm and thumb, providing sustained durability and the potential to really abuse it. You can definitely feel this when handling and using the gloves, more so than with something like the Salewa Ortles which is also featured in this round-up.

Rab have built the Guide Glove in a pre-curved way that fits the natural shape of your hand to ensure your ability to clench or grip isn’t affected too much by the leather reinforcements and insulation.

The suede leather on the thumb is also a useful touch – handy for wiping your goggles or nose.

I’ve been using both the Guide Long and Short for the past year or so as my go-to glove. Once the leather has been broken in, the glove gives an extremely comfortable fit, with just about enough dexterity and warmth to allow you to do just about anything with minimal issues.

Full Specifications

250g / eVent insert / reinforcements to the palm and thumb / PrimaLoft Gold Insulation across the back of the hand / longer cuff protects wrists.

Salewa Ortles GTX Warm Gloves

Price: £165
Key features: Waterproof GoreTex insert, TirolWool insulation.

The Salewa Ortles is another classic gauntlet style glove that packs a punch in warmth over that of much of the competition.

It has a leather palm without padded reinforcement and a single-handed adjustment on the cuff, which makes for slick adjustment on the go. This is going to be the kind of glove that you reach for if you’d like a technical glove that also offers superior insulating properties over its rivals.

The main downside to it is the price but then if you really suffer from cold digits throughout the day, perhaps you’ll find it money well spent. I’d otherwise argue that you’ll be slightly better suited going for some of the slightly lower cost variants in this roundup.

The leather feels quite soft in comparison to some of the other gloves here, like the Rab Guide – so it’s perhaps a little less durable. However, this makes the glove feel nicely dexterous straight from the get-go with that worn in comfort felt from day one.

Full Specifications

250g / GoreTex insert / pre-curved fingers / full leather palm / 3D thumb construction / finger & thumb grip reinforcement / reinforced back hand / one-Hand cuff regulation / fleece lined interior.

Montane Extreme Gloves

Price: £60
Key features: Windproof Pertex Quantum, PrimaLoft Gold.

The Montane Extreme packs a tonne of warmth in a lightweight classic gauntlet design.

The main fabric used is Pertrex Quantum which is extremely light and breathable, and there’s a leather lining on the palm. PrimaLoft Gold insulation (which we’ve always rated highly at Outdoors Magic) has been used on the back of the hand, and a warm pile lining inside adds some toasty insulating properties. A stuff sac has been included, allowing you to compress the pair down to a smaller size and pop them into the bottom of the pack.

Be aware that the Pertex outer fabric might offer good breathability and dexterity but it won’t have the same kind of durability that some of the other gloves here can boast – the Rab and Salewa for example. The leather on the palm is also quite thin. We couldn’t see this withstanding consistent abuse from climbing or skiing.

This isn’t a climbing or skiing glove though. It’s a winter walking one, and a useful one at that.

The price represents this stripped down, no-frills and lightweight design, with the Extreme Glove coming in at £60 – a steal.

Full Specifications

200g / Pertex Quantum / 100g PrimaLoft Gold / DryActiv pile lining / goat leather palm and underside of fingers / gauntlet style / adjustable hem closure / adjustable wrist cinch strap / elasticated leash / stuff sac.

Columbia Powder Keg II Gloves

Price: £90
Key features: Waterproof OutDry insert, Omni-Heat insulation.

As the name suggests, this glove is geared towards snow sports enthusiasts.

It’s fairly beefed up, but despite this, there’s still good dexterity. It has a very slightly pre-curved construction and the leather is supple enough without being flimsy. This covers the whole palm and then wraps around and over the index finger.

It’s waterproof, thanks to the always-impressive OutDry membrane, plus it packs a punch in terms of warmth. On this front, there’s 100g of synthetic fill packed into its walls then there’s an inner fleece, and to top it off, Columbia have added their Omni-Heat reflective lining to, as you can guess, reflect heat back towards your skin.

Related: Best Winter Gloves Reviewed

These gloves are definitely ski and snowboard focussed but they should make for a very capable winter hillwalking option.

Full Specifications

Leather palm provides grip / hi-tech thermal insulation / fleece lining / waterproofing.

Helly Hansen Ullr Leather HT Gloves

Price: £110
Key features: Waterproof Helly Tech insert, Primaloft Gold insulation.

Helly Hansen have designed the Ullr Leather HT Glove as a ski glove, but, like the Columbia option here, that doesn’t mean that it’s unsuited to a winter walking or climbing environment.

These are some pretty bombproof gloves, with a high level of reinforcement throughout, including a strong leather on the palm and compression foam over the knuckles and fingers. These materials combine to give a slightly stiff and close fit however, with what feels like limited room on the inside, compared to other gloves of the same size.

We imagine that this will begin to soften off over time as we use the glove over a longer period, but still, it might be worth considering sizing up here.

Insulation-wise, Helly Hansen have chosen PrimaLoft Gold fill – 80g of it – which means good insulation even if moisture has managed to creep past the waterproof liner. They’ve coupled this with a very comfortable microfleece lining.

Full Specifications

Nose wipe thumb / Pittards leather reinforcement / compression foam knuckles and fingers / Primaloft Gold 80g/m2 insulation / Helly Tech waterproof lining.

Mammut Nordwand Pro Gloves

Price: £149
Key features: Waterproof Gore-Tex insert, PrimaLoft Gold lightly insulated.

Switzerland-based Mammut have been in the game for 157 years and after modest beginnings as a rope maker they’ve forged a reputation for creating some of the finest technical alpine equipment in the industry. The Nordwand Pro comes at the hefty price of £150, but you do get a highly technical climbing glove that is geared to the gunnels for all-out war with the mountains.

The glove feels very light and nimble, with a supple goat’s leather palm that has been further reinforced with quality leather from Pittards (a leather supplier that’s been around for 200 years) around the thumb to survive constant use with climbing tools.

It features a modest amount of PrimaLoft Gold insulation and a fleecy lining. OM editor Will Renwick wore the Nordwand on a five-day hike through the Brecon Beacons in mid winter and says he found the level of insulation to be just right. I found it best suited towards ski touring where I was spending long periods going at a high tempo. Once resting, I would swap it for a warmer pair during periods of inactivity. This will be the same story for winter climbing – you’ll definitely want to pack a slightly warmer pair of gloves for when you’re immobile. Other than that, you’ve got a fantastically nimble glove that you’ll rarely feel is getting in your way.

Full Specifications

148g / Gore-Tex / Pittards Atacama Goat leather / further Pittards reinforcement / PrimaLoft Gold – 60g/m2.

Reusch Pamir Hybrid

Price: £50
Key features: Windproof Polartec Alpha insert, lightly insulated.

We brought this in for the test not for its mountaineering credentials (it’s definitely not a mountaineering glove), but because it creates a brilliant ‘active’ glove for those of us who like to move at high tempos around the mountains in winter.

The Pamir features a single layer, windproof Polartec construction, with light insulation throughout. This light recipe does come at a trade off, however, with minimal protection around the whole glove – don’t expect this one to be suitable for winter climbing, rather, think trail running or fast hiking.

It has touchscreen usability built into the finger and thumb and a generally dexterous and light feeling meaning that phones can easily be held and used.

All in all, this will be a great companion to go with one of the mitts lower down in this roundup, or just for use during those adventures at pace.

Full Specifications

Polartec Alpha / Pertex Microlight / silicone Grip / touch – tec.


Black Diamond Mercury Mitts

Price: £90
Key features: Waterproof BDry insert, PrimaLoft Gold insulation.

A no-fuss beast of a mitt – you know something has been built with durability in mind when the stitching consists of Kevlar (the same material used for bulletproof vests). A tough outer fabric and strong goat leather across the palm both combined with a blend of pile fleece and PrimaLoft Gold for insulation make this built to take on the harshest of Scottish winter belays. Nothing is going to get past it.

It essentially comes in two parts. There’s the outer Pertex Shield waterproof shell, then there’s a removable inner liner (the insulation). This liner includes a divider for your index finger which adds some points for overall dexterity. Overall, however, the the high-loft fleece lining does still make this mitt a lot less dexterous than a glove. That’s generally a given though.

The Black Diamond Mercury Mitt is going to become my go-to mitt for when the forecast reads sub zero temperatures and gale force winds, when keeping warmth in my hands is of utmost importance.

Full Specifications

260g / PrimaLoft Gold insulation / Pertex Shield / Kevlar stitching / split-finger lining / BDry waterproof insert.

Extremities Pinnacle Mitt

Price: £65
Key features: Waterproof X Dry insert, PrimaLoft insulation.

This, Extremities say, is the warmest waterproof mitt in their collection. It’s stuffed with a fair whack of PrimaLoft insulation yet it’s still surprisingly supple throughout with a soft back and leather palm that folds easily.

It’s also roomy inside with an open lining, so it’s certainly possible to wear an extra pair of gloves inside on those really cold days.

Just like the Montane Extreme, this would be another great choice as a spare option to be brought out when the conditions really require it.

An extra nice touch is the microfleece liner on the thumb for wiping your goggles or nose.

Full Specifications

PrimaLoft insulation / leather palm and thumb for / goggle wipe / X Dry technology.

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