Buying Guide for Snowboard Gloves & Mittens
By Steve Kopitz
Any snowboarder can tell you that one of the first things that will get cold while you’re out shredding are your hands and fingers. Picking the right pair of snowboard gloves or mittens for your riding adventures is critical for your warmth and safety. Although this decision isn’t the most difficult one you will make when assembling your snowboard set up, there are a few things you want to consider before purchasing a pair of snowboard gloves or mittens.
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|Waterproof and Breathability||Insulation|
After hours of shredding the slopes, it’s pretty common to succumb to the cold temperatures and harsh weather conditions such as snow and wind. This means that waterproofing and breathability are going to be two key features to look for in snowboard gloves. First and foremost, waterproofing is essential. Not only for snow, but alos for warmer climates where the snow may not be as dry or tends to melt faster. Once your snowboard gloves are wet, it’s all over. Your hands will get damp and chill faster, along with the discomfort of heavy, wet gloves weighing your hands down. To avoid this, there are many good waterproofing materials used in gloves such as Gore-Tex, Entrant and Omni-Tech. Along with waterproofing, breathability is also a very important feature of snowboard gloves. Breathability creates much needed air flow, allowing sweat and moisture to escape, keeping your hands dry and comfortable even while shredding hard. Many waterproof and breathable gloves also now feature state-of-the-art engineered textiles which repel cold and feature tight weaves to keep the wind out.
Different types of boarders will need different types of insulation on your gloves, depending on what type of rider you are, your body and what weather you’re riding in. For riders who get cold very quickly or tend to ride in colder conditions, thicker insulation is a good choice. Keep in mind that because the insulation is thicker in a glove, that does not automatically mean that it’s warmer. Many synthetic insulators are high tech and are specifically woven tighter to make them thinner, but still being warmer and allowing for a full range of movement. These snowboard gloves tend to be more expensive, but when you weigh out the pros and cons of added warmth and comfort, the extra expense will be worth it. Another option is Down Insulation, but down should mainly be used in drier climates. This is because when down gets wet, it loses its insulating properties and will no longer keep you warm.
The lining in a snowboard glove is an extra layer of material built in that allows for more comfort and increases warmth, while also protecting the insulation. This lining tends to be made from one of a few different types of synthetic materials that have moisture wicking abilities to help keep your hands dry. Some liners are removable while others are built into the glove.
Fit is an important factor to consider when buying a snowboard glove because if the fit isn’t right, the glove will not provide the proper warmth, nor will they be as comfortable. When a snowboard glove is too big, your body will need to create more heat to fill up the extra air space in the glove, using more energy. Snowboard gloves that are too small limit movement and comfort, while also leaving more of your wrist exposed to the elements. The right fitting glove will allow a little bit of room at the end of your outstretched fingers so that you can pinch roughly a quarter of an inch of fabric. This will allow you with the right range of movement and proper amount of air space to keep your hands and fingers warm.
There are two main choices with snowboard gloves when it comes to cuff length, long or short. Longer cuffs are made to go past your jacket sleeve and go over the cuff of the jacket. Shorter cuff sleeves are the opposite and are made to go under your jacket cuff. Longer cuffs tend to offer more protection in deep powder but shorter cuffs offer greater mobility around your wrist. Determine which factor is more important to you and take into consideration what type of riding you will be doing and where. For instance, a longer cuff would probably be better for backcountry riding, while a shorter cuff would allow for better grips on pipe and park riding.
When it comes to style, there is a multitude of choices out there. The most common and probably familiar type of snowboard gloves are traditional with a synthetic outer shell and warm lining. This style of glove does relatively well in almost any conditions. Another option is leather gloves, which are more durable and warm. The downside is that they tend not to be very waterproof unless treated with a chemical treatment for extra waterproofing capability. A more recent and trending type of snowboard glove is pipe gloves, which made more specifically for park and freeride boarders. They are usually made from waterproof synthetics and have a grippy material on the palm. These gloves increase dexterity and grip greatly, but they sacrifice a lot of making them much less warm.
Most snowboard gloves have extra features for convenience and comfort. Some gloves offer zippered pockets that can house disposable hand warmers for when the weather calls for it. Other gloves and mittens have grips and/or reinforcements typically on the palms and thumbs as these are the areas that get the most wear and tear. This will increase the durability of your gloves or mittens. There are snowboard gloves that come with a soft nose wipe area on the thumb for drippy and running noses. And sometimes there is a mini squeegee on one of the thumbs to help wipe your goggles clear, but only use this feature on the outside of your goggles. Another feature that is available on some gloves is a wrist loop that is attached to the cuff so that your gloves can dangle when you don’t need to be wearing them but also don’t want to have to hold onto them.
The debate between gloves and mittens has been an ongoing one and no real conclusion has been reached, it’s all a matter of personal preference. Mittens will provide more warmth because your fingers will share one compartment inside the mitten and can generate more heat that way. But, mittens have less mobility in some circumstances. If warmth is your number one consideration and you don't mind taking your gloves off to pick your nose then mittens are for you.
Glove liners are a thinner, non-insulated glove that provides extra warmth and fit inside your regular snowboard gloves. Glove liners work on a system of layering so can buy an exterior shell glove and then switch up your liners depending on the weather conditions. Some of the different materials liners can be made from are thin wool, silk or synthetic material. A thicker liner, polyester for example, will give you better insulating properties but won’t be a good in terms of moisture wicking. Glove liners are also very useful for after shredding activities so you can take off your big cumbersome snowboard gloves and use your liners for warmth. Remember though, glove liners aren’t necessities, most higher performance snowboard gloves do not need liners for warmth as they will hold up in any conditions with the same amount of warmth.