When you’re getting ready for outdoor adventures, you might be unsure whether to pick hiking gloves or mittens. This choice can affect how comfortable and safe you are while hiking. In this guide, we’ll explain:

  • Differences between hiking gloves and mittens,
  • Discuss their pros and cons,
  • Make a close comparison,
  • Provide recommendations for various hiking situations and weather conditions
gloves vs mittens

The Basics: Hiking Gloves and Mittens

Before we start discussing gloves versus mittens, let’s first understand what each choice means.

Hiking Gloves

Hiking gloves are made to give you good control and movement while keeping your hands safe. These gloves usually have separate spaces for each finger. So you can easily hold hiking poles, adjust your gear, or pick up small things. Hiking gloves come in materials such as synthetic blends and leather, offering different levels of warmth and weather protection.


Mittens prioritize warmth over dexterity. Unlike gloves, mittens group all fingers together, sharing warmth but reducing fine hand movements. This makes mittens perfect for extremely cold conditions.

Pros and Cons: Gloves vs. Mittens

We now know the main idea behind hiking gloves and mittens. Next, we’ll look at their benefits and drawbacks.

Hiking Gloves


  1. Dexterity: Gloves enable precise movements, making them ideal for tasks requiring nimble fingers such as handling ropes or operating a GPS device.
  2. Versatility: They work well in different weather conditions, from mild to moderately cold, and are suitable for year-round use.
  3. Breathability: Many hiking gloves use breathable materials to keep your hands from getting too sweaty.
  4. Protection: Gloves provide a barrier against rough terrain, thorns, and blisters, reducing the risk of injury.


  1. Limited Warmth: In very cold conditions, gloves may not keep your fingers warm enough.
  2. Bulkiness: Certain gloves can be bulky, impacting your ability to grip equipment or perform delicate tasks.
  3. Frostbite Risk: Exposed fingers in extreme cold can still be at risk of frostbite, especially without proper insulation.



  1. Excellent Warmth: Mittens excel in very cold conditions, keeping your fingers warm by sharing heat.
  2. Ease of Use: They are easy to put on and remove, making them a convenient option for quick cold protection.
  3. Comfort: Mittens typically offer a snug and comfortable fit, minimizing the chances of cold-related discomfort.


  1. Decreased Finger Control: To provide warmth, mittens sacrifice some finger control, making tasks like handling small gear or tying knots more difficult.
  2. Weather Limitations: Mittens are less suitable for mild weather or tasks requiring precise finger movements.
  3. Moisture Retention: They can trap moisture and sweat, which might lead to dampness and discomfort during prolonged use.

Choosing the Right Gear for Your Needs

Choosing between hiking gloves and mittens depends on your outdoor plans and the weather. Here are some suggestions for different situations:

Consider the Weather Conditions

The most important step in deciding between gloves and mittens is to consider the usual weather in your hiking spots. Is it extremely cold, pleasantly mild, or blazing hot? This will guide your choice.

For Cold Weather:

  • Mittens: Opt for mittens when dealing with sub-zero temperatures. Look for models with advanced insulation and windproof materials for maximum warmth.

For Mild to Cool Weather:

  • Gloves: In moderately cold weather, gloves offer a good mix of warmth and finger control. Opt for ones with breathable materials for comfort during active tasks.

Evaluate Your Activities

Think about the activities you’ll do while hiking. Various outdoor activities may need different levels of finger control.

For Activities Requiring Precision:

  • Gloves: If you’ll be dealing with small gear, working with ropes, or using electronic devices, gloves are the better choice. Search for ones with grip-enhancing features for added functionality.

For General Hiking:

  • Mittens or Gloves: For regular hiking without complex tasks, both gloves and mittens are suitable. Decide based on the weather and your personal comfort.

Think About Seasonal Variations

If you’re an all-season hiker, it’s wise to prepare for varying weather conditions. Versatility becomes key.

Multi-Season Hiking:

  • Gloves and Mittens Combo: To cover all your bases, consider carrying both gloves and mittens. This ensures adaptability to changing weather while maintaining comfort and safety.

Recommendations for Different Types of Hiking and Weather Conditions

To simplify your gear selection process, here are recommendations for various hiking situations and weather conditions.

Cold Weather Hiking

When it gets really cold and snowy on the trails, you’ll need excellent protection for your hands. Get mittens made for extreme cold. Search for mittens with advanced insulation and windproof materials.

Mild to Cool Weather Hiking

When you go on enjoyable, chilly hikes without worrying about frostbite, pick gear that gives you the perfect mix of warmth and flexibility. Choose lightweight gloves with enough insulation and breathable materials to keep your hands comfortable during physical activities.

Alpine Climbing and Mountaineering

In high-altitude places with very cold temperatures and tough challenges, your hand protection choice is really important. Give priority to mittens because they offer the best warmth. But also, keep lightweight gloves with you for times when you need to use your hands with precision.

Multi-Season Hiking

If you love adventure all year long, being versatile is crucial. Your gear should change with the seasons. The best option is to have a mix of gloves and mittens. This ensures you’re ready for any weather, and you don’t have to sacrifice comfort or safety.

The Benefits of Mittens for Cold Weather

Mittens are the absolute best at keeping your hands warm in extremely cold weather. Here’s why they work so well in freezing conditions:

  • Maximum Heat Retention: Mittens keep all your fingers together, creating a warm pocket inside to keep your hands snug even when it’s below freezing.
  • Reduced Heat Loss: While individual fingers produce heat, they can lose heat rapidly when they’re separated. Mittens reduce heat loss, making them the best option for very cold weather.
  • Windproof and Waterproof Options: Many mittens have windproof and waterproof materials, offering extra protection from the weather.

The Benefits of Gloves for Hiking in Warm Weather

In contrast to mittens, hiking gloves offer unique advantages when trekking in warmer conditions:

  • Dexterity for Handling Gear: Gloves enable you to do tasks that need finger accuracy, like using trekking poles, adjusting gear, or taking pictures.
  • Breathability: Hiking gloves often use breathable materials to stop sweaty hands and discomfort while you’re active. They’re the preferred choice when it gets warm during your hike.

Final Verdicts

n summary, choosing between hiking gloves and mittens hinges on weather and activity. Mittens excel in extreme cold, providing superior warmth and frostbite protection. Opt for gloves in milder weather, offering dexterity for precision tasks and breathability for comfort. In alpine climbing, prioritize mittens for warmth but keep lightweight gloves for precision. Multi-season hikers benefit from a mix. Mittens keep fingers together, reducing heat loss and offering windproof, waterproof options. Gloves offer dexterity and breathability in warmer conditions. Tailor your choice to the conditions, ensuring comfort and safety in all your outdoor adventures.

By Mary K. Trask

I'm Marry K. Trask, a passionate hiker and environmentalist rooted in the breathtaking landscapes of the Pacific Northwest. My journey into the world of hiking and environmental advocacy began in the suburbs of Portland, where I was fortunate enough to experience the wonders of nature firsthand through family camping trips and explorations in the Cascade Range.

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