When it comes to keeping your hands warm in the mountains during the cold months of winter, skiers are divided up between those who prefer ski mitts and those who prefer ski gloves. Both of these tribes will happily champion the pros of their choice and, while they’re doing so, point out some of the cons offered up by the alternative. In truth, despite what some ski mitt and ski glove ultras will try and tell you, there isn’t really a right answer or a wrong answer to the ‘ski mitts or ski gloves’ question. It depends on personal preference. Before discussing the best ski mitts for this winter season, let’s have a quick chat about what ski mitts bring to the fold and what some of these pros and cons are.
The best ski mitts for winter 2022
- Black Diamond Spark Johnny Ski Mitt
- Dakine Baron GTX Mitt
- Helly Hansen ULLR Helly Tech Mitten
- Rab Khroma Freeride GTX Mitt
- Outdoor Research RadiantX Mitts
Why ski mitts are better than ski gloves
One of the best things about ski mitts is that, generally speaking, they’re warmer than gloves. This is, in layman’s terms, because your fingers generate more heat when they’re not all separated from each other in their own, individual, finger compartments. Sort of like penguins huddling together for warmth, when you’re wearing mittens your fingers are grouped together in such a way that the body heat they give off helps to warm the fingers next to them. When they’re inside mitts your digits are essentially sharing heat between themselves, elevating the comfort level in an environment where it’s much easier for warm air to circulate. With ski mitts, your fingers are united as one rather than standing alone against the cold air outside. Ski mitts are also good because there’s less exposed surface area on them, and less ‘points of attack’ for those bone-chilling low temperatures on the hill.
“One of the best things about ski mitts is that, generally… they’re warmer than gloves”
It’s worth pointing out, at this stage, that the theory above is only true if the ski mitts in question are well-made and provide a good level of insulation. A well-made glove will, more often than not and rather unsurprisingly, triumph over a poorly-made mitt. Worried about choosing a good ski mitt? Anxious about messing up your pick and ending up with cold hands? Fear not. That’s where we come in. We’ve got you.
The disadvantages of skiing with ski mitts
As mentioned already, there’s no perfect way of keeping your hands warm while skiing. Whatever you decide to wear on your hands will come with at least some minor disadvantages. Ski mitts, for example, undoubtedly offer less finger dexterity than ski gloves. This factor, perhaps more than any other factor, gets straight to the heart of why skiers, general speaking, tend to favour ski gloves while snowboarders tend to favour mitts. It’s not impossible to hold ski poles while wearing mitts, far from it in fact, but it can take a bit of getting used to (don’t worry, you’ll get there).
“Make sure, no matter what, that you’re investing in a pair of mitts that are fully waterproof and have good insulation”
Are ‘lobster mitts’ / ‘three-finger mitts’ a good compromise?
So, you want warm hands but don’t want to sacrifice too much in the way of finger dexterity? You might want to consider getting yourself a pair of ‘lobster claw’ style gloves / mittens. For skiers who want the best of both worlds, they’re a very good option. Stylistically, they haven’t always looked great but, in recent years, that’s begun to change (see Dakine X Sammy Carlson Team Baron GTX Trigger Mitt).
Things to remember when buying ski mitts
We fully understand that when buying ski gear it can sometimes boil down to picking a bit of kit based entirely on how cool it looks. We’d also be lying if we said we hadn’t, in the past, been guilty of making decisions based entirely on a product’s appearances rather than its practical benefits in the mountains. Don’t do this. It’s a mistake and will, most likely, end up with you having a sub-optimal time in the ski terrain. Make sure, no matter what, that you’re investing in a pair of mitts that are fully waterproof and have good insulation. There’s nothing worse than dwelling on how painfully cold your hands are when you should be enjoying the simple, yet unbelievably feel good, magic of sliding around on some snow.
Black Diamond Spark Johnny Ski Mitt
Price: £80 / 80€ / $100
If you weren’t you, you’d like to be Johnny Collinson wouldn’t you? With his luscious blonde hair, the kind of hair that immediately makes you want to phone him up and say ‘Hey Johnny. What conditioner are you using there?’, a physique that’s the dictionary definition of ‘in shape’, and a ski style that’s smoother than the silkiest silk known to man – yes, there’s a lot to envy about Johnny C.
Thanks to the good people at Black Diamond, we can now have the next best thing to actually being Johnny Collinson – a pair of mitts designed by the man himself, no less. A revamp of the Spark Mitt (a previous favourite of Johnny’s), these elite ski mitts have a tweaked design and serve up a number of modified features. These changes occurred off the back of a carefully considered consultation process with Johnny (say what you like about him, the man’s a man who knows what he wants).
“Primaloft Gold Insulation is the gold standard in synthetic insulation”
Keeping your hands warm and cosy here is a combination of 60g of Primaloft Gold Insulation and soft fleece fabric. As the name suggests, Primaloft Gold Insulation is the gold standard in synthetic insulation. It manages to upload its thermal efficacy even when wet, meaning that even if water somehow finds it way into the mitt’s inner sanctum your hands won’t turn to lumps of solid ice.
Externally speaking, the mitt is made from goat leather. This, in short, provides a durable water resistant finish and helps the mitt to feel so much tougher than your classic fabric glove. Thanks to the BD.dry liner, which sits just beneath the leather, there’s a fully waterproof seal separating your hands from the rain and snow outside. This 100% waterproof insert should be a reassuring presence for the sunrise to sunset ski tourers out there, especially those who’ve known the discomfort of having cold hands in remote terrain.
Dexterity isn’t something you’ll often associate with ski mitts but, thanks to the stitched-in separate fingers on the inside of the mitt, the Spark Johnny Mitt is a considerable step up, in this regard, on a number of its rivals. It’s still warmth first and dexterity second, of course, but the gap between them is noticeably closer here than it is on many other ski mitt options.
These ski mitts are genuinely excellent. Thanks Johnny.
This product was selected for our Ski 100.
Read our Black Diamond Spark Johnny Mitt review.
Dakine Baron Gore-Tex Mitt
Dakine know that every skier is different. The brand understand, like many other brands to be fair, that some skiers live for the touring missions, some live for the piste and park, and some live for a little bit of everything. What Dakine have really mastered, with all of the above in mind however, is the subtle art of producing mitts that will serve shredders well in all environments even when the weather conditions are properly rotten. Storm chasers, assemble. This is the mitt for you.
“Storm chasers, assemble. This is the mitt for you”
This leather mitt comes with a Gore-Tex insert, Gore Grip technology, and Primaloft insulation. What this means, in a nutshell, is that your hands are well shielded from the worst mountain weather imaginable without sacrificing too much in the way of mobility and dexterity. After all, bunkering down isn’t much use if your hands have all the moment of a cupboard.
The soft wool liner inside the mitt makes them a genuinely pleasant place to store the hands, while the bonded layers and four-way stretch exterior mean you’re able to easily grip your poles and make various adjustments to your set up without exposing your digits to the bitter cold. If, for whatever reason, you do need to take the mitts off for a moment you’ll be glad to know the Dakine lot have implemented some nice elastic wrist leashes. Nothing revolutionary about that, but it’s a reminder that these mitts can be worn during normal ski conditions as well as apocalyptic mountain storms.
Helly Hansen ULLR Helly Tech Mitten
Price: £70 / 80€
Part of Helly Hansen’s ULLR Freeride Collection, the Helly Tech Mittens are destined to be your freeride companion this winter. If the thought of epic winter adventures is what keeps you going during summer, these ski mitts will do a superb job for you right across the mountains during the coldest of seasons. The mitts will have your hands well and truly covered when you’re ski touring in the backcountry, generally mountaineering like its the 1950s and your name is Edmund Hillary, in the sidecountry when you’re off on one of your off-piste jaunts and, of course, when you’re mucking about in the resort (if that’s your thing).
“The Helly Tech Mittens are destined to be your freeride companion this winter”
Made, in part, from goat leather these unisex mittens are tough and durable in the places where you really need them to be. The leather helps to make the mittens supple, waterproof, and abrasion resistant – meaning you can wear them in challenging scenarios time after time without discomfort setting in or the product falling apart. Nobody likes it when they’re gloves / mitts rip open after a solitary week of use but, we’re happy to report, that this won’t be an issue here. Durable and affordable don’t always go together when it comes to ski gear but, relatively speaking, they do here.
The ULLR Helly Tech Mitten feels comfortable on the hand, and has a nicely implemented snow lock at the wrist so you can really batten down the hatches and keep the elements out. Windproof, waterproof, well insulated and surprisingly breathable; these ski mitts should definitely be on your shortlist.