A good pair of hiking gloves can make your next expedition far more enjoyable. Cold fingers can really take away from the enjoyment of the outdoors! In this article I am going to go over different styles of gloves and glove systems for three season hiking and general outdoor use. If you are interested in waterproof and breathable gloves, or perhaps insulated gloves for winter sports, like skiing or snowboarding, mountaineering, and ice climbing, check out the some of my other articles on these topics.
A good pair of lightweight hiking gloves is crucial to your comfort level in the back country. The most common materials used in manufacturing are wool, fleece, and microfiber. I am a big fan of traditional wool gloves because they stay warm when wet and tend to be a bit more wind-resistant than fleece. Microfiber gloves work very well in windy conditions, but I find when they wet, they can lack in warmth. A good system is to pair a thin fleece or wool liner with a waterproof mitt.
Let’s go over some of my top choices for best lightweight hiking gloves!
Best Lightweight Hiking Gloves
I LOVE these woolen-blend combination mitt/glove. I simply love them! These gloves are insulated with just enough THINSULATE® for a cold fall day with frost in the air but not too much for the windy summit days in summer when I want something to keep my fingertips warm.
The versatility of these gloves makes them extremely valuable. Most of us carry a camera, cell phone, GPS, or other piece of technology that require dexterous movements of the fingers to operate. I have used several pairs of specialty gloves meant to be used with touch screens and buttons and while this can be a good option (check out my #3 pick here), with a pair of combo gloves like this I simply pop off the mitt, snap a photo or check my location on my GPS, and return my fingers to the warmth of the mitt.
The mitt allows your fingers to warm up faster by sharing the warmth inside a common space!
The downside to these awesome mitts is that they are only slightly water resistant (however, wool will continue insulating while wet) and they are quite bulky.
I like the cut of these Marmot Fleece gloves; there are so many options available on the market today that I tend to go with a simple liner like this, without additional options like fingertip or palm reinforcements and insulation. Most of the time I use these in conjunction with a pair of OR waterproof mitts (this is one of my favorite systems for 3-season use) but a good pair of fleece gloves will stand alone down to around 40°.
INSIDER TIP: When choosing a size for your fleece gloves it can be tempting to choose a snug ft, with little space in the glove for air. This is a bad idea for two reasons!
1. The fleece is most efficient at warming the air around your skin, not your skin itself! This is a common misconception when dealing with warmth in the back country. I tend to buy gloves that are loose enough to contain a bit or air, but not so loose that they slide off when I am using my hands.
2. The seams and fabric will be put under stress by movement if your gloves are too tight! Gaps in the seams or micro-pores in the fabric from stress will decrease the efficiency of your gloves greatly, and take away from your comfort in the back country!
Here is another great option to work with your camera, GPS, or smartphone! I look at these Black Diamond Lightweight Screentap Gloves as a step up from the simple fleece liner. This comes with a slight increase in cost, but for this increase you will have a higher quality material, a elastic cuff to keep out dirt and debris, and the sensitive fingertips needed to manipulate your screens in the back country without taking off your gloves!
There are many other eGloves or technology-kind options on the market, but I like the Black Diamond simply because I have used them and know they work. They also fit well (I have large hands).
IMPORTANT NOTE: Your new lightweight gloves will be great at keeping your hands warm in fall and spring, but they will not last long if they receive rough treatment. When you are setting up camp, gathering firewood or rocks to make your fire ring, or doing anything where your gloves will be subject to heavy wear or tear, think about bringing a spare pair of simple PVC of Cotton Gloves like this!
These gloves might not be as warm, but they will allow you to save your fingertips and set up camp without destroying your lightweight hiking gloves!
I was hiking in Colorado during late spring a few years back and decided to camp on top of San Luis, an awesome 14er with a great open view to the west. I had planned the day to hike further but I had arrived at the peak immediately before sunset and noted just enough snow for cooking and hydrating throughout the night, so I pitched my tent and settled back for the show. The sunset was spectacular and I fell asleep easily enough; around 3am I was awoken by the wind. It was about to lift my shelter off the peak!
San Luis Peak, 14,000’+
I was using a floorless tent with a groundsheet to save weight; although I had guyed the tent to the the surrounding rocks, the wind was sneaking under the lip of the tent. So at 3am I popped outside in the cold and shoveled loose gravel onto the edge of my shelter, creating a wind-resistant barrier; in this short time, heavy use of my fleece gloves wore holes in the fingertips. I was especially bummed out because I had just bought them!
Enjoy your new lightweight hiking glove and happy trails!