Which Keeps Hands Warmer: Gloves Or Mittens?

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That distinct icy bite is in the air even while the sun is still up. Winter is approaching with a gallop, and it’s time to haul out the coats, beanies, scarves, and gloves. Or is it mittens? Or even glittens! Did you know there was such a hybrid? If your old pair of gloves or mittens has seen better days and needs replacing, which of those will keep your hands warmer?

Mittens keep our hands warmer than gloves. The bare fingers aid heat exchange and slow down heat loss. It also enhances the effect of the mittens’ thermal insulation. With gloves, each finger is separated and can only rely on the insulation for its warmth. The materials used also affect the warmth.

Although science dictates that mittens are warmer than gloves, they may not always be the hand-covering of choice. You may need the extra dexterity for tasks that would be more difficult to perform with mittens. Your choice may also depend on your outdoor activity or comfort and personal taste. Either way, those fingers need to stay warm.

Which Keeps Our Hands Warmer: Gloves Or Mittens?

Keeping our extremities warm in the dead of winter is paramount because frostbite can set in within 10 minutes in extreme cold. Gloves or mittens – it’s vital to get them on before heading outside.

The Process of Heat Transference

The principle of heat transfer is simple. It refers to the way heat flows to other entities due to differences in temperatures and the effects of this process. Heat (thermal energy) will always flow in the direction of the hottest to coldest object. Once the temperatures of these objects balance out, the heat no longer flows, and the objects are in thermal equilibrium.

To continue our mini science lesson, insulation is a scientific process that is active when we wear gloves and mittens. Insulation refers to putting a barrier between hot and cold objects to reduce the transference of heat. The glove or mitten is a barrier between your hand and the cold air, preventing the transfer of heat from your fingers to the air and them from getting freezing cold.

Gloves Vs. Mittens And Heat Transference

Gloves and mittens are not the perfect barriers between cold air and hands, but they certainly help a great deal. Which one helps more and why? Gloves are much more effective at keeping you warm.

The surface area of our chosen handwear is another thing that affects how warm they keep us. The more surface area is exposed to the cold, the faster we lose heat. Gloves have much more surface area facing the cold air than mittens. Also, when you’re wearing gloves, each finger has to keep itself warm, getting no assistance from its mates.

When you don a pair of mittens, your fingers are touching each other skin-to-skin, continuously transferring heat to one another and keeping each other at a fairly stable and hopefully warm temperature. While your fingers are keeping each other warm inside the mittens, the mittens are insulating them against the cold air.

The Best Materials For Glove And Mitten Warmth

When all things are equal, like materials, thickness, and insulation, mittens always prove to be warmer than gloves. But they are not always as practical as gloves. You need the dexterity that gloves give you in certain situations, e.g., tying shoelaces and adjusting ski bindings. 

So what are the best materials for keeping our hands warm, whether gloves or mittens? Similar to a jacket, mittens and gloves are made up of several layers that help to keep you warm, dry, and protected.

The shell can be made from synthetics or leather. Most gloves and mittens made for skiing and snowboarding have a synthetic (usually nylon) shell. Better quality variations use breathable waterproof material with a membrane of Polyurethane. Leather is also durable and waterproof when treated and given a microporous membrane.

The membrane is the section that defines how waterproof a glove or mitten is. The membrane sits between the shell and the insulation and has tiny pores that are too small to allow liquids to pass through but big enough to allow perspiration to escape. Common fabrics used for membranes are Gore-Tex, Hipora, Polyurethane, and Windstopper.

Proper insulation in a glove or mitten is vital. They need to provide you with warmth and breathability but not restrict your movement. Down is one of nature’s best insulators and is perfect for cold, dry conditions, but it doesn’t work well when wet. Other synthetic microfiber insulation fabrics are available that help to retain heat and save energy but are less effective than down.

The lining is an extra layer inserted for extra warmth and comfort. Wool and fleece are two of the more popular materials used for this layer.

Gloves and mittens are often reinforced in areas that take the most friction, such as the palms, thumbs, and fingertips. These can be made from leather or vinyl. This adds to their durability and longevity.

Hybrids Of Gloves And Mittens

When it comes down to choosing between the two, some of us are indecisive. Mittens are warmest, but when we wear them for certain practical tasks, we have the dexterity of a toddler. But there are solutions.

Glittens offer most of the advantages of gloves and mittens. They consist of gloves with half-length fingers and an attached pull-over mitten. They work well for performing tasks like taking photographs, driving, or doing shoelaces, while still keeping most of the hand warm. They are efficient in temperatures of about freezing point but would probably not be ideal in extreme cold.

Lobster mitts provide the better thermal insulation of mittens but give you the ability to perform more precise tasks efficiently. They combine the pinky, ring finger, and middle finger in one section, while the thumb and index finger have their own pockets. A very clever solution to the glove/mitten dilemma.

One More Tip To Keep Your Hands Warm

When we get cold, our body forces our blood circulation away from our extremities towards our vital organs. So to warm up our hands, we need to get our bodies warm first. It’s also a well-known fact that we lose heat through our heads. So get that wooly beanie on your head, and your body will warm up. When those mittens go on, you should be good to go!


It’s an undisputed fact that mittens are warmer than gloves, but they may not be as practical when we need our fingers to work. Fabric types and quality can make the difference between cold and warm hands. There are hybrids that we can use to keep warm and perform our tasks simultaneously. There seems to be absolutely no reason not to be outside in the fresh air.