To test these gloves, Braverman spent at least a full day outside—and usually longer—with a different model of glove on each hand.
To test these gloves, Braverman spent at least a full day outside—and usually longer—with a different model of glove on each hand. (Courtesy Mammut, Hestra Gloves, Costco)

March Madness, but Make It Gloves and Mittens

Musher Blair Braverman tested 20 gloves and mittens head to head to find the warmest handwear that fits in your pocket

To test these gloves, Braverman spent at least a full day outside—and usually longer—with a different model of glove on each hand.

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Here’s the truth about gloves: the thicker they are, the warmer, and none of them are as warm as mittens. Everyone wants to keep their hands toasty in thin little gloves, and it’s not going to happen. Or if it does, it’s because of some confluence of circulation, metabolism, air and body temperature, and so on—in other words, it’s not just the gloves themselves doing it. But sometimes you want something compact that’ll keep your hands warm enough and can still fit in your pocket. It’s easy to find a good glove, but how do you find the best glove—or mitten—for everyday use?

I gathered 20 pairs of gloves and mittens featuring all sorts of different materials, cuts, and insulation levels, to set up a bracket-style competition. For testing, I spent at least a full day outside—and usually several days—with each model of glove or mitten on a different hand. In most cases, one of my hands was notably warmer at the end of the day, and the glove on that hand advanced to the next level of competition. When my hands felt the same, I had friends perform the same test to break the tie. If a product was truly annoying for some reason—like it ripped easily, or the lining got twisted—I disqualified it regardless of warmth.

The result? A lot of the gloves and mittens were good, but only a few rose to the very top.

glove bracket
A slice of the glove bracket

Warmest Compact Glove/Best Overall

Mammut Thermo Glove ($50)

(Courtesy Mammut)

Mammut’s Thermo Gloves take the classic elements of a good layering system—a windproof (and water-resistant) shell, fluffy insulation, and a soft next-to-skin layer—and combine all three into one surprisingly small package. Over the course of several weeks of testing, the Thermos kept my hands significantly warmer than any other compact glove. And I never felt like my movement was restricted, which is my personal glove pet peeve. Bonus points for articulated fingers and well-attached layers that never got tangled, as this style of gloves are wont to do. The touchscreen-compatible fingertip works fine for one-click tasks like checking the time or answering calls, though since it’s not skintight, I wouldn’t plan to text with it unless you have extraordinary precision. Plus the pair comes with an adorable miniature stuff sack to clip to your coat.

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Warmest Compact Mitten

First Lite Brooks Down Glassing Mitt ($80)

(First Lite)

First Lite's Brooks Glassing Mitts are designed for hunters who are sitting bone still, looking through binoculars for hours in the cold. As such, they’re just as warm as you might imagine (and tested better than similar down mittens because of their more insulated palm). They also pack up tiny because of the compressible, water-resistant DownTek insulation, are long enough to keep drafts off your wrists, and have a fleecy lining that feels soft against your skin. In other words: maximum warmth for minimum space and weight. You may look like you’re wearing golden raisins on your hands, but they’ll be darn comfortable.

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Best Budget Option

Head Hybrid Gloves ($17)

(Courtesy Costco)

Head’s Hybrid gloves (available in both men’s and women’s sizes) kept my hands warmer than several other options that cost three times as much. They’re workhorses, too: windproof fleece, a grippy patch across the palm, and quilting on the knuckles for extra insulation. They’ve held up well to several weeks of shoveling and farm work, plus abrasion from ski poles and machine washing. I’m going to have to get a second pair because my husband keeps stealing them.

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Best Really Warm

Hestra Moon Mitt ($80)

(Courtesy Hestra Gloves)

Do your hands get really cold? Do you just want to not think about them when you’re outside in the winter? Hestra’s Moon Mitts are not compact, nor compactable, but with their thick Primaloft insulation, fleece lining, and baffle-free design (read: no seams to let in the cold), they’re about as warm as you can find without getting into multi-layer expedition mitt systems. Putting them on feels like taking a bubble bath and eating fresh chocolate chip cookies and getting a hug from your crush at the same time. If your hands are still chilly, toss in some charcoal hand warmers for maximum coziness. 

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Corrections: (10/17/2021) An earlier version of this story failed to include brand who makes the Brooks Down Glassing Mitt. The story has been updated to reflect that the glove is made by First Lite. Outside regrets the error. Lead Photo: Courtesy Mammut, Hestra Gloves, Costco

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