Gear Guy

What can I do about sweaty gloves?

Oh Gear Oracle, I have a problem with a build-up of moisture within my mittens, not from rain or snow, but from my own perspiration. This is especially true during snowshoeing trips. I was wondering if there are any shells that have little or no insulation, allowing me to layer them inside and increase the breathability of the mitten. Dennis Portsmouth, New Hampshire


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The problem is not so much one of breathability as it is simple physics. Your body produces water vapor directly, or it is created as sweat evaporates. That vapor then seeks to escape through the fabric surrounding your torso, hands, feet, and other outer extremities. If you’re wearing a thin, very breathable layer, no problem. But in winter, when you’re wrapped in insulation, it becomes trickier. What often happens is that the water vapor hits a cold layer well before it gets to the outside of the gloves (or whatever else you have on). When that happens, the water vapor condenses into liquid water and, hey presto, your hands get wet.

Two ways to attack this problem. One is by wearing handwear that either maximizes water transpiration or directly limits the excess moisture. For the former technique, try light gloves made with Windstopper. REI sells a pair made by Manzella called the Silkweight Windstopper Gloves ($25). This winter, I have been wearing these while mountain biking in near-freezing conditions and have found them to be terrific. Very breathable and, although technically uninsulated, surprisingly warm. And, yes, my hands stay dry. You could buy a pair that are slightly larger and wear a light glove liner for extra insulation. For that matter, any glove liner should push moisture away from the skin and into the surrounding glove, helping your hands to feel dry even if not all the water vapor is escaping. To give Manzella another plug, try their glove liners made with Outlast, a temperature-regulating material that may prevent overheating.

In any event, when I’m out doing something active in the winter, I always pack multiple pairs of gloves, the hands being exceedingly difficult to keep dry.

Then again, you may simply have sweaty hands, just as some people have sweaty feet. Perhaps you can spray them with an anti-perspirant deodorant, which will help shut down the sweat glands. It sounds silly, but it works.

Gear checklist: Silkweight Windstopper Gloves; Manzella Glove Liners.

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