Are Mittens Warmer Than Gloves? Here’s What Science Says.

Ah, the great debate. Mittens or gloves? Well, what’s best for you really depends on warmth vs utility. The important thing is what works best for you. But, which is really warmer, mittens or gloves? Well, we now have a definitive answer.

Are mittens warmer than gloves? Yes, mittens are warmer because they have less surface area than gloves. This translates to less radiant heat loss. Studies also show that unheated mittens with liners outperformed with unheated gloves with liners, concluding that mittens are warmer than gloves.

Why Are Mittens Warmer Than Gloves?

Aside from the fingers being closer together in mittens, there’s also a more important factor coming into play. To understand why mittens are warmer, we have to understand how heat loss works.

Gloves have more surface area since the material goes around each finger individually. Because there’s a greater surface area, gloves have more heat loss from the outside. Another reason is the gloves have more seams than mittens, allowing for more heat loss.

How Much Warmer Are Mittens Than Gloves?

Well, there’s been an actual study done on mitten vs glove temperatures, entitled Glove and mitten protection in extreme cold weather: an Antarctic study

I went ahead and decided to simplify the results for you, which are actually pretty interesting.

The charts below compare all the glove/mitten/liner combinations. Some of the gloves and mittens tested were electrically heated and some were not, while some had liners and others did not.

Keep in mind, this is simply a test on the warmest gloves and mittens, so the warmth ratings will largely depend on the brand.

Passing the Warmth Test

The first chart describes the combinations that kept the hands comfortable and didn’t yield any pain when touching cold objects.

You’ll see that the preheated Outdoor Research Heated Gloves were the warmest rated.

You might think this shows that gloves are warmer, but when comparing between mittens and gloves in general about their warmth, I decided not to include anything that was heated.

Glove/mitten/linerMin temp during test: °f (°c)Max temp when beginning test: °f (°c)Heat loss during test: °f (°c)
Outdoor Research heated gloves (pre-heated max)82 (28)96 (36)14 (8)
Volt heated mittens (pre-heated 4 bars)81 (27)93 (34)12 (7)
Marmot 8000 Meter Mitt/Marmot liners80 (27)92 (33)12 (6)
Outdoor Research Alt Mitts/Mountain Hardwear liner74 (23)84 (29)10 (6)
Outdoor Research heated gloves (battery off)70 (21)93 (34)23 (13)
Outdoor Research Alt Mitts and liner67 (13)80 (27)13 (7)
Volt heated gloves (pre-heated 4 bars)66 (18)95 (35)29 (17)
Volt heated mittens (battery off)59 (15)88 (31)29 (16)
Generic mittens/possum liner59 (15)75 (24)16 (9)

What Gloves Are the Warmest?

If you’re deciding on buying the warmest gloves possible, then the Outdoor Research Lucent Heated Gloves will be your best bet. If you suffer from Raynaud’s syndrome where your hands get cold easily, then heated gloves will be just what you need.

Heated gloves can be a little pricey, especially the heated Outdoor Research gloves. If you’re looking for something a little more affordable, I would head over to Amazon to see some more affordable options.

If you’re looking for the warmest nonheated gloves and don’t mind mittens, then the Marmot 8000 Meter Mitt is the warmest mitten. These are really designed for extreme cold and alpine climbers, so they might be a bit overkill for your normal winter hiking, skiing, or snowboarding adventure.

Here’s a more compact list of the warmest gloves from the Antarctic study:

  1. Outdoor Research Lucent Heated Gloves
  2. Volt Heated Mittens: Maxima 7v Nylon Heated Snow Mitts
  3. Marmot 8000 Meter Mitt
  4. Outdoor Research Alti Mitts with Mountain Hardwear Power Stretch Stimulus Glove
  5. Outdoor Research Alti Mitts/Alpine with inserts
  6. Volt heated gloves: Titan Men’s 7v Leather Heated Gloves
  7. Generic mitten (unknown brand) with Ski-Dri2 Thinsulate™ Supreme insulation
  8. Possum fur liner: generic from New Zealand.

Why Your Hands Might Feel Colder with Gloves

Sometimes it might feel like gloves don’t keep your hands warm, or worse, your hands may actually feel colder wearing gloves.

The thing to remember is, gloves act as insulation and trap in heat. If your fingers aren’t producing enough heat, they might still feel cold.

There are a few reasons why your hands might feel this way:

  • Your gloves are absorbing moisture
  • Your gloves are too tight
  • You are keeping your hands out of your pockets where they would normally be warmer without gloves

If your hands or fingers are still cold in gloves, consider keeping your hands dry, increasing your body temperature, or trying new gloves.

Making Gloves Warmer

There are a few tricks you can try to make your gloves and hands stay warmer:

  • Try laying your gloves. You’ll first want to put on a thin layer glove first, then use the larger glove.
  • Use hand warmers inside your gloves.
  • Use heated gloves. These are more pricey but if you have really cold hands, they might be worth it.

So, Are Mittens Better Than Gloves?

Not necessarily. Just because mittens are warmer than gloves, doesn’t mean they are necessarily better. If you’re doing some typical hiking, then mittens will be best.

However, if you need to have any sort of dexterity where you need to use your fingers or get better grip, then gloves might be a good option.

I actually like to use mittens with gloves inside so I can peel back the mitten portion and have access to my fingers when needed. This is particularly handy when I’m tying rope or using my cell phone.

There is also another type of glove called the lobster. Lobster style gloves have “3” fingers sections available. The thumb, the in index and middle finger, and the ring and pinker finger.

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