Hands-On: How to Select the Right Hiking Gloves

Hiking Gloves: A close-up of hiker's hands wearing gloves with a scenic sunset

In this post, we'll take a look at:

When you’re preparing for a hike, don’t overlook the importance of your hiking gloves. They’re your pals on the trail, keeping your hands comfy and safe.

In this post, we’ll explore the world of hiking gloves and help you choose the perfect pair. Ready? Let’s go.

Key Takeaways

  • Understand the different types – full-fingered (synthetic or leather for warmth/durability), fingerless (for dexterity), liners (insulation layer), and winter gloves (maximum insulation/waterproofing).
  • Consider the key factors – grip, durability, weather resistance, proper fit. Get gloves suited for the conditions you’ll be hiking in.
  • Optional features like touchscreen compatibility, clips, and pockets can add convenience, but focus on the main priorities of warmth, protection and dexterity first.

Different Types of Hiking Gloves

Let’s clear things up from the start—this post is all about hiking gloves, not mittens. The key difference? Gloves have separate compartments for each finger, while mittens don’t. Mittens can be warmer, but gloves give you more control.

Before we jump into picking the perfect hiking gloves, let’s first get to know the different types you’ll come across. There are four main kinds, each providing protection and comfort for different terrains and weather conditions:

1. Full-Fingered Hiking Gloves

Full-fingered hiking gloves are versatile and widely used, offering complete hand protection against the elements, abrasions, and trail hazards—making them the most common type.

Synthetic Full-Fingered Gloves:

Hiking Gloves: Full-fingered synthetic option (Outdoor Research Vigor Heavyweight Sensor Gloves)

Synthetic full-fingered gloves are favored by hikers for their lightweight, breathable design. Made from materials like polyester, nylon, or spandex, and featuring durable coatings like nitrile or polyurethane for improved grip and protection, these gloves shine in mild to moderate weather conditions for most. They are also relatively affordable.

Leather Full-Fingered Gloves:

Hiking Gloves: Full-fingered leather option (Hestra Gloves Fall Line Gloves)

Leather full-fingered gloves, valued for their toughness, excel in shielding against abrasions, sharp terrain, and thorns. While less breathable than synthetic gloves, they are ideal for colder weather, providing superior insulation. These gloves are a top choice for hikers prioritizing warmth and ruggedness. Keep in mind, they can be quite expensive, making them a niche product.

2. Fingerless Hiking Gloves

Hiking Gloves: Fingerless option (Outdoor Research ActiveIce Sun Gloves)

Fingerless gloves, preferred by those who require finger dexterity, keep fingertips exposed for tasks like adjusting cameras or occasional rock climbing. Usually made from synthetic materials, they strike a balance between protection and usability. In our view, they’re a specialized piece of gear—you’ll know if you need a pair.

3. Liner Gloves

Hiking Gloves: Liner option (REI Co-op Liner Gloves 2.0)

Liner gloves are thin, lightweight layers designed to go beneath your main hiking gloves or be worn as a separate pair in fair weather. They provide insulation in the cold and wick away moisture in warmer weather. Made from materials like merino wool, fleece, or synthetics, they are affordable and versatile. We really appreciate them as they make handling trekking poles much more comfortable.

4. Winter Gloves

Hiking Gloves: Winter Glove (Leki Xplore S Gloves)

Winter gloves are specialized gloves designed for extreme cold and wet conditions. They extend past the wrist onto the forearm, effectively blocking snow and moisture in harsh alpine settings. Heavily insulated and often waterproof, they’re perfect for mountaineering, winter, and high-altitude treks. There are plenty of designs available, including ones with removable liners.

TIP: If you are searching for them online, you can also use the term “Alpine Gauntlets” to find expedition-specific models.

How to Select the Right Hiking Gloves

Hiking Gloves: A hiker with winter gloves holding a compass

Choosing the right hiking gloves requires careful thought, mainly depending on the weather you’ll encounter. For summer hikes, we prefer liner gloves. In spring and autumn, synthetic full-fingered gloves are our go-to, and for winter outings, we opt for winter gloves.

Regardless of the type you choose, consider these key factors before making your decision:

  1. Grip: Opt for gloves with a textured or patterned nitrile coating on the palm and fingers. This provides superior grip on various surfaces, essential for maintaining balance on steep or slippery terrains and securely handling trekking poles.
  2. Durability: Look for gloves made from high-quality materials. Reinforced stitching and finger joints enhance longevity.
  3. Weather Resistance: Make sure the gloves are water-resistant and quick-drying if you anticipate wet or damp conditions. Seek materials like Gore-Tex or similar options.
  4. Comfort and Fit: Seek gloves with a snug yet comfortable fit for natural finger movement. Adjustable wrist closures and moisture-wicking inner linings enhance overall comfort.
    • Getting the Right Fit: Because sizes can vary among different manufacturers, it’s important to measure your hand and check the sizing charts provided by the manufacturer. You can use a piece of string to measure around your hand and then compare it to a ruler.

Prioritize features based on your hiking conditions and activities. Remember, warmer gloves are always bulkier, highlighting the importance of selecting gloves that match your needs.

Look out for some optional comfort features that can enhance your use case, including:

  1. Touchscreen compatibility: For phone-checking during your hike, touchscreen-compatible gloves are crucial. Most smartphones need the conductive touch of a bare finger, making regular gloves ineffective. Touchscreen gloves, usually thinner, feature a small conductive patch mimicking the touch of a bare finger.
  2. Pockets: Some gloves come with pockets, either zippered or not, typically on the back of the hand. They are often marketed as useful for storing hand warmers or acting as vents on warmer days. However, we’ve never found much use for them and see them as unnecessary complexity. But hey, you might find them interesting!
  3. Clips: A clip on the gloves is handy to keep them together, preventing the ‘finding only one glove’ scenario. It also allows you to hang them over any straps on your backpack.


In summary, hiking gloves are essential gear for outdoor enthusiasts, providing protection and comfort in various terrains and conditions.

Understanding glove types, key factors, and optional comfort features is crucial for making the best choice. If you’re not sure where to find them, we suggest checking out REI, where you can find the best options for both men and women.

With this knowledge, you’re prepared to choose the perfect pair for your next hike. Happy trails!

Exploring the top clothing choices for your ultralight adventure? Find the lightest options for both men and women.


Should I wear gloves hiking?

Yes, wearing gloves while hiking is a smart choice. Hiking gloves offer protection from elements, abrasions, and terrain hazards while keeping your hands comfortable. They provide a better grip on trekking poles, aid in tasks like using GPS or smartphones, and are crucial for colder weather. So, whether you’re trekking through moderate conditions or braving extreme cold, investing in the right hiking gloves is a must for any outdoor enthusiast.

What gloves are best for hiking?

The best gloves for hiking depend on various factors such as the weather, terrain, and your specific needs. Full-fingered gloves are versatile and offer all-around protection. Synthetic gloves made of materials like polyester or nylon are great for moderate conditions, while leather gloves excel in rugged terrains and colder weather. Fingerless gloves provide dexterity for tasks like using gadgets. Liner gloves offer added insulation, and winter (ski) gloves are ideal for extreme cold and wet conditions. Choose gloves that align with your hiking conditions and preferences to ensure comfort and protection on the trail.

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Why you should trust us

At Hikinglite, we're all about helping you hit the trails with lightweight and ultralight outdoor gear that won't weigh you down. Our crew of content creators? Real outdoor enthusiasts who've logged countless miles on the trails.

Leading the pack is our editor-in-chief, Alex Jardine – an ultralight evangelist who's hiked over 10,000 trail miles across the globe. He's basically a walking outdoor encyclopedia. This dude loves testing out the latest and greatest products, so you can trust his recommendations are always well-informed and reliable.

We treat all our suggestions like advice from close trail buddies. No fluff, just real insights from folks who live and breathe the outdoor life.

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