The only thing that rivals cold feet during the winter months is cold fingers and many will happily sit down and argue over whether or not mittens are warmer than gloves. Of course, that competing dynamic becomes more critical when considering work, play, leisure, hunting, camping, and more, for reasons we’ll cover below.

In a bubble, where one is compared to the other, mittens are warmer than gloves. They’re warmer because they allow your fingers to remain together, sharing warmth rather than separate and providing their own warmth.

It’s like crowding people into a small room that is not heated, during the winter. At first, all of the individuals will remain cold. However, as time passes, the room begins to warm as the heat generated by each individual begins to build up. Eventually, it may become hot and stifling in the room without any need for generating heat through mechanical means.

Other reasons that mittens are warmer than gloves

Holding Specialty Drink at Coffee Shop with Red Mittens
Photo by Dylan Ferreira / Unsplash

It doesn’t end with the fact that mittens allow your fingers to mingle with one another. Mittens are designed to combat the cold weather, after all and their greatest downfall would have to be the fact that they steal away your ability to use your individual fingers.

  • There are fewer seams in mittens than there are in gloves
  • Mittens have a smaller amount of surface area than gloves
  • Your fingers are all in the same pocket (as previously mentioned)
  • Mittens outperform gloves in terms of warming your fingers in all scientific studies on the matter

The fact that mittens are warmer than gloves may be an irritating fact to those who prefer gloves, especially because of the versatility that gloves give your hands when you are working or hunting.

The thing is, when it comes to gloves, manufacturers are merely attempting to find a happy medium, not design the warmest glove in the world. Gloves are designed to allow you to use your fingers while also combatting the cold and protecting your fingers from harm.

Mittens are designed for nothing outside of keeping your hands warm. Mittens have fewer seams in them and those seams—no matter how well-made they are—allow heat to escape from the glove. These seams are the contact points between two materials and that point is the weakest link.

Mittens also have a smaller surface area than gloves, since gloves have to be manufactured with enough material to facilitate a design in which your fingers can fit. Less material means less exposure to the elements, so the material remains warmer and longer than what you will find in a glove.

There also exist several scientific studies on the matter, because apparently, the warmth of mittens versus gloves is a serious scientific debate. However you want to look at it, the studies always conclude that mittens win out in the war of warmth when compared with gloves.

Major differences between gloves and mittens

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The obvious difference between the two, upon direct observation, is that mittens contain only two pockets, one for the thumb and a large pocket for the rest of your fingers. But, there are several more differences and advantages that both types offer.

Benefits of mittens over gloves

Due to the way that mittens are manufactured, they are very easy to take off and put on, something that is more difficult with gloves, especially the types of gloves that are designed with stiff leather and a tight fit.

Mittens are also the better choice for kids since they are mostly worn at play and they won’t require the nimbleness and dexterity that gloves provide. Not to mention the fact that they slip on easier since kids are almost supernaturally adept at not putting the right finger in the right pockets while you are trying to put gloves on their hands.

Fewer seams also limit the amount of heat that can escape at the connecting points. Generally speaking, the more threading there is the more potential for them to come unraveled.

Advantages of gloves over mittens

One of the primary benefits of gloves over mittens is that much of your dexterity and utility remain. You can work much better with gloves on and the work itself helps to counter the separation of your fingers in their insulated environments.

Working your fingers helps to keep them warm and you can work your fingers more in a pair of gloves than you can in a pair of mittens. Gloves will also keep you from generating too much heat and getting sweaty hands as a result.

Since gloves contain more stitching and seams, they have a higher degree of breathability. The more you work your hands, the hotter they become, without trapping all of that heat within.

What are the warmest gloves that you can wear?

This boils down to the brand and the technology behind the gloves. Some gloves are warmed from a source, such as the Outdoor Research Heated Gloves. This type of glove is primarily for those who suffer from various forms of arthritis or Raynaud’s Syndrome.

In fact, the warmest gloves that you can wear are going to be gloves that are warmed from a source of energy, rather than just your hands alone. When it comes to the Outdoor Research Heated Gloves, the internal temperature can reach roughly 96°F, not including the warmth generated from your hands.

Most of your premium, Volt-Heated Gloves can reach an internal temperature of 95°F. In extremely cold weather environments, these glove types can lose around 30°F of heat dissipating through the seams.

What are the warmest mittens that you can wear?

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Not surprisingly, the same manufacturers who produce the above-listed warmest gloves, also manufacture the warmest mittens that you can find on the market today. These include the Volt-Heated Mittens, Outdoor Research Alt Mittens, and the Marmot 8000 Meter Mittens.

These mittens can reach temperatures of 88°F, 80°F, and 92°F respectively. You may have noticed that the mitten types are a few degrees cooler than their glove counterparts. Remember, the heat generated in these mittens and gloves is artificial, so it’s not an accurate depiction of whether or not mittens are warmer than gloves.

Situational uses for mittens and gloves

Now that you know that mittens, on their own and without assistance from an outside source, are warmer than gloves, which ones are best for certain scenarios? Are mittens useful in just about anything or would gloves make more sense in more situations?

Gloves versus mittens for skiing and snowboarding

Gloves are the better tool for skiers as they can grip the pole and skiers use their hands a whole lot more than someone on a snowboard will. Sure, you can grip a pole just fine with mittens, however, it’s much easier to maintain control of your poles and maintain a level of dexterity with gloves.

Snowboarders are the exact opposite and mittens make more sense for them. Snowboarders will generally only need to use their hands for lifting and dropping their goggles.

Gloves versus mittens for working and hunting

Gloves are the go-to choice for any kind of work or labor that requires the dextrous use of your fingers. While mittens are incredibly warm they are also incredibly limiting. Many crafts require the use of individual fingers over a single, finger-filled pouch.

Hunting is much the same. If you are hunting with a rifle or black powder hunting, you can always cut a single hole for your index finger, however, that will also open up another avenue through which heat can escape.

Hunting with a bow requires the use of all of your fingers, especially grabbing and setting arrows, making adjustments, and drawing back the string/cable. Many bow setups include a trigger nowadays as well, which mittens are useless with.

Gloves versus mittens for hiking and camping

It’s always a good idea to carry both in these situations. Mittens are great for standard hiking, even when you are crossing over some rough terrain. Climbing is a different story, however, so you will want to stick with gloves in any case where you will need to climb and pull yourself up.

The same goes for camping and much of it just depends on what you are doing. Some of the intricacies of setting up a complicated tent may necessitate that you pull off your gloves or your mittens to get your tent situated.

Sitting around a warm fire, however, mittens are easily the best and most comfortable choice for rest and relaxation.

If you want to stay warm while camping, consider reading our post covering how to keep your feet warm in a sleeping bag.

Final thoughts

While mittens are a bit warmer than gloves, they’re not always the best choice, depending on what you are doing at any given moment. The best advice is to carry both with you, especially if you are going on a camping trip, hiking, hunting, or any other outdoor activity.

The reality is, that there are uses for both and you should keep both with you for most of your daily tasks, leisure activities, or your adventures out in the world.