Keeping hands dry in winter

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    Jim MacDiarmid
    BPL Member


    One of the things I didn't like about snow camping last year was that I couldn't for the life of me figure out a way to keep my hands dry. The rest of me was fine, but by morning all my gloves were soaked, so I resorted to just bringing lots of pairs of gloves.

    I tried 'waterproof' gloves and 'waterpoorf' mitts. I understand the seams are likely the weak point. Is it worth the effort to seam seal my OR Snowline mitts, or is there just no such thing as truly waterproof handwear?

    I've been looking at the MLD Event mitts, and while not put off by the price, the durability gives me pause.

    How do other snowcampers keep there hands dry?

    Greg Mihalik


    Locale: Colorado

    Your gloves were soaked from the outside or from the inside?

    Just hiking along in the snow/rain, or shoveling snow caves?

    If the former, get better gloves. They are out there, or durable shells.

    If the latter, consider vapor barrier products on the inside and WP on the outside.

    Matt Lutz


    Locale: Midwest

    First, what is your liner/glove/mitt combination? Also, how do your hands get wet? Are you digging a snow cave, just hiking/skiing/etc?

    I use highly-breathable liners (BD powerstretch – now called midweights) and a wp/b insulated mitt (REI Ridgecrest). I don't dig a lot of snow caves, and my hands get wet generally from sweating or while cooking.

    I also own a pair of MLD eVent mitts, but I do not use them in winter.

    Jim MacDiarmid
    BPL Member


    Thanks for the comments.

    My combo last year was a midweight fleece base + a supposedly WP/B outer. 1st trip it was the REI Switchback glove. Started to wet out snowshoeing and completely wet out digging a trench for our Megamid. 2nd trip was the fleece base under a pair of OR Snowline mitts made out of their WP/B ventia fabric. These did a bit better, as I left them off for the snowshoe in and for digging. Realized I should just let a pair of fleece gloves get wet, as they'd stay warm when wet.

    Based on your comments, I probably underestimated the amount of wet that came from my hands sweating. It'd be just like wearing my shell jacket, obviously, but that never occurred to me. Would cheapo surgical gloves make a decent VB?

    I just ordered a used pair of OR Arete Goretex gloves, so hopefully those will outperform the Ridgecrests. I can try seam sealing the Snowlines. I might get a pair of the MLD Mitts for winter running at the very least, now that I live where they have real winters again.

    Lynn Tramper


    Locale: The Antipodes of La Coruna

    "Would cheapo surgical gloves make a decent VB"

    Yup, they are great, but hard to put back on once they're wet inside (from perspiration). They also make a great windblock glove…

    Greg Mihalik


    Locale: Colorado

    But if your 'wet on the inside' gloves are dry on the outside, turn them inside out, give them a hard puff, and put them on. There won't be enough moisture on the outside to hurt any thing, but they Will feel cold.

    Chris Jones
    BPL Member


    Interesting topic on which I can commiserate.

    Does anyone know of any gear manufacturers that use eVent in their waterproof/breathable gloves?

    BPL Member


    Especially a problem when walking with sticks. Found many of the OR over mitts with gaiters to be bullet proof. Usually use over a down or synthetic fill mitten depending (Patagonia usually has a nice down mitt for layering). Or a heavy weight synthetic pile fleece glove covered by one of these shell mitts if it's warmer. You can add a little Ice breaker wool liner under the down glove if you are going to need your fingers occasionally. OR makes some bulletproof mitts with serious gaiters — shells and insulated. Also some seam taped goretex mitts with removable liners of various materials — can take them apart and put them in the bottom of your sleeping bag.

    For around camp always have a lightweight pair of latex kitchen gloves in a size too big that will fit liner gloves for dealing with cold water — filtering, washing up, etc.

    So, would carry goretex shell mitt with good gaiter+ poofy insulating mitt + pile glove+icebreaker liner+the latex dish glove large enough to fit over the pile glove. Need to be careful due to previous (relatively minor) cold injuries and probably an underlying condition that causes the hands to get cold easily. (Guess, I'll have to cut weight somewhere else. Ha. What I always say.)

    BTW, gloves have a lot more seams than mittens.

    Mark Verber
    BPL Member


    Locale: San Francisco Bay Area

    My experience is that there is no truly waterproof handware because my hands sweat up a storm. No waterproof breathable material passes enough moisture. In colder weather I have been found of vapor barrier mitts. sI started with the latex gloves and eventually switched to a pair of RBH designs mitts. My hands feel a bit damp… but it's a continuously warm damp so it's ok.

    I yet to found a glove that doesn't get soaked from external moisture if I am doing any work in the snow.. so I have pretty much given up on gloves with shells.

    In more moderate conditions the best I have found are liners or moderate fleece mitts, with a seam sealed overmitt. Sometimes wear just the liners/fleece to provide ventilation and prevent overheating. When doing serious snow work I am often using a light liner (which doesn't hold a lot of accumulated moisture) and the overmitt. This combination drys out pretty quickly but protects my hands. When it's cold enough that my hands won't overheat I wear fleece gloves or mitts with the over mittens.

    I think the best article on this topic was Andy Kirkpatrick's truth about gloves


    Rod Lawlor
    BPL Member


    Locale: Australia

    Mark you beat me to the link to Andy's article. It certainly made a difference to me.

    I also use Hartley's trick with the latex gloves over liners. I've extended these to snow work as well. Australian snow tends to be quite wet, and I find these are great for pitching the 'Mid or digging a kitchen. I use slightly tougher gloves for gardening, but that's mostly because I'm a bloke, and these are black not yellow, lilac or pink.


    John S.
    BPL Member


    Some even advocate waterproof neoprene fishing gloves. Not light though.

    David Ure


    I have not used them, but the RAB Latok glove seems like a neat idea. Full eVENT membrane, but siliconized palm and fleece lined material. Spec at 5oz.

    Paul McLaughlin
    BPL Member


    I have done well with gore-tex shell mittens, homemade orlon mittens (knitted for me by my friend's mom in about 1973 and still going strong)and powerstretch liner gloves. I used to use homemade shell mitts, but have recently switched to some Outdor Research Latutude Mitts (without the supplied liner gloves) due to seam leakage with the homemade jobs. For me the real key to dry hands is managing the insulation level.It's easy to keep water out with the gore-tex shells, but if you wear too much inside them you'll sweat and get the insulation layers wet from the inside. I sometimes wear just the shells, often wear the shells and the liners, sometimes wear the shells and the mittens, and very rarely wear the whole shebang. and when the gloves come off in the tent, they go inside my clothing to stay warm, and any little bit of moisture will get dried by body heat. I've used a variety of liners over the years – wool, wool/polypropylene, ploypropylene, and now powerstretch, bu thte basic system has always kept my hands warm and dry – if carefully managed.

    BPL Member


    There are plenty of cream antiperspirants that can be used on the hands/feet. You might try Kiehl's I use this for under arms and its fragrance free and has a nice texture. On another recent thread someone mentioned a fragrance free 5 day anti-perspirant from Germany. I am intrigued by this. I googled it and it looks like a winner. There are more potent anti-perspirants available in the US by prescription. Also botox is increasingly being used for this problem.

    Diplomatic Mike


    Locale: Under a bush in Scotland

    Have a look at Buffalo Mitts
    Even if they get damp, your hands will stay warm, and they dry very quickly.

    Thomas Burns
    BPL Member


    Locale: "Alas, poor Yogi.I knew him well."

    Just discovered this thread.

    Cheapskate that I am, I carry a wad of the bags that my daily newspaper comes in. I wear them over my socks, and in wet conditions, rubber banded over my wrists and gloves. They are a bit fragile, but they stretch pretty well and can easily be replaced if they break through with only minor weight penalty.

    Another alternative if you don't get a daily newspaper: veggie bags from your local grocery. They're a bit more fragile, but their light weight makes it possible to carry a bunch of them.

    I know. Nutty. But frugal and effective.


    Jim MacDiarmid
    BPL Member


    I've used vegetable bags for my feet, but for my hands I'd like a little more dexterity.

    Mark and Rod, that article is great. That, along with reading Mike C!'s winter gear list confirms what I'd started to suspect last winter; that there is no such thing as a fully waterproof system, so you just need to bring a lot of liners and swap them out.

    I did just order myself a pair of MLD Event mitts to go along with my Duomid. I'll have more chances to test a winter glove system this winter as on the East Coast it will be right outside my door, rather than having to drive to it from San Francisco.

    Mike, if I can find those Buffalo mitts at an American retailer I might give them a try.

    I also see a lot of nice OR mitts and gloves on Ebay, presumably from military guys back from the war(s).

    Nate Meinzer


    Locale: San Francisco

    The stuffsacks the O2 rainwear rainsyit comes with make excellent wp/b mitts. Very lightweight, dual purpose, and inexpensive.

    Michael Kerris


    I have not seen any jackets with this combination. From my research it seems like the best combination. Thoughts?

    frank martin
    BPL Member


    Locale: NORCAL

    I would never use a combination shell. I would always use two separate garments.

    You just have more control with separate garments. Combining them in MOST situations will cause you to sweat.
    While hiking I may wear a shell on some occasions but only wear insulation during breaks or at camp.

    Paul Stupkin


    Locale: Norway

    I agree with Hartley here. I use antiperspirant on my feet to keep them dry and give my hands a good spray. If you prepare a few days in advance and spray your hands each day, they will be substancially dryer on your hike.


    Roger Caffin
    BPL Member


    Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe

    Anti-perspirant on hands and feet for days on end?

    You are trying to seriously interfere with the natural functioning of your own body. I have to say this sounds fundamentally silly to me, possibly even harmful.

    I don't mind wearing WP/B gloves when digging in the snow – that's reasonable, but otherwise …


    BPL Member


    In many places, people use it on their armpits for days on end. Thank goodness for that!

    That five day German stuff looks really good.

    Paul Stupkin


    Locale: Norway

    The idea of antiperspirant is to interfere with nature full stop. In fact using it under your arm pits is more harmfull than using it on your hands due to the cell types and proximity of the lymph vessels and nodes. The active ingredient (aluminium) in most antiperspirants may have an effect on the functioning of the lymph vessels and nodes (although most antiperspirant producers will deny this).

    "Aluminum-based compounds are the active ingredients in antiperspirants. They block the sweat glands to keep sweat from getting to the skin's surface. Some research has suggested that these aluminum compounds may be absorbed by the skin and cause changes in estrogen receptors of breast cells. Because estrogen can promote the growth of both cancer and non-cancer breast cells, some scientists have suggested that using the aluminum-based compounds in antiperspirants may be a risk factor for the development of breast cancer.

    Studies have looked at aluminum content of breast tissue, and aluminum absorption through the skin, but no clear link to breast cancer has been made. Researchers continue to look at this possible breast cancer risk factor and more studies are needed."

    The diagram of the lymphatic system gives an idea of where the lymph nodes and vessels run.

    I think the hands and feet are a reasonably safe place to use antiperspirant. I know the military in many alpine units recommend this technique also.


    Eric Blumensaadt
    BPL Member


    Locale: Mojave Desert

    Here's my proven solution.

    1. Buy gloves with Gore-Tex membrane linings too keep out external moisture.

    2. Buy gloves that come with removable liners or at least can accomodate fleece and thicker pile liners.

    3. ALWAYS carry extra liners with you and change them at least once a day. When camping bring ALL liners inside your bag to get drier overnight. Bring a range of liner thicknesses with you to accomodate needs.

    ** "Extra liners" can just be thick pile gloves to thin fleece gloves, both sold as stand-alone gloves but you should use them only for liners to keep them from wearing out. Sometimes manufacturers of gloves that come with liners can sell you extra liners. Patagonia sells (or used to) liners seperately.

    As a SAFETY MEASURE it is often advised in mountaineering books to carry at least mitten shells if not warm mitten liners as well. When temps drop quickly gloves may not be enough. Shells can be put on over gloves or glove liners. Surprising how even shells can make a big difference in retaining warmth.

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