Editor’s Note: This story, originally published in 2007, is one of our most popular reviews of all time. It has been updated for 2014 with new mitts we have used and love (plus, we left in a few standby models that we still wear from the original test).
When it’s too cold for gloves — generally around 10 degrees Fahrenheit for many people — a good pair of mittens is crucial to enjoying any wintertime activity. You sacrifice dexterity for cozy digits, but that’s the price of warmth in the rock-bottom cold months of the year.
So what mittens are the best for outdoor enthusiasts who ski, climb and throw snowballs at friends? Over the years we’ve tested many pairs of top-end mittens that meet the cold-weather challenge. Got a favorite mitt that’s not mentioned here? Tell us in the comments. For now, here’s our run-down on a few top picks, some the warmest mittens in the world.
Black Diamond’s Mercury Mitt ($114). The company described these mitts as cocoons for the hands, and indeed they’re stuffed with 284 grams of PrimaLoft insulation, the same fill used in cold-weather sleeping bags.
This was one of our favorites back in 2009 and it is still a strong contender. However, the price has increased by about $30. The Mercury Mitts are now $114 but still a good buy in our mind. They will last for several years and, with a removable liner, they can be used in frigid or also kinda-cold weather.
With the newest rendition of the Mercury Mitts, Black Diamond added a “trigger finger” that separates your index finger from the rest, increasing dexterity without surrendering too much warmth. Buy now
Marmot Expedition Mitts ($115). These mega-mitts are wonderfully warm and made for Mount Everest climbers or South Pole scientists. They are puffy, PrimaLoft-stuffed waterproof mitts that have kept our hands toasty in extreme temps as low as minus-30 F.
Caveat: The abundant insulation creates a mitt that lacks dexterity — you could easily grip a ski pole, but anything much more than that is difficult. Mountaineering is fine, but don’t try ice climbing in them, and even riding a fat bike is hard depending on the shifters.
Amazingly, this mitten has only gone up $5 since this article was first published in 2007. They cost $115 and are worth it if you need an uber-warm mitt that will last for years. Buy now.
Marmot does make an even warmer mitt if you don’t mind shelling out big bucks. The company’s 8000 Meter Mitt (see above) costs a sky-high $275 and is designed for high-altitude cold. It is really three mitts in one, including a waterproof shell with a Gore-Tex mitt insert as well as removable 700-fill goose down mittens. Buy now
The Outdoor Research Mount Baker Modular Mitt ($139) are among the warmest in the brand’s line. Constructed with a three-layer ripstop nylon, these technical, versatile, waterproof mitts are super warm. Their removable PrimaLoft One insulated glove liners provide storm protection in cold, damp climates or for higher altitudes.
Hestra makes some amazing mittens that are guaranteed for life. The Army Leather Extreme Mitt ($140) is one of the company’s hottest hand coverings. It’s made of durable, waterproof leather and a flexible softshell material, all stuffed with a polyester/fiberfill insulation for warmth.
The North Face Meru Mitt ($170). It’s not TNF’s warmest mitt, (that distinction goes to its goose down Himalayan Mitt) but this is the one you want unless you plan to stand on top of the world’s tallest mountains.
The Meru is a modular mountaineering mitten that’s waterproof, breathable and has removable inserts. Primaloft One insulates the back of hand. A FlashDry lining makes them quicker drying (and better sweat wicking), and a leather palm provides a durable grip.
Granite Gear’s Lutsen Mitts (orig. $89 but now discontinued) were a stout, waterproof pair with wool-fleece liners. It was among our favorite mitten back in the day. Sadly, the company stopped producing mittens altogether.
You might be able to find these used. The simple, streamlined construction and a non-bulky liner lets you clip a carabiner and tie knots when ice climbing. They fit well and have a durable leather palm. Also, they were among the warmest in the first review, holding their own in temps down to 20 degrees below zero. So if you can somehow still find a pair, buy ‘em.
—Stephen Regenold is the founder of GearJunkie.com.