Gloves and mitts are the last piece of equipment most people think about. They’re small; they don’t have much room for customization. They don’t connect to your board (except in the occasional grab) to improve performance. But anybody who ignores handsocks is asking to lose flesh to jack frost.
I took my hands for granted. Growing up surfing in the Northeast and then SoCal I got used to cold water. Come winter, I’d go full suit, maybe booties but never gloves; that was how I’d determine it was time to head in, when my hands went numb. Step 1 in ruining my circulation.
A few years ago when I moved back to Jackson Hole I knew my hands tended to get cold quicker than other people but I figured hell, just let ’em get cold, it’ll toughen ’em up. Until I discovered that the more times my fingers got frost nip the more likely they’d get it again. Now anytime the chill drops to 10 or below, I throw on a pair of heavy duty BD Mercury Mitts, basically oven mitts made for subzero temps, a big jump from my other hand-protection which means often I have to choose between my digits sweating or freezing.
So when DaKine, Oakley and Stormy Kromer asked us to try their standard mitts, I jumped at the chance. These are some of the best snowboard mittens of the year.
DAKINE CHRIS BENCHETLER TEAM BARON MITT
These finger covers are just dripping steeze. From the swath of camo on the wrist to the scrimshaw on the palm; the leather company logo riveted into the backhand to the bird of prey on the cuff, this is one of the coolest-looking mitts on the market. And with its marriage of GORE-TEX shell, PRIMALOFT insulation and leather palm, the Benchetler mitt is warmer, tougher and drier than your average glove but without looking like a bulky potholder; even more, it’s not so hot that your palms are left drenched in sweat. And when you come down a rowdy couloir having to dig in your hands and ice axe to keep from getting sloughed over rocks, this mitt perfectly balances protection from snow and ice with the ability to keep cool as the endorphins pump. Just don’t look to it when the temps really start to dip.
BEST USES: Hot laps at the resort with your dialed outfit; days when it’s too cold for gloves but your super mitts turn your hands into a dank kelp bed. Lines where durability is at a premium. These are arguably the best all-around mitt for the all-around rider.
RETAIL : $89.95
OAKLEY SILVERADO GORE-TEX
This is a good, strong waterproof mitt with some extra insulation to keep your hands warm. The mitt is certainly warmer than the Benchetler but its built-in fingered liners kind of defeat the purpose. The whole point of a mitt is that your fingers can warm each other. Or maybe it’s just the freeing feel of it all. You lose some dexterity there, which is why more and more mitts are adding the crab finger, but when you have every finger separate it begs the question – why choose a mitt at all? The fingered liner doesn’t give much more dexterity and cuts down on the warmth factor. Another benefit of a mitt is that a hand warmer can be pushed down to the frosty tips on frigid days. But that’s not possible in these. All told they’re the warmest of the bunch and the GORE-TEX guarantees they’ll be as dry as the Benchetler. But fingers in mitts are awkward, and pointless, and the mitts aren’t warm enough to ignore the heat issues they present.
BEST USES: Cold days at the resort; chilly sidecountry expeditions, quick booters or all-day missions at 5 degree wind-chill or above. But I wouldn’t wear them much below 0 F. (I personally wouldn’t wear them in single digits but, again, I have hand issues).
STORMY KROMER TOUGH MITT
This isn’t a technical glove like the others. With a polyester sherpa lining and wool outer, this mitt won’t hold up long in wet conditions and heavy snowfall. It’s goatskin palm, though, will keep your palms protected in even the roughest conditions. And let’s be honest, while the Benchetler is the steeziest of the three, the Tough Mitt is the most unique – and some might even prefer their throwback (like 1920s throwback) simple style. These mitts actually elicited the first gear compliment I’ve ever gotten from a ski guide friend of mine when I ran into him as I glowed from the untracked bottomless north-facing Teton Pass pow run I just finished. It’s a basic backcountry truism, one glove to go up, one to go down. This is bomber for cruising down your local pass lap; great for an 800 meter descent from the top of Glory Bowl.
Without any cinching gauntlet a lot of heat can escape and I could see that being really bad if you’re spending all day on cold, windy chairlifts where your sweat is freezing to any part that’s even relatively exposed. But that’s not really what these are made for.
BEST USES: Chopping wood (loved it and could still grab my beverage easily). Short dry runs (wouldn’t recommend it for an all-day glove, especially on a wet day but like those comfy socks for a short, dry ride). And sitting on the back deck apres, staring at the alpenglow, laughing at the jabroney still rocking his wet snowboard gloves as his beer slowly freezes his fingers. This has become my favorite hand-cover for all those hours when I don’t have 160 centimeters strapped to my feet.
RETAIL : $59.99