Review of the best glove liners for 2021 with considerations and sizing guide.
In this guide, we run down what features you should consider when shopping for a glove liner. You'll learn how to select the right material, design, and size for your liners. We also help narrow your choices by highlighting some of the best glove liners currently available.
|Smartwool Merino 150||Merino Wool||$30|
|Icebreaker Oasis||Merino Wool||$35|
|REI Glove Liner||Twill||$20|
|Dakine Storm Liner||Polyester||$22|
|Fox River Polypro||Polypropylene||$9|
|Outdoor Research Woolly Sensor||Merino Wool||$35|
|Nathan Reflective Gloves||Spandex||$30|
Let's dive right in with some important considerations to take into account when choosing a pair of glove liners, starting with material. In a hurry? Jump straight to the reviews.
Almost every manufacturer makes a glove liner, so the material choices, feature sets, and color options are numerous. There are three materials used to make glove liners—merino wool, silk, and synthetics. We break down the differences between these materials and step you through the myriad of features to consider before you add a pair of glove liners to your hiking kit.
Merino wool is an excellent material for glove liners, especially in colder weather. Wool is naturally warm and holds in the heat even when it gets wet. It also wicks sweat away from your hands, which is critical in the cold weather. The last thing you want is a pair of gloves that will freeze because they are sopping wet with sweat. Merino wool dries relatively quickly when exposed to heat. It dries faster than cotton, but not as fast as synthetic or silk gloves.
Silk is known for its pleasant, smooth feel against your skin, but that's not the only redeeming quality found in this material. Silk is breathable and excels at wicking moisture away from your skin. It can absorb up to 30 percent of its weight and still feel dry to the touch. Silk also is fast drying. Your silk gloves will be warm, dry, and ready to wear after a few minutes in front of a campfire. Soft silk glove liners feel lovely on your hands, but they do have a drawback. The silk material is very delicate. It can be damaged easily by rough surfaces and especially by velcro, which snags and tears the fabric.
Synthetic gloves are a great choice when you don't need the warmth of wool but want something more rugged than silk. Artificial materials are breathable and fast-drying like wool, but, unlike silk, they can take a beating. Some synthetic gloves are thin for dexterity, while others have a brushed fleece lining for added warmth.
When shopping for glove liners, you may stumble across liners meant for driving, casual wearing around town, or for working outside. The materials in these gloves are usually cotton, terry cloth, or nylon. They are not intended for hiking. They provide little to no warmth while wet, are not moisture-wicking, and don't dry as quickly as other materials.
Merino wool glove liner on the left (Smartwool 150), synthetic on the right (OR Versaliner)
BREATHABILITY: WET HANDS ARE COLD HANDS
Glove liners should be breathable, so your hands don't get sweaty while you hike. Breathability not only helps to keep your hands dry, they also minimize chafing from moisture build-up.
WEIGHT: KEEP IT UNDER 2 OZ
Glove liners are a base layer and should be both light and packable. Just an ounce or two per pair provides sufficient warmth and coverage for your hands.
DESIGN: LOOPS, CLIPS, CUFF LENGTH, SEAMS AND MORE
Most gloves have a similar size and shape but differ in the small design details. Some gloves have useful features like loops to help pull them on or secure clips to hold them together. Cuff length also varies between gloves with some gloves extending over the wrist and onto the forearm. A longer cuff helps secure the glove on your hand, but not everyone likes the feeling of a long glove. Seams are another factor to consider. Look closely at the stitching to make sure they won't rub against a trekking pole or chafe your hands while climbing.
A glove inside another glove? A great way to keep your shell gloves handy ;)
WATER RESISTANCE: HELPFUL BUT NOT ESSENTIAL
Water-resistance is helpful but not essential for a glove liner. You can always throw on an outer glove if you need protection from rain or water. Look for glove liners that breathe well and dry quickly.
SUN PROTECTION: ESPECIALLY IF HIKING IN THE DESERT
Glove liners are versatile. Not only do they protect from the cold, but they also can block out the sun. This sun-blocking capability is especially important when hiking in the desert and similar areas that have high sun exposure. Choose lightweight, unlined gloves for summer use. The more they breathe, the better.
TOUCHSCREEN COMPATIBILITY: WORKS BETTER WHEN THE GLOVES FIT SNUGLY
Many glove liners have touchscreen support that lets you interact with your cellphone or tablet device without removing your gloves. Look for a piece of touch-sensitive material on the fingertips of the glove. Your finger has to fit precisely into this touch-sensitive area for it to work correctly. It can be finicky, so practice with your gloves at home before you rely on it in the backcountry.
BATTERY-POWERED HEATING: BULKY AND HEAVY—NOT RECOMMENDED
For frigid weather, some gloves use heated liners that are powered by rechargeable batteries. Because they need batteries for power, these gloves tend to be bulky and heavy. They also are hot, making them suitable for hunting, ice fishing, and similar low-intensity activities. They are not recommended for wearing while hiking unless you are going into extreme conditions.
Touchscreen pads on both the index finger and thumb (Dakine Rambler) make it easy to text.
Liners often are worn underneath an outer glove, so they should be snug-fitting. You want them tight enough they will slide easily into an outer glove, but not so tight they cut off your circulation. It can be challenging to get the correct size, especially since each glove has a different fit. Thankfully, most manufacturers provide a size chart that you can use to choose the right size glove for your hands.
Finding the right-sized glove requires you to measure the width and sometimes the length of your dominant hand.
Material: 87% Merino Wool, 13% Nylon
Weight: 2.47 oz
These lightweight merino wool gloves from Smartwool provide a light layer of protection during spring and fall hiking. When paired with a shell, the liners will keep your hands warm and comfy on the trail and at camp in all four seasons. Minimal in design, the gloves have a small pull tab to help you get them on your hands. They have touch-sensitive areas on the forefinger and thumb, but like most touch-enabled gloves, it can be challenging to use. Because they're minimal gloves, you won't find extras like clips to hold them together.
Material: 96% Merino Wool, 4% LYCRA®
Weight: 1.8 ounces
The Icebreaker Oasis is a lightweight merino wool glove with a touch of lycra to aid in dexterity. The gloves add a layer of warmth under a shell and have an ample cuff for wearing under a jacket. Our only gripe is there is no clip to hold them together. It would be very easy to lose one glove if you are not careful.
Material: Ascentshell™ 3L (100% nylon 20D stretch ripstop shell, 93% polyester, 7% spandex ActiveTemp™ fleece liner)
Weight: 2.8 oz
The Outdoor Research Versaliner Sensor Gloves are the most expensive gloves, but don’t let the price deter you. The polyester glove has a slim fit that stretches to allow full motion of your hand. Unlike most liners, the Versaliner Sensor gloves include both a polyester glove liner and a water- and wind-resistant nylon shell that conveniently fits inside a pocket on the glove. You can wear the liner alone while hiking and then throw on the shell when the wind or rain picks up. You do need to be gentle with the shell as it is made of a lightweight 20D nylon.
Material: Soft stretch-twill fabric
Weight: Not provided
REI's glove liner is a minimal glove Made from a soft stretch-twill synthetic fabric. The glove is lightweight and moves with your hand giving you full dexterity. After a few minutes of wearing it, you hardly know it is there. It's not a warm glove liner so we only wore it alone while hiking. We had to put on an insulated shell at camp.
Material:4-way stretch fleece (94% polyester, 6% elastane)
Weight: Not provided
Made with a stretch fleece, the Dakine Storm Liner has a snug fit the moves as you bend and flex your hand. The fleece is soft against your skin and keeps your hands cozy and warm while you hike. Storm Liner has a wide touchscreen compatible forefinger and thumb area that works reliably. It also has a handy rubberized pattern for extra grip. A solid interlocking clip keeps the gloves together when you are not using them.
Material: Stretch polyester (98% polyester, 1% nylon, 1% elastane)
Weight: Not provided
The Dakine Rambler glove is a thin yet versatile glove that can be worn alone on cool spring days or with an outer glove during the fall and winter. The polyester fabric is quick-drying and sturdy enough to withstand daily hikes. It has a touchscreen compatible fabric on the forefinger and thumb that works well with a mobile phone or tablet. There's even a handy clip that secures the two gloves together.
Weight: 0.64 ounces
If you want a very lightweight and thin layer to go inside a pair of gloves, the Thermasilk gloves from Terramar should be your top choice. The silk gloves slide on smoothly and feel luxurious on your hand. Unfortunately, a poorly placed tag at the cuff line is annoying. Because they are silk, you need to be gentle with them, especially around velcro, which can snag the silk and tear the fabric.
Weight: Not provided
Fox River Polypro liners stand out for their affordable price tag. For less than $10, the liners are great to use as a backup pair of gloves or for guests who don't have their own gear. Though warm, they are a barebones pair of gloves and lack critical extras like touchscreen fingertips or clips to keep them together.
Material:100% merino wool
Weight: 1.5 ounces
Outdoor Research Woolly Sensor Liners are surprisingly warm for their lightweight and thin material. They are ideal as a standalone glove while hiking and then slide easily into a shell for extra warmth. They have a touchscreen area for your mobile phone and a pull-on loop to help you slip on the gloves. Unlike other gloves that use a thick cuff, the Outdoor Research Woolly Sensor Liners use a tapered cuff for a slim and comfortable fit underneath a coat.
Material: Stretch spandex with brushed fleece lining
Weight: Not provided
Nathan Reflective gloves can function both as a standalone glove in above-freezing temperatures and a glove liner when the temperatures plummet. Nathan left nothing undone with its reflective gloves. It is filled to the rim with features. When you slip on the gloves, you immediately notice the brushed fleece lining that brings comfort to a whole new level. If you need to pull out your trekking poles, you can grab them with confidence thanks to the rubber-like grips on the palm of the gloves. Much to my surprise, there was a pocket on the glove for stashing car keys or cash. Best of all is the chamois on the thumb that doubles as a nose wipe. Our one complaint is the stitching at the seams, which makes the glove feel bulkier than it should. The Nathan Reflective gloves are available in a men's and a women's version.
In cold weather, you don't want to hike outside without gloves on your hands. Gloves keep your hands warm and agile, so you can use them to push or pull your way up a mountain. Gloves also protect your digits from the chilling effects of frostbite. Frostbite happens faster and is more severe than you may realize. You can get frostbite on your fingers in as little as 30 minutes when the air temperature is 0° F. If you ignore the warning signs, you could lose a finger or two in the process.
Like most clothing for hiking, it is best to use a layering system when choosing gloves for your hands. The base layer typically is a glove liner that slips inside an outer waterproof, windproof or insulated shell. Liners tend to be lightweight and packable, so there is no reason why they shouldn't have a place in your pack.
By Kelly Hodgkins: Kelly is a full-time backpacking guru. She can be found on New Hampshire and Maine trails, leading group backpacking trips, trail running or alpine skiing.
About Greenbelly: After thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, Chris Cage created Greenbelly to provide fast, filling and balanced meals to backpackers. Chris also wrote How to Hike the Appalachian Trail.
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