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Stephenson’s Warmlite Vapor Barrier Gloves

Stephanson's Warmlite Vapor Barrier Glove
Stephanson’s Warmlite Vapor Barrier Glove

This white glove is a Vapor Barrier Glove from Stephenson’s Warmlite ($15/pair) and can be worn under regular winter gloves to prevent them from wetting out with sweat during exertion. I wear them under lightweight fleece glove liners or heavier fleece gloves when I’m hiking, snowshoeing, or backpacking in winter in order to keep my gloves dry from the inside out. They really work well, better than any other system I’ve tried to cut down on the number of pairs of gloves I need to pack on long winter hikes and overnight trips.

Vapor Barrier Clothing

Vapor Barrier socks, gloves, sleeping bag liners, and even clothes, provide an impermeable layer between your skin and insulating layers that prevents them from wetting out and losing their loft. Normally, I’ll sweat out a pair of fleece glove liners within 2 hours if I’m hiking or snowshoeing on a winter trail and even faster on a bushwhack. That adds up to a lot of gloves on a 8 hour hike and it’s not uncommon for me to bring 4 pairs for a single day. On overnight trips, I need to sleep with the wet gloves in my sleeping bag so they dry out with my body heat, although in reality they’re just transferring the moisture to the inside of my sleeping bag and degrading its loft.

However, when I use a Warmlite Vapor Barrier Glove under a fleece glove liner or a heavier fleece glove, my outer gloves stay dry all day. Not only do I need to carry fewer gloves on day hikes and overnights, I also don’t have to sleep with them in my sleeping bag. Trust me, that’s a lot more comfortable during a cold winter night!

While Vapor Barrier liners do not stop my hands from sweating completely, they make it easier for me to detect when I am too hot and need to switch from a heavy fleece glove to a thinner one. Rather than hiding or masking your perspiration level like so-called breathable layers, vapor barrier liners can put you more in tune with it, so you can self-regulate the amount of heat you generate, for instance by slowing down your pace.

Simple Interior Stitching
Simple Interior Stitching

Quality and Materials

Stephenson’s Warmlite vapor barrier gloves are made out of a single layer of urethane coated nylon fabric which gives the exterior a shiny surface. The sewing is very simple with a single seam around each finger and along the sides of the hand, with a polyester cuff sewn at the end for comfort. The seams are not taped, folded over or sealed in any way and leak air if you forcefully blow into the glove. Still they retard the transport of moisture sufficiently that they will keep your outer gloves dry during the day. You just need to treat them a bit gently to avoid stressing the seams.

Washing instructions are not provided but the manufacturer recommends a simple hand wash using a very mild detergent, and hang drying. They do begin to smell after a few days of continuous wear, not like BO, but like old sweat. Regardless, you really do want to give them a gentle wash between trips.

Temperature Range

I start to use a vapor barrier glove layer when the temperature drops to 40 degrees fahrenheit or less, which is when I want to cover my hands with at least a fleece glove liner to keep them warm. Below that, I pretty much wear them under any insulating glove layer if I expect to hike longer  than 4 hours continuously, or there’s a chance that I might get caught out late or overnight, in order to preserve my insulated gloves. For me, this includes most of my winter hikes and bushwhacks.

If I take off the Vapor barrier Glove in cold weather after having worn it for a while, my hands get cold very quickly and it can take a while to warm them back up. While not wet, they are a bit more moist than normal – depending on my exertion level – and the rapid evaporative cooling is unpleasant. Therefore once I put on vapor barrier gloves, I try to keep them on throughout the day and only remove them in warm air such as my sleeping bag or inside the pockets of my down puffy coat.

More about Vapor Barrier Clothing

Vapor Barrier clothing is a useful adjunct to a winter clothing or sleeping system that is worth trying if you are at all curious about the relationship between breathability and warmth, or you suffer from excessive sweating in cold weather.

For further reading about vapor barrier clothing, see Andrew Skurka’s article, Vapor Barriers: Theory and Application or this somewhat quirky explanation about vapor barrier clothing from Warmlite.

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  1. I’ve used Stephenson’s VB gloves for the past three winters and agree they work great. But I’m wondering if they may have changed fabrics … certainly changed colors. Hard to tell from your photos but they look like the fabric used in the VB socks I got from them. I believe my gloves are made from what they call “fuzzy stuff”. They are gray, ARE shiny on the outside. The inside is like a VERY short pile velour fabric.

    The VB gloves and shell mitts are the base of a great winter handwear system. The shell mitts are usually completely breathable unless I expect rain and then they are waterproof not breathable. Between the shell and the VB gloves I usually use thin liner gloves plus knit gloves or mittens appropriate for expected temps.

    FWIW, I like the VB socks too.

    • The material in the gloves has changed and isn’t what’s on their web site anymore. The fabric is the stuff they call Fuzzy Stuff, urethane coated nylon. The gloves, pictured here are one layer of fabric with the urethane on the outside, while the socks are two layers of the same fabric with the urethane facing inside (away from the skin or boot). I’ve used the socks a few times and they are marvelous – just wanted to do one more trip in them before I write a review which describes the benefits of using them in a mountaineering boot or other winter boot system. The price is right with these items and Stephenson’s customer service is really first rate. Plus they’re a local New Hampshire company.

  2. A cheaper way to go is just to use disposable latex (or nitrile) gloves. These are very thin and mesh well as a liner for fleece gloves. I’ve been using these for a few years now–in cold weather, and they do exactly what is described in this article.

    • Never got around to trying that. Perhaps tomorrow. That might improve my dexterity somewhat as well although I do want to assess the comfort difference between fabric and nitrile when I need to use the gloves for an all-day hike and bushwhack.

  3. I might just give that a try too. Cold enough here to use VB now. Some initial thoughts (expectations?) that I’d be conscious of evaluating:

    1) Reduced bulk would be good.
    2) I do think that the fuzzy side of Stephenson’s fabric helps make the dampness against the skin less noticeable.
    3) Latex or nitrile gloves made for lab and medical use tend to be at least mildly snug … reducing blood circulation?
    4) Paint departments at home improvement/building stores sell vinyl gloves that are not quite as snug and a bit heavier (thicker material). Perhaps a better fit, (if circulation is an issue) less constrictive and more durable?

    • I wore a pair of nitrile gloves as a vapor barrier liner for 13 hours in winter weather over the weekend and while they kept the fleece glove liners dry for my entire hike, my hands felt moist like they were sweating for a few hours. When I took the nitrile gloves off after the hike, they were covered with a very slippery film which I assume was dehydrated sweat. This took a considerable amount of washing with soap to get off at the pizza place restroom after our hike. Net net. I don’t have to wash my hands like this when I wear the Warmlite vapor barrier gloves which probably absorb the sweat. I think I’ll stick with the Warmlites for comfort although it’s nice to know that the other system is at least effective in an emergency, since I carry nitrile gloves as a body fluid isolation barrier in my first aid-kit.

  4. Hello. The cuffs of the Stephenson’s gloves are made of ….. COTTON, not polyester, as you claim. They have just confirmed this by email to me (after I bought some).
    That has be me entirely baffled. How could this company make any winter garment with cotton sleeves?

    • Products change over time – this review is four years old. Why did they say they use cotton? Please check and leave a followup comment. Thanks!

      • Philip,
        Your gloves, in your photo, are made of cotton. The product this month looks just like in your top photo.

        The conversation goes something like this:

        Date: Wed, 17 Feb 2016 10:35:26 -0500
        From: Jane-Warmlite
        To: Christopher Barrington-Leigh
        Subject: Re: Transaction Report

        Hi Chris,

        No not at all. The cuffs on the gloves will be inside of your over mitten or glove. I’ve been here 36 years and not one person in all of these years has even
        mentioned a problem with the cuffs getting wet. If it is cold enough to need a vb glove your hands won’t be sweating enough to contaminate the cuffs.


        On 2/17/2016 9:47 AM, Christopher Barrington-Leigh wrote:
        > Hi Jane,
        > Doesn’t that imply that we should all be fine wearing cotton underwear in the winter?
        > Chris
        > On Tue, 16 Feb 2016, Jane-Warmlite wrote:
        > > Because it is never worn outside of any clothing and therefore not exposed to any weather – Jane
        > >
        > >
        > >
        > > On 2/16/2016 10:16 AM, Christopher Barrington-Leigh wrote:
        > > > Hi Jane,
        > > > Hm, that’s what it looks like.
        > > >
        > > > Since that is one of the more counter-intuitive things I’ve ever read (the last thing I would ever imagine YOUR company to do is to make a VBL glove using
        > > > cotton), would you care to explain why cotton is a good idea here?
        > > >
        > > > Thanks,
        > > > Chris
        > > >
        > > > On Tue, 16 Feb 2016, Jane-Warmlite wrote:
        > > >
        > > > > The cuffs are made from cotton – Jane
        > > > >
        > > > >
        > > > > On 2/12/2016 5:39 PM, Christopher Barrington-Leigh wrote:
        > > > > > Hi Jane,
        > > > > >
        > > > > > May I ask what are the cuffs of the gloves made of?
        > > > > > There is no material information attached to the glove, though I saw some description of the FUZZY fabric in the accompanying printout.
        > > > > >

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