Dachstein Extreme Warm Wool Mittens are very warm boiled wool mittens popular with mountaineers. Made with very dense boiled wool (more on this below), they’re windproof and virtually waterproof. When the mercury drops near zero or below, these are the mittens you want to be wearing. They’re also ideal for people who get very cold hands in winter or who suffer from Raynaud’s Disease. They’re not itchy at all. They can be worn alone or with an outer shell mitt in extreme winter weather.
Boiled Wool Clothing
Boiled wool mitts are made by repeatedly boiling heavy wool mittens in hot water until they shrink to the desired size. The boiling process preserves the natural oils occurring in the wool and results in a very tightly woven mitt that is windproof and virtually waterproof. Boiled wool clothing has been around since the Middle Ages and is prized for its warmth and value. It’s surprising that there’s not more of it available, if only from cottage manufacturers who could tailor it for niche winter hiking and mountaineering use.
I’ve used the Dachstein Wool Mittens on long winter day hikes in cold, zero-degree weather in the White Mountains. They’re very thick and warm, with long wrist gauntlets that extend over the wrist and half-way up your arm. In terms of dexterity, the mitts are perfect for use with trekking poles but are otherwise too large and bulky for much else. It can be convenient to wear them with a thin glove liner, so you can remove your hands to adjust zippers, drink from a water bottle or eat snacks, without exposing your hands, however briefly, to the cold.
One of the things that’s always impressed me about the Dachstein Mittens is their water resistance. When I go winter hiking and snowshoeing the mitts invariably get covered with snow, but the interior never feels wet, even when I’ve worn them all day. I guess that’s just the density of the boiled wool weave at work. It’s rare for me to get a full day’s use out of a fleece or wool glove before they get soaked by external moisture, so being able to wear a single pair of these the Dachstein Mittens all day is a novelty.
Sizing and Care
Dachstein bases their sizing on the length of your hand from the wrist to the top of your middle finger. If you intend to wear the mittens with an inner liner, you’ll probably want to size up. I wear a size 8 and my mittens weigh 7.8 oz for the pair.
The mittens retain their shape well through multiple washings as long as you wash them in cold water and blot dry in a towel rather than ringing them out or putting them in a drier. When washing use a very gentle detergent like Woolite and rinse well.
Dachstein Extreme Warm Wool Mittens
True to Size
Ease of Care
As you can imagine, Dachstein’s Extreme Wool Mittens are simply too well insulated to wear in warmer temperatures, but they are an ideal cold-weather glove worn alone or under a large waterproof shell glove, and a fairly affordable one as cold weather mitts go.
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I’ve had a pair of Dachstein mitts for decades. I wear them inside of leather “choppers” (leather mittens) or inside some OR Gore Tex mitts. These are reserved for when the temperature gets well below zero here in Montana. They have accompanied me on several winter ski touring expeditions. Top notch product.
You can also swish them in a sink with lukewarm water and a little shampoo, roll in a towel to blot, then lay flat to dry. I’ve knitted and felted a lot of wool, and it’s actually very easy to care for, and wears like iron!
Bring a pair of waterproof shell gloves to cover them.
I do, but the waterproof claim made on these mittens tends to be overstated.
Any recommendations on good shell gloves? I tried going through the archives but missed it if you do have a recommendation. I was looking at the products from Ragged Mountain, which are designed for their own fleece-based mittens.
Shells are shells. They’ll work with any inner mittens or gloves. I’d start with the Ragged Mountain ones. The price is right. I’ve been tempted to try them, just haven’t gotten around to it.
I prefer to buy direct from the manufacturer since it does them the most good in terms of profit. They are a small company. They always have the best selection too!
Got mine in 1975 so I’ve got the guy from 1978 beat. Used in high school as I rode almost every day to ride my bike in high school. One day I rode in below zero weather, which for my area in North Carolina was pretty cold.
You are right about nearly waterproof. I never worried, hiking or cycling, about rain snow or ice. And NOTHING wears like Dachstein mitts! And NOTHING breathes like them as well. Take that to the bank. Few things simply have not been improved on in the last 1500 years, but this one qualifies.
P.S. For”water proofing” I rubbed Snow Seal boot wax into my Dachstein mittens and melted it in with a hair dryer set on warm. After doing this 3 times the mittens were pretty “water resistant” and definitely MOTH PROOF.
Today I would use Biwell boot wax.
Can these be purchased in lighter weights?
These sound perfect for my wife with chronically cold hands. Do they grip XC ski poles fairly well in the palm, fingers or are they pretty slipperY?
They’re pretty bulky. Probably not a good choice.
They make a preformed one, that might work. The one benefit is that while bulky, it is a single solid layer of material, so you have decent grip.
They also make a thinner (3 ply) version with leather palm, for more grip and durability.
Shrinking the wool down really does do the trick. I do the same with a few of my sweaters and wool fingerless gloves. I buy them oversized and shrink them to fit. It felts the wool and makes them almost windproof. But they still breath. Adding some lanolin to the hot water and whipping it up into an emulsion makes the wool more water resistant. Just keep in mind that some lanolins have a stronger ‘sheepish odor’ than others.
After I’ve been hiking a while, I can simulate strong “sheepish odors” myself.
Thank you so much for mentioning that these are good for people with Raynaud’s! That is so helpful!
I bought my first pair in the ’60s and have used them for hundreds of days in the hills. Back then they were pretty much universally used in Scotland for winter climbing.
As others have said, they stay warm and dry inside even if they are caked in ice. Pretty windproof, so you usually only need a shell mitt if it’s raining. If there’s no danger of rain you can leave the shell mitts at home unless there is a danger of extreme winds.
I personally don’t overheat in them in winter conditions – they breathe better than synthetics and my hands stay comfortable.
I’ve tried fancy high-tech alternatives a couple of times, and always gone back to the simplicity, reliability and effectiveness of the Dachs.