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.
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.
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.