If you go winter backpacking, snowshoeing, or mountaineering, you are going to want to bring at least one pair of mittens. Some people will even bring two pairs in case one gets wet. Personally, I bring a pair of mittens for warmth and a pair of gloves for added dexterity.
When selecting mittens and gloves for winter conditions, here are a couple of must-have features that you should look for:
Removable liners: You need a mitten or glove system that has liners and a removable shell so you don’t overheat and sweat. Sweat in winter is nasty because it freezes in place and chills you, so you have to be extra vigilant about removing layers when you get hot and slow your activity levels to the point where you can stay dry. You can also put removable liners in your sleeping bag at night to dry them.
Waterproof, breathable shell: When you sweat you need a shell fabric that has the ability to vent moisture and prevent it from getting in. Higher denier (tougher) Gore-Tex shells work great for this. EVent shells are also available which may be more breathable but are also slightly heavier.
Gauntlets: These cover the veins in your wrists and eliminate heat loss there. They also prevent drafts from entering your parka/soft shell sleeves and chilling your arms. The gauntlets should have built in tighteners and leashes or tethers that prevent them from being blown off your hands or from getting lost. This would be very dangerous in cold weather conditions.
Anatomically curved fingers: On thicker gloves, dexterity and comfort are greatly improved if the palms and fingers are anatomically pre-curved.
For example, I own a pair of Outdoor Research Cornice Mittens, shown above.
The Cornice mittens have a removable liner with fleece on the palm and lofted insulation on the back of the hand for extra warmth. The shell is a seam taped waterproof, breathable, highly durable Gore-Tex 3-layer 330 denier Cordura shell that is anatomically curved for better dexterity. The gauntlets have elastic locking cinches at their base which you can tighten down to keep the wind out, in addition to an idiot cord. There’s also a nice wrist cinch strap that you can tighten to keep the mitten from slipping off your hand.
Disclosure: Philip Werner (SectionHiker.com) purchased this mittens with his own funds.