Best Ice Climbing Gloves: Your First Point of Contact

Ice climbing gloves review
Daniel Carraway
Written by Daniel Carraway

One needs to make peace with the fact that even the best ice climbing gloves are going to need to be replaced more often than one would expect. And this is to be expected given the delicate balance between dexterity, warmth, water resistance, and protection that we expect from our gloves.

This article will, hopefully, provide some insight into what you may expect from your gloves, and give you an option, or options, which are amongst the best mountaineering gloves available.

Save for a one-day scramble up an ice clad slope, and even then, it is highly recommended that several pairs of ice climbing gloves make their way into your gear. There are a few things of which we are sure while ice climbing, and predicting the weather is not one of them, but the fact that our gloves will become frozen and / or are likely to perish, is one of them.

What Are We Looking for in The Ideal Pair of Ice Climbing Gloves?

The most ideal glove would give us absolute protection against the harshest cold and wet conditions, protect our hands against the occasional strike from an ice pick, and all of this whilst enabling us to text whilst suspended from an alpine cliff, in a blizzard.

Climbing gloves for winter

Ideal as this may be, it is not possible – not yet anyway. The best we can hope for is a balance between all of these. For example, if one were to seek 100% water resistance from a glove, we would be best advised to get a pair of latex gloves, and sacrifice any other protection. One could also get significant warmth from a pair of heavily lined mittens and sacrifice any form of dexterity.

Lets take a look at the features considered by manufacturers of ice climbing gloves:

  1. Waterproof – A term far too loosely associated with what is at best a light membrane coating. Given that it is a coating; it is most certainly going to abrade very quickly as you go about wielding an axe pick for example. And therefore accept that the moment you begin, the waterproofness is degrading. Anything more permanent would not allow any moisture in at all, and if this was the case, no moisture would leave the glove either.
    Your hands sweat, particularly under exertion, so your gloves would be become sodden from the inside before long. It may be fair to say that adding the term ‘waterproof’ creates an unrealistic expectation that the gloves will be keep your hands dry. In order to make this claim one should be able to immerse your glove shod hands into a bucket of water for a week, and they should remain dry, this is simply not realistic.
  2. Warmth – Generally referred to as the ‘fleece’, from the days where linings of garments were literally fleece-lined, there are now a number of fabrics which mimic this effect . Warmth is directly associated with dryness, since a wet glove will quickly become a cold glove. It is to be expected that depending on your climbing conditions, your hands are likely to become cold at some point.
    The lining of gloves goes by several names, some of which are brand specific, but all are intended to provide the layer which makes contact with your hands and fingers. The best balance is one where moisture can permeate away from your hands, whilst retaining the warmth generated by our bodies. In short the lining should be a poor heat conductor, but a good moisture conductor.
  3. Durability – As if the challenges of keeping your hands warm and dry weren’t enough, the glove needs to be tough enough to withstand some pretty harsh and abrasive conditions. The durability is achieved through the outer shell, and presents the first line of defence against the elements, your tools, and everything else your hands will come into contact with.
    It is to be expected that the finger tips and the crook (the area between the thumb and the base of the finger) are likely to wear first, and these should be reinforced as this is generally the areas where seams occur. Some designs have successfully managed to construct the fingers using a wraparound ‘box’ design to remove a seam from the fingertip area. Grip and further durability is more often than not provided through the inclusion of leather panels on the palms and finger tips.
  4. Dexterity – All of the above design characteristics and design considerations need to ensure that the result delivers a glove which offers ‘maximum’ dexterity. This is the ability that the climber will have to perform as many functions as possible without having to remove the gloves. Most have pre-moulded fingers to reduce the amount of flex required, which in turn reduces the extent to which the glove needs to extend and contract.
    There always be a fine balance between achieving insulation and protection, whilst delivering dexterity. And, it must be said, modern ice climbing gloves achieve this balance with about as best a result as can be expected.

The Right Ice Climbing Glove Can Be A Perplexing and Bewildering Choice

Take some solace in the fact there is a broad selection of glove systems, and most are suited to a variety of climbing conditions and applications, but more importantly remember that the right glove system for you is a personal choice, and the only thing that matters is which one is best for you.

Heated ice climbing gloves

Tip to dry your gloves: If you are wearing a gortex or similar material coat, chances are your gloves will not dry when shoved into a pocket, since they need to breath to dry out. The safest heat source is your own body, so placing the gloves on your body, while you’re in your sleeping bag is a really simple way of drying them. Treating your gloves with a waterproofing agent like Nikwax will also not go amiss.

Best Ice Climbing Gloves on The Market

CAMP USA GeKo Light Raincover Glove

CAMP USA GeKo Light Raincover Glove

Weight: 109 g, 3.8 oz (Medium)

Available Sizes:

Specific Features: A removable waterproof cover and life time warranty.

Best Use: Alpine and ice climbing.

Cost: $64.97

Description: The GeKO Light Raincover evolves one of the most efficient technical winter climbing glove systems available on the market into a more mountain ready climbing solution. CAMP USA GeKo Light Raincover Glove adds a rain cover to the popular GeKO Light.

The GeKo offers a remarkable blend of warmth and performance, due in part to the elimination of the lining layers that makes gloves feel spongy and trap moisture.

This glove system features light PrimaLoft insulation on the body of the glove without any insulation on the palms for solid grip on tools. The cowhide palms, which are soft and supple, are reinforced at the wear areas for optimal durability. The silicon covered rip-stop nylon out cover stows in a pocket on the wrist when not required.

Related Products: There are several mountain climbing related products by CAMP USA including: Orbit2lock carabiners, Alp racing climbing harness, spike protectors, armor helmet, and more.

Rab Latok Glove

Rab Latok Glove

Weight: 109 g, 3.8 oz (Medium)

Available Sizes: Small, medium, large, Extra Large.

Specific Features: Silicon palm prints.

Best Use: Alpine and ice climbing.

Cost: $67.46 – $124.95

Description: The Rab Latok Glove is a breathable and waterproof glove with an eVent® membrane and features continuous silicone palm print, which assists with grip and durability. This glove is ideally suited to the technical climber.

The glove also features Matrix DWS™ areas and the pre-curved finger construction adds comfort and fair amount of dexterity in alpine conditions. The glove is covered in a eVent® membrane to assist in keeping the glove dry in wet conditions. The goat leather palm adds to the grip offered by this glove.

Related Products: Rab Icefall Gauntlet Glove, Rab Icefalls Mens Gauntlet Glove, Rab Guide Glove.

Black Diamond Punisher Glove

Black Diamond Punisher Glove

Weight: 109 g, 3.8 oz (Medium)

Available Sizes: Extra Small, Small, medium, large, Extra Large, Extra Extra Large.

Specific Features: Temperature Range: -9/4 °C (15/40 °F).

Best Use: Alpine and ice climbing.

Cost: $69.99 – $100.00

Description: The Black Diamond Punisher Glove is considered by many as the go-to glove for hard climbing, long days and various conditions. The construction includes a fixed lining with 200% waterproof insert, a fixed 100g fleece lining, abrasion resistant woven nylon shell, which includes multi directional stretch. The fingers and palm are covered in goat leather, and the knuckles are protected by the EVA padding.

Related Products: Black Diamond Punisher Cold Weather Gloves, Black Diamond Arc Cold Weather Gloves, Black Diamond Spark Gloves Cold Weather Gloves,Black Diamond Enforcer Cold Weather Gloves, Black Diamond Men’s Patrol Gloves, Black Diamond Terminator Cold Weather Gloves, Black Diamond Men’s Guide Gloves.

Mountain Hardwear Hydra Pro OutDry Glove

Mountain Hardwear Hydra Pro OutDry Glove

Weight: 109 g, 3.8 oz (Medium)

Available Sizes: Extra Small, Small, medium, Extra Large.

Specific Features: Maximum sensation by moving the seam away from the finger tips through their wrap around construction.

Best Use: Alpine and ice climbing.

Cost: $52.99 – $130.00

Description: The Hydra OutDry Glove is manufactured from Hydra Span, a multi directional stretch soft shell which promises a comfortable and flexible fit. Palms and fingers are covered in a water resistant and durable goats skin leather, with a soft suede thumb patch for wiping moist noses.

The carabiner loop is perfect for hanging gloves when not in use, keeping them dry. Innovative design features including the wrap around construction reduces cold spots by moving the seam away from the fingertips, and this where you need maximum dexterity and sensation.

It is worthwhile to bear in mind that this amount of dexterity does mean that this glove is not suited to very cold temperatures.

Outdoor Research Alibi II Glove

Outdoor Research Alibi II Glove

Weight: 109 g, 3.8 oz (Medium)

Available Sizes: Small, medium, large, Extra Large.

Specific Features: Great dexterity in dry conditions.

Best Use: Alpine and ice climbing.

Cost: $59.99 – $85.00

Description: It is said that dexterity, grip, and fit are the trifecta of ice climbing gloves, and the Alibi 11 glove goes someway in achieving this. The Outdoor Research Alibi II Glove sacrifices water resistance for dexterity.

Made from a polyester and spandex blend offering a multi directional stretch-woven soft shell outer- Pittards®. The palm and fingers are finished with Oiltac goat leather, and grip can become tenuous in wet conditions.  palm and fingers

Related Products: Outdoor Research Mutant Mitt Gloves w/ Liner Military Made in USA Goretex Size Medium, Outdoor Research Suppressor Gloves.

Rab Icefall Gauntlet Glove

Rab Icefall Gauntlet Glove

Weight: 109 g, 3.8 oz (Medium)

Available Sizes: Small, medium.

Specific Features: eVent for water resistance, and PrimaLoft for the cold.

Best Use: Alpine and ice climbing.

Cost: $119.95 – $124.95

Description: The Rab Icefall glove features include an eVent membrane for water, and the Primaloft gaurds against the cold. Their innovative Grip technology in the form of the Pittards Armotan leather enhances grip of tools, and all the critical seams are reinforced with leather inserts. Matrix DWS multi directional stretch eVent membrane technology.

Detachable wrist leashes enable easy attaching to your gear whilst off your hands, and the single hand draw cord keeps the warmth inside the glove, where it belongs. The Rab glove is intended for serious mountaineers.

Related Products: Rab Endurance Down Mitt – Men’s.

Outdoor Research Women’s Pl 400 Sensor Gloves

Outdoor Research Women's Pl 400 Sensor Gloves

  • Weight: 3oz / 64g (Medium).
  • Available Sizes: Small, medium, large.
  • Specific Features: Touch-screen Compatibility with an index finger and thumb sensor. Non-slip silicon pads on palm.
  • Best Use: Cool weather hiking.
  • Cost: $24.37 – $39.00

Description: The Outdoor Research Women’s Pl 400 Sensor Gloves features touch-screen-compatibility, and is made from a smooth 300-weight fleece outer and a 100-weight fleece liner. Taking gloves on and off to use touch screen devices is always a little annoying to the say the least, and the sensor index finger and thumb allow you to use your touchscreen device without having to remove your gloves.

You can wear this insulating, heavy-duty liner with a waterproof shell, or without on cool-weather hikes. This is a perfect general home use glove, and will not stand up to cold weather conditions or any activity beyond texting.

Related Products: Outdoor Research Men’s Pl 400 Sensor Gloves, Outdoor Research Women’s Pl 100 Sensor Gloves, Outdoor Research Women’s Pl 150 Sensor Gloves, Outdoor Research Men’s Pl 100 Sensor Gloves, Outdoor Research Women’s Pl Base Sensor Gloves.

Fortunately Getting It Wrong A Couple of Times Is Not The End of The World

As much as ice climbing gloves will be one of the most important items in your mountain conquering arsenal, and much consideration should go into getting a good quality glove system, it is inevitable that you will soon be repeating the process.

Ice climbing gloves in action

In summary, and assuming you intend to enjoy several ice climbing adventures, you will need to consider another pair of gloves before long.

In fact, you are quite likely at the point where you need to either replace an existing pair, or pairs of gloves right now, and our list of options will almost certainly provide you with an ideal solution.

Daniel Carraway
Daniel Carraway

Daniel Carraway joined our team last year. He is a gear freak when it comes to hiking, climbing and camping. He went to REI Outdoor School to meet new people and learn best practices. Don’t even try to argue with him about the latest backpack or ice axe, he tried most of them. Daniel’s dream is to climb Mount Everest.