Best Winter Sailing Gloves

Best Winter Sailing Gloves | Life of Sailing

Last Updated by

Daniel Wade

June 15, 2022

Your hands are your most important tool on a sailboat, and gloves are essential to keep them warm and mobile. But which gloves are best for winter sailing?

The best gloves for sailing during the winter are the Rothco MIL-SPEC wool gloves, the Suneed waterproof winter glove, the Carhartt WP waterproof heavy winter glove, the Gill Helmsman sailing glove, and the RainRider sailing glove.

In this article, we'll review five of the best gloves for winter sailing. Additionally, we'll cover the difference between natural and synthetic glove materials, the best way to wear gloves on a sailboat, along with the different types of cold and wet weather gloves on the market.

We sourced glove specifications directly from the manufacturer to ensure accuracy. Additionally, we sought advice from the northern sailing community to get real-world recommendations for winter sailing gloves.


Table of contents

Natural Vs Synthetic Winter Sailing Gloves

Gloves made with natural materials have accompanied sailors for centuries. They're time-proven and highly effective—after all, they were the only thing that was available until the mid-20th-century. So how well do wool, fleece, leather, and cotton gloves stand up against modern synthetic insulation?

From an overall reliability and durability perspective, natural wool gloves are an excellent option. While rarely waterproof, wool is one of the best wet-insulating materials around. It stays warm when it's wet and wears well over decades of use.

However, there are some downsides to wool. These are primarily cost and a lack of waterproofing. Synthetic gloves can be made completely waterproof and provide superior insulating effects when compared to traditional gloves.

However, synthetic gloves burn and rip much more easily than most natural wool or leather gloves. Additionally, they won't stay as warm if water somehow gets into them. That said, synthetic gloves are superior in weight, cost, and waterproofing.

Leather gloves should be avoided for winter sailing, as they can easily become waterlogged. Waterlogged gloves are heavy and act as a heat sink. They may protect you from wind, but your hands can still become cold and frostbitten.

Can You Layer Gloves for Winter Sailing?

Yes and no—layering gloves is a relatively common practice, but it comes with inherent risks. First of all, your ability to feel and manipulate your fingers will be limited when wearing layered gloves. Additionally, one glove may slide off the other or get caught between a line and a winch or in other places.

Generally speaking, it's best to wear a single-piece glove for maximum mobility and safety. But if conditions necessitate multiple gloves, it's best to double-up and retain use of your hands than to risk frostbite. You can always remove a glove before operating delicate or dangerous implements.

Types of Winter Sailing Gloves

The simplest type of winter sailing glove is a simple unlined wool glove. These are useful in dry conditions, and they hold up when it's wet—but it isn't sufficient for the roughest conditions.

A good medium is a waterproof glove. These don't provide much insulation, but they keep your hands dry, which is the best way to keep them warm in somewhat mild conditions.

The best winter sailing gloves for cold temperatures are lined with wool, fleece, or synthetic material and have a waterproof exterior. These gloves keep your hands both warm and dry.

Are Winter Sailing Gloves Waterproof?

Winter sailing gloves are waterproof most of the time. However, many people still choose traditional wool gloves for winter sailing.

If conditions permit, these gloves work well—but remember, in the coldest weather, waterproof gloves are essential. It's always good to keep a spare set of wool gloves around as an additional layer or a backup.

How Should Sailing Gloves Fit?

As a general rule, sailing gloves should fit a bit more snugly than typical winter gloves. Given the nature of sailing, you'll need better control of your hands than for driving or other daily activities. Just make sure they aren't too tight, as it can restrict your movement.

The primary concern with glove tightness is safety, as loose gloves can slip off or get caught in something like a pulley or a winch. Snug gloves are less likely to slip off your hands and much less likely to inadvertently pull your hand into a winch.

Best Gloves for Winter Sailing

Gloves are an often-overlooked but essential piece of gear for safe winter sailing. Based on the criteria mentioned above, we sought out five of the best winter gloves on the market for sailing.

1. Rothco Mil-Spec Wool Gloves

This classic cold-weather glove is simple and reliable and retains heat when wet. Rothco GI wool glove liners serve two purposes—as a standalone glove and a liner for a waterproof glove. They're made in the USA and based on exacting military specifications, which make them ideal for rough use on a sailboat.

The advantages of a wool glove are numerous, as wool is durable, naturally fire-retardant, and stays warm when wet much better than synthetic materials. These gloves aren't particularly thick, but they're remarkably warm and suitable as a safe liner for a waterproof synthetic glove.

They're also highly affordable, which makes them a great choice for backup gloves to store aboard. You can purchase a set to go with each life jacket, so your passengers will never have cold hands even when your boat is at capacity.

Rothco GI gloves are designed to work with D-3A US leather gloves, which are not ideal for sailing but make a good work or cold weather glove. Additionally, they're available in classic olive drab (OD) green, brown, gray, and black.

Wool gloves like this are highly breathable. It's made with a 70% wool and 30% nylon blend to relieve itchiness and provide a natural stretch. If you're looking for a durable and reliable sailing glove, it's hard to go wrong with thIs time-tested military wool glove by Rothco.

Best Uses:

Excellent and affordable warm glove for use as a liner. It also works as a standalone glove that stays warm when wet.

2. Suneed Waterproof Winter Gloves

When a simple, practical, and affordable winter sailing glove is what you need, look no further than the Suneed Thermal sailing glove. These basic and utilitarian gloves provide superb hand mobility thanks to their stretchy, form-fitting design.

These gloves won't "wow" anybody at the marina, but they will keep your hands warm when you need them. These waterproof gloves are made with multiple layers of breathable synthetic fabric. They don't feel like latex gloves—yet they provide the same waterproof protection.

Additionally, Suneed winter gloves are insulated with a thermal material that's thin and provides excellent heat retention. And for the price, they're surprisingly well-made. This is an affordable option for you and the rest of your guests and crew.

One of the best features of the Suneed glove is its touch-screen fingers, which include a layer of material that allows you to use modern electronics while protecting your hands from the wind and the cold.

Best Uses:

Affordable waterproof glove with thermal insulation for mild winter sailing conditions. It also works with touch screens.

3. Carhartt WP Waterproof Insulated Gloves

Carhartt is a staple of outdoor and utility gear, and they happen to make an excellent winter sailing glove that's both durable and exceptionally warm. The Carhartt WP glove is waterproof, grippy, and designed specifically for cold and harsh conditions.

These gloves are similar to what you'd find in the mountains and are likely used by many skiers and outdoors enthusiasts during the winter. These are thick gloves, unlike the first two on our list. They can handle severe winter temperatures due to their thick fleece-like lining and completely waterproof shell.

Carhartt insulation material is remarkable due to its quick-drying tendencies. It saturates quickly but also dries much faster than wool or other natural insulation. Additionally, the polytex polyester shell is resistant to tearing and other forms of damage that are common on sailboats.

The palm surface is made of a non-slip material that's surprisingly good for grabbing lines. Plus, it's naturally resistant to rope burns, so you won't have to take it easy when releasing and controlling taught lines.

The gloves are mobile, but your hands won't be as precise as they would with a thinner glove. This is unavoidable, and the added warmth and protection offered by these gloves are worth it in extreme cold.

Best Uses:

Carhartt waterproof winter gloves are ideal for conditions where protection from the cold is more important than anything else.

4. Gill Helmsman Sailing Gloves

Gill is a fairly well-known producer of sailing gear, and their Helmsman waterproof sailing gloves are one of the best on the market. These gloves offer good insulation and protection from the elements, along with an adjustable cuff that mates well with foul weather gear.

There are several features on these gloves that make them useful for sailing. The first is the soft, flexible polyester shell which is designed for mobility. Additionally, the fingers and palms of these gloves are coated with an ultra-durable "Proton-Ultra XD" coating for superior grip.

The long cuffs of these gloves aren't just for foul-weather sleeves. In addition to the tightening function on the cuffs, they also help keep the glove secure on your hand—which is an essential safety feature aboard sailboats.

Gill designed the Helmsman glove with durability in mind. Using special manufacturing processes, they developed a seamless one-piece palm that reduces the risk of tears or wear-through that's so common on less premium gloves. Additionally, the palm and fingers are reinforced with thick material for longevity.

Gill Helmsman gloves have fairly good insulating properties, and they can also be worn with a liner. They're not quite as warm as Carhartt WP gloves, but they offer superior waterproof qualities and overall ergonomics.

Best Uses:

Gill Helmsman sailing gloves pair well with foul weather gear and provide an excellent grip and decent insulation.

5. RainRider Sailing Gloves

Winter sailing gloves need to provide insulation and functionality. But in milder conditions, functionality is more important than sheer insulation. Here we have a useful set of gloves by RainRider that frees the index finger and thumb while protecting the palm.

RainRider gloves are made from a material that's water-resistant and extremely durable. It keeps your hands safe from rope burns thanks to the leather palm and fastens securely with an adjustable wrist strap.

So, why would you want a pair of winter sailing gloves with the thumb and index finger cut out? Several reasons—have you ever tried to press the buttons of a marine navigation system with thick gloves on? It's much easier with a free finger—and in all but the most extreme conditions, these gloves keep the rest of your hand completely protected.

Gloves with a free thumb also allow you to precisely manipulate lines, switches, and cleats that otherwise would pinch your gloves or be totally unworkable. Additionally, the tough leather palms are naturally non-slip and durable, which gives you an area of your hand to deal with ropes and other injurious items.

These gloves come with a double-layer palm for extra durability, along with a microfiber-infused material that allows your hands to move more naturally. The primary downside is that these gloves are not completely waterproof, but this isn't a big issue in many climates.

Best Uses:

These gloves offer the most hand utility and mobility while still protecting your fingers from prolonged exposure to mild or moderate cold and spray.

Best Winter Sailing Gloves
Daniel Wade

Daniel Wade

I've personally had thousands of questions about sailing and sailboats over the years. As I learn and experience sailing, and the community, I share the answers that work and make sense to me, here on Life of Sailing.

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