The Best Gloves for Survival

In my experience, I have often found my gloves lacking.   In addition, I have found times that I thought I would be fine without gloves only to end up with hands that are blistered and bloody.  It my be my poor circulation or may be the circumstances, but I often find my hands to be the part of my body that gets the most cold.  Because of this, I always try to take quality gloves with me when I go into the wild.

After a few rough experiences with my hands, I was on a mission to find gloves that would cover all my needs.  I realized that a person’s hands are some of their most valuable tools in a survival situation.  To protect your hands it to protect yourself.  Gloves are definitely not all created equal.  You can spend a small amount of money and effectively protect your hands, and you can easily spend a large amount of money and provide no protection at all. In this article I will cover how to select the right set of gloves and discuss the different types of gloves available.

How to Select Gloves

When I first set out to find quality gloves, I was overwhelmed by the wide array of options available. How do you really know you are getting a product that will work well for survival when gloves are rarely made for this purpose?  I decided to break down exactly what variables affect my hands and gloves, and what my priorities are for this product.

  • Gloves must protect hands from abrasions. Cuts and scrapes are quite common in a survival situation.  In addition, blisters form easily if you are cutting and chopping over long periods of time.  It seems like there are thorns on everything when you get into the wild.  Gloves must be made of thick material that protects your hands from these threats.  Impact pads add cushioning to protect knuckles and other points of impact.
  • Gloves must keep hands warm. There are two types of warmth they can provide.  One is simple protection from exposure. Any thick material will provide some protection just by adding a barrier between the cold air and your skin.  This helps with frostbite in moderate conditions.  However, for true warmth you need insulation.  Insulated gloves work by trapping air between the glove and your skin.  Your hands then warm that air to protect against the cold.  This means the gloves must be large enough to give you that pocket of air inside.
  • Gloves must be durable. There are gloves available made of dozens of different materials.  The material you choose must be strong enough to protect against cuts, wear and tear, and repeated daily abuse. Thinner materials will typically tear or wear through within hours. However, there are several thicker materials that could last a lifetime.
  • Gloves must provide dexterity. When you are in a survival situation, there are several tasks which require you to use your fingers for detailed work.  A great example of this is working with cordage.  Whether you are building a shelter or setting a snare trap, you fingers must be able manipulate the cordage to tie knots. An added bonus is the ability to feel texture through the gloves.  This allows you to be even more effective with your fingers.
  • Gloves should protect your hands during combat. One of the reasons why many self-defense experts suggest using your knees and elbows for striking is because bare knuckles split open easily.  Many gloves have impact pads that help protect your knuckles when striking an opponent.  In survival situations, you never know when you might have to defend yourself or your family.
  • Gloves should help you grip tools. Ideally, you want gloves that have a rough or sticky surface on the palms.  Whether you need to grip a hatchet or a shotgun, you want to be sure it will not slip out of your hands.
  • Gloves should be water resistant or waterproof. One of the easiest ways to get frostbite is to allow your hands to get wet.  Wet skin drops in temperature 20 times faster than dry skin. It is tough to find gloves that are 100% waterproof, but they should at least be water resistant for working in wet conditions.
  • Gloves should allow you to use your phone. In many survival situations, your smart phone is a wonderful tool.  It can help with communication, navigation, light, and information.  However, touch screen phones only work with certain materials.

Types of Gloves

There are a few standard styles of gloves that you can choose from.  I will briefly cover the advantages and disadvantages of each of these styles of glove.

Leather Work Gloves – These gloves are great for protection against cuts, scrapes, and blisters.  They are thick and tough, so they often will last a lifetime.  Leather is water resistant and typically gives you some good grip.  They give you some protection in combat and some protection against cold, but they are rarely insulated. Leather does not work with touch screens. They provide a medium amount of dexterity in the fingers.

Here is a good example.

Jersey Gloves – These cheap gloves are virtually worthless.  They provide a small amount of warmth and protection, but they tear easily.  They absorb water, have no padding, have no grip, and have no insulation. They do allow for dexterity in your fingers.

Here is a good example.

Medium Thickness Hunting Gloves – These gloves are designed to provide you with some insulation while still allowing dexterity in the fingers.  They are water resistant and sometimes even work with smart phones.  They have no padding and are not designed for heavy abuse. Often these gloves will rip or wear through over time.  They rarely have a good gripping surface and are not built for combat.

Here is a good example.

Mechanic Gloves – These gloves are waterproof and are designed to protect your hands from the constant impact they would take working on machinery.  They are thick and padded, so they would work well in combat.  They are durable and should never rip or tear.  These gloves have no insulation but do provide quality grip.  They do not work with touch screens and provide a medium amount of dexterity in your fingers.

Here is a good example.

Tactical Gloves – These happen to be the gloves I choose most often for survival situations.  Tactical gloves are padded for combat and have a good gripping surface for holding tools or weapons.  They are water resistant, and have open fingers for ideal dexterity or using a touch screen.  They provide some warmth, and are super durable.  The only downside is that they could be a bit warmer, but they work great for three seasons of the year.

Here is a good example.

Wool Gloves – Wool is the only glove material that can be soaking wet and still provide warmth.  They are water resistant and very warm.  They provide some level of protection, but are not padded.  Wool does wear through over time, and does not provide much grip.  Often these gloves come without fingers, so they may work well for dexterity and for touch screens.

Here is a good example.

Ski gloves – The main benefits of these gloves are that they are waterproof and very warm.  They have heavy insulation, so they would provide some protection in combat.  They rarely have a good gripping surface, and are not designed for abuse. They rip and wear through easily, and do not work with smart phones.  They provide very little dexterity.

Here is a good example.

Insulated Leather Mittens – This is my top choice for sleeping in cold weather.  Mittens actually provide the most warmth possible because they leave your fingers in one section of the glove so they can warm each other.  They are plenty durable and have a good gripping surface.  They are waterproof and provide good protection in combat.  They have zero dexterity so they are best used when you have no projects on which to work.  They cannot be used with a touch screen.  I buy mine large enough that they will actually fit over my tactical gloves.  When I am hunting I will keep my mittens on until I see a deer and then remove my hands to aim and fire with only the tactical gloves.

Here is a good example.

In Conclusion

As you can see, there are many choices when picking the gloves for your survival kit.  While my two favorite are the tactical gloves and the mittens, I have considered using leather work gloves and mechanics gloves as well.  There are advantages to them all.  Once you have selected the type of glove to use, read the reviews and pick one that you know will last.  These gloves may be one of the most important survival purchases you make.

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1 thought on “The Best Gloves for Survival”

  1. Leather gloves: 1)very thin goat skin gloves are usually not the best for work ,but for shooting they work well . 20 Mechanics gloves are great for trying to use tools when it’s moderately cold and really help with the cold metal. They work well for warm weather ATV or tractor driving. 3) Leather gloves can be cowhide which wears well and really rough work. Deer hide gloves are super comfortable and will take a surprising amount of abuse. When wet they still offer protection from the wind but not from cold. Elk skin gloves are more expensive , are a little thicker and tougher. They also remain softer after drying out. Both deer and elk can be had with a light lining of thinsulate (40 gram) and are nice for active cold hunting you can get leather palms cloth backs and a non insulated cuff for working when it is cold, I’ve two pair with 100 grams of thinsulate. 4) For the coldest temps I really like a leather deer hide mitten (called choppers locally) and into that a double layered wool mitten. You can get cowhide choppers, but they are slippery. I do put norwegian Oil on my choppers which makes them less warm but mostly it makes them water proof. separate liners and mitten make them dry out better.. 5) The son-in-law has new insulated gloves with a ‘deal” on the index finger to allow him to use a cell phone with the glove on. 6) Rubber gloves for gutting i have some rubber NBC gloves that work well, they are reasonably snug an go up to almost elbow hight. The better dishwashing gloves work too. If you prefer those that fit all the way up to your shoulder and have a huge hand you can make them workable by putting the much smaller surgical glove over the top. If you’ve ever worn out or lost a glove , please get an extra pair. As the author pointed out your hands are necessary to work.


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