Fishing in cold weather can be a joy or misery. It largely depends on your equipment and attitude. Numb, freezing fingers can ruin any fishing trip. Tying knots with frozen fingers can be a nightmare, so we wear gloves to keep our hands warm and dry. But gloves make tying knots and other delicate tasks much more difficult.
A good fishing glove not only has to keep your hands warm and hopefully dry, but it must be versatile enough to allow you to tie knots, thread line, remove hooks, and unhook fish. In general, the warmer the glove, the thicker they are and the more cumbersome they are to fish with. Firstly I will discuss the main types of ‘fishing gloves’ and then I will go on to discuss my thoughts on the different materials they are typically made out of.
What is the Best Material for a Fishing Glove?
Neoprene is a type of rubber that is one hundred percent waterproof. It does an excellent job trapping heat next to the body and works well both in and out of the water. Neoprene is usually coated with nylon for durability or fleece for comfort and ease of wear.
I like to wear Neoprene gloves when fishing in very cold conditions, especially when I know my hands are going to get wet. The downside to neoprene is that the material is rather thick, making it difficult to tie knots or other fine motor skills while wearing neoprene gloves.
Insulated gloves are basically synthetic fibers inside a usually a waterproof nylon shell. The insulation provides warmth by trapping any heat escaping from your hands. For a warmth to weight ratio, I feel it is hard to beat insulated gloves.
Downsides include the bulky nature, and they can quite easily become saturated with water. So not the best option when you think immersion is likely.
Everyone should be familiar with wool; this natural fiber is famous for providing warmth even when wet. Woolen gloves have decent durability, but I certainly will not use them for anything rough. Wool is warm when wet but it can become heavy which causes it to stretch. Wool, unless felted is also not overly wind resistant.
I find wool is a reasonable option in the fall or late spring when temperatures are cool but above freezing. I probably will only use woolen gloves if they are also fingerless, wool does not lend itself to knot tying.
Polyester is found in most gloves.
It is often combined with other materials. Polyester gloves are usually affordable and typically fit tightly close to the skin. With skill, it is even possible to tie small knots while wearing thin polyester knots.
Glove weight wet vs dry
|Glove Weight Dry
|Glove Weight Wet
|Waterproof Insulated Glove
How warm are different gloves?
Outdoor temperatures are still a bit warm for a proper test. So, I invented a small, but not very scientific experiment to get a rough idea on how much insulation various gloves offer.
I basically wore the glove on one hand, then placed my hand firmly onto a metal tray I chilled down to -17c (1F) in my freezer. I then timed how long it took for my hand to become uncomfortable due to the cold seeping through. I stopped the experiment after two minutes.
I then repeated the experiment with wet gloves instead of dry ones. I drowned each glove in a sink of cold water for ten seconds. Most of the gloves become saturated instantly, while it took a good 5 seconds for the water to soak through the stitching in insulated glove. They were fully saturated after 10 seconds.
The Glacier Neoprene glove were nearly fully watertight with only a little seepage around the wrist strap.
For the wet test, I shook each glove twice, then squeeze them twice to remove any excess water.
Warmest gloves when dry and wet
|12% Neoprene fingerless
I feel the results are quite clear. Only neoprene gloves provide a good amount of warmth when saturated. When dry, insulated gloves also work well.
Both the insulated glove and the neoprene glove kept my hands feeling warm for the entire 120 seconds.
Only the neoprene gloves were able to keep my hands warm once wet. The fingerless neoprene gloves failed because the design allows water to enter through the finger holes causing the internal fleece to become wet.
I suspect the insulated glove would be warmer long term if they were kept dry.
Knot tying test
It is nearly impossible to tie knots when wearing thick gloves.
I tried to tie a basic 16-20 knot while wearing all of the gloves, I choose this knot because it is my favorite, and I can tie it with my eyes closed in the dark.
I choose to use 3X tippet, and I cheated slightly by tying the knots to a 1/16oz inline spinner. So I had quite a large target.
I could easily tie the knot with bare skin and fingerless gloves. Second place was the thin woolen liners.
I also succeeded while wearing gardening, and dishwashing gloves but it took significantly longer. Partly because the nylon kept sticking to the glove and I had to use my teeth several times to tighten it.
I could not tie knots with any of the thick gloves.
Fly Casting Test
I tried casting my fly rod with various gloves. The fingerless gloves certainly gave me the best control, but that is to be expected. I also had little difficulty with the thin wool gloves, they allowed the fly line to easily slide through my fingers
The garden gloves were a bit too sticky, I had to grip the line very gently when pulling it through my fingers.
The three pairs of insulated gloves were bulky, so a bit cumbersome but I could still cast and retrieve with them despite losing most feeling from my fingers.
The full neoprene gloves were the most clunky to use, but I could still cast and retrieve while wearing them. Although, I could not feel the fly line through the material. They were certainly the hardest pair of gloves to fish with.
1) Glacier Glove Alaska River Series Flip Mitt
There are a lot of flip style mittens on the market, most of the large brands even have their own version. But the one I like the most is from Glacier Glove.
The Glacier Glove Alaska River Series Flip Mitt is a fingerless fleece glove integrated inside a 2mm neoprene glove. It provides the warmth and water tightness of neoprene and the convenience of a fingerless glove.
I will not go as far as to say these gloves are waterproof. Each glove does contain 6 holes, each of which is a water entry point. There is no such thing as a waterproof fingerless glove.
But the neoprene palm does fit snugly against the skin which slows the flow of water. Yes, your hands will get wet, but the water gets trapped in them and slowly warms.
If I know my hands are going to get wet, I personally feel a neoprene outer is a much better choice than the puffy insulated outers used on comparable models from Orvis or Simms. Neoprene is also much more durable and does not depend on a thin membrane to block water or wind.
Another feature, which is surprisingly lacking on some more expensive gloves is the Velcro strip which secures the mitten covers in place when using them as fingerless gloves.
2) Glacier Glove Perfect Curve
When the river starts to freeze and I get ice forming on my rod guides I reach for my Glacier Glove Perfect Curve. They are a fleece lined neoprene glove.
I can not tie knots while wearing them, but they do keep my hands warm even when temperatures are below zero. The velcro wrist strap makes them almost waterproof, and the neoprene is thick enough to block the wind.
I even use them while kayaking, I can go for a 10 mile paddle, between the sheet ice, and even punch back into the wind and my hands will not be numb. Quite impressive really.
These are my choices for fishing in very cold conditions when I know my hands will get wet. If I need to tie knots or change flies, I simply don’t. Any prolonged skin exposure at such temperatures is too painful. If I really need to change lures, I will retreat to the relative warmth of the car before taking them off.
With preparation, it probably will be a good idea to wear thin wool liner gloves inside the Perfect Curve club. That way I can take off the outer gloves to change knots while not losing all of the trapped heat.
I have no complaints regarding durability. I use them for all of last winter, including over 20 hours of paddling and there is no obvious wear. Although, the glue in one of the seams has started to part, but nothing a couple of drops of wetsuit glue will not fix.
The palm provides a very good grip, in my experience, it is either rock solid or nothing. All of last winter, I only had my hand slip once while wearing them.
Quite honestly, they are the best winter gloves I have used.
3) Simms ExStream Foldover Mitt’s
So many insulated gloves on the market lack proper waterproofing, they become a soggy mess when submerged in the water. For that reason, I am not a fan of wearing insulated gloves while fishing. I keep them for walking the dog or skiing.
The Simms Exstream Foldover Mitt’s like the name suggests are fingerless gloves with a fold over mitten. When fishing, the mitten portion can be folded over to keep your fingers warm, but it is an easy task to fold the mitten cover back to quickly retie knots.
The mitten itself is made from thin fleece lined neoprene which is all covered with a Gore-Tex shell to try and protect the insulation from getting wet.
Inside the glove contains Gold Primaloft insulation. This is a synthetic insulation that is hydrophobic, which means it repels waters allowing it to keep its structure even when wet. A waterproof membrane, combined with hydrophobic insulation makes for highly water-resistant gloves.
While the glove is very water resistant, it is still not designed for prolonged submersions. The Glacier Glove Alaska River Series is better in that regard.
It is in my opinion the best breathable fold over mitten which offers a high degree of water fastness. These gloves while not as waterproof as full neoprene are much more comfortable to wear.
If you are after a cheaper, but less waterproof alternative then check out the Palmyth Ice Fishing Gloves, or the same gloves branded as Kastking Polarblast.
I like fingerless gloves more for sun protection than warmth. Whenever I try wearing them in winter I always end up with numb fingers. Maybe I have poor circulation.
I still know many anglers who can get away with fingerless gloves. With your fingers out, tying knots become much easier.
Just keep in mind, there is no such thing as a waterproof fingerless glove because they have too many holes and your hands will get wet. This is why wool is one of the best materials for fingerless gloves. It stays warm when wet, naturally breaths and is free draining.
I personally prefer the feel of woolen gloves over synthetic ones. Wool compresses nicely when holding a rod. Being fingerless there is no need to worry about the fabric getting in the way of knot tying.
5) Garden Gloves
These generic lightweight durable inexpensive gloves are good for so many outdoor tasks and are useful for when a little extra warmth is required.
I go through several pairs every year at work, but they are equally useful while fishing or climbing a mountain. Just a great basic slightly warm glove.
In my experience, the brand does not matter, many companies make them. You can even find them with fishing company logos printed on.
The thin-weight ones provide minimal protection from the elements, but they are certainly better than bare skin.
These gloves are actually thin enough that I can tie an 16-20 Knot (Pitzen knot) in 3X tippet with little difficulty, although the line did stick to the coating. To be honest, I probably will not try to tie on very tiny flies, but they are passable for larger streamers or when spin fishing.
There are also waterproof variations with increased warmth for colder weather, they lose a bit of warmth when wet. But are certainly better than nothing on a cold frosty morning. A good option when you want a little extra warmth.