What gloves do I need for climbing Kilimanjaro?
Wearing gloves in the outdoors serves multiple purposes.
They provide insulation to keep hands warm in cold weather. They shield your hands from harsh elements like wind, rain, snow, and sun exposure. And they offer protection against cuts, scratches, or abrasions.
On the Ultimate Kilimanjaro® gear list, we list two types of gloves that we require on the mountain as part of your kit. In this article, we’ll discuss what to look for when choosing gloves for climbing Kilimanjaro.
Ultimate Kilimanjaro® requires one pair of thin fleece gloves and one pair of waterproof, warm gloves. Sun gloves are optional.
THIN FLEECE GLOVES
These gloves will be your go-to glove on your expedition.
Fleece gloves are made from a polyester-based fabric, known for their warmth and comfort in cold weather conditions. They are breathable, quick-drying, and feature a soft and comfortable texture.
Your fleece gloves should be sufficient for temperatures down to around 30F(-1C), allow movement and flexibility, and provide a secure grip on trekking poles and other equipment.
Note that there is a tradeoff between warmth and dexterity. What you’re looking for in a fleece glove is a good balance between these two qualities. That means they’re warm enough for cold temperatures, while still allowing you to execute tasks requiring manual dexterity, such as zipping up your jacket, feeling for items in your daypack, or turning on a headlamp.
A good test for manual dexterity is to try using your phone while wearing gloves. If you can still handle and operate your phone, then you’ll be able to do other tasks on the mountain.
Having gloves with touch screen compatible fingertips is a very useful feature. Having to take off your gloves to use your phone can become a big hassle and expose your hands to the elements unnecessarily. So we highly recommend getting touch screen compatible fleece gloves.
A proper fit is vital. Too tight, and you risk restricting blood flow, leading to cold hands. Too loose, and you compromise warmth. Test different sizes to find something that is both comfortable and functional.
Mountain Hardwear Power Stretch Glove
This glove is a well designed performance glove made of four-way stretch fleece. It fits well and allows good movement of the fingers and hands, providing manual dexterity needed to zip open and close your backpack and handle objects. The pointer fingertips have a special coating that allows the wearer to use a touchscreen smart phone, so you don’t have to remove the gloves to snap a photo. The glove also has reinforcements at the palm to prevent wear and tear from holding trekking poles.
The Mountain Hardwear Power Stretch Glove retails for $40 and can be found here.
The North Face ETip Glove
A similar version of the above item is made by The North Face, called the ETip Glove. It also has four-way stretch fleece and has a touch-screen compatible fingertips. A portion of the glove has small nubs designed to improve grip. This glove comes in several different color variations.
The North Face ETip Glove retails for $45 and can be found here.
The warm pair of gloves are for more extreme conditions – such as heavy snow, blistering winds and freezing temperatures. You would put these on when the fleece gloves are no longer enough to keep your hands warm and dry.
To provide warmth, these gloves are much larger than the fleece gloves. They have drastically more insulating material, so they’re bulky, and extend far past the wrist to stop cold air from entering the sleeve. As a rule, you’ll sacrifice most of your manual dexterity while wearing warm gloves and there’s not much you can do about that. Operating a phone is going to be nearly impossible, but you should still be able to handle your trekking poles, and ideally grab a zipper.
The absolute warmest option for warm gloves are mittens. Because mittens have less surface area that is in contact with the cold, there is less heat loss. And your fingers can share heat and keep each other warm. The disadvantage is that nearly all of your manual dexterity will be gone. So we recommend gloves over mittens for most people.
There are mountaineering gloves made for very cold weather conditions, but a typical ski or snowboarding glove would suffice for this purpose. What you’re looking for in a warm glove is something that has heavy insulation and is completely waterproof, or at least very water resistant.
One thing you should be aware of is that it’s possible that you will not need these gloves at all during your climb. And I would consider that a good scenario, because it would mean that you didn’t have to endure very cold temperatures.
But when conditions are so serious that you need them, you really need them. That’s why warm gloves are required gear. The typical time you’d wear these gloves is during the summit attempt, when temperatures could easily be subzero. If that happens, you’re going to be very happy you have them.
Beware that wearing these gloves in mild conditions can overheat your hands. So only put these gloves on in very cold temperatures. If your hands start to sweat and become clammy, the moisture will make your hands feel even colder. Do your best to keep your hands and gloves dry on the inside.
REI Switchback GTX Gloves
With REI Switchback GTX Gloves, you get two gloves in one. The removable fleece liner gloves can serve as your thin glove. When the outer shell is added, you have a completely waterproof system for Kilimanjaro. The shell has gaunlet cuffs and a drawcord to shut the elements out.
REI Switchback GTX Gloves are priced around $90 and can be found here.
Black Diamond Mission Gloves
These versatile alpine gloves offer good grip, dexterity and waterproof protection. A Gore-Tex shell keeps the weather out while lightweight fleece insulation holds the heat in. The palms are made of leather. Other features include a glove clip, wrist leash and velcro cuff.
These gloves retail for $120 and can be found here.
Black Diamond Mercury Mittens
When it comes to keeping warm, nothing beats mittens. If your hands are always cold, even when you are dressed warm, mittens might be for you. These alpine mitts are guaranteed to keeps your hands warm and dry. Made with Gore-Tex technology, these gloves offer enduring weather protection, comfort, balanced heat transfer and moisture management. These heavy duty gloves are waterproof, windproof and breathable.
The Black Dimaond Mercury Mittens retail for $120 and can be found here.
There is a third pair of gloves that you might consider using for sun protection.
Sun gloves are specialized gloves designed to protect the hands from the UV rays during outdoor activities. These gloves are crafted with lightweight, breathable fabrics that offer UPF ratings to shield the skin against sunburn and long-term UV damage.
The materials are quick-drying, allowing moisture to evaporate quickly.
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