Outdoor exploration in the winter months requires a specific set of tools: durable, insulated apparel. Footwear with optimal grip and traction. A masochistic appreciation for temperatures below 30 degrees Fahrenheit. Oh, and a cozy pair of gloves or mittens.
In the "olden days" pre-smartphone, a glove or mitten had to do a few things well: it had to keep your hands warm, and it had to do that without becoming waterlogged, frayed, torn, flimsy or any other manner of ineffective performance. But post-2007, with the advent and explosion in popularity of the smartphone with its quintessential touchscreen design, gloves and mittens had to beef up their resumes with a new, indispensable skill: they had to be touchscreen compatible.
Let me walk you through a quick scenario: you're camping in the snow. You're on a hike near camp and you turn a corner to find a pristine alpine lake, with a deer standing gracefully at its edge. You pull out your phone to take a picture of this scene, but your gloves, although warm, are not compatible with your touchscreen. You fumble to remove your gloves, and by the time you look up, the deer has darted away, and you are left with the painful regret of missing a moment, and the painful reality of cold fingers. This, my friend, is why you need touchscreen-compatible mitts.
Best Overall Touchscreen GlovesThe North Face Apex Etip Gloves Read More
Best Luxury Touchscreen GlovesCanada Goose Leather Glove Read More
Best Budget Friendly Touchscreen GlovesMoshi Digits Winter Gloves Read More
Best Touchscreen Mittens for Wet EnvironmentsREI Co-op Gauntlet GTX Mittens 2.0 Read More
BEST FLEECE-BLEND TOUCHSCREEN GLOVESMidweight Screentap Gloves Read More
What to look for in touchscreen gloves and mittens
Aside from the obvious (touchscreen compatibility), there are a few other factors you'll want to keep in mind when shopping for your new pair of gloves or mittens. The first is waterproofing. Where there's cold there's oftentimes moisture, and a pair of soggy mittens is especially unappealing — and defeats the purpose of keeping your hands warm. You'll also want to pay attention to insulation: if you run cold, if you're in a frigid environment, or if you suffer from Raynaud's disease, having insulation can make or break your outdoor experience. We prioritize insulation in our pants, jackets and shoes: make sure your digits are covered, too. Another important factor to consider is dexterity. If you're shopping online, read the reviews. If you're going brick and mortar, try on as many pairs as you can to ensure your fingers can wiggle and move without impediment.
A note on materials:
If you're wearing these gloves for outdoor use, you'll want to keep an eye out for polyester, nylon, and leather blends — they'll provide you with the ideal blend of stretch, durability and warmth. As far as insulation goes, standard fare is wool, fleece or synthetic, and your choice depends on your intended activity. Expecting rain? Go for synthetic. Hiking dry, extremely cold trails? Fleece, wool or even down are appropriate.
Whatever your activity of choice, if you want to be able to make use of your touchscreen devices without having to remove your fingers from their cocoon of warmth and safety, get a pair of touchscreen-compatible gloves.
How We Tested
Touchscreen-compatible gloves require one specific condition to be tested: the cold. As such, we wore ours snowshoeing in Colorado, snowboarding in the Sierra Nevada, camping and hiking in the deserts of Southern California and on many, many wintertime road trips. When testing, we focused on specific performance attributes — most notably the gloves and mittens' compatibility with touchscreen devices — but also material durability, warmth retention, insulation and waterproofing. After months of frigid investigating and research, we landed on the following pairs as our favorites.
The Best Touchscreen Gloves for Outdoor Use
The North Face Apex Etip Glove
- Material: Recycled polyester, elastane
- Insulation: None
- Best Use: Multi-sport; Travel
I've had these gloves for three winters now, and I've relied on them as my go-to touchscreen-compatible glove in a variety of situations: scrambling up and down boulders in Joshua Tree, hiking on cooler days in Southern California, setting up our GoFast camper whilst camping in the snow and as a liner under my snowboarding gloves on particularly cold days. I've brought them on road trips, cross-country flights and on walks around my neighborhood. I love them for a few reasons: the fit is just right, not too roomy or too tight. The recycled polyester and elastane combo does well in dry and wet conditions and is soft without feeling flimsy or delicate.
I'm on my fourth winter in the gloves and am just now starting to notice the touchscreen capability is less efficacious than in years past — I have to tap harder and more deliberately to get my phone to do what I'd like, which is inconvenient without being too much of a bummer. If you're looking for a workhorse that can thrive in tons of outdoor scenarios, I can't recommend these enough. Since the material is still in great shape. I'll probably replace mine before next winter, and retire my current pair to work gloves for projects around the house. Either way, I'm keeping them in my outdoor gear closet for years to come.
Canada Goose Leather Glove
- Material: Sheepskin leather
- Insulation: None
- Best Use: Multi-sport; Travel
The outdoors and luxury aren't mutually exclusive — just ask the likes of Snow Peak, Dometic, Stone Island, Arc'teryx or Canada Goose. Each brand knows how to merge high design and superior performance into apparel and hard goods that set the bar in terms of design and performance. If you're looking for an elevated touchscreen-compatible glove, look no further than Canada Goose's Leather Work Glove. Constructed from supple sheepskin leather, the gloves provide plenty of protection from the cold in a sleek and slim profile. The brushed lining is cozy and warm, and the softshell cuffs maintain the minimal profile without sacrificing warmth retention.
Some reviewers note that the Leather Work Gloves can be a little tight, so if you're between sizes, consider sizing up to make sure your fingers have enough room to maintain flexibility. And if you're so concerned with the price that you can't imagine wearing these outside, or dare I say, getting them dirty, look for another pair.
Moshi Digits Winter Touchscreen Gloves
- Material: Microfleece
- Insulation: None
- Best Use: Low-impact outdoor activities
These are some of the most popular touchscreen-compatible gloves on the internet for a few reasons: they're cheap, they're widely available and they do their job without any hiccups. These aren't the most durable or rugged gloves you'll find for outdoor use; in fact, we'd recommend them sooner for casual hikes, horseback riding or low-contact activities before suggesting you wear them for yard work, splitting logs for afternoon fires or bushwhacking your way through the backcountry.
What we love about these gloves is their functionality: each of the 10 fingers is touchscreen-compatible, rather than just the typical forefinger and thumb set-up of a love of gloves. Having the use of all 10 digits makes it easier to get your touchscreen-oriented task done quicker, so you can get back to the experience at hand.
REI Co-op Gauntlet GTX Mittens 2.0
- Material: Synthetic leather, nylon, polyester brushed tricot
- Insulation: Synthetic polyester fibers
- Best Use: Snowsports
There are times that call for the dexterity of a glove, and there are other times that demand the warmth and coziness of a mitten. Contrary to logic, you don't have to lose the ability to navigate your smartphone just because you slip on a pair of mittens: today's styles integrate touchscreen compatibility into their tips, just like gloves. If you want an affordable and cozy option, check out REI's newest version of its Gauntlet GTX Mittens — each pair comes with Gore-Tex weather protection, plus lightweight synthetic insulation and a cozy fleece interior for extra warmth. REI makes use of synthetic, Bluesign-approved materials throughout the mitten, which cut down on environmental impact (and cost). These mittens look and feel soft, but they'll stand up to hard activities with ease.
Black Diamond Midweight Screentap Fleece Gloves
- Material: Polartec Power Stretch nylon fleece, leather
- Insulation: Fleece
- Best Use: Multi-sport; walking, running and hiking
According to reviewers, these are some of the top-rated gloves on the market, thanks to the stretchy nylon fleece that keeps hands warm and dexterous. They're a unisex style, so anyone can wear them with ease; just double-check the sizing before ordering. The full fingers and conductive leather palm allow for total control of your touchscreen device, and reviewers are quick to note how comfortable and warm this pair is on chilly walks, jogs and hikes. These aren't your next pair of workwear gloves, but for the casual outdoorsperson who needs full control of their device, you won't find much comfier.
Outdoor Research Flurry Sensor Gloves
- Material: Wool, polyester, nylon
- Insulation: None
- Best Use: Casual; multi-sport
Outdoor Research has made a name for itself in the outdoor space by crafting well-designed, durable wares that can stand up to the rigors of the outdoors. With its Flurry Sensor Gloves, Outdoor Research combined utility with comfort, and the result is an affordable, useful glove suited for a multitude of activities.
Although they're made with a mix of traditional and synthetic fibers, one reviewer was impressed by how closely the fabric resembled wool. The palm construction allows for movement while retaining a snug fit, and the silicone details on the fingers allow for great grip — which comes in handy when you pull your phone out on a challenging trail.
One reviewer did note that within a few months, the touchscreen compatibility of their pair had completely given out; if you're okay with spending on a glove that may not work with your touchscreen for more than one season, you'll be impressed with the comfort and dexterity of this pair, but if you're looking for an investment piece, I suggest you scroll back up to Canada Goose's Leather Work Glove.
Smartwool Liner Gloves
- Material: Polyester, Merino wool, elastodiene, elastane
- Insulation: No
- Best Use: Multisport
For the cold-blooded among us, an extra glove liner is indispensable during the winter months; liners offer an extra level of insulation that can keep fingers warm and maintain dexterity. A liner should be just as functional as the glove or mitten that encases it — in this case, it should also be touchscreen compatible. When you're switching between a glove and liner combo and solo liner moments, you'll want an option that can allow you to work your GPS, send texts or take a picture without having to expose your fingers to the elements completely.
Smartwool prides itself on its use of merino wool, but if you're picky about materials and are shopping for a 100-percent wool liner, don't pick these up: they're a blend of materials with polyester being the most prominent. If you're looking for an affordable, soft pair of liners that can fit under more robust gloves or standalone in chilly environments, Smartwool makes a great product. But if you're a wool connoisseur and a purist, keep looking.
Outdoor Research Point N Chute Gore-Tex Sensor Mittens
- Material: Goat leather, polyester tricot, Gore-tex waterproof/breathable insert
- Insulation: EnduraLoft polyester (back of hand: 200 g/m2; palm: 133 g/m2)
- Best Use: Snowsports; multi-sport
Women hiking, skiing and even dog sledding have touted the fit and function of these premium mittens from Outdoor Research. The Point N Chute Gore-Tex Sensor Mittens are made with, you guessed it — Gore-tex inserts, which protect hands from both wind and water (and are removable for easy washing). Other premium materials include the EnduraLoft polyester insulation, split-suede nose wipes and quilted goat leather on the palms and back of hands. If you're adventuring in temps dipping all the way to 10 degrees Fahrenheit, these are a solid option to reach for. Finding a premium mix of touchscreen compatibility, durability and style in one package is no easy feat, but Outdoor Research seems to have nailed it with its do-it-all mitten.