Rain mitts, much as with rain gear shell in general, proves elusive for something that works.
Rain mitts need to be, of course, waterproof. And large enough to fit a liner glove and possibly an inner mitten for maximum versatility in at least 3+ season or cold weather backpacking. And durable enough to take the abuse that anything that goes on hands will end up taking, such as camp chores, scrambling, handling gear, etc. And, for some, the elusive chimera of “waterproof AND breathable.” (WPB)
As with rain gear, I find rain mittens to be a matter of compromise for versatility, durability, weight, price, and effectiveness.
I tried MANY options throughout the years, and I find any rain mittens made of traditional material eventually wets out regardless of the price. Within two years (or less) or active use, I find I have a pair of wind mitts instead. As I tend to hike in the Intermountain West, that’s not always a problem, but my old stomping ground of Colorado certainly gets rain and sleet…and so does the high desert where I currently live.
I am not concerned about so-called “WPB” mitts as they rarely breathe esp with much use, and my main use for rain mittens is to keep out the cold rain and the wind. My wool liners work well when the wind is mild, and I am moving. And if there is cold rain, my hands do not sweat enough to wet out the wool fabric I find.
I do use a heavier shell mitt for winter activities in the mountains with a rougher grip for skis. But the Intermountain West snow tends on the fluffier side esp in the higher elevations. It takes many seasons for the mitts to wet out. And I don’t mind spending the higher price for that reason. Plus, ski touring ends up as a more specialized activity vs. general cold-weather backpacking.
Finally, notice I said mittens and not gloves. I find mittens warmer and more efficient than gloves for a mid-layer and certainly a shell layer. For more dexterity, I size the mittens up a bit. Even for using my camera, I find this works well. And when I need more fine motor skills, I simply take off my mitts for the quick task.
Therefore, my ideal rain mitt would be a mitten version of the simple kitchen/chore gloves that are light, inexpensive, durable, and do not wet out. Some people complain about the clammy feel. But, again, I only use them for cold and wet rain. They are not quite warm enough for me when I want a quick wind layer in more frigid conditions, I find. And, again, I prefer mittens for my shell layer. Joan, of course, has used these gloves for years.
The Showa gloves would not be functionally different for me. They are less versatile with a liner built-in for the more readily available version and marginally fewer gram totals versus the kitchen glove + liner combo. Additionally, they run small making it difficult to use with a liner glove effectively. And I find gloves harder to remove quickly vs. a shell mitten.
Finding the kitchen chore type of mittens has proven impossible for me. I did find something similar that I’ll discuss in a later post.
For now, I’ll talk about option one – Trek 500, Mountain Backpacking Fleece Overgloves from Decathlon. Despite the confusing name, these rain mittens are, well, nylon mittens, meant to go over the fleece gloves (aha!). If you are not familiar with Decathlon, they are a French-based company that makes decent to good athletic and outdoor gear and clothing. Their model is direct to consumer vs. a middle store. The overall take is their clothing is of good no-frills quality and makes an excellent bang-for-the-buck. In lightweight backpacking circles, most people know them through their grid fleece and down puffy as examples of good bang-for-the-buck clothing. (Their gear? OK. )
At $17, these rain mitts are among the least expensive rain mittens made of nylon. And after almost a year of using them, they are no better or worse than similar ones from other companies. But for less money. At 1.5 oz a pair for the XL/2XL pair, they are light, too. They keep out the rain and wind and add some warmth to my liner gloves.
Bonus: The mitts come pre-seam taped and have a bit of a textured grip that’s useful for grabbing objects. Unusual for something at this price point and not something found even in some similar cottage gear.
These mittens have some other nice touches, such as a way to cinch them down and a wrist loop in some models (varies which batch you’ll get) so you will not lose them easily when you take them off.
However, I can tell that like all of these thin mitts in this class; they WILL wet out quite a bit and no longer be waterproof eventually. Meaning my hands will get cold. Again, I only wear rain mitts when I am concerned about wet AND cold generally. Dry and cold, I have other options that work well and much better. I do like to use shell mitts with liners in windy weather, however.
So, will I use these rain mittens? Overall, yes. With the caveat, I have other options to work better/fill a different niche.
Counterpoint – I tend to run warm and need less rain protection. Joan, however, runs cold easily and finds her hands suffer from any moisture. YMMV.
The other downside of these specific mitts is Decathlon typically sells out of them quickly of all but the small size. And only the XL/2XL size fits me and my liner glove well.
If you are looking for some inexpensive rain mitts that are functionally no different or worse from similar mitts sold by other companies, these Decathlon mitts make for a suitable option. Again, with the bonus excellent bonus of taped seams at the factory and a textured grip But, with all the caveats this style has overall. If you need 100% waterproof ability, I think the dish/chore gloves with liner combo still works well as a 4 oz combo that’s very inexpensive and versatile. . If, again, with the pros and cons of gloves vs. mittens I listed earlier.
The search for the perfect rain mitt continues with some other options I’ll discuss this week in other articles.
Disclosure: I paid for all the mittens and gloves mentioned in this article with my funds.