The Best Winter and Cold Water Paddling Gloves

Kayaker paddling on Lake Superior in winter.

The hardest body part to keep warm during winter paddling is the hands. Because water drips down the paddle shaft and the splashes saturate any gloves or mittens used, they need to be waterproof, or they must be waterproof enough to slow new cold water from penetrating the glove’s interior. I’ve always liked neoprene gloves or mittens to keep my hands warm verse using a poggies, because my hands stay warm when removed from the paddle shaft and I can easily manipulate items without have to touch an icy surface. I have a few favorite gloves.

NRS Natural Gloves

One of the warmest winter paddling glovesI used to use NRS Reactor gloves, because they were the warmest gloves that I could find, but the main problem with the old Reactor gloves was that they didn’t grip, so I’d end up over gripping the paddle shaft to compensate. I’m prone to tendonitis and over gripping the paddle shaft causes it to flare up, so I’ve always used Sex Wax to increase the grip. The newer NRS Natural Glove feels grippier, just as warm and somehow feel less bulky. The glued construction seems to keep water out, so new cold water doesn’t replace the water that your hand warmed up, and the wrist stays tight enough without the need for an annoying elastic and velcro band. One thing I appreciate about these gloves is the soft fabric spot on the thumb, which works great for wiping the snot off your nose. All gloves should have that feature.

Price: $39.95 | Buy from NRS

NRS Toaster Mitts

NRS Toaster mittens.In winter, I use neoprene mittens more often than gloves, because they keep my hands warmer. The best I’ve used are NRS’s Toaster Mitts. NRS makes the back of the glove with thick 3.5mm neoprene but leaves the palm of the glove a thinner 2.5mm for better grip on the paddle’s shaft. All the seams are sealed, so there is very little water penetration. Although the mitten uses an elastic and velcro band for closure, it doesn’t really need it. You can cut it off without worry —  it does work well to hang the mitten from a clothing line. Like the Natural Gloves, it features a soft area on the thumb for wiping your nose. One feature that I think is well thought-out is the bite tab, which helps you pull the glove on when biting it. Even in the coldest weather that I enjoy paddling in (15 degrees Fahrenheit), my hands stay warm — sometimes almost too warm in these mittens. Highly Recommended!

Price: $36.95 | Buy from NRS

NRS Mambas

NRS Mambas which are a cold water poggieIf it seems like I’m on a NRS kick, it’s because NRS makes some of the best paddling gloves on the market. The Mambas are NRS’s version of a warm neoprene poggie. While I prefer mittens, poggies, which wrap around a paddle’s shaft, give direct contact to the paddle. The Mambas are warm and comfortable, although a little inflexible. They’re easier to put on verse gloves or mittens, and because they stay attached to the paddle, there’s less chance of losing them when you take them off.

Price: $42.95 | Buy from NRS

How Neoprene Works

Neoprene works by trapping a thin layer of water between your skin and the neoprene. Your body heat warms up the layer of water, which keeps you warm. Ideally, you want a tight-fitting neoprene glove, which keeps the layer of water directly against your skin and helps prevent new cold water from flowing in. Loose gloves or gloves that allow water in at the wrist are colder than others, because the water moves around and colder water enters the glove more often.

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  • Iam looking for some gloves that can keep my hands dry and warm ( in winter times.. and also be able to work ( Iam a construction worker) Ive tried many gloves that claim that thay are water proof ( carhartt) NOT!!.. do you have any like that? yours truly

    ps the first thing that gets cold is your finger tips ( once thats gets cold ) your screwed !!!!

    Armando Lopez

    • Hi, Armando,

      The gloves listed here are neoprene and designed for winter and cold water paddling. They work by trapping a thin layer of water between your skin and the glove. Your body heats the water, which keeps your hands warm. The key is to prevent new cold water from coming in. They wouldn’t really work for construction.

      For cold and wet winter sports, such as ice climbing, I’ve had good luck with Outdoor Research Gloves. I’m not sure I’d use them for construction, because they’re expensive, and I know how quickly you wear through gloves in construction. When I did forestry, I used Gore-tex windstopper gloves or leather work gloves. My hands just got wet.

      • i’ll second OR’s gloves, but also mention layering. i’ve had a lot of luck in ugly conditions with smartwool liners under a thinner expedition quality “waterproof” glove, protected by a larger than normal kevlar workglove with nitrile protected palm/fingers. i’d not use it for immersion wet, but toastier than anything else i’ve found for swinging a hammer in sub freezing weather. the kevlar seems to do a better job of not holding moisture than other nitrile/latex skinned gloves, and adds better cut resistance for sharp metal bits.

        i’ve really abused my OR shell mitts lined with fleece mitts lined with polypropelene liner gloves in significantly cold and wet weather and they’re still going strong. (no fingers though, and again, not immersion appropriate) i can see them lasting a season on a jobsite, but having a few punctures by the end of it.

  • I agree re NRS gloves. Can’t remember which ones I have but they are warm.

    That said I’m a big fan of Marsyas Hi-Grip Gloves:

    Although they are not warm enough to be a true northern hemisphere winter paddling glove they offer some useful warmth and have an excellent ‘sticky’ grip on carbon fibre paddles. (Not sure if the grip would be as good on a wooden paddle). But on carbon fibre the grip and paddle control is almost better than bare hands.

    Might be worth checking out for the cold but not freezing days.

    Thanks. Nice blog !

  • I have all the glove-stuff above, but the very best is the long expedition-gloves from Reed. They are very thin, watertight and long – to the shoulder. Underneath thees gloves I can put what ever I need to keep me warm: wool thin or thick. My best recoments…

    • Thanks for the suggestion. I haven’t seen the Reed gloves. Reed isn’t readily available in the states. Hopefully, I’ll get a chance to try them at some point in the future.

  • I can’t get them in Denmark eighter but via Webshop you can get them easyli.

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