Rain mitts are mitten shells made of waterproof fabric that can be worn alone or layered over insulating gloves or mittens to help keep hands warm and dry while hiking and camping in cold, wet, or windy conditions.
Some hikers prefer a lightweight rain mitt to protect their hands from heavy, persistent rainfall while others want a heavier, more durable, breathable rain shell that will last for days on end in icy or snowy conditions. The majority of backpackers and thru-hikers who need waterproof-breathable fabrics to protect their hands from the elements will find that an uninsulated rain mitten is warmer, more comfortable, and easier to use than a glove system when the weather is bad.
Body Fabric Weight
The main body fabric of a rain mitten is generally a 2- or 3-layer waterproof-breathable, ripstop-nylon sandwich with varying fabric weights from 1 to 4 oz/yd2. Lighter materials (up to 2 oz/yd2) provide better articulation and fine motor use when interacting with trekking poles, operating an upright canister stove, or adjusting your tent pitch. Heavier fabrics (up to 4 oz/yd2) are warmer, more water-resistant, and more durable.
A gauntlet hem closure, often an elastic-bound hem with a drawcord or toggle, secures the rain mitt in place without compromising its flexibility and durability. A wrist adjustment mechanism, such as a strap secured by a hook-and-loop patch or ladderloc buckle, is also an important feature. The wrist adjuster ensures that the mitt doesn’t move around while you are walking or scrambling.
Articulation and Fit
The articulation of a rain mitten is measured by its ability to open and close a jacket zipper, operate a headlamp, or open/close a zip-closure plastic baggie. The mitt’s cuff is also evaluated for its ability to fit over a midweight fleece glove.
A longer gauntlet length adds weight but improves the seal between a rain mitts jacket cuff and the mitt’s cuff by creating more overlap. This is particularly useful for hikers who are scrambling or reaching while wearing the mitt, since it can allow the user’s fingers to slide more easily into the cuff of the jacket or the cuff of the rain mitt.
Some mitts have palms that are reinforced with thermally fused patches of grippier material or a layer of grippy polyurethane (referred to hereafter as TPU). This helps reduce the amount of abrasion that occurs when gripping trekking poles, performing fine-motor tasks, or adjusting your tent pitch.
The durability of a rain mitten is measured by how long the gauntlet and the wrist adjustments remain intact after being subjected to long-term, intensive, repeated use. Some mitts will delaminate or become brittle over time, but many of the most well-performing mitts have been used by long distance thru-hikers, mountaineers, and adventurers for years without showing any sign of wear.
We recommend that all backpackers and thru-hikers consider purchasing at least one pair of rain mitts to protect their hands from the elements. Depending on your needs and personal preferences, the rain mittens you choose will help to determine the type of gear and clothing you bring on your next trip or vacation.