TRAIL RUNNING AND MOUNTAIN GLOVES: THREE LAYERS IN THE PALM OF YOUR HAND. Within the mountain and trail material, the three-layer glove system is a challenge in itself. Today we will focus on talking about these glove systems to try to get the right one for each planned activity by combining the materials, patterning and finishes of each layer we use.

No system is “the best” by itself. Personal experience and preferences play a key role in keeping our hands warm and dry, with the skill needed for the chosen activity. We start with a panoramic view on thirteen different gloves, from 20 years until today, analyzed by Mayayo. Video only in Spanish.



There was a time when wool, silk and leather were the three materials that formed all mountain gloves, in variable combinations of all kinds. Starting in the 1970s, after its introduction into the high-performance clothing line, the fleece fabric became a dominant fad among outdoor enthusiasts. At the time, the polar-fleece looked almost like the invention that was going to banish everything else, forever.

For about 20 years, until entering the 21st century the fleece lining has undoubtedly been the great dominator between single-layer gloves or as a first-second layer. However, recent advances in materials and technology make this material in its revolutionary moment perhaps somewhat obsolete. Interestingly, the new synthetic fibers used in gloves, such as Primaloft, Polarguard and so on, have been joined by a renaissance of natural materials, led by an increasingly fine and better urdida wool in combinations of all kinds, while silk and leather still have a corner reserved one as a fine first layer glove, the other to bring strength and softness to the palming.

So, if you still consider yourself among the faithful of the polar-fleece, as we all were at the time, it may be time to open your mind. It provides some warmth and a pleasant touch, yes, but in return it is bulky and the wind cuts it like a knife, not to mention from the rapid mechanical wear and tear to the rubbing. Said that, the polar still has certain applications in modern combinations so we should not discard it a priori either. A single layer glove based on fleece, windproof membrane and leather palming will be for example very versatile in not very technical activities. So let’s go with the fabric most useful to each layer.


  • at first layer should be very thin: We will always think of combining it with a second thermal layer on it when the temperature drops a lot or we can use it loose or alone under the third outer layer. And with it alone, have an impecal touch, equivalent to that of the bare hand for when it is necessary to spin fine with your fingers. With this approach, perhaps the silk glove continues to offer an unbeatable weight-to-heat-volume ratio, with durability being its weak point. Lana merina would be my second choice, very close to everything to silk. The two natural fabrics are unique in that even when wet they maintain some thermal protection. Something that a first layer of polyester, the other great resource in the sector, can’t match.
  • The second layer is perhaps the most complex today: It must provide thermal protection first and foremos than some mechanical protection in the event that we take it to the air, without outer cover. For many years for me, merina wool was unique here, but it’s still fragile if it’s touching rubbing or grabbing rock or the like. Thus, in recent times I have found combinations of primaloft on the underside with leather on the palm that work fable combined with a first thin layer of silk/merin wool. They thus release the third layer of mechanical reinforcement and bet only on it in its membrane role, not protective glove.
  • As for the third layers, here the variety is very wide, since we can go from wearing waterttic gloves like kitchen gloves to scrub to the most sophisticated pore membrane. Fisherman’s gloves can also be entirely valid, some even comes with some internal acrylic lining that allows them to be used as a second and third layer together. The most important thing will be to decide when we need a windproof, waterproof-breathable or watertight layer. In each case for thermal protection practically the same materials are applied as in clothing, going from Windstopper or Goretex membranes to pure and hard plastic that does not breathe or pursue it. For mechanical protection, leather remains dominant in the third layer although we see more and more materials such as kevlar or even vulcanized rubber, applied in a timely or even more generated way.


After reviewing what each layer gives us and the material most aape to each priority, we now go with the almost impossible art of succeeding in the multiple combinations of fabrics, taken from three. As in mountain clothes, the secret to keeping our hands dry and warm will be in the know-how to carry and play with the three-layer remove/pon, as demanded by each exit.


To find out what type of glove system will work well, ALWAYS know the temperatures and wind and humidity conditions that you can find on your way out. Of course, foreseeing the climate and mountain conditions is complex, as the rise or cover of the sun, the arrival of a storm or the changes between valley and ridges generate enormous variations. Moreover, there are mountaineers with large hands and always hot, others small hand and very sensitive to low temperatures…

So, until we have extensive experience with what works and what is not for our particular case, it takes a rational approach and bets on the most warm and protected doubt. And he always wears two pairs of gloves. Freezes, when they arrive, will always start by looking for the tips of your fingers. If hands, head and feet are well tucked in, it’s amazing how much stamina torso, arms and legs can offer.

But if the cold sneaks through those sensitive points, it will easily spread throughout the body and can also lead to serious and rapid complications from freezing. And watch out, when we say take into account the method, we have to remember that the biggest cooling factor is the wind, as shown by the classic wind effect boards in the actual thermal sensation.


Getting it right to go hot and dry according to the way is not all Think also what degree of dexterity and sensitivity your hands need to complete the race, ascension or skiing that you have planned. Generally speaking, the more technical and complex the output, having a good touch and therefore thin and tight gloves, it can be a consideration. Again it will be the experience that will leave you sensations.

Don’t forget that the mitten is both the warmest pattern in a glove and the most clumsy when it comes to using your hands. It may be enough to just run or for a mechanical base in ultra Trail step, but in technical stretches of skiing, mountain biking, mountain and of course Trail tests of the style of Alpinultras or Skyextreme you will want to have the superior touch provided by a glove, even if it is thick.

Remember that in more technical situations, incorrect hand use costs time, which also cuts the safety margin. Gloves that don’t fit well can cause premature fatigue, create difficulty grabbing the cane, asserting ourselves in a prey, or getting the first one in an anchor.


Don’t just give in with a specific make and model. For example….I really like Outdoor Research double gloves that you can see below. However, I have ever relied on them too much having heavy rain and ended up cold when I ended up squiding the hyperlight membrane with which they were designed. Think there are more brands and models of gloves than you can imagine. Its price is also not particularly high, ranging from 10-50€.

Therefore, considering that we must ALWAYS carry two pairs, in case anyone tears/loses, do not hesitate to combine them covering as wide a range as possible for the intended method and the type of activity you are pursuing. The steps above will help you narrow down the field a lot and with that info you can put yourself in the hands of any professional in physical store with little win.

Once you have control over expected temperatures and conditions, and know how difficult your goal will be, do some research in our TRAIL RUNNING GEAR section or in your trusted physical store to find out which brands and models may be appropriate.

If you already have multiple pairs of gloves: Try them alone or combined until you find the key that secures dry and warm hands for each situation with as little space and volume as possible. And remember: Feeling hands at ease is much more important than carrying 50 grams of glove more or less. Professional mountain guides are the first to carry at least two sets of full gloves in the backpack, always.


When buying gloves, consider all the possibilities in a given product category and then compare things like weight, materials used, construction and design functionality. For my part, I recommend YOU ALWAYS make the first purchase of a glove in physical store.

Just by touching it and putting it in your hand will we see how it fits us and how we feel warm and precise. It’s also true that there are so many options on the market that you probably won’t be able to cover all the good options in person. In the face of doubt… better a glove you’ve tried and touched, checking that fits well, than another spectacular one that you can only see on the digital screen before you buy it.

Brands and models: As you can see below, Salomon, La Sportiva, Raidlight, Patagonia, Black Diamond, Outdoor Research, Polartec Mountain Hardwear and many other brands offer a range of warranty gloves in different areas of functionality, each with its nuances pointed out in the initial video. Don’t let yourself be blinded by a brand logo alone, always look for the best glove to fit the type of use intended according to fabric, patterning and finishes of each glove. Sometimes a very cheap basic glove can end up being the one you use the most.


  • During the activity, try to put your wet gloves in the chest pocket of a coat or in pockets near your body don’t accumulate sweat, as they will dry out a little while moving. Of course, this does not apply to the third layer and its membrane, since to dry, membrane gloves need to breathe and evacuate moisture. Those, you’d better go in the air as long as it doesn’t rain or snow hard.
  • If you’re in a multi-game mountain race or a multi-day journey, you can sleep with wet gloves on your torso, so that the heat you release will pass through them, thus taking away moisture.
  • Try to bring the gloves closer to the fire.
  • Wool and silk are natural flame retardant, but polyester and other artificial tissues can ignite very easily.
  • Once you’re well tempered, to dry them while doing other things, you can even leave those wet gloves on your hands in dry conditions or while generating heat, such as going uphill. For leather gloves or synthetic palms, treating reinforced parts with waterproofers like Nikwax increases glove life and keeps your hands drier for longer. Take special care with washing and/or drying gloves with waterproof membrane – breathable because their performance is not very durable, especially if you do not choose detergent carefully.


Gloves have an amazing tendency to get, crack or get lost in the most inopportune moments. Obviously, the wear rate will depend on the frequency and nature of the use, but today no gloves are manufactured, nor is there likely to be, that can withstand the rigors of classical mountaineering intensely for more than two seasons, keeping its integrity and waterproof properties intact. The trail may seem less demanding with them, but the continued bregate with the canes as well as the associated falls and scratches will also shorten your life.

For most active mountaineers in cold conditions, snow, storms and moving through technical terrain that requires getting their hands on, we should consider almost a couple of gloves per season. More often, if the winter ultras, glacial mountaineering, mixed climbing or expedition climbing are your thing.
Always think about making sure your hands are warm and dry, maintaining as much dexterity and sensitivity as you can. In the end, in the face of an unexpected technical stretch, having firm and skilful hands can save your life. Even if you get out of the way, doing it with serious freezes will make you discover excrucian pain. It’s that crude.



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Read the original article in Spanish HERE.
Post by Héctor Rubio for Trailrunningspain.