Since becoming a professional photographer, my career has had twists and turns, but one common thread has always been the presence of snow and mountains. For many years, I made a living as a professional ski photographer, shooting the world’s best skiers in winter locations worldwide. These days, I live in the Yukon, just south of the Arctic Circle, where winter temperatures can dip to -40C (-40F), and weeks can pass during the darkest months without seeing the needle climb above -17C (0F).
In other words, my situation and experience put me in a unique position to compare the functionality of the top photography gloves on the market. So that’s what I did, and continue to do as new gloves come to the market. Every glove in this guide has been tested in temperatures that ranged from mild to downright deadly.
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In A Hurry?
If you’re in a hurry and need a quick answer without reading the entire guide, you can’t go wrong with the Heat 3 Smart Pro from The Heat Company for a severe winter glove, the Heat 2 Softshell Mitt for moderately cold conditions, or the Vallerret Milford glove for mild winter conditions.
A Note On Glove Temperature Ratings
The temperature at which a glove is comfortable is a very personal, subjective thing. For this reason, glove manufacturers never list recommended temperatures alongside their gloves. Still, throughout this guide, I occasionally mention my comfort levels with different gloves. It’s important to understand that you should only use these temperatures as a relative guide and not as a definitive temperature for your comfort in those gloves.
I have spent most of my life living in cold climates, and I regularly walk around gloveless in temperatures that confuse visiting friends and family. In short, I have developed a tolerance to the cold that most readers will probably not have. If I say that one glove is comfortable for me at -40C and another at -20C, you should use this information only to understand that glove A is warmer than glove B. Not that you will be comfortable in that glove at those temperatures.
The Best Photography Gloves You Can Buy
To put together the contenders, I checked in with partner stores to find their best-selling and best-reviewed products. Then, I took to my social media channels and our vast email newsletter list to find out which photography gloves my readers already use. This always turns up some new options not previously on my radar. Regarding photography gloves, I’ve tried to find options that suit a broad range of temperatures. There need to be great gloves for temperatures around 0C (32F), just as much as there need to be great gloves for temperatures below -40C (-40F).
Generally speaking, when I do group tests like this, a few products don’t cut it, and I stop using them quickly. I don’t see the point of cluttering the guide with gloves with no redeeming features above other options, so I’ll leave those out entirely. The gloves I’m left with–the ones in this guide–are all good products. There are some I like better than others, as you’ll see, but if they made it this far, then they’re a solid product that’ll be just right for some people.
The Heat Company Heat 2 Softshell
The Heat 2 Softshell glove is a flippable mitt with a fingerless glove design hiding underneath it. The palms are soft, durable, and highly water-repellant goat leather, while the rest of the glove is stuffed with wind-resistant Thinsulate. When I set out to test all these gloves for the guide, I had pre-conceived expectations based on price points and specifications. More than any other glove on this list, the Heat 2 Softshell wildly exceeded these expectations, and it did it at a price (under $80) that makes them very affordable.
While testing the Heat 2 Softshell mitts, I loved how easy it was to pull back the mitt and expose all my fingers, and then I appreciated how fast and easy it was to cover them up again. Photography gloves that use zippers to reveal your fingers can’t compete with the speed of the Heat 2 Softshell.
The design of this glove also gives it the broadest usable temperature range of any glove in this guide. On warmer days or during high aerobic activity, the glove is perfectly useable without using the mitt portion. When the mitt is flipped back and secured with the hook and loop pad, it feels like you are wearing a fingerless glove. In contrast, most other larger flippable mitts feel like you are temporarily wearing a mitt that has been folded back. It’s a subtle but essential difference.
When you flip the Thinsulate-lined mitt over your fingers, the material is highly wind-resistant and increases the warmth enormously. On top of that, the mitt section also features a pocket to hold a hand warmer. Even without using that option, I was comfortable wearing this glove in temperatures as low as -18°C (0°F) in the dry cold we experience in the Canadian North. If you want to use it in even colder temperatures, pair it with The Heat Company’s thinnest liner, the Merino Light Liner.
All this makes the Heat 2 Softshell the most versatile photography glove in this guide, with one caveat: Don’t put your hand in the snow! If you’re doing any activity in the snow that might involve you accidentally, or necessarily, putting your hands into deep snow, then this is not the right glove for the purpose. This mitt doesn’t seal your fingers away; it’ll just scoop up the snow. This prevented me from using this glove for ski and snowboard photography, but I found it perfect for landscape and wildlife work in modestly cold (by my standards) conditions.
RucPac Extreme Tech Gloves
The RucPac Extremes are thickly insulated full mitt flipper-style photography gloves that are incredibly comfortable on a cold, dry day. Much like the similarly designed Heat 2 Softshell glove from The Heat Company, I was happy using these down to -18c (0F), but it must be remembered that this style of flipper glove is no good in wet weather or heavy snowfall. Compared to the similar Heat 2 Softshell mitts, the RucPac Extreme’s face fabric is not as durable, and I would not expect these gloves to last as long. They are also much bulkier and less wind-resistant. Still, they are around $20 cheaper, so that will be a balance that some might want to consider. For more details, check out my RucPac Extreme Tech Glove review.
Vallerret Milford Glove
The Vallerret Milford gloves are a unique entry into the photography glove market. Currently selling for $69, these fleece gloves are on the cheaper end of the spectrum, but they have a trick up their sleeve that helps to differentiate them from some of the other more affordable options. Tucked into a small pocket on the wrist of each glove is a rip-stop nylon shell with 10K waterproofing. Fleece gloves are cost-effective and cozy, but their obvious downside is usually a lack of resistance to any precipitation. With the Milford Glove, Vallerret has uniquely solved this problem if you get caught in a downpour.
Two flippable fingers and a thumb improve access to your camera controls. To keep the weight and price of the gloves down, these fingertips are secured by small elastic loops instead of the oft-seen magnets when they are flipped backward. I don’t have an issue with this at all. This method is secure, which cannot always be said for the magnets I have seen on some photography gloves. The palms feature a sticky rubber pattern for added grip on your gear.
Freehands Stretch Thinsulate Glove
At under $40, the Stretch Thinsulate gloves from Freehands fall into the budget category. I wasn’t expecting much more than a basic glove liner for this low price, but you get a much more complex design. The palms are reinforced with grippy, flexible latex, and the main wind-resistant glove body is lined with soft Thinsulate material. For ease of camera operation, the tip of the thumb and index finger fold back and are held in place securely by magnets.
Whether these gloves suit you depends on the conditions you expect to use them in. The gloves reveal their lower price point when testing them in more challenging weather. I found them somewhat resistant to wind but not at all to moisture. In terms of overall warmth, they were no match for a slightly thicker liner like the Polartec Wind Pro Liner from The Heat Company.
Vallerret Alta Arctic Mitt
The Alta Arctic Mitt was inspired by the Vallerret founders’ days of dog mushing in the Arctic. It is a huge mitt designed to fit over existing gloves or mitts when ultimate warmth is needed for polar expeditions. The over-mitt adds incredible warmth to existing gloves, and the long cuff helps lock out the driving snow and extreme winds you might find in arctic or antarctic regions. If you’re looking for the perfect pairing, the Vellerret Markhof V3 is a good fit inside the Arctic Mitt.
When you need more dexterity for your tasks, you have two options: Firstly, a zipper across the palm opens up the mitt. In theory, the flippable part of the mitt is then held back by a small fastener on the back of your hand, although in my experience, it never stayed in place. It’s not a huge deal, but it’s a shame as it’s the only negative about this particular product, and it seems it could have been easily solved.
Your second option is to use the handy glove harness that comes with the Alta Arctic Mitt. This harness wraps around your waist and then attaches to your gloves with two bungee cords. It allows you to jettison the entire mitt when needed, safe in knowing that the gloves are securely attached to you and won’t end up in the snow. I’m impressed that the harness comes as standard with the glove.
RucPac Professional Tech Gloves
Putting the name of these gloves aside – I dislike it when companies meaninglessly insert the word ‘professional’ into a product name – the RucPac Professional Tech Gloves are an excellent option for those on a tight budget. They are touchscreen compatible, stretchy, comfortable, and provide a confident grip on your gear from a rubberized palm patterning.
The Heat Company Heat 3 Shell (UPDATED)
The Heat 3 Shell from The Heat Company is a highly water-resistant and wind-resistant technical winter mitten that looks just like an expensive technical backcountry ski glove at first glance. Look closer, and you’ll discover a zipper crossing the glove’s palm to reveal your fingers and a leather flap to reveal your thumb. Moving from cozy hands to capturing images takes just seconds.
When I first learned about these gloves, I contacted the US distributor for more information, and I was surprised to get a reply from Canon Explorer of Light, Charles Glatzer. During a quick call with Charles, he explained that the Heat 3 Shell gloves were initially designed so military infantry in the Arctic could use their weapons. He realized they could be great photography gloves, so he worked with The Heat Company to make a few tweaks that would make them even more suitable.
The Heat Layer System
While the soft lining of the Heat 3 Shell glove makes it possible to wear as standalone hand protection, this mitten really comes into its own when worn as part of The Heat Company’s Heat Layer System.
- Layer 1: Optional liner glove. Available in nine different designs with materials for different temperatures.
- Layer 2: Heat 3 Shell. Use as a standalone glove, or in combination with the first and third layer.
- Layer 3: Polar Hood. Additional over-glove protection against wind and moisture in extreme polar climates.
For now, let’s concentrate on the System’s core, the Heat 3 Shell. Later in this guide, we will look at my favorite of the nine different liners from the Heat Layer System, as some of them are excellent photography gloves in their own right. We will also look closer at the 3rd layer in the system, the Polar Hood.
The Heat 3 Shell is stacked with features. Long, elasticated cuffs keep the snow out, and two different drawcords adjust the fit and tightness. Nylon loops on the gloves are provided for hanging and drying at the end of the day. Robust carabiner attachment points can be used to clip the two gloves together, and a zippered hand warmer pocket can be used for instant added heat. Elastic wrist straps prevent you from dropping the gloves in the snow, and goat leather palms and thumb protection deliver durability, abrasion resistance, and waterproofing.
While the wide range of liner options is an excellent addition to the system, there’s no need to use them if you feel temperatures aren’t low enough to cause any issues when your fingers are exposed to operate the camera. When I used the glove without a liner, I was more than comfortable in temperatures ranging from about -5°C (23°F) down to -25°C (-14°F). Combined with one of the liners detailed later in this guide, you can quickly assemble a glove system that will allow you to comfortably operate a camera in temperatures of -40°C (-40°F) and below.
The Heat Company Heat 3 Smart Pro
The removable liners and the broad choice of liners available from The Heat Company make the previously discussed Heat 3 Shell mittens the perfect choice for a photography glove that needs to suit a wide range of winter temperatures. While the separate shell and liner combination adds versatility, some may see it as a negative. Firstly, it can open up almost too many choices. Three shell types and nine different liner options result in 27 possible combinations. Choice paralysis is a real thing that not everyone wants to deal with.
Secondly, having a separate shell and liner gives you twice the number of things you must remember to pack in your camera bag or toss in your car on the way out for a day of shooting. This also gives you twice the number of items to track throughout the day. Sometimes, a more straightforward option is a better choice depending on the person, and for those people, The Heat Company makes the Heat 3 Smart and Heat 3 Smart Pro mittens. These gloves have built-in liners while maintaining all the photography-friendly functionality of the Heat 3 Shell + liner combination.
The Heat 3 Smart is the less warm of the two Smart options and is slightly less warm than a Heat 3 Shell paired with the basic Tactility Liner. It is less warm because the built-in liner is the fingers only. The liner material doesn’t extend down over the hand and around the wrist as it does when wearing a separate liner inside the Heat 3 Shell.
The warmer of the two options is the Heat 3 Smart Pro. This version features a wind and water-repellent Polartec Wind Pro liner and 100% recycled Primaloft insulation, making it more suitable for extremely frigid climates. I have been very happy using the Heat 3 Smart Pro in temperatures down to -30 Celcius (-22°F). The comfort range can be extended by adding the optional Polar Hood and inserting hand warmers into the hand warmer pocket built into the glove.
Vallerret Markof Pro V3
We’ve already got a few Vallerret gloves in the guide, but this should be a surprise when considering their URL is photographygloves.com. This time, we’re looking at the Markhof Pro, a glove that has been a staple in the Vallerret lineup for as long as I can remember. Whenever I test a new glove for potential inclusion in this guide, I have to ask myself whether it brings something new. There are already a lot of great gloves in this guide, and I don’t want to bloat it with a ton of similar products. Regarding the Markhof Pro V3, it was an easy decision for one main reason: value for money.
The current price of this glove is $85. For that moderate price, you get an outer shell of water-resistant goat leather and suede with a non-slip palm, Thinsulate C70 and C100 insulation, and a 100% Merino wool liner to wick moisture, improve comfort, breathability, and odor-resistance. That’s a great deal, and it’s wrapped up in a stylish design with a lovely long elasticated cuff that tucks easily into a winter jacket. For the newer V3 version, Vallerret has used stronger magnets on the flippable finger and thumb, eliminating my only real complaint about the previous version.
How does the Markhof work in winter temperatures? In my testing, I found it slightly warmer than the fleece Vallerret Milford, but it doesn’t come close to bigger mitten-style gloves like The Heat Company’s multi-layered Heat 3 Shell or Heat 3 Smart. With my usual caveats about personal comfort levels and tolerance to cold, I was happy wearing this glove to about -8 Celcius (18F). Stick it inside the Vellerret Arctic Mitt for serious added warmth. The unisex Markhof Pro V3 is now available in two slim-fit sizes for people with smaller hands: XS Slim and S Slim.
The Heat Company Polar Hood
The final layer of defense in The Heat Company’s Heat Layer System is the Polar Hood. This waterproof shell glove is designed to go over the top of your primary photography glove or mitt to protect you from fierce Arctic winds or persistent precipitation from entering zippers or flippable fingers. While those finger accessibility options define photography gloves, giving us much-needed camera dexterity, they are undoubtedly the weak link when used in extreme environments. The lightweight Polar Hood solves that problem.
What I like about the Polar Hood is the universal design that covers almost any other glove. Of course, The Heat Company hopes you use this as an outer layer on their Heat 3 Shell mitts. However, there’s no reason they couldn’t be used to add some extra waterproofing or wind resistance to any of the other gloves in this guide. For polar photography expeditions in the Arctic or Antarctic, either this Polar Hood or the Vallerret Alta Arctic over-mitt is a necessity if you are using gloves with finger access, be it a zipper or simple flip-back fingers.
The Heat Company Durable Liner Pro
The Durable Liner Pro sits toward the warmest end of The Heat Company’s glove liner spectrum. This sheepskin leather-palmed glove features a Polartec Wind Pro backing and replaces the old Durable Liner as the company’s top-tier base layer in their Heat Layer System.
This sheepskin leather Durable Liner Pro glove balances wind protection, tactility, and durability. This glove is designed as a liner for the company’s Heat Layer System–discussed in the section about the Heat 3 Shell glove– but also functions well as a durable general-purpose glove in its own right. Thinner than The Heat Company’s other liners, standalone use is best suited to tasks that require a lot of dexterity with your digits. While wind protection is excellent, moisture protection from thin leather gloves is relatively poor, so you wouldn’t want to choose this liner option if you plan on using it as a standalone glove in cold, wet environments (Pacific Northwest winters, anyone?).
The Heat Company Merino Liner Pro
The Heat Company’s nine options in their liner-style glove category mean more than one option is worth discussing in this guide. This time, we’re looking at the Merino Liner Pro. Again, while these liners are designed as part of the company’s Heat Layer System and pair perfectly with the Heat 3 Shell glove, they can all be used as lightweight photography gloves in their own right, as long as you know their strengths and weaknesses.
The previously discussed leather-palmed Durable Liner Pro is the top pick for camera button tactility, but hot on its heels and offering more breathability is the Merino Liner Pro. Merino wool also has natural anti-odor properties and does a fantastic job at wicking moisture away from your skin, keeping you warmer while you sweat.
The Heat Company Wind Pro Liner (UPDATED)
The Wind Pro Liner is one of nine liner options in The Heat Company’s 3-layer Heat Layer System, but simply categorizing it as a glove liner would be a disservice. Like the Durable Liner Pro and Merino Liner Pro on this list, the Wind Pro Liner makes a great lightweight photography glove in its own right. This glove is made from Polartec Wind Pro material with conductive textiles on the thumb, index, and middle fingers for operating touchscreens.
Given the name, this glove unsurprisingly works best in cold, windy environments. It’s not as breathable as the Merino Liner Pro, but it blocks more wind and moisture. It’s a little warmer than the Durable Liner Pro, but the thicker Wind Pro Material that delivers the added warmth creates a lower tactile feel than the thinner, leather-palmed Durable Liner Pro. Some elements of personal preference will be involved in your choice. The Wind Pro Liner does a great job as an everyday glove in milder winter conditions, or you can pair it with the Heat 3 Shell glove. In that configuration, I was easily comfortable in temperatures as cold as -40°C (-40°F) without using hand warmers or adding the third layer of their 3-layer system, the Polar Hood.
The Heat Company Heat Tube
If you’re looking for something to take the edge off a chilly morning without spoiling your dexterity and grip on your camera, the Heat Tube from The Heat Company is your answer. Think of this as one step down from a full glove liner but a good step up from just pulling the arms of your jacket down further to cover your hands. The Heat Tube is available in Vegan Polartec Power Stretch Pro or Merino Power Wool. The Merino wool is a few dollars more expensive but slightly more breathable and odor-resistant. Like all Heat Company liners, the Heat Tube has a pocket for a chemical hand warmer should you need to kick the toastiness factor up a notch.
While there are many options for thick, warm photography gloves, there are fewer options when you need something lightweight to touch the camera directly. Most other glove liners use full finger coverage with touch-sensitive material on the fingertips. This is not always optimal if you are heavily reliant on the touch controls of your camera or trying to manipulate many small custom-function buttons on the front and back of the camera body.
While most people probably came to this guide looking for photography gloves to use in broadly colder climates, warm climates can still have cold mornings. When used alone, these Heat Tubes are an excellent lightweight option on safari in places like Africa. They’re also a great option for people with good circulation when paired with one of The Heat Company’s Heat 3 Shell Mitts as part of their 3-layer system. You should stay away from these if you’re the kind of person who always has noticeably colder fingertips than the rest of your hands.
COOPH Photo Glove Ultimate
The COOPH Photo Glove Ultimate is a beautifully made goat leather photography glove. At first glance, the Photo Glove Ultimate from COOPH looks similar in design to the design of The Heat Company’s Heat 3 Shell mitt, but there’s one main difference: The liner in the COOPH glove is sewn into the mitt. On the one hand, this removes the ability to use different liners for different temperatures, which some people will find a negative. On the other hand, something must be said for having an all-in-one solution. There’s one less thing to forget (the liners) while packing your bags and one less thing to drop in the snow.
COOPH says this glove will keep you warm in temperatures down to -20 Celcius ( -4F), and though comfort in cold temperatures is subjective, during my testing, I agreed with their recommendation. Purely from a warmth perspective, this is an excellent winter glove. From a comfort and functionality perspective, I wish COOPH had not used such a large section of touch-sensitive material on the index finger. Where most brands opt for a small piece on the tip of the finger, COOPH covers the entire finger. This material is far less comfortable on your skin than the rest of the liner and causes the liner to stick while you try to put the glove on or take it off. From a size perspective, I found overall glove sizing to be on target with their suggestions.