Today we’ll look at some of the best kayaking gloves on the market today.
My name is Steve, and I’ve been paddling white water and sea kayaks for over 25 years. I live in the northern Philippines and paddle and guide the rivers of the Luzon Cordillera. I’ve paddled cold water, warm water, and everything in between, and worn some gloves out in the process!
Constant exposure to water and wind can chill and numb hands even in relatively mild climates. Gloves will help to keep your hands warm. Gloves also provide protection from impact, and if you’ve ever set up for a roll in fast, shallow water, you know that’s important!
There are several styles of gloves, and each has a place. Let’s look at some top picks!
- Best Full Mitt: Kokatat Inferno
- Best Half Finger: Warmers Barnacle Half-Fingered Paddling Glove
- Best Heavy Full Finger: NRS Maxim
- Best Light Full Finger: NRS Hydroskin
- Best Convertible Finger Gloves: Palmyth Flexible
The 5 Best Kayak Gloves Reviewed
Here are my choices for the best kayaking gloves.
- Best for: Full mitt for use in extreme cold
- Key Features: Pre-Curved for Easy Paddle Grip
- Materials: Thermo-Lined 3mm Smoothskin neoprene
- Cost: $$$
If you’re paddling somewhere really cold, your hands demand the Kokatat inferno. These full mitts are made of 3mm neoprene for maximum warmth. The pre-curved design and sticky reinforced palm make it easy to grip the paddle in spite of the stiff, heavy material.
The Inferno comes in 6 sizes from XS to XXL to provide an ideal fit for everyone. Some users recommend sizing up, as the sizes run on the small side. The mitts run well up the wrist to overlap your wetsuit or drysuit.
All that warmth comes at a cost: you’ll have no finger dexterity and the mitts may be too warm for anything but really cold conditions.
- Best for: Mild temperatures, finger dexterity
- Key features: Non-slip palm, fingerless design for control
- Materials: Neoprene, Lycra, Terrycloth
- Cost: $
This half-finger glove provides warmth and protection but leaves fingers free for delicate tasks like tying knots or controlling electronics. The silicone “barnacles” on the palm and fingers offer superior grip and paddle control.
These gloves feature polysuede pads at the thumb, forefinger, and palm to prevent chafing. There are also terrycloth thumb inserts for wiping water away from your face. Sizes run from XS to XXL.
These gloves are light, comfortable, and easy to wear but they may not provide enough warmth or protection in difficult conditions.
- Best for: Cold conditions
- Key Features: High-grip palm and comfortable interior lining
- Materials: 3mm neoprene, VaporLoft lining
- Cost: $$
If you’re facing cold conditions and you need more dexterity than a full mitt provides, The NRS Maxim could be your glove. The stout 3mm neoprene body provides serious warmth, and the fast-drying VaporLoft lining adds warmth and comfort.
The pre-curved fingers make it easier to hold the paddle and reduce hand fatigue, and the easy-entry wrist allows more mobility than a sealed cuff. There are even pairing snaps on the wrists to keep your gloves together when you’re not wearing them.
NRS Maxim gloves provide warmth and protection, but 3mm neoprene is stiff stuff and you will not have the dexterity or comfort that you would get from a lighter glove. Ask yourself whether you really need that much warmth.
- Best for: Full-fingered mobility and dexterity
- Key Features: Soft lining and high-stretch body for mobility and comfort
- Materials: 0.5mm neoprene
- Cost: $$
When it’s too cold for bare hands but you still want comfort and mobility, look to the NRS Hydroskin glove. These popular gloves feature a body material with 4-way stretch to keep you mobile and a soft ThermalPlush liner for added comfort. Patterned silicone on the palms and fingers keeps your paddle under control.
A fitted stretch cuff makes it easy to get the gloves on and off and a durable water-repellant coating sheds water and reduces evaporative cooling. Pairing snaps keep your gloves together when they aren’t in use.
The NRS Hydroskin gloves provide great mobility and comfort, but they may not be warm or protective enough for rough paddling conditions.
- Best for: When you need warmth and dexterity (fishing!)
- Key Features: Flip-back caps on thumb, index finger, and middle finger
- Materials: Faux Leather
- Cost: $$
Sometimes you need both warmth and dexterity, and that combination is hard to find in a glove. Enter the Palmyth flexible fishing glove. The main feature here is a set of snap-down caps that cover your thumb, index finger, and middle finger when you want to keep them warm, but flip back when you need to tie a knot or use your phone.
There’s also a plush fleece backing for thermal insulation, a reinforced palm for improved grip, and elastic neoprene cuffs to keep the gloves snug.
These gloves are water resistant, not waterproof, and are not designed for full immersion. They’re ideal for fishing, but probably not your best bet for white water or rough-water sea kayaking.
How to Choose Kayaking Gloves
As with so many kayaking products, choosing paddling gloves is mainly about understanding your needs. Different types of glove designs are best for different conditions.
- Mitts are designed for really cold weather. They maximize warmth and protection but provide almost no manual dexterity.
- Heavy full fingered gloves are made of thick neoprene, usually 3mm. They are warm and have more dexterity than mitts, but don’t expect to tie any knots while wearing them. Best for cold but not extreme conditions.
- Light full-fingered gloves offer the warmth and protection of full-hand coverage, but use light, highly elastic materials to provide comfort and mobility. Best for cool but not cold conditions.
- Half-fingered or fingerless gloves protect your hands but leave your fingers free for delicate tasks. They are ideal for relatively mild conditions.
- Convertible gloves cover the fingers when you want warmth but free them when you need them. They are ideal for fishing or similar uses but the extra seams make them less durable and less waterproof and they are less appropriate for rough conditions.
The first step in choosing gloves is to honestly assess the type of paddling you do and the conditions in which you paddle. That will help you choose the type of glove you need.
Once you know what type of glove you need, choosing is relatively easy. Look for known brands, check for features that appeal to you, and read online reviews to see what other users think. That should help you choose gloves that will keep your hands warm, comfortable, and protected on the water!