Winter rowing gloves : LUSENET : Open-water rowing : One Thread

Can anyone recommend good gloves for winter rowing? The qualities of warmth, protection from spray, and comfort seem to be inimical.

-- David Stookey (, February 16, 2000


Just to get the discussion going I'll share what some of us use here in Charleston(SC). We row our gig at 0600 three days a week year round. We regularly experience wind chills below twenty degrees in mid-winter which equals cold hands, etc. None of us uses a high tech glove whatever that is. I use inexpensive poly fleece gloves with textured palms and fingers. They are fine as long as they don't get totally saturated. I carry two pair. Another of us uses neoprene foam that suit him well. They can tear in the palms or fingers after hard use. My wife uses an old pair of Isotoners or a pair of supple leather gloves insulated with thinsulate. She swears by them. I mention our low tech gear as much as for a point of reference than for a recommendation. I'd love to hear other's comments. A common thread amongst our hand wear is that they are all relatively thin thus providing some sense of feel for the oar handle. We've tried thicker gloves and rejected their use. Once you start rowing even cold fingers usually "thaw". But we're not rowing in 0 degree wind chills(Who does?)(OK, besides Hull!)

-- Rob Dunlap (, March 02, 2000.

Be warned - this reply will ramble a bit. I use three different kinds of protection on my hands when I row.

1. Home made wool pogies. Similar to mittens, but the whole hand fits inside and the oar handle comes in through a hole on the side. These work quite well most of the time. The wool breathes well keeping the moisture level OK. A quick and dirty version is a wool sock with a hole cut through the side. But make the hole snug on the oar handle else your little finger gets cold fast. 2. Plain wool mittens, not too thick. These are good because they work for you when you are carrying the boat, setting up, etc., etc. 3. Hi tech double layer mittens - polar fleece on the inside and gore-tex on the outside. Heavy artillery. I wear these when it is 22 degrees outside and blowing stiff from the North. Again, total thickness is reasonable so the grip is OK on the oar handle.

This winter, I frequently carried all three types of mitten because when I row I like to be comfortable and happy. In the winter, hands are the achilles heel. It is pretty easy to keep the rest of the body comfortable in any weather. (I wear a Kokatat dry suit with integral booties and Polar Fleece hat which ties down over the ears).

The hands are the hard part. When they get cold, three things happen: 1. They hurt like hell. 2. They can't perform any function very well. 3. Because they hurt so much and can't do anything, they actively breed panic.

Pogies work best on the oar. But part of rowing is dealing with what happens when things fuck up. Say the bail comes loose and you go overboard taking the liberated oar with you. Remember, it's mid January in Long Island Sound. Now you need those mittens quick, only you wish they were watertight cause even if you had them, dripping wet they might not be so warm. And of course you haven't done your homework - you haven't practiced falling in the water in mid winter, ever, so you don't really know.

OK, now I am in the water. I reach for the spare gloves under a bungee cord on the deck. My hands are starting to hurt and get stiff. I try to have both the wool and Polar-fleece cum Gore-tex at the ready. If my hands aren't too stiff I imagine I would go for the latter. But if their rigormortis has progressed, I may well go for the wool. In fooling around with the mittens, I have found that when my hands are wet and stiff, it is pretty hard to pull the hi-tech mittens on 'cause the material drags too much against the hands and without feeling in my digits, it is too hard to get the thumb to go where it is supposed to. It is even hard to get all of the hand to get started in the right direction. Especially once the shaking starts.

As you can see, finding the right gear for my hands is a work in progress, complicated by the fact that there are three environments to please: 1. Pre-rowing set up. 2. Rowing 3. Falling in the water and getting into trouble a mile offshore when wind chill is in single digits.

Letting the imagination run for a few minutes, I find myself thinking of an assortment of ideas: 1. Wool mittens, heavy wool on the back of the mitten and thin wool or some other thin but somewhat warm material on the grip side. 2. Mutant wool mittens / pogies. The oar hole coming in through the side would have a velcro closer flap so that you could use them either way depending on the situation. These would also have more wool on the back than on the grip. 3. Perhaps oily wool which repels water - question being how do you keep the grip from getting oily / slippery.

Well, that's it on the hands in winter. Like I said, a

-- Louis Mackall (, March 08, 2000.

Up in Camden Maine doing short 3 mile or so rows most of the winter. Some days are a little gnarly. I have found that mittens are better than gloves and that simple leather shells are the best. When is gets much below freezing various liners: thin poly pro to wool mitts depending on the amount of potential pain. I carry a set of lined rubber fishing gloves for boat bailing. If I am figuring on wet hands like kayaking, you are looking at neoprene, various lined rubber gloves sold for fishing, dishwashing gloves. My experience with neoprence is that the wind blows through it when wet. So keep in the boat, pick your weather and keep your hands dry.

-- Ben Fuller (, March 09, 2000.

Right on Camden Maine. Keep your hands dry. When temps dip below freezing it pays to keep those hands dry, it's that simple. Carry many gloves, the ones you would row with and a pair of trusty ski gloves. Ski gloves? Sure, if your hands got wet from bailing or maybe an anchor line, put on the ski gloves till your hands warm up. No shame, simple, New England. For the gloves I choose I go this route. Leather Moose hide mitten shells if I can find them but I have a pair that my father had given me that are made from road kill for all I know. They are thin and supple and with a little bag balm now and then, work fine. I think there is a mule stamped on it, some brand name from Ace Hardware or someplace like that. Next is a pair of thin light wool mittens my mom knitted for me. Warm but I don't wear them once they get wet. Polar tec is good also. I am willing to try Gortex next winter because I have this new wind breaker made of it and it seems to be my next fabric to try. Just remember that any glove or mitten should fit good and row well. If your still cold then go back to the ski glove or learn to whistle Dixie. As far as the young man dipping his hands in the water, you must be to close to the water. Get a Grand Banks Dory to row in the winter and be safe ( he said in a kind way). This year as a gift to friends at the Cape Cod Viking Rowing Club I made up fingerless mittens out of Polartec. Easy to make, takes a few minutes. As a carpenter for the last 30 years my hands have taken a beaten from Cape Cod winters and I use a trick that my friends came up with, try wearing glove liners under the fingerless mittens. My hands have been warm and I still can handle nails and other fastners. Write me if you have an interest in the fingerless mittens and I'll tell you how to get or make them.


-- Peter Corbett (, March 09, 2000.

I personaly only want one pair of gloves to have to remember to bring, the solution I found has served me well for '99 and also at the snow-row this year. I don't know the brand or name but theyr'e some sort of chore gloves, very easy to identify by thier yellow color. Very soft and flexible with a rubbery pattern on the faces, I originaly got them to reduce blisters and have found that they make your hands hard with out blisters. the open weave to the material lets them breath in the summerand retains enough heat to row withoutfreezing in the winter, but the best trick is that if you get them wet they retain very little water, just shake them off and they'll be dry in no time. I found them at wal-mart for under $5, my dad tried out another kind with dots on a white glove, but found the blend of materials wasn't as soft for "feel" and didn't dry as quickly. If you row in the new england area look for the yellow Ring's Island dories,I'm usualy rowing our stretched-gull dory and would be happy to let you try them out. Sorry about my spelling.

-- josh withe (, March 11, 2000.

As with all my outdoor adventuring, whether its winter or summer, in the mountains, or on the water, I always dress in layers to avoid sweating. Sweating compromises the insulating value of your clothing, and unnecessarily dehydrates your body, and in the case of hands on oars, sweating encourages blistering. So when it comes to layering, my hands are no exception. I use a mitten combination with polypropelene liners, and insulated or non-insulated nylon shells depending on the temperature. Quite often I use just the liners, or just the shells, depending on how warm I am throughout the row. If Im on a particularly long, wet and cold row (like when the whole boat is in need of de-icing instead of chamoising at the rows conclusion), I usually bring a spare set of mittens. This is so that I dont end up like Howard Blackburn.

-- Kurt Breuer (, March 19, 2000.

One way to try out the mitten concept is to take that old pair of wool socks in the back of your sock drawer and cut a hole in the side of each of them, stick the oar handles in and row. If you like it, then you can buy a expensive pair of rowing mittens or find a good knitter. A word of advice, good knitters tend to be older women. If you are lucky enough to find one, or better yet if you already have one, don't let her get away. Keep pullin'.

-- John Mullen (, September 17, 2000.

I use ski gloves that have a great no-slip palm and always have a pair of regular rowing pogies along. If the gloves get wet, I use the pogies. The gloves are a must if I decide to land and walk around an island in the winter. I have about 8 other pairs of gloves in my van, but the pogies and ski gloves are what I always use. Ed

-- Ed Rogers (, December 10, 2000.

Try wool (real wool) gloves with woolen mittens over them. They can get wet yet you stay warm. As always check out the Cape cod Vikings web site with their recommendations for winter gea

-- Capt. Rehab (, January 05, 2001. has handknit washable wool pogies. they are wonderful in cold weather, they also break the wind.

-- Terri Schwartz (, February 10, 2001.

I don't know what they are called, but they have a hole in the side for the orr to fit through, it covers your hand and the orr, keeping both dry, and therefore the orr does not need to be "shreded" as we call it, or filled, because it's never slippery.

-- Mike Milne (, October 25, 2001.

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