Diving Gloves and Mitts
Most of us associate gloves and mitts with childhood snowball fights – or with digging out our cars on a winter’s day. For those interested in cold-water diving, though, diving mitts and gloves are an important part of diving equipment. Diving gloves and mitts not only keep your hands warm in cold water, but they are a safety precaution as well, preventing your fingers and hands from getting icy and cramped under the water. Good mitts also allow you to maintain hand flexibility so that you can adjust your gear under water, work with an underwater camera, and generally enjoy your dive.
While both winter mitts and diving gloves are designed to keep your hands warm, many of the similarities end there. While winter mitts keep your hands warm, for example, diving gloves actually trap the water that enters the gloves. This features helps you better retain body heat. Diving gloves are also made of different materials and put the focus on flexibility much more than winter gloves.
If you are looking for a good pair of diving gloves for cold-water diving, consider:
1) Warmth. Several things affect the warmth of your diving gloves. Look for a thicker fabric to enjoy more warmth, but also consider the style of the gloves themselves. Diving gloves offering more skin contact will offer you more warmth. That is, diving mitts will keep your hands warmer than 5-fingered diving gloves, because your fingers will be together in the mitts. Three-fingered mitts will offer more dexterity than mitts but will keep your hands warmer than 5-fingered diving gloves. Look for gloves that have a snug strap around the wrist as well to increase the warm of your gloves. A good strap around the wrist will reduce the transfer of water in and out of your mitts or gloves, and this will allow you to retain body heat more effectively. Some diving gloves have titanium or other materials added to increase the warmth of the gloves. Even the number of seams in your diving gloves can affect the warmth – the more seams your gloves have, the more likely you are to have a leak which robs you of body heat.
2) Fabric. Most dive gloves today are made from neoprene and the material is measured in thickness. If you want greater warmth, look for a thicker material. 7mm gloves, for example, might be right for some cold-water recreational dives while you may only need 2.5mm thickness for warm-water dives.
3) Comfort. Your gloves will not be of much use to you if they are not comfortable. Uncomfortable gloves can actually be a safety hazard, since they can distract you on a dive. Plus, no one wants to dive with discomfort. Take the time to try on several types of diving gloves and mitts to find one that is truly comfortable for you. Carefully consider styles and whether diving mitts or gloves will feel more comfortable.
4) Dexterity. Manual dexterity is vital underwater. Being able to move your hands and fingers allows you to communicate with your diving buddy and allows you to adjust your mask, your buoyancy compensator, your gauges, your air levels, and various straps and equipment. Manual dexterity is not just a comfort; it is vital for your safety on a dive. There are generally three types of diving mitts and gloves, each with varying degrees of dexterity. Five-finger gloves allow your fingers to move independently and so offer the greatest dexterity. However, they retain the least heat. Three-finger mitts keep your hands warmer and still offer some dexterity. With the thumb and index finger separate, you can usually signal to a diving buddy and adjust gauges as needed with three-finger diving mitts. Diving mitts will keep you warmest but will inhibit your dexterity most.
5) Durability. Divers can encounter many conditions on a dive and some of these conditions can mean that diving gloves take a beating. Brushing up against rough surfaces underwater or exploring caves and wrecks can rip and tear your gloves. It is therefore important to choose durable, sturdy gloves that won’t let you down on a dive. Neoprene is the material that most diving gloves are made from, but this material on its own is not very durable. Therefore, many manufacturers add titanium, Kevlar or other materials to neoprene diving gloves. You may want to look for these added materials, especially on the palm of your diving mitts and gloves. Additional materials will make your gloves last longer and may give your gloves a better grip as well.
6) Fit. Gloves should fit well so that they keep you warm and don’t get in the way. You don’t want to be constantly adjusting your gloves or risk losing one. Some gloves and mitts come with additional straps around the wrist, which not only keep you warm but keep the gloves more firmly in place. Gloves with straps are also easier to put on and remove. In addition to straps, look for gloves that actually fit your hand, as ill-fitting diving gloves will not warm your hands. If your gloves are too small, they will stretch at the seams and allow water in. If your gloves are too big, they will not allow water to become trapped so that you can retain body heat.