Expedition-Ready Gauntlet
Black Diamond Guide Gloves/Finger Glove

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For the winter of 21/22 we finally have the chance to get our hands on a pair of the legendary Black Diamond Guide Gloves. These unsinkable gloves have been the preferred tools of alpine masters who face some of the most unforgiving climates on the face of the planet.

A big part of their armor is the lining that reinforces their profile.

Being the beefiest gloves in the universe doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the best for every skier. There are some nuances and design aspects that will frustrate a large portion of recreational skiers who don’t have a specific need for the warmest gloves out there.

It should be mentioned that these take a little bit of time to break in, and on that note our guide will be updated as we spend more time with the Guide Glove to give a more accurate idea of what to expect long term.

Our only worthwhile criticism of this model is a considerable break-in period. Until you spend some time packing down the liner and working proper creases into the shell they’ll feel pretty stiff, and worse, they won’t keep you optimally insulated.

Despite these misgivings, Black Diamond’s Guide Gloves are built to last, with an attitude closer to a good pair of hiking boots than your typical outdoor soft good. Incidentally, that also makes these gloves great off the slopes, on a hike.

Our Overall Review

4.6

Reasons to buy:

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    Built for the coldest temperatures
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    One of the toughest gloves on the market
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    Available as a finger glove
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    Waterproof liner
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    Extra padding and hand protection

Reasons NOT to buy:

  • check-markSizing is tricky and takes some time to break in

Where to buy:

First Impressions

At a first glance, everything seemed to be in order. The construction was robust, the liner was more impressive than anything I’ve heretofore had the chance to take a look at. Everything seemed to point to the Guide Glove as one of the immediate favorite’s I’ve tested- until I tried to put it on my hand.

I’d heard that these gloves are pretty stiff and that you should size up for your pair, taking both of these things into consideration I was still taken aback by the effort it took to worm my fingers into the liner the first time I put them on.

I was disheartened. I really wanted to love these gloves, but I had to take them off a few minutes into an early season skin track specifically because the pink finger was so uncomfortable while trying to pressure my ski pole. So I switched to my other pair and left them at the bottom of my pack.

It just so happens that later in the day my spare gloves were soaked through and in a moment of desperation I fished my forsaken pair of Guide Gloves out from underneath a spare layer and bag of snacks. I was in rough shape and I was amazed by the difference they made, and it made me want to give them a second chance.

Specs & Features

  • Nylon and goat leather shell
  • Removable boiled wool and Primaloft liner
  • Gauntlet cuff
  • Foam knuckle padding
  • Soft fabric nose wipe
See the complete list of the best Ski Gloves here!
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The Warmest Gloves

The Guide Glove is your best bet for warmth when all else fails you. I’ve been devoted to my Hestra mittens for years, convinced they were the best I would have until I tried these out. This degree of insulation comes at the cost of dexterity, but more on that later.

Like many of our top-rated gloves, Black Diamond makes generous use of PrimaLoft synthetic fill which surrounds the outer layer of the liner. Inside, 100g of boiled wool aids insulation efforts while keeping your hands comfortable and dry.

In practical terms, I recently took the Guide Gloves for their inaugural test run in some wet and windy early season conditions. Running pretty warm the majority of the day, I nearly forgot them in the bottom of my pack in favor of something lighter until it was time to head downhill for the final lap.

I was completely soaked through, having trouble getting my boots into walk mode and my bindings clear enough of snow to lock my pins- until I remembered these gloves in the bottom of my pack. As soon as I managed to worm my pale, clammy hands into the liner my mild panic subsided and I was able to make it down the hill and enjoy some turns along the way.

I’d go as far as to say I was overheating by the time I pushed my way across the flats back to the car.

Like Gauntlets

At a glance, these gloves look more like medieval gauntlets you’d more likely find on the hilt-end of a four foot sword than a ski pole. I’ve never seen a glove that holds its shape sitting on the table, yet there they lie- seemingly poised for action.

We love most things about the Guide Glove, but their restricted range of motion is not one of them. While the bulky and restrictive qualities present are common in outwear of this caliber, the only way the Guide Glove could be worse is if it were a mitten.

It’s a necessary evil, a natural consequence of the kind of warmth required to tag the peaks of the world’s highest mountains. That said they initially feel downright claustrophobic, and bring back feelings of helpless motor frustration I haven’t felt since childhood.

I’ve been able to tighten my ski boots and fiddle with obvious zippers without too much trouble- but any kind of repairs or micro adjustments to gear with these on would be pretty difficult to pull off. Assume you’ll have the approximate nimbleness of an early grade schooler–velcro shoes are alright but you’ll have a hard time tying any bunny ears.

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Related Reviews

Water Aint a Problem

Keeping your hands dry is one of the cornerstones of keeping them warm. The Guide Gloves have a two-pronged approach to moisture mitigation: keeping water out while providing the means for effective ventilation.

The nylon and goat leather shell does an effective job as an initial layer of defense- particularly when you consider the kind of precipitation you’ll see in the temperature range these gloves are built to withstand. Additionally, a Gore-Tex insert below keeps out any moisture that manages to seep through the first layer.

When it comes to dealing with moisture after the fact, the next-to-skin wool of the liner will wick water away from your skin. The aforementioned Gore-Tex then allows this water to dissipate, keeping the wool warm and dry.

While I’ve yet to check to see if the Guide Gloves float, they’ve done a reasonable job of keeping dry despite their exclusive use in heavy snowfall at 33℉.

During my first go-round with the Guide Gloves, they spent the majority of the day sitting in a puddle at the bottom of my completely sodden ski pack, and my hands were chilled and wrinkled when I put them on. Not only were the Guide Gloves the driest thing I had on my person in that circumstance, by the time I reached the end of my run my fingers were dry enough to use the touchscreen on my phone.

Durability and Materials

I’ve yet to subject the Guide Gloves to a full season of my relentless clumsiness to truly test the limits of their durability- but I’m awfully impressed with how they look out of the box.

What stands out more is the overlapping layers of goat leather, reminiscent of the chitinous exoskeleton of a rainforest beetle. This arthropod impression is furthered by impact resistant foam padding along the back of the hand. In sum, it’s everything you’d expect out of a glove intended to handle the often sharp points and serrated edges of mountaineering equipment.

Durability hinges upon what the glove is made of. In that spirit, it’s worthwhile taking some space to give you a full rundown of all the materials included in the Guide Glove–also because the list is a bit lengthier than in other circumstances.

We’ve already mentioned the nylon and goat leather shell. To expand a bit the nylon is actually blended with a bit of spandex so the shell has a little bit of flex. This is critical to give you every available degree of flexibility, and to accommodate the internal bulk of the liner plus your fingers.

The leather is high-grade water resistant goat leather, with a sizable palm patch that adds durability where you need it most. The previously alluded to EVA foam patch along the back of the hand is pretty standard in terms of material but is more common in park gloves. This outer layer of glove is stretched over a Gore-Tex insert that effectively neutralizes any wind or water concerns you may have.

Turning our attention toward the liner, the bulk of the material is the 170g of PrimaLoft Gold and 100g of Boiled Wool insulation. This sizable amount of insulation easily accounts for both the warmth and lack of dexterity we see in the Guide Glove. Using a combination of synthetic and natural fill lets Black Diamond capitalize on the quick dry properties of PrimaLoft, while retaining the very valuable warm-while-wet aspect of wool.

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Features

Removable Liner

The star of the show and hallmark of any quality glove is a removable liner. The shell by itself is still impressive- but when you look at it compared to the liner it’s little more than a glorified husk and vehicle for the real star of the show.

In our above materials section, we mentioned that the Guide Glove’s liner is primarily made of PrimaLoft Gold synthetic insulation on the outside with boiled wool next to your hand.

Synthetic fills have the advantage of mild water-resistance, and PrimaLoft in particular is known for retaining a significant amount of its insulative abilities, even when wet.

Wool is also a long-loved outdoor textile. Warm, moisture-wicking, and antibacterial (to help fight funky smell), it’s great to have along the back of your hand as a next to skin layer. The palm side is complemented by a nice soft fleece, leaving you with an admirably comfortable internal feel.

The liner is attached to the shell with a straightforward velcro patch, I never had any issues getting it to stay attached when in use. Getting the fingers of the liner into the glove, on the other hand, can take some patience and practice.

Goat Leather Palm Patch

Leather is another indicator of quality, and the Guide Glove has quite a bit of it. Generally speaking, the bigger chunks of leather inspire a little more confidence in regard to both their durability and ability to grip things effectively- both important aspects for an expedition glove.

The palm of the glove has a sizable patch of stitched leather overlain on top of the rest of the material, adding a little bit of texture where you need it most. It’s helpful to have some backup holding on to your ski pole or ice axe when your glove is as stiff as this one.

EVA Foam Padding

Foam padding is usually reserved for freeride and park gloves. It adds a little bit of protection in circumstances where impact is likely and can help prevent some common hand injuries common to skiers, or at the very least cut down on the bruising.

The Guide Glove has a minimal amount of padding right across the vulnerable bones along the back of your hand. The amount of foam you’d need to add to these gloves to make them really competitive in terms of impact protection would likely do away with what little motility these gloves have left.

Nonetheless, it’s a nice touch. It could make a difference in the event of dropped equipment or a clipped tree- but as of now it doesn’t impact performance significantly.

Wrist Protection

The Guide Gloves have an aggressive elastic closure right around the wrist. While this is particularly effective in keeping snow on the right side of the glove, it does complicate the process of getting the liner back in its proper position.

The gauntlet portion of the glove has a pretty standard pull closure. It’s a great extra measure to have when you really need to batten down the hatches and have the most possible protection. As an extra note, I found the actual mechanical process of tightening and loosening the gauntlet to be better realized than a lot of the competition, a simple pull tab rather than a “pinch and cinch” ordeal.

The Break-in Period

The Guide Gloves are stiffer than any alternative I’ve tried, and you can’t have a conversation about them without mentioning the considerable effort it takes to break them in properly. This initial investment soured my first impression, and is certainly a barrier of entry that most skiers will find equally off putting.

To give some context, I was pretty disappointed by my initial impression of these gloves. When I hear the words “Guide” in the context of mountain sports, I assume that it should outcompete recreational alternatives in technical applications. I had a hard time turning a door knob in my apartment, saying nothing about adjusting ski gear or tying basic knots.

It wasn’t until I was in a pinch and needed something seriously warm that I realized that the Guide Gloves were worth investing the time in. All told it took about a week of ski days before they felt ready for anything other than keeping my hands warm.

If you’re eager to get them off the ground as fast as possible, you could wear the liners sans shell. While that would help volume-wise, you’ll still eventually have to deal with the uncompromising properties of the leather shell.

In my experience, the best way to get them in working order is to hold poles, adjust buckles, and struggle through the exact movements you’re likely to replicate on the ski hill so they don’t wear down unevenly.

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The Competition

Based on my experience, there isn’t much that can keep up with the Guide Glove in terms of warmth alone- but that doesn’t mean that it’s the best option out there for every skier.

Those with particular needs like circulation issues or consistently cold hands will be very happy with insulation that it’s hard to find anywhere else. Mountaineers or people in exceptionally cold climates will likewise feel good about trusting their digits to the balmy confines of the Guide Glove. For the majority of skiers it’s serious overkill.

In terms of alternatives there are many different directions you could head, and they entirely depend on what you’re looking for. For something in the same warmth category and price range as the Guide Glove, Hestra’s Army Leather Extreme Mitten is a proven piece of gear more appropriate for resort use.

If the tough, uncompromising attitude is your main draw; I’d recommend saving a ton of money and trying out a pair of Kinco work gloves. Alternatively, you could check out Black Diamond’s all-leather Spark Finger Glove- which has a much more freeride-oriented attitude.

The only way you’ll find something warmer than the Guide Glove is if you opt for a heated model like the Outdoor Research Lucent, which is our favorite of the lot this year.

Conclusion

There’s a lot to love about the Guide Glove–but like any relationship, it takes patience and a willingness to compromise to make things work out long term.

On one hand, you have a degree of warmth that hardly anything outside of a heated alternative can keep up with, while on the other you balance the break-in period with very limited mobility after the fact.

The final verdict is that this will probably be too much glove for most people on the mountain, but you really won’t find anything much warmer. It’s the whole package for the chronically cold and ambitious peak baggers who need an extra layer of love for their hands.

If you’re unsure if the Guide Glove is the right choice for you, our buyer’s guide stacks it up against some other industry favorites in a side-by side comparison.

Our Overall Review

4.6

Reasons to buy:

  • check-mark
    Built for the coldest temperatures
  • check-mark
    One of the toughest gloves on the market
  • check-mark
    Available as a finger glove
  • check-mark
    Waterproof liner
  • check-mark
    Extra padding and hand protection

Reasons NOT to buy:

  • check-markSizing is tricky and takes some time to break in
FAQ

Frequently asked questions

What are the best ski gloves?

There are an overwhelming number of ski gloves on today’s market, and picking the right one for you is no easy task. Fortunately our ski glove guide has all the details you need thin the pack, and detailed looks at some of our favorites. In the meantime, here’s a shortlist of our top performers.
Best ski gloves

  • Hestra Army Leather Extreme
  • Black Diamond Guide Glove
  • Outdoor Research Alti Glove
  • Gordini Stormtrooper II
  • Burton Mercury Mitt
What are the warmest ski gloves?

Whether you’re taking a trip to a frigid valley in the dead of winter, or suffer from chronically chilly fingers, finding the warmest pair of gloves is tough. When everyone advertises themselves as “warm”, it’s hard to develop a sense of scale- that’s why we’ve assembled a list of our favorites, and a buyer’s guide to help you parse out the best from the rest.
Warmest Ski Gloves

  • Black Diamond Guide Gloves
  • Hestra Army Leather Extreme
  • Outdoor Research Alti Glove
  • Outdoor Research Lucent Heated Glove
How should ski gloves fit?

Ski gloves, like most cold weather equipment, ideally fit snugly but not so tight as to cut off blood flow. It should be noted in the case of gloves that sizing up is a little bit easier to get away with than other soft goods, while sizing down will likely make you colder, faster.

If you have questions about gloves and how to choose the right pair for your specific needs, take a look at our buyer’s guide.

How to wash ski gloves?

Investing in a solid set of ski gear is expensive. With a lot of the top-rated options easily exceeding $100 dollars, you’re going to want to properly care for your new pair of gloves so they function to their fullest potential. As an across the board rule, make sure that you properly dry gear after each time you use it. Keeping things dry is 90% of keeping them clean and functioning well.

For leather gloves, keep an eye out for places on the shell where the shell looks dry and flakey. You should be prepared with some leather conditioner and expect to apply it around three times a season. For more answers on gloves and how to choose the right pair for your purposes, take a look at our best of list and buyer’s guide.

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