A guide to some of the best swim gloves for outdoor swimmers. Keep your fingers warm and cosy – and stay in the water for longer – with a good pair of swimming gloves, ideal for open water swimming sessions.
If you’re getting into open water swimming for short fitness sessions, or in warm weather conditions, you don’t need to invest in much kit. But if you want to swim outdoors for longer or in chilly winter conditions, one item that will really help to keep you warm and comfortable is a good pair of swimming gloves.
Our top six picks of the best swim gloves for men and women are perfect for keeping your hands warm in cold conditions, and also offer added grip and protection both in and out of the water.
The main reason to pop on a pair of swim gloves is to keep your hands warmer for longer. If you suffer from poor circulation you may want to wear gloves year-round, and swimmers heading out in ‘skins’ (swimsuit only) will often add gloves and boots for longer swims to keep their extremities warm. In winter, whether or not you’re also wearing a wetsuit, swim gloves are more of a necessity to let you stay in the water comfortably.
The thicker the glove, the warmer it’ll be, but thicker designs offer less finger mobility, so they’re best saved for winter sessions. Most neoprene gloves are around 3mm in thickness, which suits most seasons in the UK. Getting a snug fit is also important, as this further traps in warm water and avoids ‘flushing’ the glove as you move.
Some of the best swim gloves also feature a strap at the wrist to help seal the cuff and prevent too much cold water entering into them. Liquid or taped sealed seams help trap in water and keep the gloves warm, so they’re a good bet for winter swimmers.
We also recommend picking gloves that feature grippy fabric or rubber panels on the palms and fingers – while grip isn’t needed once you’re in open water, it can be very handy when you’re clambering in and out of an outdoor swim spot or grabbing hold of a tow float.
Most of the gloves in our roundup are designed specifically for swimmers, but surfing and diving gloves also work well, and if you’re into lots of types of water sports it makes sense to just buy one versatile pair of gloves that will suit all your aquatic adventures.
Most swimming gloves are pretty budget-friendly, with prices starting from under £10, so it’s well worth including a pair in your swimming kit bag even just for occasional use. We’ve rounded up six of the best swimming gloves for different seasons, and you’ll also find key features to look out for when shopping for swim gloves listed below.
Zone 3 Neoprene Heat Tech Gloves
In the market for a warm and reliable winter glove? Look no further than Zone 3’s Heat Tech design. This glove uses 3.5mm thickness neoprene and liquid sealed seams to trap in heat, and a clever titanium lining further reflects warmth for noticeably warmer hands in chilly winter waters. We love the longer-length wrists, which fit easily under a wetsuit but also feature a strap so that you can get a snug fit (this stops the gloves getting flushed through with water as you swim). The rubber grip on the palms and fingers is also good.
Sealed seams: liquid sealed seams
Pros: reliably warm thanks to reflective lining, good adjustable wrist straps, decent grip
Cons: too thick for warm water dips
Price £35 (RRP £35) $46
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Patagonia R3 Yulex gloves
Neoprene is a bit of a wonder material for swimmers – it’s warm, lightweight, comfortable and close-fitting. The one downside is that this petroleum-based material is not good news for the environment. Wetsuit and swim glove makers are now turning to yulex, a more sustainable material harvested from rubber trees. Patagonia’s R3 glove is our pick of the pack – 3mm thickness and taped seams trap in heat, and the grip on the palms is brilliant. These are the priciest gloves in our round-up, but if you love to swim and surf all winter and want to shop sustainably, they’re worth the spend. A mitt version is also available.
Material: yulex and recycled polyester
Sealed seams: taped seams
Pros: made from yulex, a more sustainable alternative to neoprene, taped seams, great grip
Cons: pricy, no wrist strap
Price £55 (RRP £70) $72
Dhb Hydron Swim Gloves
If you hate the feel of bulky swim kit, you might get on very well with Dhb’s simple and streamlined Hydron glove. The 3mm neoprene is thick enough to keep you swimming year-round, and the Hydron design is light and flexible enough to let you forget you’ve got gloves on, except for that welcome added warmth. These gloves offer better finger mobility than similar designs, too. There’s no wrist strap, although that does help these gloves to slip easily under a swimming wetsuit. Our only criticism is of the grip – the horizontal rubber pads on the palm aren’t as sticky as some other models we tested.
Sealed seams: no
Sizes: S-M and L-XL
Pros: slim, streamlined design, good warmth and dexterity
Cons: no wrist strap, limited grip, only two size options
Price £25 (RRP £25) $32
Neoprene Diving Gloves
Shopping for swim gloves on a budget? These simple gloves are great value for money at under £10. Aimed at divers, snorkellers and swimmers, they’re thinner than most swim gloves at 1.5mm, which makes them much more dexterous but less warm than other designs. We’d stick to using them from spring to autumn, but if you already own thick winter gloves and want something you can pull on for year-round swims, this is an affordable second pair to choose. It’s just a pity there’s no grip to speak of.
Liquid sealed seams: no
Pros: Affordable price point, thinner neoprene means more mobility, ideal for warmer weather
Cons: no grip, too thin for winter swims
Price £9.70 (RRP £9.70) $12.70
Dakine Cyclone Glove
Most of the gloves in our round-up are aimed specifically at swimmers, but Dakine’s Cyclone glove is a surfer’s favourite design that doubles up nicely for any kind of water sport. These streamlined gloves are made with a mix of neoprene and nylon and are easy to pull on and off. The Cyclone has 3mm of thickness coupled with liquid sealed seams to suit most water temperatures, and a good grip thanks to a hex pattern on the palms made of silicone. Sizing from XS-XL also make it easy to get the right fit, although these gloves run on the small side.
Liquid sealed seams: yes
Pros: great grip, comfortable to pull on and off, liquid sealed seams, versatile design
Cons: no wrist strap, sizing runs small
Price £35 (RRP £50) $45.79
Blueseventy Thermal Swim Glove
Blueseventy’s thermal glove ticks all the boxes for swimmers – it uses warm, heat-retaining neoprene at a 3mm thickness and the seams are liquid sealed. Even better, this design has a metallic liner that further traps in body heat, so these gloves work for bitter winter swims without much loss of mobility. The slim, longer-length cuffs on these gloves also make them easy to pop under a wetsuit. There are only two sizes – S and L – available. Most women should find the S fits them, while the L will suit the average man, but if you’re between sizes you might find gloves with a bigger size range more suitable.
Liquid sealed seams: yes
Pros: effective heat-trapping metallic liner, liquid sealed seams, works well under wetsuits
Cons: only two sizes available, limited grip
Price £37.50 (RRP £37.50) $65
What we look for in the best swimming gloves
- Fit: It’s important to get the right fit in a swim glove – it should be snug enough to trap in warmth and stay put when you’re moving in the water, but not so restrictive that you can’t easily move your fingers. Swimming gloves either have a stretchy cuff or adjustable straps – we find strapped-on gloves better for getting a custom fit.
- Size: Swim gloves are mostly unisex designs and come in sizes ranging from XS to XL. Thicker winter gloves above 3mm add warmth but do limit dexterity, as they’re designed primarily for warmth over ease of movement.
- Material: Swimming gloves are usually made with neoprene, which is warm, light and flexible. It’s not, however, the most eco-friendly choice, as it’s a petroleum-based material. Yulex, a renewable plant-based rubber, is a more sustainable alternative that is starting to be widely used to make wetsuits and gloves. Recycled materials are also starting to be adopted by some watersports clothing manufacturers. Whatever material glove you choose, we recommend choosing a model with added grippy rubber palms.
- Thickness: Swimming gloves come in different thicknesses – most neoprene gloves are around 3mm, which is a good choice for cold water and winter swimming. 2mm offers more dexterity but less warmth, and is ideal for spring-autumn swimming.
You might also enjoy reading our other articles on open water swimming and cold water activities
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