The choice of sailing gloves can be bewildering. Do you most need to protect your hands from physical damage and rope burn, keep them dry, or keep them warm? The answer will depend on the season, the weather and the boat you're sailing, writes Rupert Holmes.
For much of the year thermal insulation is an important attribute for sailing gloves, and is especially true for those on faster boats such as RIBs, where windchill can be a significant factor.
Equally, on a sailing yacht long night watches often involve extended periods with little activity.
In addition, you may need protection against physical damage to your hands and rope burns, particularly if racing, while maintaining good dexterity for tying knots, handling shackles and so on.
The ever-growing use of touchscreens on board can also pose problems when sailing gloves need to be worn.
In cold weather sometimes the most effective, and certainly the most frugal, option is to use a thin inner fabric glove with a pair of household cleaning gloves over the top.
There are others who will vouch for the effectiveness of gloves sold for commercial fisherman, which are also a cost-effective alternative.
However, there are of course plenty of occasions when these are not the best option, or when a degree of style is an important consideration.
In any case some of the very best technical sailing gloves have outstanding performance.
Best sailing gloves available right now
Musto Essential Sailing Short Finger Glove
These are a classic fingerless glove, designed to protect your hands from the rigours of handing rope all day, that has been re-engineered using today’s high-tech materials. They are among the highest rated of all sailing gloves.
The lightweight four-way stretch mesh fabric maximises freedom of movement and anatomical comfort, while providing a high level of breathability. Construction is of 70 per cent Nylon, plus PU, neoprene and spandex.
The protection panels are placed strategically and oversized Velcro wrist closures give a secure tailored fit.
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Gill Helmsman Gloves
As the name suggests, these are designed for use when helming and recognise that task can involve long periods with little activity.
They are, therefore, well insulated, using quick drying breathable materials that retain warmth when wet.
My pair are very comfortable to wear and have an impressive level of waterproofing.
The long gauntlet style enables the glove to be tucked up inside the sleeve of a foul weather jacket, which minimises the risk of drips from your arm finding their way inside the glove.
A touchscreen compatible pad is built into the forefinger on each hand.
These superwarm and stretchy four layer neoprene gloves are intended to offer the ultimate in warmth without impinging on dexterity.
The outside of the material is water repellent to keep hands dry for longer and there’s a fast drying soft fleece on the inner face. The palm and fingers have a super-grippy layer of reinforced polyurethane.
To improve comfort and fit, these gloves are produced in the slightly curved shape of a hand.
This winter they have been my first choice of gloves in extreme conditions when there’s little prospect of being able to keep hands dry.
They proved effective when I was on the water for Pip Hare’s Vendee Globe race finish, in the middle of a wet, windy and bitterly cold February night.
Decathlon fingerless mittens
When it’s really cold mittens can be much better than gloves and many years ago for a Southern ocean passage I took a pair of ski mittens.
They were not ideal – fabric technology has moved on enormously since then – and had to be dried next to the cabin heater at the end of every watch, but they certainly helped keep my hands warm once we were south of 50 degrees latitude.
I love the concept of these “fingerless” mittens from Decathlon – when you need dexterity and ability to use your fingers and thumb, the end of the garment slides off, leaving you with a more conventional pair of fingerless gloves.
Like my old ski mittens they are not intended as a marine garment, so may not be fully waterproof, but it’s easy to see that they could still be very useful.
Zhik G2 Performance Sailing Gloves
This is the heavier version of the company’s product for all types of racing and performance cruising.
It has three full fingers, leaving the index finger and thumb unencumbered for tying knots, undoing shackles and operating touchscreens on either smartphones or chartplotters.
The high-grip padding is positioned such that it works with ropes of any diameter and is offset to eliminate the pressure points that can be created by seams.
They are heavily reinforced and have an extra-secure Velcro wrist closure that all but eliminates the chances of losing a glove during a high-adrenaline manoeuvre.
Decathlon adult sailing fingerless gloves
Sailing gloves can be disappointingly easy to lose, so keeping a spare pair in the bottom of your kit bag can be a good move.
This pair of fingerless gloves from Decathlon is priced such that keeping a few extras around won’t cost a fortune.
They have plenty of grip, offer good protection, are made of a comfortable stretch fabric and have a Velcro wrist strap.
Despite the competitive price the specification is good enough for ordinary use.
Sealskinz waterproof all-weather glove
These lightweight insulated gloves are made of 100 per cent waterproof material to keep your hands dry, and therefore warmer, for longer.
The goatskin leather palm gives added protection and a natural feel, while fingers are pre-curved for comfort. Touchscreen compatibility is included on thumb and forefinger.
The outer layer of the breathable fabric is made primarily of polyester, with added neoprene and elastane, while the inner lining is of 100 per cent polyester.
Like other Sealskinz products they come with a lifetime guarantee.
Gill Championship Glove
Aimed at all types of performance sailing and watersports, these have three long fingers with seamless fingertips to improve dexterity.
The pre-shaped construction creates a comfortable fit, without excess fabric, while a reduced cuff length further reduces bulk and means wrist movement is not impeded.
Wraparound Dura-Grip fabric is used on the palm to maximise grip without compromising flexibility and provide excellent resistance to abrasion.
On the back of the hand a four-way stretch material provides good comfort and has a high SPF50 sun protection factor rating.