What are three-finger hiking gloves for?

climber with gloves
There are different designs of gloves for winter activities (Image credit: Getty Images)

Three-finger hiking gloves, sometimes referred to as 'lobster claw' or 'trigger finger' gloves might look strange, but they could be a perfect fit for you this winter. Let’s take a closer look at three finger hiking gloves to discover what they are and why you might want a pair.

To look at, three-finger hiking gloves are a cross between mittens and gloves. While mittens a designed to keep all the fingers in one area of the insulated glove and a separate thumb, traditional gloves have individual spaces or pockets for all fingers and thumb.

The three-finger glove has three pockets where fingers sit. There is a thumb pocket, a pocket for the index finger and then the other three fingers insert into a larger third pocket. In some designs, the four fingers are split, with two in one pocket and two in another.  

The gloves are most traditionally worn by skiers and snowboarders but you can also buy three-finger gloves for hiking, running and climbing.

three finger mitts

Montane is a brand that makes three-finger gloves (Image credit: FionaOutdoors)

Why do I need three-finger hiking gloves?

Three-finger hiking gloves strike a balance between dexterity and warmth. When fingers are kept together in one insulated pocket of a mitt they are more likely to stay warm than they are when you wear gloves. However, mitts can be a bit clunky and restrictive. If you are trying, for example, to do up clips on your favourite hiking backpack, or take off an ice axe from your rucksack, it can be helpful to have the use of an index finger and thumb.

different mittens

Warmth and dexterity should be considered when choosing winter gloves, mitts or three-finger hiking gloves (Image credit: Getty Images)

Pros and cons of  three-finger hiking gloves

Three-finger hiking gloves still offer good relative warmth when compared to gloves, yet they allow for the wearer to make better sue of their thumb and index finger. This is helpful if you need to undo or zip up equipment and jackets but you do not want to take off your mitts and expose hands to the cold.

The downside of three-finger hiking gloves compared to full mittens is that the index finger sits in its own finger pocket and this can leave it susceptible to the cold. Where mitts rate more highly is that they offer greater warmth for all the fingers because they sit on one insulated area of the glove. 

In the end, the design of mitts or gloves for hiking will be personal preference and your personal levels of hand warmth. 

Fiona Russell
Outdoor writer

Fiona Russell is a widely published adventure journalist and blogger, better known as Fiona Outdoors. She is based in Scotland and is an all-round outdoors enthusiast with favorite activities including trail running, mountain walking, mountain biking, road cycling, triathlon and skiing (both downhill and backcountry). Aside from her own adventures, Fiona's biggest aim is to inspire others to enjoy getting outside and exploring, especially through her writing. She is also rarely seen without a running skort! Find out more at Fiona Outdoors.