Best of the Best Survival Gloves
Sometimes the most practical and important items receive the least amount of consideration in our plans. Among these things gloves might certainly be a contender for the crown as they are vitally important pieces of personal protective equipment that will see more or less constant use in the aftermath of a major disaster.
Our hands are the main mechanism through which we interact with the world. Our hands help us navigate, use tools, climb, carry and even communicate with other people around us.
The world as it exists now is full of many hazards for working hands, and you can depend on a post-SHTF world being positively packed with dangers: things that can cut, slice, pierce, puncture and burn your hands will be commonplace.
If your hands start to break down your survival efforts will be following close behind.
It is absolutely vital that we afford our hands the protection that their importance demands. In today’s article I will be offering advice and recommendations for choosing the proper gloves that will fit into your personal survival plan.
Table of Contents
Hand Injuries are No Joke
Preventing small or incidental injuries is more or less optional during normal times.
After all, you can’t go a block without coming across a doctor’s office, hospital or medical clinic where you can receive prompt, professional and effective treatment for all sorts of painful boo-boos and lesser injuries that you might incur in the course of your daily adventures.
A quick inspection, perhaps a shot and a handful of stitches or even some liquid bandage and you’ll be sent on your way no worse for the wear save for the damage the bill inflicted on your bank account.
It is for this reason that the use of gloves, unless absolutely necessary to accomplish the task at hand, is often derided or mocked openly by those engaged in physical labor or the more manly pursuits.
The only reason such a person might wear gloves at all is because they have soft skin, and you know what they say about those fellas that have soft, uncalloused skin…
While it is true it is in your best interest to toughen up your body (before it is time to put in seriously hard work) omitting personal protective equipment for the sake of ego is perched near the very edge on the Cliffs of Idiocy.
It is all fun and games when you can summon medical help, but in the aftermath of a major disaster, when hospitals are non-operational or completely overwhelmed by patients and there is no more 911, failing to take care of and protect your body can lead directly to disaster.
In the context of a greater survival situation, even a minor wound can start to reduce your efficiency and slow you down. A bad laceration on a palm can reduce your lifting capacity. A serious cut to a finger will hamper your ability to use a gun or tool.
Any minor wound can additionally become infected, and infection in a land without certain access to antibiotics can lead to an agonizing, fevered death. All locked-on preppers know: you can never take anything for granted or take stupid risks when surviving a SHTF event.
What Kind of Gloves Do You Need?
Most preppers demand much from their gloves, and the requirements you have for yours could be seemingly contradictory. Your gloves should protect you while you work, while also affording you some protection from ambient weather conditions.
If you are handling sharp or highly abrasive material regularly you’ll need gloves that offer significant cut and puncture resistance.
Gloves for literal high-impact situations will be specialized for that task. Gloves to defeat fluids are of an entirely different variety. And altogether different are gloves that offer protection from fire and high temperature, as are those that can insulate your digits against biting cold.
All of these inherent characteristics built into the gloves themselves must be weighed against your task requirements. Handling of bulk material or general protection means you can give up some dexterity and tactile “feel” in lieu of protection.
This equation changes if you need to operate tools, electronics or firearms at a moment’s notice while wearing your gloves. Can your gloves still actuate a touch-screen on your phone or GPS?
Some tasks are so important that protection takes center stage and all other considerations are secondary.
Huge, puffy mittens or snow gloves will be mandatory to prevent frostbite and loss of your precious fingers in the coldest conditions; they are not good for running guns or anything else but such is life.
Some gloves that offer you second-skin feel for maximum tactility on a trigger or the fine controls of electronics will necessarily not be as durable, as long-lasting or offer as much slash protection as heavier gloves made from thicker materials.
Sometimes, your ends might be mutually exclusive. If that is the case you will have to choose which performance metric is the most important to you and roll with it or take your chances by hedging your bets with a more generalist set of gloves.
Below are a few of the many types of gloves that could all be viable choices depending on your requirements:
- Technical/Mechanic’s Gloves
- Work Gloves
- Tactical Gloves
- Chemical Resistant Gloves
- Disposable Gloves
- Flame/Heat Protection Gloves
- Cold Weather Gloves
We will dig into all of them in the rest of this section so you can get all the specifics you need to make a good decision.
Technical / Mechanic’s Gloves
As the name suggests, these are optimized for technical work, the kind you might typically be doing working on machines of any sort.
These gloves focus on enabling dexterity while providing decent protection against sharp edges, incidental contact with hot parts and busted knuckles after your wrench slips for the fourth time.
Often made from synthetics, types that emphasize durability or use with impact/vibration-producing tools can be had increasingly with leather palm or finger protection.
These gloves make a great all-purpose option and are the go-to choice for a great many preppers and professionals in all kinds of sectors. They are usually affordable, and offer a good blend of protection and dexterity though they rarely last as long as dedicated work gloves.
A category of gloves that comprises many “subspecies.” These gloves are intended for maximum protection from the most varied threats your precious pointers might encounter.
These gloves run the gamut in construction from 100% all-natural fiber weaves to interlaced hybrid fabric layers; thick, natural leather to state-of-the-art cut-proof man-made materials.
If you are hauling debris, swinging a hammer, pulling barbed wire or just pruning back some branches, work gloves are a natural choice for preventing cuts, scrapes, splinters, blisters and stains.
This is another good candidate for an all-around pair of gloves, though durability and longevity can vary greatly depending on construction and many varieties are thick enough to hamper your dexterity when the time comes to go to guns, if that is an issue for you.
These gloves will usually fit into the “technical” category, but sometimes are heavily overbuilt with padding and impact protection to help protect the hands in the most hardcore scenarios.
No matter which variety you are referring to, these are in their own category since they are marketed accordingly, and are usually only found in gun shops or specialty stores.
Gloves in this category often include hard or rigid molded-in knuckle protection, and occasionally articulated finger protection as well. Some, instead, go nearly overboard with dense, built-up padding or foam across the knuckles.
As a rule, these gloves are more expensive than competing types, but might have features that make their cost worthwhile.
Many are highly rugged while still emphasizing durability, for instance, or they might include touch-screen compatible inserts in the fingertips. Make sure you can justify their (typically) great cost before buying!
Chemical Resistant Gloves
Almost everyone has worn these at least once in high school chemistry class. Some of us use them often or daily at our jobs.
Everything you need to know about them is on the tin: these gloves, typically of a mid-forearm or even over-the-elbow length, are designed to resist chemical exposure and contact that will disintegrate lesser, disposable gloves and saturate typical leather or fabric ones.
Gloves of this type are among the most specialized and unlikely to be needed by the average prepper on a regular basis, though you can make a case for having some as a contingency tool for cleaning up chemical spills or the nastiness left behind by a dead body.
If you are planning on dealing with specific, highly hazardous chemicals, make sure you do your homework and purchase a set of gloves that are resistant to that specific chemical.
Many chemically-resistant gloves can handle a wide variety of lesser substances in chemicals, but the really nasty stuff will need a specific material to counter it.
Everybody should know what these are. These are the gloves that are in every single doctor’s office across the nation and much of the world, and also commonly found in kitchen pantries and inside first-aid kits.
These are not the most durable gloves in the world, but are just the ticket for preventing contact with blood and other bodily fluids when you or someone else gets a boo-boo and needs treatment.
Typically encountered in latex or nitrile, with nitrile being the modern-day favorite since it is less likely to provoke an allergic response, and they are even more durable than latex gloves.
Take care if you decide to use these for dealing with any other chemical spill, since some chemicals will weaken them or even dissolve them in very short order.
Flame / Heat Protection Gloves
Gloves in this category are specialized for protecting the hands from extreme heat in one form or another, or this capability might be a feature of another type of glove.
Any glove in this category will be one of two specific varieties: Flame Resistant or Flame Retardant. It might sound like semantics but the differences are actually significant and you need to know which is which in order to make an informed choice.
Flame retardant gloves are those that have been chemically treated in order to slow the burning process or even self-extinguish if they catch fire.
Flame resistant gloves are ones that are made from any material that is inherently nonflammable. Flame resistant gloves might burn, but they will burn slowly and they will not melt.
Cold Weather Gloves
Sometimes you just need gloves that are going to keep your hands warm even in the coldest of conditions. That is where these gloves come in.
Typically large and bulky, often made of synthetics or sometimes mixed fabrics, these are often employed as an outer glove or shell to fit over thinner gloves. Modern varieties will have a level of water resistance, or perhaps even be waterproof in order to resist snow melt so your hands don’t get soaked.
As a general rule, wearing these gloves will make any manual task more difficult, and many will flip halfway open to allow one or multiple fingers better dexterity. These are not the most durable gloves around and you should take care to prevent damage while wearing them.
Selection and Use Considerations
As I mentioned in the beginning of this article, gloves are one piece of protective equipment that genuinely deserve significantly more care and consideration than they are typically given in the grand scheme of survival planning.
Below I will list several criteria and other selection considerations that I will assess before choosing any gloves for my bug-out bag, survival stash or vehicle kit.
Quality vs. Price
The typical advice you will hear on prepping and survival-related websites discussing gear is to always buy the very best gear you can afford. This is generally good advice, but does not take into account the reality of most folks’ financial situation: we typically are not made of money!
The bottom line is that funds are limited, and most of us cannot buy top-flight gear across the board and continue to pay our bills and support ourselves and our families.
This means that compromises will need to be made, and several often competing priorities on acquisitions must be balanced.
When it comes to protective equipment, especially essential protective equipment, you generally don’t want to buy gas station-grade stuff; remind yourself that you will be using your gear to protect yourself in the middle of an emergency, and furthermore an emergency that might drag on for a long time.
Your gear should be able to do its job, but it should also be able to last long enough to see you through the other side.
Gloves are one of those items, like anything else, where it is entirely possible to spend as much money as you care to. I cannot tell you the number of gloves that are on the market today that are well over $100.
Are they worth it? I am not sure, as any set of gloves is ultimately a consumable item for me. I have a ,feeling though, that most of them only rate their exorbitant price due to snappy marketing.
On the other hand, I sure don’t want to be taking my chances with an ill-fitting, sweatshop-produced $2 pair of jersey knit basic work gloves either.
As with all things, there is usually room in the middle that is a sort of a “temperate zone” when it comes to value. I personally use and have used for a long time the common Mechanix brand technical gloves as my all-purpose shooting and general work glove that I keep in my go-bag.
When I am shooting regularly and working hard with them, I will usually get anywhere from three to six months out of them before they get significant holes in them. After that I ditch them and don’t feel bad about it.
Is that reasonable for a $15 pair of gloves? I think so: it isn’t a fortune and considering my usage tempo I know they generally hold up well for what I asked of them.
While typically not as big a deal as some preppers think, it is worth considering whether or not you will need to keep your gloves on and still deal with running a gun or other defensive weapon at the same time.
There are no two ways about it: gloves reduce your tactile sense, and make all tool-using tasks more challenging, especially when you have to start pressing little levers and switches on guns.
There are two schools of thought when it comes to solving this problem. The first is to utilize a technical glove or even a shooting-specific tactical glove that will afford you maximum ergonomic advantage and as much dexterity is possible.
The idea is to hamper your use of your tools as little as possible. The second espouses gloves that should fit slightly loose, and be of a slip on style so they can be quickly removed if you need to access your guns or other tools in a hurry with maximum efficiency and control.
Keep in mind that no matter what kind of glove you select, and no matter how optimized it is for use with weapons you will need to put in significant practice while wearing your gloves if you want it to be second nature; they will hamper you and you must train around this.
Also consider that certain oversized gloves, chief among these culprits being thick leather work gloves and cold weather gloves, will severely interfere with even getting your trigger finger inside the trigger guard of a firearm, or compromise your grip on a knife.
On the other hand, certain gloves seem tailor-made for giving you an edge when the time comes to go hands-on with an assailant.
Gloves that feature a hard plate over your knuckles, significant padding, or even “sap” gloves that have pouches of fine leather shot sewn into them can give your hand more protection when making impact with someone’s skull and will deliver a hell of a wallop.
If it is worth packing one pair of gloves it is definitely worth packing two. Aside from serving as a hedge against loss or damage, it can also allow you to hand off a pair to a buddy or someone who needs to give you a hand that will also need protection for their hands.
This is also a perfect opportunity to select a different type of gloves that will complement your primary pair.
For myself, I always pack a thin, dexterous pair of technical gloves as mentioned above, but I also pack a super-tough pair of thick leather or high-quality cotton fiber work gloves.
I wear my technical gloves for almost everything, and don the work gloves when I need serious protection from the nastiest materials.
I also buy my work gloves a half size or even a whole size up so I can put them on over my technical gloves to maximize protection. Those work gloves will defeat jagged pieces of wire or metal from piercing my delicate hands, hazards that would sail straight through the comparatively thin technical gloves.
Excepting the bulkiest of cold weather gloves, gloves are very compact and weigh next to nothing so you can definitely afford to include one more pair in your bug-out bag or any other survival bag, even one that has a little in the way of room to spare. This way you are prepared for all eventualities.
Top Survival Gloves Choices
Below are a few of my favorite gloves across multiple categories. No matter what your needs are, you can count on these gloves to keep your phalanges in fine shape and putting work in.
Best Overall Technical Gloves – Mechanix Original Fast Fit
Mechanix Wear gloves have been around for a long time and are well-known in survival, shooting and technical professions for their excellent blend of dexterity, reasonable durability and price.
It’s also nice that you can get these guys pretty much everywhere. If you are facing a day on the range or just want to give your hands a thin, second skin layer of protection against incidental cuts and scrapes these are just the ticket.
They will not hold up to as much abuse as proper work gloves, and don’t provide as much protection as heavy leather and other specialized materials, but they also won’t hamper you when you need to suddenly perform delicate tasks like running a gun or using electronics.
I greatly prefer the original, Fast-Fit gloves since they are easy to put on and quick to take off in a pinch, but this company makes a great many varieties and all are highly dexterous in their respective categories.
Best Work Glove: Youngstown Leather Utility Plus
Youngstown Leather Utility Plus gloves are a modernized take on the classic, thick leather ranch gloves that your grandad probably used for much of his life.
Compared to the old-timers gloves, the Youngstown gloves benefit from modern design and ergonomics, greatly improving both grip and dexterity compared to their competitors.
This particular model also features a longer cuff forming a sort of gauntlet to give you a little bit more wrist and lower forearm protection.
They are expensive compared to off-the-shelf leather gloves that you’ll find at home improvement stores, but they will give you dramatically increased wearable life, durability and control which can be crucial in survival situations. Control that will not often be provided by ill-fitting, cheap leather gloves.
Best Gloves for a Sure Grip – Outdoor Research Ironsight
Outdoor Research Ironsight gloves provide an excellent blend of dexterity and protection, fitting much like a standard technical glove, being made predominantly from synthetic fibers, but also featuring strategically-placed leather reinforcement across the knuckles and the fingers.
This is nice in and of itself if all you’re wanting is a beefed-up technical glove, but where Outdoor Research has really hit it out of the park is with the extremely tactile, durable silicone pads that line the palms and the fingers.
Compared to many other brands of technical gloves that protect against scrapes but don’t afford a completely confidence-inspiring grip, the Ironsights grip like a bear trap no matter the weather end of the tool.
This is a great perk in high-stress situations or when your hands, or tool, might be wet, oily or bloody. These are some of my favorite all around gloves and I highly recommend them.
Best Gloves for Extra Protection: Oakley Flexion
Oakley is rightly famous for their eyewear but they also make some nice soft gear in the form of backpacks, clothing and of course gloves.
Their Flexion gloves are a heavy duty technical glove that provides touch screen compatible dexterity with heavy-duty reinforcement along the back of the knuckles, back of the hand and palm.
This impact protection is provided by rigid, molded plates that form a solid abutment for anything that might bust your knuckles, and the palm is lined by three thin, dense closed-cell foam inserts that absorb shock.
If you are concerned with taking impact to the hands, or just using high impact tools, these are definitely worthwhile.
Best Gloves for Gunhandling: PIG Full-Dexterity Gloves
If you are a prepper who wants the absolute best glove for shooting, you should check out the PIG FDT gloves. FDT stands for “full dexterity tactical”, and while they are expensive compared to their competitors in the thin, lightweight technical glove category these are made with excellent materials, quality control and ergonomics that ensures you will lose very little in the translation compared to shooting with no gloves on at all.
These are gloves you will forget you are wearing. They are so lightweight, form-fitting and comfortable it is hard to go back to other gloves after these.
If they have one weak point it is that they offer scant more durability compared to competitors like the Mechanix glove above, and if you use these as a general utility glove or just putting in a ton of reps at the range you’ll be shelling out a fair bit of cash just on gloves.
Nonetheless, if you are a gun-slinging prepper these may very well be worth it.
The glove is an invaluable part of your survival equipage. This is a crucial piece of protective gear that will protect your hands from damage in a variety of situations, wounds that could be the beginning of the end in a survival situation when you are so dependent on the work you are able to do for continued survival.
Even if you have tough, leathery hands hardened by years and years of manual labor, put your ego aside and select an appropriate pair or two of gloves to keep your digits intact during an SHTF event.