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The Ultimate Diving Gloves Buyers Guide For Divers

Diving gloves, often overlooked but essential, are your trusty companions beneath the waves. They offer not only protection against the rugged underwater world but also the warmth to keep your hands functional.

In this extensive guide, we will explore every facet of diving gloves, from their benefits and drawbacks to the various types available, the materials they are crafted from, critical factors to consider when selecting the right pair, and even guidelines on caring for and maintaining your diving gloves.

The Benefits and Drawbacks of Diving Gloves

Diving gloves are versatile tools that serve several critical purposes in the realm of underwater exploration. Understanding their advantages and potential limitations is crucial:

  • Protection: Diving gloves safeguard your hands from abrasive or sharp surfaces such as jagged rocks, rusted shipwrecks, and coral formations. They can protect against cuts, scrapes, and stings from marine life.
  • Thermal Insulation: Maintaining hand warmth is paramount in cold-water diving. It is important to ensure that your hands remain nimble and capable of operating essential equipment.

However, diving gloves also have a drawback; they reduce your dexterity. This can make skills like mask clearing or operating your diving BCD more difficult.

It is important to remember that wearing diving gloves must not encourage touching the marine environment!

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Types of Diving Gloves

Diving gloves come in a variety of types, each designed for specific diving conditions. Understanding these categories can help you choose the right pair for your underwater adventures:

Warm-water and Tropical Gloves

Tropical and warm-water diving gloves gloves prioritize dexterity and safeguarding your hands against cuts, scrapes, and abrasions, rather than offering extensive thermal protection.

  • Typically made from lightweight materials like fabric or thin neoprene (0.5 to 3mm).
  • Prioritize protection and dexterity.
  • Some feature protective kevlar linings or grip-increasing nitrile palms.
Warm water and tropical diving gloves
Warm-water and tropical diving gloves

Cold Water Gloves and Mittens

When you venture into colder waters, your hands demand superior insulation, and that’s where cold-water gloves come into play.

  • Made from neoprene, ranging from 5mm to 7mm
  • Conventional 5-finger glove designs are the most popular, but 3-finger and mitten styles are available for the coldest water conditions.
  • Premium diving gloves may offer titanium thermal linings or comfortable fleece-type inners.
  • Heavy-duty diving gloves may have kevlar reinforced, nitrile, or latex rubber outers.

Three-finger Diving Gloves

These diving gloves enclose the little, ring, and middle fingers to increase skin-to-skin contact and reduce heat loss.

  • They offer more thermal protection than 5-finger gloves.
  • The thumb and index finger are left separate to allow some dexterity for operating dive gear.
  • These gloves, however, offer less dexterity than regular 5-finger gloves.
3-finger gloves for cold water divers
3-finger diving gloves for cold water divers

Diving Mittens

Diving mittens enclose all the fingers, leaving only the thumb separate. This maximizes heat retention within the glove and blood circulation in the fingers.

  • They are the warmest design of diving gloves, suitable for very cold water conditions.
  • They have the least manual dexterity and operating dive equipment can be problematic.
Diving mittens for very cold water dives
Diving mittens for very cold water dives

Dry Gloves

Dry gloves are a unique solution employed by drysuit divers seeking maximum warmth and versatility. These gloves stand out as the warmest option available, as they keep your hands completely dry.

  • Most commonly made from flexible polyvinyl chloride (PVC).
  • Are the warmest option because they keep hands dry.
  • Allow thermal inner gloves to be worn.
  • Use specialized ring systems to connect to drysuit wrists, which allows the gloves to be equalized in pressure throughout dives.
Bare Dry Gloves for drysuit divers
Bare Dry Gloves

Webbed Paddle Gloves

Webbed paddle gloves can be a valuable tool for disabled divers and adaptive diving. The gloves can offer increased mobility and ease of movement for divers with limitations in leg mobility.

Darkfin adaptive diving webbed gloves
Darkfin adaptive diving webbed gloves

Dive Glove Materials

Dive gloves are crafted from various materials, each offering unique advantages. Understanding the common materials used can help you make an informed choice:

Fabric Gloves

  • Thickness: Fabric gloves are typically very thin to maximize dexterity.
  • Features: Some fabric gloves feature rubberized latex coatings on the palm and inner fingers for enhanced grip and protection against cuts.
  • Advantages: Fabric gloves offer exceptional freedom of movement and touch sensitivity, making them ideal for divers who require dexterity.

Neoprene Gloves

  • Thickness: Neoprene gloves come in various thicknesses, ranging from 0.5 mm for tropical waters to 7 mm for cold water environments.
  • Benefits: Neoprene gloves provide good thermal insulation and durability.

Supplementary Materials

Higher-end dive gloves may be offered with supplemental materials as inner or outer linings that improves their function:

  • Kevlar: Kevlar fabric may be added to the palm and inner fingers to maximize protection from cuts and penetrations. This can be beneficial for wreck divers.
  • Titanium: Titanium inner linings are a result of NASA research. They are bonded to neoprene and improve warmth by reflecting lost heat back towards the hands.
  • Synthetic Fleece: Fleece-type linings make gloves warmer when they are dry, and some offer slightly more warmth in the water.
  • Latex: Latex rubber is used on some gloves to provide better wrist seals or as an all-over protective coating for heavy-duty diving gloves.
  • Nitrile: Some gloves offer rubber-like nitrile on the outer surface of the palm and inner fingers. This significantly improves grip, especially on slippy metal like boat ladders or boltsnaps. Nitrile also improves resistance to abrasion, cuts, and penetration.
Heavy-duty, kevlar-reinforced, diving gloves
Heavy-duty, kevlar-reinforced, diving gloves

Pro Tip For Warm-Water Divers

You don’t have to buy expensive diving gloves. Many elite-level cave and wreck divers in the tropics favor well-fitting work gloves.

I personally recommend 3M Comfort Grip gloves as the best option when thermal protection isn’t a requirement.

3M Comfort Grip gloves are a great choice for warm water divers
3M Comfort Grip gloves are a great choice for warm water divers

3M Comfort Grip gloves fit like a second skin, have an amazing grip on boat ladders and boltsnaps from the rubber-like nitrile palm coating, and provide a good degree of protection from abrasion, cuts, and penetration.

You can even operate your mobile phone when wearing them!

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Factors When Choosing Diving Gloves

Selecting the right diving gloves requires careful consideration of several critical factors. Exploring these aspects will guide you toward making an informed decision:

1. Thermal Protection / Warmth

Cold hands and fingers not only cause discomfort but can also compromise your ability to handle dive gear effectively. Whether you’re exploring temperate or cold waters, the importance of maintaining warm and supple hands cannot be overstated.

Choosing the Right Glove Thickness

Selecting the appropriate glove thickness is crucial, and it should align with the water temperatures you’ll encounter during your dives. Here’s a guideline to help you make the right choice:

  • Warm Water (Over 25°C): Lightweight fabric or 0.5 mm neoprene gloves are usually sufficient to keep your hands comfortable without sacrificing dexterity.
  • Temperate Water (16-24°C): Gloves with 2-5 mm of neoprene are ideal. They strike a balance between warmth and dexterity.
  • Cold Water (10-18°C): Most divers will opt for 5-7 mm neoprene gloves, or dry gloves if they dive with a drysuit.

Dive Glove Design

Neoprene cold water diving gloves come in 3 primary designs:

  • Conventional 5-fingered style: Warm
  • 3-finger gloves: Warmer
  • Diving mittens: Warmest

Additional Warmth Contributors

Beyond thickness and design, several other factors contribute to the overall warmth of diving gloves. Consider these elements when making your selection:

  1. Fastenings: Look for gloves with Velcro straps around the wrist. These straps help reduce the transfer of water in and out of your gloves, enhancing warmth retention.
  2. Linings: Some gloves come with supplemental thermal linings, such as titanium. These linings provide an extra layer of insulation to keep your hands toasty.
  3. Sealed Seams: Sealed seams reduce water flushing in and out of the glove. This helps maintain a warmer internal temperature.
  4. Wrist Seals: Gloves with wrist seals are more effective in reducing water entering or leaving the glove during your dive.
  5. Seams: Fewer seams in your gloves mean less water flushing. Opt for gloves with minimal seams to maximize warmth retention during your dives.

When it comes to thermal protection, choosing the right combination of factors, from thickness to design and additional features, can make a world of difference in your diving experience. Your comfort and safety in the water depend on it.

2. Dexterity

Your ability to move your hands and fingers freely is not just a matter of comfort; it’s crucial for your safety, operating your gear, and effective hand signal communication with your diving buddy.

Why Manual Dexterity and Tactile Feedback Matter

Manual dexterity empowers you to communicate with hand signals, adjust your mask, operate your BCD inflator and dump valves, manage your dive lights, manipulate cylinder valves, and handle diving equipment with finesse.

Whether you’re jotting down notes on a slate or wetnotes or deploying a DSMB, nimble fingers make your diving easier. Most importantly, manual dexterity contributes to your safety during a dive.

But it’s not just about dexterity; it’s also about tactile feedback. In specialized diving scenarios like cave, wreck, and technical diving, the ability to feel and interpret your surroundings through your gloves is paramount. Whether you’re deciphering markings on line arrows, counting distance knots along a guideline, or securing boltsnaps onto D-rings in technical diving, tactile feedback can be a necessity.

Adapting to New Diving Gloves

When you acquire a new pair of diving gloves, anticipate a learning curve. Your performance might initially suffer due to decreased dexterity and reduced tactile feedback.

The key to overcoming this hurdle is deliberate practice with the new gloves. This practice helps train your muscles and reduces the chances of fumbling during critical underwater tasks. It’s wise to acclimate to your new gloves in a controlled environment before subjecting yourself to potential safety risks on an actual dive.

Diving glove design and thickness versus dexterity

Choosing the right diving gloves is an essential aspect of optimizing your underwater experience. The design and thickness of gloves directly impact your dexterity.

  • Tropical and warm-water gloves: If you’re diving in balmy waters, these gloves offer the highest level of dexterity. Among them, fabric gloves retain more dexterity compared to their thin neoprene counterparts.
  • Cold water gloves: In colder environments, thicker neoprene gloves are the norm. While they provide superior insulation, they do come at the cost of reduced dexterity.
    • Five-finger gloves: These gloves allow your fingers to move independently, providing the utmost dexterity. However, they are less effective at retaining heat.
    • Three-finger mitts: For those seeking a balance between warmth and dexterity, three-finger mitts are a good option. With separate thumb and index fingers, you can still communicate with your diving buddy and make gauge adjustments while keeping your hands relatively warm.

Your choice of diving gloves should align with the specific needs of your dive, aiming for the best possible balance between dexterity and thermal protection.

3. Comfort and Fit

When it comes to dive gloves, comfort and fit are paramount. Regardless of how warm a pair of dive gloves might be, if they don’t fit properly or are uncomfortable, they can become a hindrance rather than an asset during your dive.

The Importance of Properly Fitting Dive Gloves

Your dive gloves should feel like a second skin. They need to be snug, providing an almost seamless extension of your hands.

The fit of the glove shouldn’t impede the dexterity of your hands, reduce circulation at your wrists or in your fingers, or cause discomfort through chafing the webs of your fingers.

Gloves That Are Too Small

  • Gloves that are too small place excessive stress on their seams.
  • This ongoing stress can result in wear and tear over time.
  • When seams fail they permit cold water to penetrate your gloves.
  • This reduces the thermal protection offered by the glove

Gloves That Are Too Big

  • If your gloves are too big, they won’t trap water between the glove and your hand.
  • While this might initially seem advantageous, it’s actually not.
  • Neoprene glove design relies upon body heat warming water that is retained around the hand.
  • Too large diving gloves offer less warmth.

Finding the Perfect Fitting Dive Glove

Just as with any other piece of dive gear, achieving the right fit is critical.

  • Your gloves should conform snugly to your hands without restricting your movement.
  • A good test is to ensure you can fully bend your fingers and maintain a solid grip while wearing them.
  • Remember, what feels slightly off on land can quickly become a significant issue once you’re underwater.

4. Durability

Material durability

Neoprene alone does not offer a high level of abrasion or penetration resistance. Dive glove manufacturers frequently supplement the neoprene with strength-increasing materials, such as Kevlar, latex rubber or nitrile, to the palms and underneath the fingers of their gloves and mitts.

  • By protecting the palm of a dive glove, the lifespan is extended.
  • Rough edges on gear and inadvertent contact with wrecks, rocks and corals, or even just rusty boat ladders, can eventually wear holes in the fingers and palm of your glove.
  • Kevlar or nitrile-reinforced heavy-duty diving gloves are particularly popular with wreck divers and those who hunt underwater for lobsters, crabs, and crustaceans.
Tropical diving gloves that are reinforced for greater durability
Tropical diving gloves that are reinforced for greater durability

Seam durability

Another common failure point on diving gloves is the seams. These often fail first, even when the glove material remains pristine.

  • Look for gloves with well-constructed seams, as this ensures they can withstand wear and tear for a longer time.
  • Seams should be stitched.
  • Reinforced and glued seams tend to be the most durable.

How to Choose the Best Diving Gloves For Your Needs

Selecting the perfect diving gloves depends on your unique diving conditions and preferences. Consulting with professionals at your local dive shop can be invaluable in finding gloves that cater to your specific requirements.

Restrictions on Using Diving Gloves

It’s important to be aware that some dive locations prohibit the use of diving gloves.

These areas may include:

  • The Great Barrier Reef, Cairns, Australia
  • Cozumel, Mexico
  • Bonaire and Grand Cayman, in the Caribbean
  • Tubbataha Reef, The Philippines
  • Some areas of the Red Sea, in Egypt

Marine Park Regulations and Diving Gloves

  • Many marine parks have strict regulations to protect coral reefs and marine ecosystems.
  • Some of these regulations include a complete ban on the use of gloves for both diving and snorkeling, with exceptions for disabled divers.
  • Breaking these regulations may result in a fine or being banned from diving.

Environmental Conservation and Diving Gloves

  • The use of gloves can increase the risk of unintentional damage to fragile underwater environments, such as coral reefs.
  • By banning gloves, dive destinations aim to make divers more aware and less likely to touch and potentially harm marine creatures or their habitats.

It’s essential for divers to respect local regulations and environmental guidelines when diving in various locations. Always check with local authorities or dive operators to ensure you comply with the rules and contribute to the preservation of underwater ecosystems.

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Care and Maintenance of Diving Gloves

Proper maintenance ensures the longevity and functionality of your diving gloves. Follow these essential tips to care for your gear:

  • Washing: After each dive, rinse your gloves in fresh water to remove salt crystals and chemicals. Periodically, use wetsuit cleaner shampoo to eliminate dirt and bacteria, keeping your gloves fresh and clean.
  • Storage: Store your gloves flat on a shelf away from direct sunlight. Avoid placing heavy objects on them to prevent creasing and crushing.

Choose the Best Dive Gloves

Diving gloves are more than just gear; they are your partners in underwater exploration. With this comprehensive guide, you are well-equipped to make the right choice, ensuring that your hands remain protected, warm, and ready for the next dive. Dive safe and enjoy your underwater adventures to the fullest!

Read More of My Ultimate Dive Gear Guides

Andy Davis Technical Sidemount Wreck Diving Subic Bay Philippines RAID Courses Training

About The Author

Andy Davis is a RAID, PADI TecRec, ANDI, BSAC, and SSI-qualified independent technical diving instructor who specializes in teaching sidemount, trimix, and advanced wreck diving courses.

Currently residing in Subic Bay, Philippines; he has amassed more than 10,000 open-circuit and CCR dives over three decades of challenging diving across the globe.

Andy has published numerous diving magazine articles and designed advanced certification courses for several dive training agencies, He regularly tests and reviews new dive gear for scuba equipment manufacturers. Andy is currently writing a series of advanced diving books and creating a range of tech diving clothing and accessories.

Prior to becoming a professional technical diving educator in 2006, Andy was a commissioned officer in the Royal Air Force and has served in Iraq, Afghanistan, Belize, and Cyprus.

In 2023, Andy was named in the “Who’s Who of Sidemount” list by GUE InDepth Magazine.

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