When I was younger, I glamorized the idea of calloused and work-worn hands. I felt like a character out of a Steinbeck novel with every bump, cut, and torn fingernail I absorbed.
I sure wizened up since then.
Okay, not really; I still avoid wearing gloves at every opportunity. I love the feeling of my bare hands at work, but you can bet your bottom dollar that I’ve got a pair of gloves for every situation when they’re needed.
After all, you only get one pair of hands, so you better take care of them.
That’s good common sense, everyday advice, but when you’re in a survival scenario or the SHTF, your hands are probably your most important tools for making it to see another day.
You’d better protect those puppies with the best survival gloves you can get your hands on.
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What Makes a Good Survival Glove?
You’ll find a dozen schools of thought on this question, but I reckon many of the folks providing those opinions have only passing use working with their hands.
I use my hands every day and have sifted through piles of them to find out what makes a glove work.
Here is the list of what I think are the essential features of a pair of survival gloves.
Ease of Use
What good is a pair of gloves if you can’t work in them?
A good pair of gloves is one you can work in for the job at hand. You don’t need thick, cowhide gloves for work that necessitates fine dexterity, and you likewise need something more than nitrile-lined polyester when chopping wood and moving stones.
Every pair of gloves has its intended uses and purposes, so make sure you pick the right ones for the job.
In any survival scenario, you will need a few pairs to rotate through.
It’s an unfortunate truth that you’re going to wear through those gloves.
There’s no way to avoid it, so understand that when you stock up on survival gloves, you need at least a few pairs of each as a backup.
That said, good quality craftsmanship is vital to get the most mileage out of your gear.
I have co-workers who swear by those cheap dollar store gloves. “Oh, it’s great,” they’ll espouse, “I can just whip out a new pair whenever I need it!”
Sure, that sounds like a consumerists idealized fantasy, but what if you can’t visit the corner store to replace your gloves?
Ease of use and durability? Got it!
But let’s not forget the primary purpose of gloves; to protect your fingers and hands.
Sometimes that protection could be from splinters and cuts (nobody wants to use up valuable antibiotics and antiseptics because you cut your hands splitting wood), but other times protection can apply to combat-type scenarios.
I go camping regularly with a few friends, and one of them insists on using this ultra-lightweight hatchet for chopping wood. It’s a nice, sharp, lightweight tool… but its total lack of a handle means that your hands get chewed apart every time you use it.
A good pair of gloves eliminates the danger and hazard of manual work.
Also, good gloves protect your hands from dangers in a combat scenario.
I spent a good portion of my rough-and-tumble years kickboxing. There’s a reason fighters wear gloves! Knuckles are particularly susceptible to splitting, cuts, and breaks.
That extra padding goes a tremendously long way when protecting your hands.
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If you’re wearing gloves, you’re probably handling something heavy, rough, and unpleasant to your bare hands. Protection is important, but grip is too.
Some will offer a nitrile-dipped palm that aids in gripping ability, and others provide specially molded and designed fingerpads that double your gripping ability.
Some gloves even have magnets built into the fingertips to help you pick up dropped nails and screws.
Each pair of gloves offers a different type of grip, so seriously, you need to buy at least two types of gloves to make it through a survival situation.
I have to pull thousands of weeds in gardens each week by hand, and I couldn’t do it without a good pair of gloves (you’ll see my recommended pair for this type of work below!)
I’ve crammed these bits into one segment because they’re such small and minor features to consider.
While a nice feature in mundane circumstances, you’ll likely have little need for using a touchscreen if the SHTF. Consider this a bonus feature and not the main selling point.
Great feature in the right scenario.
I wear nitrile gloves regularly at my day job, and they very quickly act as the impermeable material that they are as my hands become saturated in sweat after extended use. Waterproof gloves provide the same clammy feel over extended periods of use.
While useful in some scenarios (handling fish or reaching into water, for example), waterproof gloves are not necessary for your bugout bag.
Insulated? Likewise, the ability of your gloves to keep your hands warm is a situational function. For cold-weather environments, sure, but the more you work, the less you’ll need that extra layer of insulation.
Again, choose the right glove for the job.
Survival Glove Roundup
Alright, folks, here we go! Every pair of gloves on this list is something that I’ve used, or is a pair of gloves a close and trusted friend has used.
You’ll also notice that every other freakin’ website out there offers you tactical-style gloves as if you’ll be whipping around assault rifles and battling rioters in melee action.
Our approach is to suggest gloves designed for work and a realistic scenario, not some imagined half-fantasy.
#1 Atlas Nitrile Tough Work Gloves
Without hesitation, this is my number one glove to recommend.
I use these babies daily. They’re incredibly durable for their price, afford awesome articulation for fine-dexterity actions like weeding and handling drill bits, and take the edge off of a cold day.
Nothing will beat these bad boys when it comes to a general-use glove.
Buy yourself a few pairs for work around the house, but don’t forget to stash a few in your bugout bag as a just-in-case; there is no better all-purpose survival glove to include in your gear.
I’ve used a single pair daily for months at a time and have only run into trouble when I accidentally burnt a hole through the material while feeding a fire.
#2 Leather Work Gloves
When you need a pair of gloves that will handle the labor-intensive acts of chopping firewood, sorting through debris, and handling tools like shovels and mattocks, you’ll want a simple pair of leather work gloves.
They’re freakin’ durable, provide ample protection from abuse, and provide enough dexterity and ease-of-use that they should fit into your bugout bag with aplomb.
These gloves can take some time to wear in and make comfortable, but once they’re there, there’s nothing else you’d want on your hands for labor-intensive projects.
#3 Mechanix Wear Tactical Gloves
It’s hard to beat this pair of gloves as your go-to choice for an all-around survival glove. They provide plenty of dexterity and offer ample protection from typical abuse, and the sweet camo color fits in fine with most other SHTF gear.
I’ve tried Mechanix-brand gloves for a few years and have found they fade far too quickly for their price tag. Typically I find these gloves fade out in the section between thumb and forefinger.
But for sheer comfort and agility, they’re hard to beat.
Pick up a pair and give them a shot while doing yard work, and you’ll understand how they perform in more stressful situations.
#4 ILM Steel Knuckle Gloves
Definitely, a narrow niche to fill, these gloves are designed as aggressive-looking motorcycle safety gloves.
However, all of their safety features are geared perfectly towards hand-to-hand combat. As mentioned previously, this could be necessary.
A pair of gloves like these are ideal for providing ample protection to your knuckles from cuts and breaks while serving the bonus purpose of protection from asphalt.
My experience with these gloves is limited to the endorsement of a close friend who rides regularly.
He gives them two thumbs up; considering the amount of time he spends on the street and the fact that he still has two thumbs, it’s a good endorsement.
#5 Dowellife Cut Resistant Gloves
When I was younger, I worked in many restaurants and peeled thousands of potatoes.
Besides a few core rules I’ve absorbed since then, the only definite I took with me was using XSHIELD Cut Resistant Gloves.
Working with sharp knives and slicers demands a glove with fine dexterity that provides ample durability and protection.
You’re not going to find a better solution than these gloves. They’re a perfect addition to your kitchen and also your bugout bag.
#6 RefrigiWear Insulate Fleece Lined Gloves
Sometimes you need some warmth and some protection, and these RefrigiWear gloves provide both.
A close friend and coworker of mine stumbled on these gloves about three years ago and swears on them.
They’re a solid choice for any cold-weather work requiring manual dexterity.
Many “imposter” gloves in this category offer increased dexterity at the cost of protection and warmth. What good is a glove if it doesn’t meet our first rule of importance, Ease of Use?!
#7 RefrigiWear Fleece Lined Mitt Glove
And sometimes manual dexterity is a worthless trait to have. You need pure protection from the cold, with no frills or bonus uses.
If you’re in that kind of scenario, this mitten provided by RefrigiWear is your go-to choice.
I’ve had a pair of these in my car for years while driving in the winter. They’re also excellent for handling firewood and other uses requiring minimal dexterity.
Toss them on for anything when you need warm hands but could spare multi-finger dexterity.
My favorite aspect of survival gloves is that there is no best glove; instead, there are best gloves.
You’ll need at least two pairs of gloves to get through most tasks in a SHTF scenario (our first two options topping the list are your go-to pairs) and back-ups to replace them when they wear out.
Give these suckers a test run at your home, and you’ll find the right pair for what you need.