Leather has been used for making gloves for thousands of years. It is commonly used for sporting events and as protection for occupational hazards because of how tough and durable this material is.
Leather gloves are warmer than other gloves and may be the most cost-effective material for ski gloves. However, they are not created equal, which is why we’ve compiled everything you need to know when deciding whether or not to use leather gloves for skiing.
Which ski gloves are the warmest?
The warmest ski gloves are made of a combination of quality insulation, waterproof shell, proper fit, and technical features. For instance, the warmest ski glove can be made of Thinsulate synthetic insulation, a Gore-Tex membrane, leather reinforcements on the palm and fingers, and other features like handwarmer pockets, leashes, cuff adjustments, etc.
Now, let’s find out more about leather ski gloves…
Aside from wearing a quality pair of ski gloves, there are other additional ways for you to keep your hands warm as you enjoy a day in the snow. We shared in this article our tips and tricks on how to keep your hands warm while skiing.
Types of Leather
Deerskin usually has a shiny yellow color. It is the softest and most dexterous type of leather due to how thin it is. But despite its thinness, it provides toughness.
Deerskin is usually used for riding gloves, but it does a good job at withstanding all types of weather and riding conditions.
It provides a good combination of comfort, durability, and protection, not to mention it is more form-fitting in nature and can help keep out cold air and moisture to keep your hands warm and dry.
Goatskin is a tougher type of leather. However, it is less soft and dexterous than deerskin. It is also regarded as the strongest and most durable type due to the natural lanolin in it that makes the material supple, waterproof, and abrasion-resistant.
Goatskin can also provide a very good stretch. It is also known for its durability and protective quality while still being soft enough to allow for great flexibility.
Pigskin is a fairly tough leather but is rigid and thin. It is commonly used for inexpensive gloves and can provide great durability as it can withstand tumultuous and consistent abrasion.
Pigskin is sufficiently tough but can provide good protection from the elements, especially when placed at the palms.
Cowhide may be the most popular and toughest type of leather. However, it sacrifices a bit of softness and dexterity.
It is easy to maintain and has a great value for comfort, durability, appearance, and texture. Although, you do have to look out for its quality as cowhide comes in a wide range of qualities, from the toughest to softest, to the less-than-ideal.
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How is leather made?
Leather is made by using a process known as tanning. This process changes the protein structure of the skin to make it more durable and less prone to decomposition.
Here’s a more in-depth look at the process of tanning…
Historically, tanning is seen as a very dirty and toxic task assigned to the poor areas in the suburbs. Even to this day, leather tanning using old methods produces a foul smell, that is why tanneries are isolated in far locations away from populated areas.
The old method includes soaking the skin in water to clean and soften it before it can be scoured to remove the last bits of flesh and fat. Removal of the hair is then done by soaking the skin again, but this time in an alkaline lime mixture, urine, or salt solution after months of decaying or putrefying.
After scraping the skin off using a knife, the skin will be made suppler by pounding dog or bird excrement into it and submerging it in large vats of water and animal excrement.
Children were commonly tasked to collect animal excrements in large quantities, while urine is collected from pots placed on the street corners.
Although, excrement and urine are not always used because of the alum, tannin, oils, and other tanning agents they contain.
As the skin is stretched, it loses moisture and absorbs the tanning agent. The tanner will then knead the skin with his bare feet as the last softening process.
The most common technique used today includes preparing the skin and sterilizing it with salt. It is then brine-cured in saltwater, also known as “wet-salting,” for more than 30 days.
The skin is then soaked in clean water to bring back an optimum moisture level and to remove the salt before treating it with chemicals.
The next step consists of treating it with milk of lime. Liming agents include sodium hydroxide, arsenic sulpfde, sodium sulfide, sodium hydrosulfite, dimethylamine, sodium sulfhydrate, and calcium hydrosulfide. Sharpening agents including cyanides, amines, and sulfide are also sometimes used. This process will remove hair, grease, and fats, break up skin fibers, and bring the collagen up to more ideal conditions.
Most hairs are removed using a machine, while the remaining hair are removed manually using a knife.
Depending on the purpose of the leather, the skin can be treated with enzymes to soften it. But before this, the pH of the collagen will decrease for the enzymes to work. Once done, it will be treated with a mix of sulphuric acid and salt to bring down the pH level of collagen for the mineral tanning agents to be absorbed well.
Tanning can also be done by using vegetables or tanning that naturally occurs in tree barks of chestnut, hemlock, oak, mangrove, myrobalan, wattle, or quebracho.
The skin is then stretched on frames and soaked in liquid vats of increasing concentrations of these tannins for several weeks.
Vegetable tanning usually is the process used for leather luggage, high-end craft leather, and furniture.
This process includes the use of chromium sulfate as a tanning agent. Once the desired level of chrome absorption is achieved, the pH level of the skin is raised again to help the tanning process.
The raw unfinished state of chrome-tanned skin looks blue, which is why it is referred to as “wet blue.”
Depending on the desired finish product, the leather can be waxed, rolled to get suede or nubuck leather, lubricated with fatliquors for ski gloves, injected with oil, shaved, split, or colored with different dyes.
Leather Ski Gloves
During the tanning process, ski gloves are often finished with fatliquors to create a soft, water-repellent exterior.
Keep in mind that there is no truly waterproof ski glove material other than rubber or plastic. Leather needs to be treated to stay durable and preserve its ability to repel water.
Fatliquors are surface-active softening agent liquids used as the last step for the wet processing stage in manufacturing leather.
Leather Surface Treatment
The treatment for leather surfaces during in-production and after-purchase is important because it determines the leather’s texture and its ability to repel water.
In other words, the key to making leather ski gloves water-repellent is to treat the leather regularly or as needed.
Totally waterproof leather is very rigid and lacks breathability, which makes it a poor choice of material for ski gloves. On the other hand, very soft and dexterous leather will have little to no water-repellency, making it a poor choice as well.
Therefore, a good balance of in-production and after-market treatment is crucial for the leather to be able to repel water.
Leather Weight & Thickness
You also need to choose a leather ski glove with the right weight and thickness.
A leather ski glove that is too thick can be less dexterous, while a leather ski glove that is too thin will be less durable. So, the key is to find a material that went through a tanning and treatment process, creating a fairly thick and tough yet soft material.
Most leather ski gloves are light in color but may show wear much more than boldly-colored leather. On the other hand, boldly-colored leather looks fashionable, although most of these are used with pore-clogging dyes, which makes them less breathable. Therefore, you should also look for a good balance of color and breathability.
Leather reinforcements or patches in critical areas of a ski glove are also essential. These reinforcements will protect areas from regular abuse. These areas are usually the inside seams, center of the thumb, palm, and bridge between the thumb and index finger.
Leather can be good at keeping warmth in is due to its natural heat-absorption properties. However, to use leather in freezing temperatures, the leather should be combined with a good insulator.
Cotton may be warm but it is not a good material to use as an insulator for ski gloves because when it gets wet, it gets heavy, stays wet, and, as a result, keeps your hands cold.
Wool is a decent insulator, although it is a bit heavy and significantly less breathable than modern synthetic materials. To provide optimum warmth, a huge amount should be used. Wool insulation stays warm even when wet but dries rather slowly.
This type of insulation is excellent when dry and warmer than synthetic material per ounce of weight. However, its loftiness is often too warm. This insulator also lacks breathability and is less dexterous than modern synthetics. Overall, it is a good choice for warmth and when you need less dexterity.
This is a good choice when you require less dexterity. Although not as warm as down by weight, those are more water-resistant and breathable, not to mention they stay warm even when wet. Like goose down feathers, they can often be too warm and lack breathability and dexterity.
Thin synthetic insulation (Thinsulate, Breathefil, Thermolite)
These are the best all-around insulators for most conditions. This type of insulation can be used for daily winter tasks, skiing, and snowboarding. They are a less lofty insulation, which means you are not sacrificing dexterity for warmth.
Are Thinsulate gloves good for skiing?
Thinsulate insulation is good for skiing as it can keep your hands warm in most winter weather conditions. Although it is lightweight and thinner than other insulators, it will not hinder grip and dexterity, which are important for skiing and engaging in other cold-weather activities.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you break in leather ski gloves?
To break in leather ski gloves, you should keep using them to let them pack down to a more ideal fit. Wear them on the slopes in both dry and wet conditions until they start molding to your hands.
Are leather ski gloves better?
Leather ski gloves are better because they can be waterproofed, do not freeze or stiffen up, and, when broken in nicely, can provide good dexterity. They are also tough and durable, so you can expect them to last many years, provided that they are well taken care of.
Leather gloves are warmer for most conditions because, as stated above, they can be treated with waterproofing agents that will keep your hands dry and, therefore, warmer. Aside from this, leather is also very durable and extremely comfortable when broken in. Most leather ski gloves are cheaper than synthetic ones and can last a long time when well-treated.