Serious mountaineers, polar explorers and other adventurers who routinely face extreme cold follow a hard-and-fast rule: Always bring extra gloves, because losing the use of your hands creates a life-threatening situation.

You might never encounter such danger, but whatever your outdoor activities, the choice of handwear matters a lot.

GLOVES OR MITTENS BUYING TIPS

Gloves offer much better dexterity, while mittens keep your hands and fingers warmer by enclosing them in the same space rather than separating them.

• For moderate-exertion winter activities in which dexterity isn’t critical, like skiing, choose mittens for very cold temperatures or gloves for moderately cold temps.

• For temps from the 20s to 40s and high-exertion activities like mountain biking, running and cross-country skiing, where bulky gloves are too warm or not practical, choose lighter, low-bulk gloves. They also offer better dexterity than heavier, warmer gloves.

5 RECOMMENDED GLOVES AND MITTENS FOR WINTER ACTIVITIES

Need a functional, basic, inexpensive pair of gloves? Look no further than the COLUMBIA FAST TREK GLOVE ($20, columbia.com). Made of 100% polyester microfleece with elastic cuffs and a grippy palm, these won’t be warm enough for downhill skiing (though fine for cross-country) or temps far below freezing, but they will serve purposes as diverse as playing outside, shoveling snow and camping in chilly weather. They come in a few colors and sizes. 1.8 oz.

For activities from skiing to camping to playing outdoors, the OUTDOOR RESEARCH ADRENALINE GLOVE ($40, outdoorresearch.com) keeps hands warm and dry. Besides having plenty of synthetic insulation, these kid-sized gloves come packed with features found in pricier adult models, like a waterproof, breathable insert; a ladder-lock wrist cinch; a single-hand gauntlet closure and a grippy palm. 4.4 oz.

You might not find better quality or warmth per dollar than the BLACK DIAMOND RECON MITTS ($89.95, blackdiamondequipment.com). When it’s really cold — even below zero — these mitts will keep your digits toasty and dry, thanks to PrimaLoft Gold insulation on the back and front, a waterproof-breathable insert and Pertex Shield gauntlet cuff, plus goat leather palms for grip and durability. 7 oz.

It’s hard to find a better deal than the GORDINI GTX STORM TROOPER gloves or mittens (each $69.99, gordini.com). Both are stuffed with Megaloft synthetic insulation and feature a Gore-Tex waterproof membrane, stretch-woven shell fabric for breathability, gauntlet cuffs and goatskin leather. Coolest feature: zippered pockets on the backs of the hands for inserting heat packs. 9 oz.

Few gloves have the quality and versatility of the SMARTWOOL RIDGEWAY GLOVE ($90, smartwool.com). With water-resistant goat leather almost everywhere, a double layer of leather reinforcing the thumb and forefinger, and a soft Merino wool and nylon lining, the Ridgeway is a warm, highly durable, low-bulk, all-around glove you can wear for everything. The unisex sizing runs slightly small. 5 oz.

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