Three Things to Look for in Leather Work Gloves

A quick guide to the materials, design, and liner options to make finding the perfect pair of leather work gloves easy.

man stoking fire
A good pair of leather work gloves will last a long time even if you use them hard.Marco Bianchetti via Unsplash

Whether you’re chopping wood, riding horseback into camp, or grabbing a hot pot of coffee off the fire, a good pair of leather work gloves should be standard gear in any outdoorsman’s pack. Before you spend your money on just any old pair of leather gloves, however, think about what you’re going to use the gloves for, then match that use to the leather type and cut that best suits your needs. Here’s how to narrow the options to choose the leather gloves that will work best for you.

Leather Options

white cow leather gloves
These cowhide gloves feature a Gunn-cut design, so they’re very comfortable and very well priced.Amazon

Work gloves can be found in four different hide choices. Each has its benefits depending on whether you’re looking for gloves that grip well when using tools or whether you want a more supple leather that provides better dexterity for loading guns, tying down paniers, and the like.

Cowhide: Is the most popular leather glove material and for good reason. It's tough and abrasion resistant, warmer than pigskin or goatskin, and it's more heat resistant for plucking a Dutch oven out of the fire.

Pigskin: Is porous so it's the most breathable. Pigskin also doesn't get stiff when it gets wet the way cowhide does and it can be laundered without losing its shape.

Deerskin: Is the most comfortable to wear because it's soft. It's more flexible than cowhide and is the warmest of all the leather types—a major consideration if you know you're going to be using your gloves in the field when the temps drop.

Goatskin: The old saying about handling something delicate "with kid gloves" couldn't be truer. Goatskin gloves are the supplest due to natural lanolin in the hide—excellent if you need fine dexterity to load a magazine or knock an arrow. Natural lanolin also makes goatskin the most waterproof of all the leather types. Goatskin is the strongest and most durable of all the leathers.

Pick Your Pattern

yellow leather working gloves
These cowhide gloves offer a reinforced leather palm patch for added grip and durability. Drawstring cuffs allow you to adjust the fit while helping to keep debris out.Amazon

Leather gloves are cut in two different pattern styles. Which you choose depends on what you're going for in a glove.

Gunn Cut: If you're going for comfort and know you'll be handling tools, Gunn-cut gloves are the way to go. This design features a single-piece, seamless back that places the fine seams away from the working area of the palm. Middle fingers are each sewn into the palm separately, so they're less bulky. Bottomline on Gunn cuts is that they provide excellent natural gripping action and are designed to minimize stress on the materials so they're built to last.

Clute Cut: If you're looking for a roomier fit at a great price, Clute-cut gloves are a good option. This design features a one-piece palm. There are no seams at the base of the fingers and the thumbs are straight. Fewer seams means there is less labor involved in making them, so Clute-cut gloves are generally less expensive.

Regardless of which design you choose, pay attention to the cuffs. Slip-ons end just at the wrist. They’re easy to get on and off, and are usually the least expensive, but they won’t protect you above the wrist. Safety gloves offer cuffs that extend a few inches above the wrist. Added cuff length makes them warmer and will help keep debris out. Gauntlets have the longest cuffs and are great if you’re working around fires and want more forearm protection.

Linings

Yellow rancher gloves
These classic work gloves offer the best of leather options—deerskin for comfort and split cowhide reinforcing for durability. Double-sewn seams add strength while extended cuffs provide great protection.Amazon

Liner materials break down into three groups; each offers a different level of warmth.

Cotton and jersey—will prevent chafing, but they do not breath and will offer no warmth.

Wool and pile—these fabrics breath so they are naturally warmer than cotton or jersey. These linings are also more durable.

Thermal—definitely go this route if you're planning on chopping wood or sitting on a deer stand in cold weather and want to ensure that you're hands have max. warmth.