If you are getting down with your garden, you need a pair of gloves. They’re a must-have piece of kit alongside safety goggles, but it’s no understatement to say that there is an overwhelming range of gloves to choose from.
The best gardening gloves are ones that provide you with comfort and protection when doing the assorted jobs in your garden. From tough leather to flexible nitrine materials, and from bionic orthopedic to elbow-length gauntlets, you have a huge choice, but by understanding your gardening needs, you can find a pair that will fit your needs as well as they fit your hands.
It is advisable to try on gloves before you buy, so a well planned visit to a trusted garden centre is a good idea, but it pays to understand the various factors that will determine your best gardening gloves. These are:
As with any tool, before you buy, you want to think about the tasks you’ll be completing and what the threats may be. Obvious examples in the hedge trimming context include:
- Thorns, spikes and other natural defences – how much protection will you need against prickly plants?
- Blades – if you’re using shears, hedge trimmers or chainsaws, will you be safe from cutting catastrophes?
- Comfort – if you’re spending a long time pruning, do you want gloves that you have to remove often because they make you sweaty?
- Feeling – will you want to feel the plants you’re pruning or does a deft touch not matter so much?
These days it’s a material minefield and there is no shortage of different designs and textile types for you to consider. Sit comfortably as we look at the most common ones:
Bamboo ticks a lot of boxes as a workwear material – it’s sustainable, flexible, naturally hypoallergenic and breathable. While it’s not as tough as some other options, it may be a smart choice if your cutting chores aren’t too heavyweight and you want some all-purpose gloves that will help the planet, and not just your garden.
Lightweight and breathable, cotton remains a stalwart in the realm of glove materials. It has significant shortcoming from a defensive standpoint, but if you want some reusable gloves to keep your hands clean while attending to simple chores, then cotton can be a comfortable choice.
Latex gives you waterproofing with flexibility and feeling, and if you’ve ever used marigolds for your washing up, you’ll understand the benefits. The garden variety of latex glove tends to be thicker than its kitchen counterparts and they have an amount of stretch, creating a close fit that prevents errant stones and debris from getting inside the glove and wreaking havoc on your hands.
Arguably the most old school material for gloves, leather is strong, durable and probably the best choice if you have thorny issues to attend to. Goatskin, pigskin and cowhide are the main options and they present a spectrum of toughness and flexibility; cowhide will last years, but is prone to stiffness, whereas goatskin is supple while still resilient. Pigskin is a midway point between the two not only from a durability standpoint but also from a price point.
There are also synthetic leather alternatives, which are a cheaper solution while still providing a good level of reinforcement.
If you’ve seen gloves coated in a flexible waterproof rubber, chances are it’s nitrile, a synthetic rubber material that offers a good alternative for people with latex allergies. As well as being used to coat areas of cotton gloves, it is a popular material for single-use gloves and for many folk who work hard with their hands, boxes of these disposable darlings are a must-have item.
Clearly not all gardening gloves are mono-material and you’ll find that many of them take the best elements of several materials to create great gloves that tick a lot of boxes. This means that in many ways, anything goes, and so the choice about what gloves to choose relies less on the materials and more on the purpose. There may be a glove for every occasion, but unless you’re a die-hard garden gearhead, you should find that one or two pairs to cover the spectrum of tasks will suffice.
Much like a good fitting pair of shoes, you want your gloves to fit right, and much like shoes, you will find that different brands of gloves fit in different ways. Some manufacturers simply have Men’s and Women’s gloves, which presumes there are only two hand sizes for the whole of humanity, whereas other take the time to offer some variety. This is definitely an area that benefits from some hands on, or rather, “hands in” experience.
The other dimensions to consider are length and diameter. Do you want longer gloves that provide more protection when you are elbow-deep in your roses, and do you need close fitting gloves that stop seeds, bug and other detritus from falling inside your gloves?
It is unlikely that one size will fit all, let alone protect you against all the trimming trials you’ll undergo, but the consideration of these size issues should be the third factor, alongside Purpose and Materials, that gives you the best steer towards the best gardening gloves for you.
A good pair of gardening gloves will protect you from the majority of hazardous hand-based horrors but there are a few additional options available to truly sensitive souls. Hypoallergenic materials such as bamboo and natural latex can help avoid nasty reactions, and if you suffer from joint pain, recent innovations in orthopedic glove design can prolong your painfree pruning periods.
The committed gardener will usually put function before fashion when choosing safety items, but there are some nice areas of overlap where you can look good while you get to grips with your garden.
Colours come and go and tastes change, but a helpful hint is that it’s useful to easily see your gloves when you’ve put them down in your garden, so a bit of high contrast in your high fashion may be a smart move to save time searching.
This line is often the clincher and as with most of the tool topics on this site, we offer the same warnings about false economies. You can spend anything from £3 to £70 for a pair, and while it’s tempting to buy the cheapest choice with the best rating in that price bracket, if you want a pair with several seasons of staying power, then splashing some semi-serious cash is a sustainable solution.
So, What Are The Best Gardening Gloves?
As I said at the start, there’s no single answer to this question, not least because your needs will be as varied as your horticulture. The smart choice seems to be choosing a medium weight pair of gloves that can handle most jobs and provide some protection against thorns and water, while keeping a pair of leather-type gloves for those tough jobs that happen once or twice a year.
It might be tempting to go for a box of disposable gloves, for the convenience, however as a gardener you are protecting the planet, so a sustainable slant should be applied to this kind of decision making.
Whatever gloves you choose, it’s important to treat them well and be mindful to clean them as best you can, so that they remain fit for purpose. Given the nature of the work involved (pun intended) your gloves might be the most important purchase you make; taking the time to get the right pair that fit you well and are designed to empower your efforts is the right route to choosing these constant companions.