If you are a warm-water diver, gloves may not be at the top of your gear list. If you are a cold-water lover, then gloves are probably close to the top of your dive gear list. The four key factors to dive gloves are: (1) do they keep your hands warm, (2) are they comfortable, (3) do the gloves offer you the necessary level of dexterity, (4) are the gloves durable for your style of diving?
One important point to keep in mind is the vast majority of dive gloves do not keep your hands dry; they trap the water that enters the gloves and trap your body heat, which warms the water within the gloves. Don't be surprised when you exit the water and a flood of water follows your hands as they free them- selves from your gloves.
The majority of modern dive gloves are made out of neoprene. Neoprene is measured in millimeters; the greater the thickness, the greater the millimeter amount. For example, 5mm gloves are not as thick (thus, as warm) as 7mm gloves. If you are a warm-water diver who wants to have a little protection from the elements, a 2.5mm glove is probably plenty for your needs.
Another factor to keep in mind is five-fingered gloves will not keep you as warm as 3-fingered mitts, which will not keep you as warm as mitts (which have a thumb sleeve and a single sleeve for all of your fingers). The more skin-to-skin contact you have, the more warmth you'll experience. Because 5-finger gloves do not allow skin-to-skin contact between your fingers, they are slightly less effective at keeping your hands warm than are 3-finger mitts and standard mitts.
Additional warmth contributors include if the gloves offer a Velcro® strap around the wrist to reduce the water transfer in and out of your gloves, if the gloves include a supplemental material (for example, titanium), and the number of seams. The fewer the seams, the less likely you'll encounter a leak. Some gloves offer strapless fits that keep you warm, but they are more of a struggle to put on - especially the second one because of the dexterity lost due to having one gloved hand.
Regardless of how warm dive gloves are, if they are uncomfortable, they will do nothing but be a hindrance while you're at depth. If something doesn't feel quite right when you're on land, it will feel very wrong when you're underwater and stuck with the glove throughout the dive.
If your gloves are too small, the seams will experience increased stress. Eventually, the seams may wear out, which means they'll allow cold water into your gloves. Because the stressed seams cannot stop the transfer of water, your hands will feel colder as your dive progresses.
If your gloves are too big, water will not get trapped between your glove and your hand. If it is not trapped, your body heat cannot warm it. Therefore, you'll be facing cold hands throughout your dive.
Divers rely on a great deal of gear while underwater. They must adjust the air levels in their BCDs, clear water from their masks, manipulate their gauges, and adjust various straps should they loosen during the dive. Dexterity also plays a part in how well dive buddies can communicate with each other while at depth. Because they allow your fingers to move independently, five-finger gloves offer the greatest amount of dexterity. They allow you to incorporate the independent movements of your fingers into the task at hand. They also offer the greatest ease when writing on your underwater slate.
The next level of dexterity is offered by three-finger mitts. Three-finger mitts offer a strong balance between warmth and dexterity. The freedom offered to the index finger and thumb allow for fairly simple gear adjustment and manipulation, as well as the ability to write with your slate's pencil. Three-finger gloves also make simple hand signaling between, such as the "OK" sign.
Mitts offer the least amount of dexterity, which can inhibit some manipulation of your gear, as well as your ability to use some underwater signs that dive buddies use to communicate with each other. Your hands will definitely be warm in the mitts, but they inhibit your ability to write and signal with ease.
By protecting the palm-side of a dive glove, the life of the glove is greatly extended. Rough edges on gear and inadvertent contact with wrecks and underwater hazards can wear holes in the fingers and palm of your glove.
In addition to adding to the durability factor of gloves, non-neoprene materials on the palm-side of dive gloves increases your dexterity. These materials make your gloves slip-resistant, which is welcomed by anyone who has tried to hold a slick pencil while underwater.
Sprinkling a little talcum powder into your dive gloves prior to putting your hands into them makes the donning process a bit easier.
Because neoprene is very porous, it can also absorb and trap smells. Keep your wetsuit smelling fresh by bathing it with neoprene shampoo. Simply rinsing your suit with fresh water will reduce the amount of residue but won't remove odors.
The last thing you want to do is find out on the beach or dive boat that something is wrong with your gear, and not have a way to fix the problem. By carrying a save-a-dive kit, you can still safely enjoy your dive or snorkeling adventure just like you planned.