It seems a good time of year to look at gloves, given a good pair can make the difference between comfort and misery during winter. My review will be limited to the makes that I usually wear but they’re all available in garden centres and none are very expensive.
1 – Showa 340 Optigrip. My favourite lightweight grippy gloves, they’re a bit more expensive than the cheap imitations you can find but they fit snugly and come in a range of sizes that includes my size (generally described as ‘tiny’). Given the amount of punishment I put gloves through it’s no surprise that they don’t last a huge amount of time and the grippy stuff wears off. But they’re the only gloves I’ve found with the fit needed for delicate jobs like weeding seedlings, or pricking out and so I wear them a lot and not just for the delicate jobs, the grip makes them good for jobs where I’m using tools, like raking or sweeping too. Just a warning – they aren’t thorn-proof, or even prickle-proof, and even a nettle will get through on the back of the hand. As for waterproofness … a bit, at least until the first breaks in the rubbery coating.
2 – Rigger style gloves. These gloves are cheap cheap cheap. If I recall correctly these ones were £2.99 and they came with a pair of orange glove liners. They are what I use for anything significantly thorny or for hauling wood around. There are many more beautiful thornproof leather gloves on the market but I don’t find they last much longer and tend to go stiff after they get soaked. If you’re going to ruin one pair of gloves roughly every two months, it might as well be a cheap pair. They’re quite good at resisting thorns (until they get a hole!) but aren’t at all waterproof. I find them (and all thick leather gloves) rather stiff and awkward so only wear them when nothing else will serve.
3 – Town & Country Master Gardener gloves. These are the gloves I go to for any job that’s a bit tough (or prickly) for the Showas but when I don’t want to wear those akwardly stiff riggers. They don’t fit me as well as the Showa but if you have more average sized hands you might find these more generally useful (and cheaper). They withstand prickles and smaller thorns and I even attack brambles with them when I need a bit of danger in my life (well, not so much ‘attack’ as ‘carefully place my hands on less thorny bits’). The rubbery coating makes them somewhat waterproof and mudproof, a touch more than the showas.
But you know what? In the depths of winter when its bloody cold and I’m not dealing with anything too thorny I generally reach for these:
They’re the extra thick rubber gloves the cleaning team at the Towers pull out for the nasty jobs. I often wear them with a pair of those ultra-stretchy ‘magic’ gloves underneath and the fact my hands stay dry and therefore warm and that the gloves withstand prickles (though not thorns) makes the combination pretty good for winter use. If only they were available in a smaller size…