Let us start by saying that the use of gloves in climbing is controversial to say the least. Most long-time climbers argue fervently against hand coverings. In a popular reddit thread on the subject matter, one user remarked, “Wearing gloves is like going to a tea party and saying, ‘I’d rather drink coffee because there’s more caffeine.’”
The argument is that gloves are an unnatural addition to climbing, where hand dexterity and grip are key to completing the task. Putting a layer of material between your hand and whatever surface you’re climbing is a risk. That material could slip or rip. For decades, skin and chalk have been enough to ensure climbers reach their peaks. So why change things now?
Still, in the past few years, climbing gloves have grown in popularity. There are many reasons for this, and we’ll explore both the benefits and disadvantages of climbing gloves below.
Benefits of Climbing Gloves
Because this is an article about the best climbing gloves you can buy, let’s start with the benefits of climbing gloves. As stated above, gloves have been growing in popularity and many of the biggest brands in climbing now produce both full finger and half finger gloves designed specifically for scaling rock faces.
This market growth can be attributed to the massive benefits of wearing gloves while climbing. These include:
- Grip – While traditional climbers claim that gloves hinder grip by putting material between your skin and the rocks, the best climbing gloves can actually help your grip on certain rock types. For example, on smoother rock surfaces, gloves with a rubber palm can actually help you grab and hold on.
- Protection – Climbing is hard on your hands, especially if you’re just starting out. Until your hands build up calluses, long climbing sessions can be painful. Add to that the sharpness of some rocks, and you can end up with bruised, scraped or cut palms if you aren’t careful. Gloves add an extra layer between your skin and the rocks. Just be aware that if you are a beginner, you may want to forgo your gloves occasionally so you do start to build a thicker layer of skin.
- Warmth – If you’re climbing in a cooler environment, gloves can provide an extra bit of warmth, helping your climbing sessions to last longer.
- Handling Gear – Many people prefer to wear gloves when belaying or rappelling, as they prevent rope burn. You can easily slip these gloves off and clip them to your harness when it’s your turn to climb.
Disadvantages of Climbing Gloves
As we’ve previously noted, climbing gloves are not universally thought of as beneficial. Traditionally, climbers do not wear gloves, except under certain circumstances, like cold weather or easy climbs. Here are some of the reasons many people choose not to invest in climbing gloves:
- Sensitivity – The sensation of touch is vital to rock climbing. Climbers rely on their fingers to decide if a handhold is secure. With gloves on, this process becomes more difficult.
- Grip – Yes, in certain situations, gloves can help your grip, but in most situations having gloves that aren’t skin tight means the material can slip, making it harder to hold on to the rocks.
- Dexterity – Even with purpose-built gloves on, your hands and fingers will lose a certain amount of dexterity. And as we’ve already said, dexterity is key to successful climbing.
- Risk – Rock climbing is a risky sport, and any new equipment you add to your setup increases risk. That’s because every piece of gear you take climbing is at risk of failure. Limiting the amount of gear, means limiting the risk of gear malfunction.
What to Look for in a Pair of Climbing Gloves
If you’ve read the above and have decided that you would like to buy a pair of climbing gloves, you’ll need to look for a few different features in your potential purchase.
First, decide whether you want to buy full-finger or half-finger gloves. The former are more useful for rappelling, belaying and hand jamming (crack climbing), while half-finger gloves are designed for climbing thanks to the fact that your fingers are still exposed.
Next, pick a pair that will tightly fit your hands. You don’t want anything that will slip during use.
Finally, choose the amount of protection from the elements you’d like. Some gloves are built to take on cold weather, while others may be waterproof. Your choice will depend on the environments in which you usually climb.
Read on for some good options for climbing and crack climbing gloves. And if you’re new to the world of climbing, be sure to check out our articles on the best indoor climbing shoes, as well as the best climbing ropes!
1. PETZL Cordex Plus Medium Weight Gloves
Petzl is one of the most reputed brands when it comes to camping gear, and they make a variety of belay and rappel gloves, like the Cordex gloves. The Cordex gloves are available in several configurations, and these are the medium-weight options. They’re made from a blend of goat leather and synthetic materials for comfort and durability. The neoprene cuffs have Velcro, making them easy to put on and take off, and the reinforced palms provide protection.
2. Seibertron Half Finger Climbing Rope Gloves
Although we wouldn’t recommend skimping on quality when it comes to climbing gloves, this Seibertron pair offers a number of important features at a friendly price point. The synthetic leather is reinforced with kevlar threads on the palm for durability, and the gloves also feature SBR padding on the palm for shock absorption and to prevent hand fatigue. Finally, Siebertron has included a puller on both the middle and ring fingers to make taking the gloves off much easier.
3. Black Diamond Crag Half-Finger Gloves
If you’re looking for a reliable, budget-friendly pair of half-finger climbing gloves, these Black Diamond Crag Half-Finger Gloves definitely fit the bill. They’re great for both providing grip while climbing and protection during belaying. The stretch mesh material they’re constructed from is also lightweight and breathable, keeping your hands secure and comfortable during any activity. For improved durability, you’ll find the thumb and index finger have been reinforced. Plus, the gloves also come in either eye-catching astral blue or black.
4. Outdoor Research Splitter Glove
BEST CRACK CLIMBING GLOVES
If you’re looking for crack climbing gloves that won’t get in the way, these gloves from Outdoor Research are a good bet. They feature loops for your fingers and thumb and a hook and loop closure, allowing them to provide protection for the back of your hands while leaving the palms and fingers free.
5. Petzl Cordex Lightweight Belay Gloves
BREATHABLE FULL-FINGER GLOVES
Petzl also makes a lightweight version of their popular Cordex gloves, and these can be a good option if you don’t want anything too heavy. Like the heavy gloves, the lightweight Petzl gloves are made using premium goat leather for durability and abrasion resistance, and there are grommet holes to easily clip the gloves to your carabiner when not in use. They’re available in five different sizes, making them a good unisex option.
6. Black Diamond Crag Climbing Gloves
These Black Diamond Crag Climbing Gloves provide full coverage for your hands, making them an ideal choice for climbers who regularly belay or scale via ferrata. The high-quality construction uses multiple materials including nylon, spandex and cotton to deliver just the right combination of protection and comfort. The gloves are also available in sizes ranging from extra-small to extra-large and come in either black or cobalt.
7. Outdoor Research Splitter Work Gloves
BEST HEAVYWEIGHT GLOVES
Built for cold conditions, these climbing gloves from Outdoor Research are good options for dedicated climbers. They have a unique textured grip on the back of the hand, and the palms of the gloves have suede patches to aid in grip. The rest of the gloves are made from goat leather, ensuring long-lasting performance. These gloves are available in sizes between XS and XL, so you can find the one that works best for you.
8. Black Diamond Crack Climbing Glove
MOST PROTECTIVE CRACK CLIMBING GLOVES
If you’re looking for crack climbing gloves, Black Diamond’s options are among the more protective options that still ensure you have full dexterity in your fingers. They extend all the way to your wrists for more protection, and they also have pads on the palms, covering the more sensitive parts of your hands while leaving your fingers free. The hook and loop closure allows you to tighten and loosen the gloves.
9. Intra-FIT Climbing Gloves
The Intra-FIT Climbing Gloves are made from premium-quality goatskin and stretchable spandex to deliver just the right balance of durability and dexterity. You’ll enjoy impressive levels of comfort as you scale walls, trees, rocks or mountains. The palm also includes extra padding to protect your hands from any heat generated during longer repelling periods. Plus, the gloves include a carabiner hole in the cuff for easier storage and feature an adjustable velcro closure to ensure a secure fit.
10. Metolius Half Finger Climbing Gloves
The Metolius Half Finger Climbing Gloves look like they are ready to take on the toughest climbs. These 3/4-length gloves provide sufficient cover for greater comfort for your palms while allowing your fingers to fully grip even the smallest outcrops. For easier on-person storage, the gloves include a carabiner hole in the wrist while the hook-and-loop wrist closures provide security when on. Furthermore, all finger openings are double stitched for increased durability and quality.
11. Arc’teryx Alpha SL Gloves
BEST FOR ICE
If you’re going to be climbing in colder temperatures, you’re going to want a pair of gloves capable of keeping your hands comfortable. These Arc’teryx Alpha SL Gloves are made from a Gore Windstopper fabric which is windproof, breathable and also water repellant. These aspects all combine to deliver a more comfortable climbing experience, especially when you’re in tough or extreme conditions. For secure fitting, the gloves feature a pulley adjustment, while a built-in loop makes it easy to store the gloves on your belt when they’re not on your hands.