What are the best gloves to protect your hands from the rope while belaying and rappelling? We evaluated over 10 pairs of gloves and pick our favorites for each application. We belayed hundred of pitches, rappelled thousands of feet and climbed hundreds of aid pitches in Yosemite and Lake Tahoe. We evaluated gloves on how the performed when rappelling, belaying, and handling carabiners. We also assessed their overall durability. After scoring the results, we tell you what are the best gloves for each of the main needs that climbers have.
Best Climbing Gloves for Belaying, Cracks and Rappelling
For full-fingered gloves for belaying, the Crag is not only our favorite, but it's also one of the least expensive options out there. It's one of the lightest and most breathable gloves we tested. It gives you full finger protection and great dexterity when handling the rope, carabiners, and the belay device. It has multiple points to clip to your harness. If you don't want leather, this is one of the more durable options.
While careful use can get you 30+ days of heavy use, these gloves are not quite as durable as a leather glove. We would not use them as a dedicated rappel glove unless you are very careful and get as much friction as possible off the belay device and your pants or leg loop strap. That said, most leather gloves are double the price. Overall, the combo of price and dexterity can't be beaten. This would have also been our Best Buy recommendation for a full-finger glove had it not also won Editors' Choice.
Our favorite half-finger glove is also one of the best deals out there. It's ideal for belaying with maximum dexterity and occasionally climbing. On multi-pitch routes it's about the lightest option to have clipped on the side of your harness (there are two clip-in options). The finger coverage extends a little extra on the bottom, making these "half plus" gloves.
With the increased dexterity of a half-finger glove come a lack of protection for the first two knuckles and fingertips. Like all BD gloves, the wrist closure system is beefy: maybe a little too so. The wrist closure adds more weight and makes the gloves a little less breathable for hot days. But that is a small point. Overall, these are our favorite half finger gloves and come at a low price.
One of the original crack climbing gloves is still our favorite. These are a great alternative to taping your hands and can potentially save you a lot of time, money and skin. While these face more competition, they still have the best combo of sensitivity and durability. The Outdoor Research Splitter Glove. The Climb X Super Crack models are a little bulky and less comfortable.
These don't have any wrist protection. This might be a pro for some and makes them more breathable, but they leave your wrists exposed. We also don't love the wrist closure system. Yes, it's smart and keeps the strap tucked away, but it's a little challenging to use. These are almost double the cost of the Climb X models, but we still think they are the best.
If you value durability over all else, the Metolius Belay Glove is the way to go. They are burly and completely protect your hand. The wrist closure is more out of the way than the Black Diamond design. The only major drawback to this glove is the lack of dexterity. They have a more burly and durable leather than goatskin but are less sensitive. That said, they do break in over time, especially if you buy them a little small and stretch them out. They are on on the expensive side, but worth it if want a burly glove for belaying and rappelling.
Read Review: Metolius Belay Glove
These gloves look at home on a working ranch, wrangling cattle. They also work great for handling climbing ropes and are quite durable. The fit is a little loose, so buy them small and let them stretch out. While they don't come with a way to clip them to a carabiner, you can easily cut a small hole in the wrist cuff. Keep in mind, the $25 price is for a pack of three. With no wrist closure, these are a little loose and floppy. They don't give the precise feel of other climbing gloves. They are more at home handling ropes than carabiners. That said, they are an incredible value and make you look like a Climbing Cowboy or Cowgirl.
Read Review: Wells Lamont Leather Work Glove
Just about any pair of gardening gloves or leather gloves can be turned into fingerless gloves. The Wells Lamont, listed above, are our favorites. The upside, other than saving money, is that you can get a very durable option. The duct tape on the fingers can be annoying, but it makes the gloves very durable. You also get to custom cut the finger length.
The downside to these gloves is you have to make them. With experience, this goes quickly. However, don't be surprised if your first attempt doesn't come out perfectly. The duct tape looks a little funky. This gives you street cred on a big wall. However, don't be surprised by awkward glances at the climbing gym. We have climbed nearly 100 big walls using these gloves - they are the timeless budget option for protecting (most of) your hands when handling ropes and carabiners.
Read Review: Homemade Fingerless Climbing Glove
While we swear by the homemade fingerless gloves described above, there is no question that the Metolius Climbing Glove is better. You just pay for it: it's more than triple the price of a homemade option or the Black Diamond Crag Half-Finger. For that price, you get genuine leather and a glove that looks like it could handle bull riding.
These have less dexterity than a synthetic glove like the Black Diamond Crag. That said, they break in and get softer over time. Our only other gripe is that they are expensive. But for many people, they are more than worth it. They are the most durable half finger glove we have seen.
Read Review: Metolius Climbing Glove
If you're on a budget, this is the crack glove to get. It's almost half the cost of any other option. It's also very durable, making it easily the best value in its category. If you tape regularly, these will pay for themselves after a few dozen uses. They also save a LOT of time over taping.
The finger loops are durable, but they are not the most comfortable. The Ocun and Outdoor Research gloves are more soothing. While they are big and burly, that same construction means they don't breathe well. On warm days, expect the back of your hands to sweat profusely (we have a new sympathy for BatMan - that rubber suit must be Perspiration Purgatory). Those cons aside, these gloves are burliness on a budget and will save you skin: literally and figuratively.
The Cordex is one of the oldest gloves out there and still loved by many climbers, including us. The goatskin construction gives it great sensitivity and dexterity. There is almost no break-in period. The synthetic back makes it relatively breathable for a leather glove.
This glove is not the most durable. For its $35 price tag, you need to either take good care of them, or just accept that you go through a few pairs after heavy belaying. The wrist close is bulky. It's not as bad as the Black Diamond design, but it's a little more than necessary. If you want the ultimate sensitive leather glove, this is it.
Read Review: Petzl Cordex Belay Glove
How to Choose Climbing Gloves
There are hundreds of gloves you can use for climbing. To narrow down your selection, the first thing to ask yourself is what you are most likely to use them for. There are four main activities below and any glove that excels in one application will not do as well in others.
Belaying is the most common use of a climbing glove. For belaying, you are looking for a glove that is full fingered so that your finger tips will be protected. You also want dexterity for handing biners and the belay device, especially if you are climbing way off the deck where dropping anything causes problems. Finally, you want good durability, especially if you belay a lot at the crags. If your gloves are not durable and you use them a ton, they will be shredded in a few months.
Aid Climbing and Face Climbing
The only time most people lead with gloves is on a big wall. For leading, it is crucial to have fingerless gloves so that you can confidently handle carabiners and cams. Second, the fit needs to be precise. Gloves that are too loose will require extra effort and time to manipulate biners and gear. Lastly, with all fingerless gloves, the durability of the finger tip is essential. Once the seams at the finger start to go the gloves usually unravel quickly. It is important to have double stitching at the edges of the glove.
A heavy duty rappel glove has a ton of cowhide leather that is reinforced in all the key places. This means that that the glove is more durable and that you will better be able to manage the heat when on long rappels. The trade off is that a truly great rappelling glove usually is not good for belaying because it does not fit tightly and give you extra dexterity.
Crack gloves just cover the back of your hand and maybe your wrist. They have many advantages over taping your hands: they are fast to put on and off, they provide more cushion, and you save money over time. On a multi-pitch climb, you can use crack gloves just for the pitches you need them whereas taping takes so long you usually keep the tape on all day. The downside to crack gloves is that they don't the same precise fit as tape and can be too bulky for tight hand cracks. Crack gloves are ideal for both beginning crack climbers and more experienced climbers that are tired of taping. Crack gloves also require an upfront $25-45 investment.
As with shoes, fit is everything when selecting a climbing glove. Our general rule of thumb: when in doubt, buy a glove that is smaller rather than bigger. Since you are dealing with leather and synthetic materials that stretch, even if you buy a glove too small it will probably stretch out to be just right. If you buy a glove too large, it will always be too sloppy to confidently handle carabiners.
There are three main materials used in gloves: cowhide, goat skin, and synthetics. Cowhide is the most durable leather but also has the least dexterity and requires some time to break in. Goat skin has great dexterity but is not nearly as durable has cowhide. Synthetics are generally even less durable, but are less expensive and much more breathable. Many gloves use a combination of all three materials. In general, if you are looking for great durability you want all cowhide. If you want great dexterity and durability, get goat skin. If you are looking for the lightest and most breathable glove, get synthetic or mostly synthetic gloves.
There are two main areas to look at when assessing durability: stitching and materials. Usually the first thing to go on a glove is the material at a major wear point, usually the finger tip. Generally a tight-fitting goat skin glove will wear out the fastest in that area. The second area that goes is the stitching around the fingers. Look for a glove that has burly stitching if durability is important to you.
Some gloves use Velcro wrist closures while others do not. What is best comes down to personal preference. We prefer low-profile Velcro closures. Big Velcro closures feel bulky. No closure at all can be nice for getting the gloves on and off fast, but the gloves usually feel a little less precise.
Some people prefer clip-in points built of bomber and easy-to-find webbing that is sewn into the wrist part of the glove. Others prefer a more low key clip-in point hole on the wrist. We find that even cutting your own little hole into the glove works fine. So this is one aspect we would not get too fixated on.
Professional Tip #34 From the Trenches
Tape the palm of your brake hand before you put on your leather rappel glove for those high-speed descents. Your hand will not get heat blisters and you will be able to control the descent at a higher speed then ever before possible. You'll be smoking while the other guy is getting blisters and screaming in pain.
A pair of gloves can protect your hands from a number of things in climbing. You can use them while rappelling, belaying, and even leading. Between fingerless and full-fingered, we tested the ability to handle carabiners and withstand the abuse of long rappels. We hope that you are able to use our findings to choose a pair of gloves that meet your needs.
— Chris McNamara