Man climbing

Climbing gloves are probably one of the lesser known pieces of gear, but one of the most undervalued at the same time. 

Of course, the label “climbing gloves” can refer to any kind of coverings for your hands worn while at the crag… In this guide, however, we won’t be looking at gloves designed for cold-weather use, but at those meant for belaying, big wall use (jumaring, rappelling etc.) and crack climbing.  

Even if some of us go our whole climbing career without them, and some people consider them a frivolous accessory, a good pair of climbing gloves will do wonders to protect your skin while belaying or doing maneuvers like jumaring and aid climbing, and it will also give you that extra warmth you need in chilly weather. 

If you are planning to step up your climbing and try a big wall, or are just tired of having to worry about your skin while belaying or crack climbing, what you need is some good gloves! 

We’ve done the research for you and put together a list of the best belay and crack climbing gloves with their characteristics, price-quality ratio, pros and cons.

In this crazy-good guide you’ll find:

Belay Gloves Buying Guide

Belay gloves come in 2 different versions: full-finger and half-finger gloves. These gloves are not used during the actual act of rock climbing (while they can be, if you want), but, indeed, worn while belaying another climber or carrying out maneuvers on the wall. They can also be a useful accessory for via ferratas. 

Full-Finger Climbing Gloves

As you can imagine, the full-finger version covers your whole hand, giving you great protection, warmth and a better grip when belaying or rappelling. 

With these on, you will forget about skin abrasion and focus your whole attention on the climber you’re belaying: you will belay better and also break more quickly and easily on a rappel, all of it while keeping your hands nice, warm and safe. 

On the down side, these gloves can be expensive and burly to clip to your harness, put on and take off. Also, if you’re climbing in hot weather, they may make your hands sweat too much.

Let’s have a look at some of the best full-finger belay gloves on the market!

Black Diamond Crag Gloves

Black Diamond Crag Gloves

The Crag Gloves have a great quality-price ratio: made with synthetic leather and highly breathable stretch-mesh, they provide firm grip and a good fit. The seams are well placed so that they do not hinder finger dexterity and the padding offers great protection and comfort without sacrificing sensibility. 

Black Diamond did a great job with these durable, breathable gloves, and you will like the price, too! 

They are also the perfect choice if you’re looking for a vegan friendly product. 

Petzl Cordex

The Petzl Cordex is probably one of the best climbing gloves on the market. It boasts a careful and detailed design: a double layer of leather protects the palm side of the glove with extra protection on the thumb and index finger, which is where gloves usually show wear first. 

As with the Black Diamond’s Crag, the seams do not sit on the fingertips, so as to increase precision and movement when wearing them. 

 Man climbing

This version is durable enough, but, if you are afraid you will wear them out too quickly, Petzl makes an extra-durable version of the same glove called Cordex Plus. If, on the other hand, you’d like something lighter for warmer weather, they also make Cordex Lightweight Belay Gloves: a durable leather palm and fingers and a super breathable nylon back. 

The Cordex offer great value for a good price and you will often find them on sale online. What more would ask for?

Metolius Belay Glove

Metolius Belay Glove

The Metolius Belay are all-leather gloves, made of smooth and durable cowhide. They can be slightly more pricey than their synthetic or mixed counterparts, but the leather is thicker and will keep your hands warmer in colder temps

They offer excellent protection, but also have some downsides: they are quite burly and stiff, and might take a while to be broken in properly (and, even then, they are not particularly flexible). 

Because of the all-leather design, they are also not the most breathable model and can feel a bit chunky. If protection and durability are your primary concerns, these sturdy gloves are probably worth the price. When trying them on before buying, take into account that the leather will stretch a little bit with time.

As we’ll see later on, they are also available in a half-finger version called Metolius Climbing Glove.

Half-Finger Climbing Gloves

If you don’t like the idea of having your fingers fully covered, or already own a pair of full-finger gloves and want something lighter and simpler for a big-wall adventure (or for the summer!) you’ll need some half-finger gloves

As the name suggests, these only cover and protect your fingers up to a point (which varies in different models), leaving your fingertips in the air. This design gives you more dexterity, but sacrifices protection. 

These gloves are usually simpler, lighter and more comfy to wear, and carry, even if they can still be less than ideal to put on and take off (until you get used to them, of course.) 

You can use them to jumar, rappel and belay. If you are climbing a big wall, they are a lighter and more practical option. 

Some even use them in very cold weather to climb easier pitches, so that their whole hand is not in contact with the freezing rock. 

Let’s look at some options!

Black Diamond Stone Gloves

Black Diamond Stone Gloves / yellow color

These gloves are all about simplicity and perfect for long days on big walls. Their all-leather design ensures a great fit and features reinforcements in the high-wear areas. 

As fingerless gloves go, they offer good protection, especially in the thumb area. Unlike with some other gloves, you will not really need a break-in period: these fit perfectly straight away, and they will withstand more than you can imagine.  

On the down side, they are probably the most expensive half-finger gloves on the market. Even if they do offer some unique features (extra leather extender under the fingers and Kevlar stitching) and a great fit. You will have to decide if they’re worth the price. 

Metolius Climbing Glove 

Metolius Climbing Glove 

As the full-finger version, these gloves are some of the most durable on the market. Their all-leather construction will withstand abuse on dozens of walls and will keep your hands safe jumaring, belaying, hauling and everything else you’ll do on the rock. 

The main problem with the Metolius Climbing gloves is that they can feel quite stiff and might take a while to break-in. Until then, they will be hard and can even feel abrasive for some. In terms of durability, they are the best, but, even when they soften, their fit and comfort are not great. You decide what is more important! 

Outdoor Research Fossil Rock Gloves

Outdoor Research Fossil Rock Gloves

Usually, as we mentioned, fingerless gloves sacrifice protection for comfort and dexterity. These Fossil Rock gloves, however, do a great job in both. Their design is faultless and they are a pleasure to wear for long periods of time: they will offer great protection for your skin and you’ll almost forget you are wearing them. 

The clip-in loops are also the largest of all gloves we’ve looked at, which makes them easy to put on and take off and clip them to your harness. These gloves have a thoughtful design (kevlar stitching and all!) and they are durable and breathable: a polyester/spandex blend with a goat leather palm and suede overlays on high-wear areas.

If you have small hands, though, make sure you try them on first, as their fit is quite large. 

Non-Climbing-Specific Gloves

Gloves are a useful accessory, sure, but not everyone is willing to pay for a pair of specialized climbing gloves (which can actually be pricey!). If you are on a budget but do not want to sacrifice the skin on your hands, you can always buy non-climbing specific gloves. 

Here are the best we’ve found!

CLC Handyman Gloves

CLC Handyman Gloves

The CLC Handyman gloves are a great budget-friendly choice for climbers. They are described as work gloves designed to maintain the best possible dexterity. 

Even if they are not ideal for climbing (after all, they are not climbing gloves), they do a good job protecting your hands at the crag. They are made of synthetic leather, stretchy spandex and Lycra and provide a good fit and toughness.

Wells Lamont Working Gloves 

Wells Lamont Working Gloves 

Wells Lamont is a specialist in work gloves. Again, these are not gloves made for climbing, but they can do the job if you’re looking for a cheap option and do not want to buy specific belay gloves. 

Most of their models are a mix of leather and synthetic material, water resistant and reinforced in key areas. They usually hold up well to climbing use and can be quite comfortable. 

They are not the best, but not especially bad either. If all you’re looking for is to protect your hands while belaying or jumaring, these gloves are cheap, simple and effective. For the fit, consider going up a size as they can be snug. 

If you want half-finger gloves, for the price of these you can even buy them and cut the fingers off! 

Crack Climbing Gloves

Crack climbing gloves, unlike all other gloves we’ve seen until now, are actually worn while climbing. These are gloves that only cover the outside part of your hand, leaving your palm and fingers free and their purpose is to protect your skin from the rock when jamming your hands into a crack. 

Usually, climbers create temporary gloves made out of tape, but in recent years this has started changing and crack climbing gloves have appeared on the market to become the reusable and easy-to-put-on-and-take-off version of good old tape gloves. 

If crack climbing is your thing, and you do it (or plan to be doing it) all the time, you definitely need a pair of these, especially if you’re tired of spending time with all that tape handling!

In this case, there isn’t much competition. Let’s have a look at the options!

Ocun Crack Gloves

Ocun Crack Gloves

The Ocune gloves are particularly good for rough rock, on which tape might not be enough to protect your hands from the hard crystals. The rubber is quite thick and offers great padding, with an extra strip on the knuckles. 

The extra protection is a great feature when it comes to hand cracks, making jamming almost too comfortable! At the same time, though, it substantially reduces sensibility. If you  prefer to always feel the placement of your hands for feedback, these are probably not the best choice. 

However, if you like granite cracks but do not love the pain that comes with them, these gloves will change your life! And, if you don’t usually like crack climbing, they might even make you change your mind! 

Outdoor Research Splitter Gloves

Outdoor Research Splitter Gloves

The Splitter Gloves are slightly different to the Ocun as they provide more sensibility and offer a more natural feel.

The padding is made of synthetic leather, which is thinner and more flexible. 

man putting on clack climbing gloves

If you like the feeling (and pains) of climbing with tape gloves, these are for you. 

Hand jamming will be more precise and, even if you will not have the incredible protection offered by the Ocun, you will certainly have more feedback and control over your jams. 

While the previous model is made for rough, uneven rock, the Outdoor Research Gloves perform best on smooth rock and are more lightweight and less bulky. 

What To Consider When Buying Gloves

We hope this climbing gloves guide will make it easier for you to decide which ones you’ll add to your rack! Of course, there are many more good models on the market that we haven’t mentioned, like the Black Diamond Transition or the half-finger version of the Crag Gloves, but this is our list of the best! 

Make sure to get the perfect match of belay and/or crack gloves for your hands, needs and style of climbing. 

Ask yourself questions like: 

What do I need them for? How often will I be using them? Do I want to prioritize comfort and dexterity (fingerless gloves) or protection and durability (full-finger gloves)? What price am I willing to pay and what materials do I prefer (synthetic or animal leather, breathable or warm)?

The Metolius (half and full-finger) are designed for heavy use and they are the most durable of all. You can spend hours jumaring, hauling and belaying with these on and they will last forever. If you want a vegan-friendly option, go for the Black Diamond Crag Gloves.

If you’re looking for something lighter and less bulky for big wall use,we suggest the Black Diamond Stone Gloves. They offer the perfect balance between comfort and protection. 

For great dexterity and unique features, the Petzl Cordex takes first place, and if what you want is just a cheap pair of gloves to protect your hands from rope abrasion, but are not bothered to buy specific climbing gloves, the Wells Lamont is probably your best budget choice

If you answer these questions and have another look at the gloves’ description, you’ll know what you’re going for. 

Another essential aspect to consider is the fit. Most brands have a chart that will allow you to measure your hands and pick the perfect size. As we mentioned, even if most gloves fit true their size (Black Diamond Crag, Petzl Cordex), some gloves are known to have a tighter fit, like the Ocun and Wells Lamont, while some others are always a bit larger, like the Outdoor Research Fossil Gloves. If you can, going to your local gym and trying them out is a great strategy to see which size/style fits your hands best. 

If your friends have a pair, ask them to let you use them for a belay or climbing session before choosing. 

With all the information above, you should be able to get the right pair of gloves and enjoy their use during all your rock-climbing adventures.

Here at TWC, we think that the protection and comfort they add to your climbing experience may well justify a little investment. 

What do you think? Did climbing gloves change your life or are they an unneeded luxury?

Drop a comment below and let us know!

For further reading see: “Climbing Helmets: Everything You Need to Know and Oh, So Much More” and “13 Best Belay Glasses: Ultimate Buying Guide [2020 Review]“. 

Published by Marta Fava

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