Gloves may not be the first piece of equipment that comes to mind when you’re thinking about climbing gear, but a good pair of climbing gloves can make belaying, rappelling, and ascending the rock much more comfortable. From keeping your hands warm between send attempts to protecting your skin, there are numerous benefits to wearing gloves for climbing-related activities.
Before we go over our picks for the best climbing gloves, let’s answer some frequently asked questions about this piece of gear.
Can you wear gloves while climbing?
Yes, technically, you can wear gloves while rock climbing, but many climbers prefer not to. Wearing gloves reduces your sensitivity and dexterity and makes it harder to grip holds since your fingers and hands may slide around inside the gloves. Unless you’re crack climbing, aid climbing, or ice climbing, it’s generally not recommended to wear gloves while climbing and bouldering.
That said, it’s up to each individual climber to decide what works best for them. Beginners or climbers who have taken a lot of time off from the sport may prefer to wear gloves for added protection while their skin gets used to the demands of climbing. Additionally, climbers may choose to wear gloves on easy warm-up routes if it’s especially cold out and then remove them for harder sends.
Many climbers who don’t wear gloves while on the wall still bring climbing gloves to the crag or gym to keep their hands warm in between climbs and reduce friction on their skin while belaying and rappelling.
What features should you consider when choosing climbing gloves?
There are many different climbing gloves on the market with various features, making them better for certain use cases than others. Below are four key factors to consider when selecting the best climbing gloves for you.
- Full-finger vs. half-finger gloves: Half-finger gloves provide more dexterity at the expense of protection and are best for aid climbing, short belays, and warm weather. Because they leave your fingertips exposed, half-finger gloves are not ideal for high-friction situations like longer belays and rappels. Full-finger gloves are best for cooler weather and activities where protection is more important than maneuverability.
- Materials and durability: Climbing gloves are made from either leather (typically cowhide or goatskin) or synthetic materials. Leather gloves tend to be more durable and expensive than those made from synthetic fabrics but are less breathable. Lightweight, synthetic gloves may be fine for belaying and single-pitch rappelling, but those planning to use their gloves for longer multi-pitch rappels should choose a sturdy, durable pair.
- Warmth: If you mostly climb in mild weather, you won’t need a glove with much insulation. Instead, opt for a lightweight, breathable pair that will protect your hands without causing them to get too hot and sweaty.
- Clip-in loops: Many, but not all, belay gloves come with loops to clip the gloves to your harness. This is a useful feature for anyone who wears a harness, although climbers looking for bouldering gloves only may not need the clip-in loop. If there is no dedicated loop, you can always punch a hole in an inconspicuous location near the gloves’ base.
Best Climbing Gloves: Our Picks
Best Overall: Petzl Cordex Lightweight Belay Gloves
Materials: Goat leather and synthetic stretch nylon
Sizes: X-Small to X-Large
- Excellent maneuverability
- Good balance of protection, breathability, and sensitivity
- Less protection for the back of the hand than all-leather models
The Petzl Cordex Lightweight Belay Gloves are great for belaying and rappelling yet still nimble enough for aid climbing. These gloves strike the right balance between cost, quality, and durability and should last you for years, even with frequent use.
Petzl included a double layer of leather in places that experience higher levels of wear, including the palm, fingertips, and the area between the thumb and index finger. This additional layer makes the Cordex incredibly durable and well-suited to belaying and rappelling.
The synthetic back allows for more breathability than 100% leather gloves; however, this also means the Cordex gloves offer less protection for the back of the hand than all-leather models. The gloves include a simple velcro closure and an integrated carabiner hole, making it straightforward to attach them to a harness.
While they’re not the cheapest climbing gloves on the market, reviewers generally agree that they’re worth the money. Overall, the Petzl Cordex gloves provide a good mix of protection, breathability, and sensitivity, making them one of the most versatile pairs of climbing gloves out there.
Best for Warm Weather: Black Diamond Crag Climbing Gloves
Style: Full-finger and half-finger
Sizes: X-Small to X-Large
- Easier to wash than leather gloves
- Not as durable or protective as other models
The Black Diamond Crag Climbing Gloves are a budget-friendly option that protects your hands from rope friction and abrasive surfaces without limiting dexterity. Their superior breathability makes these gloves a great choice for those who plan to use them in warmer conditions. While there are better models for cold weather belaying and rappelling, the Black Diamond Crag Gloves fare well in temperatures down to about 50°F (10°C).
The gloves come with a small clip-in loop, soft fabric on the back of the thumb for wiping sweat or a runny nose, and light padding on the palm to protect your hands without sacrificing sensitivity. Some reviewers complained of issues with durability, but some of our testers have been using the same pair for several years with no noticeable decline in quality.
Black Diamond also offers these gloves in a half-finger version, which provides additional dexterity and sensitivity thanks to your fingers’ contact with the rock. The Crag Half-Finger Gloves are an excellent choice for those who don’t need the extra protection of a full-finger model, including those who want to wear the gloves while aid climbing or free climbing.
Best for Cold Weather: Metolius Insulated Belay Gloves
Sizes: X-Small to X-Large
- Warm yet breathable
- Comfortable, tailored fit
- Not as protective as stiffer leather models
The Metolius Insulated Belay Gloves provide extra warmth in cooler weather without sacrificing agility and breathability. Thanks to their light synthetic insulation, these belay gloves will keep you warm without adding bulk.
Despite being lightweight, these gloves don’t compromise on durability. The belay gloves are fully synthetic and made from a material that Metolius states is “five times more durable than goatskin.” The area between the thumb and index finger is reinforced with an extra layer of padding to extend the gloves’ lifetime and protect you from rope friction when belaying and rappelling.
Metolius also included several features for increased comfort and convenience. For example, there is an integrated clip-in loop to attach the gloves to a harness. The gloves also have an adjustable hook-and-loop-style velcro closure, and the back of the hand is made of a stretchy, breathable mesh material. Together, these two features allow for a more tailored fit and enhanced comfort.
The Metolius Insulated Belay Gloves are designed for year-round use. While they’re best for cooler climbing days, they are breathable enough to use in various conditions without being uncomfortable.
Best for Crack Climbing: Ocun Crack Gloves
Materials: Microfiber stretch suede and rubber
Style: Back of hand
Sizes: X-Small to X-Large
- Excellent protection
- Comfortable, anatomical shape
- A little bulky compared to tape
The Ocun Crack Climbing Gloves are a favorite among crack climbers and are significantly more convenient than repeatedly making tape gloves. The sensitive, adhesive rubber provides maximum friction on both artificial and natural cracks, while a light layer of padding around the knuckles offers extra protection for your hands.
The gloves are designed with a low profile that provides a durable and protective barrier without sacrificing sensitivity. Even so, some reviewers said they felt bulkier than other crack climbing options available. Because these are a little thicker than models like the Outdoor Research Splitter Gloves, they are not ideal for thinner hand cracks. The gloves are, however, well-suited to wider hand cracks and those that allow for fist jams.
Some reviewers complained that the hook-and-loop wrist closure could be temperamental, while others said it wore out quickly. The velcro closure is covered by the rubber part of the gloves to shield it from abrasion while climbing.
Overall, crack climbers loved the durability and convenience of these gloves. Stick to Ocun’s size chart recommendations for a very tight fit, or size up for a snug but more comfortable fit.