Best Climbing Gloves for Belaying, Cracks, and Rappelling
The Petzl Cordex gloves were our testers' favorite models for belaying and rappelling. They feature a reinforced leather palm with a breathable nylon backing, which maximizes protection without compromising comfort. We found the leather reinforcements to be well-placed and helpful, especially on the index finger of each hand, where no other models feature extra protection. This area sees much wear while handling ropes and rappelling, so we appreciated the thoughtful design.
In addition to featuring a durable leather hand, the backs of the Cordex gloves are completely synthetic, making them much lighter and more breathable than leather full-finger models. The breathability is especially nice on hot days when a leather glove would feel stuffy and potentially cause blisters. We liked the balance of durability and breathability offered by the Cordex. They are comparably comfortable to the Black Diamond Transition and far more comfortable than the full-leather Metolius Belay.
The Black Diamond Crag Half-Finger gloves have plenty to offer if you're looking for a lightweight model that is comfortable and breathable. They are fully synthetic and are perfect for hot weather and shorter big wall climbs. They feature two different loops for clipping onto carabiners and have a bit of padding over the knuckles, which was nice for jugging ropes. The Crag Half-Finger gloves are significantly more comfortable and breathable than their leather counterparts, which offer more protection but feel stuffy in hot conditions.
The main downside of the Crag Half-Finger is that they are not very durable for prolonged use. We used them on a few walls in Yosemite, including a one-day ascent of El Capitan, and were impressed with how well they held up after so many pitches. They don't offer much protection while rappelling because the palms are thin and transfer a lot of the heat from rope friction. Even though they worked well for a few big climbs, the Crag Half-Finger gloves wear out quickly from rappelling, and we would replace them after a few months of use. If you're looking for a heavy-duty fingerless glove, then the Metolius Climbing model is a full-leather, much less comfortable option.
For coarse splitters, the Ocun crack climbing gloves were our favorite models. They are thoughtfully constructed, offering the best balance of durability and sensitivity amongst the crack gloves that we tested. After climbing a few thousand feet of both rock and plastic cracks, we struggled to find many flaws in them. They offer an excellent alternative to tape gloves and don't add much volume to your hands. The Ocun balance durability and slimness better than any other crack climbing gloves that we tested. The Outdoor Research Splitter Glove felt flimsy, and the Climb X Super Crack Glove felt bulky in comparison to the Ocun.
The only finicky attribute of the Ocun was their wrist closure, which could be challenging to close. The velcro straps tuck under the rubber backing and stay out of the way while you climb. For sizing, the Ocun runs relatively small, and we recommend ordering one size larger than you normally wear. Our lead tester typically wears a medium glove but needed a large for the Ocun to fit comfortably. Despite being the most expensive crack climbing gloves, the Ocun delivers unrivaled performance and proved themselves to be durable for hundreds upon hundreds of pitches.
With a sturdy design plus well-sewn leather and synthetic construction, the Black Diamond Transition gloves are some of the most durable and comfortable gloves that we tested. They rivaled the Petzl Cordex in both comfort and durability but fell short by just a hair. We liked the stretchy synthetic backing and leather knuckle protection, which was breathable but not flimsy.
The Transitions are dexterous for a full-finger glove but didn't feel as dextrous or nimble as the Cordex, which are lighter and offer more finger and palm protection. The Transition gloves run small, and our lead tester, who typically wears a size medium, found a large to fit perfectly.
The Black Diamond Stone gloves are our favorite half-finger leather gloves for aid climbing and big walls. Despite their leather construction, they are relatively thin and break in quickly. This makes them much more comfortable than the Metolius Climbing but also less durable. Like other leather models, they don't breathe well when your hands sweat and become brittle after prolonged use. They offer a compromise in both durability and comfort between the lightweight Black Diamond Crag Half-Finger and bombproof Metolius Climbing models.
The Metolius Belay gloves are the sturdiest full-finger option that we tested. Like their half-finger counterparts, they have thick leather, beefy stitching, and a comfortable wrist closure. The Belay is a good option for cragging, where you're less likely to be wearing them for extended periods. They have a relatively long break-in period and will last for several seasons if you only use them occasionally. The Petzl Cordex is a more breathable and lightweight model that offers comparable palm and finger protection at a similar cost. If you seek maximum protection for your entire hand, then the Metolius Belay is tough to beat. Otherwise, the Cordex is likely a better purchase.
The Black Diamond Crag is the lightest full-finger climbing glove that we tested. They are fully synthetic and incredibly breathable, which is great on hot days or extended use. Their light weight comes at the cost of durability and protection, which can be concerning if you want them to last for more than a single season of climbing. We liked the Black Diamond Crag for belaying but found them to be too thin for anything longer than single pitch rappels. They don't offer much protection while rappelling and hardly shield your hands from rope friction. Unlike the Black Diamond Transition, which ran small, the Crag gloves fit true to size, and a medium fit our lead tester perfectly.
The Crag gloves are roughly half the cost of the Petzl Cordex and Black Diamond Transition models but are also far less durable than either pair. We expect the lifetime cost to even out since you are likely to wear through the Crag in half the time that it would take to burn through the Cordex or Transition.
If you're looking for a leather climbing glove that will stand up to use on dozens of walls, look no further than the Metolius Climbing glove. With a thick full-leather construction, these keep your hands safe, whether you're jugging, belaying, or committing to equalized tipped-out micro beaks five hours into a nauseating A5+ lead.
The main disadvantage of the Metolius Climbing gloves is that they are fairly stiff and can be a bit abrasive for the first few times you wear them. Our lead tester wore them on a four-day ascent of El Capitan and finished the wall with blisters on most of his fingers. The seams are thick and can be irritating for long days of climbing in hot conditions. After this initial break-in period, the gloves softened but didn't come close to the Black Diamond Crag Half-Finger when it came to comfort and breathability. The Black Diamond Stone is thinner and much more flexible, yet almost as durable as the Metolius Climbing.
How We Test
First, we selected all our favorite gloves from what we had used in the past, what climbing guides recommended, and what we saw as promising new releases. Then we set up a number of tests. We rappelled a fixed line over and over for more than ten hours. Each glove was tested head to head to see how it felt on the rope, how much friction it delivered, and how durable it was. Then we went into the climbing gym and belayed for a month. We looked for what gloves were the easiest to control the belay device with and which gloves handle the rope well, especially when lead belaying.
We next moved to a bin of climbing objects: carabiners, pitons, belay devices, and slings. To evaluate dexterity, we tested how well each glove handled each object. We also took each glove out for more real-world applications. Most of this was done at the local crags. But we also used many of the gloves for mountain biking and general chores like setting up pallet racks at OutdoorGearLab Global Shipping Headquarters, West Coast Division.
— Steven Tata & Chris McNamara