Do Rock Climbers Wear Gloves?

Last Updated on 02/09/2022

Do Rock Climbers Wear Gloves

Do Rock Climbers Wear Gloves?

In this article, we answer the question, do rock climbers wear gloves? We share the potential pros and cons of wearing gloves for rock climbing and when it is appropriate to wear them.  

There are many reasons why you shouldn’t wear gloves for rock climbing and only one or two situations where gloves are beneficial. Whether your hands or cold or not, safety comes first when climbing up rock faces.

Can You Wear Gloves Rock Climbing?

You can wear gloves for rock climbing if you have many years of experience and feel they are necessary but if you are just starting out then you should not be wearing gloves unless handling rope from the ground.

While gloves can protect your hands against the rock face, cold weather, and previous injuries, you need to stay connected to the rock to have the best grip possible. Gloves don’t help with that.

There are situations where gloves may be appropriate like when belaying or rappelling. You should also consider the weather, type of climbing, and the route to make a decision. Ultimately though, you need somebody with a lot of climbing experience to make this decision. So if you aren’t an expert then ask one. 

Why Don’t Most Rock Climbers Wear Gloves?

The reasons that most rock climbers do not wear gloves are that they reduce your grip, and dexterity, and are way less reliable than your skin. You need to be able to find the best holds, maintain your grip and strengthen the skin.

Touch is crucial to rock climbing. Even the smallest loss of grip on a climbing wall can result in a fall and so you need to be able to sense these micro shifts in grip in real-time so you can make an adjustment. Any fabric between you and the wall is a potential hazard when rock climbing, including gloves.

Disadvantages of Wearing Gloves when Rock Climbing

Disadvantages of Wearing Gloves when Rock Climbing

There are quite a few reasons why gloves are not recommended for rock climbers.

Reduced Grip

Gloves move independently of your hands – even if they are the right size. When you try to grip onto rocks when climbing with gloves on you have to use much more pressure so that you can pin the glove material between the rock and your finger. It is the same reason climbers don’t wear socks.

Can’t Feel the Terrain

You need to be able to feel if there is anything to be aware of on the route. That could be moss, dirt, insects, loose rock, a water stream, or any other challenges on the surface. A climber who has to reach overhead for a hold that is out of sight would have to use the senses to feel if there is something there. Gloves prevent the climber from doing that.  

Lack of Dexterity

Gloves reduce your dexterity which can make opening or closing things harder. Zips often get broken when you are wearing gloves due to the lack of dexterity.

Regardless of whether you prefer sport climbing or trad, you have a lot of gear you need to use on the wall. When you lead climb, you need to easily be able to grab a quickdraw and clip it into a bolt or place an aid on the rock. With a quickdraw, you might risk that the fingertip of the glove gets caught in the gate. 

Softens the Hands

Rocks can be painful to hold on to. Building calluses to toughen your skin is the best way to overcome that pain. Wearing gloves prevents you from building calluses.

Sweating 

Sweaty hands slip. Use chalk instead of gloves. If you are like me and get very sweaty hands on the wall, I recommend liquid chalk. It sticks to your hands better.  

Organizing the Rope

It sometimes happens that the rope coils and the belayer needs to correct the rope. Doing this barehanded improves your ability to quickly untangle and control the rope on the break side of the belay device

Over the years, your rope is going to take damage. Wearing gloves may make it more difficult to inspect your rope for wear and tear. Bare hands allow you to feel where the most tired parts of the rope are. It is a good practice to be aware of abnormalities in your rope, even if they are insignificant.

Benefits of Wearing Rock Climbing Gloves

Advantages of Wearing Gloves when Rock Climbing

Although it is not advised to wear gloves while rock climbing, there are a few scenarios where one might consider using them. Keep in mind that despite the advantages, it is not recommended.  

Avoid Rope Burn When Belaying

The belayer has to constantly manage slack. The friction between hands and the rope can cause a rope burn. As the belayer, this may not be a problem if the climber considers it an easy route. However, for time-consuming routes, the belayer may have to spend a long time organizing the rope and the slack, and that is when gloves become a helpful tool in your kit bag.  

Sometimes, a lead climber falls. The belayer has to cling to the rope to control the fall, as well as put both feet forward to minimize the impact of hitting the wall. This can also cause a rope burn, which only emphasizes our advice to wear gloves when belaying.

More Confidence to Grab Their Rope when Rappelling

Similar to Belaying, rappelling is another situation where gloves will help you avoid getting rope burn. When you are traveling down a rope you don’t need to have any kind of grip on the rock face. This is why it is ok to wear climbing gloves when rappelling.

Protecting Hand Injuries

We have all had some sort of injury. If you have hurt your hand, it is a good idea to protect it from the roughness of the terrain and potential bacteria. Maybe wear gloves and take them off once it has healed and the wound is of no risk to reopen

If you want to climb with an injury to the skin, you can use climbing tape instead of gloves. However, climbing tape also disallows a proper grip. 

Preventing Injuries

You might also find that you want to protect your hands from future injuries. Before you begin the climb, look up at the route to see if there are any potentially sharp edges. If so, perhaps you should take some gloves in a pocket just in case you encounter some nasty edges.

Crack climbing

When crack climbing, the hands (and arms) are placed inside the crack of the rock. When doing so, both the fingertips, hands, and wrists are exposed. Here you may want to protect your hand but it isn’t something we recommend as the loss of grip can be dangerous without enough experience.

Types of climbing gloves for rock

What Types of Gloves Are Best for Rock Climbing?

There is no single type of glove that is best for rock climbing. The type of glove you need depends on what you want to use them for. I can not make it clear enough, though: Gloves are generally not recommended. Below, we present three gloves from highly respected manufacturers.

Fingerless Gloves

Fingerless gloves are often the best type of glove to use for rock climbing outdoors because they protect the soft parts of your hand and still allow you to use your fingers directly on the rock surface. You can use chalk to improve your grip and reduce sweating however gloves always increase the chances of sweating more than you’d like.

Black Diamond Equipment Crack Rock Climbing Gloves, White, Large

The Black Diamond Crack Gloves are ideal for crack climbing. Black Diamond has designed them, so your hands get a good and scratch-free grip in the cracks. They are light, thin, and durable. The bright color of the glove means that you won’t sweat as much from wearing gloves on warm and sunny days. 

Leather Gloves

Leather gloves are the best for handling climbing rope when belaying or rappelling in our opinion. They are the most durable and will outlast pretty much all types of gloves including some that have been lined with Kevlar. A reinforced palm allows getting a firm grip on the rope that would otherwise tear your hands to pieces. While you can use the thick leather work gloves used for campfires, it is better to try and get something with a closer fit that is less baggy.

Petzl K53 CORDEX PLUS Midweight Glove, Black, Large

Here is a pair of gloves that turns the tough tasks of belaying and rappelling into a joy. The Petzl Cordex are made of leather and nylon. A double layer of leather on the most needed parts of the hands, makes the gloves extra safe when handling a rope. The nylon allows your hands to breathe. You can have these gloves for a long time thanks to the material. 

Petzl has stepped up their game even further with the Petzl Cordex Plus. Adding to all the features above, this version of the glove has leather on the back of the hand. This improves your safety against the weather and your gear.  

A great perk is that you can attach them to a carabiner. Thanks to this feature, you can easily put them on your harness, when you do not need them. 

Tight Fitting Gloves

Tight-fitting work gloves like those used for bushcraft are the best all-around glove for ropework, sharp rocks, and cold weather. They provide the most protection while retaining the most dexterity so you can still access clips and untie knots. We would rarely ever climb in a full finger glove but if we do then we want it to be as close fitting as possible.

Metolius Full Finger Belay Glove - Naural X-Large

The Metolius Full Finger Belay Glove is a great multipurpose glove. The strong leather and the full-length fingers make these gloves durable and versatile.  You can manage the rope, sport climb, and aid climb with these. Like the Petzl Cordex series, these gloves also give you the option to attach them to your harness. Metolius has made this glove tight but dextrous.

Choosing a Rock Climbing Glove

Before you get some gloves for rock climbing there are a few things you should think about first:

The Purpose

In terms of whether rock climbers wear gloves, some do and most do not, but it all comes down to the purpose. Different types of climbing benefit from different types of gloves. Before you make a purchase, you should decide on what you want to use the gloves for. Is it to stay warm? Or is it to protect your hands from the rock or the rope? 

Fit and Flexibility

Make sure that you can feel the rock and rope through the gloves. You should be able to move your hand and fingers with ease and with full flexibility. They must fit well, so they don’t slip in any way, without being so tight that you can not grab the next hold or use your gear.

Durability

It is crucial to pick a pair of gloves that can sustain exposure to constant wear and tear of the hardest kind. Climbing gloves for rocks need to be extra tough which is why ordinary gloves for warmth don’t work. Being able to rely on your gear is very important, so you can concentrate on climbing. This is why leather is the most common material for this activity. Leather gloves are more expensive than synthetics, but they are the safest and last the longest.

ice climbing gloves protect from frost

When Is It Ok to Wear Gloves when Rock Climbing?

There is no such thing as a definite green light to wear rock climbing gloves. It is counterproductive to hold a tight grip. However, there are a few scenarios when you might find them beneficial.

Belaying and Rappelling

Rope burns can cause redness, irritation, and blisters. It is okay to wear gloves when belaying or rappelling. However, if you have or when you have developed calluses, you might not be as bothered by the friction.  

Cold Temperatures 

You are out climbing, it is cold and so is the rock. For the sake of staying warm, you can wear gloves. Just remember, only do so when safety allows for it. The important thing to acknowledge is that it depends on the circumstances of the route and how comfortable the climber and belayer are in their respective roles. Always consult with an expert if you aren’t sure.

Should You Wear Rock Climbing Gloves?

No, you should not wear gloves when rock climbing. This is a sport that requires you to use all your senses and awareness to stay safe on the wall. I would only recommend it to people who are very experienced climbers and who are familiar with the environment, climbing techniques, climbing styles, and the routine of belaying. 

Nonetheless, there are circumstances where one might consider gloves favorable, but generally, gloves are not advised for rock climbing. In terms of warmth, you can always wear more layers of clothes, for the time that you are not the person on the wall. Just make sure that they do not get in the way of the harness, rope, and belay device.


We hope this article gave you some clear answers to the question, do rock climbers wear gloves? Let us know in the comments if you are a rock climber and disagree.

Gear Assistant
Gear Assistant

This article has been written and/or edited by Andrew N. 20+ years of hiking, mountaineering, and camping experience, with access to all the latest outdoor gear.

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