Do You Need Gloves For Rock Climbing? (And Bouldering)


I had climbed mountains before, although I never had to use a rope to do so. The summits I climbed were reachable via hiking, and my hands never had to be involved. Nevertheless, one day, I assume I will go rock climbing, a sport I am incredibly passionate about. When I go to the gym, I often use gloves so that my hands don’t suffer bruises from high friction lifting. That popped a question to my mind – do I need gloves for rock climbing?

To answer that, I started to read opinions across the internet. In fact, I’ve spent more than 5 hours doing so. Now, I am ready to share it with you, so you don’t have to spend time researching. 

You need gloves for rock climbing since they lower the friction and prevent injuries and pain. Also, their anti-skid design and cushioning improve your grip while maintaining rocks sensation. Besides, climbing gloves would make it easier to handle your gear’s weight, improve your climbing technique, and insulate your hands from harsh weather conditions.

1. Prevents Injuries

Have you suffered from blisters during your previous climbing trip? Have you experienced the cuts or bruises during your climb? Well, apparently, it is quite common (source). When there is severe friction force between your hands and the rope, your skin could peel off (source). That is where climbing gloves come to your rescue

Even though climbing gloves might seem pretty thin, the fabric or material in this use can take a lot of beating. That is why, even in the rugged terrain of the mountain, they will not tear or get damaged. 

Instead of the rough terrain getting in contact with your skin, it will now get in touch with the gloves. Since these are highly durable, they will create a shield between your skin and rugged surfaces.

Due to this reason, climbing gloves can help you avoid a lot of problems like:

  • Bruises
  • Cuts
  • Blisters
  • Inflammation
  • Finger pain

Also, since you will be wearing them throughout your trip, they will not add any weight to your backpack. You only have benefits to gain from using the climbing gloves rather than being at a disadvantage.

2. You Still Get The Feel of The Rocks

Many of you might wonder if wearing gloves compromises the feeling of the rocks. Obviously, if you cannot feel the contact surface correctly, you might lose grip, and the whole climbing journey could be more difficult.

This perception is one of the reasons why many mountain climbers do not use climbing gloves. However, there is a way around it. The answer is fingerless gloves. When you’re speaking about climbing gloves, there are various types available like (source):

  • Splitter gloves
  • Belaying gloves
  • Rappelling gloves
  • Finger gloves
  • Indoor Gloves
  • Outdoor gloves
  • Hybrid gloves
  • Fingerless gloves

When you go with the fingerless gloves, you can be sure that your fingers will be entirely free to experience the terrain of the rock. In these gloves, your palms will remain protected, and your fingers will be open. As a result, if you prefer to feel the stones during the climb, these are the gloves which you can buy.

Remember, the most delicate edges are felt with the fingertips, where there is most sensation (source). Hence, keeping your palm cushioned shouldn’t be an issue when you go rock climbing.

3. Improve Grip

A proper grip is one of the most crucial factors when you go climbing. If you are secured, you don’t have to worry about falling, although if you continuously lose grip, you will spend more energy.

That, in turn, could be extremely frustrating. There are various features of climbing gloves that help you in enhancing your grip.

I will go into the details of these features below.

Anti-Skid Design

The construction of the climbing gloves usually consists of anti-skid materials on the outer side. It means that when you’re holding a rock or any surface with the help of these gloves, you can rely on the grip.

Many of them can also provide you with an excellent grip in wet conditions. It means that irrespective of the weather conditions, your holding should be flawless.

Easy to Get a Hold on Sharp Edges

One of the main problems with climbing is that it is tough to hold onto sharp edges. However, they are inevitable when climbing a mountain. If you’re still forced to hold onto them, it can result in a cut or a bruise. In that case, you would have to apply first aid and also take precautions during the rest of the expedition.

You can avoid all of this by using climbing gloves. It will help you hold onto sharp edges and also protect your hands at the same time. This way, you won’t have to take a detour due to sharp edges or hostile terrain. 

Excellent Cushioning

The above benefits are undoubtedly worth it, but these aren’t the only benefits of using gloves during your mountain expedition.

Gloves can provide you with excellent cushioning, especially in the palm area. It means that they can absorb shock as well as impact. As a result, your hands will be completely safe when using these gloves. It allows you to use your hands more efficiently to grip any surface or rocks along the way.

Better Grip Due to Reduced Fatigue

Another advantage of the cushioning or the shield which gloves provide is that they can reduce your hand fatigue. This is mainly done by locking your hands with less effort due to the compact design.

When you do not lose energy in vain, it will be easy for you to get a proper grip throughout the expedition. This will allow you to move swiftly and save significant cumulative time during the day.

As you can see, climbing gloves can help you improve your grip in a multipronged approach. It does not matter if you’re an experienced climber or not; gloves can undoubtedly make your life easy in the mountains.

4. Easier to Handle Your Gear

As stated above, it is amply clear that climbing gloves can help you handle any terrain. However, what about your climbing gear? Some of you might think that climbing gloves are bulky and make it difficult to manage your gear.

Nevertheless, irrespective of the type of climbing gear which you choose, it is designed in such a way that you can hold and handle climbing gear with ease. 

Some gloves like belaying gloves are built explicitly for handling devices like belay along with other equipment. 

Many pieces of gear are a bit heavy on the hand. It is especially true for newer climbers. With the help of gloves, such impact gets reduced as well.

If you are worried about the delicate objects, such as carabiners, you may stick to the gloves in which your fingers are exposed. The palm protection would take care of the rest, such as the climbing rope or backpack.

5. Insulation Against The Weather

One of the main problems with rock climbing is that you are much more likely to encounter inclement weather. If you do not have climbing experience, it can be a daunting experience.

If you observe the climbing attire, hiking boots, and even the climbing gloves, you will notice that these pieces are designed to protect you against such hostile weather.

Since I’m specifically speaking about climbing gloves in this article, I will help you understand how they can insulate you against the weather.

They can do so in two different ways.

Protecting Your Hands Physically

The gloves protect your hands by creating a shield between your hand and the weather. It does not matter if it is snowing outside or raining; they will cover your hands. This way, you can get a proper grip on frozen rocks, or the other hand, burning stones that have been exposed to the sun.

Firm Grip Regardless of Weather

Have you tried gripping a wet rock? If yes, you might know how difficult it is. However, since many of the gloves enhance your grip and use anti-skid materials, it becomes easy for you to get an excellent hold irrespective of the damp.

Also, most gloves feature both ventilation and water resistance. This means your hands are less likely to be sweaty, and damp won’t accumulate when it is rainy. Nevertheless, these types of gloves are usually more expensive.

6. Enhances Your Climbing Technique

The aspect of the climbing gloves, which I will highlight now, will surely conclude my argument. It will help you understand why these gloves are a necessity.

The three glove types which I will highlight below can make your climbing performance better. These will help you flawlessly execute your climbing strategy.

Belay Gloves

The purpose of the belay gloves is to help you avoid any rope burn. They also help you keep your hands in perfect shape. Typically speaking, they consist of spandex or hybrid leather material (source).

As a result, the durability of these gloves is pretty high. They are also usually reinforced, which ensures that your hands can get added protection.

The spandex or hybrid leather construction means that there will be proper freedom of movement for your palm and fingers.

As they can help you avoid rope burns, you can grip the gear and rope in a much better way. It means that you can flawlessly execute the climbing technique.

Rappel Gloves

Do you find it difficult to tie knots with bare hands? Well, rappel gloves might come to your assistance (source). Tying the right knot and adequately handling the hardware is pretty essential to progress on your climbing expedition. 

You might think that only you face a problem with the knots, but it is not so. Many individuals often cannot do so with their bare hands. For them, the rappelling gloves are a perfect choice. These usually consist of leather or Kevlar fiber (source), which assures you get the proper grip on these knots.

Splitter Gloves

Splitter gloves consist of synthetic leather (source). They allow you to use hand jamming to move forward on your expedition. Not only that, they minimize the use of the tape as well.

As a result, you will not have to worry about putting the tape on and off again and again. If you use hand jamming a lot, these gloves can help you.

As you can see, the right type of gloves can help you improve your climbing skills. They can facilitate the smooth execution of your climbing strategy and various climbing techniques. 

Hence, you should highly consider using gloves if you want to improve your climbing skills. Irrespective of the general perception or the misconceptions, it is essential to understand the benefits which the climbing gloves provide. Once you are aware of them, you will never again embark on a climbing trip without gloves.

How do You Protect Your Hands While Bouldering?

Bouldering is a sport you can do indoors or outdoors. Either way, you must keep your hands protected. It has a lot in common with rock climbing; thus, the current article is also valid. Besides, there are a few steps that you can take while bouldering to protect your hands. These steps include:

  • You need to use chalk powder to get an excellent grip.
  • You can use splitter gloves to protect your hands.
  • You have to practice proper climbing techniques to avoid injuries.
  • You can head to the expedition along with a partner so that both of you can support each other using the belaying method.

These four simple steps will ensure that not only you can reduce hand injuries but also hand fatigue to a greater extent.

As I’ve mentioned, the right technique is crucial for hand protection and injury prevention. If you are new to this, take a look at the following video, which visualizes ten tips for bouldering as a beginner.

Is Climbing Bad For Your Hands?

Climbing is not bad for your hands if you take the necessary measures. If you do not follow proper climbing protocol or do not use the right gear, then you might experience hands injuries.

Some of the precautions which you need to take include:

  • You have to practice climbing techniques in advance.
  • It is advisable to wear proper gloves.
  • You should learn in advance how you can shift your body weight without putting excessive pressure on your hands or knees.

These three general tips will lower the risk of hand injury or damage when going on a climbing expedition.

Will The Climbing Gloves Make it Difficult to Tie Knots?

Climbing gloves could make it difficult to tie knots, although this mainly happens when you are using the wrong kind. For example, rappelling gloves are bulky and cover your fingers entirely. With them, it would be at least hard to untie the knot once you finish your trip.

If you go with my advice and get yourself climbing gloves, make sure you pick those in which your fingers are free. When the fabric doesn’t cover your hand entirely, you could handle delicate things such as carabiners and knots.

If you are not sure what knots to tie, take a look at an article I’ve written regarding 15 camping knots that actually work and used worldwide. Apparently, many knots are common to both camping and rock climbing.

What Will Happen if I Won’t Wear Any Gloves?

If you are cautious, nothing should happen when you go rock climbing without gloves. At first, your hands would hurt due to the ongoing pressure and friction, although as times passes, your skin will toughen and become more durable.

This process is called hyperkeratosis, and it happens when you rub your skin against rough surfaces for an extended period (source). Nevertheless, climbing gloves could help you go around this issue and make it comfortable right from the start. 

I’ve also discussed that process on an article on how to harden your skin to prevent blisters. If you suffer from those, I highly suggest you take a look at it.

I’ve spent two days writing all the different techniques I could find to help you achieve more hardened skin. Some of the methods apply to feet and hands, in the context of climbing gloves.

Conclusions

With so many different benefits on offer, you cannot afford to go on an expedition without gloves. They can help you become a better climber and negotiate any terrain.

Now, it is time to think about buying the type of climbing gloves which are suitable for you. In case I haven’t convinced you, make sure that you watch some Youtube videos or get proper guidance so that you use the right technique to avoid injuries.

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