Best Climbing Gloves: The Top 8 of 2019

Climbing Glove Score Materials Finger
Top Pick: Petzl Cordex
92
Leather, Nylon Full
Best Half-Finger Climbing Glove: Outdoor Research Fossil Rock Gloves
86
Leather, Polyester Half
Best Value: Black Diamond Crag Gloves
83
Synthetic Leather, Mesh Fabric Either
Best Big Wall Climbing Glove: Black Diamond Stone Gloves
77
Leather Half
Budget Pick: Wells Lamont Grain Cowhide Work Gloves
69
Leather Full
Metolius Belay Glove
65
Leather Full
CLC Handyman Gloves
59
Synthetic Leather, Spandex Full
Metolius Belay Slave Glove
45
Synthetic Leather, Mesh Fabric Full

I took 8 of the best climbing gloves up, down, and around the cliffs and the gym to see which held up to real-world use. The Petzl Cordex was the champion thanks to a winning combination of dexterity, comfort, and protection.

Gloves are (in my opinion) an underrated part of a climber’s gear arsenal. They protect skin on belays and rappels and are especially useful for long objectives involving jumaring or aid climbing. They can offer extra warmth in chilly weather, especially when paired with some good hand warmers.

To be clear, this article does not cover gloves meant for ice climbing or winter insulation. The products in this test are meant to improve the quality of your everyday climbing life, whether as dedicated belay gloves or in more specialized duties.

The Cordex won our Top Pick, but it wasn’t the only contender. Fans of half-finger gloves should check out the Outdoor Research Fossil, and budget warriors won’t be disappointed with the Black Diamond Crag.

The gloves in this test quickly separated themselves into two categories: the useful and the…not so useful. Curious which are which? Read on for details.

Note: If you’re looking for crack climbing gloves, check out our guide to the best crack climbing gloves.

The eight pairs of climbing gloves we tested.

The eight pairs of climbing gloves we tested.

Top Pick: Petzl Cordex

Petzl Cordex

The Petzl Cordex was the best all-around climbing glove in this test and my favorite full-finger entrant.

The entire glove shows thoughtful design. Two layers of leather protect the palm and fingers, with extra coverage over high-wear areas on the thumb and forefinger.

The back of the glove is covered in stretchy nylon fabric. It’s breathable and durable, and it keeps the fit close. The seams of the leather wrap around to the top of the fingertips, which helps both dexterity and comfort.

The seams on Petzl Cordex's fingertips.

Keeping seams off the fingertips helps in precise maneuvers.

Most of all, the Cordex shone in dexterity. These were the only full-finger climbing gloves to rival the half-finger products for mobility and precision. Along with the comfort and breathability, this made the gloves an excellent cliffside companion.

The cuff is a comfortable neoprene, and the closure is burly but effective velcro. The clip-in holes are basic but functional. I experienced no durability issues with the Cordex, but Petzl makes a reinforced Cordex Plus for the hardcore user.

My only real niggle with these gloves was an unusually long pinkie that distorted the fit, but this is down to individual hand shapes.

Otherwise, it’s hard to fault the Cordex. If I were choosing one glove for all climbing-related duties, this would be it.

Product Specs

  • Materials: Goathide Leather, Stretch Nylon
  • Finger Length: Full

Best Half-Finger Climbing Glove: Outdoor Research Fossil Rock Gloves

Outdoor Research Fossil Rock Gloves

Half-finger gloves trade protection for dexterity, but the Fossil gloves did a good job providing both.

These gloves show a similar design to the Petzl Cordex, minus the fingertips. The palm is reinforced goathide leather, while the back is stretchy breathable polyester.

The result is a comfortable climbing glove that’s easy to wear for long periods.

It remains protective enough for heavy-duty use. Two small tabs on the third and fourth fingers give extra protection on the palm side, and they make pulling off the gloves easy. Another bonus is the clip-in loops, which are the largest of any glove in this test.

I did have a few complaints. I have relatively narrow wrists, but I had to really crank the velcro closure to get a close fit. I wasn’t helped by the palm, which seems to be unusually large for the size. Different hands have different fits, but the Fossil may be best suited to those with large hands.

The Fossil showed wear earlier than some other gloves in this test (notably the Black Diamond Stone, its half-fingered competitor). I wasn’t worried about the Fossils giving out, but they are less burly than all-leather constructions.

The usability and comfort of the Fossils easily outweighed these minor concerns. For a versatile half-finger climbing glove, the Fossil is excellent.

Product Specs

  • Materials: Goathide Leather, Cow Suede, Stretch Polyester
  • Finger Length: Half

Best Value: Black Diamond Crag Gloves

Black Diamond Crag Gloves

Gloves are a useful upgrade, but not all climbers will want to drop a lot of money on a new pair. For these climbers, I suggest the Black Diamond Crag.

The Crag uses a similar design to the Petzl Cordex, swapping in synthetic leather to save on the price. The palm and fingers are wrapped in synthetic leather and subtly padded, while the back is a mesh fabric with padding over the knuckles.

The Crag is nearly as dexterous and comfortable as the Cordex, too. It uses a similar seam design and finished just behind the Cordex in my knot tying test.

The padding adds comfort without hurting sensitivity. On the back of the thumb, the fabric is soft for wiping a runny nose. The clip-in loops are a little finicky, but they work well enough.

All this functionality comes at a wallet-friendly MSRP, and we’ve often seen the Crag on sale online. For buyers who prefer open fingertips, Black Diamond also makes a half-finger version, the Black Diamond Crag Half-Finger Gloves.

The Crag easily outclassed its closest competitor, the Metolius Belay Slave. It falls short of other award winners in durability and comfort, but the Crag is all many climbers will need. At the price, it’s a bargain.

Product Specs

  • Materials: Synthetic Leather, Stretch Mesh Fabric
  • Finger Length: Full or Half

Best Big Wall Climbing Glove: Black Diamond Stone Gloves

Black Diamond Stone Gloves

While some gloves boast hybrid construction and extra features, the Stone is all about simplicity. Reinforced all-leather construction, a velcro closure, and that’s it.

This is what makes the Stone so useful. It’s built simple to withstand abuse over long days on bigger walls. I’ve had a pair of Stone gloves for years, and they’ve withstood more than I could possibly expect.

The Stone is only available as a half-finger glove. This preserves dexterity for duties like aid climbing, but it does mean less protection than full-finger gloves (or the OR Fossil).

When rappelling or jumaring, the Stone excels. It’s just the right mix of durability, protection, and dexterity for wall use.

My only complaints are about the closure. The velcro started to lose holding power over time, which meant that the gloves would come open every once in a while.

The clip-in holes are located on the straps, which means the closures are open when hanging on a climbing harness. It’s a minor flaw, but I did notice a fleece layer getting snagged.

The clip-in loops on the Black Diamond Stone.

The Stone’s strap-mounted clip-in loops.

Compared to our other award winners, the Stone gloves are a more specialized tool. Not all climbers will need the durability, and some may prefer a more comfortable construction. But for those who put their gear through the wringer on big stone, the Stone lives up to its name.

Product Specs

  • Materials: Goathide Leather
  • Finger Length: Half

Budget Pick: Wells Lamont Grain Cowhide Work Gloves

Wells Lamont Grain Cowhide Work Gloves

A dark horse in this test, the cartoonish yellow Wells Lamont gloves were a budget entrant.

They held up well to climbing duties. The full-leather construction is supple and relatively comfortable. It wasn’t as dexterous as any of our other award winners, but it also wasn’t particularly bad.

Instead of a closure system, these gloves use a simple pull cord on the back of the wrist. It’s easy to adjust, even with both gloves on. It makes for easy on and off.

The Wells Lamont gloves were competent and protective when rappelling or jumaring. The seams get in the way sometimes, and these gloves aren’t as well designed as the top scorers, but they’re burly, simple, and effective. They do fit slightly small — consider going up a size if you’re on the edge.

The biggest drawback is the lack of a clip-in loop, but this is easily remedied with a leather punch. If you’re a fan of half-finger climbing gloves, the fingertips can simply be cut off.

The real draw of the Wells Lamont is the price. Retail price varies, but we’ve seen these gloves on sale for cheap. For full-leather gloves, they’re a steal.

Climbers who need maximum durability for the buck should consider a modified pair of Wells Lamont — as long as they’re okay getting McDonald’s references every once in a while.

Product Specs

  • Materials: Cowhide Leather
  • Finger Length: Full

Reviews of the 3 Other Climbing Gloves We Tested

Metolius Belay Glove

Metolius Belay Gloves

These all-leather gloves have one main factor in their favor: durability.

Made from thick, stiff cowhide, the Metolius Belay gloves were the burliest in our test. Most would be hard pressed to wear through these gloves in a lifetime of climbing.

The leather held up well to testing, and a full-finger design means that protection is excellent. Metolius also makes a half-finger version called the Metolius Climbing Glove.

Everywhere else, however, the Belay Gloves suffer. The thick leather takes a while to break in, and even then it’s not particularly pliant. This glove finished toward the bottom in dexterity tests, although it remained generally usable.

Comfort is another miss. The gloves feel chunky, and the leather isn’t breathable. Bulky seams at the tips of the fingers subtract from comfort and dexterity, and the closure is mediocre.

All told, this glove isn’t as polished as our award winners. Price-wise, it’s no bargain either. If durability is your primary concern, then these gloves may be worth the price.

Product Specs

  • Materials: Cowhide Leather
  • Finger Length: Full

CLC Handyman Gloves

CLC Handyman Gloves

Another budget representative, the CLC Handyman gloves are billed as work gloves with excellent dexterity. They live up to the marketing, but they’re not ideal for climbing.

The main reason is the heavily padded palm. This may be useful for general labor (and it was nice while jumaring), but the padding made belaying and rappelling feel unintuitive and distant.

The Handyman’s other fatal flaw is the lack of a clip-in loop. A tiny overlap could be strung with cord, but it would be more trouble than it’s worth. The cuff fabric doesn’t lend itself to hole punching.

These are regrettable shortcomings, because the Handyman is otherwise a dexterous and comfortable glove. The fit and closure are both excellent, and the synthetic leather held up well to abuse.

But the Handyman isn’t as functional as the cheaper Wells Lamont. And it’s not nearly as nice as the Black Diamond Crag, which only costs a tad more. For the budget-conscious climber, we recommend one of those options.

Product Specs

  • Materials: Synthetic Leather, Spandex
  • Finger Length: Full

Metolius Belay Slave Glove

Metolius Belay Slave Gloves

The Belay Slave is Metolius’s answer to the Black Diamond Crag, but it’s inferior in every way. These gloves were my least favorite and a distant last in this test.

The synthetic leather showed wear earlier than any other gloves and managed to be both uncomfortable and clumsy. The material has no articulation at any joints, which makes movement stiff and imprecise.

When I tried to load up a GriGri in the gym, my climbing partner laughed out loud at how much I fumbled.

The closure isn’t any better. It’s difficult to cinch, and the tab gets in the way once it’s closed.

The Belay Slave is vaguely functional, but it feels like a much more primitive version of the Crag. That’s too bad, because as of this writing they’re a similar price. For the money, I’d take the Black Diamond Crag every time.

Product Specs

  • Materials: Synthetic Leather, Stretch Mesh Fabric
  • Finger Length: Full

Summary

Here are the best climbing gloves for belaying and rappelling:

  • Petzl Cordex
  • Outdoor Research Fossil Rock Gloves
  • Black Diamond Crag Gloves
  • Black Diamond Stone Gloves
  • Wells Lamont Grain Cowhide Work Gloves
  • Metolius Belay Gloves
  • CLC Handyman Work Gloves
  • Metolius Belay Slave Gloves

How to Choose the Best Climbing Gloves for Your Needs

The term “climbing gloves” can cover a wide range of mitts, many designed for cold-weather use. We restricted ourselves to gloves meant for general belay, rappel, or wall use, although some of these gloves can provide some warmth in chilly weather.

A few key characteristics are worth keeping an eye on.

Materials

Most of what climbing gloves need to do is handle climbing ropes. That means holding up to lots of friction, which generally requires some variety of synthetic or real leather.

Synthetic leather is cheaper, but tends to be less durable in the long run.

Real leather can be sourced from either cows or goats. Cowhide is more durable but stiffer, while goathide is supple but less burly. Leather gloves can feel stiff, but they can be quite comfortable, especially in a hybrid construction.

Either material can be paired with a softer fabric on the back of the hand. A hybrid design with stretch fabric improves breathability, comfort, and fit.

The Black Diamond Crag's soft nosewipe patch.

The BD Crag’s soft thumb patch is a nice touch.

Finger Length

Climbing gloves will be either full-finger or half-finger (sometimes referred to as 3/4-finger).

Full-finger gloves are more protective but sacrifice some dexterity. For long belays or rappels, a good pair of full-finger gloves offers maximum protection.

Half-finger gloves preserve more dexterity but leave the fingers exposed. This makes tasks like placing gear or tying knots easier, but it does mean that your fingertips will see extra wear. For all of us tech-addicted millennials, half-finger gloves also make it easy to use a phone or snap pictures — hopefully not while belaying.

Clip-in Loops

Climbers often need to clip their gloves to their harness, so a good pair of gloves must have a place to clip a carabiner. Some gloves have a dedicated loop, while others simply punch a hole near the base of the palm. Either configuration is functional, although I find loops easier to clip.

The Outdoor Research Fossil's large clip-in loops.

The Outdoor Research Fossil’s large clip-in loops.

How We Tested

Knot Tying Test

An easy way to test the dexterity of these gloves was to tie a knot. You won’t generally be wearing gloves to tie in, but I used a figure eight knot because I always tie it the same way.

I timed how long it took me to tie in with each pair of climbing gloves. Here are the results:

Rappel Testing

Rappelling with the Petzl Cordex.

Rappelling with the Petzl Cordex.

To get a sense of comfort and usability, I found a cliff with an easy walk-off and did the opposite of most climbers: I walked up and rappelled down. I repeated multiple times with each glove to get side-by-side comparisons.

Field Testing

I wore these gloves in the climbing gym, at the crag, and for more specialized duties like aiding and jumaring. I compared all candidates for dexterity, comfort, durability, and usability.

Belaying in the Wells Lamont Grain Cowhide Work Gloves.

Belaying in the Wells Lamont work gloves.