Crack climbing gloves have become increasingly common over the past few years with more and more companies making their own versions. They’ve even become popular enough that the ethical debate seems to have subsided. Of course the reason for this popularity is easy to understand once you try a pair: they work! Well at least if you get the right gloves of course.
With the growing number of rock climbing glove options available a comparison review was called for. Especially given the massive difference in functionality between the different models.
Available Crack Climbing Gloves (at the time of this review):
- Ocun Crack Glove
- OR Splitter Crack Glove
- ClimbX Super Crack Glove
- Singing Rock Chocky Jamming Glove
- Green Gear Hand Jammies (the original crack glove)
Purely for the sake of thoroughness I’m going to touch on these three options, I won’t be undertaking a detailed review of each. To do such a review I’d have to spend a bunch of time using them to really get a feel for their nuances, pros & cons and durability (ie. lots of mileage, wear and tear). However, as I’m sure you can appreciate, I couldn’t bring myself to extensively test these obviously inferior gloves. Just as I don’t need to spend a bunch of time riding an old rigid frame mountain bike to know that a modern full suspension bike is better. So I’ll instead provide a quick summary of my thoughts on each and leave it at that:
The GREEN GEAR HAND JAMMIES were the original crack climbing glove (if you don’t count tape) and were ground-breaking at the time. However, innovations in crack glove design and materials have allowed other companies to develop vastly improved models leaving the Hand Jammies in the dust.
The SINGING ROCK CHOCKY JAMMING GLOVES are based on the design of the Hand Jammies, no real innovation or upgrades here.
Lastly, the ClimbX SUPER CRACK GLOVES are made entirely of rubber and don’t seem to have a lot of thought put into them. Uncomfortable and insecure to wear they resemble a chew toy more than a piece of climbing equipment.
Pros: The Hand Jammies started it all and so some credit is due
Cons: They are vastly inferior to the Ocun and OR versions
Overall: Don’t buy these gloves, read on for better options.
While not a household name in North America like Petzl or BD, the Czech climbing equipment company Ocun makes a variety of climbing related products from harnesses to shoes, chalk to clothing, gym holds to rock gloves (http://www.ocun.com/en/index.html).
The Ocun crack gloves are made from a soft microfiber stretch suede, a similar material as is used on many rock shoes, with a thin patch of rubber for the back of the hand. There is also a thin layer of padding on the underside of the microfiber for the back of the hand.
The gloves come in 4 sizes (S, M, L & XL) and are held on by a velcro strap. I typically wear a large glove for skiing or ice climbing and found that the large Ocun glove fit me well. They’re easy to put on & to take off and don’t limit any movement in the hand.
The thin patch of rubber on the back of the hand is quite durable and often not the how the gloves wear out though it will wear though over time. The finger loops can break if abused and the velcro strap can wear out where bends on the inside of the wrist. The main issue with the original (orange) version of the gloves was the velcro wrist strap at the back of the wrist. It would wear against the rock and eventually break. However, Ocun came out with a new, red, version of the gloves where the velcro strap hides under a small flap of rubber. This has basically eliminated this problem along the back of the hand and a little tape on the inside of the wrist can protect the fold.
The combination of rubber and padding along the back of the glove adds thickness making it a bit harder to fit into thinner cracks. My hand typically fits well into #2 & #3 (BD Camalot sizing) cracks and I can just squeeze them into thin a #1 crack. With the Ocun gloves on I can’t get into a thin #1 crack at all and baggy #1’s are much harder. However, the #2 and #3 cracks feel more secure and baggy #3’s a lot better.
The padding along the back of the hand is fantastic when climbing sharp and coarse grained rock where a little more protection is key. A jam that would normally be incredibly painful as the rock bites into a tape glove and bruises the back of the hand is comfortable and secure with the Ocun Crack gloves.
Pros: Very durable and comfortable, especially when the rock is coarse and sharp
Cons: Are a bit thicker than thin tape gloves and so make thin hand cracks harder
Overall: A very well designed and long lasting crack climbing glove. Ideal for wide cracks, off-widths and rock that’s sharp or has large crystals like a coarse grained granite.
Unlike the Ocun gloves which have rubber and a little padding along the back of the hand for grip and hand protection the OR gloves feature an extremely thin and flexible fabric covered with a patch of synthetic suede. The suede has a rubber like coating on it that wears off quickly in high contact areas but this seems to have little to no impact on grip.
The Splitter Crack gloves come in 3 sizes (XS, S/M, L/XL) and are held on by an ultra-thin strap of velcro that attaches directly to the fabric of the glove. As I mentioned in the previous review I typically wear a Large glove (sometimes M, never XL) and found that the S/M fit me the best. The L/XL gloves were just a bit loose which of course made them less secure.
What really makes these gloves stand out is the low profile fit. The materials are thin and they fit very snuggly with the back of the hand resulting in a similar impact on hand size as a thin pair of tape gloves, just without the painful hair pulling removal process. The thin fabrics also provide good tactile feedback from the back of the hand reducing the tendency to over-jam.
A weak point in the construction of the Splitter Crack gloves is the stitched connection between the velcro wrist strap and the fabric of the glove (same as the Ocun gloves). This area tends to see some rubbing and wear when climbing thinner or flaring cracks and the stitching breaks down causing the velcro strap to come off. To remedy this I started taping the wrist to protect this critical connection.
On anything but big cracks or rock with big crystals the new OR Splitter Crack gloves are my go-to. They fit great, grip well and protect the wearer’s hands and while providing some feeling for the crack.
Pros: Thin, supple, comfortable, easy to put on and remove, small and light
Cons: Wear out more quickly, don’t protect against large crystals in the rock
Overall: Feeling much like a tape glove the OR Splitter Crack gloves are great at getting into thin cracks and provide good tactile feedback. Ideal for thin sandstone cracks, small grained granite, porphyry (Devils Tower) and basalt.
Both the OR Splitter Crack Gloves and Ocun Climbing Gloves are generally superior to traditional tape gloves. They’re more cost effective as they’ll far outlast their cost in climbing tape (hard to say if they’re more environmentally friendly due to the different construction materials but reusable gloves do reduce waste). They can be put on or removed depending on the needs of each pitch when climbing a big route. They don’t pull out arm hair.
So the next time you’re looking to get high on crack and want a pair of gloves the question isn’t “Which glove is the best?” but rather “Which gloves would work the best for this area/climb?”. If you want to climb some OW’s, large hand cracks, flaring cracks or in an area with large crystals and sharp rock the Ocun gloves will likely serve you well. Get the red version, not the orange version, if you can. Or if thin cracks and smooth rock is your thing then the OR gloves are the way to go. Don’t buy the ClimbX Super Crack glove, Singing Rock Chocky Jamming glove or the Green Gear Hand Jammies.