Mountaineering Gloves

Mountaineering Gloves
May 12, 2019 Orvel Miskiw

I still often see people knocking around in the mountains, cliffs, bush, and boulders with bare hands where they could benefit greatly from gloves.

For a start, bushwhacking and descending steep rock slopes are very common parts of climbing and mountaineering; warding off a prickly branch from your face, brushing against a boulder, or taking a bumslide without gloves can produce various kinds of injuries like cuts, punctures, and scrapes that in themselves are usually not serious, but can be the start of a few days of nuisance and discomfort while you wait for them to heal. A cut finger can cause a need for changed get-by rock-climbing technique in that time, for example.

Also the extra caution necessitated by bare hands in many such situations can make you awkward and limit your comfort and versatility in dealing efficiently with terrain, for example dropping one hand to the edge of a step below you before hopping down to a lower ledge.

Mountaineering gloves should be a regular part of every climber’s daily kit, and there’s no need to wait to find ‘just the right ones’ — perhaps from Black Diamond — as almost any glove is a lot better than none.  If used right — viz., a lot, and roughly — they take abuse and should be expected to wear out, so cheap and functional should be your objective; these are not for looks but rather for use. Even cotton gardening gloves will do for a while, and are cheap enough to toss out and replace after every few trips. Various kinds of rubber-coated and synthetic gloves, like mechanic gloves, are common now and are worth trying; they will likely work with varying merits, but they are not necessarily inexpensive.

Examples of Workable Gloves for Climbing

My favorite type of gloves for mountaineering are roadside work gloves with leather palms and cloth backs. I got a pack of 5 pairs of them at a Husky gas station for 6$ a few years ago, and I’m still using the last of them now. I check such stores from time to time, and find the selection and prices change continually. It’s still hard to beat leather palms for durability, and the cloth backs breathe to minimize moisture buildup inside. I recommend treating the leather with any product like Sno-Seal, Dubbin, Saddle polish, Snow Guard, Nik-Wax, or even Bag Balm after a couple of times out and drying them. After absorbing such an oily or waxy substance, leather becomes supple and resists cracking and tearing — in fact it gets tougher and so will last much better.

Such gloves are also good for belaying and rappelling, as they give you better grip on ropes while protecting your hands from friction heat and occasional stones and twigs on the rope. They should be loose enough on your hands to enable easy putting on and off, yet snug enough for dexterity, and as such can often readily be used for scrambling and climbing easier pitches too. The same gloves also stand in for a little bit of ‘warmth’ on cool mornings or evenings, or if the weather turns bad en route, and can even serve OK for ice climbing on warmer days or if you soak your last pair of climbing gloves or drop one.

I’m including a picture of a selection of gloves that I use or could use for this purpose: they should be fairly thin, light, flexible, and close-fitting but not tight, as you need to be able to put them on and take them off easily. As you can see they come in a variety of colors to select or avoid as you like. The all-leather “Rider” below centre would be the most expensive and also has a thin fleece lining but is more glove than necessary and may be a bit too bulky for some purposes; my favorite is the striped one at upper left — I tied a loop through the edge of the leather palm for clipping on to my harness or helping to pull it on; the white cotton garden glove below it would be the cheapest but would still be a lot better than a bare hand in many situations.

    Many Gloves are Suitable for Scrambling or Utility in Mountaineering

If you don’t have a pair of light & rugged belay, rappel, or mountaineering gloves, I suggest you stop in at the nearest corner store, supermarket, gas station, etc. ASAP and see what they have available in inexpensive, expendable work-type gloves and keep an open mind. Grab a pair — almost anything, put them in your pack or clip them on your harness, and one day soon you’ll be happy that you have them along. You can always upgrade them later if you like anyway.

Orvel

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