Do You Need Gloves for Rock Climbing? – Detailed Guide

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Experts and sport climbers do not quite agree on whether gloves make sense or not and whether beginners should be advised to use gloves at all. 

Climbing gloves* are designed to protect the skin on the hands when using ropes when climbing and abseiling. They are therefore especially useful to prevent burns or injuries and are therefore adapted to these requirements. 

So the correct fit on your own hand is especially important to ensure a secure grip. But are climbing gloves really the right solution?

Should I use Climbing Gloves as a Beginner?

When you start climbing or bouldering indoors, the first question you probably ask yourself is whether you need climbing gloves for it. Climbing involves the muscles all over the body but also the hands, where the skin is particularly sensitive when you use a rope or have to hold on to the handles for a long time. 

This can cause a strong burning sensation on the hands, especially in the first few hours of climbing. And then it can happen that you cannot hold the holds anymore because it is very painful. But whether it is right to wear gloves for bouldering or climbing as a beginner could also be questioned.

Are gloves the perfect solution?

Climbing gloves are not the perfect solution. When you start climbing or bouldering, where your hands suddenly have to do much more than you are used to, this usually puts a strain on your skin. Injuries can also occur more quickly now. 

So the gloves are certainly a small help in the first climbing lessons but should remain the exception until your whole body has adjusted to the sport. If the muscles in your arms and legs are hardened, then it will be easier for you to grip with your hands and avoid climbing gloves here.

Alternatives to gloves

If you want to do without climbing gloves, there are alternatives that you should consider so that you can enjoy climbing, bouldering and ice climbing for a long time. After all, nobody wants burning hands, which can happen during longer climbing sessions, even with experienced sport climbers. Therefore you should follow these tips if you want to do without gloves:

Improve climbing technique

Important to relieve your hands is the right technique when climbing. Here you should take care to put more weight on your feet, so your hands are relieved and the skin is less stressed. In addition, you should know exactly how to use your swing correctly when climbing. 

Although dynamics are important when climbing, you should only use them in a controlled way. You shouldn’t just slam from grip to grip, because this inevitably leads to injuries and hand wounds.

Use Chalk

The white powder* is often criticized because it dusts, leaves traces on the rocks and attacks the skin on the hands. Nevertheless, chalk dries the sweat on the hands, the calluses cannot soften and the friction is improved. 

So you can’t slip off so easily and hurt your hands. If you cream your hands well after climbing, the skin will remain supple despite the drying chalk.

Mixed climbing also protects

If you climb in the wall, you should not only use the handles but also slopers or battens from time to time. That way you can avoid blisters. You should also not climb in the roof all the time as a boulder, then the load is on your hands the whole time. A little bit of variety helps to save your hands.

Quit early or tape your hands

If you notice that your hands don’t want to do the same as you do, just stop earlier. That won’t break any of your balls at that moment. If you want to continue, it also helps to put a protective tape bandage around a callus or blister.

Climbing Gloves – What Should They Look Like?

Not all climbing gloves are the same. There are basically two different types of climbing gloves. There are half-finger* and full-finger* gloves. 

Also climbing gloves with free index finger and thumb can be found in well-assorted stores. Half-finger gloves are also known from cycling and weight training to protect the hands. 

But these are really so well suited for climbing because the fingers, which are used more often in bouldering, for example, remain free. In the following, we will discuss the differences and similarities as well as the individual advantages and disadvantages.

Half-Finger Gloves

As a rule, half-finger gloves* are made of strong nylon or leather. There is also a reinforcement on the palm of the hand. They are designed to withstand the passage of rope, ice or rocks. 

In these models the fingertips are missing, the glove ends at the middle phalanx. These gloves can be closed at the wrist with a velcro fastener so that they do not slip off the hand during climbing. These gloves are especially recommended for climbing on rocks or indoors, especially for beginners, who can climb longer without much pain in their hands. The advantage of these gloves is also that you sweat less because your fingers are open.


  • well suited for rock or gym
  • mobility of the hands is better
  • grip is improved by more tactile capacity
  • more comfortable to wear in warm temperatures


  • no protection against cold
  • not suitable for ice climbing
  • less protected against injuries, because fingers are free
  • increased corneal formation

The half-finger gloves* are also well suited for hiking on via ferrata, as they also provide some protection on the wire ropes, which are usually roughened. However, when the hands are subjected to a great deal of stress, these gloves cause increased blistering and callus formation in the areas where the end of the glove meets the fingers.

Full-Finger Gloves

Full-finger gloves* are nothing other than closed models. They are often also offered as closed gloves with open index finger and thumb. 

Here they enclose only the remaining three fingers of the hand, the tips of the index finger and thumb are exposed. This should give you as a climber a good feeling for the ground while protecting your fingers. 

The closed gloves are particularly suitable for high ropes courses or via ferrata, as they require a firm grip. Protruding wire, a sharp rock or a frayed rope cannot do much damage to the hands, as the risk of injury is almost impossible. 

In addition, the closed gloves protect against the cold and are therefore also very suitable for ice climbing.


  • ideal for securing
  • in a high ropes course and on a via ferrata
  • protects against injuries of the hand
  • protects just as well against cold


  • sensing ability not good
  • sweat formation when it is warm
  • hardly any finger freedom

If closed gloves are chosen, you should make sure that the fingers are not allowed to squeeze and that the fingertips are completely enclosed. The fingers must remain absolutely movable in the closed gloves. 

If they are too tight, however, mobility is restricted. At the same time, this also means an increased risk of accidents, as your hands do not have enough feeling and you could slip off more quickly. For bouldering without protection, these gloves are therefore hardly suitable.

Find the right climbing gloves

If you have decided to climb or boulder with gloves for the first time, then you should use the appropriate products. Often the beginners choose cycling gloves or those offered for weight training. However, this is not recommended.

These gloves are similar, but still not well suited for sport climbing. So you can get good climbing gloves of good quality in a specialized climbing equipment store. The advantage here is that there are usually experienced boulderers or climbers who can advise you. 

Often the gym also offer a product selection where you can also get advice. For a taster course in the climbing gym, various items of the required equipment are often provided for a small fee. This includes special climbing shoes and the appropriate gloves. 

So you can test here in advance which gloves you prefer for climbing before you buy some for yourself.

Also if you want to buy online, this is a good way to test the models before you order them on the Internet.

What can a good climbing glove cost?

Even the good quality gloves are not as expensive as you might think. Above all you should always act from the aspect of safety. If you are a beginner, you should always wear climbing gloves for the first few hours to get used to climbing or bouldering. 

So you can get gloves made of synthetic material from $20. These gloves do not adapt to your hands and do not expand. Higher quality gloves are made of leather, which cost around $35 in specialized shops because of the better quality.

For what purpose should climbing gloves be worn?

It is recommended not to always wear climbing gloves. Experienced climbers or boulderers usually do without them and use the alternatives. But it is recommended to always have some gloves with you. 

Especially on via ferrata and mountain tours, which are secured with wire ropes, the climbing gloves can be advantageous. Because here they protect against injuries or burns and can improve flu when rappelling.

With the coated inner side you also have better control of the rope when rappelling and belaying. Also on via ferrata the grip is better with gloves. Therefore climbing gloves are suitable for climbing on rocks as well as indoors.

For the material, you should choose the one that suits you the most. However, leather climbing gloves are more durable. Synthetic gloves, on the other hand, break down faster. The leather also adapts better to your hands.

Further Information

  • Experienced climbers can hardly be seen wearing gloves.
  • Gloves can be more disturbing than securing.
  • A good grip feeling is better without climbing gloves.
  • When buying, you should always pay attention to fit, quality and feel.
  • Especially the seams should be well finished.
  • The seams could quickly fray when climbing if the workmanship is poor.
  • Leather gloves may be tighter when you buy them, as they will widen while you wear them.
  • Synthetic material does not adapt and must fit exactly when you buy it.
  • Gloves that are too tight can cause the blood supply to the fingers to be cut off.
  • If the material of the gloves is too stiff, the rope can no longer be felt, but this is very important for a climber.
  • Climbing gloves make sense with ropes that have become increasingly thin in recent years.
  • Gloves also make sense when a lighter person has to secure a heavier one.
  • There are vacuum-operated gloves with which it is possible to climb a vertical wall without using other aids such as ropes or ladders, unfortunately these are very loud.

Related Questions

Why do experienced climbers not wear gloves?

As already mentioned, these are experienced climbers or boulderers, whose skin on their hands has already adapted to the wall and the rock through years of experience, so that it no longer needs to be protected.

Can gloves prevent calluses on the hands?

Yes, the climbing gloves prevent that. Because the skin is protected and calluses hardly form here, even if you climb often. But that is exactly the problem. Because the gloves prevent the hands from becoming sensitive even after several years of climbing.

What else should you look out for when buying gloves?

It is important that the closure closes well and cannot open by itself. Otherwise the gloves could slip off your hands during climbing. In addition, the gloves must not restrict or obstruct in any way.

Can the gloves only help with different activities?

It makes sense to always have a pair of climbing gloves with you when climbing in the rocks. These can be worn on a via ferrata, taken off when climbing in the rocks and put on again when lowering the rope. In this way, an optimal protection of the hands can be achieved.

What should the gloves protect against?

It is important that the gloves are designed in such a way that the climber does not get burns, for example, if he lets a climbing rope pass quickly through his hands while belaying or if he touches a hot carabiner. The gloves also protect against sharp rocks or wires and when ice climbing from the cold and frostbite.


As you can see, the question of climbing gloves* yes or no is not easy to answer. If you ask an experienced climber, he would always answer with a no. 

However, the gloves are certainly helpful in the first weeks. Without them, the skin on the hands can be very painful and sensitive. Therefore, when you start climbing or bouldering, you should wear gloves the first few times so that you can concentrate on the climbing itself. If you become safer and safer over time and you dare to climb higher, you should start to do without gloves. 

Especially when the tracks get harder and harder, the gloves become a hindrance and you can’t get a good grip. Therefore you can say that gloves are conditionally suitable for beginners if the skin on the hands is very sensitive, but they should not be worn too long. It is better to find the right climbing technique and to chalk your hands.

Attention: You have to take care of your safety when climbing! The information on only helps you to learn. Before you climb, you should make sure that you have been properly instructed by an expert and that you follow all safety precautions.

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