It’s been my experience over the years that Black Diamond is good at making gloves, and their Crack Gloves continue that legacy.
For one thing, they look like regular old-fashioned tape gloves. This appearance makes it easier to blend in at the crag, where crack-climbing purists are more likely to judge you for wearing any sort of skin protection on your hands. That includes tape, but the judgment can be even more severe if you’re wearing black rubber with bright-colored highlights. I know this because in my younger days I used to be one of these judgy individuals. Now that I’m older, my skin seems to tear more easily and I care less what others think, especially if I’m able to climb more pitches without shredding my hands. In Yosemite last spring, several people commented how cool it was that my Black Diamond Crack Gloves looked like tape gloves. There’s an old school, dirtbag credibility that comes with the appearance of using tape instead of some schmancy-fancy store-bought gear. Ironically, buying endless rolls of tape might cost more money over the long run, which brings me to my next point.
As I explained in an earlier review for the Ocun Crack Gloves, using tape adds up. A good roll of tape generally costs around $4. Even if you make “reusable” tape gloves, you still end up going through quite a bit of tape. Remember that all that used tape has to go somewhere, too. And frankly, my experience with reusable tape gloves is that they don’t work if you need a performance fit (read: if you’re jamming anything other than a hand crack). In short, tape gloves result in more wasted material as well as more time spent making them, and they never fit precisely the same. Plus, a purpose-built crack glove comes on and off; no need to wear them all day.
Now here’s why I like the BD gloves the best out of everything I’ve tried so far: they are made with thin, synthetic suede material that has a thin rubber coating at key contact points, and they cover the thumb up to the top knuckle. I found these puppies to perform well in thin hand cracks as well as for offwidth teacup fist jams. Until now, I would avoid wearing any sort of gloves in thin hand cracks because it would just add bulk to my hands that were already struggling to fit into any crevice tighter than 2 inches. This past spring in Yosemite, however, the Black Diamond gloves worked well on cracks like Separate Reality and the Phoenix, which are both historic thin-hand testpieces. For fist jams, I still sometimes add extra tape around my knuckles before donning the gloves, but having thumb coverage on the glove makes it that much easier to prepare for battle.
Durability: I’ve used these gloves in Yosemite, Black Canyon and the Utah desert, and also crammed them into some sharp, crumbly choss cracks near my home on Colorado’s Western Slope, and they’re holding up well, much better than I predicted based on how thin they felt when I first tried them on. The synthetic suede has stretched a little, which is both good and bad in respective terms of comfort and performance; the thin rubber coating is starting to delaminate a wee bit from all the desperate thin-hand jamming; and the plastic-reinforced slot that the wrist strap connects to is beginning to tear (see photos). I thought the finger loops might be one of the first things to break, but those are fine so far. Considering that I’ve used these light, thin gloves on thousands of feet of rock and they are still holding up, I’d say they are worth the money.
I should point out that I’ve always been careful when taking the gloves off, particularly around the thumb loop. The thumb and finger loops have a snug fit, and I feel like the stitching won’t hold up as well if I were just to rip the gloves off impatiently after every use.
Maybe one drawback from the thinness of the gloves is that they don’t provide as much padding as the Ocun gloves. The backs of my hands are more likely to end up with bruises if I’m doing a lot of cupped hand jams, when the middle knuckle on the back of my hand is subjected to a lot of extra pressure (as opposed to the teacup jams, a fist jam during which the pressure point is on the back of the thumb). I use my Ocun gloves instead on those occasions.
Bottom line, I definitely plan to get another pair of the Black Diamond Crack Gloves when this first pair wears out.
Alpinist Digital Editor Derek Franz has been getting in and out of jams since he was 13. Some types of jams are better than others. You can read more about his “Yosemite Dreams” trip in the On Belay section of Alpinist 76 (Winter 2021-22).
Gloves appear like white tape gloves at first glance
Thin, synthetic suede with thin rubber coating performs well in thin-hand cracks
Thumb coverage is nice for fist and offwidth cracks
Fairly durable for how thin they are
Thin rubber coating is prone to delaminating
Finger loops and slot where wrist strap connects are prone to tearing
Gloves don’t provide much padding to the backs of the hands