Ocun Crack Gloves
Ethical decisions and choices have long been a central tenet of British trad climbing. The advent of rubber crack climbing gloves has provided yet another choice to have to make. Moving to the Peak District twenty something years ago I quickly picked up the art of hand jamming and enjoyed the masochistic act of hanging my weight from my hands as they were contorted into cracks of various widths and shapes. It never occurred to me, or seemingly anybody else at the time, to protect my hands from the rough rock. Often this would mean only a single attempt at a route or problem, followed by a couple of weeks to let the skin scab over and heal before some more. I remember a few folk who would tape up in the style befitting American crack climbers, but quite honestly I was too impatient a) to learn how to do it, and b) to actually put the tape on. So I carried on the same cycle. There was a certain satisfaction in sitting at work and looking at my bruised and battered hands on my keyboard knowing that they'd unlocked another classic crack the previous night.
Then the game changer. Technological innovation meets a bright spark and the crack glove is born. Made from a very durable, but thin rubber they are effectively a simple design cut from a flat sheet of the stuff. You fit your fingers and thumb through the appropriate holes, and close them around your wrist with a Velcro strap. The strap is pretty fiddly as it resides within a kind of pocket in the rubber so that once they are snugly on, the strap is tucked out of sight and out of the way of any potential jamming surface. It's actually a very neat way of making sure that you are not jamming against the Velcro, but it does take some practice to be able to put them on without a second pair of hands to help.
Once they are on essentially they cover the back of your hands and the main knuckles in you actual hand (as opposed to in your fingers). Your fingers are left unencumbered so that you can climb as normal. They feel quite 'present' as the rings of rubber that circle each finger and your thumb are strong and durable. The first pair I tried on, and XL, were too big and baggy. The L size are snug.
I've used them a few times now and have to say that they are pretty effective. It's essential to make sure they fit very snugly otherwise your hands shift around inside the gloves. It's fair to say that your hands won't fit into the same old jams in exactly the same way as they are effectively now a few millimetres fatter, but really, that's not an issue as they will now fit some jams that you previously didn't, that bit better. When you get a jam that fits it has to be said that it is actually more reassuring than without the gloves, the rubber acting much like it does on your rock shoes, and being better adapted to actually grip the rock. And so far, I've not managed to scar myself! I should imagine on a big crack route in the desert or on Baffin Island they will make trips a whole lot more comfortable. Pretty revolutionary really. Do they bring the grade down? Possibly, but then so did the advent of sticky rubber shoes. It's all part of the evolution of the sport.
They weight 57g and retail at £25.95
More info on the Ocun website