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How to Make Tape Gloves for Crack Climbing

Your hands are useful tools, but they’re not indestructible. They take a beating while climbing: scrapes, cuts, and bruises come with the territory. Some see them as battle wounds. One type of climbing, crack climbing, does a number on them.

What is Crack Climbing?

For the record, this has nothing to do with drugs in case you were wondering. I wanted to put that out there. To give you a gist of what crack climbing is, according to REI’s Getting Started Crack Climbing, a crack that runs up a cliff face presents a line to follow while climbing. However, figuring out how to climb a crack can be challenging.

Vital to crack climbing is jamming. You insert your hands, feet or limbs into a crack and expanding or torquing them to create a secure hold. Jamming can be hard and sometimes painful, but it’s often the only way to climb it. I will explain this topic more in detail a later article. What I want to focus on is how to prepare beforehand.

So, you’re probably thinking, what got me into this? Well, at the Oklahoma City gym where I work, there’s a wood crack climbing route in one of the silos. My friends and I were messing around on it one day we were there, trying to see if we could climb it. I don’t remember how long ago this was but attempting to send it stuck with me since.

Ow, Ow, Ow!

Carved or written into the side of the route is an instruction to wear gloves. It’s so faded that you can miss it. The gloves it refers to are tape gloves, not the ones you wear when it gets cold. Which I find out later, they’re essential to have.

When climbing the route, your hands rub and scrape up against the sides of the crack. The skin breaks and leaves wounds that sting like hell. If you do it for too long, they’ll start to bleed, and leaving blood on the walls is gross.

Tape Up

Metolius climbing tape

To prevent ripping up your skin and keeping blood off the route, one must make tape gloves for their hands. Friction Labs mentions that adhesive climber’s tape is durable enough to wrap around and protect from damage. The stickier the tape though, the better. Don’t use athletic tape. Through trial and error, it’s not sticky enough to work.

There are a couple of ways you can wrap your hands. Rock and Ice Magazine has a video featuring professional climber Beth Rodden about taping your hands you can use as a reference. Note: when ripping pieces of tape, what size you need will depend on how big your hands are, so you might have to eyeball it. When laying the tape down, it’s imperative to press the tape down onto the skin to make it stick.

First Method

  1. Rip off five pieces of tape. The first one goes around the knuckles in front of the hand. The second goes from the knuckles around the thumb so that it will be a little shorter.
  2. The next three pieces go in-between the three fingers from the back of the hand to the front of the palm. Their length depends on your hand size, but they’ll be the same. These strips will also be skinnier than the others.

  3. First tape strip on the back of my hand. Rodden recommends to tape with an open hand, so the glove is tight but not overly tight. With the first strip, start on the back of the pinky and cover the knuckles. Make sure to go high enough on them and then back around.
  4. Second tape strip around my thumb and hand. The second piece goes from the middle finger around to the front of the thumb. Make sure to get the meat of the thumb with this piece because it’s crucial it sticks.
  5. Tape strips between the fingers. The next three go from the back of the hand through the gaps between the fingers to the palm. These are so the first piece doesn’t roll when jamming.
  6. Tape wrapped around the whole hand. Afterward, you wrap more tape on top of the first piece then angle it down towards the second piece. You continue to wrap down to the wrist bones.
  7. After finishing the glove, make a fist to make sure you didn’t wrap too tightly. Then you’re good to go.

Second Method

This glove leaves the palm exposed and doesn’t wrap the entire hand.

  1. Tear off three pieces of tape, about the same size. The first will go from the back of the pinky knuckle to the side of the pointer finger knuckle. Overlap the other two below it a little on the back of the hand.
  2. The next piece will go from the wrist bone up and around your pinky then come back down. Make sure to cover the sides of the other strips as you bring it back down.
  3. Another piece will start at the wrist but go between the pointer and the middle finger then back down.
  4. Lastly, wrap a piece around the wrist bone and anchor those previous pieces. Form a fist and watch for bunching up or rolls of tape.

⚹ If you want to see pictures of the second method, I have them uploaded in an album on my Bouldering Problems facebook page.

Surprisingly, with this method, you can cut the wrist wrap from the front and save the tape glove for later. However, the first one isn’t as easy to keep. As I was learning about tape gloves, I saw there are other variations on how to make them. So, experiment with the tape and see which one suits you best.

Now, I will mention that there are reusable crack climbing gloves you can buy. I haven’t cracked climbed enough to justify buying them. If I get better at it and do it more often, they might be worth the investment.

In my next article, I’ll put my tape gloves to the test on the crack route. Plus, you get to see me attempt to climb it and maybe get a laugh out it. Until next time, happy climbing!