Ocun was the first, Outdoor Research (OR) was the second and then in March 2020, Black Diamond (BD) came to the table with their offering of crack gloves. Now with three options, its time to review the gloves after putting in several hundred pitches of use.
A healthy pain threshold paired with bare skin or tape for non-stone masters has worked for decades, why have these gloves come about?
These are their advantages:
I have mostly moved on from Ocun Gloves due to how thick they are. My partner loves the Ocuns because they like the padding and have small hands, but they also don’t often lead finger cracks. I however, with my 23cm hands cannot use the Ocuns on thin hands or below so I have sense moved to OR gloves for anything less than fist.
Price while normally a factor is not here, all cost $40. Also, I did not count durability into the chart because I haven’t used the Black Diamond gloves comparatively enough.
The Winner: The Black Diamond gloves blow the other two out of the water with three features: a protected thumb for those fists, their comfort and superior sizes for the best fit.
(Note: I have only tested the BD gloves a few times compared to OR and Ocun usage.)
Even though Ocun has the largest size range, they lumped the most common sizes together which always made them fit small or baggy. The same goes with for OR, which is why my Black Diamond – Large gloves fit sooo much better than my Outdoor Research – L/XL or my Ocun – Large gloves. (remember I have size 23cm hands)
Finally, the Ocuns size a little small so when people get them the first time they have pain in their fingers while they stretch out the finger holes. Outdoor Research solves this by having loose finger holes. However, the Black Diamond gloves have thicker finger holes and use a soft, cool material that stretches easily for the perfect fit.
My biggest issue with crack gloves is their durability. I often break my Ocun gloves by tearing through the closure hole after 1-2 months of good use. I’ve returned about 5 pair of Ocun gloves under their year warranty, but the same thing happens.
I’ve also found this happening on my OR gloves, although because the sizing is better, it happens less often. In both cases I end up taping the glove over my wrist so fix the failure.
The closure on the BD gloves look very similar so I’m not sure the durability will improve over OR or Ocun, so I didn’t count this in my chart above. If the durability turns out better I will never buy another glove. If it turns out worse I may migrate back towards OR gloves.
I have destroyed my thumb soooo many times while wearing crack gloves. Typically its because one pitch is wider than expected and once on the route. Who wants to exit climbing flow to do additional taping on the wall? Testing these gloves out in a wide crack with easy vertical fist jamming, the extra coverage in these BD gloves came through with superb protection.
Secondly, the sizing worked really well for me. No tired fingers from wearing-in the gloves. The material is soft and stretches for a perfect fit. The final test will be the long term durability which I’ll know in 20-80 pitches.
Plus, they almost look like tape glovers for those people afraid of Yosemite Hard Men calling gloves aid. 🤪
Ocun crack gloves were the very first ones I tried, they were awesome for learning how to hand jam. However, they added just too much thickness. SO when I moved into smaller and harder cracks: thin hands to thin fingers (i.e. 5.10 trad), I upgraded to using the OR gloves as my standard.
The OR gloves have performed amazingly. They wear on the rubber a little more than the thicker Ocun’s but I haven’t had a failure due to that. In comparison, they are maybe a couple millimeters thicker than the new Black Diamond gloves. So in the past, they have been my go-to for anything less than fists.
My partner first tried the OR gloves and then the Ocuns. They much preferred the Ocun’s for the same reason I didn’t like them: the thickness. With their smaller hands and more moderate style, these gloves provided a ton of comfort and helped move those hands into the ‘more typical’ range.
Anyone with small hands can tell you that when Mountain Project says ‘hands’ it really means wide hands for them. So these gloves can help fill those hands out. However, there still is a wear-in period with the tight fingers.
When my friends go after their projects, they use tape. Gloves simply cannot get as thin as tape. So tape protects your hands with the smallest modification of hand size. It also allows a person to customize their gloves to cover areas like fingers, thumb and joints as needed.
Author Note: I have a pro deal with Black Diamond but I did not partner or consult with them on this post nor was I asked to test their gloves during the development.