It’s your first day crack climbing. The sun beats down on you. It’s hot for September in Wyoming; the wind kicks up dust. You know the jagged granite cracks around here are itching to make your hands bleed—you know you need a damn good tape glove.
Blissfully ignorant of the decades of painstaking research behind taping methods, you carelessly mummify your hands in one-inch sport tape. After you give your belayer a thumbs up, you start jamming up an off-width (a crack of abnormal width, usually between fingers and hands. In other words, weird). Twelve vertical feet later, your “tape glove” is frayed and dangling in the breeze, and your friend below has to dodge the cascade of blood spilling forth from your meat mitts. Vedauwoo: 1, You: 0.
You don’t have to suffer. There is a method to the madness. Actually, there are a few methods. I asked FrictionLabs athlete Ty Fuller about his tape glove techniques. Here are the tried and true methods he uses.
Note: all methods imply the use of 1.5” adhesive climbing tape (more on those below). Oh, and all of our method names are completely made up . . .
This technique is great for all-day crack climbing. It won’t cover the palm of your hand, is relatively comfortable, and (with skillful application) is even reusable.
1. Tear 5 full-length strips of tape, each 7-8 inches long (depending on the size of your hand).
2. Start each strip on the outside of your wrist, one inch below the bone. Lace them up and around every finger, including the outside of your pinkie and thumb, and converge them all at the starting point.
3. Wrap the base of the wrist 2-3 times to keep the glove in place.
4. If you want to reuse your glove, all you have to do is replace the wraparound strip each time.
Use this technique on single pitches or short climbing days. The good: it doesn’t use as much tape, and it’s quick. The bad: your whole hand is covered, including your palm—which some people find uncomfortable or constricting. Also, the glove isn’t as secure around your knuckles, which can cause the tape to fray and roll. Here’s how to make it:
1. Instead of tearing strips, you’ll be wrapping one continuous strip around your hand.
2. Start by wrapping once around your wrist, then diagonally across the palm, then straight across the palm. You should be trying to make an X with the tape, hence the name.
3. Make at least two layers. Be careful not to wrap too tightly or you might constrict blood flow to your hands.
A front and back view of the X Method (left) and the Finger Loop Method (right).
This one is great for making the burliest of tape gloves. You want to try that overhanging off-width in Yosemite? Make a Hybrid glove.
Super Thin Method.
If you’re trying to protect your knuckles or hands in an already-too-thin crack, you might want to try this method. All it takes is some adhesive spray and a few thin strips of tape!
1. Spray the back of your hands with Mueller Tuffner Pre-Tape Spray.
2. Apply 2 or 3 strips of tape to the back of your hand.
Any experienced trad climber will tell you—the stickier the tape, the better. The quality of tape you use makes a huge difference, so make a good choice!
Making a proper glove and using the right tape is more important than it might seem, so don’t skimp out! There’s no point in wrapping your hands up haphazardly—your handiwork will not last the length of the climb.
If you have the most righteous tape glove method that we didn’t cover, let us know about it in the comments!