Outdoor Research Belay Gloves Review (Direct Route Glove, Fossil Rock Gloves & Splitter Work Gloves)

Often overlooked, belay gloves can make or break a day of climbing. From long days at the crag to long multi-pitch routes belay gloves should always come along in your pack. Nothing ruins a good day of climbing like dirty, raw palms from belaying your partner over and over on their project that they are “just a few moves away from sending”.

I had the opportunity to put a three new pairs of belay gloves from Outdoor Research, as well as their newest version of “hand jammies”, gloves designed to be used for crack climbing. If you know anything about Outdoor Research (OR), you probably know that they are renown for making some of the best climbing gloves on the market. With that in mind I’ve been testing out these gloves for the past few months both in New England, and in Colorado.

Direct Route Gloves & Fossil Rock Gloves

First up the Direct Route Gloves and the Fossil Rock Gloves. Despite having different names, these gloves are essentially the same, which is why I’ve decided to lump them together. The main difference is the Fossil gloves are a fingerless glove, while Direct Gloves cover your full hand.

 Belaying with the Fossil Rock Gloves

Belaying with the Fossil Rock Gloves

The first thing I noticed is how beefy and durable the gloves are. After several days of use, I can definitely attest to the quality of the construction. I found that they fit true to the listed sizes, and were quite comfortable to wear. Both gloves are equipped with large loops allowing them to be easily clipped and hung on a harness. There’s two features in all gloves that I can’t stand. The first is seams that push into your hand, and the second is velcro that doesn’t cinch tight enough around your wrist. These gloves don’t have any of these issues, and are a great choice for a day with lots of manual rope work (like hard sport climbing or rappelling).

 Giving slack with the Fossil Rock Gloves

Giving slack with the Fossil Rock Gloves

I preferred the Fossil Gloves (fingerless) to the Direct Gloves. I found the goat leather fingers to be quite slippery, and as a result, it was sometimes difficult to take the Direct Gloves off. Generally speaking, I want protection on my palms and knuckles, and preferred the dexterity of the fingerless model.

Splitter Work Gloves

Second on the list is the is Splitter Work Gloves. These gloves are goat leather all around, and won me over with how comfortable they are. These gloves are notably thinner than the previous two, but still offer plenty of protection. Extra leather on the palms make for more than enough protection, but the all leather design allows for much more flexibility and dexterity than the thicker options. Like the other two pairs, these gloves also have large loops at the cuff that allow them to be easy clipped onto the harness.

 Belay gloves make a big difference pulling a fat rope through a top belay

Belay gloves make a big difference pulling a fat rope through a top belay

While I do love the comfort of these gloves, I’m worried about the long term durability, and would probably lean towards the Direct Gloves if you’re looking for a beefy work glove. The Splitter Work Gloves would be a better choice for someone looking to keep their hands warm on a colder day in the mountains.

Splitter Gloves

Last but not least are the Splitter Gloves. Originally pioneered by OR several years ago, the Splitter Gloves are designed to replace bulky and wasteful tape gloves for crack climbing. I’ll have to admit when I was first offered the opportunity to test these out, I wasn’t interested. I had tried other versions of this glove briefly but wasn’t impressed enough to buy them. However, OR sent me a pair of these anyways, so I had no choice but to give them a fair shot.  

 Good hands with the splitter gloves 

Good hands with the splitter gloves 

These gloves are made of a synthetic leather, and form a thin barrier between the back of your hand and the rock. They are much stronger than they appear at first (I eventually tried to rip some of the loops without any success), and offer quite a bit of protection. These gloves are a great solution for route with intermittent crack pitches, and a great option for folks who don’t like taping up. I certainly applaud OR for making an effort to design a more sustainable option for tape gloves, which don’t last nearly as long as the hand jammies will. Compared to actual tape gloves, these gloves aren’t as thick (which may or may not help depending on the crack), and they don’t offer as much protection in the sharpest of sharp cracks. Side by side in sharp New England schist tape gloves were a bit more comfortable than the OR option. In smoother granite cracks the OR gloves were equally comfortable. The Splitter Gloves are so quick and easy to put on, these gloves are a super useful tool for multi-pitch routes, or long days at the crag with routes of every style. While they won’t replace a full on beefy pair of tape gloves for a hard, long day of crack climbing, the convenience of these gloves makes them absolutely worth it for every climber.

The Final Word

OR makes some of the best climbing specific gloves in the industry, and these gloves are no exception. The Direct Route Gloves and the Fossil Rock Gloves are the beefiest of the two options, with the only real difference being full finger vs. fingerless options. These gloves are the best choice for anyone looking for maximum protection and durability.

The Splitter Work Gloves are the most comfortable, and offer the most dexterity out of the lineup. I prefer the full leather construction and sleek design of these gloves, but worry about the long term durability. These would be best for colder alpine rock routes or the weight conscious climber.

Finally the Splitter Gloves. While these gloves won’t replace a pair of tape gloves for a full on crack addict, I would definitely recommend these to every climber. From casual crack routes to alpine rock, to multi-pitch routes with varied terrain, these gloves offer equal protection on smoother rock types, and are so quick and easy to put on, you’ll never have to stress about wasting time taping up. I would definitely recommend every climber pick up a pair.