When climbing alpine rock routes, I almost never feel the need for tape gloves, for two reasons:
(1) Alpine routes rarely require the type of sustained crack climbing found at Indian Creek; more often a route involves a mix of jamming and face-climbing, so I’m not subjecting my hands to the same amount of abrasion.
(2) Alpine cracks tend to be more featured, so when I do have to crack climb, I can often find a placement where I don’t need to exert so much pressure. The parallel sided cracks of the desert require more effort to keep a jam in place, leading to more wear on my skin.
With that said, I did not get a chance to test the Splitter gloves on true splitter alpine cracks, akin to what’s found in the Bugaboos or Patagonia. I did, however, subject them to twenty days of desert crack climbing.
As I said before, the Splitter gloves are a very low profile crack glove. Unlike other gloves I’ve used, the padding is very thin. This makes for easier jamming in thin hands cracks (#1 Camalots for me), but does not negatively impact my ability to jam hands or wide-hands cracks. Point for the Splitter gloves over the competition.
Despite the thin padding, I only once felt a gobie developing beneath the glove. When using tape, I’ve gotten monster gobies on the backs of my hands, especially from cupped-hands cracks, even though I intentionally put an extra layer of tape on. Another point for the Splitter gloves.
The Splitter gloves are, however, less customizable than tape. Although I found the gloves’ thickness to be generally consistent with my preferred taping method, others may not.
Where the gloves differed most from how I prefer to tape is in their coverage of the wrist. I typically tape a bit further down my wrist than the gloves cover, and I developed a gobie on my wrist that was left bare by the gloves. Your experience may differ, but we’ll call this a point against these gloves.
The ability to take gloves on and off is also key. When using tape, especially in colder settings like the desert in the late fall, or the alpine, I often struggle with putting a pair of warm gloves on over my tape. With the Splitter gloves, this isn’t even a question. Taking them on and off is so easy that I never had to decide whether I wanted to put on a different pair of gloves or not. Another point for the Splitter.
Price / Value
Here’s the real question: the Splitter gloves are $39.95, full price. A roll of tape is about $4.00. Are the gloves worth the cost of ten rolls of tape? Given the practicality of gloves that I’ve discussed above, I say Yes.
But their durability is equally important to consider, too. Are these gloves going to last long enough to make back their purchase price?
While the Splitter gloves held up longer than other crack gloves I’ve used – ones that blew out in a matter of days (looking at you ClimbX gloves) – I do wish the difference was even more significant.
The durability of the suede and rubber backing on the body of the gloves has been excellent. Although they feel flimsy and very thin, the suede and the rubber show almost no signs of wearing through.
But after about ten days of use at Indian Creek, the velcro closure on the wrist lost its stickiness, and would routinely come undone at inopportune moments, like when I was struggling at the crux of Coyne Crack, a 5.11+ thin hands crack. Furthermore, the stitching holding the velcro tab onto the glove itself came undone, and while the tab is still holding on by a thread, it’s only a matter of a few pitches until it comes off entirely.
This is disappointing, since the body of the gloves is so well made, while the closure is so weak. I would love to see OR bolster the Splitter’s closure.
Getting back to the price / value question, then:
Since I typically go through about three rolls of tape in ten days when at Indian Creek (3 x $4.00=$12 in tape vs. $39.95 for these gloves), I can’t say that, for me personally, the Splitter gloves are worth the investment—until the durability issue with the closure is fixed.
You, however, may place a greater value on the benefits of gloves vs. tape, so I’ll let you make your own cost / benefit judgments here.
The Outdoor Research Splitter gloves are a very promising alternative to tape. But unless you are regularly climbing splitter alpine cracks, I wouldn’t call them necessary.
I really like the Splitter gloves for their versatility and practicality, but the durability of the closure proved to be an issue, and I’d want to see OR shore up that closure before I’d feel comfortable recommending them.