Confession: Outdoor Research sent me the AirBrake gloves in early summer and I’m just now posting a review—eep! I’ll be honest, I just didn’t wear them enough this summer to really get a great feel for them. I’m not used to wearing gloves on both of my hands while I belay. And, most of the time I found myself just wearing one glove on my break hand. However, now that temperatures are cooling down here in Colorado, I’m getting a lot more use out of them.
When lowering someone heavier than me I really appreciate gloves, but it’s never felt necessary. Now that it’s a little cold, I never go climbing without belay gloves. My hands are the first thing to get numb and there’s nothing worse than a long belay with numb hands.
This is my second pair of belay gloves I’ve owned, and compared to my BD Stone gloves, they are a lot more grippy and offer better dexterity. The gel padding on the palm is said to “absorb and dissipate heat caused by the friction…” I hadn’t realized that was the reason behind the gel padding, but it makes sense and certainly helps. I really appreciate the gel padding, and I think it sets the AirBrake gloves apart from other belay gloves. I really found the gel padding handy during tyrolean traverses—especially when crossing a steel cable.
The AirBrake is easy to slip on and off and felt true to size, if anything they fit a little tight. I appreciate a tight-fitting glove when rappelling and belaying so I didn’t mind. And, although it was a very simple feature, I appreciated the carabiner cut-out for clipping them to my harness during multi-pitch climbs.
Even in the summer, on really warms days, they were breathable. Thanks to a poly-spandex material on the top of the glove and little ventilation holes on the fingertips, my hands never got too sweaty.
I’ve heard plenty of folks recommend going to your local hardware store and picking up a pair of cheap work gloves. I pretty sure those people have never worn the AirBrake glove. Breathable, comfortable, durable, and with climbers in mind, I really appreciated the attention to detail that Outdoor Research put into making these.