Caving Gloves: Official Caver’s Complete Buying Guide

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Beware: You should never explore wild caves alone or without proper gear. Consider getting in touch with a Grotto of the National Speleological Society at or a qualified cave club. These groups are skilled and will train you. Without sufficient knowledge, preparation, and equipment, cave exploring can lead to serious injury or death.

Caving gloves are one of the more special pieces of personal protective equipment. One of the reasons we love them is they can be functional yet stylish. You get to show others how serious you are about caving without compromising the effectiveness.

Today we are going to talk about how you can buy the best caving gloves.

Since we have a wide variety of industrial applications that can meet specific needs, such as protection against cold and chemical material.

No caving or climbing gloves in the market guards against all the hazards; it is almost impossible to find a glove that is appropriate for all applications. You have to first understand why you are buying them and what are your primary needs. This is the only way that can save you from wasting too much time during the daunting buying process.

If you’re looking for some suggestions for caving and climbing gloves, check out our review article here.

Do I really need caving gloves?

Before we get to how to buy the right caving gloves, let’s address some of the common questions that new cavers often have about their gloves (or lack thereof).

“I’m comfortable with my hands; is it necessary to buy caving gloves?”

For tourists or show cave goers, we understand this notion. Most tourist caves are strictly horizontal and they are designed for families and allow children; you won’t need gloves for those activities or situations. Having gloves might even make you look a little too into caving. However, if you are planning to visit a wild cave, it doesn’t matter whether you are comfortable with your hands or not, using gloves is compulsory. Apart from protection against abrasion, they give an added level of support for your wrists, palms, and fingers, which is highly required when you are crawling or jumping from one rock to another.

If you ever go climbing without caving gloves, you’ll learn a lesson rather quickly. When your hands start to get sweaty in the humid environment of the caves, they tend to slip. The better grip makes sure that sweat never causes you to slip, particularly if you are on a rope. Without good gloves, it is impractical to try vertical caving; you will be risking your life no matter how you slice it.

But maybe you planned a trip to a wild cave that is also primarily horizontal, where you won’t do any climbing. So you might wonder, what is the advantage of caving gloves with a better grip then? You might think dealing with callouses is not much of a problem, but repetitive friction will cause pain and discomfort, and inevitably affect your natural grip strength as well.

A woman crawls through a narrow passageway without caving gloves on.
Depending on the cave’s difficulty, you may overlook a sturdy pair of gloves.

How many cavers use gloves?

Many cavers do use gloves; but while we don’t have statistics to support this, the reality is that most people go without them. Gloves are mostly used by professional cavers only in the wild caves, where their importance is magnified. So you CAN survive horizontal caves without them, but you are going to take on some extra risk once you start sweating.

Can we use gym gloves instead?

Gym gloves are indeed great for caving; their extraordinary padding provides top-notch support for various types of caving activities. Furthermore, gym gloves are designed to prevent sweat. Leaving sweating around the machines and weight can be a bit gross in the gym, but life-threatening in dangerous vertical caves. Many caves have damp environments, and the humidity coupled with your sweat from moving around is difficult to ignore. Manufacturers especially concentrate on preventing sweat from being an issue, and so you may have your caving gloves sorted if you’ve already been using a pair at the gym.

A man clutches a dumbbell and shows his gym gloves.
Look at those guns! And the gloves too, I guess.

How do I choose the perfect pair of caving gloves for me?

The details below will make this decision a lot simpler. The short answer is, it depends on what kind of caving activity you are going to do. For example, people who are going to touch wild plants and the cave formations should get a chemical-resistant and water-resistant glove.

Both features are great for exploring innate nature. But if you are interested in a primarily vertical caving session, you should get a real leather product with layered padding and good cushioning. It provides extraordinary grip strength.

Keep in mind what activities you are getting involved in, and this article will provide details about material choices, sizing, and more.

Are all gloves machine-washable?

No, all gloves are not machine-washable. Every brand has its own particular requirements based on the materials used. They often mention in the description of how to wash their products without damaging them. Leather gloves are mostly machine-washable, but if you have a glove with cotton material you need to hand wash them.

Machine washing can destroy its quality, and then you’ll be back here again to hopefully make a better decision for your next gloves.

Bear in mind, after the caving session, we recommend airing your caving gloves out first, rather than washing them with water and detergent straightaway. When you dry your gloves when you get home after caving, you’ll kills the germs and any lingering odors.

If you don’t air them out or dry them and wash your gloves right away, germs and the odor will easily reproduce and you may end up damaging them by washing them more than necessary.

When not to use your gloves

This is possibly the most important decision with using your caving gloves. Some people think they have to keep their gloves on all the time once they are inside the cave.

This approach is not right. Wear gloves only when you are planning to touch and explore things like rocks, crystals, and plants, or participating in some intense caving activity such as vertical climbing or crawling. When you are simply walking around and looking at the cave formations or talking with your group, you don’t need to keep the gloves on. Preserve them and also keep them from staying too damp by taking them off when they are not needed.

With that said, we can get on with the glove specifics. After learning about the main qualities of every pair of gloves, you will make a more informed decision once you decide to buy your first (or second) pair.

A group of cavers dressed in the same red caving suit, headlamps, and gloves, inspecting a cave formation.
You can always get matching gloves and suits and headlamps… makes for great group photos.

What are the main parts of caving gloves?

There are four main parts of a glove and each part has its unique benefits. Focusing on these parts can also help you in making an informed decision.

Palm Side

The first part or the area is the palm side; it gets 99% attention as most buyers think the quality of a glove depends on the effectiveness of the palm side. This side is all about grip. It is also usually quite padded to help brace you against accidental impacts or sharp edges. The padding or cushioning on this side should be moderate. Novice cavers try to opt for maximum padding for comfort, but too much padding decreases the grip strength. So do not simply get the pair that feels right in the store; you need to ensure the grip is reliable.


Second, we have the backside. this side mostly just guards you against scratches or other injuries. If you ever fall, try not to let the back of your hand take the most impact, but accidents do happen.


The third part is the fingers and thumbs opening and size, and this is where you should be extra careful. There are many exceptional gloves models and brands, but when it comes to the sizing of fingers and thumbs, some are quite lacking. You have to make sure the brand you are buying provides the best sizing for your fingers and thumbs and envelops your hand well.

Some gloves will not cover the whole finger, and this is to ensure that your fingers can grip the rock or rope properly. When professional climbers scale mountains or rough walls, sometimes they prefer to have their fingers free or apply chalk to them, because it provides a more reliable grip. But they will opt to use gloves as well, so fingerless gloves provide a happy medium.

Those gloves also aren’t very waterproof, but the level of flexibility they provide is unmatched. So if you plan to do a lot of climbing with your hands directly on the cave walls, we highly recommend fingerless gloves.


Lastly, the wrist area is like the heel of the hand. This plays a vital role in making your glove breathable and waterproof.

Not a typical caving activity, but climbers often do use gloves as well.

Factors to Consider Before Purchase

Glove Size & Shape

Did you know that when it comes to choosing the right size, you should always use your dominant hand? It is a crucial factor in finding your perfect fit. We know this can be tough if you are buying gloves online, but there are still some factors that you can consider nonetheless.

Measure your hands according to the glove sizing charts; they give you a pretty good idea which size is right for you. If the size of your dominant hand is 9.5 inches, it means you require a medium-sized glove, whereas 11.5 inches means you’ll need an extra-large or XXL model.

Length and cuff also play a significant role. Make sure whatever brand you are buying is long enough to cover your wrist. It should also have beaded cuffs for the sweat or any liquid that runs onto your skin. Though it largely comes down to personal preference, when you climb a vertical cave, your wrist is mostly exposed. You may deal with scratches and bruises to your wrist and forearm that way. Caving gloves with good length not only guard your wrists while your arms are raised, but they also don’t let the sweat affect your grip due to the firm cuff’s closure.

Ensure that the cuffs are firm and comfy; they shouldn’t be too tight either because super tight cuffs restrict circulation and it is hard to adjust them as well.

Apart from that, do ponder the palm and upper features. Palms with thick material or padding survive the accidents and impacts well, but they aren’t suitable for gripping. On the other hand, the upper is the backside of the glove. It is always good to have thicker material at the upper side for extra protection from wind and water.

A woman crawls on all fours with a caving headlamp, kneepads, and caving gloves on.
Caving headlamp, kneepads, caving gloves. Yep, she definitely reads our articles.

Glove Types

The second category that requires attention is the type.

People who are trying to buy gloves for decorative purposes don’t need to think about this aspect a lot. But for a caver, buying a functional glove is important; a functional glove that gets the job done and protects hands in all situations.

The first type is the full-finger; it is the most common and works in all seasons. The full-finger gloves are normal weather and chemical protective. They secure your hands from the elements around you. For that reason, people who work in chemical industries count on them. Similarly, sports players love full-finger gloves also as their protective layer cares for them from temperatures, burns, and other sharp objects.

We also recommend full-finger gloves for caving. This glove type is very useful and helps greatly while exploring the caves. You can touch and feel the walls of the caves, research their minerals without touching them with your bare hands, and keep your hands functional in hot or cold temperatures for a long time.

The second type is the finger-less option.

The finger-less option is lightweight and perfect for the summer months. People call it ‘Secure-Grip Glove’ too. You get a very firm grip with your fingers in this design. But this design has some drawbacks also. The finger-less option can protect your palm and back of your hand against minor abrasions but it is not fully protective. You can’t use them as winter gloves and you must carefully protect yourself from hazardous chemicals and liquids. They make a fashion-statement without a doubt but they aren’t 100% safe. When you opt for fingerless gloves due to the reliability for climbing, make sure you understand the inherent risks.

Glove Material

Which material is the best for caving gloves?

People often ask this question as there are too many materials in the market and it is tough to decide which material suits the caving needs.

Cotton Gloves: Cotton gloves are good and they wick away the oils and moisture from your skin, though they aren’t good for caving. The damp environment of the cave or the rainy season can affect their overall quality. People who are visiting tourist caves just for fun can have cotton gloves. They have excellent abrasion-resistant properties, but they aren’t for professional cavers.

Leather Gloves: These gloves are known for their durability and strength. Their positive image is their biggest selling point in the market. People from all walks of life trust them and use them for their day-to-day tasks. Even for caving, leather gloves work rather well. Apart from guarding your hands against the risks of cuts and injuries, they provide good grip and insulation. They are also resistant to sparks and low-heat. Therefore, cavers who are particularly interested in vertical caving love them. These gloves take a beating without compromising the strength of their grip.

Rubber Gloves: When it comes to chemical resistance, there is nothing better than rubber gloves. These gloves are great for all those who have a high level of touch sensitivity or work in high-risk situations. The rubber gloves reduce their risk of allergens and ensure their hands are protected from the minerals of the caves; they are also resistant to hot and cold temperatures.

A group on a cave tour at Lake of the Ozarks.
If you’re on a guided cave tour like this, you won’t have to worry about gear as much.

So…which material is the best?

Our vote is for Leather. It serves you for a long time. This material also assists in studying objects because of less padding and added flexibility. So while leather gloves give you a very solid grip for any extreme caving activity, you will have a good feel for what you’re actually touching. Even gym gloves have leather material for better grip and lifting heavyweights.

With that said, cotton mesh is also a great material if you dislike leather. Cotton mesh is specifically for those who are looking for breathability and high-level comfort. But cotton generates lint and is less durable, so there is always a tradeoff.


We believe a caver should have three or four pairs of gloves. If one pair is for generalcaving, the other should be for vertical climbing. When you have 3-4 pairs of gloves for different specific tasks, you know which pair is ideally suited for the current condition. And while not every cave demands a high level of protection, a you will be happy to have protection when you get to the wild caves or find yourself in contact with any potentially hazardous environment. If you are still experiencing any second thoughts or confusion about how to find the right pair of gloves, let us know in the comments and we will try our best to help you out.

Check out what other items we recommend on our essential caving equipment checklist. You will notice that gloves are added, but they are ultimately optional for some cavers.

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