You may have seen some cave divers wearing fingerless gloves and wondered what the purpose of them is. Do they protect our hands from the sharp rocks or do we do it just to look cool? Someone actually asked me why I wear gloves while I was at peacock not too long ago, and I had to stop and think about it. I came up with some reasons on the fly but it wasn’t a clear answer. I’ve been occasionally wearing some sort of glove while diving for a while now. On one of my very first ocean dives on the Spiegel Grove, I got gloves to protect my hands while going up and down the mooring line. They were fluorescent yellow full fingered Akona gloves with a leather palm, very similar to baseball gloves. But I only wore them in the ocean.
I do remember Tina being the first to adopt gloves full time. It was shortly after fundamentals when we started using a canister light on every dive. I recall that she started wearing gloves because she has such small hands, and since the goodman handle on her light was made for a man, we used the gloves to help take up some of the space in the handle. Furthermore, she got gloves with some knuckle and back of hand protection, because her knuckles would get torn up from the edges of the screw holes (where the light attached to the handle). We just went to Home depot and got some fingerless gloves that fit her. They were “Husky” fingerless automotive gloves.
Tina took cave 1 while wearing gloves, but I’m fairly certain that I didn’t wear gloves until after the class. As most people’s do, both of our fingertips got abraded to the point of being raw and sore, after diving in Ginnie for the first few times during class. This is affectionately known as “Ginnie Fingers”, and it happens because of not having good pull and glide technique while diving in high flow caves. So if she got her fingertips abraded, why not wear full fingered gloves? The general consensus among cave divers, is that wearing full fingered gloves while cave diving is not preferable for a number of reasons. First, you lose dexterity for managing bolt snaps and other things under water, and second; especially in high flow caves, it’s better to develop the proper technique for how to pull and glide, rather than find a gear solution to fix a bad technique problem. Tina also claimed that having gloves on kept her hands just a little bit warmer. Obviously if you dive cold water, you don’t have a choice but to wear full finger gloves, but here in Florida where the water is a constant 70-72 degrees, we do have that choice.
I started wearing gloves because I liked how the rubber on the backs of the knuckles helped keep my light from sliding off. It was just a little extra friction that proved useful when managing the reel and other gear. I also noticed that after a long weekend of diving, I would have less cuts and scrapes on my hands from the rocks, so the gloves were protecting my hands some. Furthermore, I agree with Tina in that, I felt a slight difference in warmth.
But it wasn’t until cave 2 that I began to find other uses for the gloves. When we starting doing navigation, dropping cookies at T’s and jumps, we found that we were getting in and out of our pockets quite frequently. And although I’m a big proponent of being proficient with getting in and out of the pocket in some cases didn’t make sense, especially in flow. I found that if I stash a cookie inside the glove, within the palm of my hand, it made for a nice little pocket to quickly get to it, on the fly. Instead of pulling the entire bundle of cookies out on the the pig tail (a pig tail is a piece of bungee that you clip your cookies and arrows too), I could just reach into the glove and grab that cookie. This works with one or maybe two cookies but I wouldn’t do it with more than that. Now with this statement, I’ll mention that there are a ton of different ways to have cookies readily available. Some prefer to have a piece of bungee on the light head, others just leave them clipped to a pig tail on the butt D ring. There are a million ways that I’ve seen. However, my personal preference is to keep them in a pocket with the rest of my gear or in my glove, and only get them out when needed. Sometimes I’ll start the dive with a cookie in my palm and others I’ll use it as a temporary holder for when I’m cleaning up jumps. Then when I have time, I’ll permanently stow the cookies back on the pig tail.
So we have three reasons now for why Tina and I wear gloves. 1. The gloves provide a little extra cushion/protection for the goodman handle. 2. They may provide some extra warmth and 3. They work as a quick little cookie pocket. Can we say a fourth reason is that they do look kind of cool?
For the record there are a ton of cave divers that don’t wear gloves, but lets say that now you are thinking about trying some, and you want to know my opinion on what to get. Here are a few options that we have tried:
The Husky-This was the first pair of gloves we tried and they can be found in most of the Home Depot stores. They have a med-soft flexible rubber on the back to protect the knuckles. The palm is synthetic leather and fairly thin. The “Husky” logo wears off very quickly in the water and I found that the gloves did the job. We went through at least 3 pairs of these, quickly wearing through the palm. Overall they are my least favorite but get the job done.
The Grease Monkey-We tried a few pairs of these because they are cheap. The palms are fairly thin and have rubbery synthetic stuff on them that looks like it should hold up fairly well in the water, but it disintegrated after a few dives leaving the synthetic palm. It took a while to wear through these gloves but we did it. They also have a rubber on the knuckles that helps protect your hands from the light. It’s a similar durometer compared to the rubber on the husky gloves, in that it does provide some grip on the light.
The Mechanix M-Pact-These have been my favorite by far. The palm has a synthetic leather that seems to be really holding up well. What I like most about them is that they have a fairly soft and sticky rubber on most of the the entire back of the hand. I have found this really helps secure the light without having to make a fist around the goodman handle. I also like that they have a full wrist wrap velcro closure that seems to stay put.
If you find some other gloves you like, let us know in the comments.