Modern mixed routes require all sorts of tricks and tips to get right, whether just training or actually projecting something. Me, I’ll take all the help I can get on these steel-scarred rock climbs : shouted beta, laser-pointed-holds, and anything that will make it easier to hold onto my tools. And in the latter category, I think I’ve found two such items that literally feel like cheating: Magic Wrap and Outdoor Research’s new Alibi II gloves.
Though most modern tools, such as Petzl’s Nomic and BD’s Fusion, come with somewhat-sticky rubberized grips and even stickier grip-tape, the wrapping doesn’t extend very far along the shaft. To amend this, I scoured the local hardware stores and found something called Magic Wrap, a rubberized tape designed for plumbing repairs. It’s thin, relatively durable and pretty sticky – perfect for wrapping the upper shaft to allow for additional grip positions. The wrapping also isolates your hands from the cold aluminium and makes for a more comfortable, and secure, grip when mouthing the tool (because, you know, we don’t have three hands).
One day, while training at The Cave, our little bouldering gym, another climber suggested I also tape the grips with the sticky tape. He claims it reduces the force needed to hold onto the tool by about 20% (and knowing him, he’s actually had this measured!) So, I went home and taped the grips, too. In two words: holy shit!
The difference is phenomenal. The tools’ handles are now much, much ‘stickier.’ It really does feel like cheating. I’m not saying I don’t get pumped anymore, I just feel that I can keep the pump off that much longer, and keep a much more relaxed grip due to the enhanced stickiness.
And now I have added another weapon in my fight against the pump: Outdoor Research’s redesigned-for-Fall-2013 Alibi II glove. This close-fitting, stretchy glove has a sticky, Pittards Oiltac leather palm for optimum grip and stretchy, durable nylon on back of the hand for protection. The sides of the fingers are a very breathable softshell and the pinky finger and outside edge of the hand are wrapped in a protective padded bumper.
The glove fits very tightly – I can only pull it on thanks to the big, tough pull-tab. Once on, it is snug but not restrictive (unlike the old rubber-palm Alibi gloves) and the material is stretchy enough to not hinder any hand movements. The velcro wrist closure has been redesigned as well and now provides a tight but comfortable fit. The venting along the fingers works well – my hands get much less sweaty than in other gloves, especially when drytooling in warmer weather.
The grippy palm, combined with the Magic Wrap on my tools, makes for an extremely sticky combination. Together, I could swear the two take off a grade from most drytooling routes – I say most, because at some point, especially when pulling multiple figure-4s, no matter how much sticky grip you may have, you will not be able to hold on!
The tape, though durable, does eventually peel off, and rips when jammed into cracks. That said, a single layer should last for at least a season for most people out there. (The tape on the upper shaft of my Fusions has about twenty days of outdoor mixed on it and is showing rips and tears. The lower grip tape has been around for maybe a dozen training sessions but has started peeling a bit on the curved section of the handle, where it is hardest to wrap tightly.
With their sticky palm, the Alibi II’s are not made for anything other than holding tools: I don’t belay, rappel, or even approach, with them. Careful use should keep them going strong for a whole season. Otherwise, don’t expect much of a lifetime.
Magic Wrap Overall: Amazing. At $9 per roll, it is worth every penny, and not just for drytooling, as it enhances grip and keeps the shaft warmer in cold temps.
OR Alibi II gloves Overall: Absolutely incredible. Pricey at $90, but used properly they’ll last a while and enhance your drytooling experience exponentially.