How To Tape for Crack Climbing (101)

Hi Steph:
Your videos of the diamond and castleton are amazing. I just bought your
book and am looking forward to reading it.

Anyway, I am just learning how to crack climb and was wondering if you
knew any good references on the best way to tape. I climb mostly with
people who don’t tape (OUCH).

I hope climbing and life are treating you well!

Dear Tina,
I think of tape as being kind of like climbing shoes. If it’s a pretty easy climb, you want your most comfy shoes. If it’s a pretty easy crack climb, I don’t bother to tape.
If it’s a hard crack, and more technical, you have two choices: tape after you rip your skin, or tape before you rip your skin 🙂
Tape is an important piece of gear, like shoes, chalk, cams, rope, etc.
Again, if the climb is not your hardest, little details don’t matter as much. When climbing at your limit, little things become very important.

With tape, stickiness is crucial. If your tape isn’t sticky, it will start to roll up and actually become a liability rather than protecting your skin. Oddly enough, most tape sold in America is intentionally made to be less sticky than tape sold in Europe.
I know this because I called the Mueller tape company in a panic when I was working on the Salathe Wall, and I couldn’t find any tape that didn’t immediately roll into fat, sticky tubes on the backs of my hands when I was trying to climb the headwall. Which actually made it harder–but without tape, I would rip all my skin off.

The nice woman I spoke to (in Minnesota, I think) told me they actually produce two versions of their tape, one for the U.S and one for Europe. The “Eurotape Platinum” is the same as the US version, except the adhesive is much more sticky. (When I asked why, she diplomatically explained that well, Europeans have different preferences than Americans, um, they prefer to use less of something that works better. Which somehow makes me see tape adhesive as a metaphor for all sorts of things, but anyway.)
Now you can buy Eurotape at Pagan Mountaineering in Moab (yay!), so I buy boxes of it for Indian Creek season. Usually if I really don’t want my tape to roll, I also use Mueller sticky spray on my hands before I put the tape on. The thing that’s really funny is that Mueller is making all this stuff for football players.

When you are using tape, you want to keep the tape as low-profile as possible, so you don’t make your hands any fatter than they are. And you want to tape to cover just the prime goby areas, without covering your palms. I don’t re-use tape gloves. If the tape doesn’t stick straight to your skin, you’re just making your life harder. If the climb doesn’t require super-techy taping, I just go without tape. This is one area of life where I feel pretty wasteful, because I throw away my tape after a climbing day. But re-using tape gloves is so counter-productive to climbing that I would rather climb without tape than do that.
I have been taping this way for many years, and I think it is the best way to tape. First I spray the backs of my hands with sticky spray (if it’s kind of hot, or if it’s a very hard climb for me). Then I tear off a strip of tape about 10″ long (guessing). I lay that piece in a horseshoe around the index finger. VERY IMPORTANT: Every time you finish with a piece of tape, rub it hard, adhering it to your skin and smoothing out all the wrinkles. Tape sticks best to sticky-sprayed skin, or to itself, and sticks better when it has been pressed down hard.
If I’m taping for wide fists or offwidth climbing, I do another, slightly shorter horseshoe strip around my thumb, to protect that lower thumb knuckle which always gets scraped on wide cracks. I don’t like too much tape, so I only do this for specific wide cracks.
Now take the tape roll, stick the end to the tape that is just under your index finger, and wrap it around the backs of your knuckles, then come down in the first part of an X over the back of your hand, to your wrist, and around your wrist one time.
The most important thing to remember is to make a point of doing the wrist wrap much looser than you think you should. All the other taping should be snug, but when doing the wrist wrap, make sure it is very loose as you bring the roll around your wrist. Otherwise your tape job will cause you to get pumped.
After the wrist wrap, bring the second part of the X over the back of your hand towards your pinky, and then bring the end to the front of your palm, just under your pinky on the palm side.
Tear the end off, and go all around the tape job, rubbing the edges down hard, smoothing out any wrinkles.
This tape job is the least amount of tape for the most amount of coverage, and won’t interfere with your palm.
Bring it on!

16 responses to “How To Tape for Crack Climbing (101)”

  1. Caleb says:

    Now THAT is a tape glove. I’m usually too lazy to tape up so I use old gloves or just wrap my knuckles. This is quite impressive. Never seen this method though, may have to give it a try.

  2. […] Cross posted from Steph Davis’ High Places Blog. […]

  3. […] make it harder to do the jams. My trick is to tape the finger before adding the hand tape. With my hand taping method, there is a strap of tape that goes around the index finger. Make sure that tape strap is covering […]

  4. Ben says:

    Awesome.  I have never taped up because I have only ever climbed easy cracks. I am starting to really enjoy it and I’m getting on harder stuff. The method I was taught for taping uses about 10 yards more tape per hand. Thanks Steph!

  5. steph davis says:

    I’m glad it helped 🙂

  6. Charles says:

    Yah FINALLY! a tape method that’s simple quick and works great, thanks so much! I avoided cracks until I tried your method partly because I didn’t want to hassle with complex tape gloves and tearing so many strips (ex metolius method). Good tip on the eurotape too I love that stuff now.

  7. steph davis says:

    i’m glad to hear that!

  8. Salman Mohammadi says:

    I sacrificed my 10 dollar new gloves yesterday! So I was searching for wrapping method! I had seen wrapped climber hands but never cared about that till yesterday I paid my ten dollar for that! Thank you ver much for teaching me to save my coins!

  9. […] instructor, has a great video explaining how to tape your hands for crack climbing. She also has an article with photos if you need some supplemental visuals to help you to learn to tape. There are many ways to tape […]

  10. […] my favored hand taping method, photo instructions and video We also cover this pretty extensively in my crack clinics, of […]

  11. David S says:

    What about some of the new climbing gloves like OR?

  12. Name says:

    Why don’t you want to cover your palms? Serious question.

  13. steph davis says:

    some people do like them: I think for very specific use they could be good.

  14. steph davis says:

    the skin on your palms is much tougher, and doesn’t need protection like the skin on the backs on your hands.

  15. […] fix the incorrect tape issue, here’s a simple method of taping: Basically the technique is to use 4cm tape (I had tried to use 2.5cm tape) – and: “Then […]

  16. David Mack says:

    I really like your method, thanks for sharing. I’ve had the normal method* lead to lots of frustrating rolled up bits of tape, so stoked to try this!



These are my sponsors. THEY ARE FABULOUS!