Squamish-Based company kickstarts the ultimate alpine big-wall, crack-climbing glove, the G7 HAND JAM
Nathan Kukathas knows a good idea when he sees one. The Squamish-based climber, designer and co-founder of Grade VII Climbing Equipment started sewing his own tents, harnesses, and bags as teenager. Constantly designing, testing, and tinkering with ideas, in 2019, he introduced the G7 POD, a revolutionary inflatable wall-ledge that weighs in at a fraction of the traditional big-wall living spaces.
So when Zack Goldberg-Poch showed up with a brilliant big wall glove design, Nathan immediately recognized the innovation and quality involved.
“For the longest time, climbers used medical tape for protection and the first gloves were kind of ridiculed by crack climbers,” Nathan says. “Especially because they were made of sticky rubber, similar to a climbing shoe, that created instances where technique wasn’t as critical.”
Times change, of course, and Nathan says over the past decade gloves have gained a bit more acceptance, particularly in the alpine or on big walls where there is more breadth of purity. “On climbs where you might be using ice tools or mixed free and aid, there’s more acceptance towards HAND JAMs when freeclimbing,” he says.
But whether you liked them or not, most crack climbing gloves were either too uncomfortable or not durable enough to really impress anyone. And then Zack showed up with something he was calling the HAND JAM.
“Zack had designed it for himself and his friends and had been using them for over a year before I met him,” Nathan says. “From a design point of view, the HAND JAM stood out right away—it is a really clever design with no rubber at all. Just a nice piece of leather with reinforcements in all the right places. I appreciated the quality and invited Zack to join our team.”
Zack said yes and moved from San Francisco to Squamish, and over the past year, in partnership with the design team here and the production team in Taiwan he has refined the G7 HAND JAM, perfecting every single detail.
“It’s really impressive to see Zack’s unrelenting patience grind through the most grueling details on the HAND JAM,” Nathan says. “He brings a level of perfection to his work that we all want to be part of, any reasonable person would have given up way long ago and called it good enough, but Zack is stubborn in a good way, he’s willing to do the work, he takes feedback and input really well. He never cuts corners and he will persist, applying his meticulous methodical approach that yields the quality that we are all really proud to be part of.”
The most obsessed-about crack climbing glove in history is now available on Kickstarter.
“The leather is Italian suede,” Nathan enthuses. “It’s smooth, comfortable, it breathes, absorbs moisture. It feels like skin because it is skin, like your climbing shoes, it will stretch and form to your hand. Compare this to a sticky-rubber climbing glove and it’s easy to feel the difference. In the G7 HAND JAM I can still feel the rock, I like this feedback, I know I am secure in my jam.”
The genius behind the HAND JAM, however, is the hidden complexity. It looks like a single piece of material but underneath the coloured reinforced sections are multiple layers of urethane, adhesive, and secret strategic elements and design that give the HAND JAM unparalleled durability.
“We’re offering a 3-year warranty on all the HAND JAMs purchased through our Kickstarter campaign,” Nathan says. “That’s unusual as most people will blow through 1-2 pairs of gloves in a season. Our price is higher, because the materials are so expensive, but you end up buying a lot less over time.”
A long-lasting product makes a lot of sense.
“One of our main principles is to design things to last as long as possible,” Nathan says. “And if a product hasn’t had thousands of hours of testing and hundreds of prototyping iterations, you can’t be sure it’s the best it can possibly be.”
With that in mind, the G7 crew and friends have now spent three years working, and reworking the G7 HAND JAM design, field testing it on a wide variety of cracks, and rock types from Baffin Island to, Yosemite, Joshua Tree, Indian Creek, as well as “hundreds of laps on the Stawamus Chief.” From their workshop in Squamish, Nathan says they’ve built over 300 prototypes of the HAND JAM. The final version includes over 30 patent claims, a testament to the amount of thought, time and effort that’s gone into what looks like a simple, single piece of leather.
“It’s like soloing a route,” Nathan says. “You need to master your ability. If you show up having done the bare minimum effort, you fail, and that’s not an option. For us, the objective is to design this to be the last product we make in this category. It’s the best we can do. And if that takes us three years until we are happy, then so be it. We just want to bring the best product possible to market. Tools for the most committed.”
See for yourself over at the G7 HAND JAM Kickstarter page.