Racing karts on a budget is tough, but not impossible! Between the spare parts you need, fuel, race money and extra for your safety gear, it can seem daunting for your wallet. In this article, I’ll be reviewing great pairs of karting gloves that won’t break the bank.
So, what is the best pair of cheap karting gloves? My pick would be RaceQuip’s 351 SFI-1 Race Gloves due to the balance of comfort, performance and affordability. They come in a wide variety of sizes and colors to suit all kart drivers, making the perfect starting or intermediate pair of gloves.
The ultimate list wouldn’t be complete without a selection of great products though, right? All of the karting gloves found in this article balance affordability with quality, so any pair would make a great addition to your gear!
What To Look For In Good Karting Gloves
When buying any gear for karting as a motorsport, it’s important to have a semblance of budget in mind. You need a lot of stuff that’s in good shape, after all, for both safety and a racing edge! And the amount of choice that’s out there can be pretty daunting. How can you ever know what makes a pair of gloves objectively good?
View this post on Instagram
I started karting aged 5, and took part in racing series until turning 18; quite the long time spent in karts! That time has taught me a thing or two about everything that goes with karting, not just the actual racing. There are always a few notable things I look for when buying a new pair of karting gloves to guarantee quality for a long time.
Above all else, I spend some time to line up kart brands that I’ve come to trust. In my experience, the best ones out there without a shadow of a doubt are OMP, Sparco and Alpinestars. At some time or other I’ve had gear from these manufacturers and they haven’t let me down.
Familiarity with brands is very important in karting, because it’s a hobby built on trust and reliability. You don’t want to take a chance on an outlier brand whose gloves don’t even last two races!
Now that I’m ‘grown-up’, however, I can’t always afford new gear from the big brands that I loved when karting as a kid. That’s when I turn to the internet and more importantly, reviews written by people who have owned budget brands. That’s how I found RaceQuip, a kart brand that specifically produces high-quality gear for an affordable price.
Doing your research is a huge part of how you can find a good pair of gloves. I personally spend a lot of time on Reddit, stalking the varied go-kart and karting sub-forums to learn from the experiences of others.
Another good tip to think about is the location where you’ll be doing most of your racing. If you live somewhere that rain and cold are foreign, rare happenings, you might do better purchasing a pair of lightweight gloves as opposed to rugged multi-purpose ones. And vice versa, if it rains and gets cold frequently where you’re at, don’t even consider those hot weather gloves!
Ideally, you want to own two pairs of gloves so you can alternate between them. I always owned standard kart racing gloves, and wet/cold weather gloves when racing competitively. Having cold, uncomfortable hands during races really isn’t a fun experience…!
I’d also suggest not to get too hung-up on your budget as a solid, unshifting figure. Sometimes, an extra $5 or $10 can get you something way better in terms of quality and longevity, so it becomes worth that extra spend at the time.
Overall, you want gloves that feel comfortable, cut down your hand fatigue with extra grip and otherwise last a long time. There’s no worse feeling than replacing gear shortly after buying new stuff, after all!
The 4 Best Cheap Karting Gloves
Armed with the knowledge of what makes a good pair of karting gloves, here’s my list of the 4 best affordable pairs currently out there:
- RaceQuip 351 SFI-1 Race Gloves
- Alpinestars Tech-1 Race S V2 Gloves
- K1 Race Gear RS1 Kart Racing Gloves
- Fly Racing CoolPro Kart Lite Mesh Gloves
1. RaceQuip 351 SFI-1 Race Gloves
Durable? Check! Comfortable? Check! Rated high on safety? Absolutely. These SFI-rated gloves from RaceQuip are the perfect culmination of everything you need a pair of karting gloves to be. There’s a reason why these are the bestselling product from the manufacturer’s line of gloves, after all!
View this post on Instagram
First and foremost, let’s take a look at what SFI actually means. It’s a safety measure in place across motorsport that rates the flame retardance of materials, normally present only in karting suits. Overall, karting has a very low risk of fire and as such, most gear doesn’t have to possess a high SFI number. In some cases, it isn’t a requirement at all.
One piece of gear that has to have a level of protection against fire is your pair of gloves, in actual fact. A lot of kart components get very hot after races, and your hands are often at risk of touching these areas when getting into and out of the kart.
The RaceQuip 351 gloves have an SFI-rating of 3.3/1, which is the same level of protection as a lot of regular kart racing suits. They’ll give you protection that you can rely on, to say the least!
Looking at the gloves, you’ll assume that they’re rather heavy; especially considering the protection rating given by SFI. However, RaceQuip have designed the 351s from a single layer of Nomex, a specialized hybrid material that gives the glove a very supple, soft feel. The palms have gray suede leather grips, adding to a luxurious look and also providing a reinforced, high-grip material.
Unlike rubber palm grips which perform poorly in the rain, the suede leather won’t absorb all of the water and will remain grippy even in a downpour. Long races in the wet won’t be ideal, however, due to the Nomex not being very water-repellent. Your hands will get wet after a while!
The glove is of ‘standard’ length, meaning that the cuff will neatly cover the cuffs of your kart racing suit. Long gloves are nice, but the longer cuff can often interfere with and make the cuffs of your suit feel uncomfortable. The 351s also have an adjustable hook and loop closure on them, so they can be as tight or loose on your wrist as you wish.
Flexibility in the glove comes from the sturdy yet supple Nomex, and how the reinforced suede is attached with very small, unobtrusive stitching. Oftentimes, fabric grips can be stitched heavily and they penetrate through into the inside of the glove itself. There’s no worse feeling than scratchy stitches on your hands while racing, so this is a nice touch to a good pair of gloves!
The main reason why I’ve placed these gloves so highly aside from the myriad of nice features is the affordable price. All sizes of the gloves are available brand-new from RaceQuip for an absolute steal when you consider the SFI rating. Normally, gloves that comply with SFI are quite expensive.
An overall fantastic pair of gloves for those starting out in karting, or intermediate drivers who need an alternate pair that will last a long time!
- SFI-rated to protect hands from burns/blistering
- Nomex material is durable, supple-feeling and comfortable
- Standard cuff can interfere with some race suits/ personal preference
- Not the most attractive gloves to look at
2. Alpinestars Tech-1 Race S V2 Gloves
These gloves come in at a very close second, and they’re actually a newer model of the gloves that I used to wear in my later karting career! Alpinestars, while not a kart-specific manufacturer, have always produced quality gear for a reasonable price that’s pretty difficult to pass up. They mix style and substance together for great-looking products with amazing features.
View this post on Instagram
There are a few variants of the Tech-1 gloves if you check out Alpinestars’ website, so it’s worth looking at all of the ones available. Primarily, the biggest differences are in the aesthetic color of each pair. I’ve chosen the Race S V2 version due to my familiarity with the V1s I used to wear, but all of the Tech-1 gloves will be great choices for any karting enthusiast!
First of all, the sleek, stylish look of these gloves makes them pretty striking and desirable. They’re very slim and will provide a bit more of a snug fit compared to the RaceQuip’s gloves, making them the ideal pick for racers who want a lightweight, thin glove as not to interfere with their suit.
One of the biggest benefits of thinner gloves is the enhanced feel you will have on the steering wheel when driving. Go-karts are very streamlined machines at their core, and the driver is naturally an important part of directing the kart. Feeling how the kart behaves before tough corners can often be the difference between advanced drivers and beginners.
The Tech-1s are specifically designed not only for enhanced racing feel, but also for comfort and grip. The palms are fitted with synthetic suede leather for that superb grip even in tricky weather, and the gloves themselves are made with a perfect blend of polyester and polymesh; a fantastic combination for durability and for a great fit.
Alpinestars have taken ventilation and flexibility to new levels with the inclusion of mesh fourchettes on one half of the glove fingers, and lycra on the other half. Racing can be a sweaty business, and a lot of heat is generated in your hands, so having an in-built way to keep your hands dry and performing well is an absolute must.
Unlike the 351s, the Tech-1 gloves also possess a silicon surface treatment on the palms, giving them even better levels of grip; even in the pouring rain. Silicon stays grippy even with the introduction of water.
The open cuffs on these gloves also means less fiddling with straps and things at the track, and a fully elasticated wrist means that the fit will be snug yet never too tight. Oh, and did I mention that the thumbs come equipped with touch compatible prints on them? You can text and use your phone at the track while waiting for the race or during a race break!
It was a very close decision between the Tech-1s and 351s for the top spot, but ultimately the latter’s SFI-rating won out. The Tech-1’s are also a steal of a price for such a high-tech, competitive pair of gloves. Any level of driver can rely on consistent grip and a keen racing edge with these bad boys!
- Lightweight, highly ventilated gloves to combat heat
- Silicon-treated palm allows for high grip even in wet weather
- Somewhat thin, not good cold weather gloves
- Open cuff doesn’t give much wrist support
3. K1 RaceGear RS1 Kart Racing Gloves
If you’re looking for something that’s both durable and comfortable with a dash of rugged charm, the RS1 gloves from K1 RaceGear are definitely the pair for you! They’re a brand dedicated to karting overall, so all of their products are designed with what go-karting enthusiasts want more than anything.
View this post on Instagram
In this case, they’ve concocted a glove that addresses one of the biggest woes that racers have about gloves…
And the clue is in the name! RS stands for ‘reverse stitched’, and that’s a huge part of the allure of these gloves beyond the fabric’s long lifespan and water repellence. Oftentimes, karting gloves are stitched on the insides and depending on the material they’re made from, these stitches can hurt more than the gloves will benefit you.
K1 realized this fact and designed these gloves with all stitching to appear on the outside of the gloves, leaving the insides smooth, soft and comfortable. And in the fingers, where a lot of stitching has to collide, the RS1s offer what’s called a rolled fingertip design.
Normally, four separate stitches would end in the fingertips, but in these gloves, the fingertips are longer than normal and have been rolled down, hiding the necessary stitching for more comfort.
Down the sides of all the fingers in the glove you’ll find vented mesh, allowing for much-needed ventilation to avoid your hands becoming overheated and therefore sweaty during races. This is a nice extra considering how durable and therefore thick the fabric is, making them a good pair of all-purpose gloves.
The cuff is angled and not straight-cut, allowing for freer movement in the arms due to this more tapered design. And on the palms, you’ll find padded, grippy pads of fabric that not only reduce discomfort and risk of blistering, but they also provide you with that necessary extra grip while driving.
They come in five color choices, allowing them to look good paired with whatever suit and gear you possess. However, the material is rather bulky compared to some gloves on this list, which can be both a positive and a negative depending on what you’re looking for.
If you choose this pair, you’ll be getting a solid pair of gloves that are ideal for people who want a step-up from beginner-level gloves without leaping into advanced levels.
- Reverse-stitching means lasting comfort without inner stitching scratchiness
- Great gloves for a lot of situations/ weather conditions
- Bulky and heavy compared to other gloves on this list
- Materials aren’t as high-grade as Alpinestars, for example
4. Fly Racing CoolPro Kart Lite Mesh Gloves
Those of you in consistently hot weather conditions, these gloves are tailor-made for you! Fly Racing is a small brand that designs and makes affordable motor racing gear, primarily for motorcycling but recently expanded into karting. These gloves are affordably-priced and they make for a great purchase, so let’s look at why.
View this post on Instagram
Unlike the other gloves I’ve covered, the CoolPro pair are short and have a special clasp which allows for wrist support. They won’t go over the cuffs of your race suit and will instead clasp over the ends of them, allowing for a comfortable fit that some people prefer when compared to longer cuffs on gloves.
They’re also pre-curved, which makes ‘breaking them in’ that much easier. It’s important to get your exact size due to this specific design, and the tight fit they’re made to have.
Above all else, these gloves are designed for usage in hot weather or for kart drivers to use when driving warm-up laps. This is due to the thin material used and the large mesh back panels on the gloves, meaning that your hands won’t overheat even in the hottest of temperatures.
As well as being great for racing in scorching temperatures, the palms are reinforced with Clarino and possess a silicon print for premium grip on the wheel. This makes them great for short racing stints and to push the kart hard, because your grip won’t suffer during that timeframe.
As you may imagine, the barely-there material isn’t great for usage in the rain. Your hands would be soaked through in an instant, and cold weather won’t be fun, either. There isn’t anything to keep your hands warm, hence why these gloves are best as an alternate pair or for people who live in hot climates consistently.
They also aren’t recognized for usage in karting competitions due to not meeting the minimum safety standards set by most race series. Affordable? Absolutely. Practical for every eventuality? Not really.
They’ll set you back an affordable amount, but due to them being so specialized and specific, they’ve had to come in last place for this list. Of the gloves listed, these are best for hot weather racing and I’d encourage people to consider them as an alternate set… just not your only pair!
- Thin, lightweight material highly ventilated for hot conditions
- Highly grippy and comfortable
- Not practical for any other kind of racing
- Not suitable for usage in recognized karting races
So there we have it, readers! A collection of solid picks for cheap yet not budget (at least in performance) gloves that’ll be great additions to your gear. And even if these pairs aren’t for you, I hope that my insight into what makes a pair of gloves good/ worth buying will help in your search going forward!