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What Is the Best Staff Grip?

Momo Bonobo

staffs gripped with white silicone and black epdm grip

There are a ton of grips used in the flow arts for staffs and stick props. If you’re new to flow arts or to stick props, this can be an overwhelming decision to make. Sometimes the right grip can make the difference between easily learning new moves and struggling to do the most simple things.

I’m gonna try and cover all the most common grips in this post. I’m sure it isn’t everything that’s available globally, but it’ll at least shed some light on the pros and cons of the most widely available grips.

Note: Everyone has a different skin texture, so what might be great for some people might not work well for others. It might take some experimentation to find the best grip for you.

We are gonna cover the following staff grips:

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Silicone Grip Tubing

Silicone is currently my favorite grip that’s widely available. It usually comes in tubing and is one of the most grippy materials when clean and dry. Silicone is also very heat resistant, which is why silicone self-fusing tape is also used to seal the ends of most staffs that use any grips. Some find it uncomfortable because it can be so grippy that it tugs at hair, but it’s generally safer on skin compared to industrial rubber grips. It’s widely available from flow prop companies as well as hardware stores around the world.

Because it’s a continuous tubing, this is the easiest type of grip to clean. All you need to do is put some rubbing alcohol (or mildly soapy water) on a rag and wipe down. Alternatively you can also spray it down and wipe off. Silicone is most grippy when it is clean and dry, so I generally keep a rag and some rubbing alcohol in my prop bag to freshen it up. This also removes a lot of soot that fire props create. With proper care, silicone tubing can last for years. If you live in a consistently humid environment or are a super sweaty human, silicone might be an annoying grip as you’ll need to wipe it off intermittently.

Silicone tubing has to be installed on a clean tube with all wicks removed. If there was glue or other residue left on the staff from removing your last grip, this needs to be cleaned (and in some instances sanded) before gripping with silicone tubing. In some scenarios it can be difficult to do this on contact staffs if removing and replacing the wick isn’t a simple process (as is the case with knotted wick contact staffs). For dragon staffs with hubs, this is an easy process that involves removing the hubs and sliding the grip on.

The silicone tubing you choose needs to have an inside diameter (ID) that is slightly smaller than the outside diameter (OD) of your staff tube. It should be about 1/8″ (or about 3mm) smaller. So if your dragon staff tube is 7/8″ (22mm) OD, then the ID of the silicone should be 3/4″ (19mm). Generally the OD and ID of the silicone tubing and staff tubing are the same, so a 22mm OD 19mm ID dragon staff tube would use a 22mm OD 19mm ID silicone tubing. Another note is that lower durometers (35A or 40A) also tend to be more gummy and grippy compared to higher durometers (50A, 60A, 70A). Durometer is a measurement of the hardness of a material.

Once you have your staff tube cleaned, all you need to do to install the silicone tubing is spray the outside of the staff tube and inside of the silicone tubing with mildly soapy water and slide it down the tubing. This can take a little elbow grease but with some patience and practice will be done before you know it. Just keep it lubricated through the whole process and keep spraying water as needed so it doesn’t get stuck. It’ll take some time to dry before it’s ready as well. Some people also use an air compressor to make this process much faster.

A couple other silicone based grips that aren’t tubes should be mentioned as well. LMF Props sells Gravity Grip which is a crisscross textured silicone grip that comes in strips. The crisscross textured surface makes the grip work better when wet in comparison to regular silicone tubing. I can’t find a listing for this anymore though so I’m not sure if it’s still sold. Dark Monk sells Nimbus Grip which is a silicone foam grip that also comes in strips. Similar to crisscross textured silicone, it does a bit of a better job at staying grippy in wet conditions compared to regular silicone tubing. This grip needs to be sanded before use if you buy it separately from Dark Monk to roughen the smooth surface.

In conclusion:

  • Silicone is one of the most grippy materials
  • Super durable and generally skin safe
  • Best when clean and dry
  • Easily cleaned with rag and rubbing alcohol / mildly soapy water
  • Not the best if you’re constantly sweaty or in a humid location
  • Can be difficult to apply to some props that require wick removal
  • Gravity/Nimbus grip are a bit better at keeping grippy in moist conditions

Industrial Rubber Grips

The most common industrial rubber grips would be EPDM and Goat Grip. Both of these grips are sold by a ton of flow shops around the world.

EPDM is a rubber commonly used in many industries for sealing, gaskets, and trims. Its generally weather proof and pretty durable compared to natural rubber grips. EPDM is great even in humid or dusty environments. It feels a bit more padded compared to silicone. It generally comes in strips with or without an adhesive backing, so you just have to spiral it onto a tubing to apply. If it doesn’t have an adhesive backing then I’d recommend double sided tape instead of glue as it’s much easier to remove when you need to replace it. All grips that come in strips are replaced in the same way. This makes it a bit easier than silicone tubing to apply to contact staffs because you don’t need to remove the wicks.

EPDM will sometimes feel a bit slippery when its brand new, but that’s just because you have to break it in a little bit. It ages like a fine wine, so the more you use it the grippier it becomes. Grips that come in strips should be cleaned with a damp rag instead of spraying with liquids as you can do with silicone tubing. That being said, EPDM doesn’t really need to be cleaned too often unless you feel it becoming oily.

Goat grip is made from crisscross textured industrial rubber (most likely neoprene) that has very similar industrial uses as EPDM. It has a rougher texture and more durable rubber compared to EPDM. It also does well in most environments, although I feel it does slightly worse than EPDM in humid or sweaty conditions. That being said, with proper care, it will probably last longer than EPDM. It can be cleaned and installed similarly to EPDM. Some find it to have too rough a texture on their skin whereas others swear by it!

Note: Although used globally as staff grip, industrial rubber was never originally intended to make constant contact with human skin. The flow arts is a relatively small niche compared to other sports and fitness activities, so the safety of industrial rubbers on skin for prolonged use is not well studied or documented.

In conclusion:

  • Industrial rubbers are more durable and weatherproof compared to natural rubbers
  • Both EPDM and Goat grip do well in most conditions (dusty, humid, sweaty, etc.)
  • EPDM has a softer padded texture than Goat grip and gets more grippy with use
  • Goat grip has a rougher texture and last longer than EPDM
  • Safety of prolonged use of industrial rubbers on skin is questionable

Natural Foam Rubber Grips

Although every company uses a different name for their natural foam rubber grips, they’re all pretty similar and made from the same material. Common brand names are Gorilla Grip (Bonobo Flow), Wizard Grip (Wizard of Flow), or Ohm Grip (Dark Monk). Gorilla Grip is a more affordable option with an adhesive backing, but it only comes in black and is not fabric reinforced. Wizard and Ohm grips are fabric reinforced and come in specific lengths because they’re made of yoga mats.

Because it’s a natural rubber, these grips are generally safe on skin. These grips are actually some of the most grippy options available (and were my favorite for a long time). They do well in most environments. The biggest trade off is that the natural materials break down much more quickly than synthetic grips (which is almost every other grip mentioned). Depending on how much you use your staff, this could mean needing to regrip every 3-6 months, or slightly longer if you care for it well or don’t use it very often.

These grips also come in strips and are spiraled on the stick. If they don’t have adhesive backing, I also recommend using double sided tape instead of glue. Compared to synthetic grips, this grip is a bit more annoying to remove because once it breaks down it will leave a lot of chunks on the staff (especially if you use glue).

Note: All grips shouldn’t be left out in the sun because UV exposure will break down materials over time. Natural foam rubber grips should especially not be left out in the sun because natural materials break down much more quickly than their synthetic counterparts.

In conclusion:

  • Natural rubber foam grips are generally safe on skin
  • One of the most grippy options
  • Do well in most environments
  • Break down more quickly than synthetic grips
  • Can be annoying to remove

Micro Gripping Material

Similar to natural foam rubber grips, every company out there has a different name for this type of grip. They’re all variants that are offered by 3M, a huge tape manufacturer. In 2023 this grip’s cost price from 3M rose exponentially. Many flow prop shops stopped offering it, have limited inventory, or are selling it for top dollar. The most common variant from 3M was TB641, although they had many different varieties. These have been rebranded from many companies and sold as Gecko Grip (Flow on Fire), Sage Grip (Wizard of Flow), and Omni Grip (Dark Monk).

These grips are super thin and have adhesive backings, so they’re best used as an over grip for some type of foam strip (or EPDM / natural foam rubber grips). They have micro grippy hairlike elastomers. It feels very soft on skin while also providing a high level of grip. They are generally just as durable as natural foam rubber grips, but less durable than synthetic grips like silicone, EPDM, or Goat grip. They have a very different texture than all of the other grips because of the micro rubber hairs as well.

As the pricing has stopped many manufacturers from carrying this product, I won’t spend too much more time talking about it. TB641 can still be found on Amazon, but at the time of writing this it’s $54 for 2 x 15 ft rolls.

In conclusion:

  • Expensive
  • Not as widely available anymore
  • Soft micro hairlike texture
  • Grippy in most conditions
  • Thin so should be used as overgrip

Sports Grips

Sports grips is a generally broad category of grips. Sports grips are grips used in tennis, hockey, racquetball, biking, baseball, and others. Although they’re made for sports, most sports don’t have similar needs as props in the flow arts world so I don’t generally recommend these. These grips are made with skin contact in mind, so I’d say they’re generally safe on skin.

Racket, baseball bat, and hockey grip is generally thinner than all of the other grips we’ve spoken about (other than micro gripping material). They’re generally referred to as overgrips when they come thin like this. They also come in shorter lengths so you will probably need more than one piece to cover a whole staff. Because they’re thin, contact props might be super uncomfortable to flow with because these grips don’t always feel very padded. They will need to also be replaced more often.

On the positive side, they come in a HUGE variety of colors and patterns. If your prop doesn’t require a lot of contact (like tech doubles or batons), than this can be a fun way to add color to your props. It’s also way more widely available and affordable (in most cases) as sports grips are found in almost every sporting goods store around the world. If you don’t have easy access to grips, are on a budget, or need to pick something up ASAP, than these can be a good backup option. That being said, because they need to be replaced more often and multiple lengths need to be used in longer props, I don’t think it’s cost effective in the long run.

Handlebar grips for bikes, particularly cork handlebar tape, is more cushioned than a lot of other sports grips. Spades, who is one of the most well known contact staff artists in the world, told me that he loves this grip! I went through a ton of cork handlebar tapes though and although they feel very padded, I could not find any that felt very grippy to me. It does go to show that even some of the most talented artists out there might not use more common grips and find something that works for themselves.

Sports over-grips can be a useful way to combat silicone tubing getting slippery in humid environments. If you are traveling to a humid environment or love silicone year round except for summer time, then you can wrap over-grips that are labeled “extra tacky” on top of silicone. This way the silicone provides some cushion and you can have a quick way to combat sweatiness or humidity that is easily removable. I would seal the ends of the over-grip with electrical tape.

In conclusion:

  • Generally safe on skin
  • Thinner than other commonly used staff grips
  • Need to be replaced more often
  • Come in huge variety of colors and patterns
  • Widely available in sporting goods stores
  • Cheap upfront cost (most of the time)
  • Can be used as over-grip for silicone in the summer

Conclusion

Although choosing the right grip is important, it can also be annoying to buy a bunch of different grips to see what you like best. Ideally you have a local flow jam you can go to and ask people to try out their staffs. That’s not always an option though, so here’s a quick reference guide on how well most of these grips do in different categories. Keep in mind, this assumes you are taking good care of your props. And as noted in the beginning of this post, everyone has different skin textures so this might not apply perfectly to everyone. Also there is a ton of different sports grips but I’ll try to lump them together in these comparisons.

Durability (most to least)

  • Silicone Based Grips / Goat
  • EPDM
  • Natural Foam Rubber Grip / Micro Gripping Material
  • Sports Grips

Grippiness (most to least)

  • Silicone Based Grips (when clean and dry)
  • Natural Foam Rubber Grips
  • EPDM / Goat / Micro Gripping Material???
  • Sports Grips / Silicone Based Grips (when sweaty, humid, or dusty)

Price (most expensive to least expensive)

  • Micro Gripping Material
  • Goat
  • Wizard / Ohm / Nimbus
  • Silicone Tubing
  • EPDM / Gorilla Grip
  • Sports grips

Note: Pricing heavily varies from manufacturer to manufacturer and changes over time so this list is not written in stone.

Padding and Cushion (most to least)

  • EPDM / Natural Foam Rubber Grips
  • Silicone Based Grips
  • Goat (technically is a thicker grip but rough texture and hard rubber)
  • Sports Grips (except cork handlebar tape)
  • Micro Gripping Material (as padded as whatever you put underneath it)

Hope this helps you choose your first or next staff grip! I think that all grips suck after trying them all. 🤣 It comes down to whatever you value most at the end of the day, so I like silicone tubing because its the most sanitary, easy to clean, and lasts extremely long. And if you use something long enough sometimes it becomes hard to even try anything else because of how much you’ve gotten used to it. Have fun and experiment but as always, don’t overthink it!