Hikers and climbers are always wanting to up the ante on the challenges they face. Scaling steep mountains may seem to mainstream, and they want to face something even more difficult. Climbing sheer rock faces may be exactly what they’ve been looking for, but the sport can be dangerous.
Even if they do decide to climb with a harness, they need everything they can get to ensure that their climbs are comfortable and safe, and that means getting the best climbing chalk that they can find.
Not many people consider adding this tool to their gear, and they pay dearly for this mistake. Having the best chalk bag on your side means that you’ll not only have great grip, but you’ll also minimize the risk of friction occurring between your hands and the rock surface so you won’t tear your skin open.
Blisters are never fun, and they can hinder your climbing experience with the amount of pain you”’ experience. But how do you go about finding the climbing chalk that is right for you?
Types of Climbing Chalk
You may tell yourself that chalk is chalk, but they actually come in several varieties, depending on your preferences.
They all offer the same benefits, but some are better than others in what they do. The different kinds of climbing chalk are:
- Chalk blocks: these are most frequently used in gymnastics and weight lifting, as they’re cheap and easy to use.
They’re made of magnesium carbonate with no extra additives, and can be used in their block form, or crushed and added to a sock or bag.
- Powdered chalk: this is fine dust that has already been crushed for you, and is easy to pour into your chalk sock. These are more specially formulated for rock climbers, as drying agents have been added to the chalk to promote added dryness.
It is a bit more expensive, however, and can be a bit messier to deal with. It’s not the best thing to use if you’re only into indoor climbing, as the chalk can linger in the air and clog climbers’ lungs. At the same time, some parks won’t let you use this kind of chalk if it leaves marks behind on the rock face.
- Chalk balls and socks: some manufacturers already prepackage chalk balls in socks for you so that you don’t have to prepare them yourself. The added benefit to this is that there’s less fallout of chalk in the air and it’s much easier to roll around in your hands.
They also last much longer because of the compact nature of the chalk. However, some socks may not be refillable, so if you run out, you’ll have to buy a new one altogether. Look for socks that allow you to open them and add more chalk as needed.
- Liquid chalk: this is specialty chalk that seeks to minimize the fallout of powdered chalk. Alcohol is added to the chalk to create a paste-like substance that is spread over your hands and fingers.
Allowing the alcohol to dry leaves the chalk behind, and lasts for an incredibly long time. Less residue is left behind on your climbing surfaces, and there’s the reduced need to reapplication throughout your upward journey.
With that in mind, this still doesn’t answer the question as to which kind of climbing chalk you should get.
How to Choose Your Chalk
Before your first purchase, there are three main things you need to take into account:
- the type of chalk
- how you want to apply it
- how you’re going to carry it
We’ve already discussed the various kinds of chalk that are out in there in the market, so this article will consider the latter two questions in this section.
Would you prefer to rub chalk on your hands in powdered form or block form? Does the idea of liquid chalk seem more appealing because there’s less dust in the air? This is all a matter or preference, but it should still play an important role in the kind of product you choose. Outside of liquid chalk, there are two methods of applying chalk: bags and balls.
A chalk bag holds loose powder chalk that you can dip your hands into whenever you need more. However, this does increase the risk of spillage. Chalk balls and socks, on the other hand, make it easy to reapply when needed, but it’s difficult to achieve a thick coating.
In carrying your chalk, liquid versions make it very easy: simply tuck the tiny container into your backpack. Climbers rarely ever need a lot of it at once, so even small bottles of liquid chalk will last them a very long time.
Otherwise, with powder and ball chalk, you have to consider the kind of bag or sock you want to carry them in. They come in a wide variety of sizes, from small bags to buckets, as well as a few bag shapes:
- Cylindrical bags: hold a very large amount of chalk, and is good for very long climbs.
- Tapered bags: best for shorter climbs and are least likely to get caught up on the rock’s surface, which is important when making precise moves.
These bags also come with a variety of added features to make it easier for you to dip your hands in and keep your powder safe.
- Cord closure: prevents spilling between dips and when you put your chalk bag in your gear bag.
- Bag belt: makes it easy to slide the bag from the front to the rear for easy access.
- Stiffened rim: allows the bag to stay open for you to dip your hands in.
- Zippered pocket: great for keeping your chalk as well as storing smaller items such as keys or a cellphone.
- Fleece lining: keep the chalk dust in place and helps to apply it evenly over the hands.
- Brush loop: holds a brush for you to clean off the chalk from the rock surface as you climb.
Before you go out and buy your climbing chalk, it’s always important that you do some research into the areas that will allow you to use it. Some parks restrict or prohibit the use of climbing chalk, as it leaves behind marks that can make the rock surface look unsightly.
It would be waste of time and effort for you to get your chalk and then not be able to use it in your favorite park. There is the alternative of finding non-marking chalk, as this allows you the freedom to climb wherever you like.
However, these products are a little more expensive, so it’s a question of whether you’re interested in paying a bit more.
Other considerations you should keep in mind are:
- Using a Nylon Belt: the majority of climbers attach their chalk bag to a nylon belt to minimize the risk of damaging the material and losing their chalk altogether.
The nylon belt also makes it easier for them to move the bag around as they need it for when they need to reapply. Alternatively, other limbers like to attach their chalk bag to their harness through the use of a carabiner for easier access.
However, this restricts it to one side of your body. By attaching it to your belt, you can slide it around freely and apply to either hand when you’re running out of chalk.
- Testing the Chalk Bag before Purchase: after determining what size and type of bag you’ll need, you need to test it out for yourself. Smaller chalk bags aren’t very suitable for rock climbing, as they can be too small to fit your hands into, and are really only ideal for extreme routes and competitions.
You can test the chalk bag you’re interested in by sliding your hand in and out of the bag a few times to see how easily you can remove your hand. Having an opening that’s too small can result in the loss of a lot of chalk when you’re pulling your hand out, thereby rendering your chalk reapplication pointless.
- Knowing How to Wear your Chalk Bag: in order to make the most out of your chalk bag, it’s important that you know how to wear your nylon belt first. It’s important that you wear your belt above your harness, and it should hang loosely around your waist.
This makes it easier for you to slide your chalk bag around when you need reapplication. The best way to see if your belt is at the right circumference is to put it on and have the chalk bag hanging from the middle of your back.
It should end up just above your tail bone. If it’s too high, then you’ll struggle to reach it and will have to bend your wrists at odd angles to get to it. Too low, then you may not even be able to reach it at all. This process is going to take a lot of readjusting for you to learn how you should wear your belt.
With that said, here are just a few of the top rated products on the market for you to peruse through. This is not an exhaustive list, and should serve as a guide to help you find exactly what you’re looking for.
Top Product Reviews
Metolius Eco Ball
Dimensions: 2.2 x 5.04 x 5.35 inches
Special Features: non-marking, good absorption, good friction
Description: This non-marking chalk knows how to get the job done. Metolius Eco Ball is considered to be one of the top performing chalks in the market, no matter the terrain or the climate.
It works well ant absorbing the moisture from one’s hands and providing sufficient friction to take your climb to the next level. Many customers have complained about the size of this ball, as it’s quite large and isn’t very conducive to saving space in your backpack.
On the other hand, the size allows you to use this chalk ball on hundreds, if not thousands, of climbs. However, the sock itself is not refillable, which means once you run out of chalk, you’ll have to buy a new ball all over again.
Black Diamond White Gold Loose Chalk
Cost: $1.95 – $27.74
Dimensions: 3 x 10 x 13 inches
Special Features: uses magnesium carbonate, provides improved grip
Description: You’ll feel the superior quality of this Black Diamond White Gold Loose Chalk the very first time you use it, and you may never want to try anything else.
This chalk is designed to keep your hands drier and for much longer than other brands so you won’t have to reapply as much during your climb. However, if you want quality, you’re going to have to pay for quality, so expect the price to be a bit more than what you’re used to.
Mammut Liquid Chalk
Dimensions: 1.8 x 3 x 6.5 inches; 200 ml
Special Features: dust-free, mark-free, high absorbency means less re-chalking.
Description: If you want a convenient way to carry chalk with you on your hikes, this tiny Mammut Liquid Chalk may be exactly what you’ve been looking for.
This liquid chalk is designed to keep your hands dry without leaving a mess behind. Just squeeze a dollop of it into your hand, rub your palms thoroughly, and allow the alcohol to dry.
The chalk left behind won’t rub away as easily as other kinds of chalk so you can climb for much longer without needing to reapply as often.
And for those climbing areas where you’re required not to leave any marks behind, this chalk stays exactly where you need it to be.
Petzl Power Liquid Chalk
Dimensions: 2.1 x 2.6 x 6.5 inches; 200 ml
Special Features: non-airborne, dries in seconds, non-marking
Description: This Petzl Power Liquid Chalk is designed mostly for gym climbing, but it could be paired with other chalk in order to increase your grip while you’re out rock climbing.
You only need a small amount of product for it to work, and it dries within seconds, so you can get to climbing sooner than you think.
And with a product guarantee of about three years, you’ll manage to squeeze in a lot of climbing before you need to replace it.
And because it dries so quickly, you won’t have to worry about losing any of your product to the air, meaning that more stays on your hands.
Metolius Super Chalk Refillable Chalk Sock
Dimensions: 2.2 x 3.9 x 4.6 inches
Special Features: considered to be the original climbing chalk in the market, maximum sweat absorption, minimizes friction, reduces dust.
Description: Nothing’s more affordable than this Metolius Super Chalk Refillable Chalk Sock, and it has a long-standing reputation behind it. It’s been in the market for years, and many climbers have trusted their health and safety to this climbing chalk.
With this product, you also get to save costs on having to buy a new sock over and over again; just place more chalk in it when it’s empty. The added drying agent allows your hands to stay moisture-free and reduces friction so you’re not tearing your fingers and palms open.
There is some dust that gets in the air when you’re refilling this sock, but that’s to be expected.
Endo Block Chalk
Dimensions: 3.9 x 8.3 x 9.1 inches
Special Features: 8 2-ounce blocks, used in gymnastics, affordable, effective
Description: Want to have the same grip as Olympic gymnasts? Endo Block Chalk is the product they use to get the job done, so why not give it a try? It has the classic block shape that makes it easy to pack in your backpack and take out when you need it.
The light weight won’t weigh you down either, and you can get a lot of use out of just one block. It will kick up a lot of dust and you will have to reapply, but the cost makes it affordable for you to buy these blocks in bulk.
Don’t put your safety at risk by neglecting to bring some climbing chalk with you. It can make all the difference in the world and will provide you with the necessary grip that you need to stay on that wall and keep going.
Have any comments you’d like to share about any of these products? Got any suggestions on products we should include in a future list? Feel free to leave your commentary with us in the section below and we may include them in future articles to come.