Climbing chalk is one of the most essential and useful accessories in any climber’s tool bag. Used in a variety of sports and physical activities, it is a must for rock climbing and bouldering.
- What is climbing chalk?
- How to choose a climbing chalk
- The best brands of climbing chalk
- How much does climbing chalk cost?
- How often should you apply climbing chalk?
- How to choose a rock climbing chalk bag
What is climbing chalk?
What is climbing chalk made of? The formulation may vary slightly depending on the brand and the type of chalk. But most climbing chalks are made primarily from magnesium carbonate. This is the same substance used by weightlifters, gymnasts, rock climbers, and other athletes to increase friction and improve their grip while training and competing.
Benefits of using climbing chalk
The human body produces a great deal of moisture, especially during physical activity. For any rock climber, weightlifter or gymnast especially, sweaty palms and sweaty hands, would pose a significant challenge if not for the use of some type of drying agent. Because when engaged in any strenuous activity, the sweat produced by the hands and the rest of the body can cause the grip to become slippery. This can make the activity difficult or even dangerous.
Climbing chalk absorbs the moisture from the skin and increases friction. This helps ensure a more secure grip, allowing the climbers to perform complicated maneuvers.
Climbing chalk could be considered a safety measure as well as a performance enhancer. It is essential for many types of activities, particularly those that require a firm and secure grip. Without climbing chalk, rock climbing and bouldering would be much more difficult.
Different types of climbing chalk
Most chalk is made primarily from magnesium carbonate, with other ingredients added depending on the brand and application. Climbing chalk typically comes in the following forms:
Block chalk is essentially magnesium carbonate in compressed form. You will have to break off a chunk and crush it to use it in powdered form. Climbers typically place the block in their chalk bag and stomp on it to break off the size of the chunk that they need.
Block chalk is easy to carry around and store because it comes in a single large chunk. But because you have to break it up to use it, block chalk may not be the best choice for rock climbing or bouldering.
Loose chalk is pretty much the same as block chalk but in powdered form. It ranges in texture from crumbled and chunky to fine particles of powder. Companies such as FrictionLabs offer loose chalk in varying degrees of fineness.
Loose chalk is the more convenient option because you can simply dip your hands into your chalk bag and coat them as needed. The downside is that it can get pretty messy to use and transport. In some cases, you may also not get the texture and consistency you need because the chalk comes pre-ground.
Liquid chalk is a blend of magnesium carbonate and alcohol. It has a similar consistency as lotion and is used by squirting it onto the hands. As the alcohol dries, it leaves the chalk residue on your hands.
Liquid chalk is a convenient option as well, as you can apply it quickly. It also lasts longer than most other forms of climbing chalk. The main disadvantage is that the alcohol in the solution can dry out your hands. It is also difficult to estimate how much liquid to put on your hands to get the right amount of chalk.
How to choose a climbing chalk
You can generally expect chalks made of pure magnesium carbonate to absorb moisture effectively and increase friction. As long as the climbing chalk contains this ingredient, you are reasonably sure of its ability to enhance your grip.
When choosing climbing chalk, the other relevant factors are form and cost. If you need to quickly access the chalk for climbing or bouldering, loose chalk is preferable to blocks or liquid form. If you don’t mind going through a few additional steps to get the chalk on your hands, a chalk block is acceptable.
Consider the cost of climbing chalk as well. Some brands are more expensive than others, even though they have the same ingredients and offer the same performance benefits.
If you are concerned about reducing your impact on the environment, consider purchasing environmentally-friendly chalk. Some brands have unique formulations that minimize environmental impact and don’t leave a trace on cliffs and natural rock faces.
Finally, look into hypoallergenic chalk if you have sensitive skin or are prone to skin irritations.
What climbing chalk is eco-friendly?
The increasing focus on reducing environmental impact has given rise to more conscientious climbing practices. Climbers are now more concerned about minimizing the damage that they cause to the environment and lessening the signs of their presence that they leave behind.
One practice that has become more popular in recent years is the use of eco-friendly climbing chalk. Most of these chalks were developed specifically to minimize the traces of white chalk that climbing leaves on natural rock formations.
In most cases, chalk can be made more eco-friendly by the simple addition of colored dye. This makes the chalk blend in with the environment, instead of leaving unsightly white traces on the rocks. Brands such as Climbing Addicts Eco-Conscious Climbing Chalk utilize this method, providing climbers with a safe, effective, and non-obtrusive alternative to regular climbing chalk.
The best brands of climbing chalk
Nowadays, many brands of climbing chalk are available on the market, many of which are of uniformly high quality. Some of the brands worth looking into are:
Black Diamond White Gold is one of the most popular climbing chalks around. You can find it in almost any hobbyist or crafts store, as well as from many online retailers. It is priced reasonably and compares favourably with chalks costing many times as much. Best of all, Black Diamond White Gold has a nice texture and produces plenty of friction.
Friction Labs Secret Stuff is liquid climbing chalk, and the closest you can get to premium climbing chalk. It provides excellent coverage and considerable friction without producing a lot of dust. It comes in a creamy solution that is easy to apply, although it probably isn’t the best choice for rock climbing when you need quick access to your chalk. Secret Stuff isn’t cheap by any means, but it is one of the best climbing chalks around.
Mammut Liquid Chalk is an excellent choice if you want chalk that provides good friction. It can be applied quickly and spreads well, providing excellent coverage. It is comparable to Secret Stuff in many ways, although it is considerably cheaper. Keep in mind that Mammut Liquid Chalk can irritate if you have abrasions and cuts on your hands.
Also, from Friction Laboratories, Gorilla Grip provides consistently reliable performance. Although a bit pricey, you do get excellent friction in an easy-to-use formula for the cost.
Metolius Super Chalk is a pretty good option on the budget end of the scale. It doesn’t provide as much friction as the other brands, and you will probably need to apply a heavy coating to get the best performance. If you don’t mind using a lot of chalk, this is a good choice that won’t cost too much money.
How much does climbing chalk cost?
Climbing chalk price ranges from a little over $1 an ounce to as much as $7.60 an ounce. Some cost a bit more, although most probably won’t provide a significant performance advantage over lower-priced options.
There are a few chalks that cost less than $1 an ounce, but the quality of some of them may be questionable. It would probably be best to stick to chalks priced at around $2 to get the best value for your money.
How often should you apply climbing chalk?
Climbing chalk should be applied as often as you need it. Of course, everyone’s needs are different. Some people may need to apply chalk more frequently than others depending on how much sweat they produce.
Most experienced climbers apply chalk at the beginning of the climb and then again just before attempting a particularly tricky maneuver. As you gain more experience, you will figure out how much chalk to apply and how often, depending on your needs.
The correct way to apply climbing chalk
You can apply climbing chalk a few different ways depending on the type of chalk you are using. Liquid climbing chalk is usually squirted onto the hands directly from the bottle and then worked into the skin. Block chalk will have to be broken up before you can use it.
If you are using powdered chalk in a bag, you simply place one or both hands in the bag and get as much chalk as you need. You then spread it around to coat all surfaces and let the rest pour back into the bag. You should repeat this procedure every time the moisture from your hands soaks through the chalk.
If you use a chalk bag with a refillable chalk ball, also referred to as a chalk sock, you simply fill the chalk ball with your powder chalk then place it in your bag. To apply, you put each hand in the bag, squeeze the chalk ball once or twice, and then continue to climb.
How to choose a rock climbing chalk bag
When choosing a climbing chalk bag, the simplest is often the best. Most are made of burlap, leather, or canvas, which makes them durable enough to withstand rugged outdoor use.
Apart from strength and durability, the most valuable qualities of a chalk bag are lightness and easy accessibility. A good chalk bag should not add too much weight to your gear. It should also have a sufficiently large opening that allows you to place your hands in quickly and pull them out without snagging.
Some of the best climbing chalk bags on the market are the Arc’teryx C80, which has a wide, rigid mouth; the Petzl Saka, which offers easy accessibility; and the Arc’teryx Aperture, which has a secure and effective twist-closure system.