Every climber uses chalk. Some use it to tame sweaty palms and tips. Others claim it enhances friction on their hands. Some openly admit that chalking up is a necessary mental crutch. Whatever the reason, if you’re a climber, you understand the need to feed the addiction. The chalk that climbers depend on for sending their next sweet project is Magnesium Carbonate (MgCo3). Most climbing brands sell it, and there are even a couple companies that specialize in making the best climbing chalk they can.
Is there a difference though? It’s hard to say.
Chalk is a substance that truly comes down to personal preference.
One of our goals here at The Adventure Junkies is to help you gear up for climbing. In this article, we’ll walk you through what to look for when shopping for chalk and show you our list of the ten most popular climbing chalks for you dip your hands into.
For more of our top climbing gear recommendations, check out the Best Climbing Chalk Bags.
Quick Answer - The Best Climbing Chalks
- Black Diamond White Gold
- Metolius Super Chalk
- Friction Labs
- Mammut Powder
- Petzl Power Crunch
- GSC Gym
- Asana White Dirt
- Flashed Chalk
Comparison Table - Best Climbing Chalk
|Black Diamond White Gold||Loose, Ball||$||4.4|
|Metolius Super Chalk||Loose, Liquid, Ball||$||4.3|
|Friction Labs||Loose, Liquid, Ball||$$$||4.8|
|Mammut Powder||Loose, Liquid, Ball||$$||4.0|
|Petzl Power Crunch||Loose, Liquid, Ball||$$||4.2|
|Asana White Dirt||Loose, Ball||$||4.5|
|Flashed Chalk||Loose, Liquid, Ball||$||4.6|
Reviews - The Best Chalk for Climbing
Black Diamond White Gold
Metolius Super Chalk
PROS: Liquid chalk is the best on the market
CONS: Loose chalk is less silky than some other brands
LOOSE: Fine powder
Petzl Power Crunch
PROS: Classic and effective gymnastic chalk, can be bought in bulk as a box of 8 two-ounce blocks
CONS: May not last as long on hands
LOOSE: Chalk blocks only
Asana White Dirt
PROS: Mix of chunks and powder reduce dust, absorbs sweat effectively and stays on hands
CONS: May not last as long on hands
LOOSE: Mix of chunks and fine powder
PROS: Great absorption, coats well, and each bag comes with a climbing fortune
CONS: Harder to get in USA without the help of a great Canadian friend
LOOSE: Chunky powder or blocks
HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST CLIMBING CHALKS
TYPES OF CHALK
You can buy chalk in multiple forms. Loose chalk is the most common, but there are times when chalk balls (also called chalk socks) or liquid chalk might be more appropriate.
Loose chalk is the most common and the least expensive form of your magic sending dust. Most companies sell loose chalk in bags or hard containers, but you can also buy it in blocks and break it up yourself. You can fill your chalk bag or chalk bucket liberally and coat your hands at will. While loose chalk is the most versatile, it is also by far the messiest. Expect it to get on everything.
Many climbing gyms ban loose chalk to help maintain good air quality. If this is the case, your best bet is to use a chalk ball. Some chalk balls are filled with chalk and sealed, but others are refillable. Chalk balls tend to release chalk at a slower pace, making your chalk last longer.
Liquid chalk is a special product sold as a mixture of highly purified MgCO3 and alcohol. To use it, place a small dollop in the palm of your hand and then rub it thoroughly into your fingers and tips. After the alcohol evaporates an even and thin layer remains that can last significantly longer than loose chalk.
Some climbers use liquid chalk before a tough redpoint burn if there are few places to chalk up on route. Others use it in gyms that have loose-chalk-bans. Climbers often choose to apply liquid chalk as a “base layer” before dipping their hands in loose chalk or grabbing their chalk ball.
Climbers use chalk made of Magnesium Carbonate (MgCO3), but other molecules such as Calcium Carbonate and Calcium Sulfate are also found in chalk. MgCO3 traps water inside its crystalline structure, whereas Calcium Carbonate binds water to the outside. MgCO3 is thus better at absorbing sweat, and Calcium Carbonate tends to feel slippery or slimy on the hands. When chalk companies brag about having “pure chalk” they are referring to the purity of their MgCO3.
FRICTION AND ABSORPTION
Chalk needs to absorb sweat from your palms or your fingertips without adding a slippery or greasy feel. Just as you want sticky rubber on your climbing shoes, you want sticky, grippy chalk for your fingers. All climbing chalk is meant to absorb water and enhance friction, but some may perform better than others. Some chalk companies even add a drying agent to their mixture! The only way to know what works best with your skin is to test a few.
HOW LONG IT LASTS
You want chalk on your hands for as long as possible, but you want to chalk up as infrequently as possible. Chalk that lasts longer on your hands can help substantially with this issue.
Boulder problems tend to consist of condensed, powerful movement. It is very uncommon come to come across a place to chalk up mid boulder problem – you need the chalk to stay on your hands from the bottom to the top. This is one of the reasons why boulderers often don’t even bother carrying chalk bags, but opt for chalk buckets instead.
Climbing routes tend to have hard sections and easy sections, and often you can find a resting location mid-route. Rests are the best places to chalk up when climbing. If there are no rests, climbers attempt to chalk up in easier terrain. Basically, you want to avoid having to chalk up during any cruxy climbing while still maintaining chalk on your hands as long as possible.