Hands are sweaty, but it’s time to make a move. Don’t slip or take a whipper, chalk it up.
No matter if you’re bouldering in the local rock gym, or hitting an outdoor multi-pitch, chalk is a lifesaver for ultimate wall stickiness.
Without it, you’re prone to skin tears and soreness — and who wants that?
Chalk comes in all shapes, sizes, and textures. What works for some might fall short for others, so we’re dishing up all the details on what’s what below.
Let’s tie in.
What is climbing chalk?
Climbing chalk is scientifically known as magnesium carbonate, and is widely used by climbers to drastically improve their grip on the wall.
Naturally, our hands and feet sweat during any physical sport and exercise, but with climbing it’s a nuisance.
Climbing chalk significantly decreases hand moisture and allows climbers to stick to the wall with ease.
Climbing without chalk improves the risk of skin tears, blisters, and overall hand soreness post-climb.
Chalk roughs up the skin-to-wall barrier so you can focus on your climb instead of hand and skin injuries.
How to choose climbing chalk?
As simple as it may sound, chalk gets technical when you decide on the ideal feel for you. There are multiple types of chalk, mostly in the form of consistency:
This type of chalk comes in chunks, powder, or a mixture of the two.
Powder chalk is best used in a chalk ball or bag to keep it contained, as it can get messy quickly.
Chunky chalk is basically the same but easier to travel with. You can still break the chunks into your chosen consistency.
Liquid chalk comes in a bottle and is applied similarly to lotion, except it’s drying.
You’ll be left with a thin layer of chalk residue on the applied areas and it won’t spread to clothing as much as other chalk alternatives.
Block chalk is the best bang for your buck because you’ll have to buy in bulk.
Crush up the chalk you need for your expedition, and leave the rest for when you need it next.
One bonus chalk addition is eco chalk, which is a total must-have for outdoor, protected areas.
It comes in powdered form, it’s less damaging for natural spaces than regular chalk, and some places actually require it.
What is a chalk bag?
A chalk bag is precisely what you’d guess: a bag to hold all your chalk!
The coolest part about chalk bags is the limitless possibilities for personalization.
There are chalk bags which are normal, hand-size bags, or chalk buckets, which hold a whole bag of chalk.
For longer adventures, chalk buckets are the best solution, but climbing with them on your person is not recommended.
If you’re looking for a spill-proof chalk option, chalk balls are for you.
You’ll need to buy powder chalk so it can soak through the sock lining of the chalk ball but it’ll pace out your chalk saturation.
Your hands won’t be coated as densely as using loose or chunky chalk, so keep that in mind.
How to choose a chalk bag or bucket?
Take the following into account when purchasing your chalk bag or bucket:
|Carabiner to your harness when climbing
|Keep on the ground when climbing
|Great for any climbing ventures
|Great for bouldering with groups
|Hold a limited amount of chalk
|Hold a bag (depending on size) of chalk
|Solid choice for daily use
|Easily store large amounts of chalk for multi-day trips
When in doubt, snag them both. You’ll be prepared for a day outside bouldering or a crag climb.
Don’t forget to pick up a carabiner to attach your chalk bag to your harness or pant loop.
Since you won’t be relying on it to hold your weight, you don’t need a climbing-approved carabiner.
Most chalk bags have an adjustable belt to put over your harness when climbing. Chalk buckets tend to be sold without the gear belt.
Our Favorite Chalk Bags
Chalk bags are your one chance to go wild with customizations. There are loads of adorable and badass options on Etsy, Amazon, and more.
Here are three of my favorite picks to spice up your climbing gear:
- 8B Monster Chalk Bags
Who doesn’t want a fuzzy friend while on the wall?
- Organic Chalk Bags
Made from recycled fabric scraps, these bags are hyper-sustainable, which as climbers, we love!
This Etsy shop is filled with what looks like various stuffed things, like animals, foods, and popular drinks — but they’re all chalk bags!
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McKenzi Taylor founded Rock Climbing Women in 2013 after moving to a new city as a new climber seeking more climbing partners (and new friends!). Since her first taste of climbing in Spearfish Canyon, SD, McKenzi has been at the rock face seeking and sharing the thrill of climbing. She credits the support of a consistent climbing partner and community as the motivation to continue developing her skill, whether it’s trad, sport climbing or bouldering. A full-time business owner and mother, McKenzi’s on a mission to get her kids outside and learning to adventure alongside her.