Chalk is pretty much one of the most essential items when you’re climbing unless your hands don’t sweat very much. Personally, I don’t know any climber that doesn’t use it once they’re at least 20 minutes into their session. It’s also a very affordable product for most people, however I see climbers all the time buying chalk at my local gym without really know why they’ve gone for that brand other than “it’s the cheapest”. So, as this is an essential item and it won’t break your bank balance even if you were to go for a slightly more expensive brand, I would suggest that you buy the best value for your money climbing chalk to make your climbing experience as good as possible.
So, what makes good climbing chalk? First off it depends on whether you’d rather use a liquid chalk or normal chalk powder. Now, liquid chalk usually contains alcohol which dries out your hands in the long run a lot more than the drying agents used in normal chalk powder. However, liquid chalk might be what you prefer especially if you’re going deep water soloing.
Let’s look at how we can rate a good climbing chalk:
- What kind of texture does the chalk powder have?
- What is the powder to chunk ratio?
- How does the chalk feel on your hands? (e.g. does the powder make your hands feel dry?)
- How easy was the chalk to apply?
- Does the chalk leave you with long term hand dryness?
- How secure does the chalk make you feel on the climbing wall?
My Top Picks
My Recommended Climbing Chalk
If you’re willing to spend a bit more for the best chalking experience possible, I’d go for the FrictionLabs Unicorn Dust Fine Chalk. Before I tried this stuff I always thought it was way too expensive for a chalk, surely it can’t be that good compared to most other brands. Eventually I bought a pack just to try it out because I’d heard so many climbers go on about how good it was. And the only times I’ve used something different since I first bought a pack is when it’s been out of stock. If you’re a frequent climber then I would seriously consider buying this stuff.
FrictionLabs boasts that their Unicorn Dust has no drying agents or additives, giving you the most healthy chalk powder for your hands believing they have a “New Standard in Chalk”. They also say that even though they use no drying agents, this works better than those that do. Their motto for this product is “Chalk Up Less, Get Better Grip, Send More” and to be honest with you I can’t fault them. I found that I didn’t need to chalk up as much with this product, so although you are spending a bit more you’re using less chalk over time.
In terms of texture and application, the chalk is very silky and easily gives you a nice even layer across your hands. The powder to chunk ratio was pretty much perfect – I like around a 70% to 30% powder to chunk ratio. The powder itself is incredibly fine. I have naturally dry hands and most chalks make my hands feel dry immediately after a session but, although I still found it with this product, I only found it very slightly. It’s also the most secure I’ve felt on a wall with my hands, but maybe that’s just placebo because of how impressed I already was with the chalk. I also found that my hands didn’t feel as dry the next day as they usually did after a climbing session.
The real question is, is it worth the money? In my personal opinion yes, but I climb regularly. If you climb once a week or less then you might want to think about going for something cheaper.
Best Affordable Chalk
If you don’t want to spend the money for the FrictionLabs Unicorn Dust then your next best chalk with a much cheaper price tag is the Black Diamond Uncut White Gold Pure Chalk. They sell theirs in grams rather than ounces so just a little FYI 300g is around 10.5oz.
Other than the price, the differences between this chalk and the FrictionLabs are that the Black Diamond White Gold left my hands feeling very dry, and it didn’t coat my hands as well as the Unicorn Dust. Now, on the plus side, my hands felt that dry that sweat was nowhere to be seen. I felt quite secure on the wall especially if I’d brushed off all the holds beforehand (link to my recommended brush) because I knew hand sweat was a thing of the past. The chalk is a mixture of chunky and a fine-ish powder – I’d say it’s around a 60% powder to 40% chunky ratio which is a good balance. I found that as long as you put in place a good skin care routine for your hands then this is my second choice of climbing chalk.