No climber likes sweaty hands. Sweaty hands can make the difference between the send and the Weekend Whipper. Chalk can prevent you from falling victim to the latter.
Not only does chalk help reduce moisture and increase your grip on the wall, it also gives climbers a little something extra to enhance performance.
The type of chalk you use comes down to personal preference. There are tons of options to choose from, ranging from the extremely inexpensive to high-end chalk that will dry every pore in your hands. From traditional powder chalk to liquid chalk, there is certainly an option for every climber.
The good thing about chalk is that most of it is affordable enough to have a couple of different types on hand, and once you run out of a certain type, if you weren’t in love with it, you can easily try a different option next. We’re sharing our top 7 favorite chalks and our tips and tricks for choosing the best climbing chalk for your purposes.
Table of Contents
- Chalk Buyer’s Guide
- Types of Chalk
- Ways to Store and Use Climbing Chalk
- Best Climbing Chalk on the Market Review
- 1. FrictionLabs Loose - Best Overall Climbing Chalk
- 2. Black Diamond White Gold - Best for Sweaty Hands
- 3. Primo Chalk - Best for Sensitive Skin
- 4. Frank Endo Block Gym Chalk - Best Climbing Gym Chalk
- 5. FrictionLabs Secret Stuff Chalk Cream - Best Liquid Chalk
- 6. Metolius Super Chalk - Best Value Climbing Chalk
- 7. Metolius Eco Ball - Best Chalk for Leave No Trace Enthusiasts
Chalk Buyer’s Guide
The chalk market is extremely varied. There are powders, chalk blocks, liquid chalk, chalk balls, chalk for sweaty hands, chalk for sensitive skin, environmentally friendly chalk, and the list goes on. As far as powders go, they’re all essentially made up of the same main ingredient: magnesium carbonate. Add in a few drying agents and differences in formula and preparation, and that’s how different types of chalk are born.
As with other pieces of gear, it’s not uncommon to find climbers who swear by a certain brand or type of chalk. But before you blindly trust someone else’s word, it’s worth it to test out a few different chalk types and brands to find the best one for you.
Despite all of the varied marketing claims by different chalk producers, it’s tough to say how much better one brand is over the next. One thing is certain; however, that there are definitive differences in texture, type, and overall performance.
Types of Chalk
Ways to Store and Use Climbing Chalk
Once you choose the type of chalk you’d like to use, there are a couple of options to use it. Liquid chalk comes in its own tube and doesn’t require anything else to use it. (This makes it easy for travel, since you can easily throw the tube in your carry on and be on your way).
Powder chalk simply needs to be transferred into a chalk bag and you can start climbing. However, dipping chalk directly from a chalk bag can cause clouds of chalk dust to form and is also prone to spillage. This is why many climbers choose to fill up a chalk ball and put that in their bag.
Here are the pros and cons of each method.
Best Climbing Chalk on the Market Review
Now that we’ve covered what to look for in climbing chalk, it’s time for the reviews! Here are the top 7 choices of chalk on the market today.
1. FrictionLabs Loose - Best Overall Climbing Chalk
As far as chalk is concerned, FrictionLabs is the clear leader. Their chalk is made with a silica-free formula that is non-toxic and free of artificial drying agents. There are three varieties: Unicorn Dust is fine powder chalk with small chunks, Gorilla Grip is medium chunky chalk with some powder, and Bam Bam is Super Chunky chalk with some powder (closest to gym chalk block). These options allow you to choose a courser grind if that’s what you prefer without having to buy a chalk block.
It applies smooth and evenly, and lasts a long time. FrictionLabs is expensive, but for most people it’s worth it for the value and quality you receive.
2. Black Diamond White Gold - Best for Sweaty Hands
Black Diamond’s White Gold seems to check all the boxes for a decent all-around chalk. It’s affordable, provides good coverage, and, most importantly, dries out your hands. It dries them so well that even climbers with the sweatiest hands can attest to its effectiveness.
With all of the drying power in White Gold comes a downside. It can dry your hands out so much that it becomes painful to climb and your skin can even tear. This is especially true for climbers with sensitive skin. So it really depends on your skin and how much you sweat. If you need something to remove all traces of moisture, White Gold is the way to go.
3. Primo Chalk - Best for Sensitive Skin
Popular among weightlifters and crossfitters, Primo Chalk is also making its way into the climbing world. The Primo formula includes 5 essential oils and epsom salt, along with the main ingredient of clean magnesium carbonate. This mix provides natural protection against tearing and dryness while conditioning skin—and it’s also antibacterial. It even smells good.
Primo recommends using just a small amount of chalk at a time rather than becoming a “chalk monster.” When used this way, it can last twice as long as other chalks. However, some people disagree and say that it doesn’t last as long as other chalks.
4. Frank Endo Block Gym Chalk - Best Climbing Gym Chalk
Frank Endo chalk is cheap, effective, and trusted by climbing and gymnastics gyms across the U.S. It keeps your hands dry by absorbing sweat and ensures a reliable and strong grip that prevents you from slipping off the wall. This is a chalk where you really get what you pay for. It’s super affordable while still exceeding expectations.
Since Frank Endo chalk only comes as a block, depending on your preference, this can be seen as a positive or a negative. Chalk blocks are less messy than loose chalk, but they do require you to crush them yourself. This is only a problem if you like super fine chalk, but even then you can still grind it down yourself to your desired fineness.
With 4.8 stars on Amazon, there aren’t many complaints about Frank Endo chalk. It’s definitely worth checking out if you’re new to climbing and are looking for premium chalk at a bargain price.
5. FrictionLabs Secret Stuff Chalk Cream - Best Liquid Chalk
FrictionLabs is undeniably one of the best chalk brands on the market, and their Secret Stuff Chalk Cream is no different. This liquid chalk is perfect for indoor and outdoor rock climbing, as well as a variety of other sports that require grip aids. The silica-free formula is non-toxic and free of artificial drying agents.
Secret Stuff works in a variety of weather conditions as it repels sweat, rain, humidity and oils. Use it alone or layer it under powder chalk for an even stronger grip. FrictionLabs claims that a single 75ml bottle will last at least 100 uses, so you’re sure to get some mileage out of this one.
The downside to Secret Stuff, and liquid chalk in general, is that it’s difficult to re-apply if you’re climbing outside on long or multi-pitch routes. Its best use is in the gym or bouldering.
6. Metolius Super Chalk - Best Value Climbing Chalk
If you’re just starting to climb or if you’re on a serious budget, Metolius is the chalk for you. It’s readily available at most climbing gyms and is the cheapest chalk on this list. Does it dry your hand? Yes. Does it give you a little extra grip on the wall? Yes. Is it long-lasting? No. Overall, the Super Chalk does the things that a chalk should do, but it doesn’t do anything particularly well. It is a good option, though, for beginners who aren’t sure they want to invest in more expensive options yet.
7. Metolius Eco Ball - Best Chalk for Leave No Trace Enthusiasts
White chalk leaves unsightly marks on rock. High-trafficked crags can be covered in chalk marks, which leaves a lasting eyesore for other climbers and hikers. Metolius offers a solution to this problem with their Eco Ball Non-Marking Chalk Substitute. The Eco Ball does as advertised—it doesn’t leave any marks on climbing holds. It’s a great option for crags and gyms that don’t allow chalk or for people who are making an effort to leave no trace when they climb.
There are, unfortunately, a few cons to the eco ball. First, it’s not refillable, so you must continue to buy new balls every time you run out of chalk rather than refilling your original one. Since it’s a chalk alternative, it’s made of synthetic materials, and in my research I wasn’t able to find out what exactly these materials are. Some users also report that the balls release large clouds of dust while chalking up.
At the end of the day, most climbers can agree that, to a certain extent, chalk is just that—chalk. We all need that extra grip aid to keep us feeling secure on the wall while reducing moisture. Whether you need ultra drying options for sweaty hands, conditioning formulas for sensitive skin, or non-marking chalk for leave no trace principles, there is definitely a chalk out there for you.
We’ve covered all of the various types of chalk, best ways to use your chalk, and the different options for different needs. Now it’s time for you to confidently choose the best climbing chalk for your next trip.