Last update: May 2022
When it comes to climbing chalks, it’s hard to find a consensus. Some climbers swear by loose chalk, while others don’t leave home without a small bottle of liquid chalk in their bag. Ultimately, the type of climbing chalk you use depends mainly on personal preference.
If you’re a novice climber, make sure to try out various chalks, including loose chalk, ball chalk, liquid climbing chalk, and block chalk. Each type performs slightly differently and can affect your concentration and overall climbing enjoyment.
If you’re an experienced climber, it’s a good idea to try out some other chalks once in a while. It’s easy to get used to your regular chalk, but you may find something that suits your climbing style better. By shaking things up and experimenting, you may find that your preferences have changed over time, or you may decide to stick with the climbing chalk you’ve used for years.
The biggest challenge in finding the right climbing chalk for you is the sheer amount of choice on the market. If you start shopping around for loose chalk, for instance, you’ll find dozens of brands that all promise to be the best chalk in the world and most likely fail to deliver on that promise.
Our goal with this loose chalk guide is to give you our top climbing chalk picks to provide you with a good starting point. We’ve taken the time to research and review various types of chalks so that you don’t have to. No matter what you pick from our list, you can rest assured that it’s a high-quality product that will take your next climbing session to the next level.
Our Top 11 Picks of 2022
|Name||Texture||Budget||Best for||Best Offer|
|Black Diamond White Gold||Mixed (fine with chunks)||$$||Overall||Check prices →|
|Black Diamond Black Gold||Regular||$$$||Performance||Check prices →|
|Metolius Super Chalk||Mixed (fine with chunks)||$||Budget||Check prices →|
|Friction Labs Unicorn Dust||Super fine||$$$||Fine Texture||Check prices →|
|Bison Competition Chalk||Super fine||$$||Sweaty hands||Check prices →|
|Black Diamond Eco Gold Chalk||Regular||$$$||Sustainability||Check prices →|
|Primo Chalk||Regular||$$||Skin Friendliness|
|Trango Gunpowder||Super fine||$||Value|
|Friction Labs Gorilla Grip||Chunky||$$$||Chunky Texture||Check prices →|
|Frank Endo Gym Chalk||Coarse||$$||Block chalk|
|Asana White Dirt||Chunky||$$||Bouldering|
1. Black Diamond White Gold: Best Overall Climbing Chalk
Black Diamond has established a reputation as one of the premier rock climbing brands, offering a massive range of climbing equipment, including loose powder chalk.
White Gold is the most popular of Black Diamond’s chalk range, which also includes Eco Gold and Black Gold. BD White Gold starts off pretty chunky but can develop a fine texture if you rub it or carry it in your bag for a while.
Overall, Black Diamond White Gold is a reliable, versatile, and affordable product that makes it the best starter and overall climbing chalk for enthusiasts and beginners alike.
2. Black Diamond Black Gold Pure Chalk: Best High-Performance Chalk
Black Diamond’s Black Gold combines its flagship White Gold chalk with its novel form of magnesium carbonate. This version, called Upsalite, is 10x more absorbent than chalk from other manufacturers. In fact, Upsalite’s absorbency has made it a popular choice in toxic waste cleanup and as a surgical desiccant.
While it’s possible to buy Upsalite separately as Pure Gold, Black Gold removes the need for optimization by providing climbers with a premixed formula. It’s also significantly more affordable.
3. Metolius Super Chalk: Best Budget Climbing Chalk
According to Metolius, Super Chalk is the top-selling chalk in the U.S. One reason is probably the chalk’s price, which is aggressively low. Despite its low price, Metolius Super Chalk remains similar in most aspects to its more expensive competitors.
While the price and added drying agent can give the impression that this is an inferior product, the truth is that Super Chalk performs almost as well as many other brands on the market.
The main appeal of Metolius Super Chalk is the price. It has some unique quirks that you may need to get used to.
4. FrictionLabs Unicorn Dust: Best Fine Powdered Chalk
This pure loose chalk from Friction Labs doesn’t contain any additives—just 100% magnesium carbonate.
Just like other Friction Labs chalk products, the Unicorn Dust chalk itself is a very fine powder that still has a good mix of large and small chunks out of the bag.
One of the most significant contributors to excessive dryness is chalk staying on the skin, where it continues to do its job of absorbing moisture. The good news is that despite having excellent coverage, Friction Labs chalk still washes off easily.
Overall, Unicorn Dust has gained a reputation in the chalk world as a premium product due to its excellent absorbency that strengthens grip without caking or producing excessive dust.
5. Bison Designs Competition Chalk: Best Chalk for Sweaty Hands
There’s nothing worse than fighting against slippery, sweaty hands. Many climbers spend their summer and early autumn climbing and often have to fight hot temperatures as well as the climb itself.
If you have excessively sweaty hands, you may realize that traditional chalk fails to absorb enough moisture fast enough. Instead, you have to deal with disappearing chalk and clumping that can ruin your day.
Even though Bison Designs’ Competition Chalk doesn’t contain any additives, it’s one of the most absorbent products on the market. The secret is that Bison Designs bakes its chalk at 400 degrees F, making it more absorbent without compromising on quality or purity.
This baking step also affects the chalk’s texture. While the chalk feels incredibly fine, similar to Friction Labs’s Unicorn Dust, it still provides a solid layer of chalk that can absorb a large amount of moisture without caking.
If you use a chalk bag, you’ll need to be extremely careful when decanting to avoid spills and wasted chalk. Otherwise, you’ll end up with more white powder in your kitchen than on an experimental baking day.
If you have sweaty palms and want the best climbing chalk that will firm up your grip without too much hassle, this is definitely a product that should be on your list.
6. Black Diamond Eco Gold Chalk: Best Eco-Friendly Chalk
The unfortunate truth about climbing chalk is that most manufacturers get their base materials from mining operations. When you buy chalk, you indirectly support destructive and environmentally harmful practices.
Of course, climbing chalk isn’t the only product that uses the mineral magnesium carbonate; it’s also a common antacid. But if you’re looking to reduce your impact on the environment, Black Diamond Eco Gold chalk is an excellent place to start.
Black Diamond sources its magnesium carbonate from water desalination instead of mining it. Not only does this process have a less damaging impact on the environment, but the other byproduct of desalination—water—can provide safe drinking water for the billions of people who need it the most.
Desalination is still expensive and time-consuming, which makes supporting products stemming from the process so important. Many companies are willing to research process improvements if it helps their bottom line.
But even if Black Diamond’s Eco Gold makes you feel good when you buy it, does it also make you feel good while climbing? Yes. It does. The chalk functions almost identically to White Gold and Unicorn climbing chalk and has the silky consistency of a high-grade product.
7. Primo Chalk: Sensitive Skin
Climbing chalk absorbs moisture, which can make your hands dry and make any sensitive skin issues worse. People suffering from skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis often have to stop climbing during flare-ups due to excessive discomfort and irritation.
The last thing you want is a chalk that further irritates or scrapes your hands. Primo Chalk mixes organic essential oils like eucalyptus, cinnamon, and lemon into the chalk for skin-soothing benefits and a refreshing scent. With no rubbing alcohol to dry your hands, Primo makes it easy to take care of your skin.
What sets Primo Chalk apart from other brands isn’t just the fragrance—this chalk has serious staying powder. Apply just a pinch of the loose chalk to your hands before a climb, and enjoy the friction whether you’re climbing indoors or outdoors.
The moisturizing formula works to reduce blisters and tears and fights dryness so you can do what you love for longer. Climbers with sensitive skin benefit from the conditioning, airy Primo Chalk formula.
8. Trango Gunpowder: Best Value Chalk
In general, fine chalks are great at providing smooth coverage without clumping, giving you grip when you need it the most.
A newcomer to the chalk world, Trango has made its name with its Gunpowder chalk that’s super fine without feeling as powdery as Bison Design’s products. At an affordable price point, this is the best climbing chalk for your buck.
Trango Gunpowder is the best climbing chalk for people who don’t like dealing with large chunks in their chalk. The airtight container ensures that moisture can’t get into the chalk, protecting it from clumps or chunks that you need to break apart before using.
If you’re looking for an affordable, high-performing superfine chalk, then Trango’s Gunpowder should be on your radar. The only drawback is its messiness. So if you’re firmly in Camp Chunky Chalk, you’ll hate the lack of any chunks or texture in the product.
9. Friction Labs Gorilla Grip: Best Chunky Chalk
Some climbers find that chunky chalk provides better grip than finely-ground products. The problem is that even the best climbing chalk comes with uneven chunks that will eventually break down into a fine powder.
Friction Labs has taken this concept to its logical conclusion with Gorilla Grip, a coarse chalk that’s consistent across packages. It feels much harder and crunchier than most other offerings on the market today.
The main advantage of Gorilla Grip is that you can get a good coating of chalk without having to deal with caking or huge clouds of chalk flying whenever your dip your hand into your chalk bag.
The downside is that there are times when you want better coverage with a finer chalk, such as in hot, humid conditions where moisture buildup is an issue. But if you climb in mainly cool, dry conditions and love the idea of chunky chalk, Gorilla Grip is the best climbing chalk for your needs.
10. Frank Endo Block Gym Chalk: Best Block Chalk
The classics are often classics for a good reason. Frank Endo gym chalk is a staple for both gymnasts and weightlifters, and its quality still holds up in modern climbing circles.
The main appeal of using block chalk is that you get to control your chunkiness. You can simply dump the block in your bag, hit it against a wall, and start climbing with the knowledge that you’ve got a good range of textures in your bag.
What makes Frank Endo gym chalk such a staple is its longevity. Many people think that they lose most of their chalk layer after a couple of passes, but a super fine layer often remains for most of the day.
Frank Endo Block Gym Chalk is super grippy due to its coarser texture. It’s similar to Gorilla Grip but without the premium price tag.
The main drawback of chalk blocks is the mess. There is no way to get a portion of the block into your bag without the area looking like a drug dealer’s haven. The best tactic we’ve found is to secure the area with a big open ziplock bag that can catch most stray clumps. However, that won’t help at all with the dust, so hopefully, you love the smell of chalk in the morning.
11. Asana White Dirt: Best Chalk for Bouldering
Asana is a familiar name in bouldering circles, so it makes sense that this company would make the best climbing chalk for bouldering.
White Dirt’s main selling point is that it’s premixed to contain both large and small chunks. This combined chalk lets you find the ideal texture for your particular bouldering needs without committing to superfine or coarse chalks that other chalk brands offer. However, if you’re looking for the same chalk texture between refills, Asana’s variable chalk may not be the ideal solution for you.
What Is Climbing Chalk?
Before chalk, there was resin. French mountaineers used resins as a sticky grip aid. Unlike climbing resin, chalk doesn’t make surfaces more sticky. Instead, it uses an absorbent powder to soak up any moisture that can make your hands slippery.
Good climbing chalk stays on your hands longer and absorbs more moisture. It generally feels smooth to the touch and applies in a smooth, even layer. Lower-quality products will feel gritty and disappear quickly after you’ve applied a layer. This disappearing act leads to you applying more chalk repeatedly, which can dry and irritate your skin.
Some chalk brands use additional climbing chalk ingredients like artificial drying agents to target climbers with sweaty hands. These tend to dry out your skin faster, and we don’t recommend using any products that contain pure magnesium carbonate if you have sensitive skin.
Some chalks have dyes that minimize chalk marks while climbing outdoors. These dyes are usually harmless, but some people report allergic reactions, so test the chalk out on a small area before dunking your whole hand in your chalk bag.
Why Do You Need Climbing Chalk?
Before we talk about the benefits of rock climbing chalk, it’s important to note that it’s entirely possible for you to climb without chalk. Chalk isn’t an essential tool, unlike climbing shoes, harnesses, and carabiners, especially when you’re just getting started.
But what does chalk do for climbing? It dries out your hands. Moisture tends to lessen friction, which makes things more slippery. The drier something is, the more friction it creates and the better your overall grip and stability.
Chalk Improves Your Grip
The number one reason for using climbing chalk is that chalk improves grip by absorbing oils and sweat from your hands. Excess oil and sweat make it significantly harder to get a good grip on the rock’s surface, which can impact your confidence as well as your overall enjoyment of the climb.
If you often need to take a break to wipe the sweat off your hands while climbing, climbing chalk can be an invaluable tool in your climbing arsenal.
Chalk Prevents Skin-Related Injuries
Another significant reason to use chalk for climbing is to prevent skin-related injuries. If you frequently get flappers (torn, hanging pieces of skin) after a climb, using loose chalk can help prevent future injuries.
Flappers are due to skin that’s either too moist or too dry. Moist skin tends to stick to rocks, and when you move, your skin layer stays behind. On the other hand, dry skin is brittle and flaky, especially around calluses, making it prone to tearing and irritation.
Climbing chalks help by controlling the moisture of your hands. Your skin won’t be so moist that it sticks to surfaces, but you’ll still get the essential grip you need to tackle that challenging climb.
The Benefits of Using Loose Chalk
If you’ve decided to try out some climbing chalk, your next concern is finding what type of chalk you want. Chalks for climbing come in a variety of forms, including:
- Loose chalks, with or without a chalk ball (also sometimes referred to as chalk sock)
- Liquid chalks
- Chalk blocks (loose chalk sold in a compact form)
While each of these types of chalk performs the same function, they differ slightly in their delivery and ease of use. Loose chalks can be messy, mainly if you use especially powdery chalk, while liquid climbing chalks are challenging to apply during a climb.
Most climbers start out with loose chalk. It’s the most common form of climbing chalk and is suitable for both bouldering and longer climbs. Loose chalk also has many other benefits that make it one of the best climbing chalks for beginners and experts alike.
Unlike chalk blocks, with loose chalk, you don’t need to mess around and stomp on your chalk bag to get the right consistency. Loose chalk comes in a wide range of consistencies, ranging from a very fine chalk powder to chunky chalk with a grittier consistency for added friction. It’s easy to find the right option that works perfectly for your climbing style.
Loose chalk is appealingly affordable. Since you’ll only have to buy your refillable chalk bag once, you can focus on spending your money on high-quality loose chalks without breaking the bank.
All you need is a chalk bag, with or without a dispensing chalk ball and the occasional refill, and you’re ready to start climbing.
A fine powder is much better at absorbing sweat and oils, making loose chalk very effective at its job. You simply dip your hand into the bag and get back to tackling the next climbing challenge.
Drawbacks of Loose Chalk
Unfortunately, loose chalk isn’t perfect. The main drawback is that it’s messy. All powdered chalk is prone to creating clouds of excess chalk dust around you, and this gets worse as you more to finely powdered chalks. In fact, the problem is so bad that some indoor climbing gyms have banned the use of fine texture chalk as they spend so much time cleaning up after messy climbers.
Another issue is that loose chalk leaves marks on rocks, a significant drawback in protected environments. It’s bad form to leave tick marks or visible chalk residue in outdoor or indoor climbing locations. If you often use loose chalk, consider getting a climbing brush to remove traces of your passing.
Less than you think.
When you first start using climbing chalk, you may think that you need a thick base layer for best results. The truth is that too much chalk leads to clumping and reduced friction, which results in an insecure grip that’s likely to slip.
Ideally, you want enough chalk to keep your hands dry, but no more. An excellent way to ensure that you’ve got the right amount of chalk is to dip your hand into the chalk bag, spread the chalk from your palm to your fingertips and then shake off any excess back into the bag. You can also tap your hand against something to remove any loose particles.
A chalk ball or sock is also a great way to powder your hands uniformly with chalk.
Since different climbers produce moisture at different rates, some people will need to reapply their climbing chalk more often than others. It’s vital to only reapply when necessary. You should only consider reapplying after you’ve completely removed the previous layer of chalk. Before you grab chalk from your bag, rub your hands together to gather any leftover chalk from your palm onto your fingertips.
You’ll quickly develop a sense of how much chalk to use if you are climbing on a regular basis. The more you climb, the better you will develop your feel for how much is too much or too little in relation to your current situation and grip strength.
Just as with other forms of climbing, chalk usage is all about your personal preference. Since bouldering relies heavily on having a good grip, using chalk can give you the confidence to try harder grips and have more adventures as you climb.
Essentially, there is no significant difference between rock climbing chalk and gym chalk. In fact, one of the best climbing chalks, Frank Endo Block Gym Chalk, has a strong weightlifting pedigree.
Both climbing and gym chalk contain the same core ingredient, which is pure magnesium carbonate. Gym chalk sometimes gets a reputation as being less of a quality choice because many gyms dispense their chalk in a sizeable communal bucket.
Available for anyone to dip their hands into, this shared chalk bucket remains open to the elements. The loose chalk in the open bucket continuously absorbs moisture from the air, leading to chunkier chalk that feels and performs worse than drier, finer chalk.
In contrast, those who engage in climbing and bouldering have their own proprietary chalk supply that they carry on their bodies in small bags as they climb.
Just as everyone has favorite chalk, most climbers have a favorite chalk bag. Your chalk bag choice depends mainly on personal preference and the type of climbing you do.
Tapered chalk bags are wider at the top than at the bottom, making them lighter and smaller. These bags are great for shorter sport climbs where you’ll chalk judiciously and won’t need large amounts.
Cylindrical chalk bags can store more chalk due to their symmetrical construction. They’re more popular with long-route climbers who don’t want to worry about running out of chalk during their climb.
Even your hand size can impact your choice of chalk bag. Cylindrical bags can accommodate large hands more easily than tapered bags, especially when you’re digging into the final dregs of chalk dust in the bag.
It may feel that all chalk is “much of a muchness,” but the many subtle nuances that distinguish some of the top brands can make a massive difference to your climbing experience. Whether you want the convenience and cleanliness of liquid chalk or the added grip of coarse climbing chalk, there’s something that will suit everyone.
Overall, it’s a good idea to start with well-known, reputable brands such as Black Diamond White Gold and Friction Labs Unicorn Dust when starting your chalk-buying journey. We’ve found that these two brands make the most versatile loose chalks on the market that are climber-oriented.
In the end, it all comes down to this: The only way to find the best climbing chalk for yourself is to experiment. Try different textures, like liquid chalks, or delivery methods, like chalk balls, until you find the one that clicks. There are no right or wrong answers, but hopefully, our guide has given you a good idea of where to start your chalk-buying journey.
Originally native of Oregon, Gab has been living and climbing in Europe for the last five years. He started indoor bouldering after reading Eiger Dreams of Jon Krakauer before falling in love with rock climbing. He’s planning to spend most of 2022 scouting the Alps for the most beautiful crags!