Published on: 08/14/2022
Last update on: 10/05/2022
This means reliable friction and maximum sweat absorption, even after you’ve started to perspire.
Formulated for rock climbing indoors and outdoors, Metolius Super Chalk represents the best deal for climbers who want to keep their hands dry while saving money for other climbing areas.
Experienced climbers, after every available edge, may need to look elsewhere for answers. Those who want pristine clothing might look at liquid chalk instead. But test results in blind studies show climbers can’t tell the difference between Super Chalk and many other brands—even at twice the price.
- 100% magnesium carbonate, so no additives!
- Consistent, smooth texture—not too many shards/chunks
- Suitable for pros, beginners, kids, and adults
- Eco-friendly packaging
- Fine compared to more expensive brands, resulting in caking
- It doesn’t last as long as some of the high-end competition
The placebo effect is a powerful thing. Some climbing brands believe that sending harder because of your expensive chalk is caused by just such a phenomenon. Many climbers remain skeptical.
But should we be? Can mere mortals tell the difference between these products in average conditions?
Let’s find out.
Our score of 7.5 may seem low at first glance. But it’s worth considering other chalks that may score approximately 2-2.5 points higher, which can cost up to four times as much as Metolius Super Chalk.
For example, Black Diamond White Gold or Friction Labs Gorilla Grip offer benefits over Super Chalk. The initial grip and feel of Black Diamond and Friction Labs are superior. And their more textured powders are less prone to caking, offering a longer-lasting grip. But White Gold is about double the price of Super Chalk. For most of us, it won’t offer double the performance on our typical climb.
The fine, relatively low-friction feeling in Super Chalk is prone to caking, however. Brush down the holds you use regularly, and watch out for build-up on your climbing shoes after your climb. But for entry-level, climbing-specific chalk with a dependable grip, Super Chalk is a solid purchase.
Straight from the pouch or in a bag/ball, it’s easy to coat your hands evenly. With some more premium brands, the layer left on your skin doesn’t feel as thin.
Metolius Super Chalk feels similar to Black Diamond WG in terms of coverage. But the latter leaves a smaller quantity of product on the hands.
Applying too much Super Chalk can result in significant caking because of its fine consistency. Using a sock or ball worked best for us when applying this stuff. We found during testing that the bag remained relatively consistent—not too many chunky bits.
Again, our score of 7.5 seems low at first glance. But Super Chalk keeps your hands dry for a good period of time, especially if you consider that it’s 100% magnesium carbonate without a drying agent.
Indeed, additives enhance the staying power of the chalk, but manufacturers tend to get rid of them nowadays to prevent adverse skin reactions. This product used to contain a 1% of safe drying agent, but this was removed in the latest formula.
The exception might be Black Diamond and its patented Upsalite, which is also a form of magnesium carbon but much more absorbent. However, such premium chalk cost 3 to 4 times more for a mere 10-15% grip improvement.
Bags and balls work great with this chalk (Metolius sell a refillable chalk sock). These allow you to get the lightest possible coverage, helping to mitigate caking and extend the time between reapplication. It can be tempting to apply a thicker layer of chalk or reapply more frequently. But neither practice will deliver the best results. A light, even coating works best for optimal staying power with Super Chalk. This might not last as long as the best liquid chalk, but it performs respectably in this category.
Some chalks use additives that help prevent sweaty hands by absorbing more moisture. Inevitably, this will draw some moisture from your hands too. If you’re using this kind of product regularly, you may have to use a balm or lotion.
Luckily, Metolius decided to get rid of additives entirely in their Super Chalk and use a formula with only 100% magnesium carbonate. This makes it suitable for all climbers, including those who easily get skin allergies.
Did this have an impact on performance? Honestly, it’s hard to say.
Chalking up from a bag of any powder is a messy business. Loading this (or any other loose chalk) from storage into your bags, balls, or socks is generally best done with a scoop.
What matters here is the packaging and how well it’s easy to reseal it after opening. In this case, the resealable bag is not ideal as the closure will not close if any chalk gets in there (and you can be sure it will!).
The best solution is to recycle an old coffee or laundry detergent measuring spoon. Loading it into a Metolius’ proprietary sock will give excellent results and helps keep most of it off your clothing. The mesh is designed to work with the grade of the powder. This results in a fine, even application and cuts down on mess.
Super Chalk starts to shine when we analyze it in terms of value.
Comparable Friction Labs and Black Diamond products come in anywhere from double to quadruple the price. That’s not to say Super Chalk performs as well as Friction Labs and Black Diamond products. Both of those more expensive options have better texture and last longer. But we can confidently say that they don’t offer double the performance—never mind quadruple.
Super Chalk is an inexpensive, dependable purchase for regular indoor climbing at the gym or long outdoor sessions. It answers most of your climbing needs, is competitively priced, and has thousands of positive reviews online.
Magnesium carbonate is an inorganic compound (meaning no animal products) and a magnesium salt considered safe for humans (1). A version of this compound is used as a food additive, in make-up, toothpaste, antacid medication, and as a laxative.
The only real problem with it is when large quantities become airborne. Inhalation can lead to respiratory problems for people with lung conditions or allergies (this writer has wicked asthma and can’t do climbing gyms at all). Many gyms do have air purification systems that reduce this problem. But always keep your chalk out of reach of kids when not in use. And be extra careful when loading into bags or breaking up chunks.
The latest formula of Metolius Super Chalk (as of 10/05/2022) is 100% magnesium carbonate without any drying agent.
Who is Super Chalk for?
This is quality chalk at a fair price. Hangboard testing shows that experienced climbers struggle to tell Super Chalk from more expensive brands.
Super Chalk is a solid choice unless you desperately want that extra 5-10% performance boost for a particularly challenging route.
Climbers in cool climates might find pure chalk sufficient for their needs. Those in hot regions or those looking for an answer to their slick palms may appreciate the extra moisture absorbency found here.
Yes, it will get on your clothing, shoes, and all over the gym. But for a rock climbing-specific chalk with thousands of good reviews, this is a safe purchase.
Below are links to some videos with reviews and discussions about the merits of this brand and climbing chalk in general. If you don’t want to take our word for it, check out some of the thousands of positive reviews on retail websites, climbing forums, and Reddit.