If you have been to a rock climbing gym or see climbers on the side of a mountain, you’ll see that most of them are dipping their hands into chalk. If you are not a climber, it probably looks like a powdery mess. Does chalk help rock climbing?
Climbing chalk is critical for serious rock climbers. Climbing chalk reduces moisture and sweat from the climber’s hands allowing the climber to grip the rock surface better.
Climbing chalk comes in several different forms, powder, and liquid. For most experienced climbers, consider it as part of their “required” climbing gear.
So how does climbing chalk work so well, and why do so many think it’s that important for rock climbing both indoors and outdoors.
How Does Climbing Chalk Help?
Climbing chalk is made from Magnesium Carbonate, a fine white powder that soaks up moisture making it much easier to grip things.
Imagine being perched on the side of a rock face with the sun beating down on you. You’ve already climbed up 100 feet, with at least 100 more to go. Your whole body is covered in sweat, including your hands.
This sweat starts making every surface you touch feel like your holding a 100 lb block of ice on a warm summer day. The block is so slick that any shift in your grip would make it fall right out of your hands.
But the instant that you stick your hand into the climbing chalk bag, it soaks up all that sweat that made your grip so slippery. So now you can get a solid grip on your handhold and keep moving up the mountain.
In some cases, climbing chalk can be the difference between life and death. For example, solo-free climbers like Alex Honnold climb 1000 meters without a rope. So they heavily depend on the solid grip that climbing chalk can provide.
Types of Climbing Chalk
Climbers chalk comes in several forms; Powder (also known as loose), liquid, and block. Here are the pros and cons of each.
Powdered chalk is the most well-known and popular option. It comes in a fine powder form that climbers keep in a small back on their belt. It’s typically positioned behind them, so it doesn’t get in the way but is easy to access.
The benefits of the powdered form are that it’s cheap to buy, works very fast, and sucks the moisture up quickly. In addition, it’s really easy to get on Amazon. Here is a link to our favorite.
The only downfall with powder is that it can get pretty messy. A simple slip of the chalk pouch, and you’ll have it all over you. But this is minor considering the overall benefits.
Liquid climbing chalk has become a lot more popular in recent years among gym and indoor climbers. Squeeze a little bit on your hands, rub and allow it to dry.
This version works well indoors but isn’t often used by outdoor climbers. Because of the process mentioned above, you would use this before climbing. Outdoor climbers usually need more chalk while they are in the middle of climbing, So applying and letting the liquid dry before you can use it is not practical on the rock face.
The liquid option does have several benefits from being less messy. There is less concern about breathing it in, and a single application of it usually lasts longer than a single use of powder.
Some of the downsides include the limited use outdoors, and it can be more expensive than powder.
As the name describes, the block option is Magnesium Carbonate powder compressed into block form.
It has similar characteristics as the powder, just a little easier to manage when your feet are on the ground. However, while climbing, the powder form is still easier to access and use.
Is Climbing Chalk bad for you?
The thought that climbing chalk is bad for you is a common misconception since people think that you will inhale too much of it since it’s in a powdered form, and it’ll cause a problem.
There is no evidence that the normal use of climber’s chalk is bad for you. Use some common sense. I wouldn’t start eating it or inhaling mass amounts of it. But we have NOT been able to find any studies that suggest that regular use of climber chalk is bad for you.
What Is The Best Chalk for Climbing?
There are a lot of great chalk options for climbers. However, we use and would recommend using loose or powdered chalk for climbing both indoors and outdoors.
Out of all of the loose chalk that we have used over the years, FrictionLabs has been our favorite! The FrichtionLabs Chunky Texture has been our “go-to” chalk. It goes on easily and lasts a long time. It soaks up the sweat like it was never there and allows you to keep your grip! Check it out on Amazon!
Climbing Chalk Summary
If you are looking to do either indoor or outdoor climbing, you should add chalk to your gear list. It has a lot of benefits for such a low-cost item.
For most people that read this, chalk will not be life or death for you since you’ll have other safety gear. But it is a quality of life item that will help make climbing easier and allow you to climb faster and longer than you would without it.
Need Gear for Your Rock Climbing Trip?
If you are planning a rock climbing adventure, you want to make sure that you have the right gear. Check out our beginners guide for rock climbing equipment.