Chalk is a prized possession by rock climbers. It is meant to increase friction and improve grip. Chalk is used to dry the sweat on climber’s hands; any sign of sweat can impact their grip. Most climbers store their chalk in a chalk bag that you can attach to your harness or a chalk bag belt.
Chalk comes in different forms and the best form is your own preference. So let’s talk about different types of chalk so you can choose the best one for you!
• Powder—this is the original form of chalk and it is the most commonly used. The majority of climbing chalk is made from Magnesium Carbonate because it is water-insoluble. Powder chalk is absolutely my first choice and the kind I use the most. The only downside is that it can spill out of your bag easily, because of this, most gyms require powder chalk to be contained in pouches.
• Block or Chunky—this is powder chalk that has been compressed into a block. It is sold as a whole block or is broken into chunks for you. As you use it, you will break the chalk back into powder again. I personally don’t like this form of chalk because I don’t want to have to crush the chalk.
• Ball—this is powder chalk in disguise. Ball chalk is usually a small, white pouch filled with powder chalk. The pouch is made out of fabric with tiny holes that allow the powder chalk to escape. The benefit of the chalk ball is that you can control the amount that goes on your hand and it will not spill if your chalk bag tips over. I have found that because of the “control” on the amount of powder that comes out, it is difficult to get a sufficient amount quickly.
• Liquid—this is one of my new favorites. Liquid chalk is basically rubbing alcohol and powder chalk mixed together. Just apply a nickel-sized amount on your palm and spread over the face of your hand. I like to focus on spreading the substance on my fingers because that is where the rock will come into contact the most. Allow the alcohol to evaporate and you are left with a smooth, even layer of chalk. The liquid chalk will stay on your hands longer because it creates a thicker coat and is stickier than powder chalk. Since the liquid chalk lasts longer you don’t have to keep dipping into your chalk bag and you can focus on climbing.
Overall, my preference is to use both, liquid and powder chalk. I will use powder chalk alone when warming up to quickly get started. As I climb harder routes, I like to apply liquid chalk before I start and then reapply with powder chalk while I climb. I found the combination of these two types creates a powerful combination. Remember to keep your chalk bag at least halfway full so you can easily chalk up at the crux of your climb!
What is your favorite type of chalk? Comment below!