I don’t use chalk. At least, I didn’t when I first started climbing. I honestly never even gave it much thought in the beginning. I mean, could it really make that much of a difference? Or was that just the ignorant, gumby climber in me who didn’t know better?

Admittedly, I used it here and there—but mostly in the summertime when we were sweating bullets in the Gunks. Once fall came, I put away the chalk bag because I had this weird thing about using chalk as a “crutch”. My hands, in general, don’t sweat much and I honestly just didn’t seem to think about chalking up once temps were a little bit cooler.

Co-existence in the Shawangunks. Photograph by Sam Cervantes

I found myself in Colorado a few months ago during the summer. While I was climbing at the Movement gym in Denver, my hands were starting to sweat on our warm-ups. I purchased up a block of chalk at the counter and boy, was I disappointed. The stuff was just terrible and just made my hands feel slick while pieces of it simply dissolved between my fingers.

I later swung by CWA in Boulder and met the Friction Labs guys. What they told me was that their chalk contains high amounts of Magnesium Carbonate and low amounts of Calcium Carbonate. (Magnesium Carbonate is the active drying agent and Calcium Carbonate is what bonds with moisture, giving that slimy feeling.)

I know most of you have already read Friction Labs reviews and have seen the statistics, so I won’t bore you with those. What I will mention is that there are a lot of companies out there that are selling chalk on the side of whatever big ticket items they’re making money off of. They consider chalk an afterthought, the last minute impulse buy while you’re standing in line waiting to check out at the supermarket. The difference is that Friction Labs devotes their work to making a good product and building a business around a community of climbers and climber needs.

Behold, the power of chalk. Photograph by Nick Lanphier

So they got all mad scientist on their chalk and cooked up their blend, which can be delivered monthly to your home. The three flavors to choose from, based on how you like the texture of your chalk: “Bam Bam” (super chunky), “Gorilla Grip” (chunky), or “Unicorn Dust” (ultra fine). You can also purchase sample packs if you don’t know which one you’ll like the best. The blend is the same. I went for the Gorilla Grip because I find breaking up bits of chalk in my fingers extremely pleasurable.

The chalk itself is quite smooth and light, and it won’t dry out like other brands I’ve experimented with in the past. IT STICKS TO YOUR HANDS! Unlike the block of the cheap stuff I’d bought in the gym, it adheres to my hands much longer which means no double dipping. Some people have mentioned the price to be higher than other brands of chalk (and let’s be honest, if you’re dirtbagging it, cost is everything). But honestly, if you’re using less in a single session, overall, you’re saving. In general, I am a big believer in getting what pay for. If you pay for peanuts, ya gonna get monkeys.

Gorilla Grip and Valley Giants pair well together, like good wine and cheese

No, I don’t think that a product is going to magically boost performance level and you probably won’t suddenly start sending 5.14 (but who knows?) But across the board, it’s the best chalk I’ve used so far. This non-user and non-believer has officially been converted. Looking at my dirtbag budget with a fine tooth comb, I’ll be sure to find a way to spend the extra bucks for the good stuff when the time rolls around. And hey, who knows, maybe by then Shooter will be belaying 5.14s.

Disclosure: Friction Labs has provided the gear for this review because they’re rad fellas. As rad as they are, I kept all of my opinions honest.

2 thoughts

  1. Hello! I thought that I will find here only beautiful photos from climbing, but I found here really interesting article about cilmbing stuff! I’m not a climber, but I’m reading about it since july and I like articles about climbing. Do you think I should use chalk on small indoor climbing wall? Regards!

  2. Just wanted to let you know that thanks to your review, I picked up some Friction Labs chalk and have nothing else sense then. Also converted my son in-law, ha ha.

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