It’s the last rest before the crux move, your hand goes back to chalk up but you’ve reached the ragged scraps.. As you roll the empty sack around your hands, you remember it ran out of chalk 2 weeks ago. Awesome.
Let’s face it, adhesion is fairly critical for most styles of climbing and nothing quite creates disappointment like a crap chalk ball. Between the major brands, there seems to be quite a large degree of variation between the quality of the chalk and while most climbers seem to care almost too much about the quality of their rock shoes, chalk is often neglected.
Friction Labs are a US based (internationally available) company that have tasked themselves in creating the best chalk on the market. From performance, to health and the environment, Friction Labs have addressed the core component and state that their chalk has a hight purity of Magnesium Carbonate when compared to other manufactures. Friction Labs say this chalk is not only kinder to your skin, but designed to give the best performance possible whilst lasting 2-5x longer then other brands, this all sounds pretty good.
Choosing bad quality chalk often leads to disappointment
The Loose Chalk
Friction Labs loose chalk comes in 3 textures; Unicorn Dust (fine), Gorilla Grip (chunky) & Bam Bam (super chunky). The only difference between them is the texture, the blend is the same so it’s just down to personal preference to which you go with.
Out of the 3 (again, this is just personal preference) the chunky Gorilla Grip had the nicest feel to it, with Bam Bam leaning more toward gymnastic chalk and Unicorn Dust creating slightly too much mess this turned out to be the preference for me but it depends what you’re used to. Unexpectedly, all of the blends do have an immediately good feel to them, they cover your hand quickly with little residue so there isn’t this need to constantly pat your hands or blow any excess off them, you can see why it lasts longer.
The Sphere & Chalk Cream
Alongside the loose chalk varieties, Friction Labs also make a reusable chalk ball and a liquid chalk. The chalk ball is a good size and crucially lets through a good amount of chalk when needed, we haven’t got around to refilling it yet but will update this post when we do.
The ‘Secret Stuff’ is Friction Lab’s version of liquid chalk, historically I have always avoided these kind of products as after a few weeks they wreck my hands, however the Secret Stuff does seem to be a little less chemically and therefore a little softer to use – the advantage of this type of chalk is that it seems to last longer on the route but if you suffer from cracked or dry hands, I’d avoid it if possible!
Both indoors and out we found every blend of Friction Labs chalk performed exceptionally well. With good application, the rock (or plastic) seems to pull harder on your skin with noticeably better friction than (at the very least) most of the other chalk balls I have tried over the years, the confidence boost this gives you is noticeable.
I’ve normally used Beal chalk for many years, I’ve had a fair share of disappointing brands I won’t name but Friction Labs is certainly up there with the best, if not, the best chalk I have ever used. Furthermore, and possibly as important, my hands have been in better condition since switching to Friction Labs (on a sidenote, Beal liquid chalk is evil, long term and creates old man hands from periodic use).
Buying the same chalk that Daniel Woods uses won’t make you climb anymore like Daniel Woods, in the same way many climbers see Ondra wearing a particular brand of shoe and think that’s the key to unlocking a project, it’s not. However, when climbing near your limit every little helps, and if using a better brand of chalk gives you that extra 2% then it’s worth taking.
As we mentioned, Friction Labs easily completes with, and if not, betters the best chalk we’ve come across. With their sustainable model, and excellent specialist range of products we’d certainly recommend them as the go-to chalk brand. For more information, and to order directly please visit: https://frictionlabs.co.uk/