Chalk Talk

A deep dive into different types of liquid chalk to bring you the best solution for your sweaty, or not so sweaty, mitts.
Jun | 12 | 2023

One of the great things about bouldering is we can throw minimal gear in the back of the car before the gym or a weekend away. Amongst this gear, the not-so-talked-about bit of equipment is what’s prepping our hands for the best friction and hardest sends possible. Chalk.

All chalk is not created equal and knowing what to look for when choosing this climbing cocaine will aid your sends, allowing you to push harder and improve faster. Our experts have done a deep dive to bring you the best solutions for your mitts.

Why do we need chalk?

We have all felt that desperation of minimal contact on plastic or rock. Tiny surface areas mean we need our fingers prepped in the best way possible to get the most friction. Chalk is designed to remove moisture, so that our hands are dry enough to maintain friction on the rock.

Everybody’s skin is a little different. You may be an excessive sweater, have oily skin or super dry hands. Picking the best chalk for your skin is essential — read on for the most effective solution for your skin type.

What makes good chalk?

Although each skin type is different, good quality chalk contains the same simple things. The number one rule for finding a good quality chalk is that it stays on your hands and not in the air.

The main advantage of liquid chalk is that it stays on your hands better than loose chalk. This is why you often see professional climbers using liquid chalk at competitions when they first come out, and then topping up (to save time) with loose chalk during their four minute attempts.

Whatever chalk you try, let it dry and clap your hands. A good quality chalk will stick to your skin and be ready for you to send. If you find the chalk floating off your fingers into the air, it won’t help much when you touch that boulder.

Rosin-free: Us climbers are renowned for being environmentally conscious. Rosin was an ingredient added to the first generation of liquid chalks. It is a type of resin from pine trees, which causes the gummy/tacky texture left on your hands. In the post-COVID era when liquid chalk flew off the shelves, rosin made its way onto many plastic and rock routes. As rosin isn’t water soluble, it made a mess of crags and eventually gummed up the rock leaving not much friction. Many climbers now avoid rosin to protect crags and keep the rock (and plastic) from getting gummed up. We only stock rosin-free options in house.

So what are the pros and cons to liquid chalk?


  • More specific to your skin type
  • Lasts longer than loose chalk (don’t need to use as much or as often)
  • Less waste
  • Consistent coverage
  • Antibacterial (fixes the problems some commercial gyms can have with shared holds, meaning it kills germs and keeps your hands clean)
  • Cleaner


  • Slower to apply than loose chalk (not a problem when social bouldering but might be in competition formats)
  • Less suitable for long lead routes
  • Can cause dryness if overused (read on for solutions to this problem)
  • Easier to lose (chalk bottles look similar so can be easily misplaced)

Our Picks

We opt for good quality chalks that you use less of and gain better performance from. Cheaper, grittier chalks can be OK for saving money and for beginners, but we recommend investing in a chalk that suits your skin best.

All of the below recommendations are rosin-free.

For sweaty digits or oily skin – 8b+ and Alpine:

8b+ is a smooth, thicker chalk that keeps your fingers dry. It’s one of the best on the market for staying where it is meant to stay — on your skin.

Liquid chalks are generally the go-to for oily skin. However, there is a balance point here. Don’t lose too much oil from your skin, as it tends to get a little glassy. Balance your chalk use with good skin maintenance.

For dry hands – Seven Sisters:

Possibly the finest liquid chalk on the market. You only need a very thin layer and it won’t dry your hands out too much.

For ‘not so’ oily mitts – Friction Labs Alcohol Free:

A good option to prevent the skin from over-drying. Although an expensive option, this blend is also good for sensitive skin problems.

For your wallet – Alpine:

Our Alpine liquid chalk is a home blend that comes at a solid price point and suits most skin types. It’s like when your favourite restaurant does a great quality house red. Plus all Alpine members get 10% off retail products, including chalk.

For sensitive skin – Monkey Hands Dry Chalk:

Monkey Hands Dry Chalk (actually completely chalk-free) is a great option for getting that tackiness onto your fingers, either as a friction layer or a base layer before chalk. Monkey Hands Dry Chalk works well on friction dependent holds, such as wood, but not so much on dirty holds you might find outdoors as the dirt sticks to your hands instead.

Using this as a base layer before your chalk will maximise friction and minimise moisture. On its own, you can have multiple attempts without topping up, and it won’t leave residue or colour on your hands. As a base layer, it cuts down on how often you’ll need to reapply your top layer of chalk. It’s definitely worth trying if you experience dryness or skin sensitivities.

Ask the team for a try if you are curious about Monkey Hands.  

I’m chalked! Am I good to go?

Well yes, but there are a few other things that‘ll help your send.

Chalk is incredible but too much built up on a hold isn’t great for friction. Brush! Brush! Brush! This will set up the best possible conditions for your climbing.

Thin is best for liquid chalk. Overdoing your application only creates an extra interface between you and the hold. Also let your chalk fully dry before your burn.

Crisp, cool air will keep the friction on those holds exactly where you need it for maximum sending. When watching your favourite climbing videos, are the pros in tropical humid conditions or do they have their puffer jackets on? Our Alpine aircon has you covered with cool, dry conditions all year round for training and sending.

The harder you can climb, the better you will evolve as a climber.

Have any questions about liquid chalk? Ask our friendly and knowledgeable team at Alpine Indoor Climbing or reach us at @alpineindoorclimbing.

We’d love to help!

Written by Alpine IC


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