Review: FrictionLabs Chalk

Chalk is chalk, right?

I've long known this statement to be false.  As a gymnast, I entered climbing with a preconceived notion of what chalk should feel like.  That makes me something of a chalk diva.  Even before I was an uptight sport climber, I knew when chalk was wrong.  So many of the climbing companies got it wrong.  I won't put them on blast only because they didn't know any better.

Furthermore, I've read about 500 reviews of new chalk products: colored versions, scented versions, block chalk, liquid chalk, chalk in a ball, chalk in a sock, chalk that feels like rocks, and chalk that feels like baby powder.  They all say the same thing.  It's the STICKIEST CHALK EVER!

They were all full of shit.

Know how I know?  Because FrictionLabs hadn't been invented yet, that's how.

First, I'll tell you what Friction Labs tells me as to why their chalk is better:

"All climbing chalks market themselves as Magnesium Carbonate, because that's what dries moisture the best.  They mislead you in to thinking it's only Magnesium Carbonate when the truth is that they all have significant amounts of Calcium Carbonate and other fillers.  Calcium Carbonate - the same stuff as chalk board chalk - just gets slimy when mixed with moisture.  When you sweat, keeping your hands dry depends on having chalk that has high amounts of Magnesium Carbonate and low amounts of Calcium Carbonate.  We had an independent lab test our chalk against the most popular options to see what they're made of."

As you can see, FrictionLabs clearly out performed the other brands tested.  Well, out "scienced" anyway.  

 This graph don't mean a damn thing when it comes to performance.  

Which leads me to my extremely scientific, chalk wasting, test methods.

Why chalk wasting?  Well, riddle me this: how is one to apply one type of chalk to the right hand, and another type of chalk to the left hand, without contaminating either by rubbing the hands together?  Well, you rub them on your pants and get chalk all over the place.  At least that was my solution.  Maybe yours will be more elegant.  

At first fondle, FrictionLabs did appear to be drier and better textured than the other brands I was comparing it to (many of which I'm not even sure what they were - I just gathered chalk from around the gym, though I'm positive nobody else had FrictionLabs because they all acted like they'd never seen chalk before).  Feel is important, though mostly psychologically.  What really matters to me is whether or not it's going to stay on my hands or if I'm going to need to be in my chalk bag every five moves.  

So I repeatedly made a giant mess to chalk up both hands, and then did two problems on the system board.  One problem and its mirror image, so that each hand was using the same holds.  Then I would stare at my hands like any boulderer who just fell off of a problem that they just KNOW they shouldn't have fallen off of.

Want to know how many times FrictionLabs looked better than the competition?




The photo above is not of my hands (my forearms are way more "Popeye-like," duh).  It's Brian, getting the same results that I got.  Two minutes before this photo, both hands looked exactly alike. The only difference is that this time I applied the chalk so that we didn't make a gigantic mess.

The common theme amongst the other Team Power Company testers?  "It stays on my hands way longer."

 So it's true, it works better.  Now what?  Where do I get it?

Not so fast.  You've got choices to make.  FrictionLabs sells their chalk in 3 different "textures."  All of the chalk is the same, but each variety is a different amount of chunky.  I'm a "Bam Bam" fan.  "Gorilla Grip" will do in a pinch.  "Unicorn Dust" is way too fine for me.  I would like to see it in block form, as I do enjoy having a big chunk in my chalkbag when I'm route climbing, and only one or two of the "Bam Bam" sized chunks were even close to big enough.  But that's just me.  Some of you are weird and like chalk without chunks.

Does that mean I'm switching over from my beloved Frank Endo?  Yes and no.  Like any other product, quality comes with a price.  

FrictionLabs chalk is available for purchase in two ways:  you can buy a bag at a time, ($25 for 10oz, $15 for 7.5oz, $10 for 2.5oz) or you can subscribe to get a recurring monthly shipment saving yourself 20%.  For comparison purposes, a single block of chalk is usually 2oz.  

That's considerably more out of my pocket than I spend on my Endo, but then again, it outperformed Endo by a decent margin.  

My solution?  I plan to keep a stash of FrictionLabs "Bam Bam" around at all times.  When I'm in redpoint mode or trying a hard flash, it will get the nod.  If I'm just warming up, it stays in my pack.  I'm actually considering carrying a second chalk bag to the crag, specifically for FrictionLabs chalk, so that I don't taint my sending chalk with other varieties.  

Is that a little OCD?  Maybe, but do you know any successful climbers who aren't?

Let's face it: 

Chalk Matters.

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