Whether you're racking up a harness of trad gear at a natural crag or sessioning your newest project at the local bouldering gym, a chalk bag is an essential piece of gear that every climber needs, second only to pair of climbing shoes. As a piece of gear, its requirements are simple: carry chalk. This hasn't stopped product designers worldwide from thinking outside the box—most notably with extremely ugly results.
To break down every aspect of this essential piece of your climbing gear, we’ve answered a range of common questions and rounded up 10 of the best chalk bags and buckets for sport climbing, bouldering, and all other types of rock climbing. Each bag has been specifically selected for their well-considered, attractive design and superior functionality. Scroll on for the comprehensive guide to chalk bags—midway down you’ll find our top picks.
What Features Should A Chalk Bag Or Chalk Bucket Have?
Chalk bags are more than just a way to carry chalk; you can sometimes carry other gear, too. You'll want your rock climbing bag to have easy access so you can reach it quickly and not have to fumble around on your belt or harness when your sole attention needs to be on safely climbing and finding a good grip. Your bag should also be durable so that it will last any indoor or outdoor wear and tear. You'll get a lot of use out of your climbing chalk bag, so you'll want to ensure that you pick a bag that will last and serve your climbing needs for years to come. Some of the features you want to look for are:
Since there isn't a standardized size for chalk bags, their size can vary widely. Make sure you choose a bag that fits your hand size. If you have larger hands, you'll want to buy a larger bag; if you have smaller hands, you'll want a tinier bag. There are several different kinds of bag sizes available:
Small Bags: A smaller bag is perfect for smaller people or those with tinier hands. They are designed to fit about half of your hand and are light and compact. They can easily fit on your belt loop or wrist without getting in the way of your more dynamic or technical moves.
Standard Bags: A larger chalk bag is ideal for quickly chalking up without fumbling around on your climbing harness. You can easily fit your entire hand in the bag and sometimes even your forearms if necessary when gripping wide cracks. They can obviously hold more climbing chalk and are the usual go-to for chalk bags.
Chalk Buckets: This a staple for any passionate boulderer. Since a chalk bucket sits on the ground and is large enough to fit both of your hands entirely, it is easy to chalk up before beginning your bouldering adventure. With a large bucket, you can share the same group chalk bucket with your friends.
The Shape of Your Chalk Bag
Your bag's shape will determine your bag's comfort level and how it hangs against your body.
Cylindrical Bags: A cylindrical bag is typically larger and is attached to your harness. They are great for climbers with larger hands or if you do your climbing in the gym for sport climbs or to keep them on the ground when you're bouldering.
Tapered Bags: These bags are perfect for sport climbing or on your favorite trad routes. They are soft, compact, and lightweight so that they won't add any extra weight to your harness or waist belt.
Additional Things to Consider
Your chalk bag features can range from just holding chalk to having plenty of pockets, loops, and extra accessories. Some of the typical tactical features include:
A Stiffened Rim: There's nothing worse than not being able to access your chalk while you're in the middle of a climb. Make sure that your chalk bag includes a stiff, reinforced rim so it can stay upright while you reach into it for some chalk.
Accessory Pockets and Loops: A pocket with zippers or Velcro is perfect for stashing small valuables without worrying they'll get lost. You can easily store things like keys, lip balm, or even your phone. Loops are another nice feature where you can store a small brush used to clean off dirty holds.
Closure Styles: The tighter the seal on your chalk bag, the less likely your chalk will spill out while in storage or when you're climbing. Make sure your climbing bag has a good toggle or drawstring closure system, and if it doesn't, you can use a Ziploc bag in a pinch to store your chalk bag and prevent any spillage.
Bag’s Lining: A fleece lining keeps the chalk dust to a minimum as it prevents the chalk from puffing and exploding in a white cloud everywhere. It also ensures that you get an even distribution of chalk covering your hands.
Attachment Style: You can either wear your chalk bag on your belt or on a harness. Wearing it on a belt allows you to easily slide your bag from side to side while climbing for easy access. This is especially useful if bouldering since you're not already wearing a harness. The other option is to attach your chalk bag to a climbing harness with a carabiner. By clipping the bag to your harness, you can forgo the belt, which gives you an additional carabiner.
Our Picks for the 10 Best Chalk Bags and Buckets for Climbing
The best part about climbing in cooler temps is the fantastic friction on rock. The worst part is however the cold hands and toes that comes with it. Warming up your hands in the pockets of your puffy between burns only goes so far, so Black Diamond came up with the Hot Forge chalk bag, a heated chalk bag with three settings to return a little bit of warmth to your digits every time you chalk up.
Stand up dead bird brand stans! We know it can be hard to remember sometimes that Arc’teryx actually makes things for alpine adventures. The Ion Chalk Bag packs staple features we look for in a chalk bag like a little zippered pocket and a webbing belt that’s easily adjustable, but the stiff brim is a practical inclusion makes dipping your fingers into your favorite chalk quick and easy.
There’s something funny about a rope company that makes a chalk bucket for bouldering. But, I guess sport climbers like to boulder too, right? Irony aside, the opening of the Herkules bag is just massive and awesome for getting a nice coating a chalk. The large base also makes it incredibly stable so that you avoid the dreaded chalk spill at the gym.
Price: $35 SHOP NOW
This bucket is actually produced by climber-owned Organic Climbing for Friction Labs, but it happens to be our own chalk brand of choice at Field Mag. The rugged cordura bag has a wide roll-top style closure and fits a whopping 30oz of Friction Labs chalk ONLY! No but seriously, please do not put other brands of chalk in this bag.
Price: $45 SHOP NOW
This American-made bag’s name comes from one of the most popular packable wind jackets bearing the same name. Nearly every chalk bag listed here places their accessory pocket along the tall side of the bag to make cell phone storage easier, but the Houdini places that compartment at the base. The result is a pocket that you can stuff to the gills that without bulging into the chalk-storing compartment, pretty smart! Color options are limited, but it’s available in four different technical lightweight fabrics to pick from.
Price: $44 SHOP NOW
The perforated outer fabric of this bag may seem odd, until you find that it comes packaged with a needle and a few colors of thread, encouraging some good old DIY art. Otherwise, it's a pretty straight forward, minimalist chalk bag and we're thankful for it. The Bucket version is pretty slick.
There’s a little more to this chalk bag than meets the eye: each one is completely unique as they’re sewn from 100% repurposed, leftover fabric sourced from other companies’ larger production runs, saving fabric otherwise destined for the landfill. As a chalk bag, it ticks all of our boxes like a structured rim opening and a handy accessory pocket. Take your pick of an exact unique colorway from the Cotopaxi’s site or roll the dice and see what shows up at your door.
Price: $30 SHOP NOW
Funny to think one of the coolest climbing collections out now was designed in collaboration with Aquaman, but hey, nothing makes much sense these days anymore now does it. Available in both all-black and all-pink, this minilamist chalk bag is made with a TPU material for durability and water-resistance and features a cinch top closure and zippered pocket for storage. The rolltop Chalk Bucket iteration is worth shouting out too.
Made in USA and infinitely customizable, you're likely to see this bucket in dozens of iterations at practically every bouldering gym. Two pockets hold your phone and small necessities plus a couple loops for carrying brushes. Gotta solute the OG.
What Kind Of Chalk Should I Use?
Chalk isn't just for gymnasts. It is also one of the essential items in any climber's kit. Chalk helps climber's combat moisture (i.e. sweat) and improves grip. It's best to use as little chalk as neccessary while climbing, as over-chalking can cause you to lose friction and lose your grip on holds. Where chalk is concerned, a little goes a long way. There are several kinds of chalk you can use, depending on their feel and form and your preference. Here's a primer:
Block Chalk: This is pure chalk without any additional drying agents. Block chalk is, as the name implies, a solid block of chalk, which you can crush in your hands until it becomes your preferred consistency. It is also easier to transport since the powder is compacted and won't blow everywhere, or spill all over if your bag is tipped. Buying gymnist chalk blocks in bulk is a cost saving method that works as well as shelling out for fancy name brand stuff.
Loose Chalk: Loose chalk is a combination of pure chalk and chalk with drying agents mixed in. It is pretty convenient since it is already ground to a powdery consistency and easy to apply. You can find some brands of loose chalk that offer a finer or coarser grind, depending on your desired texture. Pair with a chalk ball or just dump the loose chalk into your chalk bag and you're ready to climb.
Liquid chalk: This specialty chalk is a mixture of chalk and alcohol. The alcohol in liquid chalk dries quickly after you rub it on your hands, leaving a chalky residue that won't rub right off. The benefit of using liquid chalk is it keeps chalk dust and hold marks to a minimum and won't easily come off on your clothing. The downside is the goey feeling and plastic packaging waste. Either way, you'll want to store liquid chalk in an airtight container so it doesn't spill out while you're hiking to your favorite climbing route.
Hygienic Liquid Chalk: A new concept developed during the COVID-19 pandemic by Friction Labs, hygienic liquid chalk uses pure magnesium carbonate and 80% alcohol–the concentration that is the recommended by WHO, CDC, and the FDA for alcohol-based sanitizers—to keep your hands grippy and clean. Plays nicely with conventional climbing chalk but functions fine all by itself, too.
Can Climbing Chalk Expire?
Thankfully, climbing chalk doesn't expire the way food does. Since chalk is a nearly inert chemical, it can stay good far beyond the label's expiration date. You'll want to keep your large quantities of chalk in a sealed container when not in use since it can absorb moisture from the environment. To keep it lasting practically forever, you can store it in a small plastic bag or Tupperware inside your climbing bag and then just unseal it when you're ready to begin your climb. If, for some reason, your chalk gets wet, don't worry! You can bake the wet chalk in your oven at 250 degrees Fahrenheit for a few hours. In a pinch, if your chalk gets wet while you're out on a backpacking or camping trip, you can lay your soggy chalk outside on a sunny, dry day so it can dry out.
Can You Wash Your Chalk Bag?
Like any other container or outdoor bag, you can wash your chalk bag or bucket if it gets dirty. Since it's exposed to the elements, you'll want to wash your chalk bag in the sink or washing machine after every use if you're a pro climber that constantly uses it and once a year if you're an amateur climber and only climb occasionally. Make sure that your chalk bag or bucket is 100% dry before returning the chalk to your bag so that you can keep your chalk in excellent condition.
Make sure to buy a chalk bag today using the reviews above, so you can store your chalk and enjoy safely climbing wherever you go!