All About Chalk Bags

Essential Personal Climbing Gear

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A chalk bag is one of the simplest pieces of climbing equipment. It’s basically a bag or sack that holds climbing chalk, which you dip your hands and fingers into while rock climbing. Chalk bags, for a lot of climbers, are a way to personalize their climbing gear by picking a bag with a colorful pattern and a unique fabric. The first chalk bags were simply small stuff sacks that were clipped onto a gear sling with a carabiner.

Chalk Bags Come in 2 Shapes

Chalk bags are made in two basic shapes: cylindrical and tapered. Most chalk bags are cylindrical in shape and come in a variety of sizes. Cylindrical bags are popular because they hold lots of climbing chalk, are easy to slip a hand inside and are best for long routes. Tapered chalk bags, usually ergonomically designed to allow a quick finger dip, are smaller than cylindrical ones, hold only a small amount of chalk, and are usually used on hard sports routes when the climber wants to cut excess weight and bulk.

Chalk Bag Design Details

Chalk bags also come in a variety of sizes and colors. Most bags have a stiff rim, which allows the bag to stay open, making it easy to dip your hand into; a fleece lining which holds chalk powder and allows more even distribution of chalk powder on your hands; and a small loop for a toothbrush, which is used to clean chalk off holds when you’re bouldering. Chalk bags have a drawstring around the rim and a toggle closure so that you can easily close the bag tight and not spill chalk in your pack or if you’re resting before your next route.

Use a Nylon Belt to Carry the Bag

Most climbers attach their chalk bag to a nylon belt so they can wear the bag around their waist, although some climbers like to clip the chalk bag onto their harness with a small carabiner. Chalk bags have a couple small loops that the belt slides through or that a carabiner can be clipped onto. The advantage of having the chalk bag on a belt is that the bag can slide from one side of your waist to the other, depending on which hand you want to dip into the chalk.

Test the Chalk Bag Before Buying

Before buying a chalk bag, decide which size you need. Most climbers use the basic medium-sized cylindrical chalk bag since it holds plenty of chalk, although climbers with big hands need a big chalk bag. The smallest chalk bags are almost too small to be of much use on most climbing routes, but instead are ideal for competition and extreme routes. Climbers can only fit three or four fingers in these small bags. Before buying a chalk bag, slide your hand in and out of the bag a few times in the store. Make sure that the drawstring opens completely and that your hand easily comes out of the bag. You don’t want your hand getting stuck in your chalk bag on the crux move of a climb!

How to Wear Your Chalk Bag

It is best to wear a chalk bag on a nylon belt, a half-inch wide belt with a buckle for fastening is best. The belt should hang loosely on your waist above your harness so that the bag can slide easily from side to side as needed. The chalk bag should hang in the middle of your back just above the end of your tailbone. If the bag hangs too low it can be difficult for your hand to find it. If the bag is too high, you will have problems bending your wrist to get your hand in it. Experiment while climbing to find the best place and height for your chalk bag to hang.

Chalk Pots for Bouldering

Boulderers often use a large community-sized chalk bag, called a chalk pot, which sits on the ground during bouldering sessions. Since most boulder problems are short and often very difficult, climbers don’t need to stop and chalk up during an ascent. Instead, they can dip their hands in the chalk pot before attempting the problem. Chalk pots hold lots of chalk and have a drawstring on top so that they can be tightly closed for transport.