Climbing chalk has been going through a renaissance lately. The days of using bulk packs of cheap athletic chalk are over. The latest chalk brands market a purer, more refined product and sell at a premium - claiming better friction and performance. The latest technology to be used in climbing chalk is Upsalite.
What Is Climbing Chalk Made Of?
All climbing chalk is made from Magnesium Carbonate - MgCO3. This is a broken down form of the mineral Magnesite which is mostly mined in China. This chalk absorbs water without breaking down so it's great at increasing friction by removing moisture.
A lot of climbing chalk also includes a drying agent. Most of the expensive brands of chalk use a "purer" form of Magnesium Carbonate which is essentially just much finer. This gets into crevices in your skin better and will absorb water more efficiently. It can still come in a block or powder form and some people say this chalk works better than your standard bulk stuff. There are different brands and claims, and your mileage may vary.
What Is Upsalite?
Upsalite is a new form of Magnesium Carbonate with a much more porous structure. It was discovered by researchers working at Uppsala university in Sweden when they accidentally left a reaction running over the weekend. Basically Upsalite is a form of chalk that absorbs water much better. It is claimed to absorb 10 times more water than regular chalk.
Will Upsalite Make Me Climb Harder?
If you are a bit of a sweaty betty and find yourself chalking up a lot - maybe. Using this stuff as a top up with your regular chalk or pre-mixed should absorb more sweat. On hot days this should mean less chalking up. An Upsalite climbing chalk could become the new norm as climbing expands to a larger market.
Black Diamond are the first brand to start using Upsalite in their chalk - marketing it as "Pure Gold". You can buy it in a small 1, 5 or 10 gram packet meant to be added to a larger amount of your regular chalk like a top up. BD also say that using just the "Pure Gold" Upsalite as a base coat should last a very long time. It's definitely more expensive but getting a 1g tester is a cheap way of seeing if it works for you.
Black Diamond Pure Gold
BD have also added a new "Black Gold" range of chalk to compliment their standard "White Gold" chalk. The black stuff includes 10% Upsalite which - in this ratio - works out to about twice the moisture absorption of normal chalk. There is also a liquid chalk formula. Give it a try and let us know what you think. Climbing chalk brand round up coming soon™.