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|Top Pick: Arc’teryx Ion
|Runner-up: Mammut Crag Chalk Bag
|Budget Pick: Sukoa Chalk Bag
|Front zip, Rear zip
|prAna Chalk Bag
|Black Diamond Mojo Zip
|STATIC Waxed Canvas Chalk Bag
|Metolius Competition Chalk Bag
|Two Ogres Essential-Z Chalk Bag
The chalk bag is a climber’s loyal companion. Different objectives may call for different shoes, packs, protection, or even harnesses, but you’ll almost always see a climber with the same chalk bag. Your chalk bag has got your back.
It’s worth choosing one you like. We put nine of the best chalk bags to the test to see which did the best job at carrying climbing chalk.
Most (though not all) of these bags serve their purpose well. Still, a few set themselves apart. The Arc’teryx Ion is our top pick for its design and closure, although the mechanism takes some getting used to. The Sukoa Chalk Bag and Mammut Crag Chalk Bag are excellent cheaper options.
Quick Recommendations: Best Chalk Bags
- Top Pick: Arc’teryx Ion
- Runner-up: Mammut Crag Chalk Bag
- Budget Pick: Sukoa Chalk Bag
- Petzl Bandi
- prAna Chalk Bag
- Black Diamond Mojo Zip
- STATIC Waxed Canvas Chalk Bag
- Metolius Competition Chalk Bag
- Two Ogres Essential-Z
Top Pick: Arc’teryx Ion
When we last tested products for this roundup, the Arc’teryx C80 was our top pick. The Ion is the C80’s replacement, and it retains the crown — but the victory wasn’t as clear. In some ways, the C80 was a superior bag.
The biggest difference between the C80 and the Ion is the closure mechanism. The Ion’s new drawstring system is functional and effective, but there’s a steep learning curve. The outer plastic piece locks into a rigid plastic sleeve, which is hidden in the bag’s lining. When the bag is open, the sleeve sits out of the way on the side of the bag. When locked, it ensures that the closure doesn’t budge.
The mechanism is a nifty idea, but it makes the bag hard to open after it’s been locked. The first time I used the Ion, I was afraid I was going to break it. It takes a lot of force to unlock the outer piece, and it never feels all that intuitive. Although technically usable one-handed, the Ion is difficult to lock and unlock on the wall.
The upside is that the closure is very effective. The Ion performed the best of all bags in our “poof test,” letting out practically zero dust when compressed.
In all other ways, the Ion exhibits typical Arc’teryx quality. It’s lightweight, well constructed, and durable. The pocket has plenty of room for large smartphones or whatever else you might need to stash. The tapered shape and wide rim funnel your hand right where it needs to go. Once it’s open, the Ion is a joy to use.
You can expect typical Arc’teryx prices, too. The Ion comes in two sizes, and both are the most expensive bags in this test. If you want the best performance, however, this is it.
Runner-up: Mammut Crag Chalk Bag
Mammut’s workhorse chalk bag doesn’t come with any bells or whistles, but it executes the basics well. If you want top performance without paying up for the Arc’teryx Ion, the Mammut Crag Chalk Bag is a good choice.
Like the Ion, the Crag has a tapered shape. It’s a great size: easy to use without ever feeling bulky. The shell is made from a combination of soft-touch and ripstop fabric. It’s not as premium as the Ion, but it feels well put together. On the wall, the Mammut bag let me forget that it was there, which is exactly what I look for in a chalk bag.
My only real complain is the drawstring keeper, which is stiff and difficult to use one-handed. It does lock securely, and the Crag performed well in the “poof test.”
The Crag has no pocket, which may be a dealbreaker for climbers who like to carry their phone in their chalk bag. For those who don’t need a pocket, this bag executes the basics well at a reasonable price.
Budget Pick: Sukoa Chalk Bag
The Sukoa Chalk Bag is an excellent value. It’s easy to use and surprisingly well built for its price point.
The Sukoa bag does require some compromises. The belt material is coarse, and the shape is awkwardly tall. You have to reach an extra inch or two down to the bottom of the bag. The drawstring tail is also annoyingly long, although it’s easy enough to tie knots to shorten it.
Despite its flaws, however, the Sukoa gets the job done remarkable well. It holds a lot of chalk, and its closure is effective. It has two zippered pockets, and the back pocket is the most spacious of any bag in the test. The zippers are from YKK, so they should hold up well over time.
The Sukoa Chalk Bag doesn’t feel like a premium product, but at this price point it was never going to. It’s a good way to get climbing with minimal financial impact, and for that it earns our Budget Pick nod.
The Petzl Bandi is a simple and likable bag. It sticks to the basics: a cylindrical shape, a traditional drawstring closure, and a few brush slots.
Petzl is good at getting the fundamentals right, and the Bandi is Exhibit A. The fabric is soft but durable, and the closure performed well in testing. Thanks to the placement of its drawstring, the Bandi is easy to open one-handed.
I had few complaints while testing the Bandi, but I also found few standout features. It has no pocket, and the size isn’t as friendly for folks with large hands. The Bandi is priced similarly to the Mammut Crag Chalk Bag, but the Crag’s tapered shape made it easier to use on the wall.
That leaves the Bandi left in no-man’s land. It isn’t cheap enough to be our budget pick, but it isn’t exceptional enough to earn a top pick award. It remains a solid chalk bag, especially if you can find it at a discount.
True to prAna’s ethos, this bag felt like a lifestyle choice. It’s soft and fashionable, and it’s almost proudly non-technical. It doesn’t have any fancy features other than a brush holder — just a simple sack and a belt. It’s charming.
The material is nice to handle, and it makes the prAna bag inviting to use. The downside is that the floppy fabric doesn’t provide much structure, which can lead to fumbling on the wall.
To make matters worse, the prAna bag is more expensive than most other bags in this test. It doesn’t have a pocket, and it isn’t a standout performer. It’s available in lots of fun patterns, but there are plenty of other ways to customize your look. For the price, the prAna isn’t good enough to be a top scorer.
The Mojo is a decent bag, but it’s hard to recommend over other options unless it’s on sale.
The cylindrical shape is usable but not exceptional, the closure is average, and the brim is wide enough to get the job done. It has a brush holder that works, and the reinforced lower portion should withstand some abuse. A zippered pocket seems like it could conceivably hold a topo.
This bag feels like a plausible baseline against which other bags can be measured. That’s not exactly a bad thing, but it’s not great either.
This is an interesting bag. Credit to STATIC for making a bag that’s different from most options on the market, even if it’s not a particularly good performer.
The main selling point of the STATIC Waxed Canvas Chalk Bag is right there in the name. The waxed canvas material is unique and alluring. It’s lovely to touch, and it feels durable enough to last for years. It provides enough structure for the STATIC bag to easily stand on its own, which is a nice touch.
In other ways, however, the construction makes life difficult. The brim had a nasty habit of collapsing when I reached for chalk, which made on-wall application a pain. The closure is among the poorest in this test, and the bag is noticeably heavier than those made from more technical fabrics.
The biggest compromise of all might be the price. The STATIC bag is expensive, and it doesn’t even include a belt — you’ll have to provide your own. A simple nylon belt is easy enough to find, but it adds to the STATIC’s already high price tag. When you add in the performance flaws, the unique material loses much of its appeal.
This is another forgettable chalk bag. The materials are excellent, and the bag feels robust and durable. Unfortunately, things are spoiled by the opening. The brim isn’t rigid enough to stay open consistently, which makes it difficult to get a hand inside. The cylindrical shape is so-so, and there’s no pocket.
It’s not awful, but it’s not great. The Metolius is on the cheaper end of the spectrum, but if you’re looking to save some cash, we recommend the Sukoa bag instead.
The Two Ogres bag is among the cheapest in our test, but this is a bag you could not pay me to use.
I suppose it’s possible that our bag was simply a dud, because plenty of Amazon reviewers seem to enjoy the Two Ogres. Still, the bag we received failed in nearly every conceivable way. It’s poorly shaped, and the brim is uneven. There isn’t enough space to hold lots of chalk, nor is there enough interior fleece to allow chalk to cling to the walls. The pocket is small enough that it’s barely usable. Nothing is easy to use — including, of all things, the belt, which is a pain to adjust.
Most shocking of all, however, was the closure. We pulled, prodded, and pushed every way we could imagine, but no matter what we did, only half of the drawstring closure would move. As a result, this chalk bag never even came close to closing.
Overall, it was a poor experience. It’s tempting to go for the cheapest option, but we recommend looking elsewhere.
How to Choose a Chalk Bag
Types of Chalk Bags
Chalk bags are a simple piece of equipment. The primary differentiator is shape.
Cylindrical: The most common type of chalk bag. These bags are about as wide at the top as they are at the bottom. If you like to use your chalk bag while bouldering, cylindrical bags tend to stand up well on their own.
Taper: Tapered chalk bags are wider at the brim and narrower at the base. This shape “funnels” your hands down to your chalk. Not all climbers like this shape, but I find that it makes chalking more intuitive on the wall.
Bulb: These bags have a wide, bulbous base. They create a pocket that holds more chalk than an equivalently sized cylindrical bag.
Some climbers like to store their smartphone, a topo, some tape, or a snack in their chalk bag. If that sounds like you, you’ll want a chalk bag with a pocket. In this test, the Sukoa Chalk Bag and the Arc’teryx Ion provided the best storage for phones.
All the bags in this test have at least one slot to carry a brush. Some bags (like the Petzl Bandi) have multiple.
Chalk Bags FAQ
Are There Any Other Good Chalk Bags?
Yes. Some bags didn’t fit into this roundup but may still work well for the right climber.
The Mammut Alpine Chalk Bag, for instance, has nifty features aimed specifically at multipitch objectives. There are three pockets, an elastic accessory strap to carry a jacket, and a belt buckle with a double closure to guard against accidental openings. If you want to carry gear in your chalk bag instead of in your pockets or on your harness, this is a good way to do it.
Many manufacturers offer variations on their basic formula. For example, Black Diamond offers many variants of their Mojo bag, including a Honnold signature edition and a version made from repurposed fabric scraps. Unless you’re looking for a very specific look or feel, most of these changes won’t change the function of the bag.
Unique chalk bags are a great opportunity to express your personality and style. If the big-brand options aren’t doing it for you, look for smaller makers on Etsy or sites like Oterra Designs. I’ve climbed with a chalk bag from Krieg Climbing for many years, and it still makes me happy to hop on the wall with unicorns decorating my gear.
Finally, I give an honorable mention to the Black Diamond Hot Forge Heated Chalk Bag. As a climber with Raynaud’s, I am constantly looking for ways to keep my fingers warm when temperatures drop. The Hot Forge is expensive and requires some extra forethought to charge it up, but it genuinely works.
Do You Need a Chalk Bag for Climbing?
Not necessarily. Climbers in decades past got by without one, and some climbers today still prefer to climb without chalk.
That said, nearly everyone struggles with sweaty hands at some point. If you find your fingers getting slippery, you could probably benefit from a chalk bag.
Chalk bags are most useful for roped climbing because they allow you to chalk up one-handed while you’re on the wall. If you’re focused on bouldering, you may be better served by a bouldering chalk bucket.
Can You Wash a Chalk Bag?
Sure. Manufacturer recommendations differ on this topic, and it’s best to check if you’re unsure. Black Diamond recommends a wash in warm water with non-detergent soap. Arc’teryx says it’s best to stick to surface cleaning. Since chalk bags are (hopefully) not load-bearing or life-saving equipment, you have some leeway to wash how you see fit.
No matter how well you clean, chalk bags will get dirty. Chalk will stick to the outside, and you’ll inevitably scrape them up the side of some chimney. A dirty chalk bag is one that’s doing its job!
How Much Chalk Should Be in My Chalk Bag?
As much as you want!
Some climbers like to have a big clump of chalk in their bag to wrap their fingers around. Some prefer the metered application of a chalk ball, and others like a dusting that isn’t too thick. You don’t want so much chalk in your bag that it’s hard to stick your hand in, but you don’t want so little that it’s hard to apply.
Explore, find your own preferences, and stick to them. If you’re curious about the differences between chalks, check out our roundup of the best chalk for climbing.