Best Chalk Balls for Climbing: The Top 5 of 2018

Chalk BallRetail Price
Top Pick: FrictionLabs Magic Reusable Chalk Ball$$
Best Value: Z-Athletic Chalk Ball$
Budget Buy: Metolius Chalk Sock$
Runner-Up: 321 STRONG Refillable Chalk Ball$
DIY Dirtbag Option: A Colorful Sock$
I’m here to talk to you today about balls.

Chalk balls, to be exact.

That’s right — chalk balls. Also known as chalk socks or that chalky pouch thing. Chalk balls are about as generic a product as you can find in the climbing world. You fill them up with chalk, drop them in your chalk bag, and squeeze them when you need some chalk on your hands.

For something that serves such a basic function, is it even possible that one version can be better than another?

I spent hours asking myself what I was doing with my life researching that very question, and came back from the other side with the answer:

Yes, but we had to split flea hairs to notice the differences.

For the ones among you who want one darn fine chalk ball, we’ve compiled this article on the five best chalk balls available.

For the rest of you who don’t really care about which balls go into your chalk bag, just buy whichever one is cheapest. Or whichever one has free shipping. Or whichever one strikes your fancy. Honestly, it will be tough to go wrong.

Top Pick: FrictionLabs Magic Reusable Chalk Ball

One of the best chalk balls on the market Let me introduce you to the Ferrari of chalk balls.

The FrictionLabs Magic Reusable Chalk Ball is the best refillable chalk ball because of both the chalk ball itself and the white stuff that’s inside of it (FrictionLabs climbing chalk, of course).

The chalk ball is made from a porous cotton fabric which does a better job than the average chalk ball of dispensing the proper amount of climbing chalk you need.

A bad chalk ball will never dispense enough chalk no matter how many times you squeeze it or slap it violently against your hands. The Magic Reusable Chalk Ball doesn’t have that problem. It dispenses an adequate amount of chalk with a couple squeezes.

As for what’s inside, the FrictionLabs Magic Reusable Chalk Ball comes filled with FrictionLabs climbing chalk (surprisingly). The chalk is very fine and, as we discussed in our article on climbing chalk, the best on the market.

Since the Magic Reusable Chalk Ball is refillable you can un-cinch the drawstring and fill it with any chalk you wish. FrictionLabs doesn’t yet sell refills specifically for chalk balls, but if you like their chalk you can always fill it with Unicorn Dust, their least chunky blend.

The only downside to this chalk ball is that it’s a few bucks more expensive than some of the other options. A few bucks won’t be a big deal to most people (and it’s worth the extra few bucks), but know that there are cheaper options if you’re pinching pennies.

Best Value: Z-Athletic Chalk Ball

Z-Athletic Chalk Ball If the above option is too fancy or expensive for your simpler tastes, then go for something a little more basic.

Our Best Value pick is just that. A basic, average, run-of-the-mill chalk ball with average, run-of-the-mill chalk inside. There is a refillable version which you can, *gasp*, refill when it runs out.

The Z-Athletic Chalk Ball earned our Best Value pick because it’s pretty cheap and works fine.

Really. That’s it. It wasn’t rocket science.

Budget Buy: Metolius Chalk Sock

The Metolius Chalk SockIf you’re playing a game of “How Little Can I Spend This Month?” (no judgment, we’ve all been there) then boy do I have good news for you:

You can save a couple dollars if you purchase our Budget Buy option, the Metolius Chalk Sock.

Despite the name, the Chalk Sock is not a literal sock of chalk. Rather, it is, like all the other chalk balls on this list, a sack of porous cotton fabric. It comes in non-refillable or refillable versions.

It’s filled with Metolius Super Chalk which, despite an impressive name, is not that super. It’s decent chalk which you can get in a big bag for very cheap (for this reason the chalk itself earned our Budget Buy pick in our article on climbing chalk).

My only qualm about the Chalk Sock is that the drawstring isn’t that good. The drawstring on my personal Chalk Sock broke the first time I tried refilling it. It was pretty lame.

Runner-Up: 321 STRONG Refillable Chalk Ball

321 STRONG Refillable Chalk Ball Maybe you don’t like the names of the other chalk balls on the list. Or maybe you don’t like the looks of them. Or maybe you always pick the fourth option on the list of five possibilities.

Whatever your reason for not wanting the other options on this list, it’s probably pretty arbitrary. They are all virtually the exact same except for the FrictionLabs one which does a slightly better job of dispensing chalk and contains better chalk.

The 321 Strong Refillable Chalk Ball could have easily been our Best Value pick, but — at the time of writing — it was slightly more expensive than the Z-Athletic Chalk Ball. That’s right. These products are so similar we based our picks off of price at the time of writing.

DIY Dirtbag Option: A Colorful Sock

Colorful socks Wanna get all DIY up in here? Get excited, ’cause you can use a sock for your chalk ball.

You can buy a colorful one if you want to be creative and show off your style. Or, if you wanna go super dirtbag, grab that one sock from your closet whose counterpart was kidnapped long ago by the sock gnomes, because it’s time to put it to good use.

Fill up that bad boy with your chalk of choice, cut away the excess fabric, and seal the opening with a string or twist tie.

Don’t have any socks to spare? Try tights or pantyhose (as suggested in the video below). Or get creative and take a stroll around your house to see what other porous fabric you can find.

Check out this video of the process of how to make your own chalk ball:

And voila! Your very own dirtbag-style chalk ball (or, more appropriately, chalk sock).

Now that you’re done, pat yourself on the back. You just saved $5.

Why Use a Chalk Ball When Climbing?

You might have read this entire article without knowing when it is appropriate to use a chalk ball in the first place.

Let me address that question now. There are three main reasons…

1. Personal Preference

Some people prefer Coke. Others prefer Pepsi. Some people prefer the La Sportiva Miura, others prefer the La Sportiva Katana Lace.

You might prefer using a chalk ball over using loose chalk, and that’s perfectly valid. If you’re unsure which route to take, check out this reddit discussion on the topic.

If you’ve never used a chalk ball before, it might be worth it to give it a try to see what you prefer. Chalk balls can limit chalk dust and spillage, deliver an appropriate amount of chalk easily, and be useful for chalking up greasy holds.

2. To Limit Chalk Dust

Like I just mentioned, chalk balls limit chalk dust by holding the chalk inside a fabric ball. The fabric is porous but, with a good chalk ball, chalk will only come out when you squeeze it.

If chalk dust annoys you (or you’re worried about breathing it in) then you’ll want to get yourself a chalk ball. Just throw it in your chalk bag and refill it when you need to.

3. It’s Required by Your Gym

Some climbing gyms want to limit chalk dust, and the way they do that is by requiring you use chalk balls or liquid chalk.

How to Choose the Best Chalk Ball for You

If none of the options above appeal to you, then you can always go off and by one on your own. I’ll reiterate, though: chalk balls are all essentially identical.

If you do decide to pick a chalk ball that isn’t on this list, it will behoove you to pick one that meets the following criteria.

1. Refillable

This is, in my opinion, the most important feature to look for in a good chalk ball. If the chalk ball isn’t refillable, it can be hard to use more than once, and you might have to end up buying another chalk ball in the not too distant future.

Refillable chalk balls are everywhere, including on our list above. You can identify them by whether or not they have a drawstring. To refill them, you just un-cinch the drawstring, pour in your preferred climbing chalk, and cinch the drawstring shut again. Easy peasy.

On a side note, I recommend you fill your chalk ball with powdered chalk as opposed to chunky chalk or broken-down chalk blocks. The chalk can’t make it through the porous fabric if it’s not fine enough.

2. Filled with Good Chalk

If you care a lot about what climbing chalk you use, make sure you get a chalk sock filled with good chalk.

How can you tell which is filled with what? Well, chalk balls are usually filled with either cheap stuff or the company’s own chalk, so ask yourself a simple question:

Does this company also make climbing chalk?

If it does, you can assume the ball is probably filled with that company’s own formula; if it doesn’t, it’s probably some cheap stuff. From the above list, FrictionLabs and Metolius make their own chalk.

Of course, you can also always buy your chalk ball of choice, dump out the chalk inside, and refill it with your preferred chalk blend.

3. It’s a Chalk Ball

Chalk balls are so unimportant in the grand scheme of climbing things that it essentially doesn’t matter which one you buy.

So, when considering whether or not to buy a certain chalk ball, ask yourself: “Is this chalk ball a chalk ball?”

If the answer is “yes”, great. Buy it. You would still choose a perfectly fine chalk ball if that was the only criterion you considered in your purchase.


Photo Credit: Amazon

About the Author:

Alex is the owner and editor of 99Boulders and has been testing and reviewing outdoor gear since 2015. He just got back into climbing after wrist surgery, so when he's not working on the site he can be found at the climbing gym training hard to regain all the strength he lost while injured.