A chalk bag really only has to do one thing: hold your climbing chalk. That’s a simple task, and it means that there are lots of good options available (if you’re looking for pure performance, check out our thoughts on which bags do the job best).
There is an optional second duty for your chalk bag: making you look your absolute best. This is different for every climber — some might prefer an understated design, while others might prefer a crazy pattern or a significant piece of art.
To get your stylistic neurons firing, I picked out seven ways of finding a bag to fit your personality. A chalk bag goes with you everywhere and lasts a long time, so you may as well get one that makes you smile.
1. Browse Wild Designs from Bespoke Manufacturers
Companies make some pretty far-out chalk bags, and if you poke around a little, you can find some gems. Two of my favorite companies are Krieg Climbing and Pure Grit Climbing. Both have an excellent roster of designs that change by season and year. They’re quality bags — my first chalk bag was from Krieg, and it’s still with me to this day. Pure Grit has even added a batch of “Holiday” chalk bags for those who can’t stop caroling around this time of year. Both companies also make a variety of other helpful products (ground tarps, bicycle saddle bags, etc.) if you’re in the market.
Honorable mentions: Homegrown, Mago, Practical Climbing, and Static. A pre-designed bag may not be strictly one-of-a-kind, but these bags are usually the most cost-effective option.
2. Get Textured
Sometimes, regular fabric just won’t cut it. There are a variety of furry, fuzzy, and prickly chalk bags on the market, ranging from the cuddly to the truly wild.
Some of my favorites come from 8bplus, who assign each of their personified creations a name and a backstory. These types of bag are cute, but they may not hold up quite as well when you’re scraping up a chimney.
For uncommon durability, Tufa Climbing makes some extremely burly bags. And if the fervency of your love for chalk borders on the religious, check out Mythical Bags, which are back for a limited run of beautiful, handcrafted, spiritually inspired, and heinously expensive leather bags.
3. Go Colorful
If none of the above designs or textures are doing it for you, there’s an easy way to get started on your own. Mammut now sells a chalk bag called the “Stitch,” which starts as a blank canvas. The Stitch comes with three colored yarns and a needle, which you can use to turn the perforated surface into an artwork of your own design.
Colors are random if you order online, so find the Stitch in a store if you want a specific combo. The grid perforation lends itself to repeating patterns, but with a little creativity you could get very elaborate. Bonus points if you can duplicate this masterpiece.
4. Get a Custom Bag
If you have a brilliant idea but would rather leave the stitching to the experts, consider reaching out to a bag maker for a custom unit. Pure Grit and Dirtbag Climbers both take requests, and Organic Climbing makes simple color schemes easy to create on their website.
If you’re sentimental, you can even send in an old T-shirt and have it turned into a bag. The downside is that you’ll have to pay for your customization. Most makers charge a premium for special requests, and you’ll have to wait longer for your bag to be made. Still, what you’ll get is a professional product that’s entirely your own.
5. Check Etsy
Etsy has become the internet hub for all things handmade, and chalk bags are no exception. A variety of makers offer bags on Etsy, and a quick search for “chalk bag” turns up thousands of results. Inspirations range from Pokemon to Star Wars to dinosaurs, and many of the prices are reasonable.
By nature, these outlets are less reliably stocked, so designs may come and go as they’re made and sold. Many Etsy sellers will also do custom work if you contact them, although again, you’d best be prepared to pay for your art.
6. Look Local
Although Etsy connects us to makers everywhere, it’s often worth looking closer to home. In every place I’ve lived so far, a local company (or just a dedicated climber) makes chalk bags for the community.
These bags tend to be a win-win-win: you get a unique bag, support local business, and you often make a connection in the process. Plus, you don’t have to spend any money on shipping. One of my favorite pieces of gear is my bouldering bucket, which was handmade by a friend of mine in Maine.
7. Get Busy
If there’s no one in your community making bags (or you’re still somehow unsatisfied with all of the previous options), consider making your own. This is less daunting than it sounds. A basic design takes only a few hours to create if you’re handy with a needle and thread, and plenty of helpful How-Tos are scattered around the internet. It can be a fun project to make a personal bag, and it gives you complete creative control.
If you really love it, you can make them for all your climbing friends and family. It is the holiday season, and through all the Black Friday stampedes and #optoutside selfies, no gift means quite as much as one you made yourself.