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FrictionLabs hasn’t been around long, but they’ve quickly become one of the biggest names in climbing chalk. They market their product aggressively and keep a roster of pro climbers repping their dust, including names like Alex Puccio, Alex Megos, Margo Hayes, and Nathaniel Coleman. They insist that their chalk is scientifically proven to be the best available, but it’s always been a little unclear if they were just tooting their own horn.
To see if their chalk can walk the walk, we put FrictionLabs’ finest blend up against six other top loose chalks — and we did it blind. We had no idea which chalk was which until we were done with testing. We put every single one through a variety of tests on all kinds of terrain to declare an overall winner.
And…FrictionLabs still came out on top.
To the surprise of the testers, we all picked the FrictionLabs Unicorn Dust as our favorite chalk of the bunch. It’s easy to apply, creates an even coating, and feels secure on the wall.
Consistent with FrictionLabs’ claims, it also didn’t dry out our hands too much, which allowed us to climb longer. It didn’t outscore the competition by a huge margin, and it will cost you dearly, but FrictionLabs does make the best climbing chalk on the market right now.
If you’d like to read more about how the FrictionLabs Unicorn Dust compared to the other chalks we tested, check out our complete article on the best climbing chalks. Or, continue reading for our full review.
|Top Pick: FrictionLabs Unicorn Dust||
|Best Value: Trango Gunpowder Climbing Chalk||
|Best for Sensitive Skin: Primo Chalk||
|Bison Designs Competition Chalk||
|Best for Sweaty Hands: Black Diamond White Gold||
What We Like
Part of what makes the Unicorn Dust such a joy is how easy it is to coat the hands. With some chalks, I felt like I had to grind my fingers a few times or blow off the excess to get a good coating. The FrictionLabs chalk seemed to produce an even coating the most consistently, often with just a single dip or squeeze. That’s reassuring, especially when your forearms are starting to sound the alarm.
Friction Labs also makes a liquid chalk called Secret Stuff that coats well. You can see our review of it in our guide to the best liquid chalk.
The “stickiness” of chalk is an aspect that’s hard to measure. It’s nearly impossible to tell why a hold feels good or bad on a given try.
Was I more pumped or tired? Was I sweatier? Did I waste more time? Or is it the chalk?
Still, on balance we felt that we were slightly more secure, more of the time, when we were using the Unicorn Dust. We found ourselves more frequently reaching the end of routes feeling confident in our traction.
It’s also worth noting how our hands felt after the chalk started to wear through. With some brands we tested, you seem to lose traction immediately after your chalk is gone. But even when the Unicorn Dust was getting thin on our fingers, our skin still felt nicely dry.
The FrictionLabs wasn’t the most comfortable chalk we tested — that honor went to the odd but intriguing Primo Chalk. But the Unicorn Dust did do a remarkable job of keeping our skin happy as well as moisture-free. This can be a difficult balance to strike, and other chalks (ahem, Black Diamond) don’t manage quite so gracefully.
What We Don’t Like
The stratospheric price is, by far, the biggest flaw of FrictionLabs. It’s a great chalk, and it outclassed all the competitors.
But is it worth so much? We remain dubious.
FrictionLabs includes a section in their FAQ entitled “Why does it cost more?” where they explain their high-quality raw materials and USA-based treating process. That’s very cool, and it may be enough for some — it all depends how much great climbing chalk is worth to you.
But when I can snag some Trango Gunpowder (our second-favorite chalk) for well under half the price, the price tag starts to look less appealing.
This is a little nitpicky, but we aren’t the biggest fan of FL’s packaging. Does the shiny, unicorn-printed coffee bag make you feel like you should be writing tasting notes? Yes. Is that entirely a good thing? No.
And what’s more, it’s a little inconvenient — our blind-test administrator said that the Unicorn Dust was “a ***** to open.” The fold-and-hold reseal method isn’t the most secure, either.
If you use only FrictionLabs chalk, be prepared to catch a little side-eye. FL has a reputation for being overpriced and overmarketed. When you pull out your coffee bag of chalk, some people will assume you’re that guy who wears Arc’teryx shorts and carries a case for his bouldering brush. The old-school trad warriors at your gym will almost certainly cast disapproving glances. Be prepared.
The Unicorn Dust excels in any scenario you would want chalk. It’s great on longer routes and effective when you’re bouldering. It still has some small chunks in it, so you’re free to grab one and tick up your project (just make sure you brush it off when you’re done, or else the previous note on reputation will doubly apply).
FrictionLabs doesn’t provide great value. We did find ourselves using slightly less chalk with the Unicorn Dust, but the difference was minimal, and almost certainly not enough to make up for the price.
The Unicorn Dust is the best chalk around, but it comes at a premium. Whether or not it’s worth it is down to how much you value your chalk and your dollar.
How the FrictionLabs Unicorn Dust Performed in Our Testing
We scored our chalk on three categories through a variety of individual and group testing phases.
This is an area where the FrictionLabs shines. It’s incredibly easy and intuitive to get an even coating. The Unicorn Dust is on the powdery side, but it has a few chunks mixed in for you to squeeze. It’s a good mix, and it’s a joy to use.
The FrictionLabs was among the most secure chalks we tested. It felt dry and sticky, even when we were reaching the end of longer routes.
The Unicorn Dust wasn’t the most comfortable chalk in our test, but it was one of the better entrants. It maintains a nice balance of dryness without cracking or damaging skin. We felt content and confident while we were using it.
- Amounts available: 2.5 oz, 5 oz, 10 oz
- Texture: Mix/Powder (chunkier textures available)
The Bottom Line
FrictionLabs Unicorn Dust came out swinging in our test, and we picked it as our favorite even when we had no idea what it was. It’s a great climbing chalk — easy to apply, but secure and comfortable on the skin. If I were a pro athlete, this is the chalk I would want to sponsor me.
But I’m not a pro athlete, I’m a writer, and I still have to think twice about getting guacamole on my Chipotle. That means that FrictionLabs’ pricing is on the stiff side for my taste.
The competition isn’t quite as polished, but there are still good options — our runner-up and Best Value pick, Trango Gunpowder, is a particularly strong performer at a much lower price.
If having the best product available is important to you, pick up some FL and don’t look back (maybe try to find it on sale). We were always happy while we were using it. If you’d like better value, then head over to our chalk roundup to find our other favorites.