Climbing chalk is a necessity on a lot of crags, especially for those of us who find ourselves drenched in sweat once temperatures rise above 80 degrees.
The problem is that sweaty palms make for a poor grip. Regular climbing chalk doesn’t necessarily do the trick for everyone and can slip right off your hands, so applying a good base of liquid climbing chalk can really help.
The problem is, between $10 and $15 bucks, it’s seriously wallet-gouging over time. Let me let you in on a little secret: you can make your own for less than $5. That’s because there are only two ingredients necessary to make excellent liquid climbing chalk—regular climbing or gymnastics chalk and some rubbing alcohol. Seriously, that’s all you need.
Throwing it together isn’t exactly rocket science, thankfully
If you’re prone to buying blocks of climbing chalk, take a brick of that powdery goodness and smash it to bits. You want to get it as fine as possible to avoid making a lumpy goo that resembles a steaming pile of bird poo. Nobody likes rubbing bird crap on their hands or anything that looks remotely looks like it.
Next, whip out the rubbing alcohol. There are two important things to remember here. First, look for a bottle that uses 70 percent isopropyl alcohol (IPA) and not one that says 99 percent. Water is what’s going to cause the chalk to dissolve, while the alcohol allows it to evaporate. Thus you’ll want more water in your rubbing alcohol than what a 99 percent solution provides. You’ll use less overall if you go with the 70 percent, and it’s cheaper.
Second, you want to have a chalk to alcohol ratio of 2:1, meaning for every cup of chalk you use you’ll want have half as much rubbing alcohol. If you use two cups chalk, you’ll use one cup of rubbing alcohol.
Now mix those two suckers together thoroughly in a container and you’re all set! It’s that easy.
Some things to watch out for
There’s one more thing to keep in mind. When making the chalk, you probably don’t want to make anymore than you think you’ll use on a single climbing trip, and make it the same day if you can. Unless you’re storing it in a super tight air-sealed container it’s going to dry up pretty fast. Since it takes all of one minute to make, there’s no need to potentially waste it.
Once you reach the crag, slather a small bit on your palms and prepare to climb. Liquid chalk is best used as a base layer for regular climbing chalk to help ward of sweat. It’s also great for use with sunscreen or bug spray that makes your hands slippery or sticky, too.
One last thing to keep in mind is that liquid chalk can come with a nasty side effect. If your hands have a tendency to crack, you probably want to avoid it altogether. The alcohol and chalk combo will definitely dry you out and leave your paws looking like the desert ground of Death Valley for weeks.