Chalk is chalk, right? Sometimes this can feel like a truism, particularly when most of us would be hard-pressed to tell the difference between different brands of chalk. However, truisms are only true until they’re wrong or, more relevantly, you run into some truly terrible chalk.
While testing chalk by simply climbing doesn’t feel particularly scientific, we can report that Tokyo Power Industries (TPI) chalk is not terrible – in fact, we would say it is amongst some of the best chalk we’ve used.
The TPI chalk is interesting for a variety of reasons. Its chalk is sourced not from chalk mines but is apparently produced as a byproduct of the Japanase salt industry. This, according to the company’s website, has a number of benefits, including ‘…greatly reduces the environmental impact that is commonly caused by mining. It also helps to keep our chalk calcium carbonate free – which is a bad component for friction usually found in chalk that is derived from magnesite mining.’ It’s also very fine, being between three and five micrometers. While we can’t test the fineness with a fine-o-metre, it does feel very fine in the hand. Some of the chalk TPI offers is also infused, but more on that in a bit.
We were sent a test pack containing four different types of TPI chalk: Black, Speed, Effect and Pure.
Black is TPI’s best-selling type of chalk and, apparently, is very sticky due to ‘harnessing weak acidic ingredients from the Onsen.’ We’ve no idea what this means, but we found this chalk to be very fine and yet, unlike some other very fine, silky chalk, not slippery. It offers excellent grip and was our favourite of the four types we were sent. (TBH we love onsens so much though that despite not understanding the spiel we were already primed to like the Black.)
Speed comes infused with an insect repellent, and apparently peppermint, lemongrass and eucalyptus, although we could only smell the insect repellent (it’s a pleasant smell, though). We’ve not come across insect repellent in a chalk before and weren’t able to test its efficacy as it’s been too cold for mosquitoes so far this season.
Effect is infused with geranium and bergamot and apparently improves circulation and calms the soul. We cannot comment on its affects on this front (mostly because we are not sold on the existence of a soul), but it does smell quite pleasant so that is something.
Pure is pretty much what it says on the box, very pure chalk, it is also super fine. It feels very fine to the touch, but not slippery.
We thought the infused chalks were a bit gimmicky but maybe that is the cost of differentiation in an already crowded market and it gives the brand something to talk about. But Black and Pure are excellent, high-quality chalk. They’ve not got any resin in them, so they’re quite pure (some high-end chalks have resin in them, which can leave a hard-to-remove build up on the rock). Pricewise, TPI chalk is not super cheap, but it’s equivalent to other similar high-end brands like FrictionLabs (if not a bit cheaper).