Sunday, January 29, 2012

Review > Chalk Buckets V2.0

This is an update as sometimes more gear arrives on our doorstep, in this case we have two more buckets to add to the list of buckets. One is from Practical Climbing the other is from VLine, we've put them through the same tests that the original test pieces were put through so our results remain inline with the original findings.

Lets get started again shall we? For sake of ease the new buckets have been added to the top of the list.

To make the review as fair as possible as usual the comments are from more than one person and we all sat down to define what criteria we were going to use to actually test the bags. After a bunch of discussions we decided upon what you can see in the table that's further down in the review.

This time as lots of people have been weighing in on the bags with their personal comments the usual format is out the window, the commentators that we normally have at the end of the reviews haven't been included, they're scattered throughout the review and some of the most common comments have been included in the table.

These are the criteria that we decided we should look at:
  • Overall build quality
    • Is the stitching straight, the Velcro well seated etc
  • Price
    • In USD
  • Volume 
    • How much chalk can you get into them. This was done with water in ml and then converted to liters.
  • Closure 
    • Zip / Velcro / other
    • Opening size in inches (Can you get both man mitts into the bag easily)
  • Drop test 
    • How much chalk comes out of the closure when fully closed and the bag is dropped? As if someone threw it from the top of a boulder to the ground and it wasn't caught.
  • Stability 
    • How well does the bag stand up by itself? If you land next to it does it fall over? We put the bucket on the mats at a local gym in the same spot and then dropped from the wall in the same spot about 5ft away from where the bucket was. We also did the same test at out wall
  • Durability 
    • All bags were used for a two week period by various people, any abuse was allowed (they all went on at least two climbing trips) The bags have all been used for 3 months or more in the wall at Climbing Hold Review
  • Features
    • Do they have pockets / key or phone holders, if so how many
    • Did the phone pocket take a Blackberry or iPhone, did they protect from chalk
  •  Additional features 
    • What other features to these bags have?
  • Team Comments 
    • Comments that came up more than once from team / testers that helped with the test or a comment that was heard when the bags were out and about. These are included within the review
So obviously we have our work cut out for us, there are a lot of things to look at and therefore a whole bunch of climbing to be done. This review was started months ago and we've been working on it for a while... so here comes the main course, lets meet the victims of the review:

(Italic text is from the manufacturers website, anything in normal font is from us) 
V LINE Vertex Chalk Pot: The Vertex chalk pot is designed to withstand all types of abuse. With it's pyramid shape and wide base, it keeps your chalk safe by preventing common spills. The Vertex pot is constructed of the highest quality ballistic nylon and cordura fabric avaliable. It features two 1.5" brush holds, multi-colored fleece liner, tight draw string colusre, dual layered panels to keep your chalk from escaping, two velcro pockets to hold all your small necessities, stiff nylon webbing trim, offset webbing handle for easy access to your chalk, VLINE rubber label. VLINE also use Tex 90 weight nylon thread which resists abrasion better than most normal weight nylon stitching

That's a pretty long and specific list of features on this bucket and it's by no means a light weight when it comes to build quality there are some serious materials, like they say "built for abuse", yeah you can see that when you look at it. The V Line website allows you to design YOUR chalk buckets in any color you really want which is nice because you can see how good (or in some cases bad) your choice of color selection may be. The bag does have a nice stitched logo on the side

Just for note because you know how we roll, we're buggered if we can find the second brush loop on the bucket. One other thing to note is the bucket is double walled to stop chalk leakage through the sides of the bags which is a very nice touch
Practical Climbing Woodland Camo Upcycled Codura Bucket: Super deep bucket made from coated cordura (80% of the cordura used in this bag was headed for the dumpster and rescued by us!) for water restistanace and durability. Black fleece and nylon lining closes tight with paracord drawstring. Bucket has netted brush pocket, webbing handle and front zippered pocket for stashing tape, ID etc. Flat bottom design keeps your bucket upright for easy access. Measures approx. 10x9x6.

Once you actually get your mouth around the name of this bucket you can get down to the nitty gritty of the thing :) For the size (without being full of chalk) this is the lightest bag that we can remember and the opening is like a black hole... it's big. Practical is a one person operation and you'd not be able to tell from the quality of the bucket. And for all your Greenies out there the outer material is recycled.. well recycled in the sense that rather than be thrown out it's been grabbed and used for this bag :)

Asana Community Bucket: Carry this stylish bucket around the circuit for miles of bouldering and great comments on the smart design. The bag unzips and zips with east as you move from one problem to the next. Zipper does not clog with chalk.

  • New combo zipper and shock cord closure
  • Zippered pocket
  • Carries tons of chalk
  • Heavy nylon material
  • Brush loop
  • Carry handle
  • Fleece/nylon lining
  • Water resistant base
One thing to note about this bucket is that every bucket is hand made and you can probably specify colors. Asana are using their off cuts from their pad manufacture to make these buckets. This bucket was an instant hit with one of the team members (who already has one of the review buckets!) because they fell in love with our sample.

Made by Jamey and the team at Asana down in Boise, ID. All the bags are hand made in the US. If you want to get custom colors then you need to talk to them because most of the bags are made from off cuts from their pad manufacturing process so the colors of what you'll get are random. These bags are burly

 Metolius Bouldering Bucket:
  • New - youth inspired designs
  • Large, floor-standing chalk dispenser
  • Stiffened body design keeps it open
  • Pile lining with external stash pockets (side & bottom)
  • Dual brush holders
  • Bombproof construction with fully-taped seams
  • Each bucket comes with M-16 Bouldering Brush and 2.5 oz. (70 g) bag of Super Chalk
  • 9" tall x 7.5" dia. (229 mm x 190 mm)
  • Colors: grey subway graffiti, blue graffiti drum, purple patch pocket, green patch pocket
Metolius didn't have any "youth inspired" design buckets to send our way for review. So we improvised with our original bucket that we've had in the wall for the last five odd years. So these new buckets are a little gangsta where as ours is redneck camo :), it's a matter of taste we guess, the design hasn't changed so we're good to go. Oh and we never knew that there was a pocket on the bottom of the bucket till we started doing this review.... well someone must have known as we found $2 and a roll of tape!

DZ Artworks Bucket:
  • Recycled climbing rope
  • Recycled cord
  • Recycled fleece
  • Recycled nylon
Well that's pretty damn simple when you think about it!! Someone actually sent us this link when they were looking for something else, what's funny is the person that sent us the link isn't a climber but does come past the house to chill out and to shoot the shit! These bags are handmade with rope, your rope if you send it to them, so you can re-use it again for something other than a tow rope. You even get a discount for doing this!!

Noodles made a phone call and voila here is a 100% recycled chalk bucket made from rope. It's the heavy weight of the buckets we're reviewing but what it lacks in lightness it makes up for in other ways

Organic Climbing Lunch Bucket: Time tested and simple, this design is a secure warehouse for your chalk supply. Burly 1000d nylon fabric is stiff so the Lunch Bag Bucket stays open while you're bouldering. The bag seals with a 3/4" hook and loop and then rolls down and clips like a boaters dry bag. Big outer pocket, two elastic brush loops, and signature Organic colors round this stylish, user-friendly bouldering necessity

 This bag was stolen quite quickly and was abused on a climbing trip when we weren't looking; when it returned it was good to see that it had survived with little or no damage. The comment from the person that borrowed the bad was "this thing is bomb proof". Once you get used to the closure system you have one of the biggest volume bags at your disposal. 

Josh has been churning out pads for years and same goes for some other items that he makes (He does make a pretty good back pack, it`s not on the site you`ll have to ask him about it) You can order custom colors from these guys, just let them know what you want and they'll hook you up, all of the bags are handmade in the USA and they're top quality.... again they`re using the offcuts (recycling y`know) from their pad manufacturing so nothing is wasted.  

If you want a pink and green bag, they'll make you a pink and green bag, same goes for their pads. We`ve looked on enviously at people that have Organic buckets and chalk bags, each time they look amazing... it was just a matter of time before we got one!

Black Diamond Chalkboy Chalk Bucket: 
Far more than a typical chalk pot, the Chalkboy is an all-in-one bouldering bag.

  • Upright design for stability
  • Durable nylon pad fabric
  • Equipped with 2 handles and external mesh side pocket for extras
  • 4 inside brush sleeves
This bag was actually brought the day before the start of the Tour De Bloc a few years ago, maybe it was because of it's bowling bag looks or the bowling shirt that the member of the crew was wearing a little too much at the time that made them buy it we'll never know.

This bag will also go down pretty well at the bowling alley :) Black Diamond are one of the companies you won`t see on our site as they don`t make climbing holds for one, their website is a little lacking on details for this bucket... they went for simple

B.A.Gear - Growler
  • Base- 7" x 7"
  • Height- 8.5"
  • Opening- 5.5" across
  • Brush loop- 1 1" elastic brush loop
  • Two pockets
  • 3mm Bluewater accessory cord (stronger sheath so it wont fail you)
  • Grab loop- 7" (easy to grab and clip to)
  • Made of heavy upholstery vinyls for structure and durability
  • Heavy fleece to hold your chalk in
  • Every bouldering bucket has a unique stitched design on the bottom
  • Every seam is double stitched for added durability
  • All products are handmade in Bloomington, IN
This bag was sent to us in CHR colors :) That's a nice touch when it's going to be reviewed, there were actually two of these buckets... the other was promptly "borrowed permanently" by one of our regular crew.

These bags are hand made in the US and each one comes with a custom stitched pattern on the bottom, BA Gear are hard hitters for a small company, they have recently moved to a new place which is larger so expect some good stuff from these guys. We actually use their normal chalk bags when we`re climbing (you know with a rope and stuff), again the bags are top notch quality and are just the right size... if they`re not they actually make some larger chalk bags for people with big hands.

So all of the bags were used for a long time, they've suffered more than most people will put them through in a year in a very short amount of time. Here is the list of what we did and some of the stand out features / complaints:
  • Overall build quality
  • Checking the stitching
    • Every bag before it was used was looked over with a fine tooth comb, we looked at all of the stitching; we pulled on the seams to see if they would rip or tear in anyway... with the exception of the DZ Artworks bag, the rope that is the main material of the bag is glued together so we couldn't really look at the stitching. But in the sake of fairness we pulled on the ropes to see if they'd come apart; they didn't.
    • Every bag including the Metolius bucket are well made the standouts being the Asana Community bucket the V Line Vertex bucket and coming from the left field the Practical bucket
    • All of the bags use great durable materials, some of the buckets have better materials but they all stood up to a bunch of abuse. DZ Artworks and Practical Climbing are using recycled material for their buckets with Organic and Asana using offcuts from pad making for theirs.
    • Organics bag is the only one that doesn't have a fleece lining, the V Line buckets only came with one brush loop not two and the lining was a single color rather than the two they state on their blurb
  • Price
    • Only the Black Diamond and DZ Artworks bags don't fit into the mid $30 price range that seems to be the going rate, the Black Diamond is $44.95. You're paying for a name and you're getting a bucket that at best is a little quirky. The DZ Artworks is a little more expensive but you're paying for something that is unique each time, they'll use your rope (and give you a discount off of the bag for doing so) so that old friend that has caught you time and again can be re-used.
    • Practical Climbing again gets a mention here as they're the cheapest out of the bunch
  • Volume 
  • Getting the volume
    • This was an interesting one.... and there are a few points to mention here:
    • The volume was done with water as it's more consistent than using chalk, chalk will change volume a little with temperature and humidity. We went with an easier medium
    • The volumes that we have are probably +/- 10%
    • The Metolius is obviously the bag you want if you just want huge amounts of chalk... it's a good wall bag (That's why we've used one of them since we started the site)
    • All of the bags easily carry enough chalk for whatever you're going to be doing, it's a personal choice on how much of the white stuff you want to haul around all of the time

  • Closure 
  • Closing a bag up
    • We measured from side to side of the opening.... pretty simple
    • You can easily get two hands into all of the buckets except for the Growler and the DZ artworks, they're a little tight for that
    • If you don't want chalk all over the place when you're carrying the bag then you have a couple of simple choices here:
      • Asana: Inner draw string and then a heavy duty zipper on top of that. The zipper is the best one in this test
      • Black Diamond: Even though it's just a single heavy duty zip... once it's closed it does a bloody good job! But when you're zipping it and there's chalk in the teeth it does give you a little cloud
    • BA Gear: These guys use Bluewater utility rope for their draw strings... therefore at a pinch you're got a prussic or a great shoe lace :)
    • Once you get the gist of Organics closure then you're good, it's the most complex to close. Using this closure means you roll over the top of the bag so you do loose some volume
  • Drop test 
    • We closed the bags up and we dropped them off of a second floor balcony to a concrete floor. All of the buckets were closed as tightly as possible and then dropped in so that the base of the bag hits the floor as flat as possible. Someone was there to judge the cloud of chalk that came out of the bags:
    • Asana came out best on this test, there was only a little cloud from residue chalk that was on the outside a close second was the Practical long name bucket!!
  • Stability 
    • Sometimes people leave their chalk buckets on the mats where they're climbing, we've done it you've done it and when it's open and someone hits it it just sucks... what's as bad is when it falls over and puts chalk all over the ground. You then have to get as much chalk back into the bucket because it's messy
      • DZ Artworks came out best here, the bag is heavy so it takes quite a lot to get it to fall over. It's actually the only bag that didn't fall over during this test. Second best is the V Line bag (thank god we kept the original results safe)
      • When we say "not bad" for the other bags we mean that out of 5 drops to the mats next to the buckets they only fell over once or twice
  • Durability 
    • All of the bags are easily going to last for a good long time. Other than manufacturing defects you should have no problems at all.
  • Features
    • We counted the pockets and brush loops
    • All of the bags can take a cell phone and most of them your locker keys...
      • The Asana bag will take your keys, a phone and some snacks without too much trouble
      • Same for the Metolius bucket, with your keys being in the velcro pocket that's hidden on the bottom
      • The DZ Artworks bags pocket is a little snug for a Blackberry or iPhone when they have a case on them. Just tell them and they'll make the pocket to the right size!!
      • Black Diamond's bag has lots of pockets, your brushes are all going to be inside and your phone etc can go into the zippered pocket, the rest can hit the pocket that has the flap (the stuff you don't really mind loosing :P)
      • BA Gears pockets were the only ones that don't have any closures on them
      • Organics bag will easily take a most of your stuff in it's big pocket
      • Practical Climbing's bag won't take Noodles new iPhone in the webbing pocket but it fits nicely in the zip up pockets (nice heavy duty zip here, keeps the chalk out quite well) You'll have trouble packing snacks into the zip up pocket but keys, phone, tape and wallet isn't a problem
      • V Lines bag only has one velcro pockets on its backside, once you chuck a phone, roll of tape and your keys you'll be squeezed to put much more in there
  • Additional features 
    • All of the bags have carry handles the stand out for handles is the offset handle on the V Line bag, all of the draw strings have sprung loop sliders so you can close them as tightly as needed.
    • The Black Diamond has a pocket that can be used for change (or a larger brush) on the inside

So here you go, the below image is a table of the prices, features and what we found out about the bags as we used them for a two week period (Although the bags have been around much longer than just a one week trip).

 Click image for larger

Well here's the meat of the review, what would we do with these bags? Would we take it Deep Water Soloing? Is it pimp? Which one will probably last the longest?

  • Best For Deep Water Soloing: Organic, because it will dry out the quickest
  • Best For The Environment: DZ Artworks as it's 100% recycled & Practical Chalk Bags
  • Most Chalk: Metolius, and it'll carry some extra gear as well
  • Best Closure: Asana, this thing doesn't throw chalk everywhere
  • Best Stitching: This is a four way tie between Organic / Asana / VLINE and BA Gear
  • Best Looking: This is a personal one, most people agreed that the Asana and the BA Gear bags were the best looking, some people really liked the Organic bag and coming up from the rear Practical gets a mention because it was used as a hat (before chalk)
  • Probably going to last the longest: Well we know that the Metolius bag last forever as we've had it forever, but if we look at this new batch then most of them will be around a long time. But from the feel and the abuse we gave these bags then it's Asana / Organic / BA Gear and then the VLINE bag
  • Best Bags For Travel: Organic (as it packs down small and doesn't leak) and Asana because it doesn't leak  
  • Most Pimp: That comes down to Asana / BA Gear and V Line
  • Best Value (price): VLINE or Practical Climbing
And here's the one that you've all been waiting for.... what bag would we recommend that you buy? Of course it really depends upon your needs, do you want lots of chalk and brushes?, do you want easy access to your phone and snacks? For us, at Climbingholdreview it's a pretty simple choice... but it was a really close run between this bucket and the Organic bucket; there was just one vote in it!!
 Organic Climbing:
Black Diamond:

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