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REVIEW: Friction Labs Secret Stuff & Secret Stuff AF

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 UKC Gear 22 May 2020
Secret Stuff makes a massive difference in higher humidity conditions

Team Sky built their cycling success around making marginal gains, and Friction Labs Secret Stuff liquid chalk does much the same for the climber, reckons Rob Greenwood.



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 1poundSOCKS 22 May 2020
In reply to UKC Gear:

I find liquid chalk makes a huge difference to how much my hands sweat, even on trad. It's so much more effective than just loose chalk. I haven't noticed a huge difference between Friction Labs, DMM and Rock Technologies but it's hard to compare when I've used them pretty much at random on different rock types, and in varying conditions.

Climbed a few polished grit cracks yesterday in the sun and smeared it on the back of my hands too. Worked really well.

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 geordiepie 22 May 2020
In reply to 1poundSOCKS:

Comes in a lovely plastic container that’ll get chucked in the bin or sent abroad to be “recycled”.

Think whether you REALLY need this before you buy it (the answer is always no)

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 1poundSOCKS 22 May 2020
In reply to geordiepie:

What an odd post.

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In reply to UKC Gear:

> Team Sky built their cycling success around making marginal gains,

> Read more

and the possibly not-so-marginal gains of associating with ex-dopers, undisclosed medication in jiffy bags, and excessive asthma medication... and that's just the stuff the public know about! 

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In reply to UKC Gear:

Well I guessed completely wrong.  Apparently AF stands for Alcohol Free...

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 UKB Shark 23 May 2020
In reply to UKC Gear:

One thing to remember is to always shake the tube before use as the alcohol separates out.

Twice now I’ve squeezed it and just alcohol came out rendering the remaining contents useless. Expensive error. 

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 geordiepie 23 May 2020
In reply to 1poundSOCKS:

Really? I think it’s odd that more people don’t think about stuff like that.

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 1poundSOCKS 23 May 2020
In reply to geordiepie:

> Really? I think it’s odd that more people don’t think about stuff like that.

People think about stuff like that all the time. They just don't get all preachy on the Internet about trivial concerns like liquid chalk bottles.

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In reply to UKB Shark:

I did the same with really nice expensive bike lubricant... I now have a nice big spray can of Teflon without any propellant in it... :-/

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 Arms Cliff 23 May 2020
In reply to UKB Shark:

You could pour some more alcohol in there to remix with the chalk? 

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 UKB Shark 23 May 2020
In reply to Arms Cliff:

> You could pour some more alcohol in there to remix with the chalk? 

I’ll give it a go. Vodka or gin? ;-)

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 Arms Cliff 23 May 2020
In reply to UKB Shark:

Maybe some scotch for a nice peaty fragrance? 

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 Jenny C 23 May 2020
In reply to geordiepie:

Sadly in the last 3 months I think most of us have put aside their concerns about reducing plastic. Hopfully once things return to normal the BBC can schedule a rerun of blue planet 2 to rekindle people's focus.

I believe the appeal of liquid chalk is the potential to make it 70% alcohol so as to act as an improvised hand Sanitiser. Not 100% convinced given that hand Sanitiser only works on clean hands, but putting that aside if it makes the return to climbing safer and helps to reopen the climbing walls and save jobs guess it's a good thing.

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In reply to UKC Gear:

Climbers suckered in by the cosmetics industry. 

This stuff looks like it should be sold by one of those "scientists" one meets on the ground floor of department stores. You know the ones, lab coat, peroxide hair and orange skin. 

Perfectly serviceable liquid chalk can be made by mixing chalk and hand sanitiser for a fraction of the cost. 

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In reply to geordiepie:

> Comes in a lovely plastic container that’ll get chucked in the bin or sent abroad to be “recycled”.

> Think whether you REALLY need this before you buy it (the answer is always no)

Whilst I applaud the point you're trying to make, and for what it's worth I agree, if you take a quick look at the products that are likely within your kitchen and bathroom alone I suspect this would make the current set of circumstances look pretty insignificant. When you scale this up to the level of the food you're eating on a daily basis being bought within plastic packaging it takes it to the next level.

This isn't to say that it doesn't matter, because it clearly does - it's more just that a certain sense of perspective is required. If buying this is the environmentally most guilty thing you've done all year then you are likely to be a saint...

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In reply to thebigfriendlymoose:

In the absence of doubt, I'd just like to confirm that I haven't yet resorted to doping and/or blood transfusions (yet); however, it's early days in my current comeback so watch this space...

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In reply to Presley Whippet:

Presley, if there's one user on site that I knew would never be convinced by this product (or this review) it is you...

I don't want to spoil the surprise, but this isn't what I'll be buying you for Christmas this year

Post edited at 19:16
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In reply to Rob Greenwood - UKClimbing:

Aww, thanks treacle. 

To be fair, I am convinced by liquid chalk. I find it particularly helpful when euro clipping, and can see the benefits for bouldering. It is the premium, designer nature that I find unnecessary. 

Will secret stuff Mark 2 be chemical free and contain essential oils. I do hope so. 

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In reply to Presley Whippet:

> Will secret stuff Mark 2 be chemical free and contain essential oils. I do hope so. 

Funnily enough I did get given one type of chalk that had some sort of mint/menthol component to it which apparently cooled your fingertips. It didn’t, it just stank 😂

I also got given another variety which had cumin seeds in it (or was it cloves - I forget...). I can’t remember the supposed benefit because - at least from what I could tell - there wasn’t one. 

Cant fault you for being cynical of marketing, it’s probably a healthy trait to have tbh...

Post edited at 20:34
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 1poundSOCKS 23 May 2020
In reply to Jenny C:

> I believe the appeal of liquid chalk is the potential to make it 70% alcohol so as to act as an improvised hand Sanitiser.

From what I've observed it was fairly popular pre-pandemic, and seemed to be getting more so. I don't know if that's accelerated due to recent events but I wouldn't be surprised.

But I was told it wasn't effective as a hand sanitiser. Not sure if that's accurate, I don't use it for that reason.

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 Jenny C 23 May 2020
In reply to 1poundSOCKS:

Several brands have upped the alcohol content to 70% in response to the current situation, as that is what's recommended as the minium for a Sanitiser.

TBH given how much standard Sanitiser has knackered up my skin I don't think I need it to have added chalk.

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 1poundSOCKS 23 May 2020
In reply to Jenny C:

> Several brands have upped the alcohol content to 70% in response to the current situation, as that is what's recommended as the minium for a Sanitiser.

I was told it wasn't effective even then. Maybe it's not just the alcohol that's important?

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 dranoel 24 May 2020
In reply to UKC Gear:

"it's going to buy you a few more moves". Really?! You can make that statement without providing any data or evidence of testing across a sample set of climbers. This is just shameless marketing.

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 Qwerty2019 24 May 2020
In reply to UKC Gear:

One of the benefits of liquid chalk that hasn’t been mentioned here yet has become abundantly clear to us within a couple of sessions using it.  My daughter is using Mantle Liquid chalk which has over 70% alcohol content.  Very impressed with it without trying to sound like an advert.

As lots of people are climbing on home boards inside garages etc the use of normal chalk is like climbing in a snow storm for us.  The liquid chalk has really improved the air quality for us.  We make sure she washes her hands after each session and so far zero reaction to her young skin.

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In reply to dranoel:

It's a review, not a scientific experiment - hence a summary of experience, not an empirical test.

As for whether or not I can say this, I can; whether or not it's actually true it clearly subjective, but I'm certainly not in isolation experiencing this. Shark, for instance, has clearly opted to use this over the various competitor products that are out there. Why? The same reason as why I'm still using it: because it works...

When it comes to the accusation of shameless marketing, it's up to the brand's what they choose to say about a product, but it's entirely up to us what we say within our review of it. I've given negative reviews before and I'll give them again, but only when there's a genuinely poor product or a negative outcome through using it. 

Post edited at 08:50
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 misterb 24 May 2020
In reply to dranoel:

It really does buy you a few more moves..

A few more moves without chalking up!

It is pretty much indisputable that your hands sweat marginally less when you apply it, it doesn't last long but it definitely works

As to the performance benefit, while it doesn't make you stronger,  being able to hold the hold with less effort due to better friction means that you can climb a little further in my opinion

The biggest benefit I think it's that using it infrequently throughout a session seems to reduce the wear on the skin due to my hands moving less on the holds

The brand stuff is all a bit of marketing I think, I have tried them all with no apparent difference but I chalk over the top once it's dry so maybe if you used it independently you might notice something

I like the dry5 one as it's the cheapest and driest feel, it doesn't say the level of alcohol in it in the bottle but it does have a flammable symbol on it

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 geordiepie 25 May 2020
In reply to Rob Greenwood - UKClimbing:

Your point seems to be that it doesn’t matter because we’ve already got plastic stuff in the food cupboard or bathroom.

Last time I checked food and a many toiletries were essential items.....liquid chalk is definitely not.

Climbing and the outdoors generates a lot of unnecessary waste so thinking about what you buy is important. Maybe UKC could include a section at the bottom of all reviews on the environmental impact of the product. Would at least inform decision making.

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 AJM 25 May 2020
In reply to geordiepie:

Why climb at all? Logically, it's inessential, usually quite petrol consumptive, and the Hardwear is either plastic or metal neither of which win environmental top trumps... 

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 geordiepie 25 May 2020
In reply to 1poundSOCKS:

> > Really? I think it’s odd that more people don’t think about stuff like that.

> People think about stuff like that all the time. They just don't get all preachy on the Internet about trivial concerns like liquid chalk bottles.

Thanks for highlighting my point better than I could have......

The fact that you think the “trivial concern” is the environmental impact says a lot about attitudes towards this. Personally I’d say the trivial concern is whether you fall off your latest project.

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 geordiepie 25 May 2020
In reply to AJM:

Yes so making decisions is important. If we’re going to go climbing then a plastic helmet is probably essential....liquid chalk is not.

its about reducing waste where we can not stopping completely

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 1poundSOCKS 25 May 2020
In reply to geordiepie:

> The fact that you think the “trivial concern” is the environmental impact says a lot about attitudes towards this.

Feel free to produce some environmental stats on liquid chalk use compared to the environmental effect of everything else we do and prove me wrong?

It's hard to believe anyone would estimate it to be anything other than trivial and I think you might have a bee in you bonnet about liquid chalk, or perhaps about the types who use it.

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 geordiepie 25 May 2020
In reply to 1poundSOCKS:

You’re completely missing the point. It’s not about comparing it to other things we do. It’s about whether this product is wasteful and the answer is yes given that

a) you can climb without it perfectly well

b) we already have chalk blocks that come in paper

Yes in reality liquid chalk is only trivial....but how many trivial things make up a massive issue?

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 AJM 25 May 2020
In reply to geordiepie:

But you could reduce your footprint by stopping entirely. Saying that climbing is essential enough to justify the plastic consunption and that therefore helmets are essential is an entirely arbitrary dividing line. 

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 1poundSOCKS 25 May 2020
In reply to geordiepie:

> You’re completely missing the point.

The point is you're evaluating based on 'need'. We don't 'need' to climb any more than we 'need' to buy liquid chalk. We don't 'need' to buy food wrapped in plastic even though we obviously 'need' food. We don't 'need' to do many things that have an environmental impact.

So I'm afraid you do need to accept it's subjective and therefore must be compared to other things.

> b) we already have chalk blocks that come in paper

And that doesn't have an environmental cost? You don't 'need' it anymore than liquid chalk.

> Yes in reality liquid chalk is only trivial

Err, didn't you just criticise my attitude to the environment for calling it trivial?

> but how many trivial things make up a massive issue?

How about looking the big picture and the big contributors. I would guess on average each year I get through 1 bottle of liquid chalk. Put that next to everything else and it really isn't worth worrying about.

Post edited at 11:01
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 geordiepie 25 May 2020
In reply to 1poundSOCKS:

> The point is you're evaluating based on 'need'. We don't 'need' to climb any more than we 'need' to buy liquid chalk. We don't 'need' to buy food wrapped in plastic even though we obviously 'need' food. We don't 'need' to do many things that have an environmental impact.

Need is not binary. The need for food is much greater than the need for messing about at a crag or wall. Within climbing the need for safety e.g. wearing a helmet is much greater than the need to have slightly less sweaty hands. You need to asses the need vs the impact of doing whatever it is your doing.

> So I'm afraid you do need to accept it's subjective and therefore must be compared to other things.

No it’s perfectly possible to assess the impact of an individual product in isolation. 

> And that doesn't have an environmental cost? You don't 'need' it anymore than liquid chalk.

Again environmental cost isn’t binary there are degrees. A paper wrapper has less impact than a single use plastic container.

> Err, didn't you just criticise my attitude to the environment for calling it trivial?

Yes I did.

> How about looking the big picture and the big contributors. I would guess on average each year I get through 1 bottle of liquid chalk. Put that next to everything else and it really isn't worth worrying about

Or maybe look at everything no matter how small and factor in the environment in all decisions.

I’ve no idea how many plastic containers of liquid chalk have been produced since it was invented but I bet a good proportion of them will be sitting in the ground for the next 700 years or so. Seems a bit daft just to have dry hands.

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 1poundSOCKS 25 May 2020
In reply to geordiepie:

> The need for food is much greater than the need for messing about at a crag or wall.

I would say the need for plastic wrapped food is zero. Same as liquid chalk.

> Within climbing the need for safety e.g. wearing a helmet is much greater than the need to have slightly less sweaty hands.

You've not explained the 'need' to climb at all?

> No it’s perfectly possible to assess the impact of an individual product in isolation. 

If you want to lessen your environmental impact and live a more fulfilling life than just eating and sleeping it must be compared. Otherwise you'll end up making large sacrifices that have a low environmental cost and ignoring small sacrifices that could have a large environmental cost.

> A paper wrapper has less impact than a single use plastic container.

You appear to have set an arbitrary bar, whereby block chalk is justifiable as you obviously feel you need it, and liquid chalk isn't justifiable because I don't need it.

> Yes I did.

Doesn't really explain why you criticise me for saying something you agree with, as you then said it yourself?

> I’ve no idea how many plastic containers of liquid chalk have been produced since it was invented but I bet a good proportion of them will be sitting in the ground for the next 700 years or so. Seems a bit daft just to have dry hands.

The whole production, including packing in plastic or paper, and shipping of any chalk just to keep your hands dry, could be seen as daft. Same as putting on a plastic helmet and choosing to climb up a rock face the hardest way you can manage. That's not a convincing argument as you can apply it to so many things.

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 geordiepie 25 May 2020
In reply to 1poundSOCKS:

In summary then.....


Your argument boils down to that the environmental impact is acceptable because it’s small scale and other things are worse. 

My argument boils down to that it’s wasteful because we can climb without it and we already have an alternative with a lower environmental impact.

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 1poundSOCKS 25 May 2020
In reply to geordiepie:

My argument is look at your overall impact and if you're going make changes, make an informed decision by comparing things. Other things are so much worse, I could eat a bit less packaged food every week, keep using liquid chalk and have a bigger effect on the environment.

You seem to be saying ditch liquid chalk because it's worse than normal chalk. Even though you haven't actually considered it might cut down on normal chalk use so might not be quite as bad as you're saying. And you've tried to exclude everything else from the debate because you don't like liquid chalk for some reason, so everybody else should live without it.

Why focus on just chalk comparison? If you accept we're all going to have a few luxuries, why can't we have liquid chalk? 

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In reply to geordiepie:

As per my original message, I agree with the sentiment you are trying to make and at no point did I say it didn't matter (because it does).

The point I was trying to make is that if you want to make an actual difference, maybe liquid chalk isn't the place to start. In comparison to amount of plastic packaging used throughout many other food items that we ultimately eat, then dispose of, I would strongly suggest changing other buying habits first. Same goes for kitchen and toiletries: move from bottled shower gel to soap and start refilling your ecover as opposed to buying a fresh fairy - those are things that would actually make a difference.

That said, you are quite right - liquid chalk is indeed a luxury; however, so is chalk generally. You don't need it to climb, you use it to enhance your performance and grade (and that is by no means necessary). It's mined out of the ground + shipped worldwide, often in plastic packaging - so what's the difference? Answer: there isn't one, and if you've got a problem with chalk in liquid form then you probably shouldn't be using it in loose or ball form either.

At the end of the day it comes down to personal choice, much like other environmental considerations such as eating meat and flying. We all try and pick our way through it with transgressions here and there - none of us are guilt free. If chalk is your worst, I once-again applaud your efforts.

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In reply to 1poundSOCKS:

Only read your last comment after I wrote mine, but it would appear we're both making the same point.

Post edited at 09:00
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 cpowell 26 May 2020
In reply to Rob Greenwood - UKClimbing:

Going from plastic packaged liquid chalk to paper wrapped block chalk is literally one of the best ways to help reduce your environmental impact - you are swapping out a petrochemical container to a paper wrapping whilst making the smallest impact to the product's end goal, namely dry hands.
 

I'm not anti plastic by the way, for example plastic packaging of food *can* be beneficial, if it reduces the amount of food waste by prolonging shelf life, as the environmental impact of waste food may be larger than thr environmental impact of the plastic container.

Imagine how great it would be if it was this easy to make sustainable choices in all areas of our lives? If we had the option to fly somewhere, which maybe cost 1% more or took 1% longer, but used far fewer petrochemicals, or if we had a beef substitute which tasted and smelt 99% as good but again, had a major reduction in CO2 output. Why wouldn't you make that choice?

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 1poundSOCKS 27 May 2020
In reply to cpowell:

> Going from plastic packaged liquid chalk to paper wrapped block chalk is literally one of the best ways to help reduce your environmental impact

Some figures would be good to back that up? I use such a tiny amount compared to food packaging, diesel for my van (mainly driving to the crag) as examples, I find it really hard to believe it is anything close to be best way.

> If we had the option to fly somewhere, which maybe cost 1% more or took 1% longer, but used far fewer petrochemicals, or if we had a beef substitute which tasted and smelt 99% as good but again, had a major reduction in CO2 output. Why wouldn't you make that choice?

You seem to implying that liquid chalk is 1% better than normal chalk?

Post edited at 14:30
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 cpowell 27 May 2020
In reply to 1poundSOCKS:

> Some figures would be good to back that up? I use such a tiny amount compared to food packaging, diesel for my van (mainly driving to the crag) as examples, I find it really hard to believe it is anything close to be best way.

We have different meanings of best, you are saying best as in largest impact to CO2 output, I'm saying best as in a choice that hardly changes how I live my live, but has a positive impact on the enviroment.

Most of the time considering environmental impact and acting on it limits our choices, choice A may get you more of what you want than B, but choice B is better for the environment, which do you choose? For example, you are concerned about the amount of diesel you burn so choose to limit your visits to the crag.  If that was not a concern you may go climbing more or visit newer, further destinations. You probably compromise between the two, but environmental concerns are impacting how you go about living your life.

Most of the time considering the environment and modifying your behaviour is hard, because the environmental choice has penalties elsewhere - that ground source heat pump which replaces your oil boiler is great but costs £30K, flying less means fewer sun soaked winter climbing trips, cutting beef out your diet means fewer steaks and burgers (assuming you enjoy meat eating).

Sometimes however, choice A and choice B have the same outcome, but one is better for the environment than the other. Maybe there are other factors such as time or money, e.g. walking to Spain to go climbing does get you there eventually, but in this case, where block chalk is cheaper and only slightly less convenient, there does not seem to be a major downside.

So it may not make the largest impact, but it is pretty hassle free as far as making it - apart from liquid chalk being marginally better, and we are talking marginal here, what is the downside with the clear upside being less plastic packaging?

> You seem to implying that liquid chalk is 1% better than normal chalk?

A number plucked out of thin air, but we are talking marginal gains here.  I have used both liquid and normal chalk, in both cases before I had sweaty hands, at the end they were dry, both did the job fine. I doubt liquid vs block chalk will improve my climbing by over 1%.

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 1poundSOCKS 27 May 2020
In reply to cpowell:

> We have different meanings of best, you are saying best as in largest impact to CO2 output, I'm saying best as in a choice that hardly changes how I live my live, but has a positive impact on the enviroment.

Sounds like word play to me. "One of the best ways to reduce your environmental impact" could be something that has a trivial positive impact on the actual environment compared to the rest of the things we consume. Really?

I think your definition would confuse people. If you're going to list the best ways to save the environment it would make perfect sense for the actual environmental impact to be a big contributor to the ranking.

I would argue switching from hand wash to soap, or from washing liquid to powder would have a far bigger positive effect on the environment, and I'd rather keep the liquid chalk if I was given a choice.

> apart from liquid chalk being marginally better, and we are talking marginal here

Nonsense. It's not even fixed. Sometimes I find using any type of chalk is useless so I don't bother. Under other conditions it can make a huge difference.

Why not just accept some people don't find much benefit and some people find it hugely beneficial? Factor in the trivial environmental impact (which I think most people are conceding) and the environmental argument seems absurd.

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 SDM 27 May 2020
In reply to cpowell:

> Going from plastic packaged liquid chalk to paper wrapped block chalk is literally one of the best ways to help reduce your environmental impact - you are swapping out a petrochemical container to a paper wrapping whilst making the smallest impact to the product's end goal, namely dry hands.

> I'm not anti plastic by the way, for example plastic packaging of food *can* be beneficial, if it reduces the amount of food waste by prolonging shelf life, as the environmental impact of waste food may be larger than thr environmental impact of the plastic container.

> Imagine how great it would be if it was this easy to make sustainable choices in all areas of our lives? If we had the option to fly somewhere, which maybe cost 1% more or took 1% longer, but used far fewer petrochemicals, or if we had a beef substitute which tasted and smelt 99% as good but again, had a major reduction in CO2 output. Why wouldn't you make that choice?

Packaging is not the only aspect of chalk's environmental impact. The mining and all of the processing to turn the magnesite in to climbing chalk have a big environmental cost too. And liquid chalk lasts significantly longer than the same amount of chalk as a block, reducing the amount of chalk that has to be mined.

You have to look at the entire supply chain to know the overall environmental impact. I don't think I have enough information to know which has the biggest impact overall.

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 Toerag 27 May 2020
In reply to UKC Gear:

For me the big benefit of liquid chalk is that it gets in the gaps between your fingers and the centre of your palms which seem to sweat more than the pads of your digits.  I often find myself chalking up on routes because I can feel my hands sweating, yet when I look it's those places and not the gripping surfaces that are sweaty.  Liquid chalk reduces that unnecessary chalking up.  I only use it at the start of a session and it generally lasts well enough whilst using a chalkball.  I think liquid chalk & chalkballs should be compulsory at indoor walls to reduce the dust problem.

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