The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of outdoor gear

Friction Labs Secret Stuff Review

When you need all the friction you can get, this chalk cream delivers.
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Price:  $19 List | $19.00 at REI
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Great Coverage, Excellent friction, almost no dust
Cons:  Not a great value
Manufacturer:   Friction Labs
By Matt Bento ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Mar 29, 2019
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75
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#5 of 8
  • Friction & Overall Feel - 25% 8
  • Coverage - 25% 9
  • Mess - 25% 9
  • Value - 25% 4

Our Verdict

For climbers looking for that little extra something to help them perform their best, there's Friction Labs Secret Stuff, a liquid chalk that finds its way into to every crevice and wrinkle in your hands, potentially making the difference between frustrating failure and glorious sending. For humid conditions, it's great to have a tube of Secret Stuff in your kit. It's also the most expensive chalk in our review, and if liquid chalk is your jam, the Mammut Liquid Chalk is a much better value.


Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards  Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Best Buy Award  
Price $19.00 at REI
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$4.09 at Backcountry
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$12.95 at Amazon$3.34 at Backcountry
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$4.95 at Backcountry
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Pros Great Coverage, Excellent friction, almost no dustWidely available, good texture and friction, nice priceExcellent value, good friction and coverageCoats hands well, least expensive "climbing specific" chalkConsistent texture bag after bag, great friction
Cons Not a great valueEasy to spill, creates a lot of dustUnusable if you have cuts and abrasions on your handsLow friction, doesn't last as long as other chalks.Expensive
Bottom Line When you need all the friction you can get, this chalk cream delivers.No bells and whistles with White Gold. This magnesium carbonite keeps your hands dry without costing an arm and a leg.This liquid chalk lets you apply a solid base layer of chalk on your hands without creating a cloud of dust.This chalk is the most cost effective way to keep your hands dry.Friction Labs obviously goes the extra mile to ensure a consistent and quality product.
Rating Categories Friction Labs Secret Stuff Black Diamond White Gold Mammut Liquid Chalk Metolius Super Chalk Friction Labs Gorilla Grip
Friction & Overall Feel (25%)
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Specs Friction Labs... Black Diamond... Mammut Liquid Chalk Metolius Super Chalk Friction Labs...
Resealable Packaging? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Price Per oz $7.60/oz $1.03/oz $1.94/oz $0.80/oz $2.50/oz
Type Liquid Loose Liquid Loose Loose
Drying Additive No No No Yes No

Our Analysis and Test Results

While there are some subtle differences in texture between the liquid chalks we tested, we didn't experience a noticeable difference in performance. It's worth noting that liquid chalk creates the least amount of dust in the air, so if you are sensitive to particulates in the air and you train in a small home set up, liquid chalk may be your best option. It creates substantially less dust than loose chalk and chalk balls.

Performance Comparison


Mmmm Creme de Magnese. Friction Labs sells its chalk cream in 75ml tubes and in  small single dose packages.
Mmmm Creme de Magnese. Friction Labs sells its chalk cream in 75ml tubes and in small single dose packages.

Friction & Overall Feel


Straight out of the tube, Secret Stuff has a finer, creamier feel that Mammut liquid chalk. Think lotion, where Mammut feels like frosting. This is in part from whatever chalk-to-alcohol ratio Friction Labs uses in their mix, and also from the fact that they use a finer textured chalk than the Mammut. Does this make Secret Stuff a better performer? Well…The majority of our testers didn't notice one liquid chalk having any advantages over another until they looked at the price. In short, once the Secret Stuff dries, its texture is closer to powder, and the Mammut Liquid Chalk is more granular.

Once dry  this chalk has a finer texture than Mammut Liquid Chalk.
Once dry, this chalk has a finer texture than Mammut Liquid Chalk.

Coverage


After rubbing your hands together and letting the Secret Stuff dry, you'll find yourself with a thin, even layer of chalk covering your palms and fingers. The alcohol mixture allows you to rub the chalk in deep, so it sticks to your hands better than when you dip into a bag of loose chalk. Most aficionados of liquid chalk aren't re-applying liquid chalk every time they need do chalk up since each time you have to wait for it to dry. More practical is to apply it as a base at the beginning of your session, and then maybe re-up again later in the day.

A thin layer of this stuff will help loose chalk stick to your hands better through your climbing session.
A thin layer of this stuff will help loose chalk stick to your hands better through your climbing session.

Mess


Liquid chalk makes for a pretty tidy operation, as it creates very little dust. If it gets into your clothes or carpet, it's harder get out than loose chalk, but as long as you give it time to dry, it's overall the cleanest way to get chalk on your hands. Folks who can't be bothered to wait for the liquid chalk to dry (read: children) should not use this product.

Easy  mess free application is an attractive quality for this chalk cream. Make sure you always seel the container tightly  or it will clog with dry chalk.
Easy, mess free application is an attractive quality for this chalk cream. Make sure you always seel the container tightly, or it will clog with dry chalk.

Value


A 75-ml bottle of Secret Stuff costs $19, where a 200-ml tube of Mammut Liquid Chalk is $12.95. No competition here in terms of value. The frugal climber should choose the Mammut variety, and honestly, we didn't experience much of a difference in performance between the two.

Best Applications


Serious boulderers and sport climbers whose idea of fun involves falling off the same low-percentage move over and over again are always looking for that extra edge to help them succeed and for many, liquid chalk is a vital tool in the toolbox. Trad climbers on long routes will be happy with just their chalk bag. If your life goal involves a tenuous stemming corner five pitches up and 6 miles out in the backcountry, Friction Labs sells Secret Stuff in 1-ounce disposable singles, making it harder to blame your devastating failures on sweaty hands.

Conclusion


A tube of Friction Labs Secret Stuff is a handy tool to have around for humid conditions or if you have especially greasy mitts. Keep in mind that the combo of evaporating alcohol and fine chalk powder is an extremely effective drying agent, so folks with dry, cracked hands need not apply.


Matt Bento