Most of the things which just do not work do, in fact, work great somewhere just not where you are.

For example, audiophile hifi gear is hugely a product of studio engineers in places like the BBC trying to get perfect sound reproduction for their jobs. They’re handbuilding speakers for work in the 1970s, then going on to sell them (Spendor!). Then that kind of gear becomes a status symbol, like the Top Gear guys are with cars: if you have disposable income and want to show you love music like the professionals do, you buy a hifi. The buyers are not audio professionals, they can’t really tell when they are being sold inferior products with good marketing, so the entire arena fills with expensive crap, bringing the very concept of “audiophila” into severe disrepute.


Same thing with expensive watches: military chronographs were mission critical equipment in WW2 because radio equipment was too bulky, insecure and flaky to use for synchronizing many operations. After the war, former military pilots, divers and commandos wore those watches, and they became known as a piece of equipment that serious people have. Then a lot of other people bought them, and you wind up with forty thousand dollar rolexes.

Goretex works pretty well for climbing everest. Can you fill in the gaps here yourself?

An enormous amount of our stupid consumption comes from taking yesterday’s expert equipment, and poorly copying it for a mass market that wants to look good, but does not actually know what those experts know, or do what those experts did. The gear does not work out of context. Some people call this cargo culting.


And now, a few things which are overrated and do not work.


  1. Gore-tex, and in fact the whole “base layer, mid layer, shell” philosophy.
    Why it doesn’t work: mountaineers are in incredibly cold (and therefore dry) places at high altitude where sweat evaporates almost immediately. The gear is evolved for those conditions, not bicycling through muggy drizzle in Surbiton. Nearly anything will work if you are strolling, but exercise past that, goretex usually leaves you wet from your own sweat.

    About the only time I’ve seen base-mid-shell work properly is when I was doing stuff in Finland in winter: dry-cold. The bleeding edge military equipment designers work with four climates (hot dry, hot wet, freezing dry, cold wet), and focus on fast-drying, not staying dry: the assumption is that whatever you are wearing will soak through with sweat when you are running for your life away from incoming mortar fire, and it better dry quickly while you huddle in a crater waiting for the next chance to run, or you’ll freeze.

    What does keep you warm and dry?
    Synthetic down” puff jackets worn over some sort of wicking base layer, probably merino wool. They’re fairly water repellent, but if you get wet, you don’t get cold because they stay insulating, and your body heat will dry them out pretty quickly. A lower tech approach is big thick wooly jumpers, but you’ll want that military poncho in the event of a total downpour in either case. And a hat. I learned this approach from Wiggy’s who specialize in a super water repellent insulation called “Lamelite” which retains essentially zero moisture, so dries instantly. It is uncanny. It’s a crying shame this technology didn’t become the standard for outdoor gear. 
  2. Audiophillia
    By the time you are old enough to afford it, you can’t hear it.

    Human hearing tails off at the high end quite quickly after 40, and often before that if you like loud music or play music. Basically a mug’s game, which is why they hate A/B testing. For practically everybody, powered studio monitors are the speakers you want. You can still pay more than you should even inside of this category, but because it’s made for audio professionals, they can’t get away with telling people that gold plated screws improve audio quality. However, pretty much all battery powered bluetooth audio devices are shit, and bluetooth itself is pretty shit, and noise cancelling headphones have poor sound quality compared to the same price point without noise cancelling (unsurprisingly) so most people younger than 30 have never actually heard music. You can tell that by what they listen to (i.e. the death of classical music.)

    The “goldilocks zone” for audio quality is powered studio monitors between $200 and $500 for almost everybody. Spend no more. Plug them into any vaguely decent audio interface (focusrite anything) and you’ll be right. 

All manner of “won’t damage your wall” sticky stuff
Blue tac, white tac, removable sticky dots, post-it note whiteboards, you name it: if it promises not to damage your walls when you take it off, it lies like a rug. 3M “command” stuff? Stick it on glass, be left with a mess that solvents can’t shift. The answer is nails/thumbtacks, and carefully applied filler after the fact. I am convinced of this.