Antagonist training: Exercises for boulderers and climbers

9. Mai 2018
Tips and Tricks

„It’s annoying, doesn’t really look all that cool and is quite frankly incredibly boring…Yep, you guessed it. We’re talking about antagonist training. And, I’m speaking from experience – awful experience. Don’t get me wrong, I love everything about bouldering: the planning, the challenge of problem solving and the variety of movements. Everything. It just has so much to offer. And, I think I speak for a lot of us when I say that. But, antagonist training? Ugh. Ok, ok. I admit, it’s not as bad as I am making it out to be. Antagonist training really doesn’t deserve all the flak I and many others give it. After all, it benefits boulderers in so many ways, helping us to boulder efficiently and injury-free for a very long time.

Another important benefit from this type of training is that it helps rid ourselves of any imbalances, which can lead to poor posture and in turn to an increased risk of injury. A well-known example of this are those extremely strong boulderers with rounded, turned-in gorilla-like shoulders. Ever seen those before? It may come as a surprise, but even these mounds of muscle have deficits and imbalances of their own. Who would have thought?!

What is antagonist training, anyway?

The word „antagonist“ may be unfamiliar to some of you, so here’s a short explanation: Where there are antagonists, there are agonists. Basically, all this means is that you are alternating exercises to target opposing muscle groups. Here’s an example:

To bend your arm, you need your killer biceps brachii muscle, but to stretch it out, you need the trifecta: the triceps brachii muscle. In this case, your biceps would be the agonist and the triceps the antagonist. Easy right? Well, not exactly. Every muscle can be an agonist or an antagonist. For example, if you finish with a mantel move at the top of a boulder, it would be the other way around. The triceps would be the agonist, pushing up the body, and the biceps the antagonist.

Bouldering forces you to use certain muscles more frequently and intensively than others, making the ones you use the agonists and the one’s you’re not antagonists. Because of the neglect the poor antagonists suffer, they’re not as well trained and thus weaker. And believe you me: this neglect will eventually come back to haunt you in some way or another. I warned you!

Ignorance doesn’t help here, either – it can affect anyone. The revenge of the antagonists (sounds like a good movie, doesn’t it?) can rear its ugly head in the form of tense muscles or even more severe injuries, which could side-line you for weeks or even months. And none of us want that. That said, it’s better to take precautions instead of dragging your feet and drooling over your favourite boulders from afar!

In the 10 years I’ve been climbing and bouldering, I’ve been fortunate enough to have never really been seriously injured, but I have had my fair share of strains and such. I’ve never had to stop completely, but the injuries did force me to slow down a bit. In the following, I would like to detail some of my little injuries and give you some tips on how to avoid them. The focus will be on the shoulders for the simple reason that muscular imbalances in this area can cause some serious injuries.

Case 1: Improving shoulder stability

I was at a qualifier for the German Championship and obviously really wanted to get to the finals. I didn’t really know how things were going and just wanted to do as much as I could in the little time that remained. Plus, it was a bonus hold, which required a dynamic move on a pretty small hold that you really had to hold on to.

And that’s exactly what I did. But, unfortunately, something in my right upper arm was not having it and let me know pretty quickly with a rather loud crunch. I’d later learn that I didn’t even need the bonus to reach the finals…C’est la vie. Anyway, I didn’t feel anything for the rest of the day, but the day after was a different story: I couldn’t move my arm a single inch without experiencing severe pain. Fortunately, after going to my physiotherapist a few times, the worst was behind me, but it took me several months to gain complete trust in my shoulder again.

My doctor had suspected it was an overuse injury that resulted in biceps tendonitis. Of course, there are several ways this can happen. In my case, it was probably due to my weak antagonist muscles.

If one muscle is stronger than the other, the shoulder will shift from its natural position, putting more strain on other areas of the body that shouldn’t be under that much stress in the first place!

Here is a list of important muscles or muscle groups that are neglected in bouldering and are responsible for shoulder stability:

  • Rotator cuff: These muscles support the arm at the shoulder joint. The rotator cuff consists of four muscles: the supraspinatus muscle, the infraspinatus muscle, the teres minor muscle and the subscapularis muscle.
    • The infraspinatus muscle
      Function: To externally rotate the humerus and stabilise the shoulder joint.
    • The teres minor muscle
      Function: To rotate the humerus laterally and modulate the action of the deltoid
  • The trapezius muscle The trapezius muscle is responsible for a lot of rotational movements of the shoulder blade, among other things.
  • The rhomboid major and rhomboid minor muscle: The rhomboid minor and major are responsible for retracting the scapula.
  • Deltoid: The deltoid is responsible for raising the upper arm and stabilising the shoulder joint. It consists of several parts.

When you consider all the functions of each of these muscles, it is not at all surprising that the shoulders lean forward when there’s an imbalance. But what can we do about it? Well, here are some exercises I do on a regular basis:

Exercises for rotator cuff:

I always use a yellow Thera-band. The resistance is completely sufficient. The starting position can be seen in the picture on the left. Move your arm outward (picture on the right) and slowly return to the starting position.

Important:

  • Keep your shoulders down
  • Keep your elbows close to your body
  • Stand straight
  • Keep your hand „“active““ and stable, i.e. spread your fingers and wrap the Thera-band in such a way that you don’t need to hold on to it.

Exercises for the adductors and shoulder stability:

Again, a light Thera-band will do the trick. Secure it slightly higher than your shoulders. If you want, you can put it up a little higher than in the picture. The starting position can be seen in the left and right-hand picture. Stand straight. Stretch out your arm, but no higher than the height of your shoulders!

The final position can be seen in the picture on the bottom left. Move your hand to your thigh, with the back of your hand pointing toward the wall. Then slowly return to the starting position.

Other positions for this exercise can be seen in the small pictures on the right. Here, too, the back of your hand should be pointing toward to the wall.

Important:

  • Keep your shoulders down
  • Your hand should only go to the middle of the thigh, otherwise your shoulders will lean forward again.

For the trapezius, deltoids and rhomboid muscles

This trapezius exercise is designed to strengthen the trapezius muscle and can be done with or without a wall. The more slanted the wall is, the harder it gets. The intensity increases with the height of your elbows on the wall. The maximum height, however, is shoulder height. Position your feet in front of the wall. Now press off the wall so that the shoulder blades are no longer touching it (green arrow). Then slowly return to the starting position. True, it’s just a tiny movement, but it’s really tough after a few reps!

Important:

  • Keep your shoulders down
  • Avoid lumbar swayback
  • Keep your palms flat and pointing down

The reverse butterfly is great for training your rear deltoids and lower trapezius. The starting position can be seen on the left or bottom left (rows). Bring your arms to your side like a T without completely straightening your elbows. Hold it for a moment and slowly return to the starting position. It is also possible to complete the T-shape along with the V-shape and the H-shape all in one set. The more inclined your stance, the harder it gets.

Important:

  • Don’t try to get momentum out of your back, this exercise is for other muscles!
  • Body tension! Don’t droop and avoid swayback.

Suspension trainer rows train the inner back, i.e., the middle and lower trapezius, along with the rear deltoids and rhomboid muscles. The starting position is the same as for the reverse butterfly, but here the arms are pulled close to the body, as can be seen in the picture in the middle.

Hold it and slowly return to the starting position. Another variation: Raise your upper arms to shoulder height. Your forearms are then at a right angle to your upper arms. Again, the more inclination, the harder it gets. If you want to increase the intensity, put your feet on a box or an exercise ball or try to press your feet against a wall.

Important:

  • Don’t try to get momentum out of your back, this exercise is for other muscles!
  • Body tension! Don’t droop and avoid swayback.

Case 2: Strengthening your fingers and wrist extensors

Elbow pain is something boulderers just can’t seem to get around. Fortunately for me, though, I have never had to deal with it before. My problem had to do with the overuse of my weaker finger or wrist extensors, which can lead to tennis elbow (which admittedly doesn’t really sound like a climbing injury, but that’s neither here nor there). These muscles are opposite the flexor muscles in the fingers, so they’re their antagonists. The flexors are obviously strong. After all, you have to be able to hold on to the holds somehow.

Once the pain is there, you should do everything in your power to ensure that it doesn’t become chronic. During the very acute phase of this injury, which fortunately only lasted about a week, I got my elbow taped, stretched it carefully, massaged it and most important of all: rested! Now, I am virtually pain-free because I’ve finally started giving my poor finger and wrist extensors the tender love and care they deserve, strengthening them with the following exercises:

For your finger and wrist extensors

For this exercise, a dumbbell is quite the useful tool. As you can see, I use a 1kg dumbbell, so you can increase the weight a bit if you’d like. But don’t add too much. You don’t want to overexert yourself. You can lay your elbow on your leg or on any surface that will allow your wrist to move freely. In the starting position, keep your wrist straight and then lift it upwards. Then slowly move it back down. That’s it! Very easy and effective, as you will notice after a few reps!

As you can see, the Thera-band is crucial to my antagonist training. For this exercise, I use a light one as well. Wrap it around your hands so that you don’t have to hold it. Then spread out your fingers like in the picture above. Then bend only your wrists outward and then slowly return to the starting position. As with the other exercises, doing multiple reps is not easy.

For the finger extensors, I also use a yellow Thera-band or one of the many other things that are available for this exercise. The movement is shown in the picture on the bottom right.

Case 3: Paying more attention to your legs

We boulderers pay little to no attention to our legs. Even though imbalances are pretty rare among the muscle groups in your legs, I still believe it is extremely important to work on them and one joint in particular.The knee.

Especially when hooking, be it heel or toe hooks, the knee is put under a lot of strain. If you’re tackling a tough project and have to hook onto the same hold over and over again, your knee might just give up, saying „Enough! You didn’t prepare me for this! I quit!“

If you’re lucky, you may just suffer a very minor injury to the lateral meniscus, but if you aren’t, you could have a tear or some other more severe knee injury. What’s my point? Well, you need to stabilise your knee! And, this is something you can achieve by doing a variety of exercises, all of which can be a lot of fun!

This is one exercise I just can’t get enough of! It stabilises the back of the knee and is kind of amusing. You don’t necessarily need a partner. You can hook your feet under something instead. It’s a very simple exercise. The starting position can be seen at the bottom left. From there, allow your upper body and thighs to lean forward in a straight line until you simply fall over. Catch yourself with your arms (bottom right) and push yourself dynamically (or statically) back up to the starting position. I’ve never not been sore after this exercise.

Other exercises for knee stability are one or two-legged squats. It’s hard to believe how complicated a perfect squat can be, but it’s true, so be sure to read up on them beforehand. You can also use balance boards and do some slacklining, which is a personal favourite of mine. Slacklining is not only good for the knees, but also for your balance. Plus, it promotes an awareness of your body.

Allow me to bring this post to a close with a little piece of wisdom: Only those who don’t get injured can boulder long and strong! True, antagonist training is not guaranteed to keep you injury-free, but it can prevent a large number of injuries.

How to set up your tarp with and (almost) without hardware

2. Mai 2018
Tips and Tricks

Tarps are extremely versatile sheets of material that you can use in various ways – be it as a sunshade, shelter for you and your gear or as a makeshift tent. The problem is: they can be quite tricky to set up, especially when you start watching all the Buschraft and survival hack videos on Youtube where the instructions are far from being comprehensible and in all actually merely based on the YouTuber’s personal preferences. If you then consult instructions provided by bloggers or the manufacturers themselves, you’ll often find them saying that the possibilities are virtually endless.

That’s all well and good, but instead of more detailed information, you usually get advice first, like decide whether your tarp should serve as a sleeping area, a briefing area, sun shade or wind protection.

But, what if I want my tarp to tick off multiple items on that list? How about you tell me which knots to use for a particular setup instead? Yeah, there’s really no end to my list of complaints, so let’s just get started, shall we?

Keep it simple

Setting up a tarp may seem daunting at first, but the good news is: All you have to do is understand the basic setup and all your remaining questions will be answered (more or less)! Once you’ve understood the basic construction, it will be relatively easy to do, even with all the variations mentioned above. Assembly and disassembly should go off without a hitch.

To keep things simple, we’d like to teach you how to set up a tarp without all the poles, pegs, guy lines and the like. That way, you won’t be completely helpless if something breaks during your holiday. Plus, you’ll be able to leave all the little metal and plastic bits at home and save some weight as well!

The basic construction

Here’s the basic construction: you have a square tarp with eyelets or the like at each of the four corners to which a long cord is attached. And a single person who sets it up. The tarp is spread out between four trees that just so happen to be standing about two metres away from the corners of the tarp. A short time later, the tarp is pulled tight between these trees, shielding you from the rain. This is the setup we’re going for.

Where to set up your tarp

The first step is to find a suitable place to set up your tarp. The same criteria apply to selecting a site for your tarp as for a tent: Find a natural windbreak and avoid water-related issues. Other than that, the site should be spacious enough for you to sit or lie down comfortably and offer enough anchor points to secure the tarp.

The site should have at least four fixed points, or one cliff edge or the like along with three other anchors. If you only have three, one corner of the tarp will always flutter in the wind and/or hang in rainwater.

It’s always better to look for a potential site in advance than to find out later you don’t have enough space to put up your tarp or that the lines are too short and you have nothing to extend them with. Which is why you should know the dimensions of your tarp and the length of the lines!

This may sound trivial, but it’s not, especially if you borrow the tarp last minute or are travelling with a friend and use your their tarp (the tarp set up with two or more people can make things easier or even super complicated – more on that later).

The setup: Spread out your materials

Once you’ve found your ideal site, spread out everything you’ll need for assembly and move anything that might get in the way off to the side.

  • Got your pegs and poles?

The best way to go about this is to make use of the things Mother Nature has to offer, especially since you can save the weight of your poles and pegs. The downside to using the little things you find along the way is that they usually don’t allow for as much flexibility as the artificial stuff. Not to mention, tent poles and pegs save you a lot of time.

When travelling in mountainous areas at higher altitudes, it can be especially hard to find suitable „tree constellations“, strong enough branches or enough heavy rocks. That being said, when planning your trip, you should definitely take the terrain into account as well. If you’ll be travelling for a longer period of time and don’t know were you’ll be setting up your tarp, you should take a set of at least one (telescoping) poles and two or three small pegs. If you have walking poles with you, you can use them as well. Pegs can be made using (sharpened) sticks and branches found in denser areas of the forest.

  • Guy lines

If you don’t have any (more) guy lines, you shouldn’t rely on the cords you’d find in a DIY or craft shop because they’re either not capable of withstanding the high stress, are often too stiff, don’t last very long or fray very quickly. Your best option is to use thin accessory cords with a 3-4 mm diameter (3mm accessory cords have about 1.8 kN or 180 kg breaking strength. Heavier loads would make the tarp itself more likely rip than the cord). These cords can be cut to the appropriate length (melt the ends with a lighter to prevent fraying).

Paracord is also supposed to be well suited for tarps, and many survivalists swear by it, but since I don’t have any experience using them, I can’t confirm that claim. Due to my lack of personal experience with Paracord, the following comparison is based on theoretical impressions only: Accessory cord is more static and has a rougher texture, which facilitates knotting and tensioning. However, opinions vary widely on this topic. My personal opinion: You probably won’t even notice the pros and cons of either one in 90% of tent configurations. If you’ve had experience with both, feel free to leave a comment below.

Spread out your tarp

Spread out the tarp and the guy lines as smoothly and neatly as possible – toward the anchors you’re going to secure them to. If it’s raining, you can already slip your backpack or other unneeded material underneath tarp to keep them dry. If it’s windy, weigh down or secure a corner of the tarp first, or even better: the entire side facing the wind.

Then lift the corners of the side facing away from the wind one after the other and secure them. Since a tarp is usually not built to withstand strong winds, it should lie relatively flat in really windy conditions. The side facing the wind should then extend all the way down to the ground to prevent the wind getting through.

Anchors

Here’s some more good news: Almost anything that has some weight to it can be used as an anchor, be it larger rocks, roots, cliff edges, fences, poles driven into the ground or even a bag filled with something heavy.

You can secure the tarp to your anchor by either tying a knot within the anchor point or by wrapping it around it and then tying a knot. Both options require knots that can be tied under tension and remain in position without slipping.

Knots

The knots you use should be as easy to tie, adjust and remove as possible. The knot you choose to use depends on the situation.

Fortunately, for most situations, there is one do-anything super-knot. With this super-knot, you can secure, adjust, move and loosen almost any rope or cord without any additional tools – even around huge anchors.

If you haven’t figured out which knot it is yet, it’s high time you acquainted yourself with the clove hitch. Most climbers and mountaineers have mastered this knot anyway, since it is used for fixed climbing anchors and crevasse rescue as well as all sorts of other situations. It can be placed directly around tree trunks, branches, stones and other anchor points.

Make sure you’ve really mastered it though, meaning you can tie it upside down, in the dark or even blindfolded. The clover hitch is the simplest knot for setting up a tarp and has the fewest weak points.

In some situations, though, tying a clove hitch can get a bit awkward. For example, when tying a line around a tree, as shown in the video, the taut line hitch knot recommended by the tarp manufacturer Hilleberg may make more sense.

It is easier to adjust and release. However, the knot shown by Hilleberg with its additional loop is actually a taut line hitch plus a loop knot. Without this extra loop, it is not easier to open than the clove hitch. And the loop must be opened to move or adjust it.

In short: the taut line hitch is best for use on lines under tension. It is great when the length of a line needs to be adjusted periodically in order to maintain tension as well.

In general, the tarp setup should be as simple as possible and require as few knots and as little material as possible – which, as was already mentioned, always constitute weak points in the structure, even though it goes without saying that extras, such as adjustable line runners, are very useful and convenient for more complex and high-quality tarps like those from Hilleberg.

One anchor point after the other

With the help of the two knots mentioned above, you can set up your tarp basically however you want and even adjust the height if necessary – pretty cool, right? As a rule of thumb: After each step, add some tension to the setup so that it can withstand gusts of wind, but leave it loose enough so that the tension doesn’t hinder your next step.

If you’ve got your line, your eyes on the anchor and have mastered the knot, the procedure is almost self-explanatory: you secure the tarp to the anchor points one after the other, adding some tension along the way before you finally pull the tarp taut to the desired angle and the correct height. The worse the weather, the lower and the flatter the tarp should be.

Setting up a tarp with walking poles

If you only have fixed points on the ground, use poles. First attach the tarp relatively loosely to the pegs or other fixed points on the ground, then slip the poles under the tarp to prop it up and get it in position. For stability and good use of space, the poles usually have to be pushed back and forth and the angle adjusted.

Drive the tips of walking poles into the ground whilst keeping the grips in close contact with the fabric of the tarp. Then make minor adjustments to the anchors on the ground by shifting the clove hitch knots. Pretty self-explanatory, one might think. Well, believe or not, some people set up the poles first and then wonder why everything collapses when they try to secure corners…

Possibilities, possibilities…

A tarp has a lot of possibilities, but here’s our short summary of what we find important :

  • When setting up your tarp, make sure that the sides are not the same height – otherwise rainwater could accumulate on the tarp. The slanted roof can be set up with the help of trees, poles or a cord stretched across. The open, unprotected side can be used for easy access to your campfire.
  • the tarp must be taut enough to avoid fluttering or „sagging“ in the wind, as rainwater could accumulate here as well.
  • if it’s going to rain, you should build a little drainage channel whilst setting up your tarp so that the water flowing down cannot get underneath the tarp.
  • (Walking) poles are very well suited for making ridges. By the way, we also recommend using another kind of mat or pad to put under your sleeping mat for protection from moisture and dirt

The ridge gives you an array of possibilities, especially if you have a larger or hexagonal tarp. It allows you to divide your tarp up into two or more „sections“. The ridge is a line formed by the surfaces at the top of the tarp, creating sloping sides to allow the water to run off and to reduce the shaking caused by strong winds.

High-quality tarps such as those from Hilleberg usually have eyelets or the like with guy lines at the corners and on the sides for more options.

First, takes the corners and add tension as you normally would. Then, pull the tarp to the desired angle and add tension to the centre of each side, and your ridge is finished. If there are no eyelets for this purpose, you can use a separate cord instead and pull it underneath the tarp along the desired line. Of course, you would need to select your anchor points for this extra line beforehand.

Setting up a tarp higher up

If you want your tarp higher up, you should ponder the following questions: Do you want to be able stand upright under the tarp and/or have enough room underneath for a fire? If the answer to these questions is a yes, then tie the end of the guy line(s) to a peg bag with some pegs in it for added weight and throw it over a high branch. Hopefully, you’ll be able to pull the bag so that you can secure the tarp using a clove hitch to another anchor point at ground level.

If you can reach the higher anchor point safely by climbing, you don’t need to worry about the second one. Alternatively, the end of the line can also be wrapped in a tree using a walking pole or branch. Try to prevent the line rubbing up against the bark – for the sake of the material and the tree.

Improvisation

If there aren’t any eyelets or the like (e.g. because they’ve been ripped), you can bunch up the material into a sausage-like shape in the appropriate place and tie it together with a square knot. You can then use the opening for your guy line. The easiest way to attach them is by tying a square knot.

If two lines have to be connected (e.g. for extra length), these can be connected with a square knot with a loop in it. With the extra loop, the knot can be released, even under heavy loads. The Hilleberg video above illustrates this very nicely. Of course, it’s always better to have a few guy lines that are long enough to suit your needs.

Taking your tarp down

Taking down your tarp is just as important as setting it up. Let’s assume the following: you’re travelling with two or more people, have a larger, hexagonal, trapezoidal or otherwise oddly shaped tarp and have to take it down in bad weather. If possible, you and your mates should know well in advance, i.e. before taking it down, how you plan on folding it, if it should be folded at all and who’s responsible for what.

If you don’t figure out everybody’s roles beforehand, you’ll end up barking orders at one another whilst getting pelted by wind and rain. And if you’re both just set in your ways, it could get ugly! In other words, plan in advance, work together and most important of all: have fun and enjoy the beauty of the great outdoors!

Material: What is carbon?

25. April 2018
Equipment

All you adventurers out there have surely heard of carbon. After all, it is used in all kinds of sports equipment and is celebrated by many a gearhead because of its lightness and stiffness (not strength!).

If you have any questions as to the reasoning behind this distinction, you should definitely read on. In this post, we’re going to take a deep dive into carbon, describing its properties, composition and advantages and disadvantages as compared to materials that tend to be cheaper, such as aluminium.

What is carbon anyway?

Lightweight carbon is a becoming more and more popular option for all kinds of sports equipment. The word carbon comes from the Latin word for coal (carbo) and refers to the chemical element carbon. Carbon is pretty important stuff. Without it, the earth would be nothing more than a rock without any biological structures – so obviously no humans either. In other words, you could consider the carbon used in our outdoor gear to be a natural material, at least if you look at it over its long process of transformation. Coal’s carbon comes from an array of different substances, but most notably from decomposed plants, from which petroleum is derived. And it is petroleum, which consists of several hydrocarbons, that serves as source material in plastic production.

Admittedly, this isn’t the whole story and really only half the truth. What we colloquially refer to as carbon actually only consists in part of the wafer-thin carbon fibres. That’s why, it would actually be more correct to say: carbon fibre reinforced polymer(CFRP). Still, this doesn’t really explain what carbon is. So, let’s get even more specific and talk about what carbon is made up of.

What is carbon made of?

For a start, allow me to mention that what we commonly referred to as carbon is a combination, with the only the fibre bit consisting of carbon and the rest of other chemicals. In other words, it’s a composite material. To make things even more complicated, composites of CFRP and GFRP are also treated as carbon. GFRP is short for “glassfibre reinforced plastic“.

The carbon fibres/glass fibres are combined with a matrix, usually a polymer resin. The matrix serves to bind the fibres together in grid-like structure and fills in the gaps. A common polymer resin is epoxy, which is a thermoset resin, which contains all sorts of chemical elements, but no carbon fibres. To put it simply, thermoset is a plastic that is not malleable after curing by means of heat and can withstand high mechanical stress.

Carbon is stiff but not necessarily high strength

Don’t worry, we’re not going to give a lecture on the science of this material, but we are going to delve just deep enough to ensure that you have a basic understanding of the properties of carbon equipment. This will then enable us to compare carbon to other materials, such as aluminium. Whilst the carbon fibres add high strength and stiffness to the composite material, the matrix prevents the fibres from shifting against each other when under stress. Since the composite material is only really stable in the direction of the fibres, the fibres are usually laid out in different directions.

These complex patterns are what gives carbon the stiffness it’s known for. Stiffness is, however, not to be confused with strength. The former describes a high resistance to (elastic) deformation – the material does not vibrate or move under increasing stress, but then breaks apart abruptly under high stress. Strength, on the other hand, is the resistance to mechanical stress. A material that is very stiff does not necessarily have to be strong, and can in fact be easily broken.

Carbon is not always carbon

Since there are various carbon composites and fibre arrangements, all of which produce different tensile, compressive, impact and breaking strengths as well as different levels of stiffness and damping properties, it is very difficult to get an idea of the exact construction and properties of the carbon used, independent of the manufacturer’s specifications.

The complicated composition of carbon not only makes it less transparent in general but also more expensive than similarly durable metals. So, why opt for carbon over aluminium, when the latter seems to have all the properties you would want? Well, when it comes to sports equipment such as walking poles, road bikes or fishing rods, you need an extremely high level of stiffness at the lowest weight possible. And here, high-quality carbon is second to none. Wait, high-quality carbon? Doesn’t that imply that there’s an inferior kind of carbon?

Low-quality carbon may be rare, but it does exist. And, contrary to popular belief, high-quality carbon doesn’t necessarily have the highest amount of carbon fibres, but the best composites in the best matrix. Here are some examples: To have a pole made of „100% carbon“ would be overkill because although it may be ultralight and stiff, it would also break quickly because of how brittle it would be.

80-90% is ideal, as it provides both stiffness and damping properties along with breaking strength. 60-70% carbon usually means an increase in weight but also more stability (and a more affordable price tag). If a pole has less than 60%, there’s really no advantage over aluminium poles in an identical or lower price range, according to experts.

However, the percentage alone does not determine the quality of a product. You’ve got to have additional information and at least some expertise in order to determine other important contributing factors. Fortunately, though, you can rely on manufacturers such as Leki or Komperdell to use high-quality materials. As long as you don’t opt for some cheap model at a random discount store, you can generally expect your poles to perform reliably in normal conditions. You’d really have to get majorly stuck between some massive rocks or roots to break a high-quality pole.

Carbon vs. aluminium

Simply put: Aluminium is harder to snap, whilst carbon is stiffer. In other words:

Aluminium vibrates under stress and is unlikely to break under high stress, whilst carbon tends to fail with jagged breaks.

In theory, the slower buckling of aluminium is less dangerous in the event of a fall. However, this only applies in situations where an average adult’s entire body weight falls abruptly on the pole. But no need to worry: As long as the walking poles aren’t some cheap knock-off, they can only snap as a result of unfortunate lateral pressure applied during uncontrolled movements on loose ground.

However, caution is advised when the poles are extended to nearly full length, especially when it comes to aluminium poles because it can have a negative effect on their stability. For this reason and because of their better shock absorption, high-quality carbon poles are recommended for Nordic walking, which is popular among heavier individuals. In general, tall or heavier outdoor enthusiasts should opt for more stable, high-quality and slightly heavier poles.

Neither is better – just different

Whilst carbon and aluminium poles have approximately the same breaking strength and stability, the carbon models have a slight advantage when it comes to their weight, namely about 10% as compared to their aluminium counterparts. And, this is reflected in their higher price. When it comes to basic models for beginners, aluminium seems to be the better option, mostly because of the lower price tag. But, these are just estimates based on the options we have available in our shop. Also: the lighter your poles are, the better the handling will be and the slower you’ll fatigue.

Another factor is water: If you consider the fact that aluminium poles tend to corrode when exposed to water and should be taken apart and dried after walks in the rain, one could think that you should opt for carbon instead. But this is not necessarily the case. Carbon is not necessarily better than aluminium. For example, alpinists who often travel on rough gravely terrain, (good) aluminium poles would be the better choice.

Since the advantages of carbon and aluminium are not mutually exclusive, several manufacturers like Leki or Black Diamond use both in the same model to achieve the perfect balance between things like stiffness and robustness.

Of course, the balance of advantages and disadvantages of carbon varies depending on the type of equipment. Because of the malleability of aluminium, carbon would be the much better option to use as a stabiliser in the sole of your ski touring boots or the upper on your cycling shoes than aluminium ever would be.
We hope this article has shed some light on carbon!

Hand and skin care for climbers

20. April 2018
Tips and Tricks

They’re the most important tools we have for climbing: Our hands. And because they’re so important, it’s crucial that we take good care of them. There are basically no calluses, scrapes, gashes, cracks or blisters a climber isn’t familiar with, and every single one of them is usually quite painful. What can you do to prevent such injuries and what’s the best way to take care of your fingers after a hard day at the crag or your local climbing centre? Well, I’m glad you asked!

What kind of injuries can you get from climbing?

A callus (or callosity) is a toughened area of skin that has become thicker because of repeated friction. This may sound bad at first, but it’s something climbers strive for. Callused skin is stronger and keeps the other layers of skin protected as well.

One downside, however, is that callused skin is less flexible, dries out more quickly because of chalk and tens to fray and rip when not cared for properly. Once a rip is there and it starts bleeding, it pains me to say that it’s time to take a break from climbing. Unfortunately, your skin needs some time to recover and it can’t do that if you keep climbing. The bit where your fingers bend on the inside of your hand is a particularly at-risk area, since calluses are often smashed together because of pressure and movement. These raised areas are particularly likely to rip.

Preventing injuries to your hands

As a general rule, it is important to make sure you have your calluses under control. The best way to do this is to file down the raised bits, like around where your fingers bend, with a file or a rasp. Ripped areas can be filed down as well as long as they aren’t bleeding. Basically, you can do this whenever you feel like it. Just be sure have a piece of sandpaper with you to treat the area in question.

The first signs that you’re getting a blister is a burning sensation and slight redness in the same area. To remedy this, it can be helpful to relieve that area of pressure, meaning stop climbing for a day or two so that your skin gets a break. Blisters can take significantly longer to heel.

Skin care plays an extremely important role in all that. Many manufacturers, such as Climb On, Metolius, Joshua Tree or KletterRetter make lotions designed specifically for climbers to give them just the right amount of moisture and/or oil to keep them smooth.

You can also prevent injuries to your hands by using the proper gripping technique. This means: Always try to position your hand on the hold so that your actively holding it and not just hoping for enough friction.

What to do when it happens

It’s hard to keep a cool head in the heat of battle, but it’s even harder to give up at the crux just because you feel like you’re getting a blister or hands are getting a bit torn up.

So, even despite your best efforts to prevent blisters and skin rips, you can still get skin injuries. However, when tend to your battle wounds, it’s important to be patient and treat them according to what type of wound it is.

  • Blisters: If you get a blister, let it heal without popping it. Yes, you heard correctly! You shouldn’t pop it because the sensitive layer of skin underneath could get infected. If the blister’s already popped, you need to disinfect it and put a plaster on it.
  • Rips and cuts: Regardless of whether your callus rips off or you cut your hand on a needle-sharp hold, it can get bloody and the best thing to do is to just stop climbing for a bit. Why? Well, every time you put more pressure or strain on the affected area, it will tear more and take longer to heal as a result. If you simply can’t go without climbing, you can use some strong tape to keep the wound together. But before doing this, do make sure to clean and disinfect it, if at all possible.
  • Punctures: These usually occur on sharp holds as a result of too much pressured being applied to your hand. These wounds are usually easy to treat. Clean, disinfect and tape it up and keep on climbing. It’s pretty unlikely they’re rip open again.

Whatever injury you’ve sustained, it’s probably a good idea to take a break, especially when it comes to deep gashes, since they can take a while to fully heal. Besides, if you start climbing too soon, there’s always the risk of them ripping open again.

The proper treatment

The first thing you do after a hard climbing session is go to the sink. Well, ok. Maybe a beer, tea or coffee first, but then go straight to the sink and wash off all that chalk. Why? Well, the chalk causes your skin to dry out. After removing all the chalk, moisturise your hands with some rich lotion.

If you tend to sweat a lot, you won’t need as much lotion. Instead, make sure your hands are dry before you start climbing because the sweat will make your hands soft, which in turn makes them more prone to injuries.

Now, if you haven’t already today, go out and climb!

A buyer’s guide to bivvy bags

18. April 2018
Buyer's guide

The term ‘bivouac‘ is derived from the French word bivouac, which means an encampment or encampment for the night. In addition to sleeping in a tent or a hut, bivouacking is another common way to spend the night in the great outdoors. In contrast to the other two other options, however, there is usually no roof over your head, unless you sleep in one of the rather sparingly equipped accommodations, known as bivouac huts. If you don’t have this luxury and still need a weatherproof place to sleep, there is probably no way around getting yourself a bivvy bag. In the following, we’re going to tell you all about bivvy bags, including what to look out for when buying one.

What is a bivvy bag and what does bivouacking mean?

Simply put: Bivouacking is basically like camping, but instead of sleeping in a tent, you’re sleeping in a bag. Oftentimes, you won’t even sleep in it, but merely use it as shelter until a storm passes or wait for rescue teams to arrive in the event of an accident.

If possible, you should figure out well in advance what kind of bivvy bag you need for your trip. It’s always a good idea to have a more breathable bag, especially for shorter breaks. Otherwise condensation can build up really quickly and start dripping onto your clothes or sleeping bag.

Doesn’t sound very inviting, does it? It rarely is. Bivouacking has many faces. Here are two of them:

The nice one:

High up on this picturesque ledge under a starry sky, sheltered from the wind in this cosy, lightweight and breathable two-man bag. Snuggled up with your loved one, you can relax and enjoy the peace and quiet of the mountains until you drift off into a blissful slumber.

The mean one:

High up on this remote mountain ledge, dark clouds appear out of nowhere and suddenly it starts bucketing down. Now you’re panicking, struggling to get your bivvy bag out from the bottom of your pack in face of brutal winds and rain, sweating into your already soaking-wet clothes. And, the inside of the bivvy bag ends up getting as wet as the outside.

When you’re both finally inside the bag, you have to zip it up completely and crouch down so that the wildly fluttering fabric doesn’t keep hitting your face. It’s moments like these when couples hate snuggling. Plus, despite the protective cover, it seems to keep getting colder, and the air quality is getting progressively worse. In situations like these, it’s important to keep the material at a distance because when it comes into direct contact with you, it will cool you down instead of warming you up. And, since weather is so unpredictable, you have no idea if the storm will have passed a half an hour from now or a half a day. Time to go to your happy place…

Most bivouacking experiences lie somewhere between these two versions. The starry sky will certainly be the rarer occasion of the two because if the sky is clear enough to see and enjoy, you probably don’t need the bivvy bag. In such cases, a sleeping bag will suffice, especially if it provides some warmth and protection from the wind whilst keeping moisture at bay. This is something that a lot of sleeping bags are perfectly capable of doing nowadays.

Even those surprising changes in weather will become rarer with time, considering the fact that we have devices that provide weather forecasts and allow us to plan our adventures in real time. At least this is true for those more moderate adventures in the Alps and Central Europe. However, as long as unpredictable weather conditions and remote areas still exist and people go on physically demanding adventures spanning over several days, our beloved bivvy bags will continue to exist.

What is a bivvy bag and what do I need it for?

Simply put: a bivvy bag is the bag in which you sit or lie when bivouacking.

The simplest version consists of a more or less waterproof top and bottom made of synthetics that is sewn together. The top bit has a slit that allows you to slip inside and serves as an opening for your face. There are bags for one or two people, with the latter having the advantage that it generates more heat and the disadvantage that it is more difficult to use.

A bivvy bag is lighter and cheaper than a tent and makes it possible (at least theoretically) to set up a weatherproof shelter anytime and anywhere. Unfortunately, just having functional clothing is not always enough. When bad weather lasts long enough, water usually always finds a way in. In such cases, bivvy bags can be a life saver.

The basic characteristics of a bivvy bag.

Less expensive bivvy bags can provide acceptable protection from wind and water for shorter periods. However, they cannot withstand the violent gusts of winds and are less resistant to abrasion, so when the come into contact with shoes and other equipment, they won’t last long. Plus, the pressure exerted on the material by sitting or lying on it cause moisture to permeate the fabric surprisingly quickly.

Here you should make sure that the base material has a hydrostatic head of at least 2,000mm(significantly more is better, because the pressure applied to the material can be much greater when you’re squatting).

It is rather difficult to say how much warmth any given model will provide. Why? Well, it depends at least as much on the situation as it does on the model and individual physiological factors. So, no blanket statement can be made here. More important than the strength of the material is the layer of air that serves as insulation between your body and the bivvy bag.

Simple enough, right? Well, things get a bit more complicated when the breathability of the fabric comes into play and with it the coatings, membranes and laminates, which are either on the top, bottom or both sides.

Then, there is an array of other features, including completely closable 3D hoods with mosquito nets and anatomical foot boxes, tent-like pole structures and heaps of other bits and bobs that can be added to the bivvy.

How do bivvy bags differ from one another?

Based on what we’ve talked about so far, it should be clear by now that the perfect bivvy bag has to meet all sorts of different requirements. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a do-everything bivvy bag. Maybe someday, though!

Until some genius creates this miracle bag, we have to navigate between the following three points when deciding on a model:

  1. Comfort (breathability, spaciousness, features)
  2. Low weight and pack size
  3. Weather protection (Quality of the material, robustness, complete sealability (for lack of a better term))

There is no bivvy bag that meets all three criteria equally. It’s like buying a car. Despite all the high-tech euphoria, you still can’t get a family-friendly and environmentally friendly hybrid race car.

However, when it comes to bivvy bags, we can at least have two of the three mentioned above: i.e. 1) and 2) or 1) and 3). A combination of 2) and 3) is much more difficult or significantly more expensive, but still feasible.

What materials are used for bivvy bags?

The desired criteria determine the composition of the material and the construction of the bivvy bag. Let’s list the materials first:

The key component of most ultra-light models is a a metallised foil. Such bivy bags may be damaged or unusable even after a single use, but are also intended for emergencies only, similar to a rescue blanket.

The more durable basic models have a tent-like nylon or polyester fabric with a polyurethane coating (PU coating). Nylon, polyester and cotton blended fabrics are not waterproof without such a coating. PU gives the material its functional properties due to its high density and flexibility.

In addition to PU, silicone is also used, which is usually classified as being of a higher quality. Silicone coatings are more elastic, more durable and more expensive than other coatings. They not only increase the fabric’s tear resistance, but its UV resistance as well. They are also significantly lighter than PU coatings with comparable levels of waterproofness.

Are there bivvy bags with membranes?

More complex bivvy bags also use membranes. If you prefer a membrane, let me say this: In practice, you will notice only minor differences between the different membrane brands when it comes to breathability. As a rule, all technologies reach their limits at a certain amount of moisture and/or temperature distribution.

All coatings, laminates and the like increase the weight and pack size just like any other additional feature. The more protection, versatility and functionality the fabric offers, the more weight you’ll have to carry and the larger the pack size will be. Every other little addition, like more room or covered zips add more weight as well.

Bivvy bag shapes and designs

Most bivvy bags are cut like a slightly larger sleeping bag and lie flat like a blanket. The volume of the bag results from our bodies or other little extras like stiffeners, guying options or small poles.

The latter offers additional headroom, which can come as a welcome relief when sleeping in it for multiple nights in a row. However, the stability of models with this simple frame should not be overestimated. Some can stand upright only when the zip is completely closed, whilst others tilt towards your face as soon as a little breeze picks up. More reliable are the more complex constructions like the criss-cross pole structure found on the Carinthia Observer. However, so much comfort and weather protection is neither light nor cheap.

An important question you may need to consider is whether the bivvy bag should close completely. After all, there’s no way to be completely protected from the elements unless the interior can be sealed off completely with a strong zip. Drawstrings, hook-and-loop fasteners and vents always leave small gaps and openings, which in extreme cases will have to be facing away from the the direction of the weather.

Oftentimes, that’s easier said than done. However, sealing yourself in to this extent is only for ambitious projects in higher altitudes or colder climates. For most other emergency situations and „normal“ bivouacking adventures, you’ll be fine with with bivvy bags that can „only“ be closed with buttons, drawstrings or the like.

Conclusion

Bivouacking is more than just an emergency solution in adverse mountain conditions. It allows you to experience nature in a way you never have before and is a flexible option between camping and sleeping „completely unprotected“ out in the open.

However, bivouacking is not recommended for people who prefer not to be in direct contact with the ground, materials or other peoples’ bodies. But, if you discover the urge to be in the great outdoors and can overcome your inhibitions, you may end up loving it! Then, you’ll venture a little further out, head up to the mountains and realise you need to start looking for the proper bivvy bag! We hope this article will help with that.

Shoes built to last: An introduction to different shoe lasts

13. April 2018
Equipment

It’s probably safe to say that all of our readers know that there are different shoe sizes out there. The same goes for the fact that the shoe’s size usually refers to the length of the shoe, which in turn corresponds to the length of the foot with some added room at the toe. This should be 1 to 2 cm for mountain boots, since your swollen feet would otherwise eventually start rubbing up against the front of the boots on longer descents.

For a lot of people out there, that’s often all the knowledge they need to buy a well-fitting pair of shoes. For others, though, it can be more of a challenge. Why? Well, if your foot doesn’t correspond with the foot shape that any given manufacturer has set as their standard, you’ll end up having quite a hard go of it. After all, your foot type is not just determined by length AND it can deviate slightly from the norm (which is a statistical size that only exists on paper). That said, it’s important for you to know a few more things about shoes than just your shoe size if you want the perfect fit.

Foot shape = last shape = shoe shape

Since the last is often listed among a shoe’s specs, one could think of it is one of its components. But, a last is not part of the shoe. Rather, a last is something you’d find lying around in a manufacturer’s workshops or among a shoemaker’s tools, where it serves as a blueprint, giving a shoe and its sole their form. The fact that it is only a rough copy of the foot, without the toes and other fine details, is completely sufficient because the soft inside of the shoe doesn’t need to be an exact copy of the human foot.

This foot-shaped block is often carved by hand and is made mostly of wood. The ones used for mass production are usually plastic. Most manufacturers use a standard last as a guide for their shoe series and try to accommodate different foot shapes with additional insoles. Sometimes, the standard lasts are produced in a wider and a narrower version, but this can make production considerably more complex and expensive. Only very few put forth the effort to provide several lasts for different foot shapes. Since a shoe last is nothing more than just the shape of the foot and is often named after particular foot shapes , it’s a good idea to get a little better acquainted with the human foot before reading about lasts! Let’s get started.

Foot types and anatomy

There are two criteria according to which foot types are usually classified: the toe shape and the overall foot shape. There are three common toe types and four foot shapes.

The most common types of toes are Egyptian, Roman and Greek.

  • The Egyptian foot is distinguished by the big toe being the longest, whilst toes 2 to 5, when viewed from above, descend gradually at forty-five degree angle.
  • The Roman foot is distinguished by the second and (sometimes) the third/middle toe having the same length as the big one, whilst the rest are smaller.
  • The Greek foot is distinguished by the second toe being longer than the big toe and the middle toe being the same length or shorter than the big one.

This classification is admittedly more precise than just the length, but it doesn’t really say much about the rest of the foot (i.e. the shape of the foot). That’s why we classify foot types as well. The four main foot types are Romanic, Anglo-Saxon, Germanic and Baltic:

  • The Anglo-Saxon foot is relatively straight, narrow and elongated, with a long dominant big toe.
  • The Germanic foot is sickle-shaped and narrower at the heel than at the forefoot.
  • The Romanic type is significantly straighter than the Germanic and overall quite wide and voluminous.
  • The Baltic foot is the wide variant of the Anglo-Saxon foot, where the big toe is even more dominant and the heel is equal in width to the forefoot.

Whether or not this applies to the whole world, I can’t say, but it should cover pretty much all of the European foot shapes.

Who determines whether a foot is wide or narrow?

Width may be the simplest of the foot’s basic characteristics, but the question remains: How do you determine what is wide and what is narrow based on the length of any given foot? This info is rarely provided, so oftentimes you just have to eyeball it. You can only derive an approximate conversion factor from length and width size charts, as for example from the Bont size chart Here is an example for shoe size EU 45:

Length: 28.5 cm The width of a „“normal foot““ in size 45 would then be between 10.6 and 11 cm. A „“narrow foot““ would then be smaller than 10.6 cm and a „“wide foot““ larger than 11 cm. One could derive a conversion factor from this, but it doesn’t really make sense because it’ll change from shoe size to shoe size. It is easier to look at the chart.

Things only get worse though. If you were to combine width along with its characteristics narrow, normal and wide with the four toe types listed above, you would come to a grand total of twelve possible foot types. If these were then combined with the four foot shapes, the result would be 48. That means 48 different kinds of feet would be in need of a proper last and shoe! Since there are also many other differently shaped „“foot sections““ such as the toes, ball, heel, bridge, arch, etc., all of which can be in different proportions to each other, the combinations are virtually endless.

I know what you’re thinking: the human foot and its representation in shoes is complex stuff! Indeed, and when it comes to the anatomy of the human foot, it gets even more confusing due to the foot’s complex construction. The simplest way to divide up the foot anatomically is to take three sections: the forefoot, midfoot and hindfoot. Granted, it’s not very precise, but it is practical because you always know exactly where you are!

For more volume: the bridge

We’ve talked about length and width, but we’ve failed to mention anything about height. Height is an extremely important factor when it comes to choosing the proper shoes and is determined primarily by the bridge of the foot. The bridge starts at the toes and extends to the ankle and lower tibia. It can be flat or steep and can influence the shape of the foot in a huge way.

A “steeper” bridge would require a shoe that has quite the roomy upper. Thanks to a shoe’s tongue and lacing, the height and width of the upper can normally be adjusted for an adequate fit over most bridges. Insoles can also be used to alter the volume of a shoe, but this should be your last resort. Try to find a proper shoe first.

Special cases

Hallux valgus: What sounds like something in the stomach is actually a lateral deviation of the big toe characterised by a painful bulge of the metatarsophalangeal joint resulting from constant contact with the shoe. Hallux valgus is usually caused by frequently wearing inappropriate footwear in conjunction with an unnatural use of your foot when walking. Some manufacturers offer special lasts for this deformity, but more on that later.

Flat feet: Flat feet are so common that some manufacturers use special lasts for this as well. Here, the weakened muscles in the longitudinal arch allow the bones to sink towards the ground as opposed to holding them in place. This results in the entire sole of the foot being near or coming into complete contact with the ground. The collapse of the longitudinal arch can then eventually cause pes valgus, a condition where the foot tilts inward. If this happens, you will have a much harder time finding the perfect shoe.

Last but not least – splayfoot. This one of the most common foot misalignments. Splayfoot is a misalignment characterised by weakened muscles in the transverse arch and a wider forefoot resulting from the metatarsal bones splaying.

The above-mentioned foot problems also occur simultaneously and tend to build off of each other. But, let’s not get into that. Describing diagnoses and symptom progressions would go far beyond the scope of this post. Our aim is merely to provide and overview rather than focussing on minor details and unique cases.

So many different types of feet: Different manufacturers and their lasts

In order to accommodate the variety of foot shapes to at least some extent, manufacturers must have a selection of standard lasts. Most manufacturers use between two and six different lasts, which they divide up among different models and series. Only rarely are there different versions, such as extra wide or extra narrow, for one and the same model. Nevertheless, most manufacturers offer a wide range of sizes and shapes, which means that a correspondingly large number of different lasts are required as guides. Let’s look at some examples.

Lowa allows you to filter your search for specific models not only by standard criteria like shoe size, gender or shoe types, but also by wide and narrow lasts.

They even describe the various lasts in the menu option “fit and quality“. Lowa has modelled special lasts for each shoe type according to specific requirements and experience. Lowa also uses special lasts for the women’s models. The distinction between the last shapes is more or less self-explanatory, as they correspond to the shape of the foot:

  • Standard lasts: normal last shape
  • S-last (narrow): less volume around forefoot/ball area
  • W-last (wide): more volume around forefoot/ball area
  • WXL last: expanded toe box combined with more volume around arch/instep

Hanwag not only has slightly different shapes and terminology, but also has more variety in their lasts than virtually any other manufacturer. In addition to the gender-specific lasts, there are lasts for specific applications (e.g. slightly wider for the Trek and Trek Light series, narrower for the Rock series). Plus, there are six special lasts for people who do not have a „“standard foot““:

  • Wide lasts: The heel area has been constructed normally, but the shoe offers more room around the forefoot and ball of the foot. Wide models are for people for whom a „“normal““ shoe would be too narrow around the forefoot.
  • Narrow lasts: This last is intended for people who feel a normal shoe is too wide. The Hanwag Tatra, for example, is one of their narrow fit models.
  • Bunion lasts: Bunions is a well-known problem, especially among women, but it is also something many boulderers and sport climbers deal with. Hanwag offers a one-of-a-kind bunion last with significantly more room around the big toe.
  • StraightFit lasts: This last offers an extremely generous toe box and is intended for people with a wide forefoot.
  • Alpine Wide lasts: The normal Alpine lasts are narrower for a better performance. If you prefer a bit more space, grab a shoe with an Alpine Wide fit. You can always wear thicker socks.
  • Naturalfit lasts: NaturalFit technology promotes the natural posture of the foot and kind of imitates walking barefoot. It’s great for both travel and everyday life.

The Italian brand AKU uses six different lasts for their outdoor shoes, covering a very similar range of shapes as Hanwag. You can find out more about the lasts on their website under “The Last”.

Other brands, like Meindl don’t provide descriptions of their lasts, but they do allow you to search for specific models by foot shape or other filters.

Dachstein has also incorporated shoe width into their search filter. Unfortunately, this only covers one of the many possible shapes and characteristics of a foot/last/shoe.

Conclusion

A truly precise filter that allows you to combine several characteristics may be a tall task for any manufacturer to implement, considering how precise the specs of each shoe would have to be, but it’s still doable. But, it’s a different story for online retailers that carry X number of brands. To do it would be nothing less than a Herculean feat, if you ask me, especially since you’d need somebody with a trained eye to do it! Not to mention the fact that the series and models constantly change.

That said, there’s really no way around finding our your own foot size/shape/type. Ask yourself the following questions: Do I have a Baltic foot? Is my foot narrow or wide? All the shoe size charts online can act as a point of reference. Unfortunately, there are very few available that have more than just foot length, as the Bont chart does.

There are several solid approaches out there, but none of them has managed to incorporate foot types, lasts and shoes into one perfect blend. If you are looking for the perfect last, you’ll just have to consult the individual manufacturers. I hope this article has made things a bit easier to understand and will help you in the future.

Wild camping in Germany - verboten or not?

Wild camping in Germany – verboten or not?

11. April 2018
Tips and Tricks

For lovers of the outdoors, there’s nothing better than sleeping under the beautiful night sky and really feeling that connection with nature, is there? And, it really doesn’t matter how you go about it. No matter whether you prefer a sleeping bag and sleeping mat, a simple bivvy or a tent, the important thing is that you get a good night’s sleep without being woken up next morning by some ranger or opening your sleep-ridden eyes to the muzzle of a hunter’s gun. If you unwittingly camp somewhere where it’s not allowed, you could wake up to an unpleasant surprise – be it in the form of shock or a really expensive fine. Yep, you guessed it. We’re talking about Germany, the land of rules and regulations, where oh-so many things are strictly ‘verboten’, especially when it comes to camping. To help clear things up a bit, we’d like to provide you with some insight into German regulations on wild camping.

Some general info on wild camping

Let’s just start off by saying that the legal situation regarding wild camping and sleeping outdoors in Germany is pretty much as clear as mud. Thus, the aim of this post is to provide some insight into said legal situation, but the information provided here is by no means exhaustive, nor does it claim universality or profess to be legally valid. If you’d like more detailed information on the topic, we recommend you read up on nature conservancy and forestry laws in the particular German state you plan on camping in. And, already we’ve stumbled upon the first problem: what is allowed and what is not is regulated by the individual federal states. Ah, the wonderful German bureaucracy.

As a general rule, we can say: In nature reserves or so called Naturschutzgebieten, such as national parks, biosphere reserves or biotopes, camping is strictly prohibited. The coastal areas of Germany are also considered to be separate protected areas, so camping on beaches or dunes could end up being quite expensive as well. The basis for this regulation is the Federal Nature Conservation Act (Bundesnaturschutzgesetz) and the specific regulations at the location in question, such as those concerning designated paths and explicit prohibitions on camping, which can be found on prohibition signs in any given area. Another (nearly) universal rule is that you may sleep on private property or private forest land with the permission of the owner of that land.

The so-called right of access or Betretungsrecht states that forests and fields, be they private or not, may be accessed for purposes of recreation as long as you abide by the general codes of conduct put forward for purposes of nature conservation. According to Article 59 of the Federal Nature Conservation Act, everybody “shall be permitted to enter the open landscape on roads and pathways and on unused land areas” for purposes of recreation. Since sleeping is, strictly speaking, an integral part of recreation, it, too, should be permitted. In other words, dozing under a tree for a few hours, or even overnight, is not explicitly prohibited here. Only staying for longer periods at one location is prohibited. When a brief stay turns into a long one is a legal grey area. Sleeping – not camping in nature is thus neither prohibited nor permitted.

Camping in a tent or bivouacking?

As you’ve probably already gathered, sleeping outdoors can mean different things. The law differentiates between sleeping in a tent and bivouacking or sleeping without a tent (e.g., with just a sleeping bag/sleeping mat, hammock or make-shift (unfixed) shelter). When talking about the Betretungsrecht (right to access), I am referring only to sleeping outdoors without a tent, which is much less problematic than camping in a tent. Why? Well, in contrast to camping in a tent, there are absolutely no explicit regulations regarding camping in a bivouac.
To make things even more interesting, German law divides “the outdoors” up into different categories as well. There is the forest and what they refer to as the “open landscape”, and different protection laws apply to each of these depending on the federal state in which they’re located. The following is a brief overview of what you’re allowed to do where.

Can you camp in a tent in the forest?

No. Here, too, both the Federal Forest Act as well as the state laws in the individual federal states apply. As a general rule, we can say: Camping in a tent in the forest in Germany is verboten! In some German federal states, simply going off the designated forest paths at night is prohibited. If the forest area in question belongs to a private individual, you would need a permit to access it. Otherwise, it would be trespassing. In the state of Berlin, you should also be careful when bivouacking, for – in addition to tents – shelters and tarps are prohibited without the consent of the landowner.

Can I camp in a tent in the ‘open landscape’?

Yes and no. According to Article 44 of the Federal Nature Conservation Act, open landscapes are regarded as areas outside the forest – where an independent right of access applies – and outside settlement areas. There is no passage that explicitly prohibits camping in a tent in the open landscape. But, since it’s often difficult to know in Germany whether you’re on private property or not, it’s best not to pitch your tent in the open landscape, especially if you’d like to avoid the scenario illustrated at the beginning of this post. Simply because there is no prohibition according to state law doesn’t mean that camping in a tent in the open landscape is permitted. Of course, if you’ve already obtained a permit from the landowner to do so, you can embark on your journey to your destination without a worry!

In Bavaria, Rhineland-Palatinate, North Rhine-Westphalia, Hamburg, Hesse and Berlin, for example, camping in a tent in the open landscape is not explicitly prohibited, either. However, in Lower Saxony, Saxony, Saxony Anhalt, Thuringia and in the Saarland, wild camping in the open landscape is prohibited everywhere without exception. In Bremen, it is prohibited to camp on fields, but other than that, there is no explicit prohibition. In Brandenburg, camping is permitted for walkers, cyclists, horse riders and those travelling on water, provided that they are authorised under private law and not in conflict with any special protection regulations (Article 49, BbgNatschG).

What are the alternatives?

If you want to sleep in the great outdoors and would rather err on the side of caution, there are a few alternatives in Germany. The alternatives we’re referring to here are those closest to wild camping or bivouacking in their purest form – far removed from designated campsites, huts and other rest stops.

They may be few and far between, but there still are Naturlagerplätze in some parts of Germany, which will be familiar to fans of Scandinavia in the far north. These are small, open areas for a small number of tents that can be reached on foot or by bike. They are designed to be used for one or two nights at the very most. Some are outfitted with composting toilets, fire pits and cooking areas. These sleeping areas have been in Germany for a short time as a project initiated by the internet forum outdoorseiten.net e.V. in the Eifel. You can book them in advance and use them for a small fee of 10 Euros. And, the cool thing is you get more than just a place to pitch a tent – seating, a quiet little place to relax and wooden platforms will really make you comfortable and want to enjoy the fresh air.

There are also designated Naturlagerplätze in Schleswig-Holstein that are made available by both the state itself as well as private landowners. The page Wildes Schleswig-Holstein (available in German only) provides all the info on the camping areas you need.

Popular among fans of the Elbe Sandstone Mountains is what climbers call Boofen. Boofen is basically sleeping in the open air under an overhang in the sandstone rock or a cave. But, it is important to remember that you are still in a national park, so there are certain regulations you should be aware of. Fire is not allowed, and you will be punished if caught. And yes, they do keep an eye on you! It is strictly prohibited to sleep outside of these designated areas as well. There are approximately 57 designated Boofen.

Conclusion

The first article of the German Federal Nature Conservation Act should be ingrained in all of us:

“In view of their own value and as a human life support, considering also our responsibility towards future generations, nature and landscape both inside and outside the areas of human settlement shall be conserved, managed, developed and, where necessary, restored […]”

It is by no means our aim to lecture our readers, but we would just like to emphasise the fact that we should consider ourselves guests in the great outdoors and try to behave accordingly. When we’re out there, we should try to put the principle “Leave No Trace” into practice, regardless of whether we’re on private property or not. Don’t leave rubbish behind, make noise, if there’s nowhere to go to the toilet, be sure to bury the results of your bowel movement when you’re finished, and you should refrain from anything that would permanently alter the area (e. g. making fire on a meadow without a fire pit, sawing down trees for firewood, etc.). And, of course, you should leave the area behind just as you found it – regardless of whether you slept there or not.
The fact that the laws regarding wild camping in Germany – be it the woods, open landscape or private property – are extremely complicated and hard to understand will come as a surprise to nobody. Still, it is very important to get all the information about the rules and regulations in the state you’ll be travelling to beforehand. But, just as important as familiarising yourselves with the local laws is using good ol’ common sense. If you ask a private landowner nicely to set up camp at the edge of the forest or sleep in your sleeping bag for a short night in a lonely part of a field and promise not to leave a trace, he or she might just let you!

Disclaimer: The purpose of this blog post is not to encourage you to set up camp anywhere and everywhere but rather to provide you with some basic facts. The information provided is subject to change, and we cannot guarantee that it is 100% complete or accurate.

The Ohm from Edelrid – A difference maker

6. April 2018
Equipment

Good news for heavier climbers and lighter belayers: Thanks to Edelrid’s spectacular new device – the OHM – you can go climbing together! But before you do, we thought we’d put the OHM to the test and let you know what it can and can’t do, who it’s suitable for and most importantly what we think! :-) In order to understand what the OHM does, we’ll have to take a little detour into the world of theory, climbing theory that is. More specifically, we’re going to talk about weight and the difference in weight between you and your climbing partner. If the weight difference between you and your partner is too high, not only will lighter belayers have a hard time controlling a fall, but both climbers could be put in extremely dangerous situations.

Weight differences in climbing

If you’ve ever read up on the role of weight in climbing or experienced it yourself, you’ll know how quickly forces can develop in the event of a fall. To find out just how high these are, you can use our calculator for impact force.

The significance of weight led the DAV (German Alpine Club) to release a recommendation for weight differences, specifying which are justifiable and which are not. A study on safety in climbing centres from 2012 has demonstrated that climbers were too heavy for their belayers in 8.5% of the examined cases.

You can calculate the weight differential rather easily:
Weight of climber / weight of belayer = Differential X

Here is an example: There is a weight differential of 1.36 between a climber who weighs 75kg and a belayer who weighs 55kg. This would far exceed the standard put forward by the DAV (German Alpine Club).

Differential0.7 – 0.80.9 – 1.11.2 – 1.3>1.2 – 1.5
Belay deviceTube-styleTube-style or assisted brakingAssisted brakingAssisted braking and sand bags
RecommendationExtremely soft belayIdeal weight ratio, soft belayExperienced climbers onlyExperts only, if at all

As you can see from the example above, there is very little wiggle room when it comes to tolerable weight differentials. There is even less flexibility when it comes to men and women, as the weight difference is often much higher than recommended.

How the Edelrid Ohm works

The Ohm basically replaces the first draw and is clipped into the first bolt instead. In the event of a fall, the Ohm is pulled upward. This leads to the device changing its orientation relative to the rope, resulting in increased friction. The increased friction generates resistance, which progressively slows (but doesn’t abruptly stop) the rope. This results in less force being transferred to the belayer.

The benefits of the Ohm

As was mentioned above, the increased amount of friction reduces the amount of force transferred to the belayer in the event of a fall. This will prevent the belayer being pulled forward so violently toward the wall or the first draw. If you’re using a tube-style device, you’ll need less grip strength to hold a fall.

Climbers who tend to climb with significantly lighter partners often have to climb extra carefully in order to prevent uncontrolled falls. This is rendered completely unnecessary by the power of the Ohm! Since the weight difference is “evened out” or “reduced” by the device, lighter belayers are capable of securing uncontrolled falls as well. That way, the climber won’t have to hold back!

What the Ohm can’t do

Very important: the Ohm is not a belay device and it changes nothing about the DAV’s current standard. If you use the Ohm, you also continue to use 1. your belay device of choice and 2. your head.

This is particularly important when it comes to age differences between climbers. The Ohm reduces significant differences in weight but doesn’t add experience. If you use this device, you still have to belay as always (training) and assume the responsibility for the climber (age). It’s not there for parents to use to go climbing with their underage kids!

The Ohm put to the test

We tested the Ohm in different conditions: Lead climbing indoors and outdoors, top-roping and in a climbing course for kids (supervised belaying).

More comfort and safety for the belayer

Test Edelrid OhmYep, the Ohm makes belaying heavier people not only significantly safer but more comfortable as well. During various scenarios (with various fall heights and weight differences), the Ohm has proven to reduce the amount of force on the belayer. Plus, the rope runs more evenly as well, making belaying much more pleasant. Using a sand bag for extra weight was no longer necessary. Lowering is much easier with the Ohm as well. It actually feels more like a rope running diagonally with increased friction.

In contrast to sand bags, the Ohm allows the belayer to move more freely along the wall, which in turn allows the belayer to adjust his or her position according to the direction of the climber. This will also help you to prevent a fall on the belay rope when climbing near the ground. A big bonus.

More freedom for the climber

The climbers who tested the Ohm all agree that the Ohm adds safety and definitely takes some unnecessary stress off climbers as a result, since they can dedicate all their attention to climbing and not have to worry about falling (as much). This allows climbers to push their limits and take on more difficult routes closer to the ground.

The Ohm and top-roping

Since not all climbing parties top rope, we decided to test the Ohm whilst top roping as well. As expected, the assisted-braking resistor performed flawlessly. The only downside: Because it is installed in the first draw, the belayer cannot change positions as freely as he or she normally could whilst top-rope belaying. This leads to the climber having a rope between him or her and the wall.

The Ohm at the crag

…works just as well as at the climbing centre. Since ropes often don’t run as straight along a rock face as they do indoors, you need to keep in mind that there could be more rope drag as a result. So, the Ohm might not be necessary for all routes.

Handling

Flawless! Yes, the weight does seem a little much in the beginning, but since you only have to carry to the first draw, it’s not that big of an issue. Besides, the weight is necessary so that the Ohm doesn’t fall when the rope is slackened and you lose resistance as a result.

Even when taking slack out the rope, you’ll hardly notice the Ohm. But, after taking a break on the wall, you should make sure that the rope is completely disengaged and the Ohm is underneath the draw. Otherwise, it could get rough. Users of the Grigri2 will be familiar with this. Also, don’t forget to unclip the Ohm. Otherwise it’ll stay hanging on the first draw. And, take the brake rope out first.

Dynamic belaying…

is possible, but this also depends on the weight of the climber, as far we’re concerned. The lighter the climber (less than 80kg), the more the belayer has to actively belay in order to make a somewhat dynamic fall possible. If you fancy soft belays, you may have to lower your expectations or use a tube-style device.

The Ohm and kids

Kids of the same age can vary in weight, so we thought it would be a good idea to try to use the Ohm in a climbing course for top-roping (supervised, with a back-up belayer). With kids, you’ll find that the weight differential goes up to as much as 1.3. Unfortunately, the Ohm couldn’t help here. Since children rarely weigh more than 65kg, dynamic falls are hardly possible. So, due to the conditions described above, using the Ohm is basically out of the question.

Test results

In sum, the Ohm is an incredibly innovative idea that tackles a common issue in climbing. It’s surprising that it took so long for somebody to come up with a device with the aim of solving the problem associated with the weight differences between climbers and belayers. After all, there are so many climbing parties that can either climb in completely empty climbing centres only or climbing exclusively indoors. Who would want to take a sand bag to the crag anyway? Don’t even get me started on alpine climbing.

Does the Ohm make sense?

In our opinion: Yes! Of course, you’re going to have to make some sacrifices (dynamic belaying, weight, top-roping), but when you consider the fact that you’ll be able to climb with people you could’ve never dreamed of climbing with before, the number of downsides pale in comparison to the huge benefits the Ohm provides: convenience and safety. All in all, a spectacular innovation that should’ve been here a long time ago!

When is the Ohm being released?

Well, it’s already out! Head over to our shop and check it out! If you just can’t get enough of Edelrid, check out the new collection!

Beeswax – A natural miracle worker

4. April 2018
Equipment, Tips and Tricks

Have you ever heard of Maya the Bee? That cute little bee that first appeared in a book by the German writer Waldemar Bonsels? In the book, she spends her days going on thrilling adventures with her goofy pal Willy, which makes for a great story but isn’t really true to life. In fact, her everyday existence would be quite a bit different in real life. Maya would fly from flower to flower, collecting pollen and secreting a mixture of mainly esters of fatty acids and various long-chain alcohols. Boring, isn’t it? Not at all! That’s how we get beeswax!

So far so good? No? Ok, you’re probably asking yourself what all that has to do with being outdoors, right? You’d be surprised, but it actually has quite a bit to do with it. Beeswax happens to be an essential ingredient in several care products for both walking boots and skin care. Wax is even used in foods as a release agent and glazing agent. Pretty versatile stuff. In this short post, I’d like to show you everything beeswax has to offer us outdoorsy folk. So, keep reading – it’s worth it- and not just for the fans of Maya the Bee!

Properties and areas of use

As was mentioned before, the beeswax we all know is a secretion from worker bee’s wax glands. It’s always white when it is first secreted. It turns yellow as a result of the incorporation of pollen oils from pollen. This contains carotene, a pigment that also gives pumpkins and carrots their colour. By the way, pollen oil is also what gives beeswax its unique and sweet smell. Ok. Enough of that. Let’s talk about how useful this stuff is.

In the outdoor industry, beeswax is most commonly used as an ingredient in shoe care products. Beeswax-based shoe care is a natural way to care for leather walking and mountaineering boots. It is necessary because it gives the leather something it loses over time – moisture. As you’ve probably already witnessed, leather tends to dry up and harden over time, even causing it to tear in some cases. Using beeswax-based shoe care products can remedy this, giving the leather a nice little boost in moisture. Treating the leather with such products on a regular basis will increase the lifespan of your – often very expensive – outdoor shoes. Plus, beeswax-based products also proof the leather, giving the shoes that necessary water-repellent layer.

This brings me to another important benefit for us outdoor enthusiasts: Beeswax can be used to proof outdoor jackets and trousers as well. A beeswax-based treatment can make these garments very water and wind resistant, whilst simultaneously increasing their durability for those tough days outdoors. Usually, these proofers consist of a mixture of beeswax and paraffin, so they’re not at all harmful to your health. Of course, as with anything else, any product pre-treated with beeswax will lose its water-resistant properties over time, but there are plenty of products on the market you can use to reproof your garment. But more on that later.

As an outdoorsmen, you may even find beeswax in skin care products. If you’re thinking, “What? Now, you’re trying sell me outdoor skin cream?”, please just keep reading. Even the roughest and tannest skin needs a little tender love and care! Skin care products with beeswax are specifically designed for climbers with dry and particularly worn skin, meaning skin that is often exposed to the sun and fresh/cold air. Not unlike what beeswax does for leather, special beeswax-based care products gives our skin some of that long-lost moisture back. Plus, these products alleviate the effect of sunburns and accelerate the healing process of chapped lips as well as minor skin lesions. So, as you can imagine, these products are great for those of you who spend all the livelong day climbing limestone and granite.

How do I know if beeswax is in a product?

If you’re worried about buying a product that claims to contain beeswax but doesn’t, you shouldn’t be: All products containing beeswax are labelled accordingly. Of course, there is no official label to date, but oftentimes you’ll find a product with the label “contains real beeswax“. If the product in question doesn’t have such a label, it’s worth taking a quick peek at the ingredients. Even though this may not be as relevant to us outdoor enthusiasts, it’s still worth noting: In the food industry, if beeswax is used as a food additive, it has E-901 designation.

How to care for leather with beeswax and how to reproof garments

As was mentioned above, the outdoor industry usually uses beeswax for shoe care. A beeswax-based shoe polish makes it possible for us to care for our leather shoes in a natural way. The unique properties of the wax not only lubricate the leather but also feed it with essential nutrients. Plus, it does a few other things as well. But, we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

Consider the following example: You’ve got your trusty walking boots with countless miles on them, and to be honest, they’ve seen better days. They’re dirty, the leather is brittle and looks worn. So, what do we do? We take a damp cloth to clean them. Once you’ve got rid of the surface dirt and the shoes are somewhat dry, you can apply the beeswax shoe polish. Take a clean cloth and rub a thin layer of the shoe polish onto your shoes using circular motions. The fatty acids in the beeswax cleans the leather in a gentle way. Plus, the beeswax polish will brighten up faded colours as well. Allow the polish to set and voilà – the boots will look as good as new! If you feel that your shoes need a bit more wax after the first layer has set, you can repeat as and when required. If you care for your leather shoes with a beeswax-based care product on a regular basis, you will significantly increase the lifespan of the shoe.
In addition to giving the leather essential nutrients and making the boots look better, beeswax shoe polish also acts as a water repellent. The layer of wax prevents water penetrating into the interior, forcing rain to simply bead up and roll off the outside. In other words, you can forget about those expensive leather spray-on proofers.

If you notice that your jacket (or trousers), which had been pre-treated with beeswax, is starting to lose its water-repellent properties, it’s time to reproof it. To do this, you can use something like the Greenland Wax from Fjällräven. This is basically a block of paraffin and beeswax. Take the garment in question and rub the wax block evenly onto the fabric. And, don’t be afraid to apply a little bit more to the high-wear areas, such as the shoulders of your jackets or the knees of your trousers. Now, the wax just has to be melted. You can do this by using a hair dryer or an old iron. Once you’ve heated up the wax, it will turn to liquid and be absorbed into the fabric. Once the wax has been absorbed evenly into the fabric and dried, you can take your jacket or trousers out for their next adventure!

As you can see, beeswax is much more than the stuff swimming around in your honey or what people use for candles. It is a natural product with very useful properties for the outdoor industry and beyond. And it all came from Maya the Bee’s wax glands.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask our experts in customer service. They are available on weekdays between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. and can be reached by phone at +49 (0)7121/70 12 0 or via e-mail.

A buyer's guide to rain covers

A buyer’s guide to rain covers

23. März 2018
Buyer's guide, Equipment

Ever head out on a trip and run into rain? No worries, we’ve all been there. It can be extremely frustrating, especially when rain seeps into your pack because you forgot to cover it up like the rest of you. What may seem like a minor mistake on the face of it can have pretty major consequences: All your clothes, electronics, maps and other important items can get completely soaked and perhaps even ruined. In order to prevent such a catastrophe taking place, we recommend taking a rain cover with you everywhere you go, regardless of where your are outside – be it the mountains, the hills or on your bike.

Since constant weather changes are the bane of an outdoorsman’s existence, having sufficient protection is extremely important.

Backpacks with integrated rain covers

High-quality backpacks usually come with an integrated rain cover that has small pack size and its own designated compartment. When needed, you can simply pull it out, wrap it around the entire pack and tighten it using a bungee. Of course, a rain cover isn’t designed to cover up the straps or the back panel. Otherwise, it would be pretty uncomfortable. This still keeps the backpack protected from rain, though. They’re made of waterproof synthetic fabric that forces water to bead up and roll off the surface of the fabric.

Dimensions and volume

If your backpack doesn’t have an integrated rain cover, we highly recommend getting yourself one before you head out on your trip. And, it doesn’t necessarily have to be the one recommended by the manufacturer of your backpack. Other models from other brands work just as well. You just have to make sure that the cover is compatible with dimensions and – most importantly – the volume of your backpack. So, before buying a rain cover, find out how many litres of volume your backpack has.

Rain covers with reflectors for better visibility

In addition to waterproof and protective properties, a rain cover should also have reflective elements. This is especially important for cyclists and runners who are often forced to take city roads. True, most backpacks do have reflectors, but keep in mind: As soon as you put a rain cover over your backpack, they’re no longer visible. Your best bet is to find a rain cover not only with reflectors but in a bright colour as well. That way, it’ll be hard for others to miss you in poor visibility. And, as we all know, visibility is always low in rainy conditions.

A rain cover with a small pack size

Since your rain cover will usually be stowed away in your pack and only used when it rains, it’s important for it to have a small pack size. Only then can you pack it down nice and small and take it with you wherever you go. That said, you need a rain cover that is foldable. But, make sure the material is made in such a way so that no wrinkles, kinks or cracks form when you fold it because all of these could have a negative impact on the windproof and waterproof properties of the fabric.

Once you’ve found a rain cover that fits your backpack, you can head out on your adventure without having to worry about the weather conditions or any potential weather changes. If it does rain, all you’ll have to do is pull your rain cover over your backpack and you’ll be good to go! It’s so quick and easy. It hardly takes more than 2 minutes! With a quality rain cover and high-quality waterproof clothing, you’ll have the best protection money can buy for the great outdoors, regardless of whether you’re walking or cycling.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask our experts in customer service. They are available during the week from 9 a.m. till 4 p.m. and can be reached by phone at 03 33 33 67058 or via e-mail.

Care instructions: How to clean your backpack properly

Care instructions: How to clean your backpack properly

21. März 2018
Care tips, Equipment

There are so many reasons to wash your walking backpack, trekking rucksack or mountaineering backpack, but none may be as pressing as those stinky shoulders straps that have absorbed so much sweat and sunscreen over the course of their career that the idea of wearing them makes you nauseated. Or, perhaps it’s all the dust and dirt that has accumulated on your trekking pack that has made you forget what colour the rucksack was when you bought it. Oh, and don’t even get me started on the interior and all the stuff that has leaked and spilled in there over the years…

Depending on just how dirty your backpack is, there are variety of complicated and less complicated ways to clean it. We recommend giving it a light cleaning on a regular basis so that you won’t have to put yourself through the rather complicated deep clean we just hinted at.

How to wash your backpack properly

Can you wash your backpack in the washing machine?

This question is asked again and again about dirty backpacks, but the answer remains the same: No! Absolutely not! A walking backpack or trekking rucksack should never ever be washed in the washing machine! Not at 30°C, not with cold water and not with mild detergents! Do not listen to all the so-called “specialists” on outdoor internet forums who recommend doing so. It’s a bad idea and we strongly advise against it. The best-case scenario would be for the coating or only parts of the backpack to get ruined. And the worst-case scenario? Well, the whole washing machine may decide to throw in the towel. The same thing goes for the dryer, too. Never tumble-dry your backpack.

Washing backpacks by hand

If your backpack gets really dirty from you cycling through mud or a long trek, there’s really no way around it: You’re going to have to give in and give it a deep clean. Once the backpack is dry from your trip, use a large brush to remove bigger chunks of dirt. Dried mud is pretty easy to remove for the most part. But, if you can’t get it all off, you can dampen the brush a bit and that should do the trick. As for all the usual debris that accumulates on the interior, just open up your pack, turn it on its head and pat it out. If you’d prefer to be a bit more thorough, you can use a vacuum as well. For anything that just refuses to budge, you can use a damp sponge cloth and wipe it off.

If wiping the dirt off doesn’t result in the degree of cleanliness you’re looking for or you’re pack just hasn’t been properly cleaned in a while, you’ll have to resort to special textile detergent suitable for backpacks. Why? Well, standard detergent is usually too aggressive for backpacks and can damage the material. Textile detergent can be used in two different ways: either for cleaning individual parts or for washing the entire backpack. To do the former, mix the detergent with lukewarm water (as specified by the instruction manual) and clean the dirty areas with a sponge or brush. For the latter, soak the backpack in a bathtub or something similar and scrub the really dirty areas with a brush. If your pack has a removable frame, make sure to remove it beforehand.

If you notice a leak in one of your bottles, it’s important to act quickly and soak up the liquid with a sponge or cloth and clean the affected area. Depending on what kind of liquid it is, it could leave ugly stains on your pack. That’s way, it’s always a good idea to soak the backpack and clean it as described above. If you let something like tea or coffee dry, it can be really difficult to clean. The same goes for juices and other “sticky” refreshments we love to drink.

A deep clean or individual parts?

Some hill walkers and trekkers never clean their packs, while other do so one time a year, while others still clean them as needed. It obviously depends on how often you use your pack and what you use it for. Hill walkers and hikers often have dirty shoulder straps, hip belts and back panels. These parts of the backpack are often stained because of sweat and sunscreen and, as you can imagine, start to smell pretty bad after a while. To counteract this, wash the straps and the back of your pack using mild detergent and give it a good rinse.

Trekking rucksacks or cycling backpacks tend to be covered with the dirt and mud we kicked up along the way. All you have to do to get rid of this is simply wipe off the outside. But, even if you do so on a regular basis, it’s still important to give it a proper clean once a year at the very least. If you only use your pack in certain seasons, proper storage is paramount. The rucksack should be stored in a dry and well-ventilated place. If you store your pack in a musty cellar or don’t give it time to dry before packing it away for the year, it could get mouldy and develop that disgusting mouldy smell.

If tea or soup spills in your pack while you’re out in the hills, wipe it up as best you can and dry the backpack using tissues or a back-up t-shirt. If you’re just doing a day trip, be sure to soak and wash the backpack the same night. If you’re out on a multi-day backpacking trip, just use mild soap and water and that should do it for the time being. You can give it a deep clean when you get home.

How to dry your backpack after washing it by hand

After soaking and scrubbing, the backpack must be thoroughly rinsed out with clean water. The best way to do this is to use a handheld showerhead and lukewarm water. You can do it in the tub as well. Any dirt or soapy residue needs to be rinsed off well, and be sure to wring out any foam parts on the backpack to extract any residue there as well.

Then hang it up upside down to dry. Make sure to leave all the pockets open and compartments unzipped so that any water can escape. If possible, hang the backpack up outside in the shade. That way, you can be certain that it will dry properly. Plus, it will smell nice and fresh and the sun won’t damage the material. By the way, the best conditions for drying your backpack are warm and windy.

Depending on outside temperature and the kind of pack you have, the drying process can take a while. If small pockets or hard-to-access areas just don’t want to dry, you can use a absorbent cloth or newspaper to speed up the process. Just stuff the pockets with newspaper and they’ll absorb a good amount of the water. Using a blow dryer to dry your backpack is just as unadvisable as putting it on the radiator to dry. Both could damage the material and even ruin the backpack completely.

How to care for your backpack after washing

Depending on how thorough a cleaning your pack had to undergo, it’s often wise to use silicone spray lubricant on the zips to make them run more smoothly. Plus, you should proof the outside of the backpack from time to time so that it can fend off rain and dirt. That way, you won’t always have to use a rain cover. This will stop the fabric becoming saturated with water, which would otherwise make the backpack heavier than it needs to be.

Another advantage to reproofing your backpack is that it will fend off dirt. This means you won’t have to wash it as often, which will, in turn, increase the lifespan of your pack as well. After explicitly stating that backpacks should never be machine-washed or tumble-dried, we’d like to give you another important tip: Never iron your backpack after washing it (yes, people do this)! The material is too sensitive for that.

When inspecting the zips and reproofing the outer fabric, check the backpack for minor damage around the seams and material. The earlier you discover the damage, the faster and easier it is to repair it. Obviously, repairs are much more difficult to make when you’re out adventuring.

How to care for zips, hook-and-loop fasteners and the like

All fasteners, zips and adjustable straps on a pack exposed to a lot of wear and tear. That’s why, it’s important to freshen them up every once in a while.

Zips, for example, can get extremely dirty, making them nearly impossible to use. To get them up and running again, apply a silicone spray lubricant to the zip and/or the slider. Then, zip it open and closed a few times so that the lubricant is distributed evenly. The zip will run much more smoothly afterwards. However, be careful not to apply too much. Allow it to set and then wipe the excess lubricant off with a clean towel.

A lot of dust accumulates on hook-and-loop fasteners, so these, too, need to be cleaned. The more dust and dirt particles there are, the worse it’ll fasten. Fortunately, there’s a quick fix for this as well. All you have to do is use a small brush (a toothbrush will do fine) to remove all the little particles from the material.

After a while, you may even notice your straps and other adjusters aren’t working as well or have stopped working altogether, too. The solution? A long bath in lukewarm water! This will loosen any dirt firmly embedded in the webbing and bring them back to life!

Reproofing your backpack

Backpacks are rarely waterproof, so it’s a good idea to protect the contents with a rain cover in bad weather. Still, many backpacks have been treated with a water repellent to make them impervious to dirt and water. Unfortunately, this layer of protection will gradually lose its effectiveness over time from use. Fortunately, though, it doesn’t have to stay that way. Using a spray-on reproofer, you can reactivate the protective coating in a flash! However, this should only be applied to areas away from the suspension system, as people with sensitive skin may have an allergic reaction.

How to store your backpack properly

Properly storing your backpack is an extremely important contributing factor to its longevity. You should never fold or crush it. Instead, store your backpack empty in a dark, well-ventilated space. Drastic changes in temperature – like those in a car or in a poorly insulated attic – can damage he material and cause it to age prematurely. If you carelessly shove your pack in your wardrobe with all your other gear, the load could deform the suspension system, rendering the backpack useless!

Decisions, decisions: Finding the right walking trousers

Decisions, decisions: Finding the right walking trousers

15. März 2018
Buyer's guide, Equipment

Walking, walking and more walking! What could be better than that? All you do is sleep, walk, eat, walk, sleep…and, yep, you guessed it – walk! Sunrise and sunset determine your daily rhythm. Your rucksack only seems unbearably heavy in the beginning. And, as you walk you forget about your mobile, the internet and the crowded city streets, as it all drifts further and further away. Finally some peace and quiet! Wait, what’s that? Damn, I’ve got a blister on my foot! Great, now I’m limping! Blimey, my trousers are chafing! This is going to be awful by day two! To prevent your trekking trip becoming a nightmare like the one illustrated here, it’s absolutely essential that you have the right kit.

Backpack, shoes, clothing – everything should fit well and do their job properly! This is especially true when it comes to walking trousers. After all, you won’t want (or be able) to lug around a large selection of trousers on a multi-day trip.

The cool all-rounder for long treks

But what makes up a pair of walking trousers, anyway? Why not just go for soft shells? Soft shells may seem to be taking over market, but let’s be honest: our beloved walking trousers still have a lot going for them, especially on multi-day trips. For example, when it rains, your walking trousers can be worn underneath your waterproof trousers and will be well protected. Softshell trousers, however, are usually not capable of withstanding a downpour. A lighter pair of walking trousers, on the other hand, provides more breathability in fair conditions and have a lighter feel to them. And: A lot of models can be converted into a pair of shorts, which eliminates the need for two garments, automatically saving room in your pack. The more casual-looking walking trousers can also be considered to be all-purpose trousers – ones you could wear through a city, if need be.

Another small, but significant difference between the two kinds of trousers: Walking trousers usually have more pockets! The large thigh pockets are particularly convenient, as they give you a place to keep your map, so you won’t have to fumble around for it in your pack every single time you want to check your location.

What’s more, despite their small pack size and lightweight feel, most walking trousers protect you from the sun and insects as well, both of which will come in really handy on long treks.

A general overview of available products

As was already mentioned, fit and pack size are extremely important factors when it comes to trekking. For comfort, walking trousers usually come equipped with articulated knees like the FJÄLLRÄVEN – Barents Pro walking trousers. Plus, most trousers are stretchy, allowing for a wide range of motion.

As for the fabric, walking trousers are made of different materials, and it all really comes down to your own personal preference. Because of odour and those annoying swooshing noises, some walkers swear by a blend of cotton and synthetics, as in the Abisko Trousers from Fjällräven or by merino wool and synthetics, as in the Pelmo Pants walking trousers from Ortovox , whilst others prefer purely synthetic trousers. However, all high-quality walking trousers usually have a solid level of breathability and wind and/or water-repellent properties. When it comes to choosing material, it’s always important to opt for a fabric that feels good to you.

Some more important details on walking trousers

Several walking trouser models can be adjusted to accommodate changes in weather conditions. For example, many of them have zip-off legs. It’s really convenient to have a pair of trousers that not only have detachable legs but ones with a full-length side zip, like the Women’s Jasay from Salewa. That way, you can keep your boots on when you zip off the legs. Some models, such as the Trekker Convertible Pant from The North Face are even more versatile: If you’d rather not take the entire trouser leg off, you can simply roll it up and secure it using the loops provided.

Speaking of trouser legs, some manufacturers even make different trouser lengths for those who have trouble with the standard lengths. Fjällräven, for example, solved this problem with their “raw length”, which you’ll find in models like the Karl Trousers Hydratic walking trousers from Fjällräven. With these, the length of the leg can be adjusted ever so precisely to meet your needs. Lundhags has developed a similar feature, which can be found in the Lundhags Jonten Pant. These have an unshortened length that can be adjusted to your leg.

Walking trousers take quite a beating

Multi-day treks can be tough, not only in terms of the distance but also when it comes to the terrain. We trekkers often traverse dense undergrowth, trudge along rock and it’s not at all rare for us to sit down for a break in the sand, either! For precisely this reason, walking trousers come equipped with reinforced panels at the knee and seat. Examples thereof can be found on the Terminal 2.0 DST walking trousers for men. This tough material serves to increase the lifespan of the trousers in areas of high wear – something that is especially important when you’re going cross country.

Special areas of use

If you already know exactly where your walking adventure is going to take you, you can start looking for a pair of trousers tailored to your specific needs. For example, if you’re heading to the tropics, it’s important to have ones made of lightweight and extremely breathable fabric that will protect you from insects. In regions ridden with scorpions and leeches (yikes), cuffs underneath the trouser legs are a great thing to have. In regions with intense sunlight or at high altitudes, you’ll need a pair of trousers that provide high UV protection. If you’ll be moving along a via ferrata, it’s important that the legs are stretchy. In other words, the trousers should allow for enough range of motion for larger movements.

If you’re planning a more treacherous journey through snow, then the kind of trousers you’re looking for will change from walking to touring or winter trousers.

Three hot tips for good measure

Tip one: Before you head out, make sure your belt or the belt loops on your trousers don’t get in the way of the hip belt on your rucksack. To avoid this problem, many brands (the ones that include belts with their trousers) use flat belts with flat buckles.

Tip two: When trying on a pair of zip-off trousers, make sure the zips don’t chafe your thighs or rub up against the backs of your knees.

Tip three: Always take good care of your zipped-off trouser legs! Otherwise, you might be a half a leg short – forever!

If you have any questions, feel free to ask our experts in customer service. They are available during the week from 9 a.m. till 4 p.m. and can be reached by phone at 03 33 33 67058 or via e-mail.

£ 5 now
For your next order
No thank you.

Please note that we use cookies to improve the use of this website. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to the use of cookies.