Implementing training at home – the mind is (un)willing…

10. June 2021
Tips and Tricks

Closed climbing gyms. Closed yoga studios. Closed gyms. No mountain tours. No sports meetings. Welcome to spring 2020.

On all channels we are provided with home workouts, online fitness classes and yoga sessions. The idea of simply continuing to do your sport (in an adapted way) within your own four walls is of course great at first.

But you might well be aware that this is not that easy to implement. It’s different whether I roll out my yoga mat a metre from my bed or in a yoga studio surrounded by familiar faces who share my passion. I can shimmy along climbing holds in the hallway, but even that is somehow different from being in the gym or on the rock with friends. In other words, it is not about continuing with what you are used to, but about starting something new (for a certain period of time).

If, after the introduction, you are now thinking of the notorious but rarely implemented New Year’s resolutions, you are not so wrong. Because here, too, we are faced with the same problem: How do I implement something new and manage to integrate it so that it forms a regular part of my everyday life? To achieve this, we reach into the psychologist’s box and use behavioural therapy techniques.

What am I going to do?

First of all, let’s take a look at our own values. Behaviour that is aligned with one’s own values is easier to implement. What do you want to train for at home? What should the training mainly be about? And what is important to you? What actually is my goal? The next step is to think about what your goal is. Is it about mastering a certain move at the end? Are you concerned about your general fitness? Do you want to work on a specific muscle group or achieve an endurance goal?

Maybe you have an ultra-marathon in the Alps, a difficult climbing route or the forearm stand in mind, but in reality your current training condition is still far away from that. That’s not bad, dreams motivate us. However, there is nothing to gain from planning big and then failing. It’s easy to slip into an all-or-nothing attitude: if I don’t manage to do a two-hour workout right away in front of the laptop, then I don’t do anything. As with every mountain climb, the same applies to training at home: we plan “rest breaks” and set ourselves intermediate goals. We start small and increase.

When setting goals, we use the SMART rule, which comes from the business world.

  • Accordingly, a target must be specific, i.e. be formulated as concretely as possible.
  • It must be measurable. So you have to have something to prove that the goal has been reached. If I have as a goal to be fit, I can’t really objectively determine whether I have achieved that. But if I define being fit in such a way that I can do 20 push-ups, then I can say exactly whether I have done that or not.
  • A goal should also be attractive. So it should be something you actually want.If you don’t want to run a marathon, don’t set that as a goal.
  • A goal should also be realistic. Can you actually achieve the goal in the real world? If it’s outside your given conditions, consider setting a smaller peak as your goal.
  • A goal should also be scheduled. So you need a fixed time by when you want to reach the goal.

The SMART rule applies to your big goal and also to all the intermediate goals you set yourself along the way.

Planning

Before you start full of energy, you should think about a concrete plan: What tools, mats, holds, weights, etc. do you need? What preparations should you make?When I do yoga, I have to vacuum the floor beforehand, otherwise I just focus on the dirt to the right and left of my mat the whole time.

When do you have time for your workout? When are you undisturbed? What difficulties or obstacles might arise? Think in advance about possible stumbling blocks and how you can overcome them. Example: After a long day at the home office, you are hungry. But sport with a full belly is not your thing at all and after dinner you don’t get up any more anyway. So one solution would be to snack on something healthy during the afternoon coffee break to prevent cravings at the end of the day.

Or do you need support from others? This also works in times of Corona! Coordinate with friends so that you all train at the same time and exchange information on the phone afterwards. You can also tell your friends when you want to do which sport. This increases social commitment. So you feel socially obliged to go through with the training – you announced it.

Make as concrete a weekly plan as possible, on which day and at what time you would like to do which training session. In the activities you did before in the social space, you also had fixed training times.

Implementation

Follow the plan you made and not your mood! We are all masters at making excuses as to why we cannot implement the training session at the planned time. After a long day in the home office with never-ending video meetings, relaxing and resting on the sofa seems very tempting. When doing this, be guided by your goals and values that you thought about earlier. You do it because you set out to do it and because it’s important to you.

It is very helpful if you build up routines, i.e. integrate the training sessions into your daily routine. You get up and you know it’s Thursday, so it’s core training. When you brush your teeth, you don’t think about whether you really want to do it every morning.

Reward

Even though we think we are very complex beings, and we certainly are, our behaviour is predominantly controlled by reward and punishment. If a behaviour is followed by a positive reward, it increases the likelihood that you will do the behaviour again. (By the way, it also works great if you want to influence your partner’s behaviour, but that’s another topic).

So you need to create a positive reward for behaviour that you want to do regularly. Sport often has a natural reward: we feel stronger after a training session, have a positive body feeling and our mood is improved. But there are also units that don’t have any direct positive consequences in the short term because they simply don’t go the way you want them to, you are dissatisfied or simply have a physically bad day and struggle. Then it is important that you set yourself another reward. Afterwards, treat yourself to a delicious tea, as far as I’m concerned a beer, something good to eat or a warm shower.

Through training, you experience self-efficacy, that is, the experience of doing something you set out to do. That alone can also work as a reward.

Failures

Now we don’t live in an ideal world and there will be days when you don’t do your training the way you planned it. If this should ever be the case, the following will help:

Do a little situation analysis. This includes looking at the triggering situation (i.e. when you would have wanted to do sport), your reaction on a mental and emotional level (your excuses), your concrete behaviour (i.e. not doing sport), the short-term consequences of your behaviour and the long-term consequences.

Here you will most likely discover that the short-term consequences were positive. You could relax, continue watching your favourite show on Netflix or indulge in gluttony. In the long-term consequences, you may find that dissatisfaction sets in because you did not stick to your training plan and did not get closer to your goal.

Think about what your goal is and what solutions you can come up with so that you don’t fall into the same trap next time. Reward yourself from time to time for sticking to your plan: if you have completed your training plan on four days in a row and fail on the fifth, be happy about the four successful days and focus on them. Have you perhaps already developed a strategy for exercising at home? Or do you have no problems with motivation? Feel free to let us know and leave a comment!

Land of limited possibilities: climbing training at home

17. May 2021
Tips and Tricks

Oi, what was that?!? Loud moans, wild gasps and this strange pressing scream. Hmm, new girlfriend? Clicked on a dirty film and accidentally left the speakers on? Wait a moment, no, the voice is male and real men are known to enjoy in silence. So clearly someone is doing climbing training at home!

Which exercises is he doing though? And what kind of torture device does he have in the room? Surely it’s something that he pulls and cramps himself up on. But why does he train at home at all? Maybe because there are still places in Germany where the next bouldering hall and the next rock are not just around the corner ..

The two most important tools – not only for home use

The most important tools are not necessarily of a material nature. Or to put it another way, the “hard” tools are of no use without “soft” and abstract assistive equipment such as a plan and a goal that is as clearly defined as possible. “Climbing better” or “more power” are certainly all well and good, but unfortunately a bit too woolly. The more specific the goal, the more appropriate training plans can be selected or created. Beginners and occasional climbers should question the purpose of climbing training at home and of equipment, because up to the difficulty level of about 6th to 7th grade UIAA, the best training actually consists of simply going for a round on the rock or in the hall. Training at home really makes sense when you have already developed enough “basic strength” to put in extra shifts in your chamber of torture at home on top of your “usual” climbs once or twice a week.

Speaking of chambers of torture: in his bestseller “9 out of 10 climbers make the same mistakes”, Dave MacLeod advises not to place the gym & fitness equipment in a musty, out-of-the-way corner, but in a way that is as “communicative” as possible and right in the middle of the cosy part of the flat. From this position you can talk, drink tea or watch climbing videos during the breaks between two exercise series. This can turn monotonous basement training into a much more positive and motivating experience.

Creating training opportunities with little effort

Even for targeted and planned training, in purely material terms you need less equipment than you think or no equipment at all – depending on what, how versatile and how specific you want to train. Ultimately, you can even turn various everyday objects such as a door or a table into sports equipment on which you can do a lot of pulling, pushing and holding exercises. You can also make several out of one piece of equipment, for example by hanging a towel or a few rings around a pull-up bar and thus creating further grip variations for more dynamic exercises. Anyone who is active in sports is sure to have noticed the bodyweight trend, which promotes training with one’s own body weight and is creating a stir under names such as “Fit without equipment” or “Freeletics”. And in my opinion, it’s a good trend, because you can achieve a lot with little effort and almost no money, even in the area of climbing. Even if it’s just the following really good warm-up and strengthening exercise for hands and forearms:

Upper arms on torso, forearms bent 90°, palms facing down. Now stretch your fingers as far as possible and spread them out, then pull them together as tightly as possible to form a fist. Now repeat the whole thing as quickly and firmly as possible: Open, close, open, close, 50 to 100 times. Hands and forearms should be on fire after 2-3 series :-)

It is pleasingly easy to create an efficient basic training and to gain the “basic strength” just mentioned. However, it turns all the more complicated when it comes to fine-tuning, which becomes necessary at the latest when certain weaknesses become more apparent as progress is made. You will then have to decide what to train instead of continuing blindly. Is there a lack of pulling force in the upper arms? Of holding power in the fingers? Of stability in the torso, known as the “core”? Or several at the same time? And what about the supporting muscles, the antagonists and the mobility?

In view of these many questions, possibilities and sources of error, it makes little sense to quickly slap a random fretboard over your door and start muddling along with some “super-strong-in-three-months plan”. That’s how I tried it many years ago and, looking back, I suspect it contributed to a stubborn elbow problem rather than an explosion in performance. At that time, I had no idea about the variety of gym & fitness equipment. That is why I have listed a few for you here, ordered by increasing installation effort:

  • Training without equipment from towel up to door frame
  • Pull-up bar
  • Sling trainers and rings
  • Pegboard
  • Finger board aka grip board aka fretboard aka hangboard aka zlagboard
  • Holds on walls, ceilings, loft beds and dark corners
  • Campus board

Before we delve into the details here and pick out some toys, we need a few basic comments and general tips. Since the boards especially have a lot of potential for overstraining, frustration and injury if used carelessly.

“The brain is the most important climbing muscle” also applies for training at home.

It is well known that finger boards and the like can be used to train finger strength, arm strength and, with some restrictions, stamina. This is just as clear as the basic rule that it should only be done with thoroughly warmed-up muscles and fingers fully supplied with blood. But how many (pull-up) moves in how many sets, blocks and intervals am I supposed to do now? How long do I hang on to which hold with which arm angle? Should I do more static postures or more dynamic movements? How dynamic – slow or full steam ahead? At what point am I “allowed” to train with finger holes without a blatant risk of injury? What is my personal starting position (performance level, constitution, experience)?

Questions upon questions, which once again make it clear that it is not a good idea to go off the cuff with some ready-made plan fished from the internet or a magazine. Instead, the most extensive use of the brain muscle is called for – just as a certain Wolfgang Güllich once suggested. It is not for nothing that state-of-the-art training books such as “Gimme Kraft” (or “Gimme Kraft Air for beginners”) are not exactly thin and deal with the complex and detailed relationships in many individual steps. In addition, there are more and more good climbers who are using more and more different training methods and strategies and are then happy to recommend them to others. As a beginner, you then find yourself in a maze of sometimes contradictory training tips.

So it’s best to get started “right”, i.e. with a persistent and regular investment of time and energy. Otherwise you might be better off just sticking to getting better by climbing in as many different ways as possible. Or by just having fun without big ambitions – seeing as that’s supposed to be out there, too. Just steer clear of half-measures that lead to failures, motivational gaps and injuries.

The main reason for the complexity of the matter lies in the very many performance-determining factors of climbing. More and more of these are being “discovered” since climbing is increasingly viewed holistically. Starting with the realisation that climbing requires the entire body, including the head and legs, it has now become necessary to carefully examine pretty much everything from sleep to eating habits, from addictions and vices to basic attitudes to life and social situations. It’s not for nothing that the yoga and mindfulness wave is also passing over into climbing. This is quite a good thing, even if it does spread a lot of kitchen psychology and calendar wisdom. It is well worthwhile to at least refrain from ignoring all the “soft” and seemingly incidental factors. Maybe it’s not the wrong periodisation or way of exercising that stands in the way of progress, but the daily three after-work beers, the negatively coloured attitude to life or the regular pot of coffee in the office.

However, all this does not mean that beginners cannot train successfully. It also doesn’t confirm older climbers’ fears, who think there’s nothing left to get after their wild years of youth. In his book, Dave MacLeod refers to top climbers like Stevie Haston and Enzo Oddo, who are in the form of their lives beyond 50(!). In order to achieve top personal form without injury as a beginner at any age, the following general training tips should be followed:

  • Goal setting: A concrete, clearly formulated goal with a fixed point in time. The time at which it is supposed to be achieved constitutes the point of reference that you can always look back on and use as motivational aid. The more specific and detailed it is formulated, the clearer and more transparent the step-by-step implementation becomes. So do not phrase it as “eighth grade by next year”, but instead formulate it as “eighth grade in single pitch climbs at the limestone/sandstone/gneiss of ‘my’ home rocks or any given climb in ‘my’ hall by July 2018.” Even better for motivation are intermediate goals that can be used to measure progress and, if necessary, adjust the final goal up or down.
  • Developing a good connection with your own body. Above all this includes a feeling for the correct use of muscles and muscle groups. This can be attained in particular by really being “present”, i.e. with one’s attention in the body, during all movements. If you are not “fully involved”, you move “uncleanly” and breathe in a too shallow and too compressed fashion. If possible, your breath should not be held and blocked, even during the greatest tension.
  • Muscles get stronger quickly, often after just a few weeks. However, the apparatus of ligaments and tendons takes much longer for this, because, to put it bluntly, its “cell conversion” is slower. You might be completely thrilled about the small grips you can hold onto and not even notice the overstraining. This constitutes another reason for starting slowly and managing strains very carefully.
  • Use only large holds at first. Going all the way and explosive movements can only be incorporated with a well-trained tendon and ligament apparatus.
  • Create variety and diversity, even if this is more difficult than constantly reeling off a routine programme. After all, who wants to be a climbing field idiot?
  • Never look at and train your muscles in isolation, but rather the entire chain of movement, which is only as strong as its weakest link. Of course, this “holistic” approach also includes consideration of the antagonists (e.g., when the biceps contracts, its antagonist, the triceps, is stretched).
  • Create relief opportunities either by using foot benches, slings or beer crates

The list of these tips can be extended arbitrarily and my possibly random selection is based on what seems particularly important to me from personal experience. For a comprehensive perspective, you need either good mentors, one of the training books mentioned here, or extensive online research. It is advisable to start the latter with well-known training luminaries such as Udo Neumann or Guido Köstermeyer. Furthermore, there are good private websites, some of which are linked here. Most of the information online is only incidentally related to home training, but it provides a good basis for getting started with one or more of the following home tools:

Training completely without equipment

In the field of bodyweight training, there are many exercises that are suitable for climbing and can contribute a lot of strength. A very simple example is the warm-up exercise “the grab” explained above. Other than that, you can really use whatever your flat has to offer. Besides the door frame, the door itself is also a useful training tool for hanging exercises and pull-ups. Putting a towel over it (only with stable doors) can bring a few grip variations and dynamics into play. The towel is generally a good biceps and forearm trainer: if you stand with your back against the wall, grab one end of the towel with each hand and then place one leg in the sling, you have the starting position for the biceps curl, where you pull your arms up against the resistance of the leg. This is very effective for chest and forearms as well!

Pull-up bar

Many a climber turns up their nose on this topic, because the pull-up bar “has no point”. However, the two-time Russian bouldering world champion Dmitry Sharafutdinov has a different opinion. Sharafutdinov had neither colourful new bouldering halls nor rocks nearby in or near his hometown of Yekaterinburg. Therefore, a large part of his physical conditioning “consisted of semi-specific strength exercises, namely pull-ups, and a hell of a lot of them!”. Dmitry also mentions as important success factors of the training: “Experience and listening to the body!”

The installation is definitely doable, provided there is a reasonably solid door frame. There are poles that are simply placed on the frame and that clamp under load. These usually even have additional side holds. The other standard model has telescopic screw threads and is simply extended to the appropriate length by eagerly turning it and clamping it into the door frame.

Sling trainers and rings

Slings and rings are notoriously wobbly and therefore offer a very good training that additionally strengthens the stabilising supporting musculature and the entire muscle chains involved. This helps especially with holding really strenuous positions and body tensions in “hardmover” routes. Besides that, you gain gymnastic and acrobatic skills.

What is particularly nice is that you can attach suspension trainers and rings anywhere, whether to large screw hooks in the ceiling or to a sturdy tree in the park. Depending on the desired alignment, you can hang up rings and slings using either two cords (for transverse alignment) or only one (for parallel alignment to the suspension). Should you not be able to hang up anything heavy at home: A door frame with a pull-up bar is feasible even in the worst hovel, ergo suspension trainers and rings can be hung over the pull-up bar. Okay, you might be hanging pretty low and not look your coolest, but a temporary solution like that is still better than no training at all.

You can also hang bolas (exercise ball), towels or anything else that you can use for more or less static or flexible exercise from your pull-up bar.

Pegboard

The pegboard is a wooden cuboid with a grid of holes into which round wooden holds are inserted and pulled out while hanging in the climbing position. This is not intended to evoke sexual associations, but to get a strong upper body. It is a very effective technique without any great risk of injury, as you completely block the timbers for a short time whilst moving hand over hand and keep on inserting. This leads to a very balanced strain on the entire chain of muscles from abdomen to fingers.

With ready-delivered pegboards, the required assembly material is usually included. In the case of the Antworks Ant Hill Pegboard, for example, these are stainless steel Spax screws and Fischer dowels, which are mounted directly into the wall or onto a (free-standing) framing device. You don’t necessarily need a spacer here, as the wooden holds prevent any direct scrubbing of the wall (as long as you don’t do too many pendulum swings).

The one with the many names: Fingerboard

Probably the most common and well-known gym and fitness tool, this is a synthetic resin or wooden structure with a large number of positively (outward) and negatively (inward) shaped holds, bars, tongs, holes and slopers (overlays). Many climbers swear by the grippy texture of the plastic, others find the smoother grip of wood gentler on the skin. There are many possible opportunities for straining and grip combinations for fingers and arms. A small market overview with some training tips can be found in this article on climbing.

Of course, this area is subject to an increasing amount of differentiation as well. For example, hangboards, as the name suggests, offer the possibility of hanging up the board – although this also requires correspondingly stable fixed points. Another special variant is the zlagboard, which comes with a mobile phone holder and an appropriate app to control the training. Despite the “sponsoring” involved, there is a quite critical test report to be found on Ulligunde.com.

Assembly is quick if the masonry is solid: screw a few thick Spax bolts through the holes in the board and into the wall, done. In the best case, you will not even need a drill and dowels. However, if the walls are only made of plasterboard and/or are hollow exactly where you want to put the torture device and/or there is not enough space above the door frame, you will need a substructure. Or, if in doubt, opt for a free-standing frame construction, which will even make you mobile ;-)

Handholds in the wall – a bouldering corner inside the flat

From super simple to highly complicated – anything is possible: a few climbing holds in any sizes, shapes and combinations can be screwed into the smallest corner – always provided that the dwelling does not threaten to collapse under body weight loads.

Drilling directly into the wall is possible, but then requires extremely liberal landlords or plenty of putty when you move out. If the walls can’t take it, a free-standing construction is needed here as well. Given that you have some space, you will always find a way to make it work. Inspiration for this can be found at any children’s playground. Or in the student flat next door, where I’m sure someone will have bolted climbing holds to their loft bed. Other boards, slats, squared timbers and panels can in turn be attached to such stable designs, which serve as a base for holds.

It is best to use solid plywood boards as a base. You could then perforate them with a variety of holes which will enable you to rearrange the holds at any time. The diameter of the holes must of course match the bolts used (usually M10s) and their drive-in nuts on the back of the wall. Small holds and steps can also be fixed directly using Spax bolts. Using a cordless screwdriver for all the screwing is for wimps – it is the perfect opportunity to savour your first finger training.

Campus board

It was invented by climbing legend Wolfgang Güllich and Jerry Moffatt, another climbing legend, swears by it: the campus board. Dave MacLeod, however, has a not entirely uncritical opinion: “Campus boards are the most dangerous form of training for climbers. (…) almost everyone who trains on the campus board for a long time comes to experience problems with their fingers or elbows sooner or later.”

As always, it is a question of well thought-out and targeted use. Used correctly, the campus board allows for endless static and dynamic pulling and hanging exercises, depending on the number and size of the slats. In addition, depending on the height and quantity of the screwed-on slats, it allows you to climb up and down hand over hand really nicely. However, the requirements for space and sturdiness of the walls or ceilings are, once again, significantly higher than for the fingerboard. Unless you want to scrub along the wallpaper every time you move, you cannot attach it to the wall just like that. On top of this, almost all campus boards hang over slightly, which makes an appropriate substructure or rear construction inevitable. Of course, this must equally be built with appropriately stable wood or metal, which in turn increases the weight.

The few building instructions available on the internet, such as the one at Target10a, mostly refer to real whoppers that you will hardly be able to fit into your own four walls. Besides, German-language instructions usually lack concrete information on how to attach the whole thing. By contrast, English-language instructions such as the rock climber training manual are more concrete.

Images of the rear construction have similar rarity value. In this Wikipedia illustration of a relatively small campus board, they are visible due to a very simple construction of the board. And you can also see that despite the relatively small size, a lot of stabilising metal is already built in. So even with small campus boards, depending on the space available, an extensive hardware store arsenal of mounting rails, beam hangers, frame brackets, consoles, retaining plates, etc. may be necessary. This raises the question, especially for non-peak performing climbers, of whether effort and training benefits remain balanced in the right proportion.

Conclusion

There are a plenty of home training options that can be used to increase a lot of physical performance-determining factors. The limits lie in aspects such as technique, tactics and psyche – you won’t really be able to train these three aspects in a tangible way at home. The only thing that helps with these is to go into the hall and – better still – to the natural rocks.

Sustainable or greenwashed? Outdoor brands in portrait: Patagonia

6. May 2021
Equipment

It is the outdoor paradox: we want to experience and conserve unspoiled landscape, but consume abundant resources to see it with our own eyes. We get upset about summer skiers and roaring Porsches, yet still get on the plane to New Zealand. Whether manufacturers and suppliers of outdoor goods or consumers and buyers: people rave about nature and mountains, but in doing so they also contribute to their endangerment.

Though perhaps there is another side to it. On the one hand, colourful images of waterfalls, forests and mountain scenery fuel the desire to consume and travel, but on the other hand they can also sharpen a sense for the beauty of sensitive ecosystems that are worth protecting.

Not only climate: What is sustainability?

To put it simply: sustainable is when you do not use up resources faster than nature can recreate them – with or without human influence. Selfless renunciation may be urged, but it is hardly heeded, let alone taken seriously. Urging can only successfully be done by credible role models – and there are not many of them. At least, when someone demonstrates it, it is widely respected and admired.

Meanwhile, not even the many appeals to “voluntary self-restraint” to a “reasonable level” usually have any effect. They just smell too much like a moral club, and besides, no one can really say exactly where this golden mean lies anyway. Mostly, attempts are made to operate with a certain “CO2 budget” per capita and year. Reduced to numbers in this way, it seems more feasible, but in my opinion it misses the core of the problem – just like the whole fixation on numbers, CO2 and “the climate” today.

With “climate targets” and maximum “permissible” increases in the earth’s temperature, mankind shows not only that it has good intentions, but also that it is still stuck in the technocentric worldview that created the problems in the first place. Such a worldview believes that with certificate trading and somewhat more efficient technology, the earth’s temperature conditions can be controlled and thus the environmental problem can be brought under control. However, people forget that cosmic influences such as the sun and the earth itself also have a say in such huge ecological interrelationships. CO2 fixation also takes the focus off other problems such as soil sealing or emissions of soot, fine dust and aerosols.

True sustainability must still take other aspects into account as well. This includes not only the three levels of the sustainability model (ecological, economic and social), but also personal and fundamental, non-technical aspects such as questioning one’s own needs and motives. Leading to then, perhaps, not making that impulse purchase or taking that spontaneous short trip halfway around the world. For example, you might ask yourself: do I need this 3-layer high-tech jacket with 40,000 mm water column for my hiking plans? Do I need the water-repellent and breathable down blanket for the camping trip? Does everything always have to be brand new or is a well-maintained second-hand piece enough?

With outdoor clothing, every increase in function often means an increase in chemicals. Let me stop myself here though, seeing as I have unintentionally started to lash out the moral club… My intention, though, is to show that ultimately the main responsibility lies with us as customers, because with all the advertising seduction in the world, no manufacturer and no retailer alone can determine what is made and produced.

Speaking of manufacturers: this article here is to take a closer look at Patagonia’s sustainability efforts – and in subsequent articles, a few more manufacturers will be checked for their sustainability.

Patagonia’s sustainability programme

First of all, no outdoor company can afford a consistently sustainable/ethical raw material, production and distribution chain without demanding exorbitant purchase prices. In this way, sustainability is more of a small special niche aimed at a “high end” clientele. This, however, leads us to the notorious “ransom” of a few super-privileged people.

Real sustainability must work on an efficient, large-scale and low-cost scale. And Patagonia is on the right track here, because their measures are not aimed at exclusivity. In addition, Patagonia does not take the “easy way” of designing only one of many aspects sustainably, thus creating a green image for itself with some “climate-neutral” intermediate product. No, they are committed to more sustainability on several levels and had already begun to do so at a time when only very few globally operating companies thought about such things.

Environmental aspects of sustainability

However, Patagonia, too, has been and still is a growing, globally operating company whose processes and products are not always fully sustainable. Elegantly and diplomatically, this problem is expressed in phrases like “between marketing and environmental protection”. This balancing act includes commitments to various environmental projects such as the well-known donation concept “1% for the Planet”. Its basic idea derives from Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard himself: 1% of the annual company turnover goes to organisations that support environmental protection.

Patagonia’s main goal is to improve environmental sustainability with a 4-point programme. This consists of the following points:

1 Reduce

This means striving for the longest possible product life. In doing so, the need for constantly new clothes is supposed to be reduced. The famous marketing campaign “Do not buy this jacket” during the 2011 Thanksgiving season should also be understood in this context. I will deal with this apparent contradiction later on.

2 Repair

Patagonia designs many garments so that customers can repair them themselves as easily as possible and supports them with instructions on the internet. In the USA, they have built one of the largest textile repair centres ever where they repair 40,000 garments every year.

Patagonia repairs broken outdoor clothing free of charge in its shops and has been sending a repair service across Europe with the “Worn wear truck” since 2017 (current tour dates can be found here on the company website).

Patagonia also doesn’t mince words when it comes to denouncing other brands that deliberately make repairs difficult in order to get customers to buy new clothing quickly. You can find out more about the Worn Wear activities in this “Bergfreunde” article and this Utopia report.

3 Reuse

Worn Wear also serves as label for Patagonia’s second-hand market. On this platform, used Patagonia clothing is done up and traded. Every Patagonia customer can resell their used clothing here.

4 Recycle

If further use or repair is no longer possible, the recycling option comes into play. Patagonia takes back all garments and recycles them. This saves many still high-value materials from the incinerator or landfill. Patagonia has long produced a large proportion of its synthetic fibres from recycled PET bottles. We have already dealt with the recycling of down at Patagonia in more detail here on the base camp blog.

Social sustainability and employee management

“In 2010, the non-governmental organisation Berne Declaration compared the standards of working conditions in production countries by means of surveys and internet research at 77 fashion labels. Patagonia was ranked in the second best category ‘Average’ out of five. In the 2012 Berne Declaration/Public Eye ‘Outdoorguide’, Patagonia achieved a place in the highest ‘Advanced’ category.”

These Wikipedia statements show the difficulties of monitoring, i.e. the complete control and evaluation of all processes in large companies (with a turnover of about US$ 600 million (as of 2013) and a staff of about 1300, Patagonia clearly belongs to this category). Tracing all the routes and intermediate products can become quite complicated. Patagonia nevertheless strives to make all manufacturing steps transparent and fair – from raw material to finished product. The latter is also reflected in its membership of various initiatives such as the Fair Labor Association, which campaigns for fairer working conditions.

Economic sustainability

Since 2013, the company has been sceptical about the concept of economic growth because there would be a point where growth would directly or indirectly endanger living conditions. Responsible growth would only be growth that takes into account social and ecological consequences. Similar things are uttered in every Sunday speech, but at Patagonia there is a good chance that these words will be followed by action. As the company is and remains privately owned, without the involvement of anonymous lenders who influence business decisions in the background.

Marketing

Patagonia’s marketing can, with some goodwill, also be counted as part of the sustainability strategy as it often targets environmental issues. One of Patagonia’s contributions, which is not measurable but certainly not to be underestimated, is that it has made the outdoor industry and its customers aware of many sustainability issues in the first place.

With the already mentioned “Do not buy this jacket” advertisement, for example, they positioned themselves against the waste of resources and mountains of rubbish of fast-moving fashion consumption. At first, such a contradictory message does not seem very credible, but it was meant to be taken seriously. And if you distinguish between business growth and market growth, it also makes economic sense. Patagonia wants to flourish precisely thanks to its sustainability successes. Chouinard, the company’s founder, sees himself as an entrepreneur in competition with other companies that are forced out of the market by the elimination of fast-moving “meaningless consumption” precisely because of their lack of sustainability. Then the market shrinks, but the company grows.

What do the critics say?

The eye of the critical public is naturally particularly vigilant with a company like Patagonia. In the past, there has been criticism from animal welfare organisations on several occasions. It was justified and was received accordingly. And not in the form of appeasement and relativisation, but in the form of change. In the case of a complaint from PETA about the suffering of sheep in a supplier factory, this wool was immediately taken out of processing. Following complaints about the use of down from live plucking, Patagonia developed the strict “Traceable Down Standard” to ensure a transparent supply chain and the exclusion of force-feeding and live plucking.

Consumer advocates and sustainability portals are quite appreciative. The sustainability portal Utopia.de, for example, confirms that the numerous sustainability measures are neither greenwashing nor image cultivation, but genuine efforts. The Rank a brand association, on the other hand, comes to a critical verdict, which, however, does not seem to have been reached conclusively yet. Again, the divergent results show how difficult it is to assess the effectiveness of sustainability measures.

Criticism in major media such as Zeit.de and Spiegel-Online tends to be undifferentiated and also seems to be partly criticism for criticism’s sake. This is how they write at the Zeit:

“The US company from California sells its customers not only warm and durable jackets, but an image: eco-coolness for politically correct hipsters.”

It sounds as if it is wrong that sustainability can even be “cool” by now. Would it be better if it were still tainted with a musty health food store and Birkenstock image? I don’t quite like hipsters either, so I fully understand this broadside. Nevertheless, it is more a judgement of taste and implies that Patagonia would go the way of the “fashion brand for office people”. If it were, it would certainly be questionable, at least as long as one does not offer pure fashion lines without chemically or resource-intensively achieved functionality. As it is true that technical outdoor clothing is not very useful in the city or when walking in the forest.

Der Spiegel also delivers similar criticism. It also mainly highlights problems and contradictions that affect the outdoor industry in general.

Conclusion

Patagonia can certainly improve a lot and full sustainability is still a long way off. However, if you look at it in relation to the outdoor industry as a whole, the company it doing pretty well. Patagonia is more active than most of its competitors and has been for a much longer time. Omissions and mistakes do occur, but they are not covered up or glossed over, but gradually addressed.

NEVER GO WITHOUT AIR AGAIN: BUYER’S GUIDE TO INNER TUBES

3. May 2021
Buyer's guide

Anyone who has cursed a flat tyre at one time or another knows it: nothing works without air in the tyre; well, except pushing. The inner tube is responsible for holding air inside the tyre, but most cyclists rarely take notice of it – except when there is a hole and a loss of air. Apart from that, the only part of the inner tube that is usually visible is the valve, which protrudes through the rim. The inner tube itself is hidden under the coat and rim, where it performs tireless hard labour and withstands enormous strains and temperature differences during sporting performance. It is also particularly important that it is responsible for adjusting comfort and riding experience. The correct air pressure in the tyre provides damping and grip and influences rolling resistance and roadholding on curves. An inner tube has to perform a good deal, which is why it is just as important to take a look at this part of the bike.

Inner tubes in different sizes

Classic inner tubes are made of butyl rubber. This is a synthetic rubber that has very low air permeability, is very weather resistant and maintains its high stability and elasticity at any temperature.In short: the rubber tube absorbs the air and, generally speaking, does not release it again – regardless of conditions such as winter mountain biking on snow and ice or scorching heat on hot asphalt. In addition to butyl inner tubes, there are also inner tubes made of latex. They are very light, but not as airtight as the rubber ones. For this reason latex tubes have to be inflated more often.

Depending on the type of bike, rim diameter, rim width and tyre coat, cyclists use different sizes and widths of inner tubes. Particularly light and thin-walled tubes are required for certain areas of application. Other cyclists place a lot of emphasis on stability and choose thicker-walled and heavier tubes accordingly. Furthermore, there are different types of valves used on inner tubes:

  • The Dunlop valve (DV) or normal valve (NV) is very widely used for everyday bikes, Dutch bikes, touring bikes and children’s bikes in Germany. It is designed for a maximum pressure of 6 bar and fits into a rim hole with a 8.5 mm diameter.
  • The Sclaverand valve (SV), also referred to as “French valve” and “road bike valve”, has a smaller diameter (rim hole 6.5 mm) and allows a maximum air pressure of 15 bar. Due to its high possible air pressure and the associated low rolling resistance, the Sclaverand valve has long been popular with road cyclists. However, this particular valve is now also widely used on mountain bikes.
  • The Schrader valve is better known to most cyclists as an auto valve (AV). This valve used to be the standard choice for mountain bikes. On the positive side, cyclists with these valves hardly need to worry about an air pump, because their bike can be inflated at any petrol station.

Since the rim hole differs depending on the valve, cyclists must select the inner tube with the appropriate valve. Otherwise the valve would not fit through the rim at all or there would be too much clearance and it would not sit properly in the hole.

When buying inner tubes, three criteria are decisive in addition to weight and material thickness:

  • Wheel size / diameter of the wheels: these values are given in inches. Common values for mountain bikes are 29 inches (29″), 27.5 inches (27.5″) or 28 inches (28″) for road bikes.
  • Rim width / tyre width: depending on the rim width (i.e. the inner width of the rim) and the desired tyre width, the tube must be selected to match.
  • Valve type: this must match the rim hole.

Depending on the area of application, the tubes are designed for an individual maximum pressure. This is where road bike tyres (which are ridden with very high pressure) differ from cyclocross tyres, downhill tyres, trekking tyres or road tyres for everyday bikes. Since the tubes also differ greatly in dimensions (rule of thumb: road bike narrow, trekking bike medium, mountain bike wide), fortunately there is little danger of confusion here. The dimensions of the inner tubes are also indicated on the packaging as well as on the inner tubes themselves. Some tubes are even made to ideally fit several rim diameters. Here, too, the corresponding measurements are recorded on the packaging. High-grade inner tubes from renowned manufacturers, such as Schwalbe, Continental or Michelin, convince with their high quality standards and the associated reliability. With these manufacturers, every single tube is tested for absolute air tightness before it is delivered.

For a few years there have also been some well-functioning tubeless systems around for mountain bike tyres especially. Tubeless means that the manufacturers completely dispense with inner tubes. Instead of the inner tube, air is simply trapped between the tyre coat and the rim.Although the tubeless system requires more assembly work and is associated with higher costs, tubeless tyres are less prone to breakdowns and offer a very good riding experience. While tubeless tyres have been used widely among mountain bikers in France for quite some time, cyclists in German-speaking countries still tend to use the good old inner tube. Some reasons for this could be the simple assembly and the high reliability.

Depending on the bike and the area of use, different rims, different tyres and, of course, different inner tubes are used. This is why we have compiled a compact overview of the different tubes here:

Inner tubes for road bikes

For road bikes, 28″ tubes are mostly used. In triathlon, road cyclists also like to use the smaller 26″ tubes. Since some inch specifications can differ for both the rims and the tyres, road cyclists should measure their tyre size exactly beforehand.

The decisive value is the distance from rim well to rim well. Measuring and converting into inches saves many a surprise when buying inner tubes and tyres. The equally important rim width is usually printed on the rim. Since France has its own measurements in addition to the general deviations with the inch measurements, it is advisable to select the tubes and tyres according to the ETRTO (European Tyre and Rim Technical Organisation) specifications. These are given in exact millimetres which makes comparison and selection much more convenient. If you are using high-profile rims, you should also pay attention to the length of the valve when buying a tube. At Schwalbe, for example, these tubes are marked “Extra Long” or “XX Long”.

»Calculating optimum air pressure for road bike tyres

Inner tubes for mountain bikes

Many mountain bikers ride with 26″ wheels, but 27.5″ and 29″ are also widely used dimensions. Using an appropriate jaw width and tyre width, most inner tubes for mountain bike tyres range in width between 2.25″ and 2.35″. The tubes usually offer a certain tolerance and can be ridden with different tyre and rim combinations. However, when installing a smaller tube in a very large rim, the load increases and with it the risk of breakdowns.

Mountain bike tyres offer a good balance of stability and weight at around 150 g to 200 g. Lighter tubes are available, but are more commonly used for touring and cross-country, as their lightweight construction also makes them more prone to breakdowns. Downhill bikes and Enduro bikes, on the other hand, use particularly thick downhill tubes. These are extremely stable, but with their high weight they are only suitable for normal MTB tours to a limited extent.

»Determining optimum air pressure for MTB tyres

Inner tubes for trekking bikes and touring bikes

High reliability and a pleasant riding experience are crucial for cycling tours and cycling journeys. Tyres and tubes are mostly 28″ and weigh only about half as much as MTB tubes. In addition to good durability and stability, high-quality trekking tubes ensure low rolling resistance.

Inner tubes for children’s bikes

Depending on whether the children’s bike is an everyday bike, a mountain bike or BMX, the tubes for children’s bikes are sometimes made more robust and sometimes a little lighter. Inner tubes for children’s bikes start at 10″ or 12″ and are usually suitable for several wheel sizes. The tubes for youths’ bikes are available up to a size of 24″ – after that, with 26″, begins an area where youth and adult sizes are starting to overlap.

Inner tubes for e-bikes and fatbikes

With e-bikes, strains on tubes and tyres are greater than with conventional bikes due to higher average speeds. Tubes must therefore be particularly resistant and durable. Above all, this applies to e-bikes, which have a license for motor assistance up to 50 km/h. On a fatbike, not only are the rims and tyres oversized, but so are the inner tubes. For a rim size of 26″, there are tubes between about 3.5″ and 4.8″. Of course, fatbike tubes are heavier than ordinary MTB tubes – but they fit the entire fatbike set-up without compromise.

Changing and patching an inner tube

Repairing inner tubes is simple and can be done with little effort by any cyclist. Due to this simple handling, the pro-tube version is still the most widely used. All that cyclists need to change the inner tube is a repair kit with appropriate materials for patching and a few tyre levers to gently remove the tyre from the rim. Many tyre patches are self-adhesive and are stuck onto the damaged area like a sticker. Afterwards, the inner tube is ready for use again in no time and can be installed and inflated. Small holes in the tube can be repaired in this way. Only in the case of longer cuts and damage to the valve a new inner tube is often needed.

Conclusion

This small overview shows that there are a lot of things to consider when it comes to valves and tubes. It is important that both components fit, not only in terms of their size, but also in terms of the bike’s area of use. Do you have any experience with inner tubes, or do you have any unanswered questions? – Feel free to leave your comments!

Buyer’s guide to bike brakes: disc or rim brakes?

19. April 2021
Buyer's guide

Disc brakes or rim brakes? This is the question that every cyclist encounters probably at least once in his life. To answer this question, we will take a closer look at and compare both brakes today.

Which system is best for mountain bikers and road cyclists?

While the question of disc brakes or rim brakes is still hotly debated on for racing bikes, disc brakes have been firmly established on mountain bikes for many years and are indispensable for downhill, Enduro and freeride cycling.

When the mountain bike was designed in the 1980s, the bikes were equipped with rigid forks and cantilever brakes, which used cable pull and later on occasionally hydraulics on the rim for braking. Alongside the increasing spread of suspension forks on mountain bikes and full-suspension bikes, disc brakes largely displaced rim brakes. Both systems were adopted from motocross motorbikes and adapted to the bicycle dimensions. The suspensions allowed better damping, higher traction and thus also much higher speeds off-road. Therefore, the development of disc brakes for mountain bikes was the next logical step in order to be able to optimally control the high speeds and strains.

The advantages of disc brakes on MTBs

On long and steep descents, rim brakes tend to heat up the rims a lot. This can lead to reduced braking performance or even damage the rim, tyres and brake pads. Even in wet conditions, disc brakes are vastly superior to cantilever brakes or V-brakes. Disc brakes for mountain bikes are sometimes equipped with cable pulls for power transmission. High-quality brakes, however, are usually hydraulic systems that use a special brake fluid to transmit power. The following overview shows the positive effects of a brake system with disc brakes on MTBs:

  • Mountain bikers need less finger force for the same braking effect. The brake levers are often designed so that they can be operated with one or two fingers at most. This means that the other fingers remain on the handlebars and the bike can be ridden safely.
  • The rims are not abraded by the brakes and even a slight imbalance (“eights”) will never cause the brake to wear out on the rim.
  • In wet conditions, the pads of the disc brake achieve significantly better brake values due to a higher surface pressure.
    On long descents, the rims do not get hot and cannot be damaged. The heat development is concentrated on the brake discs.
  • Usually the brake pads on disc brakes last longer. Changing the pads is very easy as well. Brake discs are also very durable.
    Thicker tyres are no problem for the disc brake compared to the rim brake.

In addition to the immense advantages for mountain biking, disc brakes also bring with them some small disadvantages:

  • They are heavier than rim brakes and also more sensitive (e.g. when transported with wheels removed).
  • The entire brake system is technically more complex and requires more know-how, more experience and more time for maintenance and care.
  • Brake pads for disc brakes must be run in to develop their full braking power. This requires a little patience, but can be done easily by any mountain biker.
  • Hubs and spokes are subject to greater strain with disc brakes than with rim brakes.
    Good disc brakes are more expensive than rim brakes.

Different disc brakes: brake discs, brake pads, brake fluid

Even though mountain bikes systems may look very similar at first glance, there are some fundamental differences that are particularly important when converting and modifying the braking system.

Most brake discs are made of stainless steel. Besides differences in design, they also differ in their diameter. This in turn changes the braking power of the entire system. Simply put, this means: larger brake disc equals stronger braking power. However, larger brake discs also weigh more and cannot be combined with any suspension fork on any bike. The general standard constitutes 180 mm discs or 203 mm discs. There are two different types of mounting for the discs on the hubs, known as “IS2000” and “Centerlock”. With the IS2000 system (6-hole), the brake disc is attached to the hub with six M5 Torx screws. Shimano’s Centerlock system, on the other hand, uses a special locking ring with a multi-tooth profile. With the Shimano Centerlock, the brake disc is mounted and dismounted in no time. The 6-hole mount, on the other hand, has the advantage that an M5 Torx screwdriver is often available more quickly than the special tools for centre lock systems.

Depending on the brake system, mountain bikers can choose from a wide variety of brake pads. In principle, there is usually a choice of sintered pads or organic brake pads. The metallic pads (Sinter Brake Pads) are insensitive to heat and very durable. However, they need more time to run in and put more strain on the brake discs. Organic brake pads (resin brake pads) consist of organic fibres and synthetic resin. They are particularly quiet and can be run in very quickly. In wet and sandy conditions, however, they are usually somewhat inferior to sintered pads.

The brake fluid in disc brakes for mountain bikes is either mineral oil or DOT. The guidelines for brake fluids laid down by the Department of Transportation (DOT for short) actually refer to cars and motorbikes, but are equally valid for mountain bikes. Different brake fluids are used for hydraulic disc brakes (e.g. DOT 4, DOT 5.1), which are not always compatible with each other. Other manufacturers, such as Shimano or Magura, rely entirely on mineral oil. These brake systems require very little maintenance and the brakes often do not need to be bled for many years. Brakes with DOT filling, however, are different: since the fluid is hygroscopic (i.e. it “draws” moisture from the air), these brake systems must be serviced at regular intervals.

Disc brakes on a road bike

While disc brakes have long been established on high-quality mountain bikes, disc brakes on road bikes are still far off from being established to the same extent. However, the interest of road cyclists in disc brakes is growing continuously and the range of sophisticated braking systems offered by manufacturers is increasing accordingly.

Light and reliable rim brakes have been standard on road bikes for amateurs and professionals for several decades. Road bike rims are therefore equipped with a special braking surface for the brake pads to press against. Mostly, these surfaces are made of aluminium – but sometimes individual alloys or carbon are used instead. Carbon fibre is known for its high strength and low weight. In wet conditions, however, the braking power of an aluminium braking surface is noticeably more powerful. One disadvantage of the rim brake is the restriction in the choice of tyres, because road bike tyres for rim brakes must not be too wide. Road bikes are made of increasingly stiff materials to ensure ideal power transmission. At the same time, the cyclist’s comfort always lessens. Wider tyres promise better damping and adapted riding comfort – but cannot be fitted with rim brakes.

The advantages for road cyclists using disc brakes are therefore:

  • Freer choice of lightweight rims and wider tyres. The braking surface is no longer attached to the rim. This makes the wheels more durable (no wear on the brake flanks and no heat build-up through braking).
  • Better riding comfort through wider tyres without creating more rolling resistance.
  • By shifting the weight from the brake flanks (which are omitted) to the centre of the wheels (brake discs), the rotating mass shifts towards the centre of the wheel. In terms of total weight, there is only a slight difference depending on the brake. However, the wheels are easier to accelerate with disc brakes and require less effort to steer.
  • The braking performance is also very good in wet and dirty conditions.

In addition, there are advantages and disadvantages that also apply in the area of disc brakes for mountain bikes. Easy operation and very good braking performance stand opposite higher purchase costs and greater maintenance effort. When searching for the lightest combination of wheels and braking system, rim brakes are still ahead. However, the weight of setups with disc brakes decreases from year to year. The question of absolute weight will therefore become superfluous in the near future. The trend towards using disc brakes on road bikes is unmistakable and affects amateurs, recreational road cyclists as well as professional cyclists. At the very latest since German sprint specialist Marcel Kittel caused a stir with disc brakes on his road bike at the Tour de France 2017 and at the Dubai Tour 2017, the topic has been the subject of hot debate more than ever before.

On the proper use of walking poles

15. April 2021
Tips and Tricks

Go up to the mountains, they said. It’s nice there, they said. But no one mentioned that it can also be quite exhausting. And certainly no one mentioned that it could have been significantly more pleasant with sticks.

It is one of those “aha” moments that you experience every now and then when climbing mountains. At least that’s how I felt the first time I used walking poles. They offer better stability, physical relief and ultimately a much more pleasant mountain experience all round.

But as is so often the case, it is not simply a matter of picking up sticks and getting started. There are a few technical tricks to consider which ensure that the whole thing actually works. We are certainly planning on explaining these to you, but firstly…

The pros and cons of walking poles – yes or no?

There are many advantages to using walking poles. As previously mentioned and among other things, there is the lower body joint and muscle relief, e.g. when walking downhill. This type of strain can amount to several tonnes depending on the duration of the tour. In addition, the poles provide the necessary stability, especially when crossing rivers or névé fields, or improve surefootedness and balance when traversing. Ultimately, the poles even help to optimise posture as they straighten the back leading to an overall “better” way of walking.

Nevertheless, what reasons could there be against the use of sticks? There is, for example, the aspect that poles can quickly tilt in difficult terrain and thus cause problems. In rope-secured passages, in particular, poles can also be quite unhandy, and critics repeatedly note that excessive pole use inhibits training the sense of balance. Finally, of course poles are not immune to breaking, which is why you should never fully trust their material in dangerous situations.

The medical commission of the UIAA (Union Internationale des Associations d’Alpinisme) above all recommends poles in cases of:

  • Old age.
  • Excess weight.
  • Joint or spine diseases.
  • Carrying heavy loads.
  • Setting the correct length

As a rule, always keep to 90 degrees!

Once you have chosen the right pair from the wide range of different walking poles, you are faced with the question: “How long should the poles actually be?” A simple basic rule helps here: they should be so high that the arm reaches an angle of 90 degrees when you hold the handle of the pole in your hands and the pole is standing vertically on the ground. You can lengthen the poles a little on steep descents and shorten them a bit on steep ascents. When adjusting, make sure that the locks are tightened firmly so that the poles do not collapse.

Pro-tip: At high altitudes or in particularly cold regions, the poles should be long enough to open the arm angle slightly so that the hands lie below the elbows which allows for a sufficient blood flow.

By the way, you can also easily figure out the optimal length using our length calculator for walking poles (we have separate calculators for ski poles, cross-country ski poles and Nordic walking poles).

The right grip

A popular mistake on the first tour with poles is the wrong grip, meaning that the loop is often simply threaded from above. Correctly, you should reach through the loop from below so that you can exert pressure on the pole even with an open or loose hand. This allows you to open your hands during backswing movements without having to give up on the relief. Furthermore, it prevents the hands from cramping up too much.

On a traverse, it can be helpful to grip the uphill facing pole by the hold extension – if applicable. The valley facing pole should be held like a pommel which allows for a better support. Besides, in case of doubt, it is recommended to not have your hands in the loop when doing a traverse, so that they are free in case of emergency.

Using the walking poles correctly

To achieve the best possible effect, it is advisable to keep the poles close to the body at all times. In flat terrain, the poles are diagonal and are used alternately, according to the natural pattern of movement. In principle, this is the Nordic walking technique, only without the conscious use of force. Obviously, under these circumstances they are also most likely to be left out.

In steeper terrain, the double poling technique is the more sensible option. The poles are usually placed at every second step whilst pushing yourself up forcefully with both arms. This ensures stability and relief. Even downhill, the double poling technique constitutes the best choice. However, if possible, you should not poke, but grip the hold normally and, above all, pay attention to a clean technique so that you do not slip away, stumble and, in the worst case, fall.

Where do we go from here? Do I need sticks or not?

So the answer to the question of whether you should always have walking poles with you is a resounding YES and NO.

They are always useful, but only if you know how to use them properly and take a few simple rules into account. If not they will either prove useless or even pose a hindrance. Perhaps a good recommendation could be to use the poles at times – especially on technically difficult tours – and to leave them at home at other times, seeing as without poles the sense of balance is trained and muscles are exercised more effectively.

What is your opinion? Yes or no to sticks? We look forward to receiving your comments!

Buyer’s guide to climbing holds

1. April 2021
Buyer's guide

Anyone who has ever been in a climbing or bouldering hall will confirm it: As soon as you enter the hall, your gaze is drawn to the colourful variety of holds. Climbing holds in all imaginable colours and shapes are an essential part of training on artificial climbing walls. But what distinguishes a blue sloper from a green bar? What are climbing holds actually made of and how are they manufactured? And what should you consider if you want to equip your home climbing wall with holds and steps? We have taken a closer look at these and many other questions. Let’s dive into the colourful world of climbing holds…

Climbing holds – manufacture and materials

Let’s start from the beginning. How are climbing holds made and what are they made of?

Climbing holds can be made of a wide variety of materials. In addition to models made of wood, which are mainly used for grip and finger training, there are also some models made of stone. However, the majority of all climbing holds and steps are made of plastic. Depending on the application, shape and processing technology, mainly composite materials such as polyurethane and polyethylene are used here. However, the exact material composition sometimes varies greatly from manufacturer to manufacturer. A good example of this is Wataaah. Holds from this manufacturer are made from a composite material specially developed for the company and consist of 30% renewable raw materials.

Simply put, however, it can be said that climbing holds are usually made of quartz sand, synthetic resin and paint. This mixture is pressed into moulds in a liquid state. After curing, the holds are removed and are theoretically ready for immediate use. With a little manual skill and patience, climbing holds can be designed by anyone who is willing to put a bit of work into making them for their bouldering wall at home. How this is done and what you need to pay attention to will be the topic of an article on the subject of making your own holds coming up shortly.

However, one should be aware that self-designed climbing holds can have both constructional and qualitative weaknesses. Professionally manufactured climbing holds, on the other hand, have been subject to DIN EN 12572 since 2009, which sets out strict safety standards for artificial climbing facilities. So if you are looking for climbing holds intended for a sports club wall, nursery and school or if you want to play it safe at home, you should make sure upon purchase that the holds have been produced according to this standard. In addition, EN1176 applies to nurseries, schools, playschools and playgrounds. The brand Entres Prises manufactures holds accordingly.

Climbing holds – shapes and suitability

Climbing holds come in countless colours, shapes and qualities. Broadly speaking, however, climbing holds can be divided into three groups: Handles, slopers and bars.

  • Handles
    Handle climbing holds come in many sizes and shapes. From the mini jug to the classic “beer handle” up to extremely large roof climbing holds, anything exists. Handles are used in many tours. However, they are particularly popular with beginners and for moderate tours in overhangs as well as in roofs.
  • Sloper
    Sloper holds are rounded holds with little or no edges. Tours with slopers are considered very finger-friendly climbs, but also require some real skill and technique. Climbing slopers always involve a lot of flexibility and body tension. Beginners and children in particular tend to find this type of climbing more difficult.
  • Bars and tongs
    Bars and tongs are holds that require some finger strength. It is not uncommon to install these holds as additional steps due to their comparatively small size. Climbing on tongs and bars puts a lot of strain on hands and fingers. Especially for untrained people, this can quickly lead to pain and injuries. For this reason training in this area should be increased rather slowly.

The choice of the right holds depends strongly on the type and inclination of the wall, as well as the climbing ability of the target group. Personal preferences should also be taken into account when choosing climbing holds. In general, however, climbing thrives on variety and for this reason alone it is advisable to use a mix of several different shapes of holds or, if possible, to create climbing routes with an individual character. This not only makes climbing more fun in the long run, but it also leads to more versatile and effective training.

Practical tip for hold sets!

Especially when you are planning on changing climbing parts on a self-built wall it is often difficult to find the right holds. In this case, it may be worth purchasing complete starter sets such as the Mega Pack 30 from Metolius. This way you can get a complete range of climbing holds of different sizes and characters in one go. In addition, such complete sets usually also include bolts and eyelets so that you can attach the holds to the wall straight away.

Once you have found out which holds work best for your home bouldering wall, you can expand the wall precisely with the appropriate holds. Again, there are often additional hold sets with five to ten holds. However, they all have the same colour and a similar size.

Climbing holds for children and children’s rooms.

Climbing is very much in vogue and, in keeping with the motto “early practice makes perfect…”, young climbers are equipped with a small bouldering wall in the children’s room or garden at home, in addition to a swing or sandpit. However, there are a few things to keep in mind, both indoors and outdoors.

If a climbing wall is to be set up in a child’s room or in an area of the house where people also play and romp around, it is important to ensure that the climbing wall does not pose an increased risk of injury. For this reason, neither sharp-edged nor pointed holds should be used here. It is also advisable to avoid holds that protrude whenever possible or to pad them appropriately when not in use. As an example, this could be done by putting up a mat in front of it.

The requirements for outdoor use are completely different. They are primarily concerned with weather resistance. Not all climbing holds are UV and weather resistant. This means that holds may lose their structure and colour over time. It is also important to take care of a weather-resistant anchoring. Metal parts such as bolts and eyelets must be corrosion-resistant. The material of choice here is definitely stainless steel.

However, no matter where you set up a climbing wall for your offspring, the most important thing is that the holds are suitable for children. Large slopers and small bars are usually not appropriate for children. It is advisable to use medium-sized handles or special children’s holds. Furthermore, there are often hold sets consisting of animal figures or letters. These holds are also well suited for small children’s hands and add a visual accent to the children’s room.

Climbing holds – bolts and attachments

The correct attachment of the climbing holds to the climbing or bouldering wall is a point that contributes greatly to safety. Holds that twist or are even loose can become a significant danger for the climber and other people, especially on larger walls. To prevent this from happening in the first place, it is advisable to pay attention to a few things.
In principle, climbing walls are equipped with threaded eyelets. These hold onto the wall from behind and allow for a hold to be screwed on using an M10 size Allen screw.

However, not all bolts are the same. Depending on the place of use and hold, they have to meet different requirements. As already mentioned, stainless steel screws should be used in outdoor areas. If galvanised bolts are exposed to the weather for a long time, they often rust. This, in turn, can lead to a rusting bolt that ends up stuck in the thread and beyond that a loss of load-bearing capacity.

Climbing holds are usually attached to the climbing wall with hexagon socket screws (Allen screws). These bolts either have a cylinder head or a countersunk head. The hold that is to be screwed on determines which type of bolt is used in a specific case. There are holds that are specifically designed for the use of countersunk bolts, others require bolts with cylinder heads. Under no circumstances should holds be screwed on with the wrong bolts or bolts that do not fit properly. At the area just around the bolt in particular, climbing holds are subject to considerable strain. If this area is not loaded in the correct place or unevenly due to the wrong type of bolt, the hold may break in this exact place.

Large holds and volumes usually have additional smaller screw holes that secure the hold against twisting by means of chipboard screws. As these bolts are screwed directly into the wood of the climbing wall, no threads need to be set beforehand. However, they do leave a small hole in the wall after the hold is removed. Furthermore, extremely small steps and holds are usually only fastened by means of chipboard screws, as an M10 sized threaded bolt would simply not find room within the hold.

Depending on the product, bolts and threaded eyelets are also included in the distribution package of the climbing holds. So if you are in the process of building your own bouldering wall, this can be quite handy.

Conclusion

If you consider yourself to be in the lucky position of having a bouldering or climbing wall at home, you should take a little time to choose the right climbing holds. There are shapes, colours and types aplenty to be found in the climbing holds sector. Whether a vertical, sloping or overhanging wall is to be equipped, there is always something suitable here. Grip sets are particularly suitable for the initial equipment of a bouldering wall. It is not uncommon to be supplied with additional fastening materials such as bolts and drive-in eyelets.

LANDING CHECK: LARGE CRASH PADS

23. March 2021
Equipment

Sometimes size does matter! For example crash pads that provide solid protection for extended, multi-level boulders.

Fortunately, companies have also realised that boulderers prefer not to have to aim when falling. The result: this season there are more big crash pads available than ever before. Here’s an overview of the most important 2 sqm landing pads.

Edelrid Crux: large, green and popular

When Edelrid presented the Crux in 2009, it was a beanpole among crash pads. After all, it is 210cm long and 115cm wide. A 4-layer sandwich construction with different foam hardnesses easily fits into the 10cm height. Even if the pad is delivered unfolded: folded twice, it can be carried to distant places with the well-designed carry system. It is not surprising that this pad has been a bestseller at Alpinetrek.co.uk for a long time: it is not only the Goliath among the boulder mats, but also offers an unbeatable price per square metre.

  • Pad size: 210cm by 115cm = 2.415 sqm
  • Thickness: 10cm
  • Price (RRP): €249.95
  • Price per sqm: €103.50/sqm

By the way: the Crux Tent can at least be considered an amusing idea: with a pole system and a tarpaulin you can put up a tent using the Crux Pad as a base. Nice for spending the night right at the boulder spot.

Ocun Paddy Incubator: new and really big

The technical manufacturer Ocun also produces mega mats. It goes by the name “Paddy Incubator” and continues the well-known quality of Ocun pads. At exactly one metre, it is slightly narrower than its Edelrid counterpart – but that is not the only difference. Three layers are covered by robust Cordura (2x 2cm PE foam on top and bottom, 6cm open-pored PU foam in between). In addition, the pad consists of three parts: the two outer parts can be folded and the pad can then be folded again in the middle.

  • Pad size: 210cm on 100cm = 2.10 sqm
  • Thickness: 10cm
  • Price (RRP): €269.95
  • Price per sqm: €128.55/sqm

Mad Rock Triple Mad Pad: the three-parter

At 2.05 square metres, the Triple Mad Pad from Mad Rock just makes it into this list. If we had taken volume as a yardstick, it would have been right at the top, with a whopping 13cm of foam wedged between the nylon outer shell. The crash pad weighs a reasonable 6.5kg and can be folded to 61cm x 112cm and 39cm height for transport. The gaps between the individual elements are covered with hook and loop fasteners during use, so that you can’t get your foot caught and injure yourself.

  • Pad size: 183cm by 112cm = 2.05 sqm
  • Thickness: 13cm
  • Price (RRP): €239.95
  • Price per sqm: €117.05/sqm

Metolius Magnum crash pad: the luxury mat

At around €400, the Magnum crash pad from Metolius is not for the budget conscious – but with its details it is something for perfectionists. The two folds are each bevelled by 45° – this effectively prevents the pad from being knocked through or bent over. Folded together, you can carry a good nine kilos on your back in a 122cm x 69cm x 33cm box. Inside the pad is a sandwich construction with two closed-cell and one open-cell foam layers. The pad also comes with a storage pocket for shoes, chalk and other small items.

  • Pad size: 183cm by 122cm = 2.23 sqm
  • Thickness: 10cm
  • Price (RRP): €399.95
  • Price per sqm: €179.35/sqm

Conclusion: luggage nightmares

All pads have one thing in common: owners should have at least one combination to transport the pad together with some bouldering friends. In exchange, they all have a huge landing area that is hard to miss. As all the boulder mats shown are at least 10cm thick, you can dare to try your hand at climbing the highballs: almost an art in itself. With such a pad on your back you are well prepared to go all the way. If you fall, you fall well. And that is the job of a crash pad.

One last thank you to my namesake Sebastian, who as the crash pad expert in our customer service department helped put together this list. Thx! And now it’s your turn: have we forgotten a pad? Do you have any experiences or favourites to share? Let me know!

GET RID OF YOUR EQUIPMENT – THE ENTRY INTO THE WORLD OF ULTRA-LIGHT

18. March 2021
Equipment

Today we want to take a look at the topic of ultra-light walking and ultra-light trekking. We’ll take a look at how I came to explore this topic, what entering into the ultra-light touring world looks like and what you should consider when doing so.

Ultra-light – that’s what I’m talking about

The term ultra-light has recently become increasingly common in the outdoor industry Large, bulky equipment is a thing of the past and now more and more outdoor enthusiasts are turning to ever lighter alternatives. The term ‘ultra-light’ is not conclusively defined. As a rule however, a pure equipment weight (without food, water and fuel) of approx. 5 kg is spoken of as ultra-light, whilst equipment weighing 5 – 9 kg would be term lightweight trekking.

The advantages are obvious: if your luggage is light, you not only feel freer on the move, you also travel more quickly and can cover longer distances. It also protects your joints and back, so pain and fatigue don’t occur or take much longer to set in.

The first step – a lighter backpack

In recent years I have suffered from severe back problems. This was partly due to my build, but also due to bad posture that I developed in my youth. Since then, I have managed to keep the problem under control through targeted training, but there is one thing that hasn’t changed: I can’t carry heavy backpacks. It’s not that I immediately collapse under the load of a 15 – 20 kg backpack, but I sometimes have to end a tour after just a couple of days because of the pain. So, for me, there’s one logical conclusion: I need a lighter backpack.

My first step was not anything to do with ultra-light equipment. I just took a look through my packing list and checked it critically. The main aim was to find things that I took on every tour but actually never used . I’m not talking about pieces of equipment like a first-aid kit, which you rarely need but you should always carry on longer tours. It was more a case of leaving behind the three packs of spare batteries, the fifth spare penknife and the huge spare torch.

All these useless, surplus or unused items can just be left at home on your next tour. If you still tend to pack too much, there’s a simple trick: take the smallest backpack possible! The more space you have, the more you pack. Also, larger backpacks are also heavier than smaller ones.

Weight optimisation – targeted selection of equipment

Once your packing list has been trimmed down to its essential items, you should also take a look at the remaining equipment a bit more closely. There are often items which are total overkill for your planned tour. Do you really need that thick winter sleeping mat for a three-day tour in summer in central Europe? Equipment required for the tour should always suit the length, terrain and weather conditions. So, if I’m on the road for three days in August in the local low mountain range, the chances are that I won’t need a down jacket. I can also opt for a lighter (and less warm) sleeping bag.

If the weather forecast is good and stable, you can leave some of your rain protection and spare clothing at home. Tours in winter or in high alpine terrain require a different packing list. However, even here, discipline can save some weight.

Wherever possible, you should try to replace a heavy piece of equipment with an (already owned) lighter piece. With large, heavy things like your rucksack, sleeping bag, sleeping mat and tent, there’s a lot to save. It’s also worth considering whether equipment can be completely removed from the packing list. The tent is a common point of discussion in this regard. A lightweight tarp or bivouac could also be an option.

Once you have optimised your equipment in this respect, it is time for the scales and a first test run. For me, this phase was the decisive one as it allowed me to considerably reduce the weight of the equipment I was carrying with just a few targeted measures and at no additional cost.

Ultra-light equipment – the featherlight alternative

However, depending on the equipment you have, there are areas where you can save a little weight. For me, this was my sleeping bag. I have an extremely warm, and correspondingly heavy, down sleeping bag for the winter as well as a second model for the summer. This one is older and made of synthetic fibre, but is in no way inferior to the “Camping in winter in the North Pole” gear. As for the backpack itself, I was able to find comparatively light models in my personal inventory, but I discovered that by replacing it with an ultra-light model, I could save even more weight.

My experience reflects reality here. The first pieces of equipment that are normally swapped for ultra-light alternatives are the so-called ‘big four’. This is your backpack, sleeping bag, tent and sleeping mat. In terms of backpacks for example, models such as the Ultra Tour by Montane, which offer plenty of space at under 1 kg.

For sleeping bags, there is often no way round a down sleeping bag. This is because down sleeping bags are significantly lighter than their synthetic fibre counterparts, while providing the same level of thermal insulation. The choice of sleeping bag is particularly dependent on where you’re heading on your tour, the expected temperature and your personal feeling of warmth.

However, there are heavier and lighter models with comparable values. Three-season sleeping bags such as the Hitchens UL 20 by Big Agnes come in ultra-light versions weighing less than 800 g. If you only tend to travel in summer, so you don’t need an excessively warm sleeping bag, you can find even lighter models.

As mentioned, in terms of ultra-light hiking/trekking, the question of whether you really need a tent is often discussed. If you’re heading out in good weather in the summer, a tent may actually be superfluous and could be replaced with a much lighter tarp or even a suitable bivvy bag. However, this decision has to be made individually, as it depends strongly on personal preferences and needs. Ultra-light tents such as the Laser Ultra 1 by Terra Nova weigh less than 500 g and therefore offer considerable weight-savings over their conventional counterparts.

The sleeping mat sector is also highly competitive. It is not unusual for foam mats to be used in the ultra-light area. This type of mat usually weighs around 400-500 g. The advantage of this is that they can be used to stiffen the rucksack, allowing them to be packed away safely and helpfully. If you want something even lighter, you should take a look at air mats. Mats like the NeoAir Xlite by Therm-a-rest weight a good 100 g less than their foam counterparts, depending on their size.

Conclusion

If we add up roughly the weight of the ‘big four’ now, we get to a value of just less than 3 kg. If we combine this with the method of limiting ourselves to only the most important pieces of equipment and not taking any unnecessary items, we can enjoyed multi-day tours with very little weight. If this is still too much of a burden, you can move on to optimising other items such as food, cooker and clothing. What makes sense, and what the tricks of the trade are, is explained in separate articles for the various outdoor disciplines.

BICYCLE CARE INSTRUCTIONS

16. March 2021
Care tips

Spring is just around the corner and both trails and roads are slowly becoming passable again. So, it’s time to get the bike out of the garage and get fit again. After all, it has been standing around almost all winter and now needs some maintenance.

With a few easy manual tricks, the bike is ready to go again in no time and you can swing into the saddle. How does it work? Like this:

1. Basic cleaning

Depending on how dirty the bicycle still is, you can first use a sponge and brush and clean the frame, fork and rims with water or special bicycle cleaner . You should not use any aggressive cleaning agents, such as chain cleaner, as these can attack rubber seals – washing-up liquid is absolutely fine. Cracks, deformations or other suspicious spots are best checked by a mechanic.

2. The chain

If the chain is very dirty, you can clean it with a special brush or toothbrush. Chain cleaners, like this one from Finish Line, also remove old oil residues. If the chain is not very dirty, a cloth is sufficient. Then you should treat the chain with chain oil or grease. Simply hold the inner link plate of the chain and turn the crank. Excess material is removed, because it attracts dirt. Make sure that no oil gets on the brake, especially when using spray oil!

But even with the best care, the chain will wear out at some point. When this happens it must be replaced (often in combination with the chainrings and sprockets). It is not only important to find the right chain for the respective system (9-speed, 10-speed, 11-speed…), but also the correct chain length. You can find out everything about changing the chain and how to calculate the correct length with our chain length calculator.

3. Gears

First you should check the gear cables. These should not have a kink and should be easy to operate. If the latter is not the case, you can treat the cables as well as the front derailleur and the gears with some thin oil. If this doesn’t help, you should take a closer look at the gears.

4. Brakes

You should first check the brake pads. If they are worn out, they need to be replaced. On classic V-brakes, this can be seen by the fact that the transverse grooves are no longer visible. To do this, simply open the fixing screw of the pads with a suitable Allen key and take out the pad together with its holder and replace it. It is best to adjust the brake so that there is a maximum distance of 2 to 4 mm between brake pad and rim and the front part of the pad (in the direction of travel) touches the rim first. This prevents annoying squeaking.

Maintaining disc brakes is harder, but should still be carried out regularly. You should also check the pads for wear and replace them if necessary. Usually you have to carefully turn the piston and the brake calliper with a screwdriver. You can tell whether the brake needs to be bled or not by if the distance between the brake lever and the handle is less than a finger’s width. It is best to consult a specialist.

5. Wheels

Spokes and rims also wear out over time and must be checked. You can check whether the tension of the spokes is correct by pressing two adjacent ones against each other. If these can be pressed against each other easily, this may be an indication that the tension is too low.

The rim can easily be checked in two ways. First, grab a flat screwdriver and hold it against the rim with a two millimetre gap. To make sure it is tight, simply lean it against the frame or luggage rack and fix it with your fingers. Then turn the wheel. If it touches the screwdriver or is not missing much by then, the wheel could have a lateral runout and must be centred.

Finally, you should try moving it now it is installed. If there is lateral movement, you should adjust the hubs or check the quick release or the wheel bolts to make sure they are tightened correctly.

6. Tyres and inner tube

First check whether your tyres have enough air. A poorly inflated tyre will ride worse and wear out faster. You can usually read the maximum pressure on the tyre flank. As the maximum pressure is not always the optimum pressure, it makes sense to determine it specifically. Depending on the type of bike, tour length, load and terrain, this value can vary widely. We have collated all the important information on tyre pressure for you in our calculation tools. You can use these to quickly and easily calculate the ideal air pressure for your wheel: Mountain bike, Road bike, Touring bike.

If larger cracks are visible in the tyre or if it is very worn, it is better to replace it completely, as foreign bodies can collect in it, causing even more damage.

If the inner tube is punctured, you can patch it up with a simple set like the Tip Top – bike repair kit – as long as the hole is not too big – or simply replace it completely. If you are unsure, pump up the tyre in the evening and leave it overnight.

7. Headset

If the handlebars jerk or wobble when braking, the headset may have come lose. To tighten it again, you must loosen the screws on the stem and tighten the vertical headset screw with short turns. But careful: If you tighten them too much, the steering can be impaired. Don’t forget to tighten all bolts again. A tip: lift the wheel and tap the handlebars. If it turns to one side by itself, everything is fine.

8. Bolts

Last but not least, you should check the quick release, seat clamp and other bolts. It is best to always work by hand and not with an electronic screwdriver. This prevents you from overtightening bolts.

Bike care: Professional maintenance is essential

Even if you regularly maintain your road or mountain bike at home, it can’t hurt to take to a mechanic once or twice a year – preferably before and after the season. The professional can check the bike much more reliably for any defects and also adjust the gears and brakes to their optimum settings.

PACKING LIST: MOUNTAIN BIKE DAY TOUR

11. March 2021
packing list

With a mountain bike, you can head out on almost any terrain. Whether you want to explore gravel paths, take off into the mountains, or head deep into the forest on wooded tracks, off-road bikes can take you anywhere. The following packing list is designed for tour-oriented mountain biking, it is not a packing list for a day in a downhill park or similar.

Cycling clothing for mountain bike day trips

Option 1: Good weather









Option 2: Cooler temperatures with rain showers (in addition to “Good weather”)






Option 3: Continuous rainy weather (in addition to “Good weather”)







Provisions



Bike Equipment










Other Equipment






Creating a packing list for mountain bike day trips is not an easy task. An MTB tour in the middle of summer has completely different equipment requirements than a tour in late autumn. You should therefore consider as carefully as possible in advance what to expect on the planned tour. How long will your tour be (do you need lighting), what weather conditions do you expect to encounter (rainwear, warm spare clothing, sun cream) and what terrain can you expect (protectors)?

Of course, you could simply take as big a rucksack as possible to be prepared for all eventualities, but that is not very helpful. After all, the laws of gravity also apply to mountain biking, and every gram saved in a rucksack makes the uphill passages easier and saves energy. Over time, every cyclist will discover their own personal balance between weight-saving and comfort.

Of course, safety always comes first, you should never skimp on a bike helmet, for example! You also need the most important repair tools because you never know when and where you’ll need them. Don’t forget a small pump, tire levers, a multi-tool, spare inner tube and repair kit either.

You also need to consider food and drink in advance. If you don’t expect to come across guesthouses or supermarkets en route, you need to make sure you have enough food and drink. If in doubt, fill up your water at every opportunity along the way.

The better the tour is planned in advance and the more you know about your route, the less time you will spend during the tour looking at the map. When considering your route, you should also consider the local nature conservation rules and show respect for the environment and people! Depending on the area, there may be designated mountain bikeroutes to ensure that mountain bikers and hikers don’t get in each other’s way.

The evening before a tour, you should always take a quick check over your bike! Inflate the tires (How much air pressure?), check the gears and brakes and oil the chain. It is also worth taking a look at the condition of the tyres – if they are completely worn out or already have small cuts, now is the last chance to change them.

Have fun planning your tour, packing, preparing and of course cycling!

TREAD LIGHTLY – OUTDOOR FOOTWEAR BY WEIGHT

9. March 2021
Buyer's guide, Equipment

Last Sunday I went to the forest to look for mushrooms. Unfortunately, it had rained the night before, so I was expecting it to be pretty muddy. Normally I wear worn out running shoes or my approach shoes when I’m heading into the forest, but because it was looking muddy, I decided to wear my heavy, leather trekking boots.

This turned out to be a good decision, because I arrived home with dry socks despite the wet forest. However, these heavy shoes were complete overkill for the terrain, and I was glad when I could change back to lighter and more comfortable shoes. But were they necessary? Or are there lighter alternatives?

Finding the right shoe

If you are wondering which pair of lightweight shoes is right for you and your tours, there are a few things you should think about first. For example, it is important that the shoes not only fit the tour and its terrain, but also the season in which you plan to walk. Furthermore, a good fit is crucial for the wellbeing of your feet. Other things you should look out for when looking for hiking or outdoor shoes are revealed in our blog post “The right shoes for your outdoor adventure”.

Now though, we’re going to take a look at the varied world of walking, trekking and mountaineering boots and see where there’s weight savings to be made.

Lightweight shoes for moderate terrain

Like my Sunday mushroom trip to the Black Forest, I don’t always need a heavy pair of mountaineering boots. Particularly when I’m heading to low mountain ranges, lightweight walking boots are usually sufficient. Lightweight walking boots are, as the name suggests, lighter than their ‘normal’ counterparts. This is usually because they have a half-height shaft or come as half-shoes. It is also not uncommon for lightweight walking boots to forego rock guards and the like, to make considerable weight savings.

So, if you’re heading for relatively easy terrain and are trying to travel light, you should definitely take a closer look at this group. Lightweight hiking shoes with a half-height shaft, so classic representatives of Category A, usually weigh from 450 grams.

For ultra-light tours, trail running shoes are often used. Models such as the Roclite 325 GTX by Inov 8 weight less than 350 grams and offer a half-height shaft and an extremely grippy sole. Barefoot shoes offer another alternative, but opinions on these vary widely.

Some people love this free and natural way of moving, but others report issues occurring from using muscles that aren’t normally worked. If you do decide to try out this type of shoe for hillwalking, it’s recommended to start with short test routes to allow your body to get used to them. You should also avoid carrying any luggage on these practice trips. Barefoot shoes are of course very light and hardly weight anything.

Lightweight shoes for exposed and unpaved terrain

For more demanding terrain and multi-day tours when you’re carrying a lot of luggage, Category B or B/C trekking boots are most suitable. However, these are usually relatively heavy, designed for maximum surefootedness and an optimal stabilisation of the ankle joint. This type of shoe is also recommended for people who have ligament problems and have a tendency to twist their ankle.

Many trekking boots also fall into the category of “partly crampon-compatible” and can be worn with crampons with strap binding and snow spikes. As mentioned, trekking boots are not exactly lightweight, but even in this category there are models which enjoy a significantly reduced weight. A good example here is the S-Lab X Alp Carbon 2 GTX by Salomon. These shoes weigh just under a kilogram and are among the lightest in their class. Nevertheless, they are still considerably heavier than their lightweight hiking or trail running companions, but they can do much more.

Lightweight shoes for high mountains

For scree, snow and ice, you definitely need proper trekking boots. These have a crampon-compatible sole and offer stability even on rough terrain. In general, trekking shoes with tilting lever crampons can be worn. Depending on the model, auto-locking (front with basket) or automatic (front with bracket) can be attached. A raised rubber edge, which mainly serves as a rock guard, usually features as well.

It’s no surprise that we’ve left the ultra-light range behind by now. But there are still lighter and heavier models among Category C trekking boots. Let’s take a look at the Badile Combi II GTX by Hanwag for example. These trekking shoes have everything that is needed for tours in high alpine terrain. And they come at a relatively low weight of just 1,080 grams. They also offer a stiffened sole suitable for semi-automatic crampons as well as a proper rock guard. Alternatively, you could also take a look at the Trango Guide Evo GTX by La Sportiva, which weigh a little less than 1,200 g (per pair).

Advantages and disadvantages of lightweight shoes

  • Benefit 1 – Weight-saving

Of course, if you’re travelling with lightweight shoes, you’re carrying less weight and this impacts every step you take. This is particularly noticeable on steeper terrain, as the foot has less load and walking is less tiring. Even if you’re carrying your walking boots in your backpack, they are less heavy.

  • Advantage 2 – Comfort

Lightweight shoes are generally more flexible and softer than their heavy counterparts. This usually makes them more comfortable. On warm days, they often allow better ventilation and are generally not as warm as higher walking boots due to their lower shaft.

  • Disadvantage 1 – Risk of injury

Features that offer additional comfort can also hold a higher injury potential. Soft and flexible shoes with a low shaft provide much less support for the foot than higher-cut shoes.

  • Disadvantage 2 – Weatherproofness and general suitability

There is no question that there are weatherproof models with membranes offered in the field of trail running and lightweight hiking shoes. These are fine for mud and rain, but are not ideal for snow, as the snow can more easily get into the shoe without a high shaft. If you are planning tours that require the use of crampons, you will need shoes with a suitable sole.

Ultra-light shoes – the conclusion

It is hard to find ultra-light outdoor, hiking and trekking shoes. While researching this topic, I kept coming back to something a friend of mine says, “You can run in ski boots if you want to!” In other words, you can do a lot of things with equipment, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it makes sense. Of course, you could go for a run in the mountainous terrain in flip-flops (the Sherpas in Nepal do this very impressively), but I would advise against taking such extreme measures for the sake of weight reduction.

In my opinion, the most important criterion for shoes is not the weight, but that they fit perfectly and don’t rub or pinch even after long tours. After all, the greatest weight saving in your shoes means nothing, if you have to carry the same weight of blister plasters in your backpack. Fun fact: one pack of blister plasters weighs around 15 grams.

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