Tent alternatives

Tent alternatives: Floorless tents, bivvies and more

24. March 2017
Equipment

There’s nothing quite like falling asleep in your trusty ol’ tent against the backdrop of some massive mountains, is there? But, as great as it is to sleep in the comfort of your old tent, you have to admit that, sometimes, it just a pain to lug around. You’ve probably been trying to think of some alternative, something lighter and more compact perhaps?

Yeah, that’s what I was thinking, too. Luckily, there are all sorts of alternatives to tents. I’ve been camping a long time now and have left my tent behind on many occasions. Why? Well, sometimes I just wanted to save space, time or weight, and other times I just really didn’t think a tent would be the best option for where I was headed. If you have had similar thoughts in the past, but really didn’t know which options are available, here’s a list of possible tent alternatives, complete with advantages and disadvantages of each. I’ll let you decide which alternative is best for you.

Floorless tents

Advantages

  • Usually lighter than traditional tents, plus they provide good weather protection
  • Great for when you’re camping with animals
  • Cooking in it is fantastic
  • It’s a doddle to set up on rocky surfaces, such as glacial moraines
  • Quite the large structure at minimal weight

Disadvantages

  • No floor means no protection from pesky bugs
  • When camping on snow, you’ll need a tarp or bivvy
  • Not suitable for muddy surfaces
  • Can cost just as much as a traditional tent
  • There’s no way to share the load if you’re travelling with a big floorless tent for multiple people. One would have to carry the poles, whilst the second carries the tent material, which would render your other mates useless, and we can’t have that!

Bivvy bags

Advantages

  • Much lighter and more compact than a tent with about the same amount of protection
  • It adds some warmth and can be used with a tent, floorless tent, hammock or tarp.
  • Less expensive than a tent
  • Suitable for all seasons of the year and for protection from insects

Disadvantages

  • Very small and cramped, not the best option for you claustrophobes!
  • Getting in and out can be tricky
  • A bivvy has little to no space to protect your kit

There are extremely minimalistic and elaborate bivvy designs. The minimalistic models are actually for emergencies only and are carried as such. They don’t really have much in common with the bivvy in the picture.

Hammocks

Hammocks are great if you can find trees or some other structure to hang them from.

  • Very light and compact, renders a sleeping mat useless and thus saves even more space and weight
  • Very easy to hang up, provided there are trees around
  • Great for wet and muddy areas

Disadvantages

  • You need trees, posts or some other sturdy thing to hang it from
  • No protection from insects (except for the ones with mosquito nets)
  • Hardly any protection from the weather (a tarp hung over the hammock would only protect you from rain, but not wind)
  • It is not well insulated; cold air can get you from below! Using a sleeping mat in the hammock can help

Tarps

Obviously, people who sleep on the ground, completely exposed, pack the lightest, but if that’s way too extreme for you, tarps are the lightest and most compact option there is. For ultralight trips in the spring, summer and early autumn, tarps are my personal preference. You can use a tarp as a ground cloth on wet surfaces or as a blanket for protection from the rain. If you want something similar to a tent, you can even prop it up with walking poles or hang it from trees. Pretty versatile!

  • There are all sorts of very light and compact tarps out there that hardly weigh a thing
  • More often than not, tarps are the cheapest tent alternative
  • They’re multipurpose: If you’re travelling with a tent, floorless tent, bivvy or hammock, a tarp can serve as a ground cloth or sun, wind and rain protection

Disadvantages

  • Not much weather protection
  • Propping up a tarp with walking poles can be difficult
  • Many super-light tarps can cost as much as a tent
  • Little to no protection from insects

Even though there are plenty of reasons to leave your tent at home in favour of a lighter alternative, tents remain the most popular option for camping. A tent will provide the most protection from the elements and those pesky insects. Plus, it is roomy and comfortable. And, let’s face it: there’s nothing better than waiting out a storm with friends and/or family in a nice and cosy tent!

Are you getting a good night's sleep in your sleeping bag?

Are you getting a good night’s sleep in your sleeping bag?

17. March 2017
Tips and Tricks

You need to sleep well at night to perform well during the day. If you’re planning on spending your nights in a sleeping bag, there are some basic things you need to consider. For example, answer me this: Would it be wise to down a couple of pints before you go to bed? What about leaving your sleeping mat at home because “the grass’ll do the trick”, or letting your girlfriend borrow your sleeping bag even though she’s three heads shorter than you? None of the above is a good idea! Cold and restless nights will follow. Promise!

In the following, we’re going to give you some advice as to what to look out for when buying and sleeping in a sleeping bag.

The right sleeping bag: Down or synthetic?

As is so often the case with outdoor gear of all kinds, choosing the right sleeping bag depends entirely on how and where you plan to use it. The advantage that synthetics have over down is that they are still able to insulate when wet because the fibres don’t clump together. With down, it’s a completely different story. Down has a tendency to clump up, causing it to lose its insulating abilities. Plus, it takes much longer for clumpy down to dry! So long in fact that you may have to take action yourself in order to restore the down’s original loft. This is absolutely crucial because it is the loftiness of down that is responsible for its heat-trapping ability.

So, are we saying you should always choose synthetic insulation over down? Not necessarily. Down is an excellent insulator and is very popular for being extremely light and packable. Plus, down adapts much better to the shape of the body, which makes it more comfortable. That being said, when you want to go light, a down sleeping bag is the only way to go.

We’re always so preoccupied with the fact that water could get in our sleeping bags from the outside that we forget that it can come in from inside as well. How’s that? Well, our bodies produce quite a bit of moisture during the night. If you sleep in a cotton shirt, for example, that shirt will eventually start to feel damp, which will in turn make you feel cold! So, in order to get the most out of your sleeping bag, you should always wear functional underwear. Sleeping naked in your sleeping bag is a pretty good way to go, too, by the way. However, this will neither contribute to nor diminish the bag’s insulating abilities. The downside to sleeping in your b-day suit is that you’ll have to wash the bag more frequently, which can have a negative effect on its lifespan. So, if you want to get more out of your sleeping bag for longer, it’s best to use a liner. Depending on the material, it will either have a cooling effect (e.g., silk) or will provide additional insulation (e.g., fleece). Plus, liners are very easy to wash.

A meal in a glass

When you’re completely knackered after a long day on the trails and decide to drink a couple of beers instead of cooking a proper meal, you could be in for a pretty restless night. When the body is drained from all-day physical activity, we not only feel fatigue but also have an increased sensitivity to cold. If you’re cold and hop in your sleeping bag for warmth, you’re putting far too much faith in the bag. Why? Well, the sleeping bag only insulates, whilst actual warmth comes from the body. The important thing is to give your body the calories back that it lost – and not in the form of “a meal in a glass”. As good as it may taste, alcohol unfortunately lowers the core temperature of the body and makes for a restless night’s sleep. In other words, it’d be better to take the time to prepare and eat a warm meal and enjoy a nice cuppa before going to bed. Your body will thank you in the morning.

Cold feet?

Once your feet get cold, it takes a while to warm them back up. A sleeping bag’s insulation won’t really help, either. Neither will thick socks. What will help is a trusty hot water bottle! I know what you’re thinking, and no, you don’t have to bring along that red knitted hot water bottle from grandma. A plastic bottle filled with hot water will do just fine. Make sure it’s completely sealed, though ;-)…

A rude (and rather cold) awakening

Imagine waking up after a great night’s sleep to this: Clothes frozen stiff! The mountains are calling, but your the weaker part of you, or your inner pig-dog, as the Germans so cleverly call it, is stronger! In order to get your trip off on the right foot, you need to take your clothes with you when you snuggle up in your sleeping bag at night. That way, not only will they stay nice and warm, but your tootsies will too!

Gender-specific sleeping bags?

It may sound like we’re overgeneralising when we say that “women always have cold feet, and men always have broad shoulders…”, but we’re actually not in this case. There are indeed differences between men and women, and you might want to keep them in mind when purchasing gender-specific sleeping bag.

Not only does the foot of the sleeping bag tend to be thicker in women-specific models, but their proportions are specifically designed for women as well. So, it would definitely make sense for a woman to buy a women-specific sleeping bag.

Comfort rating, lower limit rating and extreme rating. Which rating is relevant?

Hopefully not the extreme rating! This indicates the lowest outside temperature in which a person can stay alive in a sleeping bag. The comfort rating indicates the lowest outside temperature in which the “average woman” (their wording – not ours!) can sleep comfortably. Their “average women” is 25 years old, 1.60 metres tall (5’2”) and weighs 60 kg (132 lbs) and is wearing functional underwear.

The lower limit rating applies to the “average man” (25 years old, 1.73 metres tall (5’6”), weighs 70 kg (154 lbs)). Unfortunately, there are certain things that these ratings don’t take into account, such as an individual’s physical and psychological constitution. And these are very important aspects to consider! After all, some people tend to sweat more than others (which causes them to lose heat), whilst others tend to move around more during the night (which makes them warmer). In sum, temperature range may be a very subjective criterion, but it can point you in the right direction when shopping for sleeping bags.

(Addition) By the way, if you tend to get warm, you can always use the zip at the foot of the bag for extra ventilation! This will definitely keep you cool and prevent you from losing heat. Unfortunately, though, not all sleeping bags are equipped with a two-way zip, so this isn’t always an option!

Sleep movement

Because many of us tend move around whilst we sleep or like to sleep on our sides with our legs bent, manufacturer have taken it upon themselves to make sleeping bags that are specifically designed to accommodate these positions. Regardless of whether they have a particular shape or just elastic seams, both are there to help side sleepers get a good night’s sleep! Of course, the size of the sleeping bag plays an important role as well. The interior length of the bag should not correspond with your body height, but rather give you some wiggle room. So, if you’re 1.75 metres or 5’7” tall, the interior length of your sleeping bag should be around 1.85 metres. It’s always better for it be a bit larger than just right or too small.

Why so much room? If the sleeping bag is too narrow, then you’ll rub up against the sides. And, if these get smashed in, cold spots can form. So, when purchasing a sleeping bag, you should be aware of two things: how you sleep and your height.

”My neck always hurts when I sleep in a tent…”

Who says you can’t have a pillow? There are excellent travel pillows out there, but if you’d rather do without the extra bulk, you always have the option of filling up a stuff sack with clothing and using that as a pillow instead. After all, it doesn’t always have to be a perfect square!

It’s all about the mat

There are so many sleeping mats out there, and the differences between them are just as plentiful. But, we’ll talk about that at some other time. The important thing to remember is this: Regardless of how low a sleeping bag’s lower limit rating is, if the sleeping mat isn’t up to par, you’ll be cold. Trying save money or room by ditching the sleeping mat will bite you in the bum!

If you have any questions, feel free to ask our experts in customer service. They are available during the week from 9 a.m. till 4 p.m. and can be reached by phone at +49 (0)7121/70 12 0 or per E-Mail.

There’s a lot going on in the climbing and outdoor industry. New products are being invented, existing ones are being reworked and improved, and we, too, are learning more every day. And, of course, we would like to share this knowledge with our customers. That’s why we regularly revise the articles at base camp. So don’t be surprised if a few things change from time to time. This post was last updated on 02/01/2016.

My favourite bouldering area: Fontainebleau

My favourite bouldering area: Fontainebleau

15. March 2017
Alpinetrek-Experts

If you’ve already been there or heard the word “Bleau” thousands of times from your friends, unfortunately nothing in this post will be new to you. But, if you’ve just started bouldering, have fun reading (and planning your next bouldering holiday), keep reading! You’ll want to leave straight away!

The bouldering mecca

Most of us are familiar with the scene’s more famous bouldering spots, such as the Rocklands in South Africa, Hueco Tanks, Bishop or Joe’s Valley in the US, Magic Wood in Switzerland or Hampi in India (to name a few). But, there are so many other smaller areas as well, many of which have grown in popularity in recent years. Not to mention, the new routes that are constantly being set.

However, today we’re going to talk about a destination that assumes a very special position among bouldering spots, namely Fontainebleau. Fontainebleau has become so popular that the magazine NEON even sent one of their editors there last year. Of course, whether or not that’s desirable is an entirely different question.

So, why Fontainebleau? Well, this is where everything began! Well, at least all things bouldering. Whilst everybody else was still climbing mountains with boots studded with cleats and hobnails or rejoicing because they were able to free climb a route, the French were bouldering in this small forest not too far from the beautiful city of Paris. In fact, they were even bouldering long before the sport climbing scene started doing it as a form of winter training.

What or where is Bleau?

When people refer to the bouldering area Bleau, they actually mean the forest near Fontainebleau, which is not too far away from Paris. This forest itself is full of countless sandstone boulders, which make up the bouldering area of Fontainebleau or “Bleau”.

So, if you go bouldering in Bleau, you’re bouldering in one of the many subareas there, such as Franchard, Apremont or Cuvier-Chatillon (just to name a few). These areas are then divided up further into sites. I know, it sounds confusing, but if they didn’t do this, bouldering guides would be a dreadful mess! After all, there are so many boulders in Bleau!

Where to spend the night

There are campsites, holiday flats, which range from being dirt cheap to ridiculously expensive, as well as designated bivouac sites. These are free of charge, equipped with a water supply and outdoor toilets and can be found in the bouldering guides.

Many boulderers even bivouac or camp right in front of the bouldering areas. As you can probably imagine, the park employees don’t like this one bit, since the bouldering guides explicitly state that you should use the designated sleeping areas.

This may not have been a big deal back in the day, but now that so many people travel to Bleau every year, it’s probably best that we all follow the rules. Otherwise, the car parks will turn into camping sites soon, too! Besides, a ten minute drive won’t kill you, right?

What’s the bouldering like?

Very traditional and technical. Bleau is where you learn to stand on your own two feet. Something you should probably considered before heading out is your shoes. You probably won’t be too happy with shoes with a lot of heel tension. I would recommend wearing softer, straighter shoes.

If you’re looking for a bouldering destination to stroke your own ego, Bleau is not for you. “Bleau teaches you humility”, as my co-worker would say.

My favourite bouldering area: FontainebleauWhat kind of rock is in Fontainebleau?

Beautiful sandstone! This rock is much easier on your fingers, but also happens to be much more susceptible to external factors. So if the blocks are damp or even wet, don’t climb them, and always wipe off your shoes before starting.

What about when it rains?

So many people claim that the idyllic little town of Fontainebleau has nothing to offer. That couldn’t be any further from the truth! There’s a cinema that has English movies playing several times a week. Plus, there’s a very big park behind the castle and a fabulous farmer’s market that sells regional organic produce three times a week! Oh, and there are excellent pastry shops as well. Nothing to offer, ha!

What else is there to know?

Well, Bleau is a pretty busy place. After Easter at the very latest is when it really starts to get full. There are boulderers from all over the world. Last year (long before Easter), I met people from jolly old England, the Netherlands, lots of Scandinavians, Germans, Spaniards, Irishmen…I think that’s it!

Unfortunately, the famous bouldering sites in Bleau are quite the attraction for petty thieves as well. So, try not to leave any of your valuables in the car. The police patrol the area regularly, but it’s always better to err on the side of caution.

What’s else is there to say?

If you’re a boulderer and have a chance to go to Bleau, you have to do it! The same goes for Tessin, Magic Wood, Val di Mello … etc. Getting acquainted with other bouldering areas will not only expand your horizon but also improve your performance! Plus, you’ll gain a lot of valuable experience in Bleau, even if your ego suffers as a result.

Climbing and bouldering in Scandinavia

Climbing and bouldering in Scandinavia

7. March 2017
Alpinetrek-Experts

Norway and Sweden are well known for being wonderful destinations for trekking and canoeing. But that’s not what we’re going to talk about today. We’re here to talk about climbing and bouldering in these beautiful Scandinavian countries. The aim of this post is just to give you a little taste of the best climbing and bouldering regions and to answer the question as to what makes climbing in Scandinavia in general and in Norway and Sweden in particular so unique.

Of course, this post isn’t meant to be exhaustive. We only hope to inspire you and put you in the mood to head over to Scandinavia to climb! Let’s begin with an important fact: the Scandinavians are very environmentally conscious people, which is the reason why they have refrained from placing bolts in many areas. So, it’d be a good idea to consult a climbing guide or ask a native before heading out.

Climbing in Norway

Old hands in mountaineering know Norway as the Mecca of ice climbing. Regardless of whether you’re a beginner or very experienced, you’ll definitely find a route for you. Beginners will love the region around Rjukan. This is where the popular ice climbing festival is held. But, if you like it a bit wilder or just prefer places off the beaten path, you should definitely check out Laerdal, which abounds in huge frozen waterfalls for all your ice climbing needs. Large areas of this region remain largely untouched. Of course, Gudvangen and Hemsedal are worth mentioning as well. All of these regions are mere hours away from Oslo.

For sport and alpine climbing, Setesdal is extremely popular, not least because it’s located in Southern Norway and thus easier to get to. If you happen to be in Denmark, you can just take a fairy from there to the Norwegian mainland. The granite rock in Setesdal offers climbers not only a large number of bolted routes but also plenty for route setters to work with. Many of the routes are smooth slabs, so you’ve got to like that sort of thing. But, they’re really fun once you get the hang of it! Cams, nuts and slings are a must even with bolts!

If you fancy more extreme regions, you’ll love the area around Narvik, or more specifically, Stetind. This rather imposing mountain is located north of the polar circle, so it’s pretty chilly all year round. There’s a climbing guide for this region as well, which will show you the way up the smooth sides of the granite. Of course, you can head up north to the Lofoten Islands as well. These islands are perfect for fans of multi-pitch climbs, not least because of the absolutely unique and beautiful scenery. The difficulty of the set climbing routes are between 4 and 8 (UIAA). There are climbing guides available as well: Ed Webster’s “Climbing in the Magic Islands” and the more recent “Lofoten Rock” published by Rockfax. Of course, you have the option of acquiring these guides and others when you get there.

Climbing in Sweden

Pretty much the opposite of the raw and wild alpine-like character of Norwegian climbing areas are the ones found in Sweden. Being able to climb by the sea is quite the experience. It’s as if the dichotomy between the water and the mountains vanished into thin sea air. In Bohuslän, which is north of Gothenburg, there are not only cute little islands but also solid granite to climb in warm summer weather. The majority of the predominantly sport climbing routes are significantly shorter than those in Norway. You can find much more on this region in the the tourist information in Uddevalla.

If you’re into the more difficult stuff, you’ll have the time of your life just outside of Stockholm. The demanding sport climbing routes, such as the Örnberget or Värmdö, start at around 6b (according to the French scale). However, out of the approximately 2000 routes that are within an hour’s drive from each other around Stockholm, there are some great routes for beginners as well. Other great routes can be found in Agelsjön near Norrköping or Kullaberg just north of Helsingborg. More maps and info on climbing in Sweden can be found at www.sverigeföraren.se, provided you speak Swedish.

Bouldering

There are plenty of places to go bouldering in Norway and Sweden. Many such areas are in Setesdal and in Southern Norway. Nico Altmaier who Alpine Trek has been working with for a while now, travelled to Norway for some bouldering in 2014 and made a short film about it.

Sweden is becoming one of the more popular destinations for bouldering holidays. In the rather idyllic town of Västervik in Sweden, there’s even an International Boulder Meet with several famous boulderers. The meet has taken place several times now and has really put the area on the (bouldering) map. Sweden’s bouldering scene is small but has been on the rise for a number of years. There are plenty of other spots as well. Check out the map of Sverigeföraren for more.

Conclusion

So, why should you travel all the way to Scandinavia to go bouldering or climbing? What makes the region so special?

Well, for one, it’s the variety of the Nordic countries. Not only can you boulder by the seaside but you can also experience extreme 750-metre long alpine adventures and unbelievable ice climbing routes. Norway is characterised by the rough and unpredictable climate, the view of the fjords, the green hills and the unbelievably exhilarating feeling of being out in the “real” wilderness – things we have trouble finding anywhere else, let alone at home in Britain. But, if you’d rather play it safe and keep to the climbing guide, you’re sure to have just as much fun.

Sweden is best for a relaxing holiday by the sea combined with some demanding sport climbing and bouldering problems. Plus, since it doesn’t get dark until really late at night in the summer months (and not at all north of the polar circle), you could theoretically climb into the wee hours of the night. The Scandinavians are such pleasant people, too – you’ll absolutely love it there! What are you waiting for? Head up to Scandinavia!

Let's talk about PU coatings

Let’s talk about PU coatings

1. March 2017
Equipment

PU coatings… Anybody who’s ever perused the intricate details of the production of outdoor clothing has probably stumbled upon this term at some point. But, have you ever asked yourself what the mysterious little abbreviation “PU” actually means? Or whether you actually need it? Could you do without it? Let’s find out!

Definition, properties and effect

Let’s begin by having a look in our trusty internet dictionary to see what polyurethane means. This will tell us that polyurethane – PU for short – denotes a a class of synthetic materials. This class of synthetic materials is in rigid foam, flexible foam, liquid form or casting resin. The famous industrial chemist called Otto Bayer discovered the polyaddition for the synthesis of polyurethanes in 1932.

Pretty useful stuff, right? But, what about all this talk about polyurethane coatings on apparel? Well, as the term already suggests, a “PU coating” is a protective film made of polyurethane. Simple, right? When used in its liquid form, polyurethane can be transformed into a permanent waterproof treatment. And this is precisely where things get interesting for us outdoorsy folk.

In order to provide textiles with an additional layer of protection, a thin film of liquid PU is applied to the garment. The PU coating has extremely strong water-repellent characteristics and is even capable of making fabrics completely waterproof! Such a film can be applied once or multiple times. One coat is appropriately called single-coated, whilst multiple coatings are referred to as multicoated. Depending on the area of use, manufacturers treat either the entire surface of the garment or just single fibres. Besides waterproofing the garment, PU coatings also make the fabric more robust and more resistant to tears, kinks and abrasion. These coatings also happen to be very flexible and durable. Plus, thanks to modern manufacturing processes, it’s now even possible to make breathable PU fabric! Magical, right?

The upsides and downsides of polyurethane coatings

A real disadvantage is definitely the weight of a PU coating. A polyurethane coating may be nothing more than one (or multiple) layer(s) of plastic, but it does have some weight to it. In fact, polyurethane-coated fabrics tend to be heavier than those treated with DWR. So, if you an ultra-light garment is what you want, I’d steer clear of PU-coated apparel.

A polyurethane coating also has a certain amount of volume to it, so a polyurethane-coated jacket would be somewhat bulkier than a “normal” outdoor jacket as well. True, that may just be an aesthetic disadvantage, but for me, PU-coated textiles look so much heavier than those with a DWR treatment. Personally, I’d prefer to wear something lighter and less bulky. But that’s just me!

Polyurethane-coated textiles have had one major thing going against them: their lack of breathability. But we can breathe easily now that that’s no longer the case! Thanks to modern technology, PU-coated fabrics are highly breathable as well. One such modern technique is called a microporous coating. Basically, this is a PU coating that contains billions of tiny holes. These holes are so small that water vapour can escape to the outside, but moisture can’t get in. Voila! Breathability! Fortunately, these coatings are not as expensive as you would think and are now widely used for outdoor textiles.

Environmental impact and uses

Of course, there’s a lot to be said for PU coatings in terms of environmental sustainability as well. A PU coating is clearly the environmentally friendlier alternative to many DWR treatments. Admittedly, polyurethane is by no means the environmental angel hovering over the outdoor industry. Quite on the contrary! When it comes to the production and the disposal of polyurethane, it can get pretty problematic. But in comparison to a fluorocarbon DWR, PU is as innocent as a lamb. Fluorocarbons (perfluorocarbons or PFCs) are very harmful to the environment and can be harmful to our health as well. That’s why so many outdoor clothing companies steer clear of them. Also: When compared to PVC coated fabrics, which contain toxic plasticisers, PU definitely comes out ahead.

Areas of use

So, now that we know a bit more about polyurethane, the coatings themselves and the pros and cons of the polymer, we can move on to what a PU coated garment is best suited for. Nobody’s going to wear a heavy coated jacket for a trail run on a warm sunny day. Rainy and damp weather is where these garments are at their best. As a general rule, we can say the PU-coated garments are best for “normal” bad weather. If the fabric and seams are nice and sealed, even the craftiest of raindrops won’t be able to penetrate your garment.

Even though modern coating techniques have made it possible to manufacture breathable PU-coated fabrics, you shouldn’t wear them for highly aerobic activities in bad weather. Look for an alternative instead. Why? Well, for one thing, the breathable properties will never suffice for high-intensity physical activity. For another, the coated fabric will just weigh you down. For bad weather and when you need a particularly strong and abrasion-resistant garment, PU-coated fabrics are the way to go. Polyurethane-coated Cordura (a particularly strong polyamide fabric), for example, can withstand the sharpest of rock edges without any damage. Pretty neat, right?

Well, that’s about it for polyurethane-coated textiles. You’re all probably sick and tired of reading the word polyurethane, anyway! Still, I hope I was able to shed some light on the mysterious polymer that is PU!

If you have any questions, feel free to ask our experts in customer service. They are available during the week from 9 a.m. till 4 p.m. and can be reached by phone at +49 (0)7121/70 12 0 or per E-Mail.

The dermizax membrane technology

Dermizax – a different kind of membrane

Equipment

Picture this: You’ve been lugging around a heavy pack for hours in the pouring rain, trying to make the most of the bad weather. And to your surprise, you notice that underneath your waterproof jacket it doesn’t feel like a sauna, even though you’ve been sweating like mad. How’s that even possible? Well, the jacket seems to be doing its job: protect you from the rain and wick moisture away – no matter the weather!

Presumably, your jacket’s got a Dermizax logo on it. How did we know? Well, Dermizax is quite the reliable membrane! Not only is it totally waterproof and windproof, but it is also highly breathable.

Dermizax was developed in Japan by the company Toray. Compared with other membranes such as Gore-Tex and eVent, this membrane boasts incredibly clever characteristics that really shine in functional outdoor clothing.

What makes Dermizax different?

In contrast to several other membranes, the polyurethane Dermizax membrane is absent of pores, so there is nothing that could get clogged up. The fabric is “hydrophilic, which – simply put – means that there are tiny molecules with a strong affinity to water in the membrane that transport moisture to the outside. These hydrophilic molecules move more quickly through the membrane at higher temperatures, regardless of whether its the surrounding temperature or your body temperature that is high. So, if the humidity and warmth increases on the jacket’s interior, the difference between the inside and the outside temperature causes the molecules to transport more moisture to the outside.

Like all membranes – regardless of whether they have pores -, if it weren’t for the difference in temperature, there wouldn’t be any breathability. For example, if you were running through the jungle on a day with temperatures around 34°C and 90% humidity, no membrane in the world could provide the breathability you need. In milder or cooler climates (where we spend most of our time) and in wet weather in particular, Dermizax leads the pack, though, especially in terms of its breathability.

As already mentioned, Dermizax is made of polyurethane and thus 100% recyclable. Unlike PTFE membranes, which produce harmful by-products in the manufacturing process, Dermizax is much more environmentally friendly.

Advantages

The nonporous construction serves to provide more breathability as the intensity of your movements increases and allows for more moisture and heat to be transferred to the outside. When you take breaks or are out on cold days when you don’t sweat as much, the membrane will keep you from getting cold because heat can’t escape through the pores. Thus, with a Dermizax membrane, you’re getting a membrane that is very variable in terms of its breathability. In fact, it works much in the same way as Sympatex.

Another advantage of nonporous membranes is the fact that there aren’t any pores that can get clogged. The pores on conventional membranes are usually clogged by dirt or salts. The salts accumulate on the membrane as a result of our sweat and end up reducing its breathability. Thanks to the nonporous construction of Dermizax, jackets and trousers crafted with this fabric are capable of retaining their breathability over longer and more intense tours. Even after long periods, the function of the membrane won’t deteriorate.

Caring for the membrane is really easy as well. It doesn’t require any special detergent. Plus, you can wash Dermizax clothing as much as you want without diminishing its functionality in any way. This will certainly come in handy on longer adventures, seeing as most of us don’t lug around special detergent for membranes. Porous membranes, on the other hand, take a hit every time you wash them with regular detergent. With time, the detergent will end up clogging the pores, thereby reducing the functionality of the membrane. This doesn’t happen with Dermizax.

What makes Dermizax so special

Dermizax has a waterproof rating of over 20,000mm. That’s pretty good, seeing as garments (in Switzerland) are considered to be waterproof with a rating of 4,000mm and above. In other words, no need to worry about Dermizax – it’s absolutely waterproof.

Not only is Dermizax waterproof, but it boasts quite the high level of breathability as well. This is measured by determining how many grams of water vapour can pass through one square metre of fabric within 24 hours. Dermizax NX, for example, is pretty much the leader of the pack in this category, boasting a breathability rating of 30,000-50,000 grams/24 hours.

Another advantage of clothing with a Dermizax membrane is how it feels. The fabric is stretchable in all directions. So, not only is the fabric comfortable and robust, but it will also give you the mobility you need for outdoor activities. In fact, the membrane can stretch up to 200% in all directions without you having to worry about it getting damaged.

Thanks to the very thin and soft membrane, garments with a Dermizax membrane feel great against the skin – a tangible plus in terms of comfort.

The construction

There is a variety of ways in which Dermizax is constructed. Usually, the membrane is part of a layered construction. The layers are constructed as follows:

2 layers: Two layers are laminated together. There is a loose mesh lining that provides comfort, wicks moisture away and protects the membrane from wear. This construction can be found in the Flya Insulated Jacket or in the Breheimen Neo Pants.

2 1/2 layers: This group doesn’t have a lining. Instead, there is a surface treatment on the inside of the membrane. Even though this fabric is not as durable as other Dermizax fabrics, it is incredibly lightweight. It is also used less often than others. You can find the 2 1/2 layer Dermizax fabric in the Civetta Jacket.

3 layers: Extremely robust and durable: The outer layer, the Dermizax membrane as well as the mesh lining have been laminated together. This means that the material is considerably more durable and abrasion resistant. The best-selling garments in this group are jackets and trousers in Bergans’ Storen Series: the Women’s Storen Jacket and the Women’s Storen Pant.

What else?

Dermizax is now being used by a wide array of outdoor clothing brands. The very well-known Scandinavian outdoor company Bergans of Norway loves Dermizax! The Scandinavians place much more emphasis on the functionality and reliability of membrane than marketing. Plus, you can be sure that whatever material is capable of withstanding the harsh conditions of Norway will be perfectly suited to meet the requirements of your outdoor adventures. Dermizax is a membrane you can rely on. You’ll never have to worry about the functionality of your clothing again. Just enjoy your adventures and let Dermizax take care of the rest.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask our experts in customer service. They are available during the week from 9 a.m. till 4 p.m. and can be reached by phone at +49 (0)7121/70 12 0 or per E-Mail.

There’s a lot going on in the climbing and outdoor industry. New products are being invented, existing ones are being reworked and improved, and we, too, are learning more every day. And, of course, we would like to share this knowledge with our customers. That’s why we regularly revise the articles at base camp. So, don’t be surprised if a post changes a bit in the coming months. This article was last edited on 15/12/2015.

sun-title

Guide to sun-protective clothing

28. February 2017
Equipment

UV protection. Ever heard of it? Why, of course you have! From all those sunscreen adverts and going on holiday to the beach with mum and dad, right? Well, back then you may not have cared so much or really taken heed of what mum was saying. But now that we’re all grown up, the wise words of our elders ring loud and true: UV rays can be very harmful! And, since we’re all outdoor athletes of some kind, we’re constantly exposed to varying weather conditions and UV rays of varying intensities.

Since our skin is unable to provide enough protection against the sun over long periods and you’re probably not planning on cycling around, climbing mountains or kayaking with a parasol at the ready, your clothing is the only thing left to protect you from harmful UV rays. Unfortunately, most of the textiles the outdoor industry brings to market don’t provide effective protection. And since you presumably won’t be able to simply look at a garment and say whether or not you’ll get the necessary UV protection, we’re here to give you all the important info on the Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF), UV Index as well as the standards and the corresponding testing procedures for textiles.

The type of fabric

For a start, you should know what fabric is capable of giving you effective protection. Both synthetic fibres as well as cotton and wool garments can protect you from UV rays. And, chemicals don’t necessarily have to be involved! The most crucial aspect is how finely woven a garment is. The more finely woven the garment, the less harmful UV rays can get through. For example, a conventional white cotton shirt hardly provides any UV protection when wet. Very thin merino wool, on the other hand, provides a high level of natural protection from the sun’s rays (25-50+). Special UV protection clothing can even absorb up to 98% of all UV rays. What does all this mean in real life? Well, we’ll tell you all about it in the next section.

Factoring in the Ultraviolet Protection Factor

As a general rule, we can say that with every 1000 metres increase in altitude, UV levels increase by about 10-12%. Plus, snow, water and sand all reflect sunlight and UV radiation to a certain extent. Where you are at what time of year and at what time of day all play a significant role as well. This can all be wrapped up by the term UV Index. This is an international standard measurement of the ultraviolet radiation levels on a 1-11+ scale that determines the appropriate Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) depending on your skin type.

As you’ve probably already gathered, UPF stands for Ultraviolet Protection Factor, the term manufacturers use for their sun-protective clothing. The UPF is indicated on a scale of 0-80. A fabric with a UPF 50 rating means that only 1/50th of the UV radiation will go through it, thereby reducing the skin’s exposure to UV radiation by 50 times.

Another example: If you have light skin, the time you can spend out in the sun at the top of a mountain (naked) without damaging your skin is 10 minutes. With a full-body costume that boasts a UPF 50 rating, the time would increase by 50 times that. The result: You can expose yourself to the blazing sun for 490 minutes longer. Great! But is it really that simple? Yes it is, provided that the tests were carried out “properly”!

What is tested and whose is the most reliable?

The Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) can be determined in several different ways. However, you have to keep in mind that clothing, and sun-protective clothing in particular, is exposed to constant wear and extreme weather conditions. And, this can cause textiles to lose the better part of their original protection factor! Another thing you should consider is the fact that the intensity of the sun’s rays greatly depends on where you are.

This is why the textile industry has different standards that reveal – at least to a certain extent – what the sun protection factor of your new garment is. In the following, we’re going to talk about what kind of standards there are and how reliable they are:

The European Standard EN 13758-1

The tests are carried out on new textiles, that is, in the condition they were when they came from the manufacturer. This means that the wear that comes with washing and wearing the garment is not taken into consideration in these tests, which is honestly not that helpful for us outdoor enthusiasts! The European standard uses the sun spectrum of Albuquerque, New Mexico, as this corresponds to that of Southern Europe.

The American Standard AATCC 183

This method corresponds to the European standard for the most part. Unworn garments are tested, and the sun spectrum of Albuquerque, New Mexico is used. So, the American standard is just as moderately useless as the European one.

The Australian/New Zealand Standard AS/NZS 43999:1996

This standard is based on the sun spectrum in Melbourne in January, since the radiation intensity in the northern hemisphere is different from that in Australia. The measurements are carried out only on ‘as new’ textiles, so many important factors are not taken into consideration. For this reason, it’s not really a reliable criterion for you to base a decision on.

The UV Standard 801

You’re probably thinking: “There must be some reliable standard out there!” Well, you’re in luck: the UV Standard 801. Who would’ve thought? Take the maximum radiation intensity, that is the sun spectrum at the height of the Australian summer, simulate usage conditions by washing the garment and using a certain method to stretch it out. Then, the Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) of a garment that is wet during the measurement can be determined. A garment that complies with the standard gets its very own hangtag that reliably states how high the UPF rating is .

In other words: The fact that sun protection is crucial for reducing the risk of skin disease is nothing new under the sun (pun intended). Special sun-protective clothing can provide reliable protection, provided that the measurement is reliable as well. So, if you’re planning a trip to a place where you’ll be exposed to a lot of sunlight, this is something you should really consider buying. And, as always, the price should not be the determining factor when choosing between one garment and another. Instead, the UV Standard 801 should be!

Unfortunately, we do not yet have any clothes in our online shop that are in accordance with the UV Standard 801. However, manufacturers seem to be determined to change over to the new procedure.

Until then, the European standard will have to point us in the right direction. But, do keep in mind that the UPF rating is based a new textiles!

running-shoes

Care instructions for trail running shoes

23. February 2017
Care tips

There are lots of trail runners who love it muddy. Who wouldn’t? After all, you get to bring out your inner child! You know, the one who loved running through puddles and playing in the mud?

But now as adults, after running on muddy trails for hours on end, we’re repeatedly faced with the problem of what to do with our muddy trail running shoes. That’s why we’ve taken it upon ourselves to put together some advice on how to properly care for your trail running shoes.

Let’s just get one thing out of the way straight away: forget about throwing your shoes in the washing machine. They’ll usually be able to withstand one wash cycle, but this could bite you in the bum should you ever want to return the shoes or get them repaired, since most manufacturers explicitly advise customers against washing trail running shoes in the washing machine.

Care instructions for your trail running shoes

Cleaning trail running shoes isn’t really all that difficult, but luckily, that doesn’t mean you need to make them spick and span after each and every run. But, it is a good idea to clean them every once in a while, because only then can get the most out of your trail running shoes. So, here are four easy steps for cleaning those begrimed shoes of yours:

1. Superficial cleaning

Before washing, always remove the insole. Then remove the surface dirt with a brush and warm water. As long as the shoes don’t have a Gore-Tex membrane, you can rinse out the interior as well, since dirt tends to get through by way of the mesh upper. Oh, and steer clear of detergent! It could ruin the adhesives!

2. Busy work

That may be enough for some of you out there, but for those of you who plan on polishing up the shoes so much that they could go with your best three-piece suit, here are some more tips: Take a damp cloth and wipe the fine dirt and dirty water off the surface. If you want to clean the tread and small grooves more thoroughly, a toothbrush works wonders! Try it!

3. Drying

Before you go for your next run, it’s really important that your shoes dry properly. To do so, stuff the inside with some kitchen paper (change every couple of hours) and dry them in a dry place at room temperature until both the inside and outside are completely dry.

4. Tending to the sole

Trail running shoes are usually made of synthetic materials, so the don’t require any special care. However, you should tend to the sole. The tread, or more specifically the lugs, are often roughened up a bit to improve traction. After wearing the shoes a few times, the grip will usually wear off. Did you know you could reverse the wear? Indeed you can! All you have to do is take some sandpaper or a wire brush and carefully scuff the tread a bit. But don’t brush off too much material, just roughen up the lugs.

To get rid of any unpleasant odours, you can spray the insides of your shoes as well. We’d recommend using the Toko Eco Fresh Deodoriser.

Now for the finishing touch: Apply a water-repellent spray. This will prevent dirt and water from sticking to the surface so quickly. Plus, it’ll give you some extra time before you have to clean them again. A good spray would be something like Holmenkol.

Trail running shoes are easy to clean

If you’ve already taken a gander at our care instructions for walking boots, you must have notice how much easier it is to clean trail running shoes. This is primarily due to the materials used. Since synthetic materials used for trail running shoes don’t require special care and trail running shoes themselves are not made of leather, they’re easy to clean and ready to go in no time. The down side is that they’re not particularly long lasting. Even though resorting to leather would mean more durability for your shoes, it would also make them much heavier, which is honestly pretty counterproductive when it comes to trail running.

I, personally, always wait till winter to clean my shoes. Go for a run in some deep snow and the shoes will look brand spanking new! Some nutters even hop in the shower with their shoes on directly after a run – but beware! Your partner might not be down with that!

If you have any questions, feel free to ask our experts in customer service. They are available during the week from 9 a.m. till 4 p.m. and can be reached by phone at +49 (0)7121/70 12 0 or per E-Mail.

waterproof-shoes-title

Care instructions: waterproofing your outdoor shoes

21. February 2017
Care tips

Heavy rains, sludge, snow – we outdoorsy folk are all too familiar with wetness and all of its various shapes and forms. We might act like it’s a drag having to deal with it, but let’s be honest here: Who doesn’t enjoy stomping around in the muddy trails on a rainy day? After all, if we stayed indoors every time it rained, we wouldn’t be true outdoorsmen, now would we?

I dare say we’d be something more akin to indoorsmen, and where’s the fun in that? As fun as tramping the muddy fields may be, we can’t allow ourselves to be soaking wet the entire time. Thus, in order to prevent the rain from putting a damper on our outdoor pursuits, we not only need weatherproof clothing but also shoes that are capable of withstanding the elements. This is where water-repellent treatments come in. In the following, we’re going to discuss everything from properly proofing your footwear and the different methods of doing so to the mistakes you can make and how all this affects environment.

What is waterproofing exactly?

Obviously, a die-hard outdoorsman would know what a waterproof treatment is, but a little refresher couldn’t hurt, right? Basically, waterproofing describes the application of a treatment to an article of clothing to prevent penetration by water. In other words, it is a liquid or viscid protective coating applied to a garment. This serves to prevent both water and dirt penetrating the fabric.

Of course, “fabric” here refers to our shoe. For footwear, waterproofing is a form of absolutely essential basic protection! Not only does it provide waterproof protection and lend dirt-repellent properties to the shoe, but it also serves to increase the lifespan of your shoes! Leather shoes in particular benefit from waterproof treatments. If leather is not cared for on a regular basis, it can become brittle and cracked. A quality waterproofing wax will keep it nice and smooth for an extended period of time.

What kind of shoes should be waterproofed and how?

Regardless of whether they’re mountaineering boots, walking boots or trainers, any pair of shoes that you wear outside should be treated. Full stop. True, there are plenty of shoes that come pre-treated from the manufacturer, but there is also a large number that doesn’t. And even if they are waterproof to begin with, it doesn’t mean that they’ll stay that way. After all, even the best waterproof protection will wear off eventually. Thus, before wearing your shoes for the first time, you should apply a waterproof treatment. You can use a variety of products to do so.

For example, you could use a classic waterproofing spray. This is best for rough leather, shoes with membranes or those made of synthetics. In addition, there is also plant-based or beeswax-based shoe wax. This is perfectly suited for smooth leather shoes, as it not only protects the leather from water but also provides it with nutrients.

What about all those household remedies such as hairspray, petroleum jelly or candle wax? Well, if you’re looking for professional waterproof protection, I’d steer clear of them. Not only will such experiments fail to provide the reliable protection you need, but they could also damage your expensive shoes. In other words, if durable waterproof protection is what you want, you should look into buying a reliable treatment from reputable manufacturer.

Waterproofing your shoes properly

Since good outdoor shoes tend to be quite costly and we’d all prefer not to ruin them before putting them on, here are a few simple rules to follow before waterproofing your shoes. First, it is incredibly important to make sure that your shoes are clean before applying any treatment. To do so, all you need is a dry rag and a brush. There are professional cleaning products as well, but some warm water will do the trick too. Let the proofing begin!

Waterproofing your shoes with a spray is incredibly easy. The only thing you need to worry about is where you choose to apply the spray. Be sure to do it in either a well-ventilated area or outside. The latter is certainly the best option. And be careful not to breathe it in! Hold the can approximately 30cm away from your shoes and spray. Oh, and less is more in this case, as several thin coats will provide much better resistance than one thick one. So, spray on one coat and allow it to dry for about 15 minutes, repeating the process up to 3 times and that’s it!

Now onto wax treatments. Using shoe wax is quite similar to applying a spray. Using a clean rag and applying little pressure, rub the wax in evenly across the surface of the clean upper material (don’t forget the seams!). After 20 minutes, remove any excess wax using a dry rag or brush. If necessary, you can repeat the process one more time. If you really want to make sure your shoes are absolutely watertight, you can apply both a wax and a waterproofing treatment. However, one will usually suffice.

Regardless of whether you choose a wax or spray, you should wait 24 hours for the treatment to set before wearing the shoes outside. Leather shoes are usually proofed when wet because the liquid causes the pores to open. When the leather pores are open, they can absorb the waterproofing agent much better. As a result, the shoes will not only have better waterproof protection, but they will also retain the leather’s breathable properties. FYI: You should never put your leather shoes in the oven before waterproofing, no matter how often you read that you should. This will damage the leather and the adhesives. Don’t say we didn’t warn you!

How often do shoes need to be waterproofed and what about the environment?

There are all sorts of differing opinions on how often you should waterproof your shoes. Some do it every two weeks whilst others just do it only after purchase. The best solution is somewhere in between. Obviously, no treatment lasts forever, and shoes that you wear on a regular basis should be reproofed every one to two months. If you get caught in heavy rains, you should definitely retreat your shoes when you get back home.

In terms of environmental protection, the waterproofing sprays in particular get a pretty bad rap – and unjustifiably so! Well-known manufacturers such as Toko or Nikwax use ingredients that are considered to be completely harmless not only to the environment but also to our health. There are also waterproofing sprays and waxes that are completely free of chemicals.

As you can see, good waterproof protection is not only absolutely crucial for us outdoorsy folk but also quick and easy to apply and reapply. Plus, they will keep those expensive walking boots, mountaineering boots or outdoor shoes protected and cared for. And most important of all: your feet won’t be completely soaked and shrivelled up on your next trip!

If you have any questions, feel free to ask our experts in customer service. They are available during the week from 9 a.m. till 4 p.m. and can be reached by phone at +49 (0)7121/70 12 0 or per E-Mail.

down-title

Winter is the time to get down

15. February 2017
Equipment

Down. That fluffy stuff that waterfowl like geese and ducks have. Their wonderful, insulating down feathers have been keeping us humans nice and toasty warm for a long time now. And today, it’s all over the place: in our sleeping bags, pillows and, among other things, our jackets! The latter is what we’re going to talk about today.

More specifically, we’re going to address the following questions regarding down jackets:

1) What constitutes a quality down jacket?

2) Which manufacturers actually put thought and consideration into the origin and production of down?

3) What do terms like cuin, loft and fill power have to do with it?

4) And finally, what is a down jacket for and when you should choose an alternative instead?

So, let’s begin by differentiating between feathers and down. I’m sure you’re all quite familiar with feathers. Those are the things that make birds so pretty and colourful! Down, on the other hand, is either grey or white and is the layer of feathers found under the exterior feathers of geese and ducks. In contrast to feathers, down has a three-dimensional structure similar to a snowflake. Plus, it is significantly lighter than a feather.

Cuin, grams or %?

There are three different criteria that should you take into consideration when purchasing a down jacket.

  • fill power (also: loft, cuin)
  • The amount of down
  • The down to feather ratio (e.g.: 95/5)

So, what’s the deal with down fill power? This indicates the down’s ability to bounce back and ‘loft’ after being compressed. It is expressed in cubic inches. So, “cuin” = cubic inches. Easy, right? Well, not exactly. But, let’s not go into all the technical mumbo-jumbo. Discussing in detail how cuin is actually determined and measured would go beyond the scope of this blog post. What is important for you to know, though, is that a down jacket with a fill power of 500 cuin is a jacket you can actually use. As you can probably imagine, the fill power rating reflects the quality of the down as well, with 650 cuin being a very good rating and 750-900 being excellent.

The amount of down affects the degree of insulation as well. Lighter down jackets thus provide less insulation then heavier jackets. The downside to heavy jackets is their larger pack size and the diminished range of motion.

And, finally, the down-to-feather ratio plays a very significant role as well. If a jacket has 100 grams of insulation and a mixture ratio of 90/10, this indicates that the jacket has a total of 90 grams of down and 10 grams of feathers. The down-to-feather ratio affects both the weight of the jacket and its thermal efficiency. This is due to the fact that feathers are heavier than down, don’t trap air as well and are thus incapable of providing the same level of warmth as down.

The Michelin Man

The down in down jackets is divided up in to different baffles or lines in order to prevent the down from shifting. This allows warmth to be distributed across your upper body, but it also gives you a puffy look, one quite reminiscent of the loveable Michelin Man. The seams are usually sewn through. But this can result in a loss of heat through cold spots. This is why higher-end models have a layer of fabric sewn in that prevent cold air penetrating the interior. There are also jackets, such as the Adidas – TX Climaheat Agravic, that prevent the loss of heat through cold spots by way of an overlapping construction.

Small, medium or large?

Never underestimate the importance of the size of your down jacket. If you’re jacket is too big, not only will it look bad, but it will also make it easier for heat to escape. The collar should be particularly close fitting so that any warmth that has been retained on the interior won’t be lost. Your jacket shouldn’t choke you, though, but rather fit snugly around your neck.

The pros and cons of down insulation

There are alternatives to down, such as synthetic products. The following table shall provide you with an overview of the advantages and disadvantages of each material.

DownSynthetic insulation
+ very lightweight– somewhat heavier than down
+ extremely small pack size– bigger pack size
+ more comfortable interior via moisture transfer– less moisture transfer
+ long lifespan if properly cared for– shorter lifespan than down
– loses insulating ability when wet+ retains insulating ability when wet
– absorbs moitsture from the inside and outside+ retains insulating ability when wet
– dries slowly+ quick drying

Areas of use for a down jacket

Since down is warm and simultaneously incredibly lightweight and packable, it’s perfect for travel in cold regions or when you don’t have a lot of room to spare in your pack. Plus, with a down jacket, you’ll no longer need to worry about freezing during your tea or coffee break!

Down jackets will even fit in a MTB pack, so you’ll be able to enjoy a beer outdoors after a long day of exhilarating downhills. It’s a great thing to have as a belayer as well whilst you watch your lead climber move up the rock. And even if you head out to Fontainebleau at the cooler times of the year for some bouldering, you’ll be happy you brought along that toasty warm down jacket.

In short: A down jacket is a good thing to have when

  • it’s cold out
  • it’s not raining and you’re not extremely active
  • you have little room to spare in your pack and every gram counts

Down: wannabe synthetic?

There are manufacturers who treat their down in order to make it handle moisture better. The advantage here is that the treatment makes the down hydrophobic, which will prevent it from clumping together when exposed to moisture. This means that the jacket won’t absorb moisture from the inside, either, which results in an interior environment similar to that of a synthetically insulated jacket.

Good and evil down

Since down is an product derived from an animal, it has to get from the animal to the jacket in some way, shape or form, right? Unfortunately, some of these methods for obtaining down are very dodgy, to say the least. Some down feathers are collected through something called live plucking. As you can imagine, live plucking is incredibly cruel and causes the animals a lot of pain and distress. The other “evil” kind of down is obtained during the production of foie gras (“fatty liver”). This is the extraordinarily cruel process of force feeding ducks and geese and is just as horrible for the animals as it sounds. Thankfully, it’s banned in a large number of European countries, but not in all of them.

Now, many manufacturers advertise that their down is obtained not from foie gras production but from animals slaughtered for the food industry. Still, it is incredibly difficult to guarantee, since there are several individual operations involved in the production of down. And, let’s face it: there are still plenty of black sheep out there. And, when manufacturers get the final product, there’s no way to tell where the down originated.

For this reason, five manufacturers have teamed up with animal rights groups to carry out inspections in order to definitively determine the origin of the down. These are: Vaude, Patagonia, The North Face, Mammut and Jack Wolfskin. Other manufacturers, such as Mountain Equipment, carry out their own random inspections of the supplier’s down for more transparency. Mountain Equipment calls this the Down Codex. More and more manufacturers are also beginning to offer tracking codes, which can be used to trace back the origin of the down. An example of this is the Haglöfs – Essens II Down Hood.

Ultimately, it’s your decision as the consumer to decide what you use your down jacket for. For all the positive qualities of a down jacket, there are quite a few dodgy bits as well that you definitely need to consider when buying a down jacket.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask our experts in customer service. They are available on weekdays from 9:00 a.m. till 4:00 pm on the phone +49 (0)7121/70 12 0 and by email.

 

softshell-title

Softshell – Protection in the rain?

10. February 2017
Equipment

The current generation of soft shells is looking pretty good: they’re as soft as fleece, yet they still have enough in them to withstand winds and bad weather.

Since it just continues to bucket down out there day after day, let’s have a closer look at rainwear. More specifically, let’s have a look at softshells and what they are capable of. Are softshells capable of withstanding sudden changes in weather? Are there any differences between the different materials and technologies used for softshells? Well, continue to read and we’ll tell you!

Softshells, hardshells and fleece

There’s not just one softshell fabric. Softshell fabrics actually come in several different varieties. That’s why it’s so difficult to make any general statements as to their characteristics, but we’re going to be brave and give it our best shot!

Characteristics: Softshells vs. hardshells

The biggest advantage a softshell has over a hardshell is its superior ability to regulate body heat during high-output activities. It effectively blocks wind and cold air whilst simultaneously transporting moisture from the inside to the outside. So, you won’t have to keep taking off and putting back on different layers of clothing as your body temperature changes. Another advantage is the high elasticity of the fabric used for softshells, which allows the jacket to be more form fitting. So, not only does a softshell look great, but it is also perfect for activities that require a lot of movement, such as climbing.

Characteristics: Softshell vs. Fleece

This battle isn’t even worth fighting: A softshell is far superior to your conventional fleece! Not only does the latter tend to soak up even the faintest of drizzle like a sponge, it isn’t really capable of protecting you from the wind, either! Who needs that? Plus, you won’t ever see those ugly little balls of lint on a softshell, either, since manufacturers use abrasion-resistant fabric.

A softshell in the rain

Let’s cut to the chase: How well can a softshell hold off rain? Well, manufacturers like to take two different approaches when it comes to fending off rain with a softshell: coated jackets and membranes.

Coated jackets – for moderate conditions

For light rain or snow, a softshell with a DWR (Durable Water Repellent) coating is a viable option. The DWR coating causes rain to bead up and roll off the face fabric but doesn’t inhibit the breathability. However, the water-repellent coating wears off pretty quickly in areas exposed to a lot of wear (e.g., the shoulders). To rectify this, many manufacturers recommend (carefully!) using an iron to reactivate the DWR treatment. Another option is to use special waterproofing products.

Membrane jackets

When it’s raining cats and dogs, the only thing that can help is a membrane. Manufacturers use special softshell membranes, which are, like the jacket’s upper and lining, elastic so as not to impede your range of motion. However, there is a huge downside to adding membrane to a softshell: it inhibits its breathability, causing it lose its decisive advantage over the hardshell! But, if you still want a softshell that’ll work for all weather conditions, you should make sure that all the seams are sealed and that the softshell is equipped with the appropriate zips. If the softshell of your choice has got all these things, there’s no reason not to wear in the most adverse of conditions. You can find a comparison of different membranes at Base Camp.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask our experts in customer service. They are available on weekdays from 9:00 a.m. till 4:00 pm on the phone +49 (0)7121/70 12 0 and by email.

 

backpack-running

A buyer’s guide to trail running packs

9. February 2017
Buyer's guide

More and more runners are finding the joy in trail running. Running through rough terrain is not only loads of fun, but it also diversifies your training schedule and trains your coordination and concentration.

One of the most important things you’ll need for trail running besides shoes with excellent traction is a trail running pack

In the following, we’ll tell you everything you need to know when buying a trail running pack.

The fit – go ahead and forget everything you thought you knew

Nothing is more annoying when running than when something is bouncing around on your back, or anywhere else for that matter. So, your running pack should do one thing and do it really well: Fit snugly. Today, there are several models that are made like a vest and secured using sternum straps. The fit of the pack is oriented toward the shape of the chest. Thus, running packs will fit much more snugly around your body and are usually much more secure.

Since the pack is centred around the chest and shoulder area, the pack itself won’t be as bothersome when you run. In terms of fabric, the best packs are the ones made of elastic and breathable mesh. This light fabric has the advantage that it won’t in any way obstruct your breathing. Plus, your body will feel fresher and comfortable even during strenuous mountain runs as a result of the material’s breathability.

Of course, trail running packs are made to be as light as possible. Smaller models, such as the
Mountain Hardwear Fluid Race Vest Pack weigh in at only 280g.

The pockets – More is more

When competing, every second counts. You can’t just take off the pack and rummage around in it for your gels, water, etc. This is why trail running packs are equipped with all sorts of tiny pockets on the shoulder straps that can be accessed whilst you run. So, you’ll be able to get to your energy bars and gels in no time at all.

The pack’s larger compartments are intended for sleeves, running jackets or other clothes you may need whilst you’re out on the trails. Depending on the length and difficulty of the run, trail running packs can have a storage capacity of up to 17 litres, which is distributed evenly among all the various pockets. A great example is the Salomon Skin Pro 14+3 Set, which clearly shows the vest-like style. In addition to its large main compartment, this model has five pockets, all of which can be accessed relatively quickly and easily.

Have you got enough to drink?

In order to keep you hydrated during your run, trail running packs are usually equipped with two bottle holders on the shoulder straps. Quick and easy access is a must when it comes to hydration! In addition, running packs usually have a compartment for a hydration bladder as well. The hose, which is hooked up to the bladder, is guided toward the front via the shoulder strap so that you can take a swig whilst running. Running packs that accommodate a hydration bladder, such as the Camelbak Marathoner Vest allow you to carry more than three litres of liquid. This is particularly convenient on your longer training runs. Dividing up the liquids in the front and back of the pack serves a purpose as well: it makes for an even distribution of weight, something that is extremely advantageous when running, as you can probably imagine.

Additional features for optimal function

It’s not at all unusual for runners to carry trekking or Nordic walking poles on a trail run. These make it easier to run uphill. Plus, they give you a bit more security and stability for technical downhills as well. But, if you’re out on a longer run, sometimes you just don’t know what to do with them. Luckily, most trail running packs have elastic cords that can be used to attached the poles to your pack. This also gives you the option of attaching your jacket or some other garment to the outside of your pack, if you don’t have any more room or your pack doesn’t have a large main compartment.

Since trail runners often find themselves in rough terrain, trail running packs are equipped with a tiny safety whistle, which can help you to draw the attention of rescuers. Another great safety feature is the reflective elements found on several running packs that serve to make you more visible in the dark.

Ask your fellow Alpine Trekkers!

If you can hardly contain yourself and are simply dying to go out on your first long trail run, but just can’t decide on a pack, feel free to contact our customer service any time. They are available during the week from 9 a.m. till 4 p.m. and can be reached by phone at +49 (0)7121/70 12 0 or per E-Mail.