Deep water soloing - what's that about?

Deep water soloing – what’s that about?

24. May 2017
Alpinetrek-Experts

A pair of climbing shoes, a chalk bag and some swim briefs. That’s about all you need to climb a wall. At least, that’s all Alex Honnold needs. Unfortunately, the kind of climbing (free soloing) Honnold wows us with on a regular basis is very dangerous, forcing the less audacious among us to leave it to the professionals. If you want to give it a crack anyway, we recommend deep water soloing.

Those who have tried it before refer to it as climbing in its purest form. Why? Well, there’s no protection, you can choose to follow routes or not and you won’t be risking your life as you would with each and every free solo climb.

Deep water soloing (DWS), also known as psicobloc, is becoming more and more popular. If you have yet to figure what it’s all about and where you can do it, you’ve come to the right place! Let’s start with a definition: Simply put, deep water soloing (DWS) is climbing without protection above deep water. So, does that mean it’s a less dangerous version of free solo climbing? Let’s put it this way: it depends on how you go about it. But, we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s start with the basics:

Advantages

You can just climb. You don’t have to think about protection, routes, belay stations, etc. In other words, you can leave most of your gear at home, which will come in really useful if you plan on flying somewhere.

Since you don’t need a belayer, you can climb by yourself (though we recommend climbing with others or letting them know your plans at the very least), saving yourself from the embarrassment of trying get over the crux for the umpteenth time. In other words, you can just focus on climbing, the movement, the route and your goal.

This kind of climbing could be perfect for those of you who want something somewhere between free soloing and bouldering.

Things to consider

Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as you might think. In order for it to be fun and truly safe, there are a few things you need to consider.

How to get there

I know of three different ways. Climb there, rappel to your spot or take a boat!

The wall

This should obviously be in water and positioned in such a way so that you don’t fall on underwater rocks, logs, reefs or other obstacles. A lot of DWS cliff faces are vertical (like in the video from Löbejün below) or slightly to majorly overhanging.

The landing zone – the water

The water at the base of the climb should be deep enough so that a long fall does not lead to impact under water. The wall should thus extend vertically downward below the surface of the water for several metres. Many DWS walls are over 15m high. There should be several metres of water below you.

The water should be calm as well. As many DWS are seas cliffs, you will have to familiarise yourself with subject matters such as surfs, swells and currents. And, in some regions, you may even have to think about whacky stuff like jellyfish, sharks, crabs, submarines, fish, pelicans, etc.

If you prefer to stay away from stuff like that and like it a bit more relaxed, look for DWS cliffs in lakes.

Gear

The good thing is, you really only need shoes and chalk (and swim briefs/bikini). However, you can only use them for a single route, because after your dive/jump – which is an integral part of every climb – your shoes and chalk bag will need time to dry. Unless you have backups.

There’s a trick you can use for your chalk bag, though. Take a plastic bag (one that fits perfectly inside your chalk bag) and fill it up with chalk. That way, you can just replace the plastic bag instead of having to use an infinite number of chalk bags.

Information

You usually won’t be able to see far enough below water to find out what your landing zone looks like, so it’s important to find some background information about the venue beforehand. You can find this kind of information online or in certain climbing guides, such as the Rockfax – Deep Water – Climbing guide.

What does psicobloc mean?

For one, psicobloc is another name for DWS. But, it also happens to be the name of a competition that Chris Sharma launched in 2013.

The competition takes place in Utah where an artificial climbing wall is erected above a swimming pool (usually used for high diving). In 2013, elite climbers met there for the very first time in a trial of mental strength! In August of 2014, they met again for another epic battle. The video is worth watching. Your fingers are guaranteed to sweat.

The crucial question – is it dangerous?

As always, it depends entirely on how you go about it. I mean, you can get injured doing anything, even whilst playing chess! All jokes aside, when compared with free solo climbing, DWS is harmless, since a fall is not necessarily fatal. Still, your safety depends on a few factors.

The higher the fall, the harder the surface of the water will be when you come crashing down upon it. So, the way you land is crucial. You should try not to fall out of control but instead attempt – as you would when bouldering – a controlled jump, stabilising your body position to your advantage. The height of the fall and how you fall into the water will determine whether your landing is soft, burns, breaks some bones or worse.

Obviously, if the water’s too shallow at the base of your climb, a fall would be fatal. A good example of the importance of water depth is the Hard Moves Boulder League held in Wuppertal, Germany. In 2013, the wall they used for the competition was 7.5 metres high. However, the swimming pool in the Wuppertal’s Schwimmoper was not deep enough, so they improvised and built a trampoline to catch the participants’ falls (see image). If they hadn’t done that, it wouldn’t have gone well.

It’s also very important to make sure you’re not climbing over the foot of a cliff over rocks hidden underwater, as that could be fatal as well. Ledges along the route can also lead to serious injuries. In the worst-case scenario, you could hit a ledge on the way down, land in the water and have to fight your way out, all whilst dealing with a potentially serious injury.

On top of that, you’ll have to deal with all the risks associated with the water itself, such as swells, currents, etc. So, it’s possible that even after a great landing, you’ll still be exposed to certain dangers.

In other words, I know we said you COULD go by yourself, but for exactly these reasons, you shouldn’t. Always go with at least one other climber. But, I’m sure you know that from rock climbing already.

In sum, if you’ve found a good rock wall with a good landing zone, use your head when you climb, jump off the rock faces well, don’t climb too high, then DWS should a brilliant and relatively safe activity for you to try.

Popular DWS locations

Popular and documented locations for DWS include places in Mallorca and Malta, Thailand, Croatia, the French Riviera (Cap d’Antibes, Coco Beach, Point de l’Aiguille) and Vietnam.

In Germany, you can go deep water soloing in Löbejun near Halle or in Kochel above Lake Kochel. As for England, the southwest coastline of England and Wales has a lot of great places for DWS-ing.

Telescoping poles for walking and mountaineering

Telescoping poles for walking and mountaineering

12. May 2017
Buyer's guide, Equipment

Have you ever thought about getting telescoping walking poles but don’t know where to start? Well, fellow Alpine Trekker Fritz Miller has put together the most important info for you so that you can find the right pair to fit your needs! You may be wondering what the advantages of using walking poles are. Well, walking poles not only allow you to walk more safely and efficiently but also take the strain off of your knees, especially when you’re venturing downhill. What’s more, they’re absolutely essential for trips with a heavy pack, when ski touring or snowshoeing. Plus, walking poles can come in handy if you plan on winter hiking without snow shoes or going on high mountain tour. On traditional high mountain tours, I, personally, opt to carry a single pole as opposed to two. As an aside, if you’re fairly fit and healthy, try not to fall in love with using poles, as frequent use could negatively impact your sense of balance. After all, you can hill walk just fine in the summer without them. The same goes for a leisurely stroll in your local park.

Who uses what?

Fortunately, deciding on a pair of walking poles isn’t as difficult as picking out a pair of mountaineering boots, a new smartphone or a cute puppy. In other words, the things you need to take into consideration when buying walking poles are pretty straightforward.

Number of segments

Most walking poles have 3 segments. This not only makes them easier to adjust to the appropriate length but also allows you to store them (when completely collapsed) in your travel bag or on the outside of your backpacks. The latter is a great option to have for steeper sections of a climb or when taking the bus back to the trailhead. But when on a bus or train, try to remember to keep the tips pointing down!

2-section poles are particularly suited for skiing. After all, when you’re forced to carry large skis around, it won’t really matter whether your poles pack down nicely or not.

4-section telescoping poles are even more compact than 3-section poles, which is great for transport. But, I don’t think that justifies all the extra fumbling around and the (somewhat) heavier weight.

Newer 3 or 4-section folding poles are great for minimalists who prefer a small pack size and less weight. However, these usually don’t have an adjustable length and come at a higher price.

Material and weight

If you want to go light, there’s no way around carbon fibre poles. However, my personal experience has shown these to be less durable than aluminium. Of course, in this context, not only the material but also the strength thereof plays a crucial role. Heavier poles tend to be more stable than lighter models and thus more suitable for expeditions and heavier people.

Handles and straps

Light foam handles with a covering on the uppermost segment are great for mountaineering, as this feature allows you to hold onto the part just below the handle in steeper terrain. You can also wrap the bare pole with handlebar tape or something similar to achieve the same effect. When trekking, it is particularly important that the grip feels comfortable and keeps your wrist in a good position. Other common handles include rubber and cork grips, both of which are quite comfortable. Cork is usual found on the more expensive models. By the way, the higher-quality poles are often equipped with ergonomic grips that have a corrective angle for comfort. Another important feature is the wrist strap. It is important that the wrist strap is comfortable, distributes the pressure and doesn’t cause chafing. Otherwise, you’ll get blisters very quickly. Many poles have the buckle for adjusting the wrist strap hidden away in the handle, which I find to be particularly comfortable. If the buckle’s on the strap itself and ends up rubbing up against the back of your hand, it can be really bothersome, unless you happen to be wearing padded gloves.

Locking mechanism

The traditional lever or clamp-like mechanism on the pole is not bad, but it does have some disadvantages: For one, it tends to open by itself every once and while, and we can’t have that! In fact, I ran into this problem on a regular basis during one of my multi-day treks. It absolutely refused to close! Some may be able to deal with this, but I couldn’t. More reliable locking mechanisms are those that work much in the same way as a quick release on a bike seat post. Leki refers to this mechanism as the “Speed Lock System”. As the name already suggests, the Speed Lock Mechanism allows you to adjust the length much more quickly.

Tips and baskets

A hard metal tip is quite the good thing to have. After all, you wouldn’t want your pole to slip, would you? A basket near the tip serves to prevent the pole from drowning in mud or disappearing into every single little crevice. Personally, I find small trekking baskets to be perfect for the summer. They even get the job done when you’re forced to traverse patches of old snow. But, in such situations, I’d steer clear of micro baskets. Larger baskets (approximately palm sized) are better for winter tours.

Shock absorbers

Some telescoping poles come complete with an anti-shock system or shock absorbers. The shock absorber can be activated for a downhill climb and is designed to take the strain off of your hand/arms. But, you have to be pretty sensitive to really appreciate the “cushion” such a shock absorber provides.

Pole length

Most poles for walking and mountaineering have an adjustable length. So, no need to worry about finding the exact size – you only have to know the approximate length. If you’re preparing for your trip, our Pole length calculator could help you determine which length is appropriate for you based on your height and the area of use. But, if you’re already out in the hills or just need to find out fast, have a look at the picture to see how to determine the proper length.

It’s best to make your poles shorter for longer, steeper uphill climbs and longer for steep downhills. Ski mountaineers use telescoping poles as well, which can be lengthened for uphill climbs and shortened for alpine descents.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask our experts in customer service. They are available on weekdays between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. and can be reached by phone at +49 (0)7121/70 12 0 or via info@alpinetrek.co.uk. This article was last edited on 31/01/2017.

The big food test: Trekking food!

The big food test: Trekking food!

Alpinetrek-Experts

If you’ve lived out of your backpack for long periods of time, you’re surely familiar with the advantages of outdoor food: the ratio of weight to nutritional value is unbeatable. Plus, the food couldn’t be easier to prepare. All you need to do is pour hot water into the little pouch. I know what you’re thinking: Easy prep is well and good, but what about the taste?

Well, we tried some! In fact, we’ve been so dedicated to our little undertaking that we’ve turned down our usual lunchtime grub multiple times now in favour of outdoor food. And, of course, we took notes! So, keep reading if you’d like to find out more about outdoor food.

Hungry, hungry Alpine Trekkers

Our food testers consisted of people from our purchasing department (who should be familiar with the stuff they’re buying), some customer service reps (who can share their experience with you) as well as some folks from our content team (who can then describe their first-hand experiences) and a couple of volunteers from other departments. We all met for lunch on several occasions.

Each session was structured in the same way: various meals from a single manufacturer were prepared. What followed was something like a game of musical chairs: the bags circled around the table in search of somebody who hadn’t tried them yet. In between all the smacking of lips, we shared and discussed our first impressions. Plus, each tester was responsible for noting down their personal opinion.

The first thing we notice: the group of testers grew with each and every lunch break. Even though we had all lived off instant meals before on our various trips, the opportunity to try so many different ones in such a short period of time was something nobody wanted to miss out on. In fact, some of us even discovered some new faves! And because there were some meals that were not so kind to the palate, to put it lightly, we recommend trying out a few before heading out on a long trip.

Expedition food and packet meals – what we tested

The most important question: how’s the taste?

The point of our numerous feasts was to test that which no nutrition facts could ever tell us: whether or not the grub tastes good. Admittedly, we weren’t able to replicate the conditions of life in the great outdoors. After all, we’d all probably eat about anything after completing an elevation gain of 1,500m, right?

And thanks to Benedikt’s willingness to sacrifice himself, we were even able to test whether or not the grub was palatable without “cooking” it first. The result: If you’ve got strong teeth, you can eat it, but you definitely need a high tolerance for, well, crap food.

Preparation and convenience 

Plus, we had a closer look at some of the more practical aspects of these ready-made meals:
  • How useful were the packages when it came to preparing and eating the food?
  • How much energy do the single packets provide?
  • How easy are they to prepare, e.g., pouring in the right amount of water?
  • How much does one meal or a (filling) portion cost?

Various manufacturers of outdoor food

First, we’d like to mention that the food for this test was supplied by the manufacturer at our request. But, don’t worry. We’ll remain open and honest throughout our review and refrain from using any advert slogans or catchphrases. Promise! However, we would like to thank our suppliers for their support and generosity. It’s greatly appreciated!

The following is what we had the pleasure of eating during our lunchbreaks:

The individual tests will be posted little by little with the appropriate links here at Base Camp!

Outdoor food: just pricy packet soup?

One of the first things that come to mind when enjoying some packet food is whether or not the high prices are justified. The main argument put forward in this context was: Why buy expensive outdoor food when you can buy packet soups from a variety of different brands at any discount food store for next to nothing. Valid, wouldn’t you agree?

Well, yes and no. While there are several similarities between the two, there are big differences as well. For one, outdoor food has more calories per gram. Even though most supermarkets try to appeal to the diet-crazed masses with fat-free, low-calorie food and most of us bite, outdoor athletes actually need just the opposite. For example, if you were to compare the caloric content of instant noodles to that of trekking noodles, you’d find that the latter has about twice the amount of calories per gram.

And, if you were to have a closer look at the nutrition facts and ingredients, you’d notice yet another significant difference: Trekking food does not contain the excessive amount of (cheap) fats and sugars. In sum, these ready-made meals are better tailored to the needs of us Alpine Trekkers. But, you’ve probably figured as much, right? This also means that trekking meals are usually much easier to digest than the same amount of instant food from the supermarket.

In addition, the meals can be prepared with little effort and even without the food ever leaving the packet. The only time it ever leaves is when you eat it! This will save an enormous amount of weight and space in your backpack, since you won’t have to lug around extra pots or tableware.

All in all, though, it’s an unfair comparison, because we’re comparing two products designed to meet different demands. For shorter trips, you can definitely opt for a cheaper alternative or just take a couple of sandwiches along, but trekking food is the better choice for longer trips.

And don’t worry, we’ll let you know whether or not it tastes good in a later post.

A roof over your head: tents

A roof over your head: Tents

9. May 2017
Equipment

A tent is supposed to be your home away from home, so it’s important for you to feel comfortable in it. But, how are you supposed to decide between all the different models? I mean, there are so many different designs, sizes and materials! Not to mention the fact that they’re all so complicated to put together! What to do?

Well, it’s always a good idea to take your time when looking into buying a tent. There are so many different kinds of tents nowadays that it can be quite overwhelming. So, again, do take your time. Besides, there’s nothing worse than realising your tent is unfit to withstand storm right in the middle of one, right? Right! So, here are some helpful tips!

What size do you need?

When deciding on a size, it’s important to consider the number of people you plan on travelling with and how much gear you think you’re going to have with you. In other words, do you really need to have all your gear in the tent or can it stay in the car? Another thing you should consider is the amount of extra room you need. When manufacturers say “two-man tent”, they really mean two people, so your kit will either be lying at your feet or outside. If you like it a bit more spacious and don’t mind the extra weight, “add” another person and get yourself a 3-man tent, even if you’re travelling in a group of two. Believe me, it’s worth it.

The interior dimensions are particularly important for taller people who require a longer layout. It may go without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway: Larger tents weigh more. So, if you’re planning a multi-day walk and need to carry your tent in your rucksack, do take this into consideration, as they can be rather cumbersome. Oftentimes, individual parts of a tent can be divided up among your fellow travellers, but this obviously only works when you’re travelling in a group.

How many walls?

Tents usually have one or two walls. The double-wall tents consist of three parts: an inner tent, an outer tent and poles. As always, both designs have their advantages and disadvantages:

Single-wall

+ easy to set up, especially in the rain
+ light

– less insulation as a result of direct contact with the outside
– if vents are missing, condensation on the interior can be an issue

Double-wall

+ better air circulation between the inner and outer tent
+ the fly can be left off in the summertime (not all tents have this feature)
+ less expensive

– depending on the construction of the poles, some tents can be kept dry when pitching in the rain.

The construction

The shape of a tent is determined by the pole design. For us outdoor enthusiasts, the most common designs are the following: the dome tent, tunnel tent and geodesic tent.

Try to remember this as a rule of thumb: The more poles there are and the higher the number of pole intersections, the sturdier the tent will be. But this also means, the sturdier the tent is, the more difficult it will be to set up as well. In order to determine the best design for you, consider the following first:

  • Who’s carrying the tent? You or your vehicle?
  • What’s the weather going to be like? Rain, strong winds, snowfall, sand, how hot?
  • How quiet would you like your tent to be? Would it really bother you if the tent were to flap in the wind?
  • How experienced are you at pitching tents?

Tunnel tent

The tent gets its name from the non-intersecting arches the poles of the tent form. This pole design makes the tent look like a tunnel. As a result of this construction, the tent has serious issues with strong winds and snow from above. However, the tunnel shape makes the tents themselves pretty spacious, since the walls are relatively steep. Thus, tunnel tents usually have a high space-to-weight ratio.

Areas of use: trekking and camping

+ good use of space
+ light relative to its size

– not freestanding
– issues with stormy weather and heavy snowfall

Dome tent

Dome tents have two pole arches that cross in the middle. They are easy to deal with, making pitching a doddle. The strength and the material of the poles determines how sturdy the tent is. Dome tents are indeed freestanding, but they should be pegged down for extra stability.

Those double-wall dome tents, whose poles lie between the outer and inner wall and only have to be clipped in, are easy to pitch in the rain, since you can pitch the outer tent first.

Today, there are several dome tents that deviate from the basic tent structures. These tents are often called hybrids.

Areas of use: Camping, trekking and high-altitude mountaineering

+ light
+ good stability in wind
+ freestanding
+ can be set up in rain (some)

– come in all sorts of different designs

Geodesic tents

These tents have at least three poles that intersect at several points, making the tent much more structurally sound and minimising the amount of unsupported fabric. This pole design makes these tents sturdier in snowy conditions and strong winds.

The geodesic shape is self-supporting, so it can theoretically stand on its own without you having to guy it out. However, this is not recommended. Pitching this tent is somewhat more complicated than the other two designs. But, once you get the hang of it, it’s fairly easy.

The tent’s high stability in snowy and windy conditions makes it great for expeditions, even though the larger number of poles does increase the tent’s overall weight.

Areas of use: Expeditions

+ plenty of stability
+ self-supporting

– relatively heav

Some other designs

Tarps are basically a solid sheet of fabric, which can be rigged to trees or poles. They have neither walls nor floors. Tarps are geared toward those who will do anything to save some weight, people travelling in places where weather protection is not as important or just outdoorsy folk who love to sleep as closely to nature as possible, despite all the creepy-crawlies.

Pop-up tents have poles that are already built in and can only be folded down under pressure. When you unpack the tent, it will basically unfold itself and erect right before your very eyes. However, due to the thin poles, pop-up tents are not very sturdy in stormy conditions and cannot withstand very heavy snow loads. Due to their construction, they’re more suitable for light camping, festivals and the like. The good thing is that they are very inexpensive.

Other kinds of tents (pyramid/teepee tents) aren’t used all that often in our neck of the woods. In terms of stability in stormy conditions in particular, the two types mentioned above have proven to be quite effective.

Pyramid or tepee tents are often used by groups of people, such as boy scouts. They’re also quite popular in Norway.

What about my kit?

Tents are usually equipped with a vestibule or a porch in which you can store your gear. If you run out of room, you can always take your pack with you in the tent and use it as a pillow.

The size and the shape, and thus the usability of the porch, can vary from model to model. Many provide plenty of storage space and can even serve as a small kitchen, whilst others are hardly big enough for you to store your shoes in.

For reasons of comfort and convenience, certain designs, such as geodesic and dome tents in particular, are much better if they have two entrances. That way, you won’t have to wake up the whole tent if you need to go outside.

Hydrostatic head

All tents are basically waterproof. A hydrostatic head of 1500mm is the legal requirement for calling a tent’s outer fabric ‘waterproof’. But, there are even tents that have a hydrostatic head of 20,000mm, but are they really more waterproof? The hydrostatic head refers to the amount of water pressure required to penetrate a given fabric. Since the pressure applied to a tent is usually not very high, it doesn’t need a hydrostatic head of 20,000.

However, the pressure on a tent’s floor (a hydrostatic head of 2000mm is considered waterproof) can be significantly higher, seeing as we kneel, sit and lie on it.

It’s always a good idea to use a groundsheet. These serve to provide extra waterproofing. But, always be sure that no water can get between the groundsheet and the tent floor. In addition to providing extra waterproofing, a groundsheet serves to protect the tent floor from sharp objects as well.

Gimmicks

There are all sorts of other features that are supposed to improve tent life. Be it the reflective guy lines (if you’ve ever destroyed a neighbouring tent on your way to the ‘loo’, you know what these are good for) or fluorescent pegs to protect your feet.

As you can see, many are quite useful. Another such example is that you can often choose what colour you want your fly to be. Why not? It’s fashionable and makes your tent easy to identify. If you’d prefer not to stand out from the crowd, don’t pick orange. But, if you’re planning on spending time in the mountains, a brightly coloured tent could save your life. When choosing a colour, you might also want to consider how much light you want to shine through your tent. For Scandinavian summers, for example, a dark tent would be a great choice, but a yellow or orange tent will brighten up the mood (and the interior) on cloudy days. Some colours tend to attract mosquitos as well, so if you choose one of those, always remember to close the mosquito net.

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

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 25/02/2016.

Sustainability and the outdoor industry

Sustainability and the outdoor industry

2. May 2017
Equipment

As unfortunate as it is and ironic as it may seem to lovers of the great outdoors, outdoor products are not very environmentally friendly. In fact, many of them have been proofed with waterproofing agents containing chemicals, whilst others contain down feathers plucked from live birds or merino wool acquired from farmers who practice mulesing. Don’t even get me started on the horrible working conditions in the Far East…

Unfortunately, this list goes on and on. However, it is by no means our intention in this post to dismiss any of these problems. Rather, our aim is to demonstrate with the help of some positive examples that the outdoor industry is beginning to move in the right direction: More and more manufacturers are introducing eco-friendly collections and switching over to completely sustainable production processes.

When I was compiling the list of manufacturers I wanted to include in this post, I was rather delighted and actually quite surprised to find that the list was much too long for me to name all of them. Thus, only selected manufacturers will be mentioned in order to provide you with an idea of where all that sustainability is hiding.

Apparel

An unbelievably huge part of the outdoor industry. Why? Well, it just has much potential. In contrast to tents, climbing harnesses, stoves or walking boots, this branch of the industry is under so much pressure to release new, fashionable apparel every season. This is due to the fact that not only are new manufacturers of outdoor apparel currently flooding the market, but consumers are also placing more and more emphasis on how fashionable the apparel should be and expect to see new products each and every year. As a result, manufacturers can no longer produce individual products for several years, but rather need to make a profit in just a few months.

Vaude – the best in its class

To list everything Vaude does would go beyond the scope of this post, so I suggest you just visit their website. What I will tell you about Vaude is the following: There is an annual sustainability report, and Vaude has volunteered to become 100% PFC-free across their entire collection by 2020. Some of their products already have the Eco Finish label, which indicates that they are PFC free. What’s more, a large portion of their products are made in Germany and Fair Wear certified. Vaude is also considered to be a very family-oriented company and received five awards for sustainability in 2014 alone.

Monkee, Jung, Triple2 – learning from the little guys

One could claim that it’s easier for smaller companies to produce their products in a sustainable way because they have less to make. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth, as Kristin Jung explained to me. Her company Jung produces very stylish climbing trousers in small numbers exclusively in Europe. Plus, in 2014, they completely switched over to organic cotton. This is quite the feat, as acquiring organic cotton in small numbers at a reasonable price is extremely difficult and time consuming.

All the better when you see that companies like Monkee, Jung and Triple2 manage to manufacture their products in a sustainable way whilst simultaneously keeping up with the times and making them stylish. Bravo!

That horrible stuff involving down and merino sheep

Down jackets are incredibly modern, which is understandable. After all, they keep us so toasty warm! And, it’s easy to understand the hype surrounding merino wool as well. Once you’ve worn an odour-resistant wool singlet, you’ll never want to go back. Unfortunately, this is where horrible practices like mulesing and live-plucking rear their ugly heads. And, as you can imagine, these practices are subject to a lot of criticism – and rightfully so!

It’s precisely this criticism that forces manufacturers to rethink the source of their wool and down. Admittedly, tracing the source is often extremely difficult, especially when it comes to down, but the efforts being made by the manufacturers and the pressure they’ve been putting on suppliers are becoming greater, which in turn results in more reliable certificates. This is all due in large part to pioneers like Mountain Equipment who were among the first to make their down supply chain traceable and transparent for the consumer with their Down Codex. Other manufacturers, such as Yeti or Patagonia are also very active in this area. For example, in the winter of 2013-2014, Patagonia made a significant change, which would eventually lead to their entire down collection containing 100% traceable down.

The horrible thing I mentioned before with reference to merino wool is called mulesing and is apparently primarily practiced in Australia. Manufacturers such as Icebreaker or Ortovox guarantee that their merino farms do not engage in this horrible practice.

Speaking of wool and Ortovox, if you’re not yet familiar with Swiss Wool but are interested in finding out more about sustainability, you might want to read this Base Camp interview.

Gear and care

Let’s start with the lesser known brands. Mawaii is a small company from Berlin specialising in sunscreen that doesn’t contain parabens or oils. So not only are they healthy, but they protect the environment as well. Plus, Mawaii donates 1% of their profits to environmental organisations.

Fibertec is a small manufacturer of environmentally-friendly waterproofing agents and care products for functional apparel. And while were on the subject of waterproofing, I’d just like to mention that several manufacturers of waterproofing technology, such as Toko and Nikwax, are starting to include eco-friendly options in their product lines as well.

Hardware

This is a category that is particularly tricky, especially when it comes to climbing. Most products have to do with a climber’s safety and thus must undergo several very comprehensive tests and live up to strict standards. Simply put, they have to be of the highest quality. And since climbers would prefer not to spend heaps of money on carabiners, manufacturers and dealers have to really think twice about how much they produce of what. Nevertheless, there are several companies that still manufacture their products exclusively at their home base and now have solar panels on the roof of their 7000m² factory building, such as DMM, AustriAlpin or Grivel.

The responsibility of the consumer

Yes, we can expect all the companies to manufacture their products in an environmentally-friendly and sustainable way. But, why should they do that if consumers refuse to sacrifice functionality and comfort or pay more for such products? We hardly ever receive any questions as to the origin of the down or where the clothing was made. Based on our numbers at Alpine Trek, sustainable manufacturers don’t seem to be any more popular than the traditional ones. Quite on the contrary, sustainable products come at a price that many customers are unwilling to pay! So, why should these companies go to the trouble of ensuring a sustainable production if they end up not being able to sell their products because we ultimately opt for the less expensive option?

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

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 22/03/2016.

Softshell trousers vs. walking trousers

Softshell trousers vs. walking trousers

28. April 2017
Equipment

I’m sure all of you outdoor enthusiasts are well aware of what softshell jackets are and what they do best. You may even know from experience how great the fabric is for trousers as well.

What you may not know is the difference between a pair of “normal” walking trousers and a pair of “high-performance”softshell trousers. Have you ever wondered why one person would opt for one over the other? What makes softshell trousers better than walking trousers and vice versa? Well, we’ve taken it upon ourselves to provide you with a brief comparison of the two so that you can find the proper trousers for your next outdoor pursuit.

Softshell – a real all-rounder

Softshell is a fabric that usually consists of two to three layers. The outermost layer has a water-repellent coating for protection against snow and water. The middle layer , on the other hand, has wind-repelling qualities and serves to prevent you getting cold, whilst the fleece-like character of the inner layer is designed to keep you warm and cosy . I know it sounds like we’re asking a lot, but in addition to all those great properties, a high-quality softshell product should highly breathable as well.

Unfortunately, this isn’t something that works in every climate and every sport. For precisely this reason, it is important for you to know when and where you can get the most out of your new softshell trousers.

Softshell trousers – strengths and weaknesses

Stretchy fabrics and durability

Regardless of whether you’re mountaineering, skiing, mountain biking or climbing, you could never blame your softshell trousers for a lack of mobility. Depending on the area of use the trousers are designed for, they usually feature reinforced fabrics at the knees and seat as well, which serve to increase their overall durability.

Breathability and wind and water repellence

The keywords for almost all outdoor activities. As soon as you engage in aerobic activity outdoors, it is of utmost importance that the fabric be moisture wicking. And, softshell trousers are exactly that. Even though softshell products are not suitable for extreme conditions like hardshell trousers, softshells are significantly more breathable in light weather conditions and during moderately difficult activities..

Lightweight and quick-drying

Softshell trousers are rarely completely waterproof, since this would cause them to lose their breathability, but they are capable of withstanding a rain shower due to their water-repellent finish. Another great thing about softshells is the fact that they dry extremely fast, take up very little space and can be worn in place of a mid-layer depending on the climate you’re in. So, next time leave your long underwear at home and pack a pair of softshell trousers instead.

Unfortunately for softshell trousers, they’re not terribly good at handling warm and humid climates. So, as you can probably already imagine, this is where walking trousers come in. Not only are they great for humid weather, but walking trousers also have a few extra features designed to make the lives of Alpine Trekkers much easier. We’ll talk about what those are in the next section.

Walking trousers

As the name already suggests, walking trousers are designed for long foot marches in more or less technical terrain, so not only does the fabric need to be tough, but the trousers themselves need to provide the wearer with enough storage space to carry all sorts of important and less important items.

Where walking trousers outdo softshell trousers

Softshell trousers can handle just about everything you throw at them, but not quite everything. There are, indeed, a couple of advantages that walking trousers have over softshells:

Warm, humid, unpredictable

Walking trousers really shine in warm and humid climates where it alternates between short downpours and sunshine. Even though they tend to be more loosely woven than softshell trousers, walking trousers still provide enough protection from direct sunlight and light rains, thorns or mosquitos and are a bit more comfortable to wear as well. Plus, there are some walking trousers with zip-off legs, allowing you to convert them to shorts. It hardly gets any better than that!

Pockets, pockets, pockets

I mean, it’s not like it’s a matter of life and death, but having to take off your pack every time you need something can be quite the hassle. That’s why walking trousers havepockets, and loads of them, for everything from maps and compasses to pens and whatever else you might think you need along the way.

Good walking trousers also have a dirt and water-repellent coating, adjustable leg endings and a comfortable fit with reinforcements at the knees and seat, all of which makes them a great choice for multi-day adventures where washing machines are hard to come by.

Decisions, decisions

Softshell fabrics are currently the best there is in terms of all-round function. Precisely because of this versatility, softshell trousers will probably be the best choice for most of your outdoor pursuits. For anything that involves a lot of aerobic activity, you should probably opt for some breathable softshell trousers. However, if you’re venturing out on a longer trip or a long foot march, we recommend getting a pair of walking trousers with all those nifty extra features we mentioned above.

Layering systems: To sweat or not to sweat

Layering systems: To sweat or not to sweat

27. April 2017
Tips and Tricks

Layering is something we’ve all heard of at some point or another and probably even something we’ve done in our daily lives, be it consciously or unconsciously.

However, despite our previous experience, many important aspects and even benefits of layering may not be known to many of us. For this reason, we’re going discuss not only how to layer your clothing, but why it’s so important and who actually benefits the most from using ‘the layering system’. For example, is it just as beneficial for the autumn hillwalker as it is for a dog walker? And what about winter boulderers?

Well, we’ve looked into it and found too much information! So much, in fact, that we’re going to have to split this post into two parts. We’ll post the second part sometime in the near future.

On the dangers of sweating

The Inuit supposedly believe that one should only move so fast as to not work up a sweat. And with good reason, too: The Inuit’s traditional garb consists of animal skin and fur, which may be extremely warm and perfect in terms of insulation, but it lacks one important thing: breathability. If they were to start sweating, they would literally be stewing in their own juices.

Obviously, sweating itself isn’t a bad thing. After all, it helps to regulate our body temperature when we’re hot. However, as soon as we stop being active and the body stops producing an excessive amount of heat or the cold from the outside outmatches our own production of warmth, the moisture on our bodies begins to cool the body down. What the moisture does is rob the body of warmth and energy. So, in the worst-case scenario, sweating at an outside temperature of -30°C could have life-threatening consequences.

Preventing yourself from sweating

The goal of a layering system is always to prevent you from having too much moisture near the body and cooling down too quickly. This can be done in two ways: either you don’t sweat at all, like the Inuit, or you make sure any moisture that has accumulated over the course of an activity is quickly wicked away from your skin. We’ll get to why you need multiple layers to do this in a second.

Donning and doffing

Wearing multiple layers allows you to regulate the amount of warmth trapped in your clothing much more easily, since it allows you to make tiny adjustments on the go. If you get too hot, you can just take off a thin layer to give yourself some relief but still retain some warmth.

So, by donning and doffing layers of clothing, you can “adjust” the temperature to keep yourself warm without causing excessive sweating.

This kind of layering works with non-synthetic fabrics such as cotton and merino wool as well. However, it does require you to know your own body and how it reacts in different situations. Otherwise, you’ll end up having way too much on. In rainy conditions, this can be complicated to nearly impossible.

Advantages: Works with conventional fabrics such as cotton and wool. They don’t start to smell as quickly and provide higher thermal insulation during breaks without physical activity (applies only to wool and down)

Disadvantages: It requires some past experience. The less experience you have, the more often you’ll have to change.

Breathable synthetic fabrics

If you hear somebody talking about layering today, this is usually what they mean. It’s based on the wonderfully efficient moisture-wicking abilities of modern outdoor apparel.

Similar to the one described above, this system requires you to wear multiple layers of clothing, with the only difference that their moisture-wicking ability renders constant donning and doffing completely unnecessary. If you work up a sweat, any moisture accumulating on the interior can be wicked away quickly and efficiently.

In order for this system to work, there are a few things you need to keep in mind: all of your layers must be made of functional materials. Otherwise, the moisture couldn’t be wicked away, which would lead to a build up of said moisture and an overall ineffective layering system! In this system, the first layer should be worn close to your skin so that fabric has a chance to draw moisture away from your body.

The good thing about this system is that you can sweat – the fabric will take care of it. This kind of layering system is particularly convenient in bad weather, when you’re carrying a lot of gear or you’re engaged in aerobic activity.

Advantages: Sweating is allowed (in moderation)! You don’t need any prior knowledge as to when and how much you sweat. Synthetic products are usually lightweight and quick-drying. Here, too, you can regulate the temperature by donning and doffing the different layers.

Disadvantages: Functional clothing made of synthetic fabrics develop unpleasant odours rather quickly. And, they provide little thermal insulation in the situations in which you don’t produce enough warmth (such as when you’re taking a break). The only exception here is merino wool. Not only is this fabric relatively light as compared to other kinds of wool, but it is also quite breathable. However, it does soak up much more moisture than synthetic fabrics. But, on the bright side, it hardly smells at all!

So what’ll it be?

Whether you opt for synthetic fabrics or not depends – as it always does – on what you’re planning to do (and on what kind of clothing you’ve already got in your wardrobe): speed hiking, multi-pitch climbs, winter bouldering, winter or summer, etc.

As for the individuals layers of a layering system, this is something we’re going to address in part two of our post on ‘the layering system’.

Supplement from 10/03/2015 due to high demand: We’ve been wanting to add to this post for a while now, but just decided not to. The reason for this was simple. The most important facts for the first post were easy to compile, whereas those for the second either went way beyond the scope of the article or were just so numerous that we couldn’t possibly include them all.

In other words, in order to do the topic justice, we would need to write an article for each discipline. And, since the boundaries between the various disciplines are often blurred, we would just run into the same problem as before. On the bright side, we do have heaps of helpful buyer’s guides that could give you some more insight and answer any questions that may have gone unanswered here.

In other words: There will not be a part two on the topic of layering anytime in the near future.

A guide to via ferrata sets

A guide to via ferrata sets

18. April 2017
Equipment

Via ferratas have become extremely popular in recent years. In fact, more and more “non-climbers” are trying their hands at via ferratas, as they grant access to rock faces that had previously been reserved for rock climbers only.

But still, a lot of aspects surrounding the via ferrata and how to go about climbing a via ferrata remain a mystery.

In the following, our fellow Alpine Trekker, Johannes, an avid via ferrata climber, is going to clear up some of those mysteries, delving into things like the name, via ferrata sets and other important information on general via ferrata safety.

The term “via ferrata” is Italian for “iron road”, which kind of already gives you idea of what a via ferrata is and what it consists of. Appropriately, via ferrata describes a climbing route that is protected by means of pegs, carved steps or ladders. Makes sense, right?

This construction allows experienced mountain hikers to undertake steep and sometimes vertical or overhanging routes that would otherwise be inaccessible. Along these routes runs a steel cable that climbers usually used as an aid, securing themselves to it for protection. So, all is well. Nothing bad could ever happen. Right?

The via ferrata set

Modern via ferrata sets use a “Y” configuration, which is the only type of set approved by UIAA today. Earlier versions used a “V” configuration, but since this kind of via ferrata set is obsolete, we’re not going to talk about it here.

The energy absorber

The heart of each and every via ferrata set is the energy absorber. As you’ve probably already gathered from the name, it serves to absorb the energy of a fall. The energy absorber basically consists of webbing sewn together. In the event of a fall, the webbing allows for progressive tearing, thereby reducing the amount of energy on the climber. The energy absorber is usually contained in a small pouch on the via ferrata set.

Traditional rope/brake plate designs were used in the past as an alternative to energy absorbers, but this design has a lot of disadvantages. It tended to fail as a result of user error and when used in wet conditions, which eventually led to its taking a back seat to energy absorbers in recent years.

Carabiners

There are two things the trusty little ‘biners have to do: For one, they should be able to withstand high fall factors. For another, carabiners need to be easy to use, since you have to clip it and unclip it constantly when moving along the steel cable. Plus, they shouldn’t open accidentally after clipping them to the cable! Fortunately, this is something all current via ferrata carabiners are pretty reliable. They can be opened with an easy-to-use palm squeeze mechanism, but remain closed the rest of the time. The carabiners are usually sewn into the lanyards, which is considered to be safer than knots.

Lanyards

The lanyards connect the energy absorber with the carabiners. For purposes of redundancy, both lanyards should be clipped onto the steel cable. When moving, you should always only unclip one carabiner at a time. Only then can your protection be guaranteed.

The lanyards are either elastic or non-elastic lanyards. The non-elastic lanyards are usually made of tubular webbing. The elastic lanyards, which are much easier to use, are obviously made of elastic components, which are either on the inside of the tubular webbing or directly woven into the outer material.

The attachment loop

This serves as the connector between the via ferrata set and the harness. This used to be done with a carabiner. However, this method often led to cross loading, which is why you should refrain from using a carabiner. Modern via ferrata sets have an attachment loop, which can be attached to your harness with a cow hitch knot.

Recalls – is my via ferrata set safe?

In 2012 and 2013, , recalls of via ferrata sets caused quite a stir. After a via ferrata set failed and led to a fatal accident, elasticated lanyards were subject to a lot of scrutiny. It was feared that they weren’t strong enough to hold a fall as a result of repeated stretching. So, the manufacturers had to act. Several were tests were carried out, demonstrating that via ferrata sets with the traditional rope/brake plate designs could fail as a result of age.

Even more comprehensive tests eventually led to manufacturers having to significantly increase the breaking strength as well as the residual strength of the lanyards. In short, we can now presume that the via ferrata sets will work as they’re supposed to and we all expect them to.

Nevertheless, it is still extremely important to read the information on the set’s maximum lifespan provided by the manufacturer. Edelrid, for example, recommends replacing an unused set after ten years, whereas a set that has been used on a regular basis should be replaced after as few as five years. However, a set, such as a rental, should be replaced much earlier, since it is subject to even more wear and tear.

If your via ferrata set has already exceeded its lifespan or is showing clear signs of wear, replace it immediately. As a result of normal aging, the strength of the set and of the webbing in particular can be significantly reduced. It is also advisable to replace a set after a fall, even if the energy absorber wasn’t activated as a result. If it was activated, replace it immediately.

Via ferrata sets and kids (or smaller folks)

Most via ferrata sets have a minimum and maximum weight limit (NOTE: Body weight plus gear!!!), typically between 50 and 100 kilograms and sometimes up to 120 kg. This is very important. The energy absorber won’t activate if you or your child weighs less than 50 kilograms. So, if an individual weighing less than 50kg fell wearing one of these sets, the energy absorber could not dynamically absorb the fall, resulting in an impact force much higher than 6 kN, which could be fatal. The same thing could happen to a person who weighs too much. In this case, the energy absorber would not absorb enough of the force, resulting in a static fall.

There are some sets that are appropriate for people who weigh less, such as the Edelrid Cable Vario, which has a minimum and maximum weight limit between 30 and 80 kilograms. These sets are also recommended for adults who weigh right around 50kg. Why? Well, an adult set would theoretically activate at 50kg, but I guarantee it wouldn’t be pleasant. In other words, it’s best to use a set that situates your body weight right in the middle of the minimum and maximum weight limit.

Always be sure to consult the user’s guide to see which set is the appropriate one for your body weight. The Skylotec Buddy Ferrata, for example, is sold as a set for kids, but has a minimum weight of 30kg, making it more suited for taller or heavier children. So, again, read the instructions.

Another important thing to note is that lighter people should always be belayed from above on steeper or more difficult sections. Better to be safe than sorry!

There are also sets for heavier people, such as the Edelrid Cable Rent. But here, too, belaying from above would be wise.

Gimmicks

There are via ferrata sets that are equipped with an additional brake, or the ferrata.bloc, as in the case of the AustriAlpin Hydra. Skylotec released a similar set as well. This can give you some protection for more difficult passages. If a climber were to fall, the ferrata.bloc would brake directly at the point of contact with the wire. However, it only works if it’s clipped onto the cable the right way round. I’m not implying that this set is less safe than others, but just because it has an additional arm doesn’t mean you should take more risks whilst climbing! Keep that in mind!

Of course, this set does have the downside that it forces you to use up more energy because you have to clip yet another arm – correctly, mind you – onto the cable.

There are also sets equipped with a swivel, such as the Edelrid Cable Comfort 2.3. This swivel serves to prevent the ends of the lanyard from twisting when clipping and unclipping. But, my own experience has shown that this doesn’t always work. If you don’t pay attention, you’ll have to untangle them anyway. A nice little gimmick, but definitely not something you must have.

What else is there to say?

A via ferrata set is for emergencies. Falls on a via ferrata, even with all the right gear, can have very serious consequences. A via ferrata set can only prevent the final fall and a higher impact force. This is something you need to consider when planning your trip, even if the adverts are full of promises of a safe and relaxed via ferrata adventure.

Know your limits. If you’re taking beginners or children along on the adventure, you should always belay them from above and be well aware of the difficulty level of the route. That way, you don’t have to focus AS much on what you’re doing and can concentrate on helping your fellow climbers as well.

In addition to a via ferrata set, you should have a sling and carabiners on your harness. These are used as protection if you just want to relax or if somebody else needs to pass. You should never use your via ferrata set for this purpose, as it would only unnecessarily strain the lanyards and the energy absorber. Not to mention, it’d be pretty difficult to do so with elastic lanyards, seeing as they would stretch! So, use your sling and carabiner take a well deserved break on your way along the iron road!

P.S. Hopefully, this goes without saying, but a sling with a carabiner is no substitute for a via ferrata set. A sling is static and not capable of absorbing a fall. If you were to take fall onto a sling, it would either lead to a life-threatening injury or death. So, always be sure to have the proper via ferrata set before venturing out on a via ferrata! Oh, and wear a helmet too!

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

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 25/02/2016.

Lycra - an extremely versatile fibre

Lycra – an extremely versatile fibre

13. April 2017
Equipment

Everybody’s heard of it, but nobody really seems to know what it is. You mostly likely know it from the world of sports. Athletes of all kinds wear garments with Lycra.

And even if the name isn’t explicitly stated, the material is still used, just under the guise of a different name: Elastane.

The fibre, elastane, was developed in 1959 by the American company DuPont under the name Fibre K and subsequently brought to market. Commercialised in 1962 as Lycra, the brand basically revolutionised the clothing industry. Today, Lycra is a brand belonging to Invista Inc., a manufacturer of synthetic fibres, including Cordura. The brand Lycra is known for elastane fibres of the highest quality that are tailored to very specific areas of use with the help of additional treatments and technologies.

Of course, if you look for Lycra at our Alpine Trek shop, you probably won’t find it. Why? Well, it’s usually listed as elastane. The reason for this is quite simple, and quite frankly, dull: As a result of the Textile and Clothing Legislation of the European Union, the naming, description and labelling of textiles are strictly regulated so as to be consistent across the board. That way, the consumer can immediately see what a particular garment is made of.

The multi-tool among synthetic fibres

Lycra is an extremely elastic man-made fibre and much more durable than natural rubber. In addition to being stretchy and strong, the fibre boasts all sorts of other useful properties that really shine when incorporated into clothing:

  • It can stretch up to five times its length
  • It hardly absorbs any moisture
  • It has the ability to return to its original shape
  • It’s light, soft and comfortable to wear
  • It’s easy to clean and long lasting

Due to these wonderful characteristics, Lycra is an incredibly popular fibre for a wide variety of garments, especially those that are designed to be tight-fitting and to conform to your every movement. Oftentimes, Lycra is mixed with other fabrics, such as polyamide or cotton, for additional comfort. And, garments don’t need much in order for you to see a dramatic effect. In fact, as little as 2% Lycra can significantly alter the characteristics of the final fabric, resulting in a much more elastic material.

Regardless of what kind of athlete you are, everyone from cyclists to wrestlers to dancers are guaranteed to have at least a small percentage of Lycra in their clothing.

Made for movement

By this point, the advantages of Lycra are probably fairly obvious. Simply put: it makes athletes much more comfortable. When you put on a Lycra garment, you won’t feel at all restricted, and the clothing has the ability to conform to your every move with ease. Plus, as I already mentioned above, when you sweat, Lycra won’t become saturated like other fibres. It will remain nice and dry, wicking moisture away from your skin as you go.

In order for you to be perfectly apparelled for each and every activity you’re engaged in, Lycra divided their products into different categories. There is a total of four categories, with Beauty and xtra Life being reserved for fashion, so we’ll those out for now. For outdoor enthusiasts, runners and cyclists, the following categories are the most relevant:

SPORT: For products in this category, Lycra utilises POWER and ACTIVE technology not only to deliver compression power but also to provide your muscles with the support they need. Of course, this active wear boasts a very high elasticity as well, with the unique ability to return to its original shape time and again. On occasion, they also use Bio-Based fibres, 70% of which comes from a renewable source derived from maize, and thus significantly reduce the use of synthetic fibres. What’s more, several textiles are made of fibres equipped with their so-called Black technology. These fibres are capable of retaining their colour intensity even after multiple washes. Plus, they’re not transparent and stay that way.

ENERGIZE: The freshFX technology is primarily used for underwear and swimwear. It is moisture-wicking and resistant to washing and stretching out.

It’s clear from the versatility, durability, elasticity and the ability to retain its original shape that clothing with Lycra is an excellent choice for athletes of all kinds. Plus, it’s so easy to clean. If you follow the washing/care instructions for your Lycra garment, you’ll surely get a lot of joy out of it for a long time to come.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask our experts in customer service. They are available on weekdays from 9:00 am till 4:00 pm on the phone +49 (0)7121/70 12 0 and via info@alpinetrek.co.uk.

Care instructions: How to repair your tent

Care instructions: How to repair your tent

12. April 2017
Care tips

The dreaded sound of a loud ‘snap’ and that’s it – your pole is done for. Damage to your gear can really put a damper on the whole trip, especially when the damage is to your tent. After all, a tent is much more than just a shelter. It’s home, a sanctuary, a safe place that provides much-needed protection from brutal winds and heavy rain. In the following, we’re going to discuss how to repair broken poles as well as holes and rips in your tent!

Care instructions: How to repair your tentFortunately, it is fairly rare that a high-quality tent gets damaged. If you choose your tent according to the trip you’re taking, you should be fine. After all, tent’s are engineered to withstand the beating that Mother Nature throws at them. However, if you head out to Patagonia with a pop-up tent, know that you’ll most likely have your lid quite literally blown off!

Repairing damaged tent poles

When it comes to modern tents, the most common damage you’ll face is a broken pole. Even high-quality and very sturdy poles can break – be it because of strong winds or damage resulting from use or simply wear and tear. If a pole section really ends up breaking, you’ll need to repair it immediately. The quickest and easiest way to do so is to use a repair sleeve. Just slide the sleeve over the damaged bit and tape it securely. And that’s it! Keep in mind this is a temporary repair and the broken section should be replaced as soon as possible! A repair sleeve is usually included with the purchase of a tent, and tape is something you should always have in your pack on longer trips, anyway.

In sum, if your pole does get damaged, you should replace it as quickly as possible. Otherwise, you’ll be running the risk of your pole puncturing the pole sleeve and thus causing even more damage.

Repairing rips and holes

Rips and holes are much less common than damaged poles. Oftentimes, falling branches and/or carelessness are the culprits! And, of course, so too is fire. You should always take extreme care with fire in and around the tent. Even if you do your utmost to keep you and your tent safe, your gas stove could explode and subsequently destroy your humble abode in mere seconds. And this isn’t something that only happens to amateurs; even the most experienced explorers and adventurers have seen their tents go up in flames.

But, since we can’t turn back time and unburn burned-down tents, we’re going to talk about smaller burn holes and other rips and tears that you CAN repair. If there’s a small hole in your tent, you can use an adhesive like Seam Grip or Sil Net silicone seam sealer to fix it up. For larger holes and rips you notice when travelling, we recommend using gluing on a patch with the appropriate adhesive. These patches are often either included with the purchase of a tent or they’re sewn into the stuff sack so that you don’t lose them. If your stuff sack happens to be made of the same fabric as the fly, you can “sacrifice” this for the good of the tent as well. A shame, I know, but desperate time call for desperate measures! Smaller patches can be purchased separately as well.

Professional repair

Once you’ve returned home from your trip, it’s always a good idea to let a dealer have look at your tent and (perhaps) have it sent to the manufacturer for repairs. There are plenty of companies that specialise in repairing outdoor gear and are fully capable of professionally repairing your tent as well.

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 via e-mail.

Primaloft: A real alternative to down?

Primaloft: A real alternative to down?

Equipment

High-quality down is the very best when it comes to providing reliable protection in cold and dry conditions. But, what if it’s bucketing down and your clothes are getting all wet? Or what about when your insulating layer gets all sweaty from a really tough uphill climb? Well, this is where down reaches its limits. If it gets damp or even wet, it will lose a large part of its loft and insulating properties.

The solution? Synthetic insulation! A very popular and well-known name in the synthetic insulation industry is PrimaLoft. But what is Primaloft exactly? Well, keep reading and we’ll tell you!

The need for a solution

The problem with deteriorating insulating properties as a result of exposure to moisture is not only something amateur outdoor enthusiasts have to deal with. For a long time now, even professional outdoor athletes have been struggling to compensate for the downsides of down, but to no avail. Until now! Enter Primaloft, the real alternative to down! It is a synthetic material that is just as light and insulates just as well as down with bonus of being water resistant! Wow!

How did it all begin? Well, at the beginning of the 1980s, the United States Army was in search of precisely this kind of synthetic fibre. Over the course of this search, down and it excellent thermal and physical properties were thoroughly examined in order to develop a material that could perfectly mimic these properties. The result was Primaloft: a synthetic fibre consisting of polyester that perfectly mimics the properties of down. The material not only has a high loft and excellent thermal efficiency, but it’s also strong and resistant to moisture. Plus, it is very compressible as well!

What makes PrimaLoft better than other synthetic fibres?

The developers managed to make a synthetic material that has millions of air pockets that trap your body heat, thereby insulating in a way that only down had been able to. What’s more, the PrimaLoft fibres are also treated so that they don’t absorb or retain water. And so, PrimaLoft march its way to victory, first in the U.S. Army, then in the outdoor and bedding industry.

There are three different kinds of PrimaLoft insulation, which are then divided up into additional subgroups. For this post, we’re going to stick with the most common or most important:

Primaloft Gold

This is the flagship of the PrimaLoft fibres, the best of the best and most likely the standard all other synthetic materials have to live up to. More than 25 years of experience have gone into perfecting this material. It is not only extremely packable, but also incredibly lightweight and breathable, making it an excellent choice for more difficult outdoor pursuits.

The Down Blend version is definitely worth mentioning in this context. This hybrid has the best of both worlds, combining the best properties of each material. There is 30% Primaloft and 70% high-quality goose down with a fill power of 750 cuin. The down is also treated with a fluorocarbon-free treatment, making it water repellent.

The combination of down and the ultra-fine PrimaLoft Gold fibres results in an excellent product that is capable of retaining its insulating properties even in damp or wet conditions. Plus, the down used here dries four times as quickly as untreated down. The result is an astoundingly efficient insulating material that is both light and unsusceptible to moisture. It will even insulate when it’s full of sweat or you get caught in the rain.

Primaloft Silver

This fibre is perfect for all sorts of outdoor activities. Not only is it robust, but the fibre is also breathable and packable. Plus, it is incredibly soft and comfortable to wear.

For improved thermal properties, there is also a Down Blend version. This blend consists of 40% PrimaLoft Silver fibres and 60% goose down with a fill power of 650 cuin. Thanks to the fluorocarbon-free water-repellent treatment, the down is resistant to water as well. It dries four times as quickly as conventional down and retains 94% of its thermal efficiency when wet. Plus, for this blend, they use less duck and goose down, since 40% of the blend consists of PrimaLoft Silver fibres.

The Gold and Silver insulation is available in an Eco version as well, which is engineered from 70% recycled material and is thus environmentally friendly!

PrimaLoft Black

This is the more basic, no-frills option among the different types of Primaloft insulation. The Eco version consists of 60% recycled material. It is extremely soft, very breathable and durable.

Warmth

When trying to figure out how warm a jacket, a pair of trousers or gloves are, you can look at the weight per square metre. This is usually indicated on the product tag. The typical values you’ll see are, for example:

  • 40 to 60 g/m² for very lightweight jackets that you’d typically wear in cooler temperatures when taking a break or as an additional layer when you’re back at camp.
  • 100 g/m² for normal insulated jackets that are designed to be warmer and not so much to be light.
  • 200 g/m² for very warm winter jackets and parkas

It’s not at all rare to find one garment with slightly different thicknesses. For example, a jacket could have 100 g/m² around the torso for added warmth and then only 60 g/m² around the arms to allow for more mobility in this area.

A true classic among the lightweight insulated jackets is the Patagonia Nano Puff Hoody. This has 60 g/m² and a very small pack size.

Great! But how do I clean PrimaLoft?

One of the advantages of PrimaLoft products is the fact that they are incredibly robust and easy to clean. You can even machine wash them on a gentle cycle and use liquid detergent! Spin drying Primaloft products is not a good idea, but drying them in the dryer on a gentler cycle shouldn’t be a problem.

The environment

A concern that we always have when it comes to all these different fibres is their environmental impact. Well, when it comes to Primaloft you can rest easy: It is incredibly environmentally friendly! All fibres by PRIMALOFT are manufactured according to the bluesign and the OEKO-TEX 100 standards and certified. So, you can be sure that these excellent products will cause no harm to you or the environment!

How to wash your hydration system properly

How to wash your hydration system properly

6. April 2017
Tips and Tricks

Wearing hydration packs when exercising has so many upsides that they are the first thing athletes look to when it comes to hydration. So, it’ll come as no surprise that packs of all sizes and for all sorts of activities are equipped with a special compartment for a hydration bladder and a channel for the hose to pass through.

Thankfully, most of these bladders have undergone an antibacterial treatment and are made of BPA-free plastic. Bisphenol A is an synthetic compound used to make polycarbonate, but it’s also one that can be harmful to your health. So, when buying water bottles, camping cutlery and tableware and other plastic products, make sure they are BPA free!

Even with the antibacterial treatment and a BPA-free production, it is extremely important to clean and care for your hydration system properly and on a regular basis so that it not only looks clean but really IS clean!

In the following, we are going to give you some advice on how to clean and care for your hydration system properly not only to increase its longevity but also to keep you healthy.

The proper care for your hydration bladder

It is best to store hydration systems in a cool, dry place. This will help to prevent the growth of bacteria, which thrive in warm, damp places. You should also refrain from drying the bladder in the direct sunlight, as this will preserve the elasticity of the plastic and prevent the material becoming brittle.

It is important to keep your bladder in the appropriate compartment away from your other gear, especially sharp objects, and to attach it on the inside. The hose runs straight up from the bottom of the bladder along one of the shoulder straps. Make sure it doesn’t have any kinks in it. If your hydration system is equipped with a shut-off valve, be careful when opening and closing it so that it doesn’t break.

In addition, it is wise to take care when attaching the hose to the bladder if you have a removable one. If you love mountain biking through muddy terrain, we recommend keeping your mouthpiece closed with a protective lid, provided your hydration system has one. If it doesn’t or you’d just prefer your water supply to be more easily accessible when you’re on the go, use the lid when you store and transport the bladder, instead. The lid can be attached to the mouthpiece or hose using an elastic band.

For even more comfort and convenience, we recommend you get a magnetic holder or clip for your mouthpiece. These magnetic clips make accessing your mouthpiece much easier than a regular hose clamp. Of course, you don’t necessarily need an extra clip. You can use the loops on the straps to keep your hose is place as well. When it comes to choosing between a screw top opening and a flip-top closure, only you can decide what is best for you. However, keep in mind that some screw top openings match the threads of water filters. Flip-top closures, however, have the advantage that they have a larger opening, which makes cleaning the inside much easier.

There are also a bunch of add-ons for colder or warmer weather, including insulated sip tubes and insulated bladders. These serve to keep your water cold or your tea hot when you’re on the go. Plus, a neoprene cover will protect the plastic from wear resulting from the difference between the temperature of the liquid and the outside temperature. Ski hydration packs are often already equipped with an insulated tube.

How and how often should I clean my hydration system?

As a general rule, it is best to fill up your bladder with tap water or, even better, mineral water. Of course, you can always opt to filter your tap water instead. When using unfiltered tap water or liquid with additives, such as tea or water with vitamin powder, it is important to clean your hydration system more frequently and remove stubborn deposits.

Clean the bladder, mouthpiece, hose after each use with hot (but not boiling) water (approximately 60 °C) with some washing-up liquid and allow it to dry completely. This will kill the germs and allow you to rinse out any dirt. On occasion, you can soak these same components in vinegar and rinse them out with clean water in order to remove any stubborn deposits.

Also: the hydration system should be cleaned mechanically after three uses at the very most. If you were out playing in the mud, dirtying up your hydration system in the process, you’ll need to clean it straight away so that no dirt, sand or mud dries up on or inside of the components. You’ll be happy to know that there are special hydration pack cleaning kits. They consist of a long round brush for cleaning the bladder and a long brush for the hose. Use these along with some warm water and some washing-up liquid and gently scrub the interior of the bladder and hose. Then rinse them out thoroughly. Some sets include a special flat cleaning gadget you can use to wash the bladder, but a cloth will do the trick as well.

This probably goes without saying, but you should also wash the mouthpiece with a cloth and some washing-up liquid. Then you can disinfect all of the parts using denture cleaner. Sounds weird, I know, but it works extremely well. It’ll also work on the lids of your water bottles and other camping tableware and cutlery. After washing and removing the visible dirt and deposits from your hydrations system, just throw a denture cleaner tablet in a glass or the sink and let your mouthpiece or lid soak. Then rinse the parts off and voila! No more yucky germs!

Replacement parts and accessories for hydration bladders

If something breaks or an important component is just so old that you can’t use it anymore, you should be able to find a replacement pretty easily, regardless of whether it’s a mouthpiece, hose or bladder lid. The clips for the strap on your pack are replaceable as well.

Despite proper care and frequent washes, there will come a time when your hydration system needs to be replaced. But, don’t worry, with the proper care, it won’t be for a long time. By thoroughly cleaning your hydration system, you’ll increase its longevity significantly! So, grab a brush and some denture cleaner and get to work!

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.

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