All posts with the keyword ‘alpine’

VEGAN ON THE GO – ANIMAL-FREE PRODUCTS FOR OUTDOOR PEOPLE

5. November 2020
Equipment

It’s an unavoidable topic nowadays: the issue of sustainability dominates the outdoor market like no other. Manufacturers have put the concept of “social and ecological responsibility” on their agenda, obtaining certifications such as bluesign or developing their own. This is, of course, very welcome!

With this background, product lines for vegetarians and vegans are now also being developed. As this is becoming increasingly topical, every now and then a customer asks, “What vegan items do you have in your shop?” We wanted to explore this question…

Vegan for your feet – walking boots

One of the first things that comes to mind when talking about vegan outdoor equipment is probably shoes. Of course, leather is ubiquitous in trekking boots and walking shoes, so this is particularly problematic when looking for animal-free alternatives. However, its not just the material itself that can pose an issue. The devil is in the details and for example, the adhesive used on the shoe may contain animal protein.

Fortunately, there are companies that have recognised the need for vegan alternatives. LOWA, for example, is conquering the hearts of all wanderlust vegans with its own product line. A textile/synthetic material is used for the upper and the built-in GORE-TEX membrane makes the shoes waterproof. The Swiss outdoor company Mammut offers a very similar design with its T Aenergy models. The shaft is made of two differently structured polyamide yarns, which makes it abrasion and tear resistant. Gore-Tex ensures that the shoes remain waterproof. In the Approach footwear segment, the Vegan Award goes to Salewa, whose Wildfire series also manages without animal components. For climbing shoes, Red Chili also offers vegan versions with the Durango VCR and Durango Lace, and last but not least, the The One by SO ILL should also be mentioned.

And today, you don’t have to sacrifice good performance just because you wear synthetic shoes. Leather shoes are very durable, but the development of synthetic shoes has progressed so far that, with the right care, they too can be a faithful companion for a long time. Genuine leather adapts to the shape of the wearer’s foot but expands over time. This does not usually happen with synthetic leather or synthetic shoes. They retain their shape. Synthetic shoes are also particularly suitable for everyday use, as they are very easy to clean and do not require the intensive care of a leather shoe.

Vegan on top – what to look for in clothing

Vegan outdoor equipment does not stop at footwear, although this is probably the area where the issue is most relevant. There are also a few things to keep in mind when it comes to outdoor clothing.

The big elephant in the room is ‘down’. This comes from geese or ducks, so is not vegan. The alternative is synthetic fibre. This insulation technology based on polyester has now also progressed so far that there are numerous jackets and thermal layers that can keep up with their down counterparts and even surpass them in some areas. The key concept is ‘thermal performance with moisture’. Companies such as The North Face are trying to imitate the structure of down. In marketing speak, this is known as “Thermoball“.

Generally, you will be able to see in the attributes on our product page, whether animal components have been used. It will say “contains non-textile elements of animal origin”.

If you’re interested in the ecological production of clothing and the sustainable conservation of resources, you should look out for products made of recycled polyester. Production from melted PET bottles consumes between 50 and 70% less energy than the conventional production of a chemical fibre from crude oil. Some brands such as Bleed (which also explicitly offers vegan clothing), Klättermusen, Patagonia and Vaude already have such products in their range.

You should take a look at the label, which will explicitly state whether recycled content is used. The American outdoor outfitter Patagonia, which has long been a pioneer in the industry when it comes to environmental protection, has gone one better. Patagonia operates its own take-back system. This means that customers can bring their clothes back to the shop or send them to the factory and new clothes will be made from them again. Patagonia also offers to repair broken or damaged clothing to prevent products from ending up in the bin too soon. Pyua from Kiel has also specialised in this and takes back goods after use. This creates a cycle in which outdoor clothing made of synthetic fibres is always reworked into new garments after use.

Back to the Roots – Back to natural fibre

You can even go one step further and use natural fibres. I know what you’re thinking, “Do clothing made of natural fibres and sweat-inducing activities really go together?” At first glance, you might think that you’ll start to smell quickly, and for a long time the idea was considered unthinkable. Until now, base layers have been made of microfibres that had to be treated with nano-silver to prevent odour formation.

But it works. The Swedish company Fjällräven has used its reliable G-1000 material since its foundation. Today, although it is no longer 100% cotton, it is still one third cotton. The big problem – at least from an animal perspective: many Fjällräven models feature leather applications and the wax that makes the clothing weatherproof contains beeswax.

Lundhags, on the other hand, offer polycotton technology similar to Fjällräven, but models such as the Women’s Gliis Jacket and the Lomma Jacket forego leather appliques. However, this synthetic hardshell material is still not quite up to the job in terms of rain resistance. And you still need to check carefully here, as polycotton is occasionally offered in a waxed version.

Vegan food on tour

Of course, there is also the issue of nutrition. After all, what would a hike or trekking tour be without a snack to keep you going? Anyone who has been a vegan for a long time probably has a good idea of what works and what doesn’t in terms of nutrition anyway. But of course there are also companies who supply suitable trekking food, such as Adventure Menu, BLA BAND, Lyo Food, Innosnack and Chimpanzee –to name just a few.

In case of doubt, check the ingredients list, as this will tell you exactly which ingredients are in the product.

At the end of the day…

…whilst vegan clothing and outdoor equipment are not yet dominant in companies’ product lines, they have at least made it onto the radar in recent years. And fortunately, it’s even reached well-known companies who produce high-quality animal-free products. In light of the fact that more and more people are changing their lifestyles, this is certainly a welcome development.

You can find vegan products by searching for ‘vegan’ and then filtering. Or, simply follow the link below:

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What are glacier glasses?

12. October 2020
Equipment

At first glance, glacier glasses may look like somewhat large sunglasses. But, they’re typically more expensive. Why? What can glacier glasses do that other sunglasses can’t? What makes glacier glasses so special and how do they defer from other sunglasses?

Questions upon questions… Here come the answers!

Regardless of whether you’re on a glacier, in the desert or on the water – when exposed to the sun for a long time, not only should you protect your skin but also your eyes. We usually remember to put on sun screen but we tend to forget that our eyes are also prone to sun damage.

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Altitude training – basics, tips and when it’s worth it

1. October 2020
Alpinetrek-Experts

If you’ve already conquered a mountain, then you’ve probably heard this sentence before: “Whew, the air is getting thin up here…” This isn’t noticeable on a classic hill walk or via ferrata but you’ll notice it whilst mountaineering at altitudes between 3,000 and 4,000 metres. But, the air isn’t necessarily getting “thin”, but the number of oxygen molecules per litre of air volume rather decreases with increasing height. So, there’s a decrease in atmospheric pressure. As a result, your body will want to fight this and you’ll notice that both your breathing speed and pulse have increased. So, if you want to prepare for mountaineering, an expedition or longer stays at high altitude, then altitude training is recommended. This training leads to an increase in the number of red (oxygen-transporting) blood cells in your body.

What is “altitude training”?

The definition goes as follows: “Altitude training is the targeted use of an undersupply of oxygen (hypoxia) to the organism as a stimulus to increase performance”.

When should you start your altitude training? And, when will you notice its effect?

Whether you plan on conquering the Kilimanjaro, Denali or Mount Everest in the Himalayas, a tour at high altitudes should always be carefully planned and prepared. And, both your equipment and physical fitness will play a major role in your success. So, to prepare your body for the special conditions at high altitudes, we recommend you follow an altitude training program before going on your tour. Plus, the effect of “thin air” is very diverse. For example, when it comes to endurance sports, altitude training has been known to increase performance. And, acclimatisation has long been used in mountaineering.

In addition, as of 2,000 m in altitude, the “thinner air“ begins to have an effect on the body. Here, both sensitive and previously ill persons will already experience their first symptoms of altitude sickness. And, the severity of the symptoms of acute mountain sickness (AMS) depends on several factors, such as: How physically fit you are and how good your general health is. In addition, some individuals may acclimatise faster than others with the same physical fitness level simply based on their genetics. And, experience may also be a helpful factor. Also, whilst ascending a mountain or trekking at high altitudes, you should take into consideration both the speed of the ascent and possible additional acclimatisation days required.

Regardless of the altitude, the oxygen concentration in the air is at 20.9% all over the world. However, the atmospheric pressure decreases with increasing altitude and the partial pressure of oxygen simultaneously decreases. As a result, this effect leads to an undersupply of oxygen to the body (hypoxia). You can find all important information about altitude sickness in this article.

Does altitude training really improve performance?

Journeying at high altitudes leads to an adaptation process in the body due to the reduced supply of oxygen. This includes a sensitization of the breathing activity, i.e. ventilation, just like when the body is stressed. In addition, the release of the body’s own hormone erythropoietin (EPO) is also stimulated. EPO is produced in the kidneys and takes care of the formation of new red blood cells in the bone marrow. At the same time, the body increases the amount of haemoglobin available. Haemoglobin binds oxygen and has a positive effect on endurance by increasing the oxygen transport capacity in the arterial blood.

Plus, several studies have come to the conclusion that physical exertion under hypoxia leads to changes at the muscular level, such as the increased enzyme activity of the energy metabolism. And, an increase in the muscular oxygen storage, the myoglobin, was also observed.

So, altitude training is perfectly suited for performance-oriented athletes who want to improve their endurance under controlled conditions. In case you didn’t know, altitude training has already been included in the training plans of endurance sports, long-distance running, triathlon and cycling athletes. However, even ambitious mountaineers who want to prepare for a high mountain ascent can improve their performance through altitude training.

Which form of altitude training is the most effective and useful?

In order to achieve the positive effects of your training for improved endurance performance, it’s important that a training stimulus is set under the same altitude conditions. Because simply staying at a high altitude without a specific training stimulus does not bring any significant benefits to improve your performance. So, there’s no use spending a few days in a hut in the Alps and playing cards all day. Running, hill walking and climbing at high altitudes is therefore necessary to achieve your goal.

How long does altitude training take?

Many experts and physicians have different opinions on this topic. A minimum stay of one week to ten days (after sufficient adjustment) is required for maximum efficiency, i.e. to be able to carry out performance-enhancing training. However, stays of three to four weeks would be ideal. In addition, top athletes often attend altitude training camps several times a year. But, this isn’t practical or even necessary for an amateur athlete because it’s so time-consuming. And in general, targeted altitude training over seven to ten days can already lead to the aforementioned positive effects for many athletes. Also, there are even special providers who not only organise high altitude training camps but also provide medical care and give advice to the participants.

How long does the effect of altitude training last?

The duration of both the training’s effects and the adaptation effects remain controversial in the field of science. The first few days after a longer stay at high altitudes involves a regeneration phase, which means that you should reduce both the amount of trainings and the intensity. You may even notice a drop in your performance at first, so a short break can help you get back on your feet. Also, various studies have come to the conclusion that the effect of good altitude training lasts between three and five weeks and probably even longer. Plus, red blood cells (erythrocytes) only live in the body for a maximum of 120 days. As a result, the effects cannot last more than 4 months.

Training with an altitude mask and in an altitude tent

With technical aids, altitude training can be carried out without mountains, be it in the city or at home. There are several products on the market, such as masks or tents that can be used for training and simulate “artificial hypoxia”. For example, a person may ride a bicycle ergometer and breathe through a special mask to simulate reduced oxygen conditions. Plus, there are also tents that can be set up on your bed and will simulate sleeping in hypoxic conditions. Also, some cities now feature altitude training centres that provide special training rooms in hypoxic conditions and can therefore also simulate altitude training.

Since every person reacts differently to altitude and some people even suffer from “altitude sickness”, it makes sense to check your tolerance before going on your mountaineering adventure. Also, a medical check should be carried out before starting your long, high-altitude journey, as well as before a simulated altitude training. So, if you’re preparing for an expedition or high-altitude trek, training in special hypoxic chambers can be quite useful.

Is altitude training harmful? Is it doping?

A long stay at high altitudes always puts a physical strain on the body, unless you were born and raised in regions at an altitude of 4,000 metres and above. So, attending an altitude training camp is therefore recommended and should be planned carefully. Otherwise you may drain your body rather than increase your fitness level. In addition, altitude training is not considered doping and is allowed before competitions. In contrast to doping with drugs or forbidden substances, the athlete only utilizes the natural effects of altitude during altitude training. As a result, both the body’s own processes and adaptation are exerted without the use of substances.

Is altitude training also useful for recreational athletes?

A well-planned altitude training can be very useful for recreational athletes and hobby alpinists. So, it’s important to consolidate your own endurance performance and ensure that it’s at a good level beforehand. In other words, you should do sports, run and hill walk on a regular basis for a few years before considering an altitude training camp. Also, a good state of health along with some experience with training are necessary to achieve a positive effect.

For recreational athletes, we recommend not going too hard with the training right off the bat and not to work at maximum intensity straight away. Your own assessment will improve with time and your body will then be able to take on new training impulses.

A summary of altitude training

In conclusion, altitude training can also be used to improve performance in popular sports under certain conditions. On the other hand, on trekking tours to high altitudes on the Andes, mountains in the Himalayas or even on the 4,000 m peaks in the Alps, it makes a lot more sense to reduce the symptoms of acute mountain sickness or to possibly even eliminate them in advance. Lastly, your training goal should be specific and strategic; a simple stay at high altitudes is not enough to achieve meaningful adaptation effects.

Buying Advice Backpacks

10. September 2020
Buyer's guide, Equipment

If you want to buy a backpack nowadays, you are suddenly faced with a huge number of different models and applications. There are daypacks, travel backpacks, trekking and touring backpacks, extra ski touring and climbing backpacks.

However, what is hidden behind all these terms and what kind of backpack do I need for myself? We will try to answer these questions in the following article.

BASIC

No matter which backpack you choose, the most important thing is always that the backpack fits well and is comfortable to wear. Otherwise it can quickly lead to pain or tension.

To carry the backpack as comfortably as possible, it is important that it is adjusted correctly. It must sit close to the body and compact.

Due to the different anatomies of men and women, some manufacturers offer extra women’s backpacks. This makes sense and should be considered when buying.

But now to the backpacks:

DAYPACKS

We start small with the so-called “daypacks”. As the english name suggests, these are backpacks for day trips to carry food, drink and clothes for one day. So these backpacks are quite small. They settle between 10 and 30 liters pack volume.

You can find them in all price ranges from 20 Euro to 200 Euro and more. Carrying system and hip belt are recommended if you want to use the daypack also for hiking. This is not absolutely necessary for a gentle stroll through the city.

Many daypacks can be folded very small, so they are easy to transport or store. Especially when travelling, this is highly recommended, because you don’t have to carry around a big backpack all the time.

In summary, you can recommend daypacks to everyone, because it is always handy to have a small backpack at hand, which can be used in many different ways. Here is an overview of the types of use:

  • Everyday life
  • City stroll
  • Day hikes
  • Additional backpack for travelling

TRAVEL BAGS

Travel backpacks are characterized by large volume as well as compact and robust construction. Most travel backpacks have an adjustable back length in order to fit exactly to the carrier. However, some manufacturers also offer different fixed sizes to choose from. They are available in all sizes from 40 liters to 110 liters.

Compared to trekking backpacks, travel backpacks have a cut similar to a travel bag, i.e. they are wider rather than deeper.

The pocket-like design is reinforced by side openings. This type is especially recommended for long-term travelers, since you can quickly access the complete main compartment.

Due to the size of these backpacks, they are all equipped with a carrying system.

Some travel backpacks have a removable daypack backpack integrated in addition to the main compartment, which can be fixed to the large backpack. So you only carry one backpack instead of two. As an example there are the backpacks, “Overland” from Bach or the “Waypoint” from Osprey.

But there are also other types of travel backpacks. Vaude for example offers with the Tecorail 80 a special highlight. This backpack can be used as backpack or as trolley. It has an integrated roll system with an extendable handle – and is therefore a perfect mixture between trolley and backpack.

Intended use:

  • Travel
  • Trekking

TOURING BACKPACKS, TREKKING BACKPACKS

The difference between tour/trekking backpacks and travel backpacks is not too big. With many tour/trekking backpacks there is an additional rain cape for absolute waterproofness, so that you can be on the way even with long rain of dry backpacks.

An important question to ask yourself: what kind of tour do I want to do? For a multi day tour with food I need a backpack with at least 70l, but for hut tours 40l are already enough.

With the large backpacks (70l+) it is recommended to pay attention to a head recess, so that you can move your head freely even with a full backpack. Another special feature of some of these backpacks are divided main compartments to accommodate the sleeping bag or clothes in the lower part. This has advantages, you can divide your stuff into 2 parts and both are accessible from the outside. However, this makes the backpack a bit heavier.

The carrying system is adjustable. However, even more importance is attached to comfortable carrying, because they were designed for long hikes and heavy luggage. For this purpose, there are backpacks with flexible hip fins to distribute the force evenly evenly during heavy passages. These hip fins also consist of several layers of foam to adapt as anatomically as possible.

In order to avoid excessive sweating on the back, a system is built into the backpack which pumps air through the existing foam by the movement of the running person and thus ensures air balance.

Most trekking backpacks are compatible with a hydration system.

Use of tour/trekking backpacks:

  • Trekking
  • Multi-day hikes
  • Hut tours

SKI TOURING BACKPACKS

Ski touring backpacks are available in different versions. On the one hand, there are backpacks for high-altitude and multi-day tours, which have a large pack volume, up to 60 liters, and are equipped with many fastenings to attach helmet, skis, rope, ice axe and other things to the outside of the backpack.

The other big category are backpacks for day trips, which are smaller and can also be used for freeriding. Depending on the model, they are also available with many attachments for the above mentioned equipment. Many of these backpacks also have an integrated back protector to protect the back. They stand out due to their beautiful and stylish design with intelligent space allocation.

Almost all ski touring backpacks have a separate compartment to store shovel and probe. This compartment is easily accessible from the outside to have everything you need at hand in case of emergency.

As additional safety, both categories are available with avalanche airbags, such as Pieps’ Jetforce, as well as avalanche backpacks made by ABS and Mammut.

In cooperation with Ortovox, ABS has developed a clever system that allows you to carry the ABS airbag with you at all times. However, the size of the backpack can vary depending on the tour. For this possibility the ABS backpack must be equipped with the M.A.S.S. system. With this system, you can “zip on” the airbags with backpack pockets of different sizes. For example, the Ortovox Free Rider 24 ABS Avalanche Backpack can be used as a basic frame.

You can find more information about avalanche backpacks here.

Intended use:

  • Ski-/High tours
  • Freeriding

CLIMBING BACKPACKS

There are again several categories of climbing backpacks. It is important to consider what you want to use it for, whether for sport climbing or for multi-pitch climbing. Of course you can use any backpack for anything, but there are certain advantages and disadvantages.

Backpacks for sport and indoor climbing, like the Black Diamond Shot or the Mantle, are built like bags. They have a carrying system. However, they do not have a lid pocket and can be opened to their full length. This allows a good overview in the backpack. In addition, extra loops are sewn on the upper end to which the exes are attached so that they do not go around in the rucksack. The rope is tied to the outside of the rucksack.

There are also climbing backpacks like the Black Diamond Demon or the Edelrid Cragbag II, which are backpack and rope bag in one. Both have a tarpaulin for the rope attached to the backpack. So the only question is where to put warm clothes and food.

Haglöfs – Roc Rescue 40 – backpack
Climbing backpacks guarantee sufficient freedom of movement

Another category are multirope length backpacks. These backpacks are designed for maximum freedom of movement. The center of gravity is set so that it has as little influence as possible on the climber’s balance. For this reason, they are cut narrowly and fit tightly to the body. They also have removable hip fins, as these are often disturbing. The carrying system is flexibly constructed so that the rucksack can follow complex movements. Anatomically shaped shoulder straps also increase freedom of movement.

The pack volume varies between 12 and 35 liters. The small versions (12l) resemble light daypacks, the large versions are more like trekking backpacks.

The third category is the haulbags. They are for all those who want to make long tours in the wall or who have to climb technically and therefore have to pull material behind them. The Haulbags are like robust sailor bags, but they have a removable carrier system. This allows you to carry the Haulbag to the wall, and when the carrier system is removed, the Haulbag cannot get caught anywhere on the wall when pulling material behind it.

Intended use:

  • Sport Climbing
  • Indoor climbing
  • Multi pitch tours

TRINKING BAGS

Drinking backpacks are backpacks that are only designed to hold the hydration system and maybe a few bars. These backpacks are very popular with trail runners, because they are usually very, very light and are almost unnoticeable or annoying even when jogging.

The drinking backpacks are also available in versions with more packing volume. However, they can then be called daypacks, as there are no striking differences.

You can find more details in the Buying advice for a drinking backpack in our online store.

Intended use:

  • jogging/trail running
  • Everyday life
  • Hikes

If you still have questions, our customer service will be happy to help you. Daniel is our backpack expert here. You can reach him under the number +49 (0)7121/70 12 0 or by e-mail.

There is a lot going on in the climbing and outdoor sector. New products are invented, existing ones are revised or improved and we also learn a lot every day. And of course we want to pass on our knowledge to our customers. Therefore we regularly revise our articles in the base camp. So don’t be surprised if after a few months a few things are different. This article was last revised on 03.03.2016.

How to pack your rucksack

Flyweights for the back –  the world of ultra-light backpacks

17. August 2020
Equipment

Can you still remember your first trekking tour or multi-day hike? For me it was like this: I borrowed the backpack, and it was actually much too big for the tour I wanted to do. But since you famously can’t set off with your backpack only half full, I ended up managing to pack in a load of bits and pieces, so in the end the backpack was full to the brim. This of course had nothing to do with being ultra-light; in fact, it was ultra-heavy! This meant that the backpack – despite having a good carry system and many other comforts – became not just a burden, over time it became a real problem.

Anyone who has had a similar experience has surely sworn: “Next time I’m taking less and lighter equipment in my backpack!” How do you do this sensibly, though, if you don’t just want the contents to be lighter but to reduce the weight of the backpack itself? To answer this question, let’s dive down deeper into the world of (ultra-)light backpacks.

What makes a traditional backpack different from an ultra-light backpack?

The ultra-light class is characterized by one thing above all: minimal material usage. In the trekking field, for example, to make a backpack with approx. 70-litre capacity that weighs under a kilo, everything that isn’t absolutely necessary is discarded. This includes mainly the internal frame along with thick padding. Another important way of reducing weight is the materials used.

This is now starting to sound really crass and like a really crappy backpack that can’t do anything. But of course, this isn’t really true. So let’s take a look at where weight can be spared in backpacks, and what the details might look like.

The frame and the carry system

Backpacks from the ultra-light segment usually have no frame. The reason for this is remarkably simple: the less is in it, the lower the weight. Because of this, sophisticated frame designs and the carry systems that often go with them are intentionally forgone. To make sure it’s still comfortable to wear, it’s therefor important that the rest of the backpack isn’t loaded too heavily and, for good measure, that it’s packed perfectly. We’ve put together the most important dos and don’ts of packing a backpack in a separate article. But I’ll give a simple trick away right now:

Your sleeping mat (in the ultra-light world, foam mats are usually used) can be used to reinforce the back panel. Not only does this ensure the backpack is well stabilised, the mat is also stowed away neatly. Companies such as Exped also offer conventional backpacks, like for example the Mountain Pro 40, that can be slimmed down as required, and can be lightened by nearly a third of their own weight.

Compartments and pockets

It is indisputable that having several compartments in and on a backpack make it more organised. At the same time, though, the compartments themselves also add more weight and often cause the backpack to be packed according to its own organisational system rather than from a functional perspective. This is why the majority of ultra-light backpacks mostly do without extra compartments. This means that the backpacks often come with only one large main compartment and 1-2 smaller compartments or pockets. Many ultra-light backpacks also have a roll closure, so there’s no lid compartments or anything similar. Depending on the model, ultra-light backpacks may also have ways of attaching pieces of equipment to them. A holder for trekking poles or ice tools has practically become standard here. You won’t have to do without compression straps on most larger ultra-light backpacks, either. Especially in the region of volumes of around 45 litres, this is a time-proven construction. Backpacks of this size are usually also absolutely enough for multi-day touring.

Materials

It’s also possible to spare some weight when it comes to the materials. Lighter, which often also means thinner fabrics don’t always have to be worse than their heavier colleagues. Through the use of materials such as Dyneema, a good and, above all, durable result can also be achieved in the lightweight segment. It’s important here, though, that the backpack isn’t overfilled, but that would render the concept of the ultra-light backpack absurd, anyway. Sharp and pointy objects have no place in your backpack, either, and, unless they’re packed well enough, should be fastened to the outside of the pack. If you want to see a good example of a large-yet-light walking backpack that’s made to last, we recommend the Radical from Ferrino. With this large walking backpack, it’s not only that everything that adds extra weight has been discarded, lightweight materials such as Cubic-Tech and Dyneema have also been used, making the backpack robust and hardwearing despite its low weight.

Prejudices and misunderstandings

Sometimes it seems like the world has been divided into two camps: the ultra-light disciples and those who have a fetish for robustness. At least, when exchanging experiences with friends and acquaintances and also when researching this article, I keep coming across countless prejudices, half-truths and open questions. This is why I’ve presented three of the most frequent topics of discussion below. In doing so, I do not wish to take sides with either the “ultra-light” faction, nor the “ultra-heavy” club.

  • Prejudice 1: ultra-light = ultra-expensive

The short story: this isn’t true. The somewhat longer story: it’s not always true. In the ultra-light sector, there are of course pieces of equipment that, because of the materials, the design, or the innovative technologies, come with a heavier price tag – excuse the pun – than other comparable pieces of equipment. But this also happens in the realm of “standard weight” equipment. Especially with backpacks, though, because the design is usually rather simple (no elaborate carry system etc.), ultra-light backpacks come off well in terms of their price compared to their conventional counterparts.

  • Prejudice 2: ultra-light = ultra-flimsy

This prejudice must also be contradicted. But the following question also needs to be asked: what do you actually want from the backpack? If you’re looking for a super robust backpack for spelunking and chimney climbing, then, admittedly, it’s going to be difficult to find something in the ultra-light backpack range. Especially for (multi-)day hikes and trekking tours, though, there are many ultra-light backpack models that can compete with their heavier cousins when it comes to durability.

  • Prejudice 3: ultra-light = ultra-uncomfortable

Admittedly, adjusting from a backpack with a sophisticated carry system to one with a simple contact back was a bit strange at first for me, too. This was, however, also because I had always imagined that you had to carry a lot of weight. But this is not what ultra-light backpacks are designed for. It wouldn’t make any sense at all to first remove every possible gram of weight from the backpack itself, and then to carry a lot of weight on your shoulders anyway because of the heavy equipment you’re taking with you. You have to make a clear distinction. If you want to set out with lightweight and minimalistic gear, and if the planned tour allows for this, then an ultra-light backpack is definitely a good choice. But if your tour is such that, along with a considerable amount of equipment, you also need to take e.g. food and water (which is crazy heavy since unfortunately they haven’t managed to dehydrate it yet), a backpack designed to carry larger loads is definitely needed. In this case, it’s better to try to keep the weight of the contents to a minimum.

Conclusion

Ultra-light backpacks certainly have their place. Depending on what you’re using them for and what you put inside them, they can make a significant contribution to a carefree and successful tour. If you want to get into the ultra-light game, the backpack is certainly the piece of equipment where you can save the most weight. But it’s also important to make sure that the desired model is suitable for what you’ll be using it for and your own personal needs, too. So what are your experiences with lightweight backpacks? Are there any other misconceptions that you would like to clear up once and for all? Write a comment and let us know!

What does breathable mean?

10. August 2020
Equipment

In the outdoor sector, it often feels like you hear this word all the time, and it always seems like the egg of Columbus when it comes to the functionality of outdoor apparel.

But what is actually behind the term breathability? Does the clothing actually breathe? And what does it breathe? The outside air, or perhaps our sweat? Why is it so important?

We’ve collated the most important information on the subject of breathability for you.

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So, why not bake yourself some mountain bread?

9. July 2020
Tips and Tricks

Germany, March 2020. The Coronavirus is keeping the world in suspense and, like many others, you’ve been spending a lot of time between the four walls of your own home. You’ve already finished all your books, and Netflix now knows what you like better than your own partner does. It’s well and truly time for a bit of variety in your day! So why don’t you try baking some bread? Here’s a recipe for our delicious bread that’s perfect for the mountains!

Bread? That’s very funny!

Yes, yes, we know what’s going through your head right now: Yeast and flour – where am I supposed to get those? A little tip: Go to your local bakery and ask them for some. Most bakers have enough of both and will be glad of the extra income. But always keep the appropriate distance away from them! Otherwise, you could just make the yeast yourself.

Our “Extreme Spelt” mountain bread: The recipe!

Before you can really get going in the home bakery, of course you need a few ingredients. For the mountain bread, you need the following:

Ingredients (for one 750 g loaf)

Water roux:

90 g spelt flour (type 630)

Main dough:
350 g spelt flour (type 630)
90 g sunflower seeds
13 g salt
10 g yeast

Method

For the water roux (sometimes also referred to as tangzhong), simply bring 245 g of water to the boil. Remove the pot from the stove. Add the spelt flour and whisk it in quickly. Leave the mixture, covered, to cool overnight.

For the main dough, place the water roux together with the other ingredients and 140 g of cold water in a mixing bowl (preferably in a food processor – otherwise, for the climbers amongst us, you can get a really good upper arm workout at the same time :-)). Knead well for 10 minutes. If you’re doing it by hand, it may take a little longer.

Cover the dough and leave it to rest for two hours at room temperaturefolding the dough once every 30 minutes. Finally, leave the covered dough to prove overnight in the refrigerator.

The next day, take the dough out of the fridge and allow it to come to room temperature for two hours. After another one and a half hours, preheat the oven using the top and bottom heating elements to 260 degrees Celsius.

If you have a pizza stone, feel free to pop it into the oven! Otherwise, it’s also fine to use a normal baking tray. After the dough has warmed up, use wet hands (with cold water since the dough is really moist) to form the dough into a nice ball.

From there, lay it on baking paper and allow the dough to relax for another ten minutes.

And now it’s time to bake it! Put the baking tray on the lowest rack and ladle a little water into the oven. Then close the oven immediately! This process, known as “steaming,” ensures a great crust. Set your timer for 60-70 minutes. After 10 minutes, reduce the temperature to 210 degrees Celsius.

Your entire apartment will slowly start to smell of fresh bread. Everything is as it should be.

Once the timer goes off, take the bread out of the oven and check that it has baked all the way through. Finally, use a pastry brush to brush a little water on the crust.

And now you have a super delicious loaf of bread. It may take a little longer than usual to prepare, but it’s worth it. We’ve sure got enough time at the moment :-)! If you want to stock up on bread, you can definitely bake several loaves and then freeze them in a freezer bag.

Serving suggestions: After it has cooled down, cut right into it – it’s a dream just with butter alone! And of course, our bread makes for a fantastic summit snack – as soon as we’re allowed back into the mountains.

Outdoor clothing in the city centre? I need that!

18. June 2020
Alpinetrek-Experts

It is the nightmare of style icons, fashionistas and cultural guardians: the outdoor wave that is sweeping the city centres. Ten years ago, people were sure it was one of those silly crazes that would be laughed off in 10 years’ time. But far from it, it still remains and shows no signs of fading. It’s even expanded into new areas and has long catered to those yearning of hunting, dog sledding and motorcycling adventures.

Even the fashion pages have become resigned to it. Strong criticisms can only be found in older articles. More recently, articles in outdoor blogs and fashion magazines have been favouring the trend. Let’s take a look at the critics and advocates and examine their common ground. As we do so, I’ll add my own two cents into the mix.

But before that, let us turn to an important, but difficult to classify controversial issue: sustainability.

The Controversy of Sustainability

Let’s get straight to the point: yes, it’s true that a multifunctional jacket uses more resources and “toxins” than grandpa’s good old wool coat.

But is “outdoor stuff” with its evil chemicals really so much worse than the “normal stuff” in the department stores and online shops? It is by no means the case that before the “outdoor boom” people only wore sustainable natural clothing. On the contrary, the percentage of “Made under bad conditions and with undeclared chemicals“ is quite high in on-technical everyday clothing.

What is more sustainable: if I wear an expensive, technical winter jacket from brand XY for ten winters, or if I wear several “simpler” and cheaper” quilted jackets from H&M, New Yorker etc.?

There is also criticism because of controversial “ingredients” in outdoor clothing such as down, leather and fur. But these things are also used in “non-outdoor products” and the outdoor industry also offers a growing range of alternative materials. There is also a growing segment called “Urban Outdoor”. These products are less “highly engineered”, do without membranes and chemicals, are not “polarized” and are not brightly coloured. They are more functional than conventional everyday clothing, as well as highly attractive.

Even so, it is a waste to buy technical-functional outdoor clothing for the evening dog walk. In the same way, you have to question when people wear it for show.

Annoyed by the outdoor wave: the features section

The harshest outdoor critics are most likely found in the culture pages A good summary of classical style criticism is provided by the Tagesspiegel article,which is probably the most frequently read and quoted on this topic:

There seems to be an unspoken agreement on this point: there are some clothes and situations that don’t go together. However, this intuitive sense of style regularly seems to fail thousands of people in this country when it comes to outdoor clothing.:

This taste is debatable in many cases. This is followed by two unfinished sentences, which seem to be about the fact that the clothes are made for the most adverse conditions and the buyers know exactly how nonsensical their behaviour is.

True, but only in part: by no means are all products seen in the pedestrian zones “suitable for polar regions” or “suitable for the Himalayas”, nor are they all brightly coloured. Such frequently read exaggerations suggest that the authors are rather less than outdoor enthusiasts. And their unfamiliarity with the subject matter becomes even more clear when they try to imitate technical outdoor jargon. Sometimes this doesn’t fit, as here in the FR, where there excessive exaggeration results in unintended humour. Want an example? Here:

Presumably, the wild colours (of outdoor clothing)can even scare away bears. And make campfires.:

Ha ha. Well, if only you knew, dear FR writer, how many bear attacks the Active-Bearprotect Shield of my Gore-Tex has averted at the last minute. And how many times I’ve been saved from frozen fingers by the integrated InstantFire Jet Technology…

Want another example? Here you go:

No one needs storage for carabiners, oil lamps or a three-day supply of jerky while they’re walking around the pedestrian zone.:

Yes, they do! I need oil lamp storage (fire retardant) in my climbing harness, which is always attached. And my jerky rations (tofu jerky, of course) have saved me from many a rumbling stomach in the CBD.

And one more to finish? No problem:

:

It might be true that we, the summiteers, do not always have the firmest foothold when it comes to the downhill run. But this is often because of the others walking around the fields after summiting. We still need a good grip when we’re picking up toilet paper in Boots.

However, it must be said that not all criticism is so easily refuted. Here’s the Tagesspiegel again:

In my circle of friends, there’s one crazy one who regularly goes on snowshoe holidays through Greenland or Lapland. I understand that he needs a Polar jacket. But when he returns home to civilisation, it returns to the cupboard where it belongs. He goes to work in a woollen coat. He understands: Everything has a time and a place. (…) The thermal coat belongs on the pack nice, not in the city centre.:

Very impressive. But is there really such thing, this law of nature for where things belong? Or is it not just someone’s opinion that has been elevated to a general standard? What if I’ve already spent quite a bit on my ‘mountain skins’ and so spending more on a ‘suitable’ woollen coat seems unnecessary? What if I wear a Gore-Tex jacket when it’s pouring down in the city just because I don’t have another waterproof jacket lying around?

Yes, I’m exposing myself here as one of those “overlapping users”, who actually does go into the mountains and the “wilderness’ in their outdoor clothing.

Also annoyed: ‘real mountaineers’ who ‘actually use this stuff’

As us “overlapping users” are so underappreciated, we are of course upset about the invasion of fake adventurers. For it is only us that should have the right to bear the signs of being an outdoor enthusiast.

So, dear outdoor clothing critics, please don’t always lump us hard nuts together with these fancy dress impersonators! We brave really icy wind and terrible weather. And when we put on a Gore-Tex jacket, softshell, fleece or synthetic trousers in everyday life, the unsuspecting confuse us with these wannabes. If only people could tell the difference, they would finally give us that slightly intimidated admiration that we well deserve!

I therefore propose that we introduce a permit for outdoor clothing: Goretex and Windstopper would only be able to be worn upon evidence of undertaking a tour. In order to avoid any confusion, we should also attach labels or stickers to our clothes:

”Hey, I’m actually going above 4,000 metres in this!”

or

”This jacket has been to Greenland and Nepal!”

Please recommend more effective differentiation measures in the comments ;-)

Elated rather than annoyed: the advocates

Is the case for outdoor clothingspan style=”font-weight: 400;”> sound and convincing at least? Are there good, strong ‘pros’ for Outdoor in the City?

Hm, not really – I only found a little andit’s hard to follow, like the following from Brigitte magazine for example:

Today, with the right clothing, you can demonstrate your love of outdoor sports, trekking, danger and adventure without ever having seen a mountain, a forest or a lake in person. This is certainly very fashionable, even though it may not always make sense to wrap ourselves up in clothes that have functions we don’t even need”.:

I find a person never seeing a mountain, forest or lake in person sad rather than fashionable. But perhaps you don’t know what you’re missing if you don’t know more than a picture. Maybe that would explain the following thought as well:

So-called ‘Sensation Seeking’ has become very popular. Our clothes should at least remind us of the wilderness. If danger (or a hailstorm) should befall us in the urban jungle, we are prepared – and can feel a bit like McGyver’s wild daughter in our Jack Wolfskin jacket.:

Oh, yeah. Except that, as the only male Brigitte reader on the planet, I’d rather be McGyver himself than his wild daughter. For me it’s much more important not to ‘imagine’ being in the ‘wilderness’ through clothing, but to actually travel to such environments.

So, to sum up, neither side are really rational or sensible. It’s about taste and personal preference.

Love of nature, vanity and fear of disaster: explanation attempts

Because there’s so little rationality, most attempts at explaining the phenomena ultimately fail. Let’s try anyway. We’ll go back to the Tagesspiegel to start:

Some people say its a love of woods and meadows, which makes it happen. (…) However, even a brief look at the products shows that this so-called closeness to nature is nonsense. After all, you can hardly get more artificial than an outdoor jacket. The lining is made of polyester fleece or polyamide and sealed on top with a layer of polyurethane or polytetrafluoroethylene. Does that sound something that would grow on any tree in the world?:

It’s rare that Teflon, PU and fleece would all be used in one item, but not inconceivable, and more and more companies are making progress in replacing artificial with natural components.

If love of nature is not the sole motive behind the outdoor wave, we must look elsewhere. One of the less positive motives would be vanity, which the Tagespiegel will illuminate here:

If you wear something you don’t need, you want to represent something. (…) In this sense, wearing outdoor clothing is no longer about preparing for extreme situations, but about simulating them – or better: claiming proficiency in them. Look, I would be prepared to brave wind and weather, arctic temperature drops and steep scree slopes – if I were to put myself in danger.”

Yes, you heard me right. This is addresses a sore point. But a sore point of what? Vanity is a driver for many types of clothing. And also for many human actions in general. So it is just as unspecific to our beautiful, colourful outdoor world as the compensatory instinct (also mentioned in the article).

Now, we’re just missing the entertaining motivation theories. One would be a fear of catastrophe, but that’s going too far in the psychological fog in my opinion…

What conclusion can be drawn from this? Well, if you’re out in the city in outdoor clothing, you can always hope for some attention.

 

 

Tips for choosing waterproof trousers

15. June 2020
Equipment

A downpour or steady drizzle. Big drops, little drops. Pelting down from above, blowing in from the side, or lashing from the front. Bad weather can quickly ruin a day on the mountain. But does it really mean you have to get soaked? Not necessarily! Get out your waterproof trousers, pull them on and keep going! Easy as that.

In this article, we’ll explore what you should think about when buying waterproof trousers.

(more…)

keep-your-merino-in-good-sh

Merino wool – the functional fibre in detail

23. June 2020
Equipment

At the end of the 1980s, many outdoor fans considered functional clothing made of synthetic fibres to be the ultimate products – after “normal” wool and cotton had become obsolete due to their “unsuitability”. At that time only a few pioneering companies in the outdoor sector such as Icebreaker, Smartwool, Woolpower and Ortovox were using merino wool. Nowadays however, almost all outdoor clothing manufacturers offer products made from this “new wool”. The merino sheep has become the favourite animal of many sports and outdoor enthusiasts. Once you have worn merino wool clothing, you will not want to go without it again. But what is so special about this natural high tech fibre? In the following we will take a closer look at merino wool and its properties:

Where does merino wool come from?

Merino wool is a natural product obtained from sheep’s wool – indeed, from the wool of merino sheep. The animals originally come from the North African plateaus of the Atlas Mountains and are now among the oldest and most hardy sheep breeds in the world. merino sheep lived there in extreme, often adverse weather conditions of the kind you only get when you spend all four seasons up in the mountains. They had to – and still have to – withstand extreme temperature fluctuations of minus 20 to plus 35 degrees in the Southern Alps of New Zealand. That’s why they have a coat, which is perfectly adapted to such harsh conditions. In the Middle Ages the sheep reached Spain, where their wool was sold as valuable “Spanish wool”. In the 18th century, the first merino sheep were exported to Australia, which has since become the largest global exporter of this precious commodity, along with other wool-producing countries such as New Zealand, South Africa and South America.

What are the properties of merino wool?

Merino wool has a number of natural and very beneficial properties:

  • It doesn’t itch.
  • It warms when it’s cold.
  • It cools when it’s warm.
  • It warms when wet.
  • It does not develop unpleasant odours even after being worn several times.
  • It is water and dirt repellent.
  • It is particularly lightweight with a high heat output.
  • It has natural UV protection.
  • It does not accumulate electrostatic charge.
  • It’s flame-retardant.
  • It doesn’t crease.

These are all excellent qualities when it comes to producing functional clothing for outdoor activities. First let’s look at the most important features in detail and find out why merino wool has these properties.

Why doesn’t merino wool itch?

Merino sheep belong to a breed of fine wool sheep. The coat of these sheep is made up of very fine, soft and highly curled hairs with a fibre thickness of only 16.5 to 24 microns (the fibre thickness of wool fibres is expressed in microns; 1 micron corresponds to 1 micrometre, i.e. 1 thousandth of a millimetre). This means that the fibres of merino wool are only about half as thick as “normal” wool fibres and only a quarter as thick as a human hair. The finer the wool fibres are, the more they bend when they touch the skin. While thicker wool fibres hardly bend at all, merino fibres curl with up to 40 directional changes per centimetre. As a result, the nerve endings of the skin are much less irritated and there is no unpleasant itching. The human sensitivity limit, above which fibres are perceived as scratching, is around 25 microns. This is why normal wool is perceived as scratchy, while merino wool feels pleasantly soft against the skin.

How does merino wool warm when it’s cold?

Merino wool has excellent insulation properties in cold weather. This is due to the ingenious structure of the merino fibres. The fibres of merino wool consist – in relation to their total volume – of up to 85% air. The fine, wavy fibres lie so loosely on top of each other that air chambers can form between them. And as air is a poor conductor of heat, it provides excellent insulation – against both cold and heat.

The effect is comparable with double-glazing on windows. The air between the two panes has an insulating effect – both in winter and summer. Merino wool is not warming itself, but it prevents body heat from escaping by enclosing insulating air cushions. It keeps the heat of our body where we need it when the ambient temperature is cold. In addition, the merino fibres have fewer contact points with the skin due to their strong wave and therefore dissipate less heat. In a nutshell: The advantage of the curled fibres of merino wool is that more insulating air is bound in and less heat is emitted.

How does merino wool cool when it’s warm?

The human body has a natural air conditioning system. In warm temperatures or during intensive physical activity, we start to sweat. The body secretes moisture in the form of sweat to cool down and keep the body temperature at a constant level.

Merino wool supports this natural bodily function perfectly. It functions like a second skin, which further enhances the cooling effect. On the one hand, the air cushions in the merino fibres insulate not only against cold but also against warm ambient air. And on the other hand, the fibres behave uniquely towards moisture. The level of moisture management that they achieve has never been reached with any artificially developed textile fibre. The fibres of merino wool can absorb up to a third of their own dry weight in moisture – for synthetic fibres, the value is less than ten percent. The fibres owe their high moisture absorption capacity to their chemical structure. They are hygroscopic, which means they can bind moisture in the form of water vapour, and they can do so in great quantities and very quickly. Sweat or rainwater is quickly transported to the inside of the fibre through a network of tiny channels.

At the same time, the fibre surface remains dry because it is water-repellent. This is why merino wool still feels dry even when it has absorbed a lot of moisture. Amazing, right? The hygroscopic fibres function like a storage tank that optimally balances the moisture fluctuations in the environment.

Warm ambient air now ensures that the moisture absorbed inside the fibre evaporates on the outside of the garment. However, for the process of evaporation – i.e. the transition from a liquid to a gaseous state – the water molecules need energy. They extract these from the nearest ‘body’ – the merino fibres – in the form of heat. The fibres cool down, causing the skin and the body to cool too. This process is called evaporative cooling, and it causes a pleasant cooling sensation on the skin.

Synthetic fibres, on the other hand, can store almost no moisture in their interior. This results in a particularly rapid transport of moisture to the outside. This causes a build-up of heat and the body reacts by increasing sweat production to induce cooling. Of course, this needs correspondingly more energy, which is then no longer available for performance – for example during sporting activities. Studies at the University of Graz have shown a higher lactate increase in athletes who wore synthetic fibre textiles. All in all, the natural function of merino wool also contributes to a higher physical performance – what more could you want?

How does merino wool warm even when it’s wet?

Compared to cotton or synthetic fibres, merino wool retains its good material properties well even when wet. Unlike a cotton t-shirt, a merino shirt does not stick unpleasantly to the skin when it gets wet. And in a sweaty merino garment, you don’t experience any unpleasant shivering either, as you would when you take a break on the summit in a synthetic t-shirt. But why?

Ultimately, this warming effect in a moist state is also based on the ability of merino fibres to absorb moisture. When moisture is absorbed, an exothermic process takes place, which generates absorption heat. That means that the fibres heat up when they absorb moisture. Sounds incredible, right? But it’s true! Merino wool actively warms as long as it absorbs moisture. This is because the protein molecules of merino fibres release energy in the form of heat when they come into contact with water molecules – enough to cause a temperature increase of up to ten degrees, depending on the quality of the fibre.

This process continues until the wool fibres are saturated with water molecules. A slightly damp merino baselayer can therefore generate heat, whereas a layer that is completely soaked from the rain cannot. But even then, the merino part still keeps warm – due to the frictional heat of the fibres that is generated mechanically during movement. But, with light rain it actually makes sense to wait a short time before putting on a waterproof jacket. If the merino t-shirt gets slightly well, it will start producing warmth.

The warming process works best if the merino functional clothing is completely dry beforehand, because then the fibres can best exploit their potential for absorbing moisture. It is therefore sensible to completely dry the garment before starting an outdoor pursuit – especially in winter. This is best done in a warm room with the lowest possible humidity, such as a room heated by a stove or central heating. Spare clothes made of merino wool should be packed in a waterproof stuff sack or a plastic bag before your trip, so that the wool fibres cannot absorb moisture from the ambient air. After all, you only want them to warm up when you put them on!

Why doesn’t merino wool smell even after wearing it several times?

The unpleasant smell that we often perceive on ourselves and our clothes is not actually sweat. Fresh sweat is odourless. We first start smelling when the skin bacteria begin to break down the sweat into its individual parts. Sweat provides nutrition for them, and they like to multiply especially in warm and humid regions – like the armpits. Of course, sweat and skin bacteria also settle in our clothing, so these – at least if they are made of synthetic fibres and do not have an odour-inhibiting treatment – will also start to smell unpleasant at some point. So why are garments made of merino wool different?

Synthetic fibres have a smooth surface to which sweat and bacteria can adhere particularly well. Merino fibres have a scaly surface, almost like a tiled roof. The bacteria don’t stand a chance. In addition, the fibres absorb the moisture of the sweat so quickly that the bacteria do not even have time to break down the sweat. The water-repellent fibre surface also prevents the development of a humid climate, which the bacteria need to grow.

Finally, wool fibres have a specific fibre protein (like all animal hair) – keratin – which breaks down the bacteria responsible for the bad smell. Merino wool therefore has a natural antibacterial effect – and its permanent, because the effect doesn’t weaken. Even the silver ions incorporated in synthetic fibres, which are intended to inhibit odours, cannot match this ingenious biological function. But that’s not all! To perfect this mode of action, merino fibres also have a mechanical self-cleaning effect. This is because the core of the fibres consists of two different cell types that can absorb different amounts of moisture. This means that they swell unequally when absorbing moisture. This results in constant friction, which the fibres use to continuously clean themselves.

Why is merino wool water and dirt-resistant?

Even though merino fibres can absorb relatively large amounts of moisture, their fibre surface is water and dirt repellent. This is because the fibre contains the wool grease lanolin. When the wool is processed, a large proportion of this is washed out, but some remains on the fibres. The wool grease acts as a protective layer. Dirt and odours stick to the fibre surface and can’t penetrate inside. Lanolin can also have a pain-relieving effect on rheumatic joint complaints, which is why people who suffer from this like to wear woollen clothing. Due to the strong curling of the fibres, water drops only have a very small surface area to attack and simply roll off due to their surface tension. This works in exactly the same way as with certain plants, which have fine hairs on the surface that ensure that water drops roll off.

Merino wool in the outdoors – are there only pros? Or are there cons too?

We’ve probably spoken enough about the advantages of merino wool in the outdoor sector. For all the reasons mentioned above, it should be clear this “high-tech wool” is particularly well-suited to outdoor use. In summary, merino fibres are true all-rounders that do what is needed in every situation – they warm when cold, they cool when warm, they warm when wet, they do not develop any unpleasant odours and last but not least they feel pleasant on the skin. With this flexibility, merino wool garments are naturally perfect for outdoor activities. Because no matter whether it’s warm, cold, wet or dry outside – when you’re outdoors, you need clothing that is just as flexible as the weather we’re exposed to.

Above all, the temperature and climate regulating properties of merino wool are a huge advantage in many outdoor situations. The body temperature always remains at a comfortable level despite different temperature conditions and different activity levels. And these are common conditions – especially in the Alps. Changes in the weather or temperature play a major role when you’re covering hundreds of metres in altitude. You might be sweating in the valley, but once you start rising up to the breezy ridge, you’ll start to shiver. And when you need to take a break at the summit, a material which can warm when wet is invaluable. The temperature-regulating wool is also ideal for activities such as cycling, ski mountaineering and skiing, where activity levels and temperature conditions vary greatly as you go up and down the mountains.

The odour-retardant property of merino wool is particularly beneficial when you are out and about for long periods and aren’t able to wash. On a trekking tour or backpacking trip, where you are travelling with the least possible weight, you’ll want to take merino clothing which can be worn for an unlimited period of time. After all, it takes quite some time until they smell strong enough that you feel the need to wash them. And thanks to the elastic fibres, a merino shirt won’t crease much even if it’s squashed into your backpack for days on end.

Basically, there are almost no limits to the use of merino wool garments in outdoor activities. Whether you’re a keen train runner, climber, yogi or just want something for everyday wear – the material is simply great. However, there are a few disadvantages that should be mentioned. Merino fibres are not as robust or resistant to wear and tear as other natural or synthetic fibres.

If you wear a pure merino wool t-shirt under a heavy backpack, it might damage the fabric. If weight and pack size are your most important considerations, synthetic fibre garments usually perform better. They also usually dry faster. Sometimes clothing made of pure merino wool can feel too warm in summer despite their cooling properties. And last but not least, there are particularly sensitive people who find that merino wool is itchy.

However, the outdoor textile industry has now found possible solutions to eliminate these disadvantages of merino wool – by using fabric blends.

What types of fabric blends are there?

The current outdoor trend is to combine merino fibres with other natural fibres such as silk or synthetic fibres. Synthetic fibres include synthetic fibres such as polyamide and polyester, but recently also synthetic fibres that are artificially produced from natural cellulose – such as Lyocell or Modal. This allows the strengths of the natural and synthetic fibres to be combined to get the best of both worlds. Different materials are used depending on the manufacturer and application.

For example, Icebreaker adds a small amount of elastane to its merino base layers. This is not a classic blended fabric, but a sandwich construction that ensures that only pure merino wool lies next to the skin. The addition of elastane makes the fabrics more tear-resistant and durable, as the fabric can stretch more under mechanical stress instead of tearing. As even finer wool fibres can be used in this way, the fabric feels more comfortable, especially for sensitive people, than fabrics made of pure merino wool. At the same time, the fabric has a pleasant stretch effect as well as a mostly body-hugging fit.

Ortovox and Icebreaker also offer collections which use Lyocell fibres together with merino wool. Lyocell is the generic fibre name for a fibre made from bamboo wood. It is marketed by the Austrian fibre manufacturer Lenzing AG under the brand name Tencel. The addition of Lyocell or Tencel gives the fabric a pleasantly cooling effect on the skin, which is of course particularly beneficial in summer. The Lyocell fibres have a particularly high basic moisture content, which does not feel wet but cooling on the skin. Furthermore, the material is more durable and long-lasting.

Modal, for example, is used by Ortovox to complement merino wool. Modal is made of beech wood cellulose and has a particularly smooth surface. As a result, Modal fabrics feel very soft and have a silky feel. It is especially loved by those with sensitive skin.

Falcon and Angel produce outdoor clothing with a mix of merino wool and silk. These textiles also feel very soft and pleasant on the skin. Silk also gives the garments a shimmering sheen.

If you choose garments made of blended fibres, however, you should look carefully: blended fibres can be used for two reasons: either to improve the functionality of the material or to reduce costs by using a cheaper material. If the proportion of merino wool is too low, the good properties of merino wool fibres are then lost somewhat.

How sustainable is merino wool?

When it comes to sustainability, it is also worth taking a closer look when buying a product. On the one hand, merino wool is by nature a very sustainable material. On the other hand, however, there are certain problems in animal husbandry, which are among the unpleasant aspects of wool production. But first of all, let’s look at the advantages of merino wool in terms of sustainability.

Merino wool is a naturally renewable raw material. Merino sheep can be sheared up to twice a year and produce up to ten kilograms of wool per animal. Furthermore, compared to the production of synthetic fibres, the production and processing is particularly low in resources and environmentally friendly. Synthetic fibres are produced using crude oil, which requires a large number of chemicals and the use of large amounts of energy. Moreover, synthetic fibres are almost completely non-degradable. Synthetic clothing takes 30 years or more to decompose.

This means they end up in landfill after use. Products made of pure merino wool, on the other hand, are biodegradable without any residues. You can just throw them on the compost heap. A merino t-shirt buried in the ground will completely decompose within 90 days and can then be used as fertiliser. Furthermore, merino wool has natural properties such as its UV protection or odour inhibition, so it doesn’t need any environmentally harmful chemical additives. This is because the “technology” is already contained in the fibre. Last but not least, the self-cleaning function of merino fibres also protects the environment, as the garments do not need to be washed as often.

However, animal welfare is not always the top priority in merino wool production. In Australia and New Zealand, there is an issue with fly maggot infestation in merino sheep farming, which can cause the deadly disease, myasis. The animals are virtually eaten from the inside. In warm temperatures, such as those found in the Australian summer, the flies lay their eggs in the poorly ventilated skin folds on the anus, which are smeared with faeces and urine. In Australia – the country with the most merino wool producers – a brutal method is unfortunately used to prevent fly maggot infestation – mulesing.

This involves surgically removing a plate-sized part of the skin folds around the anus, tail and vulva of lambs up to eight weeks old. This is usually done with a hot cutting device, without anaesthesia and while the sheep is fully conscious! The wounds are not treated, but must heal and scar by themselves.

Great pain is inflicted upon the animals during this bloody and mutilating procedure. Studies show that the sheep still flee their tormentors 113 days after such an operation – that’s how traumatic this experience is. At present, there are very few uncontroversial alternatives to solve the problem of fly maggot infestation. Particularly because the fly maggots were probably – just like the merino sheep – only imported to Australia and New Zealand during the colonial period. More complex and expensive methods include regular shearing of the skin folds around the anus, regular checks of the sheep and timely medical intervention in case of infestation. Animal welfare activists therefore demand the targeted breeding of sheep with fewer skin folds on the buttocks. In fact, Australian merino sheep were deliberately bred to have more skin folds and thus a higher yield of wool.

In view of these gruesome facts, when buying a merino product you should consciously make sure that only mulesing-free merino wool was used. This is guaranteed by the ZQUE seal of the New Zealand merino industry, for example. Many companies such as Icebreaker or Ortovox also state exactly where they get their wool in a traceable way. Merino wool that does not come from Australia or New Zealand is always mulesing-free, as there is not the problem of fly maggots.

Most outdoor companies such as Icebreaker, Ortovox, Bergans, Woolpower, Smartwool, Rewoolution, Devold and many others do not use wool if mulesing has been practised. If you are unsure, you should contact the manufacturer or dealer. If a merino garment is a very reasonable price, it may be due to the practising of mulesing. It is worth taking a closer look and maybe spending a little more. In return, you’ll get flawless quality and support the species-appropriate keeping of merino sheep.

Still have questions?

Whilst this seems unlikely with the amount of information provided, there will always be more questions. As it is always important to ask questions, you are of course welcome to contact our experts in customer service. They are available during the week on +49 (0)7121/70 12 0 or by email. Alternatively you can of course leave a comment below the post.

Thinsulate – the life of a product family

5. June 2020
Equipment

If you spend a lot of time outdoors and aren’t a fan of the cold, you’ll know that a good fleece is worth its weight in gold. Warm gloves and a comfortable beanie also go a long way to improving your wellbeing. So today, we’d like to introduce a material that is not only often used in fleece clothing, but has also been on the market for decades: Thinsulate.

 

 

 

But what actually is Thinsulate? Where is it used and what can it do?

Thinsulate Insulation is a microfibre material from 3M, which is known for its excellent insulating properties. A brief look at the history of this fleece fabric shows that it has proven itself for decades. 3M was already experimenting with microfibres in the 1960s. Thinsulate Insulation technology was first used in skiwear in the 1970s. When the 1988 Winter Olympics were held in Calgary, Canada, Thinsulate got involved. In the course of the 1990s, 3M expanded the Thinsulate Insulation product family and since then has been synonymous with a wide range of materials used in a variety of areas, from occupational safety to sports and fashion. The product family continues to impress today with lining material in winter clothing and sleeping bags as well as material for beanies, balaclavas and gloves.

A little material science

Thinsulate Insulation consists of a material made of polyester or a blend of polyester and polypropylene. Thinsulate’s distinctive feature comes from the fact that its made from considerably smaller fibres than conventional polyester materials. With a diameter of about 15 micrometres, Thinsulate fibres are about ten times smaller than other synthetic fibre. This means the fibres can be processed with a very high density. The tight structure reduces the heat flow between the individual fibres. As a result, body heat is reflected by the fibres and the material keeps warm even at low temperatures. According to the manufacturer, Thinsulate should provide 1.5 times more warmth than down of the same thickness. The material is also breathable and moisture-repellent.

Application areas and product variants

Thinsulate Insulation is a product family that is divided into several different material types. Different types, with tailored properties, are used depending on the application. The following types are mainly used in outdoor and mountain sports:

Type B

This material is extremely robust and thin. With its high durability and good insulation performance at low thickness or in compressed condition, this is mainly used for footwear.

Type C

Thinsulate Insulation Type C is particularly suitable for leisure and outdoor clothing. This fleece material offers very high insulation performance and feels very comfortable. Its low weight and the thin material makes the material especially good for jackets, beanies and gloves.

Type P

Type P material combines numerous good properties. The material is not only very warming and robust, but is also very easy to maintain. This makes it perfect for clothing, which is subject to challenging conditions outdoors.

Type FR

Type FR is flame retardant. Therefore, it is mainly used in work clothing, as well as sometimes in outdoor wear.

Type TIP

This material is used in bedding such as duvets and pillows, as well as in sleeping bags. As it puffs up, it provides not only effective heat insulation, but also a high level of comfort at a low weight. The material can also be washed in a washing machine at up to 60 °C.

Care

In general, all Thinsulate products are easy to clean. They can be simply washed in a washing machine. However, as products such as jackets and sleeping bags often contain several different components, it’s important to observe the manufacturer’s instructions. Companies such as Nikwax, Holmenkol or Toko also offer detergents that are suitable for washing outdoor clothing. The exact method for washing the product can be found on the washing label on the product.

In short…

Warm, soft and fluffy are words that can be used to describe many Thinsulate products. They offer a range of excellent properties which can be utilised in different applications to provide optimal comfort. From shoes to sleeping bags, Thinsulate Insulation is a technology that has been established and proven over the decades. In addition, Thinsulate materials are breathable and moisture-repellent. This makes them ideal for use in harsh and adverse conditions and ensures the products have a long service life.

Any questions? If so, feel free to ask our experts in customer service. Hannes is our Thinsulate expert. He is available during the week from 9 a.m. till 6 p.m. and can be reached by phone at +49 (0)7121/70 12 0 or by e-mail.

Flyweights for the back – the world of ultra-light backpacks

5. June 2020
Equipment

Can you still remember your first trekking tour or multi-day hike? I remember mine well, I had borrowed a backpack and it was far too big for the tour I was doing. Of course, it’s never possible to leave empty space in a backpack, so I managed to fill it with all sorts of odds and ends until the backpack was full to the brim. Of course, this was far from ultra-light; it was more ultra-heavy. This meant that, despite the backpack having a good carry system and numerous other features, it was not only heavy, but became a real problem.

Anyone who has had a similar experience will have surely proclaimed, “Next time, I’ll put less and lighter things in my backpack!” But what’s the best way to do this if you want to save weight in the backpack itself as well? Let’s go deeper into the world of (ultra) lightweight backpacks.

What makes a ultra-light backpack different from a traditional backpack?

The ultra-light class distinguishes itself above all by one thing: minimal material usage. In order to produce a backpack with a capacity of approx. 70 litres for trekking, that weighs less than one kilo, you have to do without anything non-essential. This includes things like an internal frame as well as thick padding. Another pretty significant way to save weight is in the materials that are used.

This sounds like it would produce a pretty crude, basic backpack. Obviously, this is not the case in practise. Let’s take a look at where weight can be saved on backpacks and some of the finer details:

 

frame and carry system

Ultra-light backpacks generally don’t have a frame. The reason for this is very simple: less inside means less weight. This is why elaborate frame constructions and the associated carry systems are deliberately omitted. In order to achieve good carrying comfort, it is important that the backpack is not too heavily loaded and is packed in the optimal manner. In another article, we have summarised the most important do’s and don’ts when packing a backpack. I’ll give you one simple trick here though:

Use a sleeping mat (in the ultra-light sector, these are usually made from foam) to stiffen the back panel. This not only ensures that the rucksack is stable, but also that the mat is neatly stowed away. Companies such as Exped also offer conventional backpacks, such as the Mountain Pro 40, which can be slimmed down as required, to reduce its weight by almost a third.

Compartments and Pockets

There is no question as to the practicality of compartments in a rucksack. However, these compartments also add extra weight and often result in the rucksack being packed according to organisation rather than functional benefits. That’s why most ultra-light rucksacks don’t have additional compartments. These backpacks often only come with a large main compartment and 1-2 smaller compartments or pockets. Many ultra-light rucksacks also have a roll-top closure, so there’s no lid compartment or similar. Depending on the model, ultra-light backpacks may also have attachment points for pieces of equipment. A holder for walking poles or ice tools is almost standard. Compression straps are crucial on most larger ultra-light rucksacks. They are particularly effective on bags larger than 45 litres. Backpacks of this size are usually completely sufficient even for multi-day tours.

Materials

It is also possible to save weight in the materials. Lighter and often thinner materials are not necessarily worse than their heavier counterparts. Materials such as Dyneema allow quality, durable products to be produced in the lightweight segment. It’s important that these materials  aren’t overloaded – but then that would kind of miss the point of an ultralight backpack.

Sharp and pointy objects shouldn’t be loose in the main backpack; they should either be packed carefully or attached to the outside of the bag. If you want to see a good example of a large yet lightweight and durable walking backpack, we recommend the Radical by Ferrino. This large walking backpack has removed everything that adds on extra weight. In addition, lightweight materials such as Cubic-Tech and Dyneema have been used, ensuring that the backpack is robust and resistant despite its low weight.

Preconceptions and misunderstandings

It sometimes feels like the world has split into two camps: the ultra-light enthusiasts and the durability fanatics. During discussions with friends and colleagues, and during the research for this article, I have come across several preconceptions, incorrect beliefs and unresolved questions. Therefore, I have once again listed three of the most frequent discussion points. I won’t take sides with either the ultra-light group or the ultra-heavy club.

  • Preconception 1: ultra-light = ultra expensive

In short, that’s not true. And in more detail – it’s not always true. Admittedly, in the ultra-light range there are pieces of equipment which, due to their material, design or innovative technologies, are considerably more expensive than other comparable pieces of equipment. However, this is also the case with “normal weight” equipment. Especially with backpacks, however, ultra-light backpacks, due to their mostly rather simple design (no elaborate carry system etc.), come off well in price compared to their conventional counterparts.

  • Preconception 2: Ultra-light = ultra sensitive

This preconception must also be challenged. However, the question also depends on what the backpack is actually supposed to do. If you are looking for a super robust backpack for spelunking and chimney climbing, then ultra-light backpacks might not be the right choice. But for (multi-)day hikes and trekking tours, there are numerous ultra-light backpack models that can easily keep up with their heavier counterparts in terms of durability.

  • Preconception 3: Ultra-light = ultra uncomfortable

Admittedly, changing from a backpack with a sophisticated carry system to one with a rather simple contact back was strange for me at first. But that was also because I was imagining carrying a heavy weight, and that’s not what ultra-light rucksacks are designed for. It wouldn’t make any sense to save all the grams possible on your backpack, only to then fill it with heavy equipment. A clear distinction must be made here. If I want to travel with lightweight, minimalistic luggage and the trip allows, then an ultra-light backpack is certainly a good choice. But if my tour requires me to carry a lot of equipment as well as food and water (which isn’t freeze-dried), I’ll need a backpack that is suitable for heavier loads. In this case, I should just try to reduce the weight of the contents to a minimum.

Conclusion

Ultra-light backpacks certainly have their place. Depending on their usage and contents, they can contribute to a successful and enjoyable tour. If you’re looking to join the ranks of the ultra-light, the backpack is certainly one of the pieces of equipment where you can save the most weight. However, it’s important to make sure that the model you want fits your usage and personal needs. What are your experiences with lightweight backpacks? Are there any other preconceptions you would like to dispel? Leave a comment!

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