All posts on this topic ‘Buyer’s guide’

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

3. May 2021
Buyer's guide

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

Inner tubes in different sizes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Inner tubes for road bikes

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

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

»Calculating optimum air pressure for road bike tyres

Inner tubes for mountain bikes

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

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

»Determining optimum air pressure for MTB tyres

Inner tubes for trekking bikes and touring bikes

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

Inner tubes for children’s bikes

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

Inner tubes for e-bikes and fatbikes

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

Changing and patching an inner tube

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

Conclusion

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

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

15. April 2021
Buyer's guide

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

Which system is best for mountain bikers and road cyclists?

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

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

The advantages of disc brakes on MTBs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Disc brakes on a road bike

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

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

The advantages for road cyclists using disc brakes are therefore:

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

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

Buyer’s guide to climbing holds

1. April 2021
Buyer's guide

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

Climbing holds – manufacture and materials

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

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

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

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

Climbing holds – shapes and suitability

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

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

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

Practical tip for hold sets!

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

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

Climbing holds for children and children’s rooms.

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

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

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

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

Climbing holds – bolts and attachments

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

TREAD LIGHTLY – OUTDOOR FOOTWEAR BY WEIGHT

9. March 2021
Buyer's guide, Equipment

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

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

Finding the right shoe

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

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

Lightweight shoes for moderate terrain

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

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

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

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

Lightweight shoes for exposed and unpaved terrain

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

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

Lightweight shoes for high mountains

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

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

Advantages and disadvantages of lightweight shoes

  • Benefit 1 – Weight-saving

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

  • Advantage 2 – Comfort

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

  • Disadvantage 1 – Risk of injury

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

  • Disadvantage 2 – Weatherproofness and general suitability

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

Ultra-light shoes – the conclusion

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

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

THE RIGHT SHOES FOR YOUR OUTDOOR ADVENTURE!

13. January 2021
Buyer's guide, Equipment

When choosing the right footwear for outdoor activities you should take your time. There are some questions that should be answered in advance to avoid problems with unsuitable shoes or aching feet. Not only physical ailments such as the well-known blisters are among them, but also a shoe that does not fit the purpose will not be a pleasure or will not offer sufficient stability and safety.

Table of Contents


WHICH CATEGORIES OF HIKING & MOUNTAINEERING SHOES ARE THERE?

The traditional German company Meindl has established an interesting and useful categorization for hiking and mountaineering shoes, which hikers can use as a guide when it comes to finding the right footwear for trekking, hiking and mountaineering. It is intended to serve as a first orientation in the shoe jungle:

  • Category A: Light hiking boots (mostly low shoes) for forest and meadow paths with flexible soles and little cushioning for everyday life as well as for shorter hikes with light luggage (daypack) on largely flat and paved paths.
  • Category A/B: High hiking boots for extended day trips or tours with overnight stay and medium-heavy luggage (backpacks up to approx. 35 liters) as well as for largely paved paths with (significant) ascents and occasionally loose ground. The sole is twistable, but relatively stiff and thick.
  • Category B: Classic trekking boots with torsion-resistant sole, thick midsole for lots of cushioning and with high lacing. Mostly made of leather and resoled depending on the model. Suitable for tours lasting several days with a large backpack (trekking backpack 40-70 liters) and mountainous and sometimes rough terrain, but still with clear routing. Can be used with Grödeln. Not recommended for long mountain tours, under very cold conditions or for high altitudes (over 3000 meters). However, in combination with thick woollen socks, it is ideal as a light winter (hiking) shoe.
  • Category B/C: Heavy trekking boots for tours on rough, steep terrain, possibly without direct access and for shorter winter tours in icy weather. Stiff sole with low profile, very high lacing and stable upper. Suitable for fixed rope routes and at higher altitudes (around 3000 to 4000 meters). Suitable for Grödel and crampons with double strap-on binding. From this category upwards it is usually possible to resole the shoe.
  • Category C: Mountain boots for touring on very rough and steep terrain, ice and firn as well as off-road paths. They can also be used for winter tours lasting several days or at higher altitudes (up to about 5000 meters). Very high shaft, usually additionally insulated. An edge at the heel allows the use of step-in crampons (heel clip at the back, simple strap-on at the front). High weight, very low profile and extremely robust materials.
  • Category D: Expedition boots with removable, insulated inner boot, extremely robust and durable manufacture for high altitude and extreme mountaineering or expeditions. Fully crampon proof. Also ideal for glaciers, long winter tours, ice and mixed climbing.

In addition to the differences in the primary purpose, the upper material (leather or synthetic), weather resistance (waterproof shoe with membrane or particularly breathable, membrane-free shoe) and the material of the inner lining (mesh or leather) must be considered. However, these are questions of demand and comfort that everyone must answer for themselves. For example, not everyone can cope with natural products. Although leather is generally more robust and durable, it also requires more care than synthetic fabrics, which dry quickly and are lighter.

OUTDOOR LOW SHOES

Furthermore, there are some subcategories, especially among the low shoes, which depend on special purposes and are associated with the A-category.

  • Multisport shoes are light hiking boots in a design suitable for everyday use or particularly robust running shoes, which combine an extra light upper fabric with the sole of a hiking shoe. They are optically appealing, sporty-light and perfectly suited for everyday use as well as for easy hikes or walks. They are also suitable for speedhiking at moderate altitudes as long as you have little luggage with you.
  • The so-called approach or access shoes are interesting for climbers. These are usually half-height shoes with a robust and relatively stiff outer sole, which have an edge at the front of the inner foot for easy climbing (as with climbing shoes). The appearance and construction are comparable to hiking shoes, but in addition to the sole, the lacing that extends far forward is also similar to climbing shoes. These shoes are ideal for the way from the car over slopes and scree to the rock as well as for securing or for simple via ferrata. Approach shoes are mountain oriented and belong to the A/B shoes. The design is sporty and suitable for everyday use. Models with softer soles can also be used for hiking. The cushioning makes the shoes suitable for use with touring backpacks and hardware.

SPECIAL OUTDOOR-SPORTSHOES

  • Climbing shoes and bouldering shoes are more or less pre-curved and asymmetrical, have a perfect fit (the more of these features, the more uncomfortable and the more ambitious), have a prominent climbing edge at the front of the inner foot and lacing or Velcro fastenings that reach far forward (usually a matter of comfort). Upper and lining are often one and usually made of leather. They also have a completely smooth rubber sole. This guarantees the best grip on the smallest steps. You can find out everything else in our detailed purchase advice for climbing shoes.
  • Trail running shoes are very light and have a highly flexible and cushioned sole. The synthetic upper material is highly breathable and depending on the model, there is a waterproof membrane between the outer fabric and mesh lining or not. There are special quick lacing systems as well as differences in sole profile depending on the preferred training surface. Running shoes are also versatile, carefree companions in everyday life.
  • Bicycle shoes are available as MTB shoes or racing bike shoes. Here, special attention must be paid to the suitability of the pedal plates and the locking system. You can find out everything else in our separate purchase advice for MTB and road bike shoes.

SUMMER SHOES

Pure summer shoes are different types of sandals and water shoes. They serve as a proper companion on vacation in the summertime, when kayaking or canoeing, as well as for use in the water and on land. Toe sandals are particularly suitable for everyday use – here design and comfort are important. Trekking sandals have an outsole like light hiking boots and are moderately cushioned. They can be used for day hiking tours with little luggage or as a second shoe for summer trekking. There are waterproof models as well as variants in soft leather and quick-drying synthetics. The strap arrangement should definitely meet the comfort requirements. Water shoes are made with a quick-drying mesh or sandal-like upper and a non-slip, profiled sole for rocky, wet surfaces. They are particularly suitable for boat trips.

WINTER SHOES

With the winter shoes one differentiates between pure winter boots and winter hiking boots. The latter are A/B or B shoes in boot form. They are always waterproof, lined on the inside, and have a particularly non-slip sole, thus distinguishing them from their three-season colleagues from the hiking sector. A smooth upper material is easier to clean from slush. The insulation is either made of soft fleece, a particularly light and warm synthetic fiber, or natural, odor-resistant virgin wool. Sometimes there is a removable inner shoe that can be used as a hut shoe. Winter hiking boots are sufficiently cushioned for touring backpacks up to about 50 liters.

Pure winter shoes have a non-slip sole and insulation, but are not made for hiking, as they are not cushioned. There are low shoes, fashionable boots and especially light down shoes. Here the optical aspect and details such as the lacing, the insulation performance (down is warmest, followed by synthetic fiber, then wool and fleece) and the upper fabric (leather or synthetic) play a particularly important role.

EVERYDAY SHOES & LEISURE SHOES

Slippers are also made for warm feet, but can be worn all year round. There are very soft and light models for the sofa and variants with stable soles for taking out the garbage. Mostly wool felt, down, synthetic fibre and leather are used. Clearly shoes where comfort and design play the biggest role!
Even rubber boots are everyday shoes and can be used all year round. Here it depends on the bootleg height and if necessary the closure.

Sneakers and leisure shoes are suitable for slacklining, after training, for the way to university and to the office and are therefore bought clearly according to design and comfort features.

TIPS FOR SIZE SELECTION

In general, men’s models are usually cut wider, women’s lasts are often slim. If in doubt, buy outdoor shoes a little larger, especially hiking boots and boots will often end up one size higher. Many models are now sustainably produced and are completely or partially recycled and made of biomaterials.

Important for the fitting: in the afternoon and with authentic socks! So nothing stands in the way of the right choice of shoes!

LIGHT UP THE NIGHT: TIPS FOR FINDING THE RIGHT HEAD TORCH

10. November 2020
Buyer's guide, Equipment

Watching the sunset from the summit is a wonderful thing – romantic, dreamlike and sometimes breath-taking.

But as the daylight slowly fades, you face a problem: without additional lighting, the descent can be difficult and even dangerous.

And because you might need to use your hands for other things than holding a torch, a head torch often makes the most sense.

Here’s some tips on what you should consider when buying one: (more…)

SKI GOGGLES – A QUICK OVERVIEW

13. January 2021
Buyer's guide

https://www.bergfreunde.de/basislager/skibrillen-eine-grobe-uebersicht/

They feel huge, some of them look quite spacy and sometimes you wonder if the person behind them can see anything through these colorful glass lenses. But why do the lenses have to be so colorful? Is it just design or is it function?

We have collected the most important facts about ski goggles, so that you have a better overview of the different functions when shopping. Of course, appearance is important, but it is crucial to have the right lenses on your nose!

Ski Goggles not only complete the outfit and are a fashion accessory, they also effectively protect our eyes from external influences. To ensure that the protection is really there, all Ski Goggles are tested according to the EN 174 standard.

First, the light transmission (light transmittance) in the visible range is determined. The classification is made into the following filter categories:

  • Level 0 = 80-100% light transmittance
  • Level 1 = 43-80% light transmittance
  • Level 2 = 18-43% light transmittance
  • Level 3 = 8-18% light transmittance
  • Level 4 = 3-8% light transmittance

The glasses are also subject to strict requirements for protection against UV radiation.

Especially on the mountain this is very important. In addition to UVA, UVB and UVC protection, the goggles should therefore also protect against the dangerous blue light.

The lenses continue to be tested for their mechanical strength. Especially in case of a fall, ski poles and other objects can quickly become a danger. It is therefore important that the lens provides adequate protection, does not break and does not detach from the frame. Furthermore, the lenses must not have any distorting effect and must be water and snow tight.

LENSES

The lenses are primarily distinguished between cylindrical and spherical lenses. These are single or double curved. Spherical lenses have a better appearance, but their purchase price is also much higher.

Only those who have a clear view in all lighting conditions can set their swings precisely and avoid possible obstacles. That’s why there is a suitable tint for the most diverse weather conditions to enhance contrasts and support the eye in its perception. While dark tints such as black, grey and brown are suitable for sunny conditions, blue, purple, red and pink are suitable for slightly cloudy skies. Only when the conditions are really bad and fog and snowfall reduce visibility one should turn to yellow, orange or even transparent lenses. However, you can also infer the purpose of use from the filter category:

  • Category 0 for heavy clouds and night skiing
  • Category 1 for changing light and weather conditions
  • Category 2 for sunny days with low cloudiness
  • Category 3 for mainly sunshine
  • Category 4 for bright sunshine and glaciers

Polarized lenses in the ski goggles also prevent the glare effect, which is further intensified by the surface of the snow. Depth perception is improved, making it easier to detect irregularities in the snow.

LENSE CHANGING SYSTEM

It is not uncommon to have fog with snowfall in the morning and bright sunshine and blue skies in the afternoon. If you don’t want extra glasses for different light conditions, you should look around at manufacturers who offer an interchangeable system. With most manufacturers it is sufficient to simply press out the lens and replace it with a different tint. Uvex offers with its Take-Off System an equally easy to handle solution: With the help of a mini-magnet, which is attached to both sides of the frame, the dark magnetic lens is simply fixed to the base lens of the ski goggles. If you want even more comfort, you should go for the glasses with Zebra or Cameleon lenses from Julbo. These lenses are self-tinting and change their protection level within approx. 20 seconds depending on the incidence of light.

With the meanwhile huge selection of sizes and shapes, the field of view also differs from model to model. It is therefore advisable to try out different shapes to get a feeling for the correct view.

Oakley and Smith Optics show that “a little bit more is allowed” with their high-end glasses Airwave and I/O Recon. Here, information such as speed, slope, altitude and temperature are projected directly into the field of view by means of a complex prism technology and the glasses display the current cell phone playlist and incoming calls or SMS via Bluetooth.

VENTILATION

Who is not familiar with it: During a rapid downhill run or in spring you start sweating and in the lift you get cold again. Just like a good ski helmet, the ski goggles must therefore always provide a pleasant climate. Various ventilation inlets ensure an exchange of air, let warm air escape and dissipate the wind accordingly.

Since the wind does not cool during short breaks on the piste and the body heat causes the goggles to mist up, so-called antifog coatings are another quality feature of good ski goggles. This is the only way to always have a clear view – even in adverse weather conditions.

SPECTACLE WEARERS

There are also ski goggles that have been specially developed for people who wear glasses (OTG – over the glass) and can be worn over corrective glasses. They are slightly larger in size and usually have lateral cut-outs in the foam so that the temples of the goggles can find their place. Julbo also offers so-called “Optic Clips”, which are fitted directly by the optician with the individual vision and then clipped into the ski goggles.

HELMET-COMPATIBILITY

A crucial factor to pay attention to is the helmet compatibility. The frame of the ski goggles should fit into the recess of the helmet and be flush with the face. The gap between goggles and helmet should not be too large. Silicone strips on the inside of the band prevent slipping and provide a secure hold. Ideally, you should choose the same manufacturer for both goggles and helmet.

THE AGONY OF CHOICE

If the ski goggles are not comfortable or do not fit optimally, then it is not the right one – no matter how beautiful the design is. When trying on the goggles, you should therefore pay attention to a few points to find out which goggles fit: To do this, shake your head vigorously in all directions. The lenses should not slip or press uncomfortably. It has proven to be a good idea to wear the lenses for a few minutes to test them, since only with time do possible pressure points become apparent. Furthermore, the headband should be flexible and easy to adjust.

THE RIGHT CARE

If the inside of the window is wet, never rub with a cloth or gloves, as this will destroy the anti-fog coating and the lens will become matt. It is better to tap the glasses out and let them dry. If you want to continue driving, you can dab the lens dry with a fuzz-free cloth if necessary. For this purpose, the usually supplied spectacle bag is suitable.

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.

The crash pad

27. August 2020
Buyer's guide, Equipment

Burrito, taco, hard foam or preferably something soft? How big should it be, how important is the carry system, and what actually distinguishes the good pads from the bad?

For bouldering, you actually don’t need much gear: a pair of climbing shoes, chalk, comfortable trousers and a beanie. That’s basically it. If you want to go bouldering outside, though, you actually also need a bouldering mat, also known as a crash pad. But because they’re big, and often expensive, too, perhaps you shouldn’t decide on the model too quickly.

We’ve put together a bit of information for you that should make the decision easier.

(more…)

MTB shoes buyer’s guide: How to find the right shoe

27. August 2020
Buyer's guide

Mountain bike shoes for tours, trails and downhill

Choosing the perfect mountain bike shoes is really easy. To find the perfect shoe, all you have to consider is your shoe size, the design, area of use, and pedal system, the weather and the season. Easy, right? But seriously. When it comes to MTB shoes, there are actually so many different models and designs that you can quickly get lost in this shoe jungle. To stop you getting confused, let’s suss out all the factors that are important when choosing the perfect bike shoes, one by one.

The pedals: Flat pedals or clip-in pedals

Depending on the pedal type, mountain bikers need shoes with relatively flat and grippy rubber outsoles which the pins of the flat pedals can “bite into” properly.

With clip-in pedal systems, like for example the popular SPD (Shimano Pedaling Dynamics) from Shimano, the MTB shoes are firmly attached to the pedals for optimal grip. They are connected with what is knows as cleats or pedal plates, which are screwed onto the soles of the mountain bike shoes. For perfect power transfer, mountain bikers clip their shoes into the pedals and can detach from the connection again with a gentle sideways twist.

Some shoes can even be used to ride on both clip-in and flat pedals. Occasionally, hybrid pedals are used, too, which have pins on one side of the pedal and are fitted with a clip system on the other. Usually, though, mountain bikers specialise in a particular area such as downhill, racing or freeride, and choose the pedal-shoe system accordingly.

The area of use: dirt, racing, downhill or touring

Of course, there are no fixed rules about who, where, when and on which routes which shoes should be used. Nevertheless, certain preferences for particular kinds of shoes and pedals can be more easily discerned in some disciplines than in others. Most mountain bikers head out with flat pedals for dirt jumping and in bike parks. This is because for some jumps it’s important to be able to take your feet off the pedals and then “catch” the bike with your shoes. For controlled jumps from the bike, mountain bikers can react much better and faster with flat pedals than with fixed pedals.

For mountain bike racing and touring, on the other hand, many cyclists rely on the efficient power transfer of the clip-in pedal. For downhill, enduro and on trails, mountain bikers like riding with both systems. While some value the better bike control and perfect grip of mountain bike shoes with cleats, others swear by comfortable cycling sneakers with their versatile flexibility.

The weather conditions: between heat, rain and icy cold

Most cycling shoes are perfect for medium temperatures and dry road conditions. This means that from spring through autumn, they’re fantastic for riding on most days of the year. It gets harder in particularly wet weather conditions, especially during winter in ice and snow. Normal MTB shoes are not insulated and, especially with clip-in pedals, an uncomfortable cold bridge forms. In rain and mud, waterproof mountain bike shoes are at least pretty good at keeping the foot dry.

Waterproof and breathable cycling overshoes are more effective. They not only ensure that the feet stay dry, they keep the entire cycling shoe itself from getting wet. Because they’re open at the sole, you can clip into the pedal with no problem.

In very low temperatures, mountain bikers can to an extent make do with warm socks and cycling overshoes. There are, however, also special winter shoes for mountain bikers that have special insulated soles. Depending on the model, these can even be comfortably worn to ride in temperatures of -20°C.

Mountain bike shoes are constructed completely differently according to the pedal system, recommended area of use and weather conditions. Not only does the design range from urban styling to futuristic high-tech looks, the construction and composition of the sole, outer material and lacing are tailored to the different areas and systems.

The sole: soft and grippy or stiff and dynamic

Flat-pedal shoes from Five Ten, adidas or Giro are equipped with soles made from special rubber compounds that provide the best grip on the short pins. The sole construction is really flat, reminiscent of skate shoes or sneakers. This means that mountain bikers can take perfect advantage of the large area of the flat pedals and adjust the placement of their foot really easily while riding without losing contact with the pedal. Flat pedal shoes are comfortably cut and guarantee good cushioning. In comparison to skate shoes, however, for mountain biking the rubber compounds from Vibram or Five Ten are significantly more durable.

MTB shoes for clip-in pedals have a completely different sole design. The rigid nylon soles are made for mounting the pedal plates and guarantee the best-possible power transfer.

Depending on whether mountain bikers tend to be riding long tours or are fighting for every last second in a competition, the soles can be a little softer or harder. Softer soles usually mean they’re more comfortable, while harder soles usually transfer power better. Modern mountain bike shoes are fitted with profiled soles which are also suitable for short passages on foot, offering good grip even on slippery forest floors. Here, the cleats are mounted so they don’t protrude beyond the profile. This means that they won’t annoy you while you’re walking and they enable a comfortable gait. The stiff nylon soles are, however, unsuitable for longer hikes.

The composition of the shoe: different materials and shaft heights

Mountain bike shoes can be made from the most varied of materials. From synthetic leather, smooth leather or suede through to synthetic fibres or mesh fabrics, manufacturers of high-quality mountain bike shoes such as Shimano, Mavic and Vaude use every possible material.

Depending on the shoe design, the companies place particular importance on good fit, stability and good ventilation. Sporty mountain bike shoes are often equipped with mesh inserts for comfortable ventilation, while all-round and touring shoes tend to put more emphasis on good weather protection. MTB shoes are reinforced around the toe area and at the heel to protect the shoes from damage and to give the foot the stability required.

Most all-round and racing shoes feature a low-cut shaft, which enables high freedom of movement and comfortable ventilation. Insulated winter shoes, on the other hand, are cut higher and come past the ankle. Downhill shoes are also sometimes cut ankle high, because this provides extra stability for the feet, and better protection from injuries if there’s a crash.

The lacing: classic or fast lacing system

While flat pedal shoes often provide the right level of stability and comfort with normal lacing, and sometimes with an additional hook and loop fastener, clip-in pedal shoes come with a diverse range of creative closure systems. Laces, fast lacing systems with a twist closure, hook and loop fasteners, zip fasteners and ratchet closures are combined in different ways to find the perfect combination of comfort and performance.

Practical ratchet, hook and loop, and twist closures are quick and easy to use. Ratchet and twist closures can be readjusted individually while travelling without having to take the foot off the pedal. This makes putting on and taking off the mountain bike shoe particularly quick and easy.

Along with a secure, firm fit, these closure systems guarantee the best possible performance when mountain biking with clip-in pedals. With fast lacing systems, mountain bikers fortunately no longer have to worry about loose laces getting wrapped around their pedal axle.

Ask Alpinetrek!

So, when buying MTB shoes, there can be a few things to consider. When all’s said and done, though, the choice of MTB shoe depends on what exactly you want to use it for and your own judgement. If you have any more questions, though, we are here to help you and our customer service team is at your service. You can reach our customer service team from Monday to Friday from 10 to 17 on +49 (0)7121/70120 or by email.

 

The supposedly easy choice of the right outdoor socks

8. April 2020
Buyer's guide

Walking socks – not a lot to talk about, right? But if you take a look at any manufacturer’s description of their latest high-tech socks, you’ll probably lose all hope. Hundreds of material combinations, plus a wide variety of yarn counts and innovative product treatments make the once ordinary knitted sock from yesteryear a product that now requires a great deal of advice. It might be hard to believe but choosing the right outdoor socks is an underestimated task.

What should walking socks do?

The first question is: are you looking for socks for hillwalking, which are normally worn with mid-cut, lightweight and breathable shoes? Or are you shopping for more serious trekking tours where you’ll be carrying a heavy backpack? Or do you need socks for a winter hike?

Die richtige Outdoor-Socken findenFirstly, there is a right answer for all these uses. In general, however, an ideal sock should protect the foot from friction and therefore, from blisters. It should offer cushioning around the heel, support for the ball of the foot when rolling and it should quickly transfer moisture outwards. This last point is particularly important, because you lose up to a quarter of litre of moisture in sweat from your feet every day.

It makes sense then that the vast majority of manufacturers of functional socks rely on synthetic fibre materials whose core competence is the transfer of sweat. These make the perfect team with a suitable pair of Gore-Tex shoes. In addition, there are various proportions of elastane (for stretch socks), merino wool (and not just for the feel-good factor) as well as treatments of all kinds (e.g. Polygiene) to prevent odours and more.

Sock Buying Essentials

Point 1: a wrinkle-free fit! No matter what kind of trip you’re planning for, your socks – thick or thin, synthetic fibre or merino wool – must fit perfectly. If they wrinkle at the toes or anywhere else, this results in unpleasant friction and pressure points, which can lead to blisters. Good shoes mean nothing if your socks don’t fit.

Die richtige Outdoor-Socken findenPoint 2: with or without padding? As a rule of thumb: the heavier bag on your back, the better the padding on your socks should be. There is a wide variety of designs – with more cushioning in the heel area, the midfoot and/or the toes. For summer day trips in low mountain ranges, you can definitely go for a thinner pair with little or no padding. If you’re heading off on a trekking tour with a tent and sleeping bag on your back or walking in winter, you should pick a thick pair of socks and also make sure the padding fits well for you!

Point 3: the material. Polyamide, polyester, merino, elastane? This is a personal choice. All materials have their own pros and cons, it’s all about the perfect blend. Polyamide, for example, is generally more abrasion resistant than polyester and is mainly used in particularly stressed areas such as the heel and toes. Merino at the ankle and midfoot provides comfort and padding, while a stretch-polyester blend on the instep improves fit and breathability. In addition, there are inserts which increase the compression pressure to promote blood circulation. Every company has their own recipe for the perfect outdoor socks!

Trivia and practical tips and tricks

Three simple questions to find the perfect socks:

  1. Which season am I walking in? This helps decide whether the socks should be thin or thick and whether they should have a higher content of virgin wool (in winter).
  2. wool_compression_socksWhat kind of touring am I planning? A hiking tour with light footwear? Then a mid-cut pair with little to moderate padding is recommended. A difficult mountain or trekking tour? Then go for a shin-high pair with more padding. Ski touring or trail running? Compression socks can be very useful.
  3. What kind of shoes am I wearing? Even the most breathable pair of socks isn’t much use if you’re wearing full leather shoes. Socks with a higher proportion of virgin wool and padding to reduce friction and pressure points would be appropriate here. For breathable and lightweight Gore-Tex shoes on the other hand, I prefer socks with Coolmax, Fibretech or similar polyester/polyacrylic fibres.

I shouldn’t complain either when my good old cotton socks feel like heavy, wet rags after 800 metres of ascent because of dripping sweat. The right combination of shoes and socks makes the biggest difference – and this is something that everyone has to find for themselves.

And last but not least two comments on frequently asked questions: Never wear freshly washed socks! this may sound disgusting to cleanliness champions, but there’s a serious reason behind it: detergent residues in the sock fabric can attack the sensitive foot skin and when mixed with sweat, can cause irritation. You can easily avoid this by wearing your walking socks at home after washing and before the next trip.

The second point is about the debate on wearing two pairs of socks at the same time. I don’t want to take sides at this point, but I’ll weigh up the advantages and disadvantages from my own experience. When military service still existed and young recruits had to march 30, 40 or 50 kilometres with luggage, we were instructed to wear two pairs of socks if we had problems with blisters. And lo and behold, I have never had problems with blisters – despite or perhaps even thanks to wearing two pairs of coarse cotton socks together.

In my own time, I enjoys hikes and hill walks in a proper, modern pair of walking socks – and lo and behold, they were also great. The most important thing is that the socks and shoes fit perfectly. Recently, I was embarrassed to have problems with pressure points whilst mountaineering (admittedly, I was wearing pretty new mountaineering boots). And who would have thought it, all my worries were forgotten with a second pair of socks…

The proper boot for the via ferrata

28. February 2019
Buyer's guide

While there is special equipment you need for via ferratas, like an energy absorber, most of the stuff you need (like clothing, a backpack or a harness) you probably already have, provided you’re into climbing or mountaineering. The one thing you may not have is the proper footwear. Proper footwear? Can’t you just wear the approach shoes you’ve used for alpine climbing in the past? Or maybe even those crampon-compatible boots you wore on your last mountaineering trip? Do “via ferrata boots” even exist? And if so, how do they differ from mountaineering boots? And most important of all: Are they even necessary?

Well, keep on reading and you’ll find out!

What’s the difference? What makes a boot a via ferrata boot?

Most via ferrata boots differ only in part from ordinary mountaineering boots and can be positioned somewhere between soft, lightweight approach shoes (which are more comfortable in the heat) and your normal walking boots. The lighter models are usually also suitable for some (easy) climbing, while the heavier ones work for (high-altitude) mountaineering as well. True, you can climb a lot of via ferratas in regular mountaineering boots, but it’s not recommended. If you do, make sure they’re easy and you don’t make a habit of it!

Via ferrata boots usually have a stiffer sole and a narrower upper than ‘normal’ hiking and trekking boots. These features make them more appropriate for climbing for long periods as opposed to walking long distances.

In other words, a good via ferrata boot is more of a generalist than a specialist. When climbing a via ferrata, not only do you cross bridges and climb up rock steps and ladders, but you also use normal hiking paths. And there are plenty of via ferratas that force you off trail or even into ice and snow. To be prepared for this kind of terrain, you should either have an extremely versatile shoe or even combine a flexible, lightweight pair of approach shoes with a stiffer, crampon-compatible mountaineering boot.

In general, a stiff boot that has a more rigid sole and puts your feet higher up off the ground allows for less precise foot placements. However, it does have the advantage of taking the strain off your muscles when you’re standing on small holds and bits of metal work. This is especially important for heavy-set individuals, as a softer shoe would make them expend much more energy. Simply put, the more direct rock contact there is, the softer the shoe should be. The more alpine the terrain, the stiffer (and more crampon-compatible) the shoe should be.

That being said, it’s always a good idea to keep the difficulty level of the via ferratas in mind before buying a pair of shoes. And, while doing so, ask yourself the following three questions: How long will the ascents/descents be? How long and challenging will both the via ferrata and the climbing sections be? How high will the route take you?

By answering these questions, you’ll know exactly what your via ferrata boot should be capable of:

What should your shoe be able to do?

Well, it should allow you to stand stably on brand-new or rusty pins and other bits of metal work (i.e. ladders, stemples, wire bridges, etc.) and withstand heavier loads – not once, not twice but hundreds of times on each and every adventure you go on. In other words, the shoes need to be extremely durable, especially when it comes to the stitching and glued portions of the shoe.

It’s important to remember that there’s the approach to get to the via ferrata as well as the descent, so the boots should not only be stable and sensitive but also provide a good amount of cushioning and allow for a good heel-to-toe transition. These are the absolute musts:

  1. A high collar that goes over the ankles to prevent you twisting your ankle in more technical terrain.
  2. The boot should fit snugly but still be as comfortable as possible. You need enough room in the toe box so that your toes don’t slam into the front on the boot on downhills. An easily adjustable lacing system is paramount as well. Boots with laces that extend down into the toe box are perfect.

Depending on both the terrain and the difficulty level of the via ferrata, you may need to consider other features as well. The selection of via ferrata footwear is pretty massive, ranging from all-round alpine boots to lighter, more comfortable approach shoes (which are “actually” intended for approaches to climbing routes).

Regardless of the shoe you choose, the most important thing is that it fits securely and offers enough traction at the front of the sole for precision on small footholds, ledges, etc. For these reasons, slightly narrower models are often your best bet. In general, recommendations for via ferrata boots usually hover around category B or B/C boots with a climbing zone at the front of the sole.

Now, let’s go into a bit more detail on the individual parts of the shoes.

The sole

The sole not only has to be torsionally rigid but suitable for climbing as well. It shouldn’t be too high or too thick to ensure that you still have enough ground feel. That being said, your only option is a either B boots with semi-rigid and mid-high soles or, at the very most, B/C mountaineering boots.

The outsole should not only provide enough traction on rock but also be grippy enough for approaches and descents in snow, damp meadows or steep terrain that is ridden with rocks and rock outcrops. I admit, it kind of seems like we’re asking for the moon, but fortunately for us, the sole of shoe can be divided into different zones, much like the human foot.

A sole that is divided up into different zones is one of the main features of good via ferrata boots. The front of the sole should be stiff enough for you to stand on small holds on those easy to intermediate via ferratas without expending a lot of energy.

The higher the grade of difficulty, the more flexibility you need at the forefoot, as flexibility is necessary for friction climbing. To achieve this seemingly impossible balancing act, boots have a small friction zone with no tread and a slight upward curve at the front of the sole. It’s usually just under the big toe (and perhaps at the inner ball of the foot).

Under the midfoot and heel, the sole should have deep lugs for grip on both the ground and the climbing aids. There should also be a pronounced depression – the so-called bridge between the ball of the foot and the heel to prevent you slipping on wet iron bars and ladders.

The upper

The main difference between via ferrata boots and trekking or walking boots is a slightly narrower toe box. It should only give you enough room to prevent any nasty toe jarring when you’re descending.

Other than that, the kind of upper you need depends on not only the terrain and difficulty of the route but how high up the via ferrata is. A relatively “airy” upper that allows for plenty of freedom of movement is good enough for those easy and fun via ferratas you’d find near valley towns. For high alpine via ferratas where lower temperatures and loose rock are no rarity, it’s always a good idea to opt for more protective footwear. These kinds of boots come equipped with a rubber rand that runs along the lower edge of the boot, which not only protects your foot but also increases the durability of the boot.

Ideally, the upper should be more adaptive and flexible than that of regular walking boots in order to allow for more variable foot placements. As surprising as it may seem, there are well-known brands out there, like Lowa or La Sportiva, that actually manage to create via ferrata boots that meet these seemingly contradictory demands.

As with mountaineering boots, the upper on a good via ferrata boot should be breathable and at least water-repellent. Of course, these properties are more important when it comes to mountaineering boots, since people tend to steer clear of via ferrata routes in unpredictable weather conditions. Those of you who prefer via ferrata day trips at lower altitudes could consider getting a pair of breathable via ferrata boots with a membrane-free mesh lining. However, for multi-days or high-alpine routes with snow fields, you’d have to go with a waterproof boot.

Textile or leather? Both!

You have the choice between leather and synthetic textile materials. Textile elements are less expensive because they are easier to make and manipulate, among other things, while leather is breathable and water resistant, even without a membrane, resulting in a more comfortable interior.

Oftentimes, the two are combined to take advantage of the specific properties of each material. Leather is ideal for the toe, heel and sole edges, as it is more dimensionally stable and abrasion-resistant, while textile is great for the tongue because of its softness, low weight and flexibility. Most of the via ferrata and approach shoes sold in Germany have an upper with a textile/leather combo and a membrane to top things off (usually Gore-Tex).

Lacing

A precise and easily adjustable lacing system is a must in order to get the fit you need in each and every situation. For this reason, good via ferrata boots have laces that extend down to the toe box. Other than that, the lacing system on via ferrata footwear is basically identical to that you’d find on “regular” mountaineering boots.

The combination of eyelets at the bottom and lacing hooks at the top usually allow for plenty of variability. Plus, there are usually deeper hooks on the medial and lateral sides of the boot that ensure a locked-down fit. Laces that allow you to tighten the shoe from top to bottom in one go are nice but not necessary.

Just for the via ferrata?

If you’re planning on venturing into high alpine terrain beyond the via ferrata itself, then you will need different via ferrata boots. If the via ferrata takes you through ice and snow or even up to high peaks with a glacier on the descent, you definitely need a pair of crampon-compatible boots. For this, a strap-on crampon will usually do the trick. You can always refer back to the B and B/C categories mentioned above for more info.

Keep in mind that approach shoes, which can be great for those shorter via ferratas that involve more climbing, may be too soft for strap-on crampons, so you might want to ask before purchasing.

What do the experts say?

As you’ve probably already noticed, it’s hard to say what via ferrata boots you should go for without always qualifying it with a “it depends”.

To make the decision a little easier, here’s what some independent testers from the German Alpin Magazine have to say:

People always say there’s no do-everything shoe, but a lot of brands today are coming really close. We were really impressed with the Scarpa Marmolada. It’s a very comfortable shoe that has good walking abilities, but comes into its own on the via ferrata, providing plenty grip and traction. The Garmont Vetta is a great option for via ferratists; light and grippy, but better suited for narrow feet. An all-rounder that we highly recommend.

For those who need more flexibility, the magazine recommends the models Adidas TX Scope High and Five Ten Guide Teen Mid. According to the testers, they are “soft and flexible and require more strength to stand on small holds but is significantly less stable. The shoe is great for somebody looking for exactly that, but it’s nothing for newbies.

Bergsteiger Magazine divides via ferrata boots into two weight classes:

  • lightweight models for difficult (fun) via ferratas that weigh approx. 1050 grams or more in a size 45 (10.5 UK).
  • heavy alpine models that weigh at least 1700 grams in a similar size.

You can also find some more info on our via ferrata packing list (in German only). If you have any questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments.

£ 5 now
For your next order
No thank you.