All posts with the keyword ‘Climbing’

Sustainable or greenwashed? Outdoor brands in portrait: Patagonia

6. May 2021
Equipment

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

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

Not only climate: What is sustainability?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Patagonia’s sustainability programme

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

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

Environmental aspects of sustainability

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

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

1 Reduce

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

2 Repair

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

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

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

3 Reuse

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

4 Recycle

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

Social sustainability and employee management

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

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

Economic sustainability

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

Marketing

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

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

What do the critics say?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

Buyer’s guide to climbing holds

1. April 2021
Buyer's guide

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

Climbing holds – manufacture and materials

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

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

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

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

Climbing holds – shapes and suitability

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

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

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

Practical tip for hold sets!

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

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

Climbing holds for children and children’s rooms.

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

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

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

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

Climbing holds – bolts and attachments

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

LANDING CHECK: LARGE CRASH PADS

9. March 2021
Equipment

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

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

Edelrid Crux: large, green and popular

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

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

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

Ocun Paddy Incubator: new and really big

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

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

Mad Rock Triple Mad Pad: the three-parter

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

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

Metolius Magnum crash pad: the luxury mat

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

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

Conclusion: luggage nightmares

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

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

IRON PATHS THROUGH STEEP ROCK – VIA FERRATA, HOW DOES IT ACTUALLY WORK?

15. February 2021
Tips and Tricks

Fixed rope routes have experienced a real boom in the last few years. In many places, new iron routes are being developed and numerous vacation brochures advertise this “new” type of mountain sport. But what actually makes the via ferrata a via ferrata? Where are the limits to hiking or climbing? And what on earth do I actually have to consider when I want to go on a via ferrata for the first time? This list of questions could certainly be extended without any problems, so we decided to unpack our concentrated expert knowledge about via ferrata today.

HIKING – VIA FERRATA – CLIMBING

Via ferrata walking is an independent alpine discipline, which can easily be classified between hiking and climbing. In general, however, via ferrata climbing cannot be seen as an intensified hiking or simple climbing, but is a more or less separate sport. Via ferratas are routes through more or less alpine terrain equipped with wire rope and iron steps. This way, even people with a comparatively low level of knowledge can get a start in sometimes very steep and exposed terrain. The basic element is a wire rope, which is attached to the rock face with numerous intermediate safety devices and is used by the via ferrata user as a belay point. The correct handling of the via ferrata set is important, but more about this later.

Basically there are three different variants of via ferrata walking:

  • Insured paths

Strictly speaking, insured routes are not actually typical via ferrata, but routes that have been equipped with a (wire) rope in particularly exposed or even dangerous places. However, this rope is not part of the safety chain as in the actual via ferrata, but rather serves as a replacement for a railing or handrail. Insured via ferrata routes are therefore generally also used without via ferrata equipment.

  • Classic Via Ferrata

This is the most common type of via ferrata. Classical via ferrata come in numerous degrees of difficulty and are therefore suitable for beginners and advanced climbers. They always have a continuous wire rope with intermediate safety devices and are often equipped with additional iron steps and ladders. Rope bridges and other gadgets are also not uncommon here.

  • Sport Via Ferrata

Sport via ferrata are mostly difficult routes in exposed terrain. It is not uncommon for tours of this kind to run through overhangs. Although sport via ferrata also have a continuous wire rope as a safety device, they often do not require additional steps and are therefore not suitable for inexperienced persons.

Via ferrata are thus clearly distinct from hiking, since self-securing is absolutely necessary. Via ferrata also have little to do with sport or alpine climbing, since here you are not using a rope and companion safety devices, but only securing yourself to the wire rope. In order to be able to roughly assess in advance whether one is up to the difficulty of a climb, there is a standardized scale of difficulty ranging from A (easy) to F (more than extremely difficult).

EQUIPMENT

Via ferrata should not be underestimated. Accidents on a via ferrata can often have serious consequences and can even be fatal without the right equipment. For this reason, grandpa’s old hemp rope (as in all other mountain sports disciplines) can stay at home. The minimum equipment for a via ferrata therefore consists of a suitable climbing harness, a via ferrata set and a rockfall helmet. In addition, via ferrata gloves and mountaineering or access boots are used.

The climbing harness

Several types of harnesses can be used for via ferrata climbing. Here is a brief overview of when which type should ideally be used.

  • Hip seat belt: The hip seat belt is mainly used for sport via ferrata. It can also be used for classic via ferrata, as long as no heavy backpack is carried.
  • Combination chest and hip belt: Whenever a hip belt does not fit reliably due to the body structure or the body’s center of gravity is shifted upwards, the use of a chest belt becomes necessary in addition to the hip seat belt. Typical case studies: Due to their physique, children have a higher center of gravity than adults. In addition, the hips and waist of petite children in particular are not yet so developed that a seat belt alone is sufficient. Even in the case of obese people, it can happen that the hip belt does not fit well and the body’s center of gravity has shifted. Especially in combination with a heavy backpack, however, it is necessary to wear a chest belt for people with “normal measurements”.
  • Climbing harnesses: Especially for via ferrata, however, complete harnesses, i.e. harnesses that have both leg and shoulder straps, are often used. Belts of this type are also very practical for children.

The Via Ferrata Set

Modern via ferrata sets always come in a Y-shape. This means that in addition to a tie-in loop and a strap fall absorber, they have two arms, each with a via ferrata carabiner. The resulting shape is similar to a Y, hence the name. But what are the individual components good for?

  • The tie-in loop: It is the link between the via ferrata set and the climbing harness. It is important that the via ferrata set is correctly tied into the hip belt or combination harness. No other equipment such as carabiners etc. is necessary for this. The via ferrata set is only tied into the respective rope loop with an anchor stitch [3]. If a combination of hip belt and chest strap is used, these are connected as usual with a figure-of-eight strap, the via ferrata set is then tied in via the lower knot of the figure-of-eight strap.
  • The load arms with via ferrata carabiners: Together with the carabiners, the load arms are the link to the wire rope. The carabiners are hooked into the wire rope and carried along with one hand. Via ferrata carabiners are not simple snap carabiners, but always have a mechanism that prevents unintentional opening.
  • The strap fall absorber: Today only via ferrata sets with strap fall absorbers are used. This is a complex system of tapes with predetermined breaking seams that absorb the energy in the event of a fall and thus reduce the impact force. The strap fall absorber can therefore be seen as a kind of life insurance for via ferrata. If, for example, one would only fall into a tape sling from a corresponding height, the fall would be many times harder and would probably end fatally.

Especially light but also heavy persons must make sure that the via ferrata set is compatible with their weight. The new via ferrata set standard EN 958 has recently come into force. This standard stipulates that via ferrata sets must be designed for a weight range of 40 kg – 120 kg. This specification always refers to the system weight, i.e. man+clothing+equipment. Anyone who is at the top or bottom of this weight specification should take special care when selecting their via ferrata set and pay attention to the certification according to EN 958:2017. Children who weigh less than 40 kg should be secured on the via ferrata.

The Climbing Helmet

All helmets approved for climbing can also be used for via ferrata. Whether one decides to use a hard-shell, inmould or hybrid helmet is not important. What is important is that you wear a suitable rockfall helmet. Bicycle or ski helmets without the appropriate approval have no place here. If you want to learn more about climbing helmets, you are welcome to read Wiebke’s blog post.

In addition to this basic equipment you will usually also need climbing gloves and mountain or approach shoes. Weatherproof clothing as well as a daypack with food etc. should also be part of the equipment.

CLIMBING GLOVES

The main purpose of via ferrata gloves is to protect hands and fingers from injury. The wire ropes of via ferrata routes are seldom absolutely smooth, especially on older or busy climbs it can happen from time to time that individual wires protrude from the ropes. Via ferrata gloves also provide a better grip so that slipping on the wire rope can be avoided, especially in steep or exposed passages. Here’s another tip for beginners on a small budget: via ferrata gloves can also be temporarily replaced by construction gloves. These are always sufficient to protect your hands. However, you often sweat more in construction gloves and the performance is usually lower than with real via ferrata gloves.

Shoes

Similar to hikes or mountain tours, the choice of the right footwear for a via ferrata depends on the terrain. Of course, it is inherent in almost all via ferrata that they are led through more or less steep rock faces by means of wire rope and iron steps, so the requirements are relatively similar for the time being. However, when choosing the right footwear you should consider the whole tour, i.e. ascent, continuation and descent. Basically, hiking boots of the categories B or B/C have proven themselves, but also good access boots with a sole with a climbing area can be comfortable.

CLIMBING – HOW DOES IT ACTUALLY WORK?

Now that we have clarified the question of equipment, let’s have a look at how a via ferrata actually works. However, the explanations we have given are only intended to provide a rough overview and do not claim to be complete. Unfortunately, reading this article is not enough to be able to climb the via ferrata well and safely without any previous knowledge. Sorry…

But let’s start at the beginning. Let’s just assume that the destination has been determined, the weather situation has been checked and found to be good. The journey without traffic jams and surrendering passengers could also be completed satisfactorily and the ascent to the climb has already been made. Now we are here, our first via ferrata. A big and mighty rock face towers above us, a lonely wire rope invites us to climb up an airy height and to get to know unknown worlds. Once again we look back, but the path only leads to the front… Stop! I think I just got a little bit lost in the theatrical horse…

But to the point: Depending on the length of the climb, it is advisable to take care of everything before getting on, which would be much more complicated later in the climb. So have a snack, take off or put on your clothes and disappear again behind the bush. When all this is done, the equipment is put on and the via ferrata set is integrated. Helmet on, gloves on and off we go. When climbing via ferrata, both carabiners of the via ferrata set are always hooked into the wire rope. These are then carried along until the next intermediate safety measure so that they cannot get caught or jam between the wire rope and the rock.

Usually it is sufficient to simply push them forward with one hand. An intermediate safety device on the via ferrata is always in the form of a metal pin. This is firmly anchored in the rock and fixes the wire rope. Thus the carabiners cannot be pushed further here. Once you have reached such an intermediate safety device, you first hang one carabiner, then the other one in the continuing part of the wire rope. This way you are always sufficiently secured. Under no circumstances may both carabiners of the via ferrata set be released from the wire rope at the same time. This principle is continued until you leave the via ferrata set. Climbing is done on the rock as well as with the help of the wire rope, iron steps, ladders etc. An important safety note: Only one climber should move between two belay points of a via ferrata at a time, as otherwise the person following would be dragged along in case of a fall. More questions? Sure thing!

IF I WANT TO TAKE A SHORT REST ON THE VIA FERRATA, MAY I SIT DOWN IN MY VIA FERRATA SET?

No. The via ferrata set is only used to secure and brake falls. If the via ferrata set is loaded regularly, the predetermined breaking points of the strap fall absorber could be damaged beforehand; this can lead to a reduced braking effect. For resting on the via ferrata set, it is therefore advisable to carry a commercially available strap sling with screw carabiner. This is also attached to the rope loop of the climbing harness and can be hooked into the steel rope with the carabiner for breaks. There are also via ferrata sets that have an additional rest loop. If this is available, it can of course also be used for hanging. Important: This additional loop is only for hanging on the via ferrata. Under no circumstances must it be left on the wire rope during climbing/climbing, as it would disable the effect of the via ferrata set. In the event of a fall, this could result in extremely serious injuries.

IF I FALL ON THE VIA FERRATA, WHAT HAPPENS THEN?

An old rule says: On the via ferrata you must not fall! This wisdom certainly dates back to the time when the technique of via ferrata sets was much less reliable than it is today. In the past, only simple tape loops were often used, so that falls were extremely hard. Today this has changed for the better, but falls on the via ferrata should be avoided as much as possible. If a fall does occur, the via ferrata climber falls almost unchecked until the next intermediate safety measure. Once at the intermediate safety point, the attached carabiners are stopped and the energy of the fall is transferred to the via ferrata set. This absorbs the load, the fall absorber breaks and the fall is braked. The catching impact is usually very hard nevertheless and can be accompanied by serious injuries. Therefore, you should never fall into the via ferrata set “for fun” or “just to try it out”. After such a fall, the strap fall absorber of the via ferrata set must be replaced before the next via ferrata is started!

HOW DO I GET THROUGH A CLIMB SAFELY WITH MY CHILDREN?

Especially with light children or bloody beginners, it is recommended to install additional safety devices in addition to the via ferrata set. The procedure is similar to rock climbing. A “pre-climber” secures his “post-climber” (in our example child or beginner) on a rope. This can be done either with a conventional climbing rope and the necessary equipment. In addition, there is for example the Via Ferrata Belay Kit II from Edelrid. This is a safety set with which an additional rope safety device can be quickly and easily installed on the via ferrata.

At last..

Climbing via ferrata is an exciting and varied alternative to hiking or climbing. However, one should not ignore the dangers that this sport brings with it. When choosing a climb, it is therefore important to approach your own limits carefully. The use of via ferrata sets also requires practice and should be tested extensively in easy climbs. If you want to learn more about via ferrata walking, you should consult textbooks such as “Klettersteiggehen” by Bergverlag Rother or “Sicher Klettersteiggehen” by Alpinverlag. Completing a via ferrata course also provides additional know-how and safety.

ABOUT THE SUBTLETIES OF THE CLIP STICK AND WHY IT REALLY MAKES SENSE

26. November 2020
Tips and Tricks

Is a clip stick a useful addition to your climbing equipment for ambitious rock climbers? Or is it more for indoor climbers, who find that the sometimes sparse protection on the rock makes them nervous?

Firstly, what is a clip stick anyway? Shrewd sport climbers will recognise it immediately, it’s a stick with which you can clip. Ideal for express slings with inserted wire rope in bolts. You can also choose to place only the rope in the hanging quickdraw. Sounds logical, but theoretically you can also do it without using your arms. A view on the sense and nonsense of a clip stick:

(more…)

DOWN IMPREGNATION – DOES IT WORK?

19. November 2020
Equipment, Tips and Tricks

Down – a superhero of insulation materials! Synthetic fibres can’t compete. But like every superhero, down also has a nemesis. And in down’s case, this is moisture. Moisture is down’s kryptonite. It is precisely for this reason that impregnated down has been on a seemingly unstoppable advance in the outdoor sector for several years.

But how does it actually work? Can it even work? Let’s take a closer look! (more…)

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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STANDING FREELY WITH YOUR CAMPER VAN – A JOURNEY THROUGH THE (CONFUSING) LAWS OF EUROPE

19. October 2020
Tips and Tricks

Recently I had an idea: Why not just pack the camper and drive across Europe? Just travel and stay where I like or love it. The idea is generally not a bad one, but there are a few things to keep in mind, because you cannot simply park your camper or motorhome at the roadside or on the next best parking lot in Europe. In some European countries this is completely forbidden, in others there are strict rules and other countries have time or regional restrictions. So let’s bring a little light into the darkness and share Europe!

Before we start, one more remark: The regulations for camper parking spaces within Europe are sometimes very complex and confusing. This blog post only serves to give a rough overview of the individual countries. Often, however, regulations that only apply to a small region, a community or a specific season are also applicable. It should also be clear that we can only present the official rules and laws here. How they are implemented in the different countries and locations often depends on many factors that can only be summarized in a few cases. So don’t assume that this article is entirely accurate and complete and recheck the exact rules before starting your trip.

So, enough talking, here we go:

BAD NEWS FIRST – WILD CAMPING IS ALSO FORBIDDEN WITH THE MOTORHOME

In many European countries, free standing is unfortunately strictly prohibited. This has many different reasons, which are not always logical. In principle, however, one should stick to the prohibitions here, as otherwise (and especially in vacation regions) disregarding can lead to expensive fines. Furthermore, it probably does not help to relax if you are woken up by a police patrol in the middle of the night and are asked to drive on or to visit a camping site.

Nevertheless, in most countries there are good alternatives to conventional campsites. In many places, municipalities have designated camping sites. These are mostly conveniently located parking lots where standing is allowed for one night. However, if you want to spend the night on a pitch, you should inform yourself in advance what facilities (electricity, sanitary facilities, etc.) are available there and what the basic rules of conduct are. For example, it is often not allowed to put up chairs or extend the awning.

Another alternative in some countries may be standing on private ground. So if you don’t shy away from contact with the local population and have some diplomatic skills, you might have the chance to persuade a farmer or landowner to camp on his land. However, be careful, because in some countries even staying overnight in a camper van or motor home is not allowed.

Netherlands and Luxembourg

My first thought was: “That cannot be true!” I mean, the Netherlands are the camping country par excellence. But in reality it looks like the rules are very strict. In the Netherlands it is not uncommon to be punished with heavy penalties for standing freely. Luxembourg is no exception, so that in good conscience only the camping site or an officially designated pitch remains.

Switzerland

Also in Switzerland free standing is not allowed. Although there may be regional differences with regard to the exact legal situation and its enforcement, standing freely is and remains prohibited. In order to lend additional emphasis to this prohibition, there are signs on almost every parking lot that prohibit the parking of motor homes at night. There is, however, one ray of hope: Switzerland has numerous good parking spaces, which are not only beautifully located, but also surprisingly inexpensive in price.

CZECH REPUBLIC

Unfortunately, there is no precise legislation in the Czech Republic that regulates overnight stays in vehicles. In principle, camping is only allowed on designated campsites or pitches, which in turn prohibits wild camping (even though there is no specific legal text on this). This regulation also includes free standing with the motorhome.

Whoever is just passing through and would like to spend a night in the car (the smaller and more inconspicuous the Womo the better) can possibly get away with the legal grey area of “overtiredness” or “restoration of driving ability”. However, this should really only be seen as an emergency solution and is no guarantee that the police won’t drop by in the middle of the night and ask what’s going on.

IBERIAN PENINSULA

In Spain, wild camping or free standing with the motorhome is generally prohibited. However there is no nationwide regulation, which makes the exact legal situation very unclear. In some parts of the country even camping on private property is forbidden, even if one can prove the consent of the owner. In other parts of the country, the ban on wild camping is seen a little more relaxed. Basically, however, you should visit official camping sites in Spain. It is also important to pay attention to the current rules and regulations, because also here a violation can lead to penalties.

The situation in Portugal is similar to Spain. Standing freely is generally not allowed. Instead, you can fall back on a very good network of camping sites there.
An overview of the sites and their facilities can be found on the website of Turismo de Portugal.

The Balkans

Basically it can be said that free standing and wild camping of any kind is forbidden in the Balkans. Nevertheless, each country has its own laws, which in some places even differ from region to region. What applies where and how is often not clear to outsiders. In Greece, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia and Hungary you should look for a camping site or pitch. Otherwise, standing on private ground with the consent of the owner would also be an option.

If you already thought: “Damn, these are many countries with strict rules”, it could be even worse. In Bulgaria and Croatia not only the free standing is forbidden, also on private ground may not be spent the night in the camper, motor home or caravan. That is, even if you meet a hospitable population and for example a farmer gives you permission to stand on his meadow for one night, camping itself remains illegal and can lead to the fact that you are woken at night roughly by the police.

YES, NO, MAYBE – FREE STANDING IS POSSIBLE IN THESE COUNTRIES

There are countries in which free standing is neither really allowed nor really forbidden. Some countries allow free standing in principle, but then restrict it again strongly with regional or municipal bans. Others prohibit free standing by law, but do not prosecute it and thus tolerate the actually illegal behavior.

However, it is very important: If you want to stand freely in these countries, do it as unobtrusively as possible. I don’t mean hidden behind thick bushes, but rather that you behave impeccably. So don’t leave any garbage behind, don’t block a lot of parking spaces with your motorhome just because it’s more beautiful then and also hold back with loud music etc. Because one thing you should always keep in mind: One is often only tolerated here and a well-meant gesture quickly turns into the opposite if it is abused.

ICELAND

On Iceland, wild camping, as well as free standing with the camper is officially forbidden. However, this ban has often not been followed in the past, or in other words: free standing was tolerated for one night. In recent years, however, the volume of tourism on the island has increased significantly. This and the unfortunately not seldom inconsiderate behavior of some vacationers led however to the fact that the legal regulation was clearly intensified and is also implemented. In short: If you don’t want to get into trouble here, you should definitely go to a camping site.

FRANCE

Unfortunately, the legal situation in France is totally confusing. Here almost every place has its own regulations concerning wild camping or free standing. That means: First of all, wild camping is not forbidden in principle, but each community decides for itself how to deal with this issue. Each community can also designate special places, locations or areas where camping is allowed. Sometimes these are larger parking lots or the local Camping Municipal. However, camping is forbidden in nature reserves and in the immediate vicinity of springs, sights and monuments.

This does not mean that you cannot stand freely in France, you have to inform yourself on the spot.

A good alternative is also the “France Passion” system. This is a directory that lists over 2000 free parking spaces on private land throughout France. It is not uncommon to find farms or wineries that officially offer one night’s free parking for self-sufficient mobile homes.

GREAT BRITAIN

While free standing is possible in many places in Scotland, different regulations apply in England and Wales. So it is important to know the regional differences for Great Britain. In Scotland, if you keep a reasonable distance (of about 15-20 meters) from public roads, do not disturb or obstruct anyone and (if necessary) get the landowner’s OK, you are absolutely on the safe side.

In England and Wales the rules are much stricter. Nearly all parking spaces there have signs that explicitly prohibit standing overnight. Whoever stops here, however, must expect to be approached by the local law enforcement officers. But if you have the permission of the owner to camp on his private property, there should be no further problems.

AUSTRIA

Similar to France, municipalities and communities in Austria often cook their own little soup. Unfortunately, there is therefore no generally valid regulation. Depending on the area, standing for one night is tolerated. In the regions of Tyrol and Vienna, however, wild camping is prohibited throughout the country. How it behaves with the respective regulations exactly, one inquires best locally. In Austria there are also two large camping clubs, which can provide information.

YAY, THEY STILL EXIST! – THESE COUNTRIES ALLOW FREE STANDING

First of all: The fact that free standing is allowed or at least not prohibited does not mean that you can do whatever you want. Not breaking anything, not leaving any garbage behind, not disturbing anybody and behaving inconspicuously are only the basic rules, which one should actually always keep to anyway. In addition, many countries have additional regulations concerning free standing.

BELGIUM, ITALY, DENMARK AND GERMANY

In Germany you are allowed to stay with your motorhome for one night (and no longer) wherever it is not expressly forbidden. Whoever does this, however, should be aware of the exact legal situation, because this “interruption of the journey” officially only serves the “regeneration of fitness to drive“. Concretely: Whoever feels too tired to continue driving, no matter what time of day, should be allowed to stop in a suitable parking lot and rest until they can drive on again.

However, it is always difficult to define where “restoring fitness to drive” ends and where “camping” begins. If you make use of this regulation, you should never put out chairs, extend the awning, start a great barbecue or any similar activity. It is also recommended to “arrive” as late as possible and continue early the next day. As a rule, a standing time of no longer than 10 hours is assumed. So if you are passing through or want to spend one or two days in areas where the official campsites are clumsy, you will certainly get along well with this regulation.

This regulation applies in principle also to Belgium, Denmark and Italy. Unfortunately, in reality, many parking lots are equipped with prohibition signs. In Italy, this is especially the case in regions with a lot of tourism. It is also not uncommon for motor homes to be banned from entering these areas.

NORWAY AND SWEDEN

Also in Sweden and Norway, free standing is subject to certain conditions and should not be equated with the well-known ‘Everyman’s Right’. Staying overnight at a place outside an official camping or parking site is generally limited to one night. It is also not allowed to drive on forest roads, pathless terrain or nature reserves. In many places there are also regional regulations and bans. However, if you set up your caravan near the road away from populated areas in such a way that you do not obstruct anyone and do not damage the ground, you can easily camp here for one night with a motor home.

CONCLUSION

For many countries it is difficult to make clear and generally valid statements. If you are not sure which regulation applies to your vacation country or region, the tourism associations of the individual countries often help. The ADAC also provides a lot of useful information on this subject.

But no matter which local rules apply, one thing always applies in any case: Take your garbage with you and don’t bother or hinder anyone. After all, if you’re traveling in foreign countries, you’ll usually get more out of your vacation if you can make good time with the locals. And in this way it already worked sometimes that after a purchase of fruit, vegetable or wine from the regional producer, the camping permit on the property was given.

If travelling with a motorhome seems a bit too tricky to you and you are still considering switching to a tent, we will gladly forward you to the corresponding article about wild camping with a tent. In this sense “on the road again”…

Modal fabric: What is it?

12. October 2020
Equipment

In a nutshell, modal fabric is a mix of both synthetic and natural fibres.

But, let’s first take a look at how modal came about: It was created in the 60s during a search for new textile materials whose raw materials can be grown in central Europe.

For a long time, the textiles that emerged were used for specialty garments. However, ever since the interest in both an outdoor-lifestyle and sustainability grew, the demand of such fabrics (such as modal) has grown exponentially.

Synthetic or natural?

Modal is a fibre obtained by beech tree pulp, is chemically processed and is one of the nine regenerated fibres distributed in the world that consists of naturally renewable (“regenerated”) raw materials. Some other known regenerated fibres in the outdoor industry include viscose and Tencel. Plus, these fabrics are made of wood’s cellulose and are therefore called “chemical natural fibres” in contrast to pure natural fibres and synthetic fibres.

Modal is a “structurally-modified viscose with a higher degree of polymerisation (above 400 to 700) compared to normal viscose“. Due to this molecular “update”, modal obtains more functional advantages compared to viscose and is sometimes referred to as “the better viscose.” One of its advantages includes its amazing tensile strength when wet, which is especially useful for outdoor use. Also, modal is more durable, abrasion-resistant and is less prone to shrinkage compared to viscose.

In addition, two types of modal with slightly different functional emphases have been developed: a Polynosic (PN) type that can be optimally blended with cotton and a HWM (High Wet Modulus) type, which features a higher breaking strength and tensile strength. You can read more about this topic in the properties section.

How is it manufactured?

As already mention, modal consists of a raw material called beech wood. And, while viscose can be produced from various basic materials, beech wood is specifically used for modal. Now, let’s take a look at the production process: the wood is first debarked and chipped. Then, these chips are processed using a multi-stage chemical solution process and are then spun mechanically with a spinneret to form the fibres. As a result, cellulose fibres are produced.

Properties

Modal has the ability to combine the advantages of natural and synthetic fibres, without taking on any of their disadvantages. So, modal is a lot more durable than cotton, but still offers the equivalent amount of comfort. And, in comparison to other synthetic fibres, such as polyester, it provides just as much moisture management and feels even softer on the skin.

Both comfort and a pleasant microclimate are modal’s greatest advantages thanks to the fabric’s ability to absorb water and to quickly wick away moisture. Plus, modal absorbs 50% more moisture than cotton. Another advantage: the fabric is super breathable, which now brings us to modal’s amazing functionality. Here, many properties can be mentioned, for example, modal is very stretchy, durable, dimensionally stable, insensitive to heat and easy to care for. In other words, you can throw it into the washing machine and in the dryer without fear of damage, shrinkage or change of colour. And, no matter how many times the modal gets wet, it won’t affect its durability.

Up to now, modal has mainly been processed in fibre blends, where it often has a positive effect on the other fibres’ properties. For instance, cotton becomes softer, silk becomes more durable and linen becomes more stretchy.

Feel and comfort

When it comes to comfort, modal is super impressive. Its fibres’ smooth surface ensures not only softness but also comfort and a silky sheen. Speaking of silk, when touching modal, it’ll feel as if you’re touching silk.

So, it’s not surprising that modal is pleasant to the skin and great for both allergy sufferers and individuals with sensitive skin. As a result of its softness, you’ll mainly find modal in your underwear and other garments that are worn close to the skin. And, despite its softness, garments made of modal and modal blends don’t “sag”, but rather provide a great fit. This is due to the fact that the fabric is elastic, maintains its shape and remains comfortable even after several washes.

Modal for outdoor use

Modal is typically used to make underwear, shirts and long sleeves. And, its functionality really shines through with these garments.

Since modal is cooling rather than warming, it isn’t very windproof and weatherproof. So, modal will boast its amazing properties during strenuous activities and in hot temperatures. However, to create warm outdoor base layers, modal can be combined with merino wool to balance the temperature inside the garment (like an air conditioner).

Classification and comparisons

When comparing modal to natural fibres, such as cotton, or synthetic fibres, such as polyester, you’ll notice that modal stands-out in terms of functionality and eco-friendliness. Plus, in the field of synthetic/natural regenerated fibres, modal is a close-second to TENCEL Lyocell. However, the latter fabric is produced exclusively by the Austrian company called Lenzing AG. As a result, modal is likely to be more readily available in the long term and a tad cheaper. In addition to the TENCEL Lyocell, the company also produces a particularly eco-friendly modal fibre called “Modal Edelweiss”.

In terms of sustainability, the eco-friendly modal is better-than-average in terms of water consumption, energy consumption, land use, use of pesticides and pollutants and waste products compared to natural and synthetic fibres. And, unlike synthetic fibres, the production of modal doesn’t involve the use of fossil raw materials, such as petroleum and natural gas. It’s even more sustainable than natural materials, such as organic cotton, because less water and energy are needed to produce and process modal. As an example, the above-mentioned “Modal Edelweiss” from Lenzing was produced in a closed cycle, where 95% of the chemicals were recovered.

Care

As always, when buying a new garment made of modal, you should keep and read the instructions indicated on the care label. Plus, although modal is very easy to care for, you’ll get the most out of it with the right care. So, here are a few simple tips:

  • Washing the garment with the quick wash cycle prevents unnecessary stress.
  • Reducing the spin speed to a maximum of 600 rpm will also reduce stress.
  • Modal can also be ironed at a low or medium temperature. But luckily, ironing is usually not necessary, since the fabric doesn’t crease.

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!

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