All posts on this topic ‘Equipment’

Say goodbye to wet feet: shoes with Gore-Tex membranes

13. Juli 2018
Equipment

Having wet shoes is one of the most unpleasant things we have to deal with in the great outdoors. The wetness not only makes your feet cold but also leads to dragging between your foot and the shoe, resulting in blisters. Plus, wet shoes become much heavier as a result of the wetness, and it can take several days before they’re completely dry.

Because of the negative effects water can have on our performance, it is absolutely imperative for outdoor athletes to have footwear that keeps their feet dry in all conditions. When it’s wet and muddy, your best option is to go with waterproof shoes with a GORE-TEX® membrane. With models designed for the outdoors and everyday wear, these breathable and waterproof shoes are guaranteed to give you a boost in comfort. When it comes to walking, trekking and mountaineering boots, there’s no outdoorsman who would go without these membranes.

Extended, Performance, Insulated and Surround – the differences between GORE-TEX® shoes

All shoes with a GORE-TEX® membrane are waterproof and breathable. The microporous structure of the GORE-TEX® layer prevents any water getting into the shoe’s interior. The pores are so small that water can’t get in from the outside, but large enough for water vapour to escape through them. On a single square centimetre of the waterproof membrane, there are about 1.4 billion of these tiny pores – making it possible for sweat in the form of water vapour to escape.

To guarantee optimal performance, GORE has continued to adapt their technology to engineer shoes with GORE-TEX® membranes that are perfectly tailored to the needs of athletes. You’ll find their waterproof membranes in everything from ankle-high walking boots and insulated winter boots to lightweight running and multisport shoes.

Waterproof shoes with GORE-TEX® Extended Comfort

GORE-TEX® Extended Comfort was designed to have optimised breathability. The shoes are usually low-cut and made of mesh and often leather (or artificial leather). As a result of the high vapour permeability of the membrane and upper materials, the shoes move moisture away from the skin very efficiently in moderate to high temperatures, making them excellent for higher activity levels. The waterproof GORE-TEX® Extended Comfort membrane is thus often used in running, trail running and other athletic shoes. Walking shoes, casual footwear and even golf shoes are equipped with GORE-TEX® Extended Comfort as well.

Walking shoes with GORE-TEX® Performance Comfort

This GORE-TEX® technology guarantees durable waterproof protection and optimised climate comfort in walking, trekking, approach and outdoor footwear. Even during physically demanding activities and in continuously wet conditions, the (usually) ankle-high boots with the waterproof membrane will keep your feet dry. Deeper puddles, old snow and wet grass are no problem for GORE-TEX® Performance Comfort. The upper, which is usually made of leather, artificial leather or synthetics, does get wet, but the water can’t penetrate into the shoe. Plus, the breathability of the shoe has been optimised for physical activities like hiking and trekking.

The waterproof membrane with extra insulation: GORE-TEX® Insulated Comfort shoes

As with the walking and trekking boots engineered with GORE-TEX® Performance Comfort, outdoor shoes with GORE-TEX® Insulated Comfort are perfect for active hikers and hill walkers. In addition to the reliable waterproof protection and high breathability, GORE-TEX® Insulated Comfort has an extra insulated layer. This makes them an excellent option for cold weather conditions in winter, in the mountains and in colder regions. Whether you’re mountaineering, hill walking in the winter or just looking for a warm, waterproof winter boot, GORE-TEX® Insulated Comfort will serve you well by keeping your feet warm and dry.

Walking boots and casual shoes with GORE-TEX® Surround®

In order to improve the breathability of shoes worn during physically demanding activities and in moderate to high temperatures, GORE developed the GORE-TEX® SURROUND® product technology. GORE-TEX® SURROUND® is as waterproof as the other GORE-TEX® shoes. The difference lies in the innovative construction of the sole. The sole has special ventilation outlets on the side to allow for better water vapour permeability. These openings accelerate sweat removal even in high temperatures and during high-intensity activities – meaning that they provide an optimal microclimate and high level of comfort. GORE-TEX® SURROUND® is used in outdoor, sport and casual shoes. The construction of GORE-TEX® SURROUND® is visible from the outside and embedded in the shoe’s respective design.

Open sole, side openings or side ventilation

GORE-TEX® SURROUND® for casual footwear is available with an open sole. In the bottom of sole are openings that allow excess heat and moisture to escape. Despite these openings, a GORE-TEX® laminate surrounds the foot to prevent water penetrating from the outside. To protect the laminate and your feet from stones or sharp objects, a special protective layer made of extremely strong fleece is used.

Casual shoes with GORE-TEX® SURROUND® are also available with side openings (ventilation grids) in the sole. Heat and moisture are conducted both via the upper and downward through the laminate into the ventilation grid where they can escape through the side openings. The GORE-TEX® SURROUND® construction ensures that your feet stay cool, balanced and comfortable even in higher temperatures.

GORE does not use ventilation openings in the side or bottom of the sole in walking boots. The side openings are positioned somewhat higher. The open construction of the shoes allows moisture and heat to escape from below through the laminate into a spacer. From there, moisture and heat are conducted out of the shoe through side ventilation outlets. This innovative construction makes it possible to offer walking and outdoor footwear that not only have tough, high-traction outsoles but also excellent ventilation, breathability and 100% waterproof protection.

 

GORE-TEX® PRO: built for the extremes

21. Juni 2018
Equipment

When you’re out and about in extreme conditions, GORE-TEX® Pro offers maximum weather protection and the highest level of durability. Be it sharp rock on a mountaineering adventure, heavy snowfall on a ski day or heavy rains on a long trek, the most durable of all GORE-TEX® fabrics is built to withstand it all. It is made for activities and weather conditions that would cause most other materials to eventually fail.

If you combine a GORE-TEX® Pro hardshell jacket with a pair of GORE-TEX® Pro trousers, you’re guaranteed to be comfortable and protected from wind and water. In fact, this combo is so comfortable that it is perfect for longer trips, regardless of whether they extend over multiple days or multiple weeks. You can always rely on functional garments engineered with GORE-TEX® Pro, even in the most difficult conditions.

Extremely strong and optimally sealed

The combination of the microporous GORE-TEX® membrane and the support material is then referred to as a laminate, and an extremely tough one at that. Both the lining and the outer material used for GORE-TEX® Pro garments are extremely durable, so you can be sure that they’re built to last. As a result, any wear and tear caused by repeated contact with rock and ice or simply carrying a heavy pack on a long trek or approach to your favourite crag won’t damage the material or the membrane.

To ensure that these functional textiles have no weak spots when it comes to the waterproof protection they provide, all seams on GORE-TEX® fabrics are sealed with Gore-Seam Tape. This prevents moisture getting in through the seams, even during periods of intense and prolonged rainfall. The patented seam-sealing technique is a basic GORE technology used in every GORE-TEX® Pro product – with absolutely no exceptions.

Breathability and sport

GORE-TEX® Pro is not just designed for extreme weather and the most rugged conditions, but it actually allows outdoor adventurers and mountain athletes to perform to their full potential under the most extreme of conditions as well. Regardless of whether you’re on an expedition, multi-week trek or multi-day mountain or ski tour, you need excellent breathability in addition to durability and weather protection.

Thus, the laminate with the microporous membrane offers very good water vapour permeability as well. When compared to GORE-TEX® membranes designed for highly aerobic activities, like trail running, GORE-TEX® Pro has a slightly lower level of breathability. However, this is by no means a downside. In fact, this results in the perfect combo of vapour permeability and laminate strength. GORE-TEX® Pro prevents a build-up of sweat, thereby providing maximum comfort during physical activities. Plus, GORE-TEX® Pro is so efficient that it is guaranteed to maintain the same level of comfort when you’re alternating between physically demanding activities and recovery phases.

Tested for extreme conditions

To meet their performance standards out on the trails and up in the mountains, GORE has developed extreme testing procedures to put their weatherproof hardshell jacket and trousers to the ultimate test. In these tests, they challenge their fabrics by simulating long, heavy rains with strong winds to ensure that the products can withstand the harsh environments they’ve been made for. Only when the GORE-TEX® Pro garment withstands the vertical and horizontal shower GORE throws at it, will the design of the garment be worn by athletes who then test the GORE-TEX® garment out in the mountains under extreme everyday conditions.

Do keep in mind that optimum breathability is only guaranteed by combining functional underwear and mid-layers that support the vapour permeability. In order to ensure that GORE-TEX® Pro garments perform to their potential, it is essential that all layers of garment draw moisture away from the body. The proper care of GORE-TEX® garments is also crucial for maintaining breathability and durability.

Light & Fast: Speed hiking gear

14. Juni 2018
Equipment

Speed hiking is booming. Not only is it a great way to train, but it’s also a lot of fun. But, what all do you need for this increasingly popular outdoor sport? Do beginners have to spend a lot of money on super-expensive gear to get the most out of the sport? Or will something basic be enough to get you started?

What’s the best equipment to hike with? What should I pack and what can I leave at home? Well, if you keep on reading, we’ll try to answer all your burning questions and more!

Hiking is easiest when you go light

Let’s get one thing out of the way first: You don’t have to spend all your savings on expensive speed hiking gear in order to get started.

Sure, to maximise the fun and minimise your risk of injury on the trails, you need quality equipment. But don’t fret. Even though high quality and high prices often go hand in hand, there are plenty of affordable options out there as well. Besides, all you need to zoom over the trails is good clothing, good shoes, a small backpack and sturdy walking poles.

In other words, you don’t need to deck yourselves out with an array of new gear and relegate your old stuff to storage. Instead, invest your hard-earned money in the essentials.

Speed hiking gear is subjected to high stress and a lot of wear and tear, so it has to be able to withstand quite a bit. But, most important of all: your kit should be light. After all, nothing is more taxing than carrying around extra weight! Having to carry too heavy a load will slow you down, deplete your energy stores, damage your joints and could even lead to permanent problems. That being said, light and durable are paramount. If you’d like to find some super-lightweight shoes, backpacks and functional clothing, you can have a look at the ultra-light products in our shop!

The core of any speed hiking kit: the poles

Now to the nucleus, the MVP, the key player or the core of a speed hiking kit: the speed hiking poles! Poles not only help to provide stability in technical terrain but also support your arm muscles to propel you uphill and take the strain off your joints by distributing the weight on the downhills. The more intense the route, the higher the stress on the poles. As with your other pieces of kit, your poles should be as lightweight as possible. The best option here are carbon poles, which are incredibly strong, yet lightweight. In fact, it doesn’t get much lighter than carbon-reinforced plastic. Plus, they give some joint-friendly shock absorption as well.

And what about the kind of poles? Your best option would be Nordic walking or trail running poles. Ordinary walking poles won’t do because of their lack of wrist straps. The straps on walking or trekking poles have been specifically designed so that you can slip your hands out quickly. Speed hikers, however need specially shaped straps that fit well around their wrists to promote the proper walking technique and rhythm. That’s why you’ll find that many manufacturers are now making speed hiking poles that have been specifically designed to meet the needs of speed hikers.

Clothing and backpacks for speed hiking

In addition to speed hiking poles, you need speed hiking clothing: The clothing you choose should be light and allow for enough freedom of movement. In other words, you can use anything you’ve used for outdoor activities in the past. The only thing is, it should be comfortable and functional.

Because speed hiking is such a physically demanding sport, the last point is of utmost importance. Breathable clothing, preferably with ventilation options, prevents your body from overheating and makes it possible to maintain a certain level of performance. Some popular brands even have their own speed hiking range, like Salewa with their Pedroc series.

Your choice of clothing also plays a crucial role in how much weight you save. Depending on the route and weather conditions, you could strip it down to the bare essentials so that you don’t have to lug around any unnecessary weight whatsoever. If you’re planning on going on a multi-day hike, a layering system is the way to go. All the stuff you don’t need at any given moment, like your waterproof, can be stuffed in your backpack. Of course, this won’t make the weight disappear David Copperfield style, but at least you don’t have to wear it. The trick is that it does indeed make your movements quicker.

Speaking of backpacks, what kind of features should it have? As you’ve probably already guessed, your backpack should weigh as little as possible. So, try to find a compact and lightweight backpack with comfortable, ergonomic shoulder straps. Your speed hiking pack should fit snugly against the back and not wobble when you make quick movements.

Another important thing to consider is ventilation. The back should be ventilated so that there’s no build up of heat or excess sweat. Running or trail running packs are a great option, provided that they have enough storage. Once you’ve found the right backpack, pack it carefully. Make sure you have a walking map, first-aid kit, GPS device and of course enough water. But, remember: Every extra gram on your shoulders weighs twice or even three times as much when you’re speed hiking.

A fast foot needs some quality footwear – What are some good speed hiking shoes?

And now for the part of your kit that your speed-hiking self quite literally rests on: your shoes and socks! First, let’s talk shoes. Your choice of shoes depends on the trip and speed. But, you still need to keep weight in mind.

Your shoes shouldn’t be too heavy but durable enough to be able to withstand the wear and tear that comes with the trails. If you’re a fast speed hiker and rarely veer off hiking trails, low-top trainers (like sturdy trail running shoes) are an excellent choice. They will give you the traction and surefootedness you need for the trails whilst ensuring that your ankles remain mobile.

If you’re venturing into more difficult terrain, you may want to opt for shoes with more ankle support to prevent rolling it and getting injured. Regardless of which shoes you choose, be sure to break them in thoroughly beforehand to prevent blisters and hot spots!

In terms of socks, you just need to make sure you are comfortable. Socks should not be too loose, but fit snugly. Otherwise, they will have a negative impact on the shoe’s fit and cause chafing, which can lead to some painful blisters. Some speed hikers also swear by compression socks. These are thought to prevent swelling in your legs as well as over-acidification in the calf muscles by improving blood flow, leading to improvements in your performance.

As you can see, the investment you have to make to get started isn’t all that big! So, what are you waiting for? Start speed hiking!

GORE-TEX® ACTIVE: Stay light and fast

14. Juni 2018
Equipment

Because of the efficient weather protection it provides, the GORE-TEX® Active laminate is the ideal solution for physically demanding endurance sports in cool and changeable weather conditions. This fabric has been specifically designed for highly aerobic outdoor activities and is characterised by a high level of breathability, low weight and a small pack size.

This makes GORE-TEX® Active the perfect fabric for producing windproof, waterproof and breathable outdoor clothing geared toward athletes who want to move as easily and quickly as possible in the flatlands or up in the mountains. The efficiency of the extremely breathable GORE-TEX® Active fabric really shines during fast-pace, high-intensity sports like trail running, running, ski touring, cross-country skiing and cycling – be it road cycling or mountain biking.

A waterproof laminate with next-to-skin comfort

The ultra-thin membrane in the GORE-TEX® Active laminate has a microporous structure that allows the water vapour molecules to escape through the pores to the outside. Because these pores are much smaller than water droplets, the GORE-TEX® membrane is also impervious to rain, giving you a waterproof garment that will keep you dry, even if it’s really bucketing down.

With the GORE-TEX® Active laminate, the liner and membrane are directly connected to each other, guaranteeing comfort, optimum breathability and vapour permeability. GORE calls this Next-To-Skin, a technology designed to reduce the amount of sweat underneath the fabric.

Lightweight functional apparel for aerobic activities

GORE-TEX® Active products are the perfect solution for strenuous endurance sports and changeable weather conditions. The high breathability (RET<3) and reliable weather protection provided by these fabrics allow athletes to keep their GORE-TEX® Active hardshell jackets on without sacrificing comfort. Even if you’re anticipating sunny and milder conditions, the Next-To-Skin technology will ensure that you stay dry and comfortable at all times. That way, you won’t have to keep taking your jacket off and putting it back on.

In order to achieve the low weight and level of breathability GORE-TEX® Active garments are known for, GORE uses lightweight fabrics for the outer material. These fine high-performance fabrics have an excellent weight-to-strength ratio, but GORE-TEX® Active fabrics have nowhere near the level of durability that GORE-TEX® Pro laminates are known for. In other words, whilst a GORE-TEX® Active jacket isn’t suitable for wear with heavy trekking rucksacks, the functional fabric is durable enough to withstand the load of a light day pack or hydration pack, even when used on a regular basis or during very intense physical activity.

Get the most out of GORE-TEX® Active with proper care and the right functional underwear

Thanks to the use of Next-To-Skin technology, you can sport GORE-TEX® Active fabrics right up against your skin and still feel nice and dry, so you can choose to wear a short-sleeved or long-sleeved base layer under the breathable hard shell. For your base, you want something that wicks away moisture quickly and efficiently, like high-quality functional underwear made of synthetic fabric, or a tee or long-sleeved shirt made of merino wool. Depending on the outside temperature, you can also add a warm, breathable mid-layer.

Because of the amount of sweat the body produces during aerobic activities and how dirty that sweat makes your jacket, it is extremely important to wash, care and proof GORE-TEX® Active clothing on a regular basis. This will keep the microporous structures free of any contaminates and maintain the high level of breathability for a long time to come.

How GORE-TEX® membranes work

21. Juni 2018
Equipment

Today, GORE-TEX® is the epitome of waterproof and breathable garments. Regardless of whether you’re skiing, cycling, mountaineering at work or just going about your everyday life, you can always rely on the high-quality products engineered with GORE-TEX® membranes – at least that’s what the American brand claims. In the following, we’re going to have a closer look at the composition of this membrane and what makes it so special.

Bill Gore sees the potential of PTFE

The development of the GORE-TEX® membrane was more than just a lucky coincidence for the US chemist Bill Gore. Gore worked as a researcher at the chemical company DuPont in the 1950s, which has made a host of valuable contributions to the outdoor industry in the form of ground-breaking inventions and innovative fibres such as nylon, Lycra, Kevlar and neoprene. Interestingly enough, DuPont failed to see any benefit in continuing Bill Gore’s research on polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE for short), but Gore did.

In 1958, Bill Gore realised his dream and founded his own company, W.L. Gore & Associates, Inc, which grew from a classic American start-up based in a cellar into a global corporation with over 10,000 employees. Bill Gore had initially dedicated his research to new applications for the electrical industry until his son Bob accidentally discovered ePTFE, the material used to make all our dreams of breathable & waterproof outdoor apparel come true.

By the way, the ePTFE membrane is not just used in waterproof gear – GORE’s portfolio includes industrial applications, medical implants (e.g. artificial arteries) and industrial applications based on the research into and development of PTFE and ePTFE.

From PTFE to ePTFE – from ePTFE to the GORE-TEX® membrane

Since we and the majority of our readers are laypeople with limited knowledge in chemical processes, we thought it’d be best to explain how ePTFE was discovered like this: When Bob Gore was experimenting with PTFE, he yanked the material suddenly, discovering that it could stretch quite a bit without getting ruined. The expanded (i.e. „e“ PTFE) material not only remained solid after stretching, but formed a microporous structure as well.

This microporous structure of expanded polytetrafluoroethylene is, of course, extremely small and not visible to the naked eye. However, you can see the large openings in the material under an electron microscope. There are about 1.4 billion of these tiny pores on a single square centimetre of the waterproof membrane. And as luck would have it, this pore size just happens to be ideal to guarantee both waterproof protection and breathability in functional clothing as well!

Much smaller than a water droplet and large enough for water vapour

Water vapour molecules are very small, much smaller than the pores in the GORE-TEX® membrane. The pores are even 700 times larger than the vapour molecules, so the latter can travel from one side of the membrane to the other unhindered. For the outdoor athlete, this means that the vapour from sweat can escape through the membrane, keeping you dry.

As for liquid water, water droplets are much larger than the pores in the GORE-TEX® membrane. In fact, the pore in the microporous membrane is about 20,000 times smaller than the smallest drop of water, so there’s no way it’s getting through those microscopic pores, even if there is a lot of them or you run into some heavy rains.

The GORE-TEX® membrane becomes a durable laminate

An expanded PTFE membrane looks like a thin, flexible plastic film. Even in its raw form, the membrane is already windproof, waterproof and breathable, but its strength has yet to reach the optimum level. Mechanical abrasion or damage caused by sharp objects can lead to holes through which water can penetrate.

This is why the GORE-TEX® membrane used for functional clothing, gloves and outdoor footwear must be made into laminate first. This means that the GORE-TEX® membrane is bonded to a backer material to form a single unit. For outdoor garments, the outer material used with membranes is usually a hard-wearing synthetic fabric made of either nylon or polyester. When bonded together, the outer material and membrane form a solid laminate. Fortunately, neither the breathability nor the waterproof properties of the fabric is affected as a result, which is due in large part to the careful choice of the outer fabric and excellent production processes.

Whether we refer to the laminate as a 2-layer or 3-layer GORE-TEX® laminate depends on the lining. The three-layer construction uses a lining that is bonded directly to the membrane from the inside. This means that the GORE-TEX® membrane is sandwiched between the outer material and the comfortable lining, providing optimum protection from dirt and damage from both sides. In contrast, a two-layer construction uses a separate lining.

The specific differences and characteristics of each of the GORE-TEX® products, such asGORE-TEX® Active, GORE-TEX® Pro, GORE-TEX® Paclite®, GORE-TEX® C-KNIT® or GORE-TEX® 2-layer products will be explained in detail at a later date. What we will say, however, is that some of the main differences between 2-layer and 3-layer laminates lie in their weight and strength. While ultra-light GORE-TEX® jackets for trail runners are made from lightweight laminates, those extremely tough expedition jackets designed for mountaineers are made from stronger, more durable laminates.

Getting the most out of a GORE-TEX® membrane

The finished laminates with integrated GORE-TEX® membranes are the basis for windproof, waterproof and breathable hardshell jackets, ski gloves and walking boots. But, in order for the microporous membrane to perform to its potential when you’re adventuring, exercising or working, you need to keep a few things in mind:

To ensure that the membrane maintains complete breathability, which is responsible for transporting water vapour molecules through the GORE-TEX® membrane, there has to be a difference in temperature and humidity between the inside and the outside of the garment. This means that the breathability of a jacket with a GORE-TEX® membrane works best in low to mid-range temperatures.

To ensure the long-term functionality of GORE-TEX® products, it is absolutely essential to care for them properly and regularly. With frequent wear, the insides of functional garments inevitably become contaminated with sweat, dirt and sunscreen, all of which can negatively affect the breathability of the fabric. However, if you wash your GORE-TEX® products on a regular basis, both the durability and the breathability of the garment will be significantly improved.

Hardshell clothing is generally worn as part of a layering system and forms the weatherproof outer shell, which is responsible for shielding you from wind and rain. However, to ensure that the fabric is just as breathable as it is waterproof, the rest of your layers have to move water vapour away from the body just as well as your shell does. If you’re wearing anything that lacks moisture-wicking properties under your hard shell, the GORE-TEX® membrane won’t perform to its full potential. This is why outdoor athletes opt for functional underwear and warm mid-layers made of breathable synthetic fabrics. These allow water vapour to travel quickly and unhindered to the outside.

As you’ve probably already gathered, there’s really no way around GORE-TEX®. It’s a staple in the outdoor industry and it seems like it’s here to stay. There are pros and cons to this, especially when you consider the fact that ePTFE is not entirely safe, but we won’t go into that here. If you have any general questions about GORE-TEX®, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Material: What is carbon?

21. Juni 2018
Equipment

All you adventurers out there have surely heard of carbon. After all, it is used in all kinds of sports equipment and is celebrated by many a gearhead because of its lightness and stiffness (not strength!).

If you have any questions as to the reasoning behind this distinction, you should definitely read on. In this post, we’re going to take a deep dive into carbon, describing its properties, composition and advantages and disadvantages as compared to materials that tend to be cheaper, such as aluminium.

What is carbon anyway?

Lightweight carbon is a becoming more and more popular option for all kinds of sports equipment. The word carbon comes from the Latin word for coal (carbo) and refers to the chemical element carbon. Carbon is pretty important stuff. Without it, the earth would be nothing more than a rock without any biological structures – so obviously no humans either. In other words, you could consider the carbon used in our outdoor gear to be a natural material, at least if you look at it over its long process of transformation. Coal’s carbon comes from an array of different substances, but most notably from decomposed plants, from which petroleum is derived. And it is petroleum, which consists of several hydrocarbons, that serves as source material in plastic production.

Admittedly, this isn’t the whole story and really only half the truth. What we colloquially refer to as carbon actually only consists in part of the wafer-thin carbon fibres. That’s why, it would actually be more correct to say: carbon fibre reinforced polymer(CFRP). Still, this doesn’t really explain what carbon is. So, let’s get even more specific and talk about what carbon is made up of.

What is carbon made of?

For a start, allow me to mention that what we commonly referred to as carbon is a combination, with the only the fibre bit consisting of carbon and the rest of other chemicals. In other words, it’s a composite material. To make things even more complicated, composites of CFRP and GFRP are also treated as carbon. GFRP is short for “glassfibre reinforced plastic“.

The carbon fibres/glass fibres are combined with a matrix, usually a polymer resin. The matrix serves to bind the fibres together in grid-like structure and fills in the gaps. A common polymer resin is epoxy, which is a thermoset resin, which contains all sorts of chemical elements, but no carbon fibres. To put it simply, thermoset is a plastic that is not malleable after curing by means of heat and can withstand high mechanical stress.

Carbon is stiff but not necessarily high strength

Don’t worry, we’re not going to give a lecture on the science of this material, but we are going to delve just deep enough to ensure that you have a basic understanding of the properties of carbon equipment. This will then enable us to compare carbon to other materials, such as aluminium. Whilst the carbon fibres add high strength and stiffness to the composite material, the matrix prevents the fibres from shifting against each other when under stress. Since the composite material is only really stable in the direction of the fibres, the fibres are usually laid out in different directions.

These complex patterns are what gives carbon the stiffness it’s known for. Stiffness is, however, not to be confused with strength. The former describes a high resistance to (elastic) deformation – the material does not vibrate or move under increasing stress, but then breaks apart abruptly under high stress. Strength, on the other hand, is the resistance to mechanical stress. A material that is very stiff does not necessarily have to be strong, and can in fact be easily broken.

Carbon is not always carbon

Since there are various carbon composites and fibre arrangements, all of which produce different tensile, compressive, impact and breaking strengths as well as different levels of stiffness and damping properties, it is very difficult to get an idea of the exact construction and properties of the carbon used, independent of the manufacturer’s specifications.

The complicated composition of carbon not only makes it less transparent in general but also more expensive than similarly durable metals. So, why opt for carbon over aluminium, when the latter seems to have all the properties you would want? Well, when it comes to sports equipment such as walking poles, road bikes or fishing rods, you need an extremely high level of stiffness at the lowest weight possible. And here, high-quality carbon is second to none. Wait, high-quality carbon? Doesn’t that imply that there’s an inferior kind of carbon?

Low-quality carbon may be rare, but it does exist. And, contrary to popular belief, high-quality carbon doesn’t necessarily have the highest amount of carbon fibres, but the best composites in the best matrix. Here are some examples: To have a pole made of „100% carbon“ would be overkill because although it may be ultralight and stiff, it would also break quickly because of how brittle it would be.

80-90% is ideal, as it provides both stiffness and damping properties along with breaking strength. 60-70% carbon usually means an increase in weight but also more stability (and a more affordable price tag). If a pole has less than 60%, there’s really no advantage over aluminium poles in an identical or lower price range, according to experts.

However, the percentage alone does not determine the quality of a product. You’ve got to have additional information and at least some expertise in order to determine other important contributing factors. Fortunately, though, you can rely on manufacturers such as Leki or Komperdell to use high-quality materials. As long as you don’t opt for some cheap model at a random discount store, you can generally expect your poles to perform reliably in normal conditions. You’d really have to get majorly stuck between some massive rocks or roots to break a high-quality pole.

Carbon vs. aluminium

Simply put: Aluminium is harder to snap, whilst carbon is stiffer. In other words:

Aluminium vibrates under stress and is unlikely to break under high stress, whilst carbon tends to fail with jagged breaks.

In theory, the slower buckling of aluminium is less dangerous in the event of a fall. However, this only applies in situations where an average adult’s entire body weight falls abruptly on the pole. But no need to worry: As long as the walking poles aren’t some cheap knock-off, they can only snap as a result of unfortunate lateral pressure applied during uncontrolled movements on loose ground.

However, caution is advised when the poles are extended to nearly full length, especially when it comes to aluminium poles because it can have a negative effect on their stability. For this reason and because of their better shock absorption, high-quality carbon poles are recommended for Nordic walking, which is popular among heavier individuals. In general, tall or heavier outdoor enthusiasts should opt for more stable, high-quality and slightly heavier poles.

Neither is better – just different

Whilst carbon and aluminium poles have approximately the same breaking strength and stability, the carbon models have a slight advantage when it comes to their weight, namely about 10% as compared to their aluminium counterparts. And, this is reflected in their higher price. When it comes to basic models for beginners, aluminium seems to be the better option, mostly because of the lower price tag. But, these are just estimates based on the options we have available in our shop. Also: the lighter your poles are, the better the handling will be and the slower you’ll fatigue.

Another factor is water: If you consider the fact that aluminium poles tend to corrode when exposed to water and should be taken apart and dried after walks in the rain, one could think that you should opt for carbon instead. But this is not necessarily the case. Carbon is not necessarily better than aluminium. For example, alpinists who often travel on rough gravely terrain, (good) aluminium poles would be the better choice.

Since the advantages of carbon and aluminium are not mutually exclusive, several manufacturers like Leki or Black Diamond use both in the same model to achieve the perfect balance between things like stiffness and robustness.

Of course, the balance of advantages and disadvantages of carbon varies depending on the type of equipment. Because of the malleability of aluminium, carbon would be the much better option to use as a stabiliser in the sole of your ski touring boots or the upper on your cycling shoes than aluminium ever would be.
We hope this article has shed some light on carbon!

Shoes built to last: An introduction to different shoe lasts

26. April 2018
Equipment

It’s probably safe to say that all of our readers know that there are different shoe sizes out there. The same goes for the fact that the shoe’s size usually refers to the length of the shoe, which in turn corresponds to the length of the foot with some added room at the toe. This should be 1 to 2 cm for mountain boots, since your swollen feet would otherwise eventually start rubbing up against the front of the boots on longer descents.

For a lot of people out there, that’s often all the knowledge they need to buy a well-fitting pair of shoes. For others, though, it can be more of a challenge. Why? Well, if your foot doesn’t correspond with the foot shape that any given manufacturer has set as their standard, you’ll end up having quite a hard go of it. After all, your foot type is not just determined by length AND it can deviate slightly from the norm (which is a statistical size that only exists on paper). That said, it’s important for you to know a few more things about shoes than just your shoe size if you want the perfect fit.

Foot shape = last shape = shoe shape

Since the last is often listed among a shoe’s specs, one could think of it is one of its components. But, a last is not part of the shoe. Rather, a last is something you’d find lying around in a manufacturer’s workshops or among a shoemaker’s tools, where it serves as a blueprint, giving a shoe and its sole their form. The fact that it is only a rough copy of the foot, without the toes and other fine details, is completely sufficient because the soft inside of the shoe doesn’t need to be an exact copy of the human foot.

This foot-shaped block is often carved by hand and is made mostly of wood. The ones used for mass production are usually plastic. Most manufacturers use a standard last as a guide for their shoe series and try to accommodate different foot shapes with additional insoles. Sometimes, the standard lasts are produced in a wider and a narrower version, but this can make production considerably more complex and expensive. Only very few put forth the effort to provide several lasts for different foot shapes. Since a shoe last is nothing more than just the shape of the foot and is often named after particular foot shapes , it’s a good idea to get a little better acquainted with the human foot before reading about lasts! Let’s get started.

Foot types and anatomy

There are two criteria according to which foot types are usually classified: the toe shape and the overall foot shape. There are three common toe types and four foot shapes.

The most common types of toes are Egyptian, Roman and Greek.

  • The Egyptian foot is distinguished by the big toe being the longest, whilst toes 2 to 5, when viewed from above, descend gradually at forty-five degree angle.
  • The Roman foot is distinguished by the second and (sometimes) the third/middle toe having the same length as the big one, whilst the rest are smaller.
  • The Greek foot is distinguished by the second toe being longer than the big toe and the middle toe being the same length or shorter than the big one.

This classification is admittedly more precise than just the length, but it doesn’t really say much about the rest of the foot (i.e. the shape of the foot). That’s why we classify foot types as well. The four main foot types are Romanic, Anglo-Saxon, Germanic and Baltic:

  • The Anglo-Saxon foot is relatively straight, narrow and elongated, with a long dominant big toe.
  • The Germanic foot is sickle-shaped and narrower at the heel than at the forefoot.
  • The Romanic type is significantly straighter than the Germanic and overall quite wide and voluminous.
  • The Baltic foot is the wide variant of the Anglo-Saxon foot, where the big toe is even more dominant and the heel is equal in width to the forefoot.

Whether or not this applies to the whole world, I can’t say, but it should cover pretty much all of the European foot shapes.

Who determines whether a foot is wide or narrow?

Width may be the simplest of the foot’s basic characteristics, but the question remains: How do you determine what is wide and what is narrow based on the length of any given foot? This info is rarely provided, so oftentimes you just have to eyeball it. You can only derive an approximate conversion factor from length and width size charts, as for example from the Bont size chart Here is an example for shoe size EU 45:

Length: 28.5 cm The width of a „“normal foot““ in size 45 would then be between 10.6 and 11 cm. A „“narrow foot““ would then be smaller than 10.6 cm and a „“wide foot““ larger than 11 cm. One could derive a conversion factor from this, but it doesn’t really make sense because it’ll change from shoe size to shoe size. It is easier to look at the chart.

Things only get worse though. If you were to combine width along with its characteristics narrow, normal and wide with the four toe types listed above, you would come to a grand total of twelve possible foot types. If these were then combined with the four foot shapes, the result would be 48. That means 48 different kinds of feet would be in need of a proper last and shoe! Since there are also many other differently shaped „“foot sections““ such as the toes, ball, heel, bridge, arch, etc., all of which can be in different proportions to each other, the combinations are virtually endless.

I know what you’re thinking: the human foot and its representation in shoes is complex stuff! Indeed, and when it comes to the anatomy of the human foot, it gets even more confusing due to the foot’s complex construction. The simplest way to divide up the foot anatomically is to take three sections: the forefoot, midfoot and hindfoot. Granted, it’s not very precise, but it is practical because you always know exactly where you are!

For more volume: the bridge

We’ve talked about length and width, but we’ve failed to mention anything about height. Height is an extremely important factor when it comes to choosing the proper shoes and is determined primarily by the bridge of the foot. The bridge starts at the toes and extends to the ankle and lower tibia. It can be flat or steep and can influence the shape of the foot in a huge way.

A “steeper” bridge would require a shoe that has quite the roomy upper. Thanks to a shoe’s tongue and lacing, the height and width of the upper can normally be adjusted for an adequate fit over most bridges. Insoles can also be used to alter the volume of a shoe, but this should be your last resort. Try to find a proper shoe first.

Special cases

Hallux valgus: What sounds like something in the stomach is actually a lateral deviation of the big toe characterised by a painful bulge of the metatarsophalangeal joint resulting from constant contact with the shoe. Hallux valgus is usually caused by frequently wearing inappropriate footwear in conjunction with an unnatural use of your foot when walking. Some manufacturers offer special lasts for this deformity, but more on that later.

Flat feet: Flat feet are so common that some manufacturers use special lasts for this as well. Here, the weakened muscles in the longitudinal arch allow the bones to sink towards the ground as opposed to holding them in place. This results in the entire sole of the foot being near or coming into complete contact with the ground. The collapse of the longitudinal arch can then eventually cause pes valgus, a condition where the foot tilts inward. If this happens, you will have a much harder time finding the perfect shoe.

Last but not least – splayfoot. This one of the most common foot misalignments. Splayfoot is a misalignment characterised by weakened muscles in the transverse arch and a wider forefoot resulting from the metatarsal bones splaying.

The above-mentioned foot problems also occur simultaneously and tend to build off of each other. But, let’s not get into that. Describing diagnoses and symptom progressions would go far beyond the scope of this post. Our aim is merely to provide and overview rather than focussing on minor details and unique cases.

So many different types of feet: Different manufacturers and their lasts

In order to accommodate the variety of foot shapes to at least some extent, manufacturers must have a selection of standard lasts. Most manufacturers use between two and six different lasts, which they divide up among different models and series. Only rarely are there different versions, such as extra wide or extra narrow, for one and the same model. Nevertheless, most manufacturers offer a wide range of sizes and shapes, which means that a correspondingly large number of different lasts are required as guides. Let’s look at some examples.

Lowa allows you to filter your search for specific models not only by standard criteria like shoe size, gender or shoe types, but also by wide and narrow lasts.

They even describe the various lasts in the menu option “fit and quality“. Lowa has modelled special lasts for each shoe type according to specific requirements and experience. Lowa also uses special lasts for the women’s models. The distinction between the last shapes is more or less self-explanatory, as they correspond to the shape of the foot:

  • Standard lasts: normal last shape
  • S-last (narrow): less volume around forefoot/ball area
  • W-last (wide): more volume around forefoot/ball area
  • WXL last: expanded toe box combined with more volume around arch/instep

Hanwag not only has slightly different shapes and terminology, but also has more variety in their lasts than virtually any other manufacturer. In addition to the gender-specific lasts, there are lasts for specific applications (e.g. slightly wider for the Trek and Trek Light series, narrower for the Rock series). Plus, there are six special lasts for people who do not have a „“standard foot““:

  • Wide lasts: The heel area has been constructed normally, but the shoe offers more room around the forefoot and ball of the foot. Wide models are for people for whom a „“normal““ shoe would be too narrow around the forefoot.
  • Narrow lasts: This last is intended for people who feel a normal shoe is too wide. The Hanwag Tatra, for example, is one of their narrow fit models.
  • Bunion lasts: Bunions is a well-known problem, especially among women, but it is also something many boulderers and sport climbers deal with. Hanwag offers a one-of-a-kind bunion last with significantly more room around the big toe.
  • StraightFit lasts: This last offers an extremely generous toe box and is intended for people with a wide forefoot.
  • Alpine Wide lasts: The normal Alpine lasts are narrower for a better performance. If you prefer a bit more space, grab a shoe with an Alpine Wide fit. You can always wear thicker socks.
  • Naturalfit lasts: NaturalFit technology promotes the natural posture of the foot and kind of imitates walking barefoot. It’s great for both travel and everyday life.

The Italian brand AKU uses six different lasts for their outdoor shoes, covering a very similar range of shapes as Hanwag. You can find out more about the lasts on their website under “The Last”.

Other brands, like Meindl don’t provide descriptions of their lasts, but they do allow you to search for specific models by foot shape or other filters.

Dachstein has also incorporated shoe width into their search filter. Unfortunately, this only covers one of the many possible shapes and characteristics of a foot/last/shoe.

Conclusion

A truly precise filter that allows you to combine several characteristics may be a tall task for any manufacturer to implement, considering how precise the specs of each shoe would have to be, but it’s still doable. But, it’s a different story for online retailers that carry X number of brands. To do it would be nothing less than a Herculean feat, if you ask me, especially since you’d need somebody with a trained eye to do it! Not to mention the fact that the series and models constantly change.

That said, there’s really no way around finding our your own foot size/shape/type. Ask yourself the following questions: Do I have a Baltic foot? Is my foot narrow or wide? All the shoe size charts online can act as a point of reference. Unfortunately, there are very few available that have more than just foot length, as the Bont chart does.

There are several solid approaches out there, but none of them has managed to incorporate foot types, lasts and shoes into one perfect blend. If you are looking for the perfect last, you’ll just have to consult the individual manufacturers. I hope this article has made things a bit easier to understand and will help you in the future.

The Ohm from Edelrid – A difference maker

26. April 2018
Equipment

Good news for heavier climbers and lighter belayers: Thanks to Edelrid’s spectacular new device – the OHM – you can go climbing together! But before you do, we thought we’d put the OHM to the test and let you know what it can and can’t do, who it’s suitable for and most importantly what we think! :-) In order to understand what the OHM does, we’ll have to take a little detour into the world of theory, climbing theory that is. More specifically, we’re going to talk about weight and the difference in weight between you and your climbing partner. If the weight difference between you and your partner is too high, not only will lighter belayers have a hard time controlling a fall, but both climbers could be put in extremely dangerous situations.

Weight differences in climbing

If you’ve ever read up on the role of weight in climbing or experienced it yourself, you’ll know how quickly forces can develop in the event of a fall. To find out just how high these are, you can use our calculator for impact force.

The significance of weight led the DAV (German Alpine Club) to release a recommendation for weight differences, specifying which are justifiable and which are not. A study on safety in climbing centres from 2012 has demonstrated that climbers were too heavy for their belayers in 8.5% of the examined cases.

You can calculate the weight differential rather easily:
Weight of climber / weight of belayer = Differential X

Here is an example: There is a weight differential of 1.36 between a climber who weighs 75kg and a belayer who weighs 55kg. This would far exceed the standard put forward by the DAV (German Alpine Club).

Differential0.7 – 0.80.9 – 1.11.2 – 1.3>1.2 – 1.5
Belay deviceTube-styleTube-style or assisted brakingAssisted brakingAssisted braking and sand bags
RecommendationExtremely soft belayIdeal weight ratio, soft belayExperienced climbers onlyExperts only, if at all

As you can see from the example above, there is very little wiggle room when it comes to tolerable weight differentials. There is even less flexibility when it comes to men and women, as the weight difference is often much higher than recommended.

How the Edelrid Ohm works

The Ohm basically replaces the first draw and is clipped into the first bolt instead. In the event of a fall, the Ohm is pulled upward. This leads to the device changing its orientation relative to the rope, resulting in increased friction. The increased friction generates resistance, which progressively slows (but doesn’t abruptly stop) the rope. This results in less force being transferred to the belayer.

The benefits of the Ohm

As was mentioned above, the increased amount of friction reduces the amount of force transferred to the belayer in the event of a fall. This will prevent the belayer being pulled forward so violently toward the wall or the first draw. If you’re using a tube-style device, you’ll need less grip strength to hold a fall.

Climbers who tend to climb with significantly lighter partners often have to climb extra carefully in order to prevent uncontrolled falls. This is rendered completely unnecessary by the power of the Ohm! Since the weight difference is “evened out” or “reduced” by the device, lighter belayers are capable of securing uncontrolled falls as well. That way, the climber won’t have to hold back!

What the Ohm can’t do

Very important: the Ohm is not a belay device and it changes nothing about the DAV’s current standard. If you use the Ohm, you also continue to use 1. your belay device of choice and 2. your head.

This is particularly important when it comes to age differences between climbers. The Ohm reduces significant differences in weight but doesn’t add experience. If you use this device, you still have to belay as always (training) and assume the responsibility for the climber (age). It’s not there for parents to use to go climbing with their underage kids!

The Ohm put to the test

We tested the Ohm in different conditions: Lead climbing indoors and outdoors, top-roping and in a climbing course for kids (supervised belaying).

More comfort and safety for the belayer

Test Edelrid OhmYep, the Ohm makes belaying heavier people not only significantly safer but more comfortable as well. During various scenarios (with various fall heights and weight differences), the Ohm has proven to reduce the amount of force on the belayer. Plus, the rope runs more evenly as well, making belaying much more pleasant. Using a sand bag for extra weight was no longer necessary. Lowering is much easier with the Ohm as well. It actually feels more like a rope running diagonally with increased friction.

In contrast to sand bags, the Ohm allows the belayer to move more freely along the wall, which in turn allows the belayer to adjust his or her position according to the direction of the climber. This will also help you to prevent a fall on the belay rope when climbing near the ground. A big bonus.

More freedom for the climber

The climbers who tested the Ohm all agree that the Ohm adds safety and definitely takes some unnecessary stress off climbers as a result, since they can dedicate all their attention to climbing and not have to worry about falling (as much). This allows climbers to push their limits and take on more difficult routes closer to the ground.

The Ohm and top-roping

Since not all climbing parties top rope, we decided to test the Ohm whilst top roping as well. As expected, the assisted-braking resistor performed flawlessly. The only downside: Because it is installed in the first draw, the belayer cannot change positions as freely as he or she normally could whilst top-rope belaying. This leads to the climber having a rope between him or her and the wall.

The Ohm at the crag

…works just as well as at the climbing centre. Since ropes often don’t run as straight along a rock face as they do indoors, you need to keep in mind that there could be more rope drag as a result. So, the Ohm might not be necessary for all routes.

Handling

Flawless! Yes, the weight does seem a little much in the beginning, but since you only have to carry to the first draw, it’s not that big of an issue. Besides, the weight is necessary so that the Ohm doesn’t fall when the rope is slackened and you lose resistance as a result.

Even when taking slack out the rope, you’ll hardly notice the Ohm. But, after taking a break on the wall, you should make sure that the rope is completely disengaged and the Ohm is underneath the draw. Otherwise, it could get rough. Users of the Grigri2 will be familiar with this. Also, don’t forget to unclip the Ohm. Otherwise it’ll stay hanging on the first draw. And, take the brake rope out first.

Dynamic belaying…

is possible, but this also depends on the weight of the climber, as far we’re concerned. The lighter the climber (less than 80kg), the more the belayer has to actively belay in order to make a somewhat dynamic fall possible. If you fancy soft belays, you may have to lower your expectations or use a tube-style device.

The Ohm and kids

Kids of the same age can vary in weight, so we thought it would be a good idea to try to use the Ohm in a climbing course for top-roping (supervised, with a back-up belayer). With kids, you’ll find that the weight differential goes up to as much as 1.3. Unfortunately, the Ohm couldn’t help here. Since children rarely weigh more than 65kg, dynamic falls are hardly possible. So, due to the conditions described above, using the Ohm is basically out of the question.

Test results

In sum, the Ohm is an incredibly innovative idea that tackles a common issue in climbing. It’s surprising that it took so long for somebody to come up with a device with the aim of solving the problem associated with the weight differences between climbers and belayers. After all, there are so many climbing parties that can either climb in completely empty climbing centres only or climbing exclusively indoors. Who would want to take a sand bag to the crag anyway? Don’t even get me started on alpine climbing.

Does the Ohm make sense?

In our opinion: Yes! Of course, you’re going to have to make some sacrifices (dynamic belaying, weight, top-roping), but when you consider the fact that you’ll be able to climb with people you could’ve never dreamed of climbing with before, the number of downsides pale in comparison to the huge benefits the Ohm provides: convenience and safety. All in all, a spectacular innovation that should’ve been here a long time ago!

When is the Ohm being released?

Well, it’s already out! Head over to our shop and check it out! If you just can’t get enough of Edelrid, check out the new collection!

Beeswax – A natural miracle worker

26. April 2018
Equipment, Tips and Tricks

Have you ever heard of Maya the Bee? That cute little bee that first appeared in a book by the German writer Waldemar Bonsels? In the book, she spends her days going on thrilling adventures with her goofy pal Willy, which makes for a great story but isn’t really true to life. In fact, her everyday existence would be quite a bit different in real life. Maya would fly from flower to flower, collecting pollen and secreting a mixture of mainly esters of fatty acids and various long-chain alcohols. Boring, isn’t it? Not at all! That’s how we get beeswax!

So far so good? No? Ok, you’re probably asking yourself what all that has to do with being outdoors, right? You’d be surprised, but it actually has quite a bit to do with it. Beeswax happens to be an essential ingredient in several care products for both walking boots and skin care. Wax is even used in foods as a release agent and glazing agent. Pretty versatile stuff. In this short post, I’d like to show you everything beeswax has to offer us outdoorsy folk. So, keep reading – it’s worth it- and not just for the fans of Maya the Bee!

Properties and areas of use

As was mentioned before, the beeswax we all know is a secretion from worker bee’s wax glands. It’s always white when it is first secreted. It turns yellow as a result of the incorporation of pollen oils from pollen. This contains carotene, a pigment that also gives pumpkins and carrots their colour. By the way, pollen oil is also what gives beeswax its unique and sweet smell. Ok. Enough of that. Let’s talk about how useful this stuff is.

In the outdoor industry, beeswax is most commonly used as an ingredient in shoe care products. Beeswax-based shoe care is a natural way to care for leather walking and mountaineering boots. It is necessary because it gives the leather something it loses over time – moisture. As you’ve probably already witnessed, leather tends to dry up and harden over time, even causing it to tear in some cases. Using beeswax-based shoe care products can remedy this, giving the leather a nice little boost in moisture. Treating the leather with such products on a regular basis will increase the lifespan of your – often very expensive – outdoor shoes. Plus, beeswax-based products also proof the leather, giving the shoes that necessary water-repellent layer.

This brings me to another important benefit for us outdoor enthusiasts: Beeswax can be used to proof outdoor jackets and trousers as well. A beeswax-based treatment can make these garments very water and wind resistant, whilst simultaneously increasing their durability for those tough days outdoors. Usually, these proofers consist of a mixture of beeswax and paraffin, so they’re not at all harmful to your health. Of course, as with anything else, any product pre-treated with beeswax will lose its water-resistant properties over time, but there are plenty of products on the market you can use to reproof your garment. But more on that later.

As an outdoorsmen, you may even find beeswax in skin care products. If you’re thinking, “What? Now, you’re trying sell me outdoor skin cream?”, please just keep reading. Even the roughest and tannest skin needs a little tender love and care! Skin care products with beeswax are specifically designed for climbers with dry and particularly worn skin, meaning skin that is often exposed to the sun and fresh/cold air. Not unlike what beeswax does for leather, special beeswax-based care products gives our skin some of that long-lost moisture back. Plus, these products alleviate the effect of sunburns and accelerate the healing process of chapped lips as well as minor skin lesions. So, as you can imagine, these products are great for those of you who spend all the livelong day climbing limestone and granite.

How do I know if beeswax is in a product?

If you’re worried about buying a product that claims to contain beeswax but doesn’t, you shouldn’t be: All products containing beeswax are labelled accordingly. Of course, there is no official label to date, but oftentimes you’ll find a product with the label “contains real beeswax“. If the product in question doesn’t have such a label, it’s worth taking a quick peek at the ingredients. Even though this may not be as relevant to us outdoor enthusiasts, it’s still worth noting: In the food industry, if beeswax is used as a food additive, it has E-901 designation.

How to care for leather with beeswax and how to reproof garments

As was mentioned above, the outdoor industry usually uses beeswax for shoe care. A beeswax-based shoe polish makes it possible for us to care for our leather shoes in a natural way. The unique properties of the wax not only lubricate the leather but also feed it with essential nutrients. Plus, it does a few other things as well. But, we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

Consider the following example: You’ve got your trusty walking boots with countless miles on them, and to be honest, they’ve seen better days. They’re dirty, the leather is brittle and looks worn. So, what do we do? We take a damp cloth to clean them. Once you’ve got rid of the surface dirt and the shoes are somewhat dry, you can apply the beeswax shoe polish. Take a clean cloth and rub a thin layer of the shoe polish onto your shoes using circular motions. The fatty acids in the beeswax cleans the leather in a gentle way. Plus, the beeswax polish will brighten up faded colours as well. Allow the polish to set and voilà – the boots will look as good as new! If you feel that your shoes need a bit more wax after the first layer has set, you can repeat as and when required. If you care for your leather shoes with a beeswax-based care product on a regular basis, you will significantly increase the lifespan of the shoe.
In addition to giving the leather essential nutrients and making the boots look better, beeswax shoe polish also acts as a water repellent. The layer of wax prevents water penetrating into the interior, forcing rain to simply bead up and roll off the outside. In other words, you can forget about those expensive leather spray-on proofers.

If you notice that your jacket (or trousers), which had been pre-treated with beeswax, is starting to lose its water-repellent properties, it’s time to reproof it. To do this, you can use something like the Greenland Wax from Fjällräven. This is basically a block of paraffin and beeswax. Take the garment in question and rub the wax block evenly onto the fabric. And, don’t be afraid to apply a little bit more to the high-wear areas, such as the shoulders of your jackets or the knees of your trousers. Now, the wax just has to be melted. You can do this by using a hair dryer or an old iron. Once you’ve heated up the wax, it will turn to liquid and be absorbed into the fabric. Once the wax has been absorbed evenly into the fabric and dried, you can take your jacket or trousers out for their next adventure!

As you can see, beeswax is much more than the stuff swimming around in your honey or what people use for candles. It is a natural product with very useful properties for the outdoor industry and beyond. And it all came from Maya the Bee’s wax glands.

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

A buyer's guide to rain covers

A buyer’s guide to rain covers

4. April 2018
Buyer's guide, Equipment

Ever head out on a trip and run into rain? No worries, we’ve all been there. It can be extremely frustrating, especially when rain seeps into your pack because you forgot to cover it up like the rest of you. What may seem like a minor mistake on the face of it can have pretty major consequences: All your clothes, electronics, maps and other important items can get completely soaked and perhaps even ruined. In order to prevent such a catastrophe taking place, we recommend taking a rain cover with you everywhere you go, regardless of where your are outside – be it the mountains, the hills or on your bike.

Since constant weather changes are the bane of an outdoorsman’s existence, having sufficient protection is extremely important.

Backpacks with integrated rain covers

High-quality backpacks usually come with an integrated rain cover that has small pack size and its own designated compartment. When needed, you can simply pull it out, wrap it around the entire pack and tighten it using a bungee. Of course, a rain cover isn’t designed to cover up the straps or the back panel. Otherwise, it would be pretty uncomfortable. This still keeps the backpack protected from rain, though. They’re made of waterproof synthetic fabric that forces water to bead up and roll off the surface of the fabric.

Dimensions and volume

If your backpack doesn’t have an integrated rain cover, we highly recommend getting yourself one before you head out on your trip. And, it doesn’t necessarily have to be the one recommended by the manufacturer of your backpack. Other models from other brands work just as well. You just have to make sure that the cover is compatible with dimensions and – most importantly – the volume of your backpack. So, before buying a rain cover, find out how many litres of volume your backpack has.

Rain covers with reflectors for better visibility

In addition to waterproof and protective properties, a rain cover should also have reflective elements. This is especially important for cyclists and runners who are often forced to take city roads. True, most backpacks do have reflectors, but keep in mind: As soon as you put a rain cover over your backpack, they’re no longer visible. Your best bet is to find a rain cover not only with reflectors but in a bright colour as well. That way, it’ll be hard for others to miss you in poor visibility. And, as we all know, visibility is always low in rainy conditions.

A rain cover with a small pack size

Since your rain cover will usually be stowed away in your pack and only used when it rains, it’s important for it to have a small pack size. Only then can you pack it down nice and small and take it with you wherever you go. That said, you need a rain cover that is foldable. But, make sure the material is made in such a way so that no wrinkles, kinks or cracks form when you fold it because all of these could have a negative impact on the windproof and waterproof properties of the fabric.

Once you’ve found a rain cover that fits your backpack, you can head out on your adventure without having to worry about the weather conditions or any potential weather changes. If it does rain, all you’ll have to do is pull your rain cover over your backpack and you’ll be good to go! It’s so quick and easy. It hardly takes more than 2 minutes! With a quality rain cover and high-quality waterproof clothing, you’ll have the best protection money can buy for the great outdoors, regardless of whether you’re walking or cycling.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask our experts in customer service. They are available during the week from 9 a.m. till 4 p.m. and can be reached by phone at 03 33 33 67058 or via e-mail.

Care instructions: How to clean your backpack properly

Care instructions: How to clean your backpack properly

26. April 2018
Care tips, Equipment

There are so many reasons to wash your walking backpack, trekking rucksack or mountaineering backpack, but none may be as pressing as those stinky shoulders straps that have absorbed so much sweat and sunscreen over the course of their career that the idea of wearing them makes you nauseated. Or, perhaps it’s all the dust and dirt that has accumulated on your trekking pack that has made you forget what colour the rucksack was when you bought it. Oh, and don’t even get me started on the interior and all the stuff that has leaked and spilled in there over the years…

Depending on just how dirty your backpack is, there are variety of complicated and less complicated ways to clean it. We recommend giving it a light cleaning on a regular basis so that you won’t have to put yourself through the rather complicated deep clean we just hinted at.

How to wash your backpack properly

Can you wash your backpack in the washing machine?

This question is asked again and again about dirty backpacks, but the answer remains the same: No! Absolutely not! A walking backpack or trekking rucksack should never ever be washed in the washing machine! Not at 30°C, not with cold water and not with mild detergents! Do not listen to all the so-called “specialists” on outdoor internet forums who recommend doing so. It’s a bad idea and we strongly advise against it. The best-case scenario would be for the coating or only parts of the backpack to get ruined. And the worst-case scenario? Well, the whole washing machine may decide to throw in the towel. The same thing goes for the dryer, too. Never tumble-dry your backpack.

Washing backpacks by hand

If your backpack gets really dirty from you cycling through mud or a long trek, there’s really no way around it: You’re going to have to give in and give it a deep clean. Once the backpack is dry from your trip, use a large brush to remove bigger chunks of dirt. Dried mud is pretty easy to remove for the most part. But, if you can’t get it all off, you can dampen the brush a bit and that should do the trick. As for all the usual debris that accumulates on the interior, just open up your pack, turn it on its head and pat it out. If you’d prefer to be a bit more thorough, you can use a vacuum as well. For anything that just refuses to budge, you can use a damp sponge cloth and wipe it off.

If wiping the dirt off doesn’t result in the degree of cleanliness you’re looking for or you’re pack just hasn’t been properly cleaned in a while, you’ll have to resort to special textile detergent suitable for backpacks. Why? Well, standard detergent is usually too aggressive for backpacks and can damage the material. Textile detergent can be used in two different ways: either for cleaning individual parts or for washing the entire backpack. To do the former, mix the detergent with lukewarm water (as specified by the instruction manual) and clean the dirty areas with a sponge or brush. For the latter, soak the backpack in a bathtub or something similar and scrub the really dirty areas with a brush. If your pack has a removable frame, make sure to remove it beforehand.

If you notice a leak in one of your bottles, it’s important to act quickly and soak up the liquid with a sponge or cloth and clean the affected area. Depending on what kind of liquid it is, it could leave ugly stains on your pack. That’s way, it’s always a good idea to soak the backpack and clean it as described above. If you let something like tea or coffee dry, it can be really difficult to clean. The same goes for juices and other “sticky” refreshments we love to drink.

A deep clean or individual parts?

Some hill walkers and trekkers never clean their packs, while other do so one time a year, while others still clean them as needed. It obviously depends on how often you use your pack and what you use it for. Hill walkers and hikers often have dirty shoulder straps, hip belts and back panels. These parts of the backpack are often stained because of sweat and sunscreen and, as you can imagine, start to smell pretty bad after a while. To counteract this, wash the straps and the back of your pack using mild detergent and give it a good rinse.

Trekking rucksacks or cycling backpacks tend to be covered with the dirt and mud we kicked up along the way. All you have to do to get rid of this is simply wipe off the outside. But, even if you do so on a regular basis, it’s still important to give it a proper clean once a year at the very least. If you only use your pack in certain seasons, proper storage is paramount. The rucksack should be stored in a dry and well-ventilated place. If you store your pack in a musty cellar or don’t give it time to dry before packing it away for the year, it could get mouldy and develop that disgusting mouldy smell.

If tea or soup spills in your pack while you’re out in the hills, wipe it up as best you can and dry the backpack using tissues or a back-up t-shirt. If you’re just doing a day trip, be sure to soak and wash the backpack the same night. If you’re out on a multi-day backpacking trip, just use mild soap and water and that should do it for the time being. You can give it a deep clean when you get home.

How to dry your backpack after washing it by hand

After soaking and scrubbing, the backpack must be thoroughly rinsed out with clean water. The best way to do this is to use a handheld showerhead and lukewarm water. You can do it in the tub as well. Any dirt or soapy residue needs to be rinsed off well, and be sure to wring out any foam parts on the backpack to extract any residue there as well.

Then hang it up upside down to dry. Make sure to leave all the pockets open and compartments unzipped so that any water can escape. If possible, hang the backpack up outside in the shade. That way, you can be certain that it will dry properly. Plus, it will smell nice and fresh and the sun won’t damage the material. By the way, the best conditions for drying your backpack are warm and windy.

Depending on outside temperature and the kind of pack you have, the drying process can take a while. If small pockets or hard-to-access areas just don’t want to dry, you can use a absorbent cloth or newspaper to speed up the process. Just stuff the pockets with newspaper and they’ll absorb a good amount of the water. Using a blow dryer to dry your backpack is just as unadvisable as putting it on the radiator to dry. Both could damage the material and even ruin the backpack completely.

How to care for your backpack after washing

Depending on how thorough a cleaning your pack had to undergo, it’s often wise to use silicone spray lubricant on the zips to make them run more smoothly. Plus, you should proof the outside of the backpack from time to time so that it can fend off rain and dirt. That way, you won’t always have to use a rain cover. This will stop the fabric becoming saturated with water, which would otherwise make the backpack heavier than it needs to be.

Another advantage to reproofing your backpack is that it will fend off dirt. This means you won’t have to wash it as often, which will, in turn, increase the lifespan of your pack as well. After explicitly stating that backpacks should never be machine-washed or tumble-dried, we’d like to give you another important tip: Never iron your backpack after washing it (yes, people do this)! The material is too sensitive for that.

When inspecting the zips and reproofing the outer fabric, check the backpack for minor damage around the seams and material. The earlier you discover the damage, the faster and easier it is to repair it. Obviously, repairs are much more difficult to make when you’re out adventuring.

How to care for zips, hook-and-loop fasteners and the like

All fasteners, zips and adjustable straps on a pack exposed to a lot of wear and tear. That’s why, it’s important to freshen them up every once in a while.

Zips, for example, can get extremely dirty, making them nearly impossible to use. To get them up and running again, apply a silicone spray lubricant to the zip and/or the slider. Then, zip it open and closed a few times so that the lubricant is distributed evenly. The zip will run much more smoothly afterwards. However, be careful not to apply too much. Allow it to set and then wipe the excess lubricant off with a clean towel.

A lot of dust accumulates on hook-and-loop fasteners, so these, too, need to be cleaned. The more dust and dirt particles there are, the worse it’ll fasten. Fortunately, there’s a quick fix for this as well. All you have to do is use a small brush (a toothbrush will do fine) to remove all the little particles from the material.

After a while, you may even notice your straps and other adjusters aren’t working as well or have stopped working altogether, too. The solution? A long bath in lukewarm water! This will loosen any dirt firmly embedded in the webbing and bring them back to life!

Reproofing your backpack

Backpacks are rarely waterproof, so it’s a good idea to protect the contents with a rain cover in bad weather. Still, many backpacks have been treated with a water repellent to make them impervious to dirt and water. Unfortunately, this layer of protection will gradually lose its effectiveness over time from use. Fortunately, though, it doesn’t have to stay that way. Using a spray-on reproofer, you can reactivate the protective coating in a flash! However, this should only be applied to areas away from the suspension system, as people with sensitive skin may have an allergic reaction.

How to store your backpack properly

Properly storing your backpack is an extremely important contributing factor to its longevity. You should never fold or crush it. Instead, store your backpack empty in a dark, well-ventilated space. Drastic changes in temperature – like those in a car or in a poorly insulated attic – can damage he material and cause it to age prematurely. If you carelessly shove your pack in your wardrobe with all your other gear, the load could deform the suspension system, rendering the backpack useless!

Decisions, decisions: Finding the right walking trousers

Decisions, decisions: Finding the right walking trousers

26. April 2018
Buyer's guide, Equipment

Walking, walking and more walking! What could be better than that? All you do is sleep, walk, eat, walk, sleep…and, yep, you guessed it – walk! Sunrise and sunset determine your daily rhythm. Your rucksack only seems unbearably heavy in the beginning. And, as you walk you forget about your mobile, the internet and the crowded city streets, as it all drifts further and further away. Finally some peace and quiet! Wait, what’s that? Damn, I’ve got a blister on my foot! Great, now I’m limping! Blimey, my trousers are chafing! This is going to be awful by day two! To prevent your trekking trip becoming a nightmare like the one illustrated here, it’s absolutely essential that you have the right kit.

Backpack, shoes, clothing – everything should fit well and do their job properly! This is especially true when it comes to walking trousers. After all, you won’t want (or be able) to lug around a large selection of trousers on a multi-day trip.

The cool all-rounder for long treks

But what makes up a pair of walking trousers, anyway? Why not just go for soft shells? Soft shells may seem to be taking over market, but let’s be honest: our beloved walking trousers still have a lot going for them, especially on multi-day trips. For example, when it rains, your walking trousers can be worn underneath your waterproof trousers and will be well protected. Softshell trousers, however, are usually not capable of withstanding a downpour. A lighter pair of walking trousers, on the other hand, provides more breathability in fair conditions and have a lighter feel to them. And: A lot of models can be converted into a pair of shorts, which eliminates the need for two garments, automatically saving room in your pack. The more casual-looking walking trousers can also be considered to be all-purpose trousers – ones you could wear through a city, if need be.

Another small, but significant difference between the two kinds of trousers: Walking trousers usually have more pockets! The large thigh pockets are particularly convenient, as they give you a place to keep your map, so you won’t have to fumble around for it in your pack every single time you want to check your location.

What’s more, despite their small pack size and lightweight feel, most walking trousers protect you from the sun and insects as well, both of which will come in really handy on long treks.

A general overview of available products

As was already mentioned, fit and pack size are extremely important factors when it comes to trekking. For comfort, walking trousers usually come equipped with articulated knees like the FJÄLLRÄVEN – Barents Pro walking trousers. Plus, most trousers are stretchy, allowing for a wide range of motion.

As for the fabric, walking trousers are made of different materials, and it all really comes down to your own personal preference. Because of odour and those annoying swooshing noises, some walkers swear by a blend of cotton and synthetics, as in the Abisko Trousers from Fjällräven or by merino wool and synthetics, as in the Pelmo Pants walking trousers from Ortovox , whilst others prefer purely synthetic trousers. However, all high-quality walking trousers usually have a solid level of breathability and wind and/or water-repellent properties. When it comes to choosing material, it’s always important to opt for a fabric that feels good to you.

Some more important details on walking trousers

Several walking trouser models can be adjusted to accommodate changes in weather conditions. For example, many of them have zip-off legs. It’s really convenient to have a pair of trousers that not only have detachable legs but ones with a full-length side zip, like the Women’s Jasay from Salewa. That way, you can keep your boots on when you zip off the legs. Some models, such as the Trekker Convertible Pant from The North Face are even more versatile: If you’d rather not take the entire trouser leg off, you can simply roll it up and secure it using the loops provided.

Speaking of trouser legs, some manufacturers even make different trouser lengths for those who have trouble with the standard lengths. Fjällräven, for example, solved this problem with their “raw length”, which you’ll find in models like the Karl Trousers Hydratic walking trousers from Fjällräven. With these, the length of the leg can be adjusted ever so precisely to meet your needs. Lundhags has developed a similar feature, which can be found in the Lundhags Jonten Pant. These have an unshortened length that can be adjusted to your leg.

Walking trousers take quite a beating

Multi-day treks can be tough, not only in terms of the distance but also when it comes to the terrain. We trekkers often traverse dense undergrowth, trudge along rock and it’s not at all rare for us to sit down for a break in the sand, either! For precisely this reason, walking trousers come equipped with reinforced panels at the knee and seat. Examples thereof can be found on the Terminal 2.0 DST walking trousers for men. This tough material serves to increase the lifespan of the trousers in areas of high wear – something that is especially important when you’re going cross country.

Special areas of use

If you already know exactly where your walking adventure is going to take you, you can start looking for a pair of trousers tailored to your specific needs. For example, if you’re heading to the tropics, it’s important to have ones made of lightweight and extremely breathable fabric that will protect you from insects. In regions ridden with scorpions and leeches (yikes), cuffs underneath the trouser legs are a great thing to have. In regions with intense sunlight or at high altitudes, you’ll need a pair of trousers that provide high UV protection. If you’ll be moving along a via ferrata, it’s important that the legs are stretchy. In other words, the trousers should allow for enough range of motion for larger movements.

If you’re planning a more treacherous journey through snow, then the kind of trousers you’re looking for will change from walking to touring or winter trousers.

Three hot tips for good measure

Tip one: Before you head out, make sure your belt or the belt loops on your trousers don’t get in the way of the hip belt on your rucksack. To avoid this problem, many brands (the ones that include belts with their trousers) use flat belts with flat buckles.

Tip two: When trying on a pair of zip-off trousers, make sure the zips don’t chafe your thighs or rub up against the backs of your knees.

Tip three: Always take good care of your zipped-off trouser legs! Otherwise, you might be a half a leg short – forever!

If you have any questions, feel free to ask our experts in customer service. They are available during the week from 9 a.m. till 4 p.m. and can be reached by phone at 03 33 33 67058 or via e-mail.

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