All posts on this topic ‘Equipment’

Sympatex: Environmentally-friendly windproof and waterproof protection

Sympatex: Environmentally-friendly windproof and waterproof protection

29. September 2017
Equipment

There are countless materials, membranes, systems and other things engineered to keep us dry in the great outdoors, but how are we supposed to keep track of what does what? No worries, not many of us can, nor have to. But, since it is important to know which shoes, jacket or trousers to wear the next time you go on a trip, we figured we’d gradually introduce the most important membranes on the market today. Besides, a couple of technical terms never hurt anybody!

In the following, we’re going to talk about Sympatex and address basic questions, such as what this membrane provides and how it differs from others on the market. Plus, we’re going to touch on environmental protection and what it has to do with membranes.

Functional fabrics and environmental protection – do these two things even go together? It’s not at all rare to hear about membranes that are supposedly harmful to the environment or even carcinogenic. Oftentimes, you’ll hear about membranes that are made of polytetrafluoroethylene (a difficult word, I know), or PTFE for short. The process of making PTFE involves perfluorooctanoic acid, which may be carcinogenic and have a few other negative properties as well. The scary thing is that despite the fact that this substance does not exist in nature, it was detected in Antarctica! The good news? Fortunately, many manufacturers of membranes are now able to exclude this from their products.

If you’ve recently purchased a new jacket, you should check to see whether the manufacturer can exclude PFOA or not, since PTFE per se has not been proven to be harmful to our health. Alternatively, you could look for a membrane free of per- and polyfluorinated chemicals. That would save you a lot of work.

The Sympatex membrane is PTFE-free, recyclable and bluesign-certified!

If you’d rather not use membranes that are potentially harmful to you or the environment, you should definitely have a closer look at Sympatex membranes. These membranes are made by Sympatex Technologies GmbH in the Bavarian town of Unterföhring, Germany. A Sympatex membrane is much like a PET bottle: it’s 100% recyclable!

It’s not made out of PTFE, but rather polyether/ester. Yes, yet another rather difficult word, but it’s pretty simple in terms of its composition. It’s basically a safe, environmentally-friendly compound of polyester and polyether. How do we know it’s safe? Well, if the membrane’s countless certifications are any indication, the word is out – Sympatex is safe. Not only is the Sympatex membrane certified according to the Oeko-Tex Standard, but Sympatex is a bluesign-certified manufacturer as well. The Oeko-Tex Standard ensures that the material is not harmful to our health, and the bluesign certification guarantees that the product was manufactured in an environmentally-friendly way.

How does the Sympatex membrane work?

So, now that we’ve got an environmentally and skin-friendly membrane, it’d probably be a good idea to explain how it works. Is it as reliable as other membranes? Well, in terms of function, Sympatex differs quite a bit from other membranes. For a start, the Sympatex membrane is nonporous. Uh, ok, but what happens to the breathability? The solution: The function of the membrane is based on a physical and chemical principle.

Here’s a quick crash course in chemistry! The hydrophilic components of the membrane absorb moisture and transport it to the outside so that it can then evaporate. The water vapour molecules are transported along the molecule chains through the membrane. The compact molecular structure of the Sympatex membrane swells as a result of the moisture from the outside, thereby providing room for the transfer of body moisture. The requirement for this function is a partial pressure gradient of temperature and humidity from the inside to the outside.

If chemistry has never really been your jam, here’s a brief summary in layman’s terms: If you really work up a sweat during highly-aerobic physical activity, the temperature and humidity underneath the jacket will rise. If the temperature and humidity underneath the jacket become higher those on the outside of the jacket, this is when the Sympatex membrane is in its element. So, the more the body sweats, the more body moisture the membrane can transfer to the outside. We usually referred to this as “breathable”.

Windproof and waterproof protection guaranteed

The Sympatex membrane is 100% waterproof. As it should be! After all, waterproof protection is absolutely essential in bad weather. The measure of how waterproof a membrane is, called hydrostatic head. It measures how tall a column of water the fabric can hold before water seeps through. According to the EN 343, a rating of 1300mm and above is considered to be waterproof. The Sympatex membrane boasts a waterproof rating of 45,000mm, so it’s pretty darn waterproof!

Another important aspect is windproof protection, even if you won’t be travelling in extremely windy conditions, because it will stop the dreaded wind chill before it starts. Why is this bad? Well, wind causes that warm layer of air around your body to be drawn away, resulting in you thinking it’s much colder than it actually is. The windproof Sympatex membrane, however, shields your body from the wind, preventing wind chill and the decrease in performance associated with it.

Of course, as no windproof, waterproof and breathable membrane could go without a quality DWR finish, Sympatex doesn’t either! If you’re unfamiliar with what a DWR does, it provides the water and dirt-repellent protection needed to prevent the material and the membrane becoming saturated. Which DWR treatment is used is completely up to the manufacturer of the finished product and us, the consumer, as we decide which product we use to re-proof our clothing. An important thing to consider when it comes to DWR treatments is, however, the environmental aspect. Even though not all DWRs are environmentally friendly, there are some environmentally-friendly options available on the market today.

What laminates with Sympatex membranes are there?

There are different laminates for different applications. For example, you would need a different laminate for climbing in the mountains than you would for walking the dog or backpacking. For this reason, Sympatex has developed 2, 2½, 3, and 4-layer laminates to suit the specific requirements of users (i.e., usage, performance and properties).

The Sympatex membrane can be connected to several different base materials, such as knitwear, fleece, woven fabrics, leather or even foam to form a laminate for a certain application. For example, a laminate for waterproof shoes consists of (starting from the inside) a soft liner, the membrane, a textile layer and the upper material. The laminate for particularly lightweight jackets often leave out the lining to keep the weight and pack size of the garment to a minimum.

In sum, there are several solid membranes out there, but there is only one Sympatex. If health and environmental protection are things that are important to you, Sympatex is a good choice. After all, topics like sustainability, recycling and environmental protection aren’t going anywhere anytime soon!

How welded seams work

How welded seams work

26. September 2017
Equipment

Dedicated outdoorsmen and women usually don’t plan their trips according to the time of year or even the weather for that matter. As long as the snow isn’t a metre high, there’s really nothing keeping them from going, not even adverse weather conditions. Of course, in conditions such as these, the proper clothing is absolutely essential.

In other words, you need waterproof clothing. But, what makes a garment waterproof and how would you make those weak spots on jackets like zips and seams waterproof, anyway?

It may come as a surprise, but the answer to this question isn’t as complicated as it may seem. To make the seams, which are basically a bunch of holes in the fabric, on both hardshell and softshell jackets and trousers waterproof, manufacturers either weld or tape them. This along with the garment’s waterproof fabric forces water droplets to roll off the face fabric, stopping it penetrating the interior.

Another advantage of welded seams is that they make the clothing windproof as well. If a windproof material is used in the manufacture of the garment, it can then prevent wind getting in through the previously open seams as well, resulting in a garment that keeps you nice and warm whilst simultaneously keeping the bitter cold out.

How welding works

Basically, welding seams works much in the same way as any method used by a welding apparatus, namely by applying heat and pressure in order to fuse two materials together, in our case waterproof material over the edges of a seam. This results in a seamless connection between both bits of material, resulting in a solid surface. Afterward, the seams look like little strips.

Clothing with welded seams should still be breathable

By welding the seams, you basically make them hermetically sealed. Normal seams would still allow air to seep through, resulting in the circulation of air and breathability we outdoorsy folk crave! Since this is prevented by welding the seams, the fabric itself needs to have breathable properties. Only then can overheating and excessive sweating be prevented. As you can imagine, this is absolutely crucial for high-intensity physical activities because it helps to maintain a high level of comfort.

Another way to increase the breathability is to use ventilation zips. Since these are waterproof as well, they won’t allow any water to penetrate when closed. But, when you open them, you feel the wonderful cool air against your body, giving you the relief you need when the going gets tough. This is an excellent feature because it basically gives you a manual ventilation system you can adjust to your liking.

Where welded seams are used

Welded seams are so effective that they are now used for other outdoor gear as well, such as tents. How could it be any other way? After all, you don’t want to sleep in a tent that isn’t up to par with your jacket in terms of waterproof protection, right?

In addition to clothing and tents, you’ll also find welded seams in shoes, which is necessary for obvious reasons. Without that waterproof protection, your feet are bound to get wet, even in lighter rain. Welded seams are also of particular importance in autumn and winter, as trails and forest paths are often wet, muddy and/or ridden with puddles, all of which can soak your feet as trudge through them. If you’ve ever had to walk a good distance with wet, you know how fun it is! For this reason, waterproof walking boots come complete with welded seams to keep your feet dry and protected in wet conditions.

How to repair sealed seams properly and effectively

High-quality functional apparel comes with incredibly durable sealed seams, and that for good reason. The bits of a garment considered to be high-stress areas, such as the shoulders, benefit significantly from said durability. For whenever you wear a backpack, the shoulder straps will rub up against the material used to seal the seams and can, with time, end up damaging them, if they’re not tough enough. Though inconvenient, it’s not that big of a deal if the welded seams do happen to get damaged. Fortunately, you won’t have to buy yet another expensive jacket. You can simply repair them yourself!

To reseal the seams, you need special seam tape. These are sometimes self-adhesive or come with an adhesive coating that reacts to heat. By ironing the seam tape onto the area in question on the inside of the garment, the tape adheres to the material as a result of the heat and reseals it. You should iron it on without putting on a steam setting. And, this method should only be used on heat-resistant fabrics. To prevent more major damage, try it out in a small or less obvious area beforehand.

Also: you can use seam tape to patch smaller tears and holes in your garment. All you have to do is iron them on, thereby sealing the defective area.

Rely on quality and you’ll stay dry

As with all products, there are individual garments that different significantly when it comes to quality. The same goes for sealed seams. Cheaper garments tend to have taped seams as opposed to welded seams. The downside to the former is that they come off fairly easily and don’t really seal up the area very well. So, you can get pretty soaked pretty fast. For better waterproof protection, it’s worth investing a bit more to get something with welded seams. That way, you won’t have to worry about bad weather the next time you head out!

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.

Everything you ever wanted to know about Pertex fabrics

Everything you ever wanted to know about Pertex fabrics

12. September 2017
Equipment

The 1970s were a decade in which a wide variety of new fabrics became available on the market, leading manufacturers in the outdoor industry to jettison those more traditional fabrics, such as cotton and wool, in favour of these new, more advanced materials. These functional fabrics had a clear advantage over traditional fabrics: they have a much smaller pack size and were significantly lighter as well. One of these functional fabrics was Pertex.

Ever heard of it? If not, you’re in luck. In the following, we’re going to talk a bit about Pertex, including everything from its origin to variations and the properties thereof to its area of use.

Pertex is the result of a collaboration between Hanish Hamilton, a British mountaineer and Perseverance Mills, a company that had specialised in the manufacture of nylon fabrics for parachutes. With Pertex, these two managed to create a lightweight and tear-resistant fabric that is moisture-wicking to boot. And so the Pertex we know today was born. And this material has remained an integral part of the outdoor industry ever since. Of course, there have been further developments to the fabric over the years, resulting in new fabric variations that are extremely lightweight and highly breathable. Now, there is a family of Pertex fabrics on the market, the members of which are used in all sorts of different areas.

Sleeping bags and insulated clothing

The original Pertex fabric is still available today – with slight changes – as Pertex Classic. Not only is this fabric lightweight but it is very durable as well. As a result of its special composition, the material also happens to be windproof, water repellent and extremely breathable. Thanks to these key features, Pertex Classic is often used as the outer shell for down and synthetic jackets as well as sleeping bags. Plus, it’s very well suited for lightweight windproof jackets as well.

Pertex Microlight boasts properties very similar to that of Pertex Classic, but it is much lighter. This material comes with a DWR coating and thus offers more weather protection than Pertex Classic. Plus, this fabric is extremely downproof. As a result of the softness of the material and reduced weight, down and synthetic insulation can fully loft.

One of the lightest, but still strong and durable fabrics is Pertex Quantum. Like Pertex Classic, this fabric is also perfectly suited for down and synthetic jackets as well as sleeping bags. The incredible thing is that Quantum is significantly lighter than Microlight but still manages to be strong and durable. The lightest option is Quantum GL. This material boasts the best strength-to-weight ratio and is thus primarily used in for ultra-light activities.

If you plan on travelling with a sleeping bag or down jacket in regions where the annual rainfall and humidity are high, the insulation therein needs much more protection. This is where Pertex Endurance comes in. This water-resistant and high-performance water-repellent nylon laminate provides excellent protection from moisture for sleeping bags and jackets alike. Plus, the material has excellent breathability and heat retention. Manufacturers like Montane or Exped use this material for things like high-quality and weatherproof down sleeping bags. Of course, Endurance is used in down jackets and all sorts of insulated clothing as well.

Softshells

Pertex has a fabric designed to be used for softshells as well. This fabric is called Pertex Equilibrium. One of the key features of this fabric is the duplex weave construction, which not only provides excellent weather protection but also is highly breathable as well. The tough outer fabric also features a DWR finish, which works together with the double weave to keep light rains and wind at bay. Plus, due to the more open weave on the inside, moisture can be moved away from your body more quickly to ensure comfort on the interior. This fabric also boasts a great weight-to-performance ratio and is best suited for light softshells with maximum performance and a high level of comfort.

Hardshells

Inherent to all hardshells is the ability to shield you from snow, rain and wind. And of course, they should be breathable as well. After all, what difference does it make if you get wet from the outside (from rain or snow) or from the inside (due to sweat)? This is where Pertex Shield comes in. As all Pertex fabrics, Pertex Shield is extremely breathable. However, what’s different about Perxtex Shield is the fact that it has a membrane, which works together with a DWR finish to provide reliable weather protection.

The clever thing about this is that the combination of a highly technical outer fabric and a microporous coating ultimately led to the development of a strong and functional fabric. But the fun doesn’t stop there. With the fabric Pertex Shield+, Pertex took it one step further. Not only is this fabric lighter than the original Shield version, but it also has a PU membrane, which serves to provide a very high level of breathability that increases the harder you work. As a result of this dynamic breathability, this fabric is primarily used for lightweight and waterproof clothing.

I know it’s hard to believe, but Pertex Shield AP takes the breathability thing to a whole new level. This material is exceptionally strong and combines maximal weather protection with optimal breathability. This is due to the special constitution of the membrane. It has a microporous structure, which allows water vapour to escape but does not allow moisture to get in. In addition, the fabric is also very tough and durable. Thus, it is best suited for long periods of use in extreme conditions, all the while ensuring reliable protection over the course of the garment’s entire lifetime.

Conclusion

Pertex is not just one fabric. It’s an entire family of fabrics, the individual members of which are used in a wide array of areas, ranging from down sleeping bags to hardshell trousers. In addition to the plethora of other characteristics of the individual fabrics, their key features include a high level of breathability and light weight.

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.

Gore Windstopper: Your bulwark against wind

Gore Windstopper: Your bulwark against wind

12. September 2017
Equipment

An icy wind’s a-blowing over the piste, and the snow is being whipped over the mountains like a sandstorm. You’re shaking in your boots at the mere sight of it, knowing full well that you’ll have to leave the toasty warmth of ski lift station and venture out into the storm. So, you zip up your ski jacket, put your hood over your helmet and head bravely toward the door…

If you’ve ever found yourself in this or a similar situation, I’m sure you were relieved you were sporting your trusty windproof clothing. And, in all likelihood, both your trousers and your jacket bore the distinctive red, octagonal Windstopper logo from the company W.L. Gore & Associates, who also happens to be responsible for those oh-so famous Gore-Tex laminates. But, the American company doesn’t just specialise in waterproof jackets – they’ve set all new standards in all things windproof gear as well.

Windstopper: completely windproof and very versatile

Similar to their big waterproof brothers, the Gore Windstopper laminates consist of three layers as well. The core thereof is the ePTFE membrane (expanded polytetrafluoroethylene), which has numerous pores: around 1.4 billion pores per square centimetre, to be precise. These are so small that they are impenetrable to wind and liquid water, but still allow water vapour molecules to pass through. The fabric is completely windproof, water resistant and breathable. Perspiration can escape easily through the breathable membrane. Pretty cool, right?

So, it will come as no surprise that this advanced membrane makes up the core of various laminates:

  • Windstopper Active Shell is particularly lightweight, space-saving, completely windproof and very breathable. Thus, it is ideal for highly aerobic activities, such as trail running, running or cycling.
  • Windstopper Soft Shell products are those that offer a balanced combination of windproof protection, breathability and flexibility to conform to your movements. Products with this laminate are perfect for just about every physical activity.
  • Windstopper Technical Fleece combines the advantages of a windproof membrane with those of fleece. It won’t let any air pass through and simultaneously provides warmth and breathability. This is effective as a mid-layer or outer layer.
  • Windstopper Insulated Shell, unlike other laminates, consists of not three but four layers. The additional layer provides lightweight, breathable synthetic insulation and is thus the warmest in the Windstopper family. All while retaining its breathable and windproof properties! This is used in functional jackets like the Vanguard Jacket from Mountain Equipment.

The commonality among all laminates is that they get water-repellent properties from the membrane. Plus, a DWR treatment provides the additional protection of water repellency as well. This coating must be renewed after multiple washes. You can read about how that works and why it’s important here.

As a result of their versatility, Windstopper laminates are found in just about every kind of outdoor clothing. They’re especially popular among fans of ski touring because it not only provides protection from the cold, but offers mobility, can withstand snow and is breathable as well. It’s also used for base layers, such as the Craft Active Extreme WS Shirt, which was designed primarily for cyclists who often have to battle strong headwinds.

Defy the wind chill factor

Windproof active wear is an absolute must. After all, it will protect you from the wind’s chilling effect! The wind-chill is the difference between the perceived and actual temperature depending on the speed of the wind. In other words, the stronger the wind blows, the colder it’ll feel. It sounds fairly harmless in theory, but it can become a huge problem in practise, especially if you don’t have the proper windproof clothing. Even with the slightest decrease in body temperature resulting from wind-chill, you may experience reduced blood flow to your extremities and your circulation may become unstable, resulting in numbness and shivering. But, if you don’t give the wind a chance to get between you and your clothing in the first place, it won’t be able to take all that precious heat away from you!

Windproof clothing also plays a crucial role in layering and should not be underestimated. Even though waterproof jackets are always windproof as well, they pale in comparison to Windstopper clothing in terms of their breathability. For this reason, you should really make sure you have a long, hard think about whether you’d rather opt for a lighter, but windproof jacket on your next adventure in the mountains.

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.

How to pack your rucksack

How to pack your rucksack

5. July 2017
Equipment

“We’re all too familiar with the trials and tribulations of a backpacker: Neck, back and shoulder pain is all part of a long day of walking. But, it doesn’t don’t have to be! It’s high time you put a stop to all that pain so that you can have fun again on your outdoor adventure! And, you can do just that by adjusting your rucksack correctly and using the right packing strategy. In the following, we’re going to show you a few tricks on how to adjust and pack your rucksack properly so that the contents of your pack are balanced and you are comfortable on the trails!

The importance of properly packing your rucksack

In order for you to be comfortable and feel secure in difficult terrain, you need a well-balanced load. Hopping from stone to stone, crossing a river or climbing require a good sense of balance, and it is exactly that which can be very easily disrupted by a poorly-packed rucksack. It can force you to lean forward to keep your balance or even make you feel as though you were tipping over. A properly fitted and packed rucksack is easier for you to control. Keep in mind: If it’s poorly packed, it will control you! In other words, properly packing is not only a matter of comfort but also of safety.

The most important rules of packing

Packing systematically is the only way to go! Proper balance and control depend heavily on your ideal centre of gravity. If your centre of gravity is too high or too low, you’ll end up battling with your own pack and lose valuable energy as a result. Plus, it’s flat-out uncomfortable. If you pack too many heavy items toward the top of the rucksack, it will rock back and forth on your back. If they’re too far to the outside, you’ll run the risk of tipping over backwards, and if items that are too heavy are positioned too far back, this will put quite the strain on your body.

Thus, it is important to place the heaviest pieces of equipment close to your upper back, as this places the load’s centre of gravity closer to the body’s centre of gravity. Heavy pieces of equipment are things like your tent, camera or a heavy food bag.
Light, but bulkier items, such as your sleeping bag or back-up shoes, should be packed at the base of the rucksack. Medium-weight itemslike clothing should be stored in the middle away from your back and small items in the lid compartment or in the side pockets. It’s best to pack the light items around the heavier ones to stabilise them and prevent anything for shifting.

Daypacks and backpacks under 30 litres needn’t be packed as meticulously, as they’re not suitable for large loads, anyway. Loads that are that small don’t have such a negative effect on your body’s centre of gravity as heavier ones do.

Rucksack fitting

At the beginning of my “outdoor career”, I, too, had wondered what all the buckles and straps were for – a lot of pointless dangling?!, it seemed to me. In fact, I found them so pointless that I grabbed a pair of scissors and cut off the load adjuster straps, sternum strap and hip belt. Take that! But, not too long thereafter and with a bit more experience under my belt, I realised how beneficial it can be to have so many adjustment options, especially when it comes to comfort. One such option that all packs have in common is the shoulder straps. Every rucksack, even the super lightweight models have adjustable shoulder straps so that you can prevent it from slipping off your back.

The hip belt can have a significant effect on how you carry the load. If the hip belt is fitted properly, it will reduce the load your shoulders are forced to bear, thereby literally taking the load off both your mind and body. After all, the hips are supposed to carry some of the load as well!

Usually, the hip belt can be expanded or shortened using additional straps. The sternum strap, on the other hand, will come in especially useful when you have walking poles. It will not only give your arms added mobility but also stabilise the entire rucksack.

The load lifter straps, which connect the top of the rucksack to the shoulder straps, may be often overlooked, but they play a significant role in stabilising the load and making you comfortable. When pulled, the rucksack is brought closer to your body, thereby reducing the angle of the load and stabilising the pack so that it doesn’t move around as much.

However, even with the best adjustments, it’s all for naught without the correct back length. The beginnings of the shoulder straps should be positioned in between your shoulder blades, whilst the hip belt (which will be described in the following paragraph) should rest comfortably on your hip bones.

If the shoulder straps are hovering over your shoulder blades or if they’re too short, the back length needs to be adjusted, provided the pack has an adjustment system (e.g., the Bergans Spine System or the Lowe Alpine Axiom System).

Guide to fitting your rucksack

Now, it’s time to adjust the shoulder straps to your body so that you can comfortably stretch your arms out in front of you. Then you can check to see if the load is really resting around your hips. After that, clip on and tighten the sternum strap so that the shoulder straps rest comfortably around your shoulders. You can put the finishing touches on the fit by adjusting the load lifter straps.

Keep in mind: Since your posture tends to vary depending on whether you’re going uphill, downhill or straight ahead, rucksacks give you the option of experimenting with the load lifter straps, sternum straps and shoulder straps to determine the best fit for your current posture.

What should women keep in mind?

Most outdoorsy women have surely already noticed that most rucksack brands have models for women, and for good reason: the anatomy of a woman is much different from that of a man. The most significant differences include the smaller back length and a women’s specific contoured hip belt to accommodate the female body type.

Ideally, you’d also have the option of positioning the sternum strap somewhat higher than you would on men’s models so that nothing gets squished. This option could also be an argument in favour of men using a women’s rucksack or vice-versa. Some are just more comfortable than others!

Conclusion

Use these tips and be ready for your next hill walk or trekking tour! Believe me, your back, neck and shoulders will thank you. Plus, you’ll have so much more fun out there on the trails!

An overview of sustainable down labels and certifications

An overview of sustainable down labels and certifications

5. July 2017
Equipment

Down is warm and fluffy and the absolute best when it comes to thermal insulation. How the down is obtained, however, is where things get delicate. Even though almost 90% of the world’s down is removed from ducks and geese during slaughter, there are still cases of live-plucking – a practice that clearly falls under animal cruelty.

Fortunately, the topic of sustainability has been becoming more and more prevalent, especially in the outdoor industry. Almost all manufacturers obtain their down from companies that are either certified by external organisations or have established their own market standards. Today, we would like to introduce some of these labels:

Responsible Down Standard

The Responsible Down Standard (RDS) was created by The North Face in collaboration with the non-profit Textile Exchange after the animal rights organisation PETA and Vier Pfoten (Four Paws) had launched a large down campaign and brought the issue to the attention of the public.

The RDS certifies the suppliers, ensuring that the down feathers come exclusively from ducks and geese during slaughter, that they live healthy lives free of pain and suffering and force-feeding. The supply chain is audited from breeding up to the manufacture of down until it makes it to retail. In order for a manufacturer to receive a RDS label, 100% of the down must be produced according to their standards and free of down from dubious sources.

The certificate is valid for a total of 14 months. During this time, RDS carries out both announced and unannounced audits. During the audit, the auditor must be granted complete access to all sites. The RDS criteria can be seen in full here.

Some of the brands that use RDS-certified down are:

Global Traceable Down Standard

None other than the American outdoor company Patagonia – who else? – established the basic form of the Global TDS. Based on their own certification and in collaboration with other companies as well as the National Sanitation Foundation, Patagonia developed the Traceable Down Standard.

Presently, this is the strictest standard in the down feather industry and guarantees that the down is not from live-plucked and force-fed birds. The Global TDS certification also requires that the parent farms be audited. RDS only has an additional qualification for this. The audits are always unannounced, unless an announcement is required by law. Timing is crucial for the audits as well. Audits are carried out in the months in which force-feeding and live-plucking are most likely to be practised.

Both large companies and small farms can be certified. More information on Patagonia’s original company standard can be found here, and you can read up on the Global Traceable Down Standard here.

The following manufacturers use Global TDS-certified down:

Small labels – better than nothing, but not uncontroversial

If you opt for products with RDS or Global TDS certification, you can be certain that the animals weren’t subjected to pain during the production of down. In addition to the two well-known standards, there are other lesser known labels that are more geared toward bedding and fashion products. Unfortunately, more often than not, only the final product is inspected, leaving the supply chain largely unaudited. Some may say it’s better than nothing, but in all actuality, it doesn’t bring us any closer to obtaining ethically sourced down.

What about other companies?

Patagonia has shown us how it’s done! All you need is a company philosophy and the will to implement it for animal rights. Simple, right? For this reason, in-house efforts of other manufacturers couldn’t be more welcome. After all, they have the power to force their suppliers to comply with conventions. There are several outdoor brands that get their down from RDS or Global TDS-certified sources, but others follow their own standards.

Fjällräven’s Down Promise

The down promise is the spearhead of the certification business. The Swedish company’s down promise is transparent and allows for 100% traceability. Live-plucking and force-feeding are totally forbidden, and the facilities are inspected regularly.

Mountain Equipment’s “Down Codex”

The “Down Codex” is the English company’s way of ensuring that the down used for their products does not come from birds that have been live-plucked or force fed and that have been raised in good conditions. Every down product has its own code you can use on the Trace Your Down website to trace the entire supply chain. The supply chain is also independently tested by the International Down and Feather Laboratory (IDFL).

The “Yeti Ethical Down Code”

The Yeti Ethical Down Code is very similar to Mountain Equipment’s label. Their supply chain is also tested by the IDFL.

The bottom line

The topic of sustainability is something that applies to just about every single outdoor product category. And, this is obviously an incredibly positive development. After all, it’s extremely important that we keep our ecological footprint as small as possible. But, as always, don’t believe everything you read. Not every label or certification for that matter is as comprehensive as it may seem. In other words, do some extra research or feel free to ask one of your fellow Alpine Trekkers for some extra info!

Everything you ever wanted to know about carabiner noses

Everything you ever wanted to know about carabiner noses

5. July 2017
Equipment

Carabiners have noses? Indeed they do! And just like the ones on people and animals, carabiner noses come in all sorts of shapes an sizes. The only difference: Biner noses don’t have a sense of smell! What they do have are some great names: “HoodWire”,“Wirelock”,“MonoFil”, „Keylock“ or even “Clean Wire”. Not bad, eh?

Yeah, biner noses can be pretty confusing. Luckily, you have us to clear it all up for you! In the following, we’re going to give you an overview of the carabiner noses mentioned above and tell you what to keep in mind when carabiner shopping.

Nose or no nose – that’s the question

If you’ve ever taken a closer look at your carabiners, you’ve probably noticed that they not only differ in terms of their shape and size but also in terms of the tip. The bit of the carabiner which the gate snaps into. That’s the carabiner’s nose. And, it can either have a little hook or no little hook.

The nose and the gate of a carabiner work together much in the same way as a lock and key do. The nose is basically like the “bit” of a key, locking the carabiner with the gate so that it has maximum strength. There you have it: the first essential function of the carabiner’s nose! In other words, the nose makes it possible for the carabiner to have a strength of at least 20 kN along the major axis (European standard EN) when closed. However, when loaded along its minor axis or when open, the strength of a carabiner is significantly reduced. You’re probably already well aware of this, but I’m going to say it anyway: When climbing, you should avoid loading carabiners in these ways at all costs, if and whenever possible. Here comes a bit of wisdom you may not have known: Your choice of a nose can help avoid these dangerous situations!

The nose hook

As was already mentioned, there is the nose in the form of a little hook. This can cause the following problems:

  • The nose can get hung up on bolt hangers, nuts or even a sling
  • The rope is really difficult for the follower to remove
  • When loaded, a carabiner with a traditional nose (hook/notch) is also very difficult to unclip

Bolts, nuts and co.

It’s rather irritating to get your quickdraw (your carabiner) caught in the gear loop of your harness, but being hung-up on a bolt hanger or nut is extremely serious business.

You will not be able to close your carabiner, putting you in the very dangerous open gate scenario. In such a situation, the load isn’t in line with the major axis, causing the basket to bend and perhaps even break.

Good to know

The fact that your rope will be difficult for you to remove is something you should consider if you’re planning on following on a multi-pitch climb. This won’t be so much of a concern for pure sport climbers.

On overhangs, you’ll notice that your rope is under load even when you’re removing your gear and that it’d be best to remove the carabiner on the side of the bolt hanger first. That way, you won’t risk your safety, even though it will be irritating and energy-sapping trying to remove your carabiner for the fifth time because its nose keeps getting caught.

These kinds of noses are primarily on wire-gate carabiners, older screw-gates can also have a notch (hook).

Keylock is the magic word

The problems we mentioned above are easy to solve. Thanks to some innovations in the field, carabiners no longer need a nose to work. Keylock is the magic word, did I mention that? Keylock refers to a locking system that forgoes the traditional nose in the form of a small hook. Instead, keylock carabiners have something akin to a jigsaw piece on the noise, which fits into a corresponding opening in the gate. This serves to prevent anything from getting tangled. Keylock carabiners are absolutely essential for belay stations, in conjunction with a belay station sling and the upper carabiner of a quickdraw, as they reduce the risks mentioned above.

The professionals

With keylock carabiners out of the way, we can now move on to “Hoodwire”, “MonoFil”, “Wirelock” and “Clean-Wire”. These are all designs that utilise both the lighter wire gate as well as the keylock system, thereby fusing the advantages of a wire gate with those of the keylock system. Let’s begin with Hoodwire:

  • “Hoodwire” by Black Diamond: Very simple, but extremely effective, the small wire bar over the nose prevents snagging when clipping and cleaning bolts. The HoodWire design is found in the Black Diamond – Hoodwire Quickdraw – Quickdraw.
  • The Petzl “MonoFil”: A single wire is inserted into the nose, thereby fusing the functionality of both a wire-gate and a keylock carabiner. Petzl’s MonoFil keylock can be found in the Petzl – Ange Finesse – Quickdraw.
  • The “Wirelock by DMM is also a wire gate that is snapped into the nose, eliminating any snags. This system can be found in the DMM – Shield – Quickdraw.
  • “Clean-Wire” by Wild Country: This wire-gate carabiner utilises the keylock system as well. The wire gate snaps into the nose, as seen in the Wild Country Helium 2 QD – Quickdraw. This is achieved by means of a small bulge or hood over the nose.

Keylock is the future

The keylock system has clearly surpassed the noses of old. In terms of wire-gate carabiners, the new technology introduced here is your best option, even though they tend to be much more expensive. For this reason, you should think about what you’re going to use them for and if they’re really necessary. If you resort to traditional noses, make sure that the noses are as small as possible and slightly rounded, if possible. Have fun climbing!

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.

There’s a lot going on in the climbing and outdoor industry. New products are being invented, existing ones are being reworked and improved, and we, too, are learning more every day. And, of course, we would like to share this knowledge with our customers. That’s why we regularly revise the articles at base camp. So, don’t be surprised if a post changes a bit in the coming months. This article was last edited on 10/11/2015.

Telescoping poles for walking and mountaineering

Telescoping poles for walking and mountaineering

28. September 2017
Buyer's guide, Equipment

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

Who uses what?

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

Number of segments

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

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

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

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

Material and weight

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

Handles and straps

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

Locking mechanism

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

Tips and baskets

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

Shock absorbers

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

Pole length

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

It’s best to make your poles shorter for longer, steeper uphill climbs and longer for steep downhills. Ski mountaineers use telescoping poles as well, which can be lengthened for uphill climbs and shortened for alpine descents (see also our size calculators for alpine ski poles, cross-country ski poles and nordic walking poles).

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 03 33 33 67058 or via e-mail. This article was last edited on 31/01/2017.

A roof over your head: tents

Outdoor Tents Buying Guide

5. July 2017
Equipment

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

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

What size do you need?

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

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

How many walls?

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

Single-wall

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

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

Double-wall

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

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

The construction

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

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

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

Tunnel tent

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

Areas of use: trekking and camping

+ good use of space
+ light relative to its size

– not freestanding
– issues with stormy weather and heavy snowfall

Dome tent

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

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

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

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

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

– come in all sorts of different designs

Geodesic tents

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

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

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

Areas of use: Expeditions

+ plenty of stability
+ self-supporting

– relatively heav

Some other designs

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

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

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

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

What about my kit?

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

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

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

Hydrostatic head

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

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

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

Gimmicks

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

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

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

There’s a lot going on in the climbing and outdoor industry. New products are being invented, existing ones are being reworked and improved, and we, too, are learning more every day. And, of course, we would like to share this knowledge with our customers. That’s why we regularly revise the articles at base camp. So, don’t be surprised if a post changes a bit in the coming months. This article was last edited on 25/02/2016.

Sustainability and the outdoor industry

Sustainability and the outdoor industry

27. July 2017
Equipment

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

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

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

Apparel

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

Vaude – the best in its class

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

Monkee, Jung, Triple2 – learning from the little guys

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

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

That horrible stuff involving down and merino sheep

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

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

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

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

Gear and care

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

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

Hardware

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

The responsibility of the consumer

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

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

There’s a lot going on in the climbing and outdoor industry. New products are being invented, existing ones are being reworked and improved, and we, too, are learning more every day. And, of course, we would like to share this knowledge with our customers. That’s why we regularly revise the articles at base camp. So, don’t be surprised if a post changes a bit in the coming months. This article was last edited on 22/03/2016.

Softshell trousers vs. walking trousers

Softshell trousers vs. walking trousers

5. July 2017
Equipment

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

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

Softshell – a real all-rounder

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

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

Softshell trousers – strengths and weaknesses

Stretchy fabrics and durability

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

Breathability and wind and water repellence

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

Lightweight and quick-drying

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

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

Walking trousers

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

Where walking trousers outdo softshell trousers

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

Warm, humid, unpredictable

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

Pockets, pockets, pockets

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

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

Decisions, decisions

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

A guide to via ferrata sets

A guide to via ferrata sets

5. July 2017
Equipment

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

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

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

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

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

The via ferrata set

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

The energy absorber

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

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

Carabiners

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

Lanyards

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

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

The attachment loop

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

Recalls – is my via ferrata set safe?

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

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

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

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

Via ferrata sets and kids (or smaller folks)

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

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

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

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

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

Gimmicks

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

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

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

What else is there to say?

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

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

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

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

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

There’s a lot going on in the climbing and outdoor industry. New products are being invented, existing ones are being reworked and improved, and we, too, are learning more every day. And, of course, we would like to share this knowledge with our customers. That’s why we regularly revise the articles at base camp. So, don’t be surprised if a post changes a bit in the coming months. This article was last edited on 25/02/2016.