All posts on this topic ‘Equipment’

Buying Advice Backpacks

10. September 2020
Buyer's guide, Equipment

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

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

BASIC

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

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

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

But now to the backpacks:

DAYPACKS

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

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

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

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

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

TRAVEL BAGS

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

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

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

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

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

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

Intended use:

  • Travel
  • Trekking

TOURING BACKPACKS, TREKKING BACKPACKS

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

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

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

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

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

Most trekking backpacks are compatible with a hydration system.

Use of tour/trekking backpacks:

  • Trekking
  • Multi-day hikes
  • Hut tours

SKI TOURING BACKPACKS

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

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

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

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

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

You can find more information about avalanche backpacks here.

Intended use:

  • Ski-/High tours
  • Freeriding

CLIMBING BACKPACKS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Intended use:

  • Sport Climbing
  • Indoor climbing
  • Multi pitch tours

TRINKING BAGS

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

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

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

Intended use:

  • jogging/trail running
  • Everyday life
  • Hikes

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

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

The crash pad

27. August 2020
Buyer's guide, Equipment

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

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

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

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Choosing the right cycling glasses

20. August 2020
Equipment

The trails are muddy and dirt is flying up from all sides because of the terrific tempo – and you keep having to screw your eyes shut because you left your cycling glasses at home again. Something like this has happened to every mountain biker, especially when you’re starting out.

Cycling glasses are one of the most important accessories when you’re out on a mountain bike – or on a road bike, too. We’ll now explain why you should always have them with you, and what eyewear is right for you!

 

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How to pack your rucksack

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

17. August 2020
Equipment

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

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

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

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

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

The frame and the carry system

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

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

Compartments and pockets

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

Materials

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

Prejudices and misunderstandings

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

  • Prejudice 1: ultra-light = ultra-expensive

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

  • Prejudice 2: ultra-light = ultra-flimsy

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

  • Prejudice 3: ultra-light = ultra-uncomfortable

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

Conclusion

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

What does breathable mean?

10. August 2020
Equipment

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

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

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

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MIPS – Brainy Helmet Technology

16. July 2020
Equipment

Through advances in technology and scientific insights, all sports – along with the materials that go with them – are constantly being developed. This has enormous consequences, especially for skiing. The sport keeps getting faster, you ski down steeper faces, dare to take bigger jumps and do more crazy tricks.

This is all well and good – but the only logical consequence is that the safety technology has to keep being developed, too, so that you’re well protected even at higher speeds. The MIPS helmet system is just such a development.

We’ll explain where it’s come from, what it can do and who it’s suitable for.

What is MIPS?

MIPS is a safety system for helmets of all kinds. It was developed by 5 Swedish scientists from the KTH (Royal Institute of Technology) in Stockholm, and is the result of 30 years of work.

What does MIPS mean?

MIPS stands for Multi Directional Impact Protection System. In plain English, it’s a system that is designed to provide protection against impacts with different directions of movement/ force. These different directions of force are generated when the helmet is hit at an angle.

Standard helmets are best at absorbing static (straight) impacts that hit the helmet at a right angle and do not generate any rotational force.

Static impacts are unrealistic – you mostly hit the ground or other obstacles at an angle – and this is why the MIPS system was developed. It absorbs both static and rotational forces.

How do rotational forces occur?

When impact occurs at an angle, the force generated from the impact is not just transferred in a single direction but in many, because the forces are distributed according to the vector principle. This results in rotational force, which serves to absorb the force of the impact. This force holds great risks because it causes the brain to hit against the outer wall of the skull, resulting in a concussion or worse.

How does the MIPS system work?

The MIPS system is modelled on the human brain. To protect the brain, there is fluid between it and the cranial bone. When the head is hit, the resulting rotational forces are reduced by minimal movements of this layer of fluid, preventing the force from being transferred to the brain.

The MIPS copies this layer, so to speak. This is achieved using a movable second shell integrated into the helmet’s outer shell. This second shell sits directly on the head.

So, when angled impact occurs, the resulting rotational force is not transferred to the head, but is instead reduced through the movement between the first and second layers.

This system is very effective and can easily be incorporated into any helmet.

What are the disadvantages?

Since the system is still in its infancy and is only just starting to be used by helmet brands, at the moment it is still very expensive. There is also no data on the lifespan of the system or whether it must be replaced after every accident. What’s more, there is still the question of how snug the helmet has to be in order for it to provide its full protection.

The only thing you could really call a “disadvantage” is that the helmets are 50-100 grams heavier than regular ones. But for this extra safety, we’re all willing to bear some extra weight, right?

All in all, there are no discernible disadvantages, since this is undoubtedly for own safety.

Who is the system for?

The system is for anybody who wants to be well protected. At the moment, all sorts of top athletes are testing it in their disciplines, but it is establishing itself on the market more and more, and really it’s suitable for anyone. There are already helmets with MIPS on offer for cycling, too. Since the system can be built very compactly, there are no restrictions on who can wear it, either.

What should you consider when shopping for a MIPS helmet?

The helmet should not only look stylish, it should also fit perfectly. Other than that, the same “rules” apply as when you’re buying a normal helmet. You can find further information on this here in our blog.

Where can I buy helmets with the MIPS system?

You can find helmets fitted with the MIPS system from different brands in our online shop. Amongst others, companies such as POC, Giro and Sweet Protection offer helmets with MIPS. There’s a good selection available, so you’re sure to find a helmet with MIPS that suits your taste.

Even with MIPS, you won’t have to sacrifice any useful features, as the helmets mostly have the same features as conventional ones – for example, the POC Helmet Backcountry MIPS Ducroz Edition, which you can find on our online shop. As well as the MIPS system, this helmet also has detachable ear pads, an integrated Recco reflector and is compatible with Beats by Dr. Dre headphones. Plus, the size is adjustable so it can “grow” with its wearer – perfect for kids!

The ski helmet Trooper MIPS from Sweet Protection is a fantastic all-rounder: designed for all kinds of skiing and snowboarding, its size adjustment, carbon outer shell, shock-absorbing lining and cooling system are sure to impress.

The future of MIPS

The MIPS system is bound to become the standard within a few years and will also continue to be improved, because it is a system that really substantially increases our safety and that can be used in any helmet for any kind of sport. In any case, there is incentive for the big players to further develop the system so they can stay competitive in the market for the foreseeable future.

If you have further questions or aren’t sure which product to choose, our customer service team will be glad to assist you. Philip is our inhouse expert when it comes to helmets. You can contact him during the week on +49 (0)7121/70 12 0 or by email.

There is always something happening in the climbing and outdoor worlds. New products are developed, existing ones are revised or improved, and we learn something new every day, too. And, of course, we want to share our knowledge with our customers. That’s why we regularly revise our Base Camp articles. So don’t be surprised if a few things have changed after a couple of months. This post was last updated on 01/02/2016.

Packing list: Day hiking tours

13. July 2020
Equipment, packing list

A day hike is any walking tour where you don’t take all your gear with you, but instead come back to your starting point in the evening. It’s important that you take the equipment you need for one day (without an overnight stay) with you.

Clothing







You should always have these with you, too














Optional (depending on the season and the tour)











If there’s space left in your backpack









What might be the biggest advantage of day hikes: Mistakes in equipment planning are only a nuisance for one day and can be remedied relatively easily. You should still definitely have a few essentials with you, though, as necessary for the tour. Everything else then falls into the category of “personal preference” and “habits”.

A buyer's guide to outdoor jackets

Nubuck leather – the pros and cons of a natural product

25. June 2020
Equipment

Doesn’t the term nubuck leather automatically make you think of those classy leather shoes for upscale occasions? Well, interestingly enough, this natural material is used for much more than just fancy footwear. You can find nubuck leather upholstery, car interiors, in the form of reinforcements for clothing and oftentimes as the main material for gloves and mountaineering boots.

But, as with every other natural material, there are upsides and downsides to nubuck leather. In this post, we’re going to focus on the pros and cons of nubuck leather and they pertain to mountain sports.

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Tips for choosing waterproof trousers

15. June 2020
Equipment

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

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

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keep-your-merino-in-good-sh

Merino wool – the functional fibre in detail

23. June 2020
Equipment

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

Where does merino wool come from?

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

What are the properties of merino wool?

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

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

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

Why doesn’t merino wool itch?

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

How does merino wool warm when it’s cold?

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

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

How does merino wool cool when it’s warm?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why is merino wool water and dirt-resistant?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What types of fabric blends are there?

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

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

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

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

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

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

How sustainable is merino wool?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Still have questions?

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

Thinsulate – the life of a product family

5. June 2020
Equipment

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

 

 

 

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

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

A little material science

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

Application areas and product variants

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

Type B

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

Type C

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

Type P

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

Type FR

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

Type TIP

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

Care

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

In short…

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

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

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

5. June 2020
Equipment

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

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

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

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

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

 

frame and carry system

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

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

Compartments and Pockets

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

Materials

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

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

Preconceptions and misunderstandings

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

  • Preconception 1: ultra-light = ultra expensive

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

  • Preconception 2: Ultra-light = ultra sensitive

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

  • Preconception 3: Ultra-light = ultra uncomfortable

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

Conclusion

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

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