All posts on this topic ‘Equipment’

Care instructions: How to clean your backpack properly

Care instructions: How to clean your backpack properly

21. März 2018
Care tips, Equipment

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

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

How to wash your backpack properly

Can you wash your backpack in the washing machine?

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

Washing backpacks by hand

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

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

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

A deep clean or individual parts?

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

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

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

How to dry your backpack after washing it by hand

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

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

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

How to care for your backpack after washing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reproofing your backpack

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

How to store your backpack properly

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

Decisions, decisions: Finding the right walking trousers

Decisions, decisions: Finding the right walking trousers

15. März 2018

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

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

The cool all-rounder for long treks

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

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

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

A general overview of available products

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

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

Some more important details on walking trousers

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

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

Walking trousers take quite a beating

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

Special areas of use

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

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

Three hot tips for good measure

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

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

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

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

Polyester: a fibre with a wide range of applications

Polyester: a fibre with a wide range of applications

14. März 2018

Polyester is used very frequently, especially in sportswear. This synthetic fibre boasts such a large variety of positive characteristics for virtually any application that it is now absolutely essential to the sports industry. The fibre is used again and again for apparel in both cycling and mountain sports.

And, it doesn’t make any difference whether the clothes are made for warm or cold weather. Due to the way in which the clothing is made, apparel constructed completely or partly from polyester usually does precisely what you expect it to do.

Polyester transports moisture

As already mentioned, polyester is often used for sportswear, irrespective of the sport. After all, athletes all want the same thing: They want a fabric that doesn’t make them sweat, that keeps moisture away from the body and keeps them warm in chilly weather without making them overheat.

In contrast to cotton, polyester has a low absorbency, so sweat resulting from intense physical activity is automatically drawn away to the outside. This means that there is no build up of moisture on the interior of the sportswear, eliminating the risk of you cooling down too much after exercise or in windy conditions. The moisture remains on the surface of the fabric where it simply evaporates.

Since polyester doesn’t absorb sweat but instead moves it away from the body, harmful bacteria cannot even begin to form. So, you’ll be able to prevent the dreaded smell of sweat forming in the first place! And, if the garment is washed on a regular basis, then it’ll be particularly hygienic!

Another advantage, which also has to do with moisture, is that polyester dries very quickly. After a hard run, exhausting ascent or tough training session, your polyester shirt or trousers will dry in a flash! This also means that after you’ve washed them, they’ll be dry and ready to go in no time at all. Plus, you usually don’t even have to iron it for it to look good! What a deal! Yep, it’s true: Polyester hardly wrinkles!

Polyester will keep you warm when it’s cold

Apart from being used for moisture-wicking jerseys and sport bottoms, the synthetic fibre is also used for lining or insulation because of its insulating effect. You’ll find it as linings in winter jackets and sleeping bags. These fibres are now even used for tents and outdoor blankets as well. In sum, when you combine the insulating and moisture-resistant properties of polyester, you get a textbook example of a solid outdoor fabric. This fibre keeps mountaineers, hill walkers and expedition-goers protected at all times, allowing them to achieve their goals without being held back by the elements.

Of course, in order for polyester to have an insulating effect, it needs our body heat. Like with neoprene, a warm, protective layer forms between your body and the garment. Cold air from the outside hardly comes into contact with the body. This characteristic is also obviously crucial for blankets and sleeping bags, as it’ll help to prevent you suffering from hypothermia when sleeping in the mountains or bivouacking.

The downsides of polyester

Like with any fibre, there are several upsides to polyester but a few downsides as well. The biggest downside is probably that many people are allergic to it. Cotton seems to be much easier for people to take than polyester. Like with sheep’s wool, polyester can cause your skin to itch and redden. Fortunately, most athletes are familiar with the allergy and steer clear of polyester if necessary.

Other uses of polyester

Apart from being used for clothing, polyester is also used in other applications. You’ll find it in the form of a thermoset as in hard plastic objects. In fact, there are several plastic parts in the sports industry that are made from polyesters, such as sports equipment. As you can see, it’s a material with a very broad range of applications.

Polyester is also used for fibreglass. This material is extremely strong and stiff. That’s why, it’s often used for manufacturing sports equipment and other sportsproducts, all of which need to be extremely robust, durable and light. Fibreglass is so strong that it is often used for building boats and even appears in helmets, (archery) bows and many other objects.

As a result of its versatility, polyester is a material that has an incredibly wide range of applications. However, despite all of its excellent properties, it is often perceived as a cheap, low-quality alternative to other higher-quality fibres. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Polyester is used for almost every professional athlete’s jersey, racing suit and piece of sports equipment.

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.

Water purification - Different treatment methods

Water purification – Different treatment methods

26. Februar 2018
Equipment, Tips and Tricks

“Why are you lying around the house again? Didn’t feel like going on? No, got diarrhoea…I guess the water wasn’t as clean as I thought it was…”

It’s not at all rare to hear these or similar stories from fellow outdoorsmen who cut their trip short. Unfortunately, when you’re in the great outdoors – be it a multi-day trek, a climbing trip or an expedition to Africa – water and water purification is one of the most important factors. There’s simply no way around it. After all, a whopping three-quarters of all illnesses are water-borne – yikes!

In order to reduce the risk of you contracting water-borne diseases, please have a good, hard think about the following: First and foremost, use common sense. I mean, nobody in their right mind would drink standing muddy water willingly, right? So, you shouldn’t either! But, what about when you’re trekking through meadows and cultivated land and come upon a little innocent stream? Oh yeah, totally drink the stream water. It looks drinkable. Go for it. Yeah…I know what you’re thinking. You shouldn’t have taken that sip, right? Even in seemingly clear stream water, there are loads of invisible risks that can ruin a trip. You said it: Montezuma’s revenge!

The different types of impurities in water

In a nutshell, there are three different types of impurities present in water:

Dirt or suspended solids

  • Undissolved particles and sediment


  • Bacteria like e-coli or salmonella (ca. 0.2-5 microns in size)
  • Virus like hepatitis A (~0.02 – 0.2 microns in size)
  • Protozoa like giardia (ca. 1-15 microns in size)

Agricultural resources

  • Like fertiliser, pesticides or herbicides

How can I purify my drinking water

Boiling – the easiest and oldest method

If the water is somewhat clear and not too cloudy, then you can use the oldest and simple method: simply boil the water. This is a very effective way to combat the various pathogens, but chemicals and suspended particles remain.

At sea level, you should boil the water for at least five minutes. If you’re planning a trip to the mountains, you’ll have to boil the water longer, since the boiling point of water gets lower with higher altitude. As a rule of thumb: Increase the boiling time by 1 minute for every 150 metres of elevation gain.

And that brings us to the biggest downside of boiling. You need fuel, and a lot of it, especially for long trips or large amounts of water. To reduce the amount of fuel required and to filter out the suspended particles and chemicals in the water, there is a variety of other water purification techniques you can use. The most important water purification methods are:

Using chemicals

such as Micropur Forte

  • How does Micropur Forte work? It uses silver ions or chlorine to kill micro-organisms. Use one tablet for one litre of clear water and wait up to 120 minutes for it to take effect, depending on how much time is recommended
  • What does it combat? Bacteria, viruses, most protozoa and fungi
  • How heavy is the package? 22 grams for 100 tablets
  • Dosage: One tablet per litre of water
  • Application: For clear, but potentially contaminated water; when the water is stored

+ easy to use
+ conserves the drinking water for up to 6 months

– only works with clear water
– does not combat suspended particles or chemicals
– chemical taste (use Katadyn Antichlorine to neutralise the taste of chlorine)
– takes a long time to take effect

Using UV light

such as with the Steripen Classic

  • How does the treatment work? Uses UV light to inactivate micro-organisms, but doe not destroy them.
  • What does the treatment using UV light combat? Bacteria, viruses and protozoa
  • Dosage the device generates 100 litres of sterilised water per battery charge
  • How heavy is the Steripen? 97 grams without batteries
  • Who is it best suited for? If you need it to go fast and don’t need large amounts of water.

+ effectively combats viruses
+ easy to use
+ quick purification of water

– you need batteries
– does not filter out suspended particles or chemicals
– only works with clear water

Water filter

such as the MSR Miniworks

  • How does a water filter work? Mechanically – the contaminants are removed from the water with the help of the filter unit (usually made of ceramic, fibreglass, plastic, activated charcoal or a combination thereof). Activated charcoal filters chemicals such as pesticides, chlorine and other things while improving the taste as well. High-quality ceramic filters have a pore size of 0.2 microns, so all micro-organisms that are larger than 0.2 microns are removed.
  • What does it combat? Bacteria, protozoa, suspended solids and chemicals
  • Dosage 2,000 litres – then you’ll have to replace the ceramic cartridge. Of course, you’ll have to sand it or clean it every once and a while as well.
  • How heavy is the MSR Miniworks? 456 grams
  • Application Who is it best suited for? Very cloudy water; frequent and heavy use

+ filters suspended particles, bacteria, protozoa as well as chemicals out of the water
+ can quickly treat a large amount of water

– relatively heavy
– viruses are not filtered out


The way in which you ultimately purify your water depends on the kind of trip you’re planning and your destination. Sometimes, it’s wise to combine various methods. If you’re on a hut trip in the Alps and would like to fill up your water bottle in a stream without running the risk of getting sick, your best bet would probably be a Steripen. When you make it to the hut, there’ll be purified water or a bottled isotonic drink waiting for you, anyway.

If you want to safely disinfect water in your campervan water tank and store it for a long period of time, chemicals would be your best choice. Antichlorine will help get rid of the bad taste as well.

If trekking is more your thing, a mechanical water filter is definitely a good choice. It will allow you to purify large amounts of water in a short period of time. The good thing about this is that you won’t have to worry about any electronics breaking or your water tasting like chlorine or other chemicals. The downside is you’ll have a bit more to carry.

The North Face's Thermoball: An alternative to down?

The North Face’s Thermoball: An alternative to down?

5. Februar 2018

Thermoball? Warmth + ball? What the deuce is that supposed to be? What do these two words have to do with each other?

Well, hidden behind this interesting combination of words is a new and innovative insulation technology developed by The North Face in collaboration with Primaloft. The North Face is surely a term you’re familiar with. You know, the American brand that combines innovation and adventure with loads of style? Yep, that’s The North Face. PrimaLoft, on the other hand, is a brand of thermal insulation material developed for apparel.

The aim of this development was to imitate the positive characteristics of down insulation with the help of synthetic fibres whilst simultaneously eliminating down’s negative properties and the usual synthetic fibres available on the market today. In the following, we’d like to introduce you to this new technology and tell what it can and can’t do.

A jacket for every adventure

When you’re in the great outdoors, you’re constantly exposed to different weather conditions. Sun, wind, rain, cold, fog, ice, snow and that’s just a few of the mighty weapons Mother Nature can throw at you. There are so many other beautiful and not-so-beautiful combinations as well.

If you ever asked outdoor enthusiasts about their dream jacket, they would probably say, “One that is packable, quick-drying, warm, breathable, waterproof or water repellent at the very least. It should breathe when you sweat and insulate when you’re more relaxed. Oh, and it should look good, too.” A jacket that keeps you warm when you’re relaxed and stops insulating when you move? Sounds a lot like that milk-giving wool-pig the Germans are always talking about.

Anyway, The North Face has developed a new insulation material that doesn’t necessarily reinvent the wheel, but still manages to combine the positive properties of down and synthetic fibres. They’ve created an insulation technology that broadens the areas of use for insulated jackets significantly.

Thermoball is very versatile, so it can be used in a variety of ways: either as an insulated jacket (meaning a layer underneath your hardshell jacket) or as your outer layer in dry conditions. Thermoball can also be used as padding and fixed directly under your hardshell, thereby eliminating the need for an additional layer.

The North Face sees Thermoball as a single-jacket solution for any adventure. By this they mean that, because Thermoball has such excellent properties, it is extremely versatile. Whenever you need breathability, insulation and flexibility, as you would while hill walking, trekking or trail running, Thermoball is a great choice.

Warmth with none of the disadvantages of down

The advantage Thermoball products have over down lies in their ability to insulate when wet and dry much more quickly. And the disadvantages? There are supposedly none to speak of.

Now for some specs: The insulation provided by Thermoball is supposed to be comparable to that of 600 cuin goose down insulation. But, what does 600 cuin even mean? This unit refers to the so-called fill power of down. It measures how much of one cubic inch is occupied by 27.3 grams or one ounce of down. The higher this value is, the higher the thermal insulation relative to its pack size. Obviously, you want high thermal insulation, but I’m sure none of you want to lug around an extremely thick jacket or huge sleeping bag, unless you were on an expedition in Antarctica. In other words, the magic recipe is good thermal insulation and a small pack size.

For the animal lovers among you, synthetic fibres have the additional plus that they’re not made from animal products and can thus be used without a guilty conscience. Well, let me take that back. Our eco-friendly friends out there will be disappointed to hear that Thermoball is not a natural fibre and thus not biodegradable.

Thermoball technology

Where Thermo comes from is obvious, but what about ball? Well, Thermoball insulation consists of small, round synthetic fibre clusters or balls that have the positive characteristics of goose down. Thermoball is fluffy and very packable. Regardless of the insulation material – be it down or Thermoball, the thing that keeps you warm is the air. The air between the Thermoballs is heated up by the body and trapped by the balls. The result is a warm air cushion around your body.

Unlike standard synthetic fibres, Thermoballs don’t stick together, so you’ll get more joy out of the product for a longer period. You can even wash Thermoball every now and again and nothing will happen!

We hope that the Thermoball technology is as good as TNF claims it to be! We’re looking forward to hearing about your own experiences.

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 03/03/2016.

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MIPS - Brainy helmet technology

MIPS – Brainy helmet technology

5. Februar 2018

With the development of new technology and the acquisition of scientific knowledge, we see advancements in both our beloved sports as well as the gear we use for them. This is especially true for skiing. The sport is getting faster and faster, the ski runs are getting steeper, and skiers are becoming more and more daring, as is evident by their massive jumps and crazy tricks.

That’s all fine and dandy, as long as ski safety technology can keep up! And, so far, it has, thanks in large part to the MIPS helmet system.

In the following, we’re going to tell you everything you ever wanted to know about this technology!

What does MIPS mean?

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

MIPS stands for Multi Directional Impact Protection System. Wow, that’s a mouthful. In simple English, MIPS is a system that was designed to manage energy from rotational and angular impact. These different directions of force are generated when the helmet is hit at an angle.

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

Since skiers usually don’t experience direct, vertical impacts on their head but rather hit objects at oblique angles, a helmet was needed that was capable of absorbing these kinds of impacts, thereby protecting the skier from more serious head injuries. And, the MIPS system does just that, absorbing both static and rotational impact.

How do rotational forces occur?

When impact occurs at an angle, the forces from the impact are directed not in a single direction but in several. This is how rotational forces come to be, and these forces hold great risks because they cause 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 was modelled after the human brain. To protect the brain, there is a fluid between it and the cranial bone. Upon impact, the resulting rotational forces are absorbed by this layer of fluid, which acts as a cushion for the brain and thereby prevents these forces transferring to the brain.

MIPS is basically a copy of this layer. It consists of two layers, the second of which moves. The second shell sits directly on the head.

When a helmet with this technology is subjected to an angled impact, the resulting rotational forces are not transferred to the head but reduced by the rotational motion of the first and second helmet layer.

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

What are the disadvantages?

Since the system is still relatively new and is only starting to be used by helmet brands, it remains very expensive. What’s more, there is no data on the lifespan of the system or whether or not it should be replaced after every accident. Another issue has to do with how snug the helmet has to be in order for it to provide optimal protection.

Apart from these concerns, the only thing you could call a “disadvantage” is that the helmets are 50-100 grams heavier than regular helmets, but I think for some extra safety, we’re all willing to carry some extra weight, right?

That said, I guess it’s safe to claim that there aren’t really any disadvantages, since the only thing we could think of is not to our detriment but for our own safety.

Who’s the system for?

All sorts of top athletes have been testing the system in their respective disciplines, but it’s not only intended to be used by professional athletes. The system is for anybody looking for extra protection. There are already plenty of cycling helmets with MIPS technology. Since the system can be built very compactly, there are no restrictions on who can wear it, either.

Things to consider when shopping for a MIPS helmet

Apart from being stylish, your helmet should fit perfectly as well. Other than that, the same “rules” apply as when you’re buying a normal helmet.

Where can a buy a helmet with MIPS technology?

You can find helmets with the MIPS system from all sorts of different brands in our online shop. Brands such as POC, Giro and Sweet Protection offer helmets with MIPS technology, so there’s quite the nice selection and something for everybody.

The great thing about this technology is that, even with the incorporation of MIPS, you won’t have to sacrifice any of the useful features you’d have in other helmets. In fact, most of them have the very same features as conventional helmets. A good example of such a helmet is the POC Helmet Receptor Backcountry MIPS Ducroz Edition, which you can find in our online shop. Apart from having MIPS technology, this helmet is compatible with Beats by Dr. Dre headphones and comes equipped with detachable ear pads and an integrated Recco reflector. Plus, the size is adjustable, so it can “grows with” a growing head size – perfect for kids!

Another great option is the Trooper MIPS ski helmet from Sweet Protection, which is an all-purpose helmet designed for skiing and snowboarding that comes with a size adjustment system, carbon outer shell, shock absorbent liner and ventilation.

The future of MIPS

The MIPS system is bound to be the standard, if it’s not already, and will continue to be reworked and improved. It’s a technology that not only significantly increases our safety but is also compatible with helmets for any sport.

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

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 01/02/2016.

How to set up a slackline without trees

How to set up a slackline without trees

4. Januar 2018
Equipment, Tips and Tricks

Slacklining is so easy to do. All you need are two trees! Wait, but what if you can’t find two trees strong enough to be your anchors? I mean, you can’t use any old thing. Your anchor points have to be capable of withstanding the extreme loads they’re put under. And, that’s no exaggeration. You can find out just how severe these loads are using our trusty new calculator:

>> Calculate the loads on the anchors in your slacklining setup here!

So, since most of us know how to set up our slacklines with trees around, we’re going to talk about setting them up without them and without doing a lot of damage to the neighbourhood or the surrounding area in the process.

If you have the right tools and material, it’s not as difficult as it may sound. In fact, if you’ve got the right ground anchors or the necessary frame, it’s easy to set up a slackline without trees. Don’t believe me? Here’s proof!

Forces in slacklining

In slacklining, there are some pretty gnarly forces at work that you really need to take into consideration when setting up your line. More specifically, it is important to make sure that your line, surrounding technology (whatever that may be) and anchor points are strong enough to withstand the load. So, before looking for possible alternatives to trees, it’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with the forces involved and how they come to be.

The first and certainly easiest force to understand is pretension, which is the force generated when the slackline is tensioned. Another force is generated by the weight of the slackliner as well as the sag of the slackline. There is also something called a dynamic force, which has an effect on the entire setup. This is brought about by the slackliner’s movements and increases with the degree of activity. Thus, these reactionary forces are much higher as a result of jumps than they are when a slackliner simply walks or turns around.

With the help of our calculator, you can calculate the anchor point loads quickly and easily. This will help you to familiarise yourself with the forces at work before setting up your slackline as well as give you an estimate as to whether a potential anchor point is capable of withstanding the load.

Slackline frames

Of course, we can’t forego anchor points entirely. Even slackline frames need some kind of anchor. Strictly speaking, these handy and self-supporting systems can be installed everywhere. When using one of these frames, the slackline is tensioned between two anchor points by means of an integrated ratchet. Frames of this kind are either made out of metal or wood and usually consist of several modules that allow you to save space when you store them. A good example of such a frame is the Slackrack from Gibbon. This three-part set allows you to set up a 2 or 3 metre long line.

Since these are generally self-supporting systems, no further fix points are required. The frames are built in such a way as to be sturdy on level ground and easy to handle. Slackline frames are therefore ideally suited for fitness as well. They’re a great alternative to the usual slackline setups for schools, clubs and families as well. Of course, the coolest thing about these systems is the fact that they can be used indoors as well, no matter whether you set it up in your child’s room, a make-shift gym in your cellar or a regular gym. You’ll always find a place for it!

Securing the ground anchors

If you prefer to pursue your hobby in your own garden or at a park, but you can’t seem to find any anchor points, you should have a closer look at the free-standing options with anchors. These kinds of sets are made by a number of different brands, but all of them follow the same basic principle: Two ground anchors are screwed into the ground, the slackline is mounted onto it and brought up to the desired height using the two frames. Then, all you have to do is fully tension the slackline, and voila! Let the fun begin!

The cool thing about this is that the length of the slackline can be adjusted however you like it. You can also adjust the height and then choose between several clamping heights. Another great thing about this kind of setup is how quick and easy it is to disassemble. Plus, once you’ve taken it apart, it packs down nice and small. When used properly, the ground anchors hardly leave any traces in the ground. Thus, systems like the Frameline Set from Slackline Tools are ideally suited for any slackliners who want to be as mobile as possible and not have to rely on trees.

Setup options for gymnasiums and climbing centres

Since slackline sets with ground anchors can only be used outdoors and trees rarely grow in gymnasiums and climbing centres, the following question basically asks itself: How would you set up a long slackline indoors?

Well, if the building has strong concrete walls, it shouldn’t be a problem. There are plenty of different anchors and setup options. These are usually bolted to a wall with several heavy-duty anchors. Thus, by using permanent wall hooks, you can set up a line from one wall to another. But, this will only work if the walls are sturdy enough and may require the opinion of a stress analyst beforehand.

When it comes to gymnasiums, there are even more interesting options. Similar to the setup with ground anchors, a slackline can be attached to the floor anchors for horizontal bars. For more height, two small crates are pushed underneath. This setup is particularly suitable for school classes or clubs. Since the slackline runs over the crate at both ends, it’s much easier for kids to get on. Plus, the setup is much quicker and easier since you’re using the existing infrastructure of the gymnasium and permanent installations are not necessary.


It is not impossible to set up a slackline without trees. In fact, as we’ve seen, there are plenty of options out there that’ll do just that. Whether you’re looking for something for indoors or outdoors, big or small, or beginners or professionals, the market is full of all sorts of clever slackline kits. Speaking of clever, there are even slackline systems that have been designed to be used in physical therapy with the aim of improving the mobility of those who have been in accidents or have chronic illnesses. To tension these slacklines, you don’t really even need to use that blasted ratchet anymore, either. These are often included in complete sets, but can also be replaced with an Ellington pulley system, provided you have the proper material.

How to break in your walking boots properly

How to break in your walking boots properly

4. Januar 2018
Equipment, Tips and Tricks

No matter what kind of walking boots you have, it is absolutely essential to break them in before heading out on a trip. This process will soften the material, allowing the boot to mould perfectly to your feet. But, before you break them in, you need to find the perfect pair among the countless number of walking boots on the market today. This can be time-consuming, but it’s incredibly important to make a thorough search of it because our foot shapes are just as numerous as the lasts used by shoe manufacturers. For example, some shoes are a bit roomier or narrower in the toe box, whilst others are narrower at the heel or have an overall more compact shape. 

In addition to the last used to construct the shoe, there are a variety of other factors you should consider when shopping for walking boots, such as the material (leather or synthetics), the height of the ankle support (e.g, mid or low-cut) and the stiffness or flexibility of the sole, to name a few. Once you’ve figured out what kind of shoe you want – be it a lightweight walking shoe, a trekking boot or a crampon-compatible mountaineering boot – it’s time to really start shopping!

Finding the perfect walking boot – the perfect size, width and shape

Only a walking boot in the right size and proper width and shape can be broken in properly. For walkers and hikers, it’s always a good idea to try on the shoes with the socks you’ll be wearing on your trip and using to break in the shoes. Walking socks are made out of all sorts of different materials, including merino wool, synthetic fabric and fabric blends. They should be comfortable, moisture-wicking and fit securely. Remember: your walking boot is only as good as your walking socks.

Once you have the right pair of socks, you can start trying on walking boots. You’ll notice that the walking shoes vary in size and width from brand to brand. The differences aren’t huge, but oftentimes it’s wise to try on a half size larger or smaller in order to achieve the perfect fit. If you’re having a difficult time deciding, it can be a big help to try on a size 9, for example, on one foot, and a size 9.5 on the other. That way, you’ll be able to compare them directly without having to take them on and off.

It’s also very important to tie the shoes properly, meaning the tongue should be in the centre and the shoes tied moderately tightly. Even though only you can know whether a shoe fits properly, we thought it might be useful to put together some important points you can tick off before making your final decision.

  • Does the walking boot have the proper length? – Your toes shouldn’t rub up against the front, but you shouldn’t have too much room, either. This would cause your foot to slide forward, and you wouldn’t get enough support.
  • Does the walking boot have the proper width? – You shouldn’t have too much room on the sides, nor should they pinch or feel too tight.
  • Does your heel feel secure in the boot? – Your heel should not slip to the side or out of the boot when tied. You shouldn’t experience any pinching or unpleasant pressure, either.
  • Is the collar comfortable? – Of course, you should be wearing a sock that extends past the collar of the boot. If the collar or upper is a bit stiff, no need to worry. You can usually break these in quite easily. But, if you feel any uncomfortable pressure anywhere, take the boots off and try on a different model.

Breaking in your walking boots properly

Once you’ve chosen the walking boots of your dreams, it’s time to get ready for your first steps in them! As mentioned above, be sure to wear the walking socks you plan on wearing during your trip and tie your shoes as you normally would. Your legs and feet are supposed to make the boots’ material more flexible, and your shoes need to be tied in order to do that.

Before heading outdoors in your brand spanking new walking boots, you should wear them around the house for a few hours. Once you feel that your feet have become accustomed to your new kicks, you can take them for a leisurely stroll in the park or on easy, flat terrain. With time, these mini adventures will turn into longer strolls and more intense walks with some elevation gain and more uneven terrain. Only after all that preparation will your boots be ready for all-day trips and adventures in the hills.

Breaking in leather or synthetic walking boots

Synthetic walking boots do not mould to your foot as completely as leather boots do. That’s why, breaking in non-leather footwear often seems less time-consuming. Leather shoes, on the other hand, need more time to loosen up, gain flexibility and adapt to your individual foot shape. However, you can do things to speed up the process. If you dare, you can venture out into the rain or in the morning dew. The water will soften the leather, allowing the leather to adapt more quickly and easily to your foot. Of course, you’ll need to walk in your wet boots for a while before anything happens. But, if your walking boots are waterproof, this shouldn’t be a problem.

There’s also the possibility of widening your leather walking boots after breaking them in, if you feel that the shoe is still too tight. A professional cobbler can usually stretch your leather boots by a couple of millimetres.

There’s really nothing better than really comfortable, broken-in walking boots. No blisters, pinching or general discomfort even after hours walking is the dream of walkers, hikers and trekkers everywhere. Thus, once you’ve found your dream pair of walking boots, make sure to care for them properly so that you can enjoy them for a long time to come. Proper care, proofing and shoe wax can really work wonders!

Barometric and GPS-based altimeters

Barometric and GPS-based altimeters

4. Januar 2018
Equipment, Tips and Tricks

Isn’t it irritating to have trekked through the mountains all day or mountain-biked your way over some tough single track only to find at the end of the day that you have know idea how much elevation you’ve gained? Fortunately, those days are basically over. In recent years, manufacturers of outdoor hardware have been incorporating altimeters into watches, cycle computers and GPS devices that usually calculate the elevation gain and loss you’ve accumulated over the course of your ride, run or walk.

There are two types of altimeters: GPS-based and barometric altimeters. We’re going to take a closer look at both of these technologies and tell you what the pros and cons of each are!

Barometric altimeters

The basis for this method of measurement is air pressure. The barometer measures the air pressure and figures out the altitude out based on that. Atmospheric pressure drops as you gain altitude – if you want to know how much, you can use our handy altitude conditions calculator.

One advantage of this kind of measurement is its accuracy in stable weather conditions and constant temperatures. In conditions such as these, measurement errors are not as drastic those made by GPS-based device. The disadvantage of this method is that a point of reference is required, meaning a pre-determined location above sea level at which the air pressure is measured. Both mountain huts as well as passes are good references points because more often than not you can find the actual altitude by looking at a map. If you recalibrate your barometer in such places from time to time, the information you receive will be accurate within a few metres.

GPS-based altitude measurement

As the name suggests, GPS devices use the American Global Positioning System (GPS). The exact position of the device is determined by means of the signals from various satellites in the earth’s orbit. However, in order to receive information on the current altitude, the receiver requires the signal from at least 4 satellites. The accuracy of this geodetic triangulation of your location also depends to a large extent on the quality of the signal. If there are several available satellites, the receiver will be able pick and choose, giving you the best or strongest signals. However, if your device only receives four satellites, it is possible that both your position and altitude information will strongly deviate from the actual values.

This is due to the fact that a GPS signal behaves physically similar to light. Clouds weaken the signal, and deep canyons can even isolate the receiver completely. Even a dense forest can weaken the signal. The signal can also be reflected off walls. All these things can have such a negative impact on the determination of your position and altitude that they can even result in deviations of up to 100 metres.

Which device is better

In our opinion, that depends entirely on what you plan on using it for. Here are some examples of possible uses and the best device for those particular activities:

Example 1: You’re a mountain biker or hill walker and would like to know how much elevation you’ve gained over the course of your outing:

For this purpose, a barometric altimeter would clearly be your best choice. Your device would measure the air pressure in defined time intervals, thereby determining differences in elevation and subsequently adding them together. When the weather conditions are relatively stable, atmospheric pressure is a reliable source for elevation calculations and perfect for calculating elevation gain and loss. The actual altitude is not usually the most important factor for such excursions, so you don’t have to calibrate your device beforehand.

Example 2: If you’re going on day-long trips with major differences in altitude (a thousand metres or more) and would like to know the altitude of your current position:

For this purpose, we would recommend using a GPS-based device. A GPS-based device may only be able to determine the elevation with an accuracy of 20 to 25 metres, but your position is constantly recalculated and the error will be balanced out in most cases. With a barometric measurement, it’s possible that the device was calibrated incorrectly after the first day, resulting in a deviation of 20 metres for every subsequent measurement. If you don’t have a known position at which you can recalibrate the device, the error could continue and the deviation could even increase. In such a case, a barometric altimeter would be even more inaccurate than GPS.

Example 3: You tend to go on adventures in places where the weather and temperature play a major role:

As was already touched upon, weather and temperature can have a major impact on air pressure. If the air pressure varies as a result of these factors, it’s better to use GPS. However, it’s important to mention that some devices have integrated storm warning systems: if the air pressure drops rapidly, this usually means that a low pressure area is approaching, which often leads to bad weather. Some devices warn you in advance. A barometer can make reliable short-term weather predictions that can be incredibly useful for mountaineers.

In sum, barometric altimeters are great if you’d like to know the elevation profile of your route. The fluctuations are much smaller and the accuracy is better than GPS-based devices. However, as mentioned above, it is imperative to calibrate the devices beforehand in order to receive precise data. For longer trips, we recommend verifying the elevation data at huts or on maps to get the best results.

If you are more interested in absolute elevation, GPS is the better choice. Even though they don’t need to be calibrated, GPS devices may not be as accurate in remote, isolated (mountainous) regions. However, devices with both GPS and GLONASS can often remedy this. The Russian counterpart to the American navigation satellites, which is actually called NAVSTAR, fills the occasional gap in the satellite network, especially in Eurasian and Asian regions.

Other GPS devices combine the advantages of the different methods by measuring altitude barometrically and repeatedly comparing it with the GPS data.

Packing list for hut-to-hut trips

Packing list for hut-to-hut trips

4. Januar 2018
Equipment, packing list

For a lot of fans of the great outdoors, it’s much more appealing to enjoy the outdoors during the day and have the luxury of returning to the shelter of a hut at night than to have to tough it out all by your lonesome on a long trekking tour. The advantage of a hut-to-hut trip is definitely how much weight you save as a result. You can just leave your food, tent, sleeping bag and sleeping mat at home! Some huts even offer food and drinks as well!

We’re well aware that a lot of our fellow Alpine Trekkers are experienced travellers, but we thought we’d give all of the beginners out there some assistance as to what to pack when embarking on a hut-to-hut adventure.


1. Layer (base layer):

2. Layer (insulation):

3. Layer (weather protection):


Hygiene & Health


For the hut

If you still have room in your pack

Let’s just start off by saying that our packing list is merely a suggestion. If you’ve already gone on a hut trip before, not only do you know what you need and what you don’t, but you are fully aware of what you’re capable of carrying and what you can leave at home next time. The most important thing to consider is the duration of the trip. If you’ll be travelling for more than four days, we recommend taking spare clothing and travel detergent with you.

Of course, the region in which you plan on travelling plays a significant role as well, e.g. in Scandinavia or the Alps. When it comes to weight, the general rule of thumb is that your rucksack shouldn’t weigh more than 8kg without drinks for a multi-day trip, especially if your route has a lot of elevation gain.

Rucksacks with multiple compartments are incredibly helpful, but if you don’t have one, you can use lightweight stuff sacks to compensate for the lack of compartments. We recommend packing your belongings according to how you’ll need them over the course of the day. Keep your water bottle and food within reach, and if you think you might run into to bad weather, store your waterproof jacket and trousers in an easily accessible compartment.

When choosing clothing and gear, you need to keep your route in mind. Will you be crossing a glacier (gaiters, crampons, snow spikes, glacier glasses, etc.), will it be raining or will it be mostly dry? Do remember to take gloves with you for routes secured with steel cables, since they’re not fun to hold onto in cold and wet weather.

If you’ve never travelled in this way for multiple days at a time, you should practise beforehand to see how you get along with your kit. For in contrast to daytrips, any poor decisions you make can end up being a pretty big deal. You don’t want to have to call it quits because of some silly mistake!

A huge advantage of hut-to-hut trips is the food and drinks. Depending on the hut, you can stop for a bite to eat and a cold drink at an affordable price. That way, you won’t have to lug a whole bunch of extra weight with you for food. The only thing weighing you down will be the food you plan to eat over the course of the day.

So, that being said, have a fun trip!

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How polarised sunglasses work

How polarised sunglasses work

3. Januar 2018

A polarising filter is something every photographer is familiar with. It increases contrast and decreases reflections. But, does the same go for polarised sunglasses? What is the purpose of polarised sunglasses and how do they work? And above all: do your sunglasses really need to be polarised?

The human eye is capable of adapting to changes in brightness to a certain extent. However, if it gets too bright, we need some sort of aid, and sunglasses do just that. In extreme conditions, such as during glacier crossings, we need glacier glasses of the highest category. These glasses hardly let any light through and provide the eye with the protection it needs.

Many of these glasses happen to be polarised as well. However, this doesn’t have as much to do with protecting the eyes as it does with safety during activities in the mountains. What polarised glasses do is, increase the contrast we perceive. If you’d like to find out more about how polarisation works, keep on reading!

What are we really talking about?

We’re talking about light. In physics, light is described as an electromagnetic wave. A wave is an oscillation in space. The plane on which the oscillation takes place is called the polarisation plane of the wave. Polarisation is thus a property of a wave and any wave for that matter, since every wave can be traced back to an oscillation. Light is therefore always polarised.

Scattering and reflection change the polarisation of light. Sunlight that reaches the Earth’s atmosphere is scattered by every molecule in the air and broken up and reflected in the tiniest of water droplets. And, the polarisation planes get mixed up in the process. The light on the ground is described as unpolarised. This is obviously not completely correct, since light is always polarised. However, the light on the ground has a non-uniform polarisation. And that’s what matters.

When light hits a surface, some of the light is reflected and some is absorbed. Take a body of water as an example. The light is reflected on the surface of the water, but some light penetrates into the water as well, which is something you’ll certainly be familiar with if you’ve ever been snorkelling or scuba diving. The same goes for a glacier or a window pane. Some of the light is reflected and some penetrates into the boundary.

What is reflected and what is absorbed depends in part on the polarisation of the light. The boundaries act kind of like a polarising filter because if a certain polarisation is preferentially absorbed, then certain polarisations are reflected as well. Thus, a “preselection” of sorts takes place.

Now let’s get back to our polarised glasses. Like the boundary surfaces mentioned above, polarised glasses are also polarising filters. They have a defined polarisation plane and only let light with the same polarisation plane through.

Think of it like this: If you throw a thin stick at a net consisting of only vertical lines, the stick will always fly straight through it, provided it is vertically aligned and you happen hit the gap between two lines dead-on. If the stick is horizontal or diagonal, it’ll simply get caught in the net.

The same is pretty much true when it comes to polarised light as well. When light reaches your sunglasses, it will only be able to pass through if it has the same direction of polarisation as the glasses themselves. Of course, this comparison is only partly true. For light with a different polarisation plane won’t be completely blocked but reduced down to the bit that does have the same polarisation as the glasses. This is due to the simple fact that we’re talking about electromagnetic waves and not a stick. After all, you don’t want me to bust out a bunch complex formulas, do you?

So, instead of throwing sticks at nets, let’s find a wall with a slit in it to throw our sticks at. Once you’ve found one (I’m kidding), throw the stick at the slit. If you hit the target, the stick will pass right through. If the stick hits the slit at an angle, the part that touches the wall will be cut off whilst the part that hits the slit will still be able to go through. Just as the stick ultimately decreases in size, so too does the light that hits our sunglasses decrease in intensity.

What do polarised glasses do?

For a start, they reduce the intensity of the light that reaches your sunglasses. In other words, they make things darker. However, this effect is less significant than you would think because our perception of brightness is not linear. Simply put, when the amount of light that reaches our eyes is cut in half, we don’t perceive it as being half as bright. This is due to the composition of the human eye. Our eyes can perceive differences in brightness much better in the dark than they can in bright light. But that’s a different topic altogether. Even though most of us only wear sunglasses when it’s really bright out, the dimming effect is not the sole effect of polarised glasses.

Much more important for us outdoorsy folk is the ability of polarised sunglasses to help us better perceive contrasts. To illustrate this fact, imagine you’re doing a glacier walk. Here the sun is shining brightly, right in your eyes. But the sun doesn’t stop there: The sunlight hits the ground and is reflected off the surface as well. As was already mentioned, the amount of reflected light depends on both the polarisation of the light as well as the the makeup of ground itself (rock absorbs more light than snow and is thus darker) and the angle of incidence.

The opposite is also true. The intensity and polarisation of the reflected light depends on the surface and the angle of the reflection of the light.

For example, if there is a step covered by snow on the ground right in front of you, the light reflected by that plane has a different polarisation than the light reflected by a slope. These different polarisations are then filtered by the glasses to varying degrees with the result that you perceive these zones with varying degrees of brightness. The step is thus seen more clearly with polarised sunglasses than with a unpolarised pair of glasses, as the latter only makes things darker. That’s not to say that you wouldn’t see the step with unpolarised sunglasses. It’s just that the amount of light that is not let through is the same for all zones. Polarised sunglasses reduce the intensity of light differently depending on the angle of incidence.

Areas of use

Polarised sunglasses make a major difference on water. They filter the light that is reflected off the surface of the water differently, resulting in us perceiving waves more clearly. Thus, polarised sunglasses are beneficial in places where reflections need to be perceived differently. In other words, they’re perfect for bodies of water and the mountains. Whether or not you really need polarised glasses is obviously up to you. But, since they allow you to better identify the makeup of the surface you’re walking on, they will increase your safety, especially in the mountains. Glacier glasses should definitely be polarised, though!

Here’s a concluding remark on the perception of polarised light in general: The human eye is not capable of identifying the state of polarisation of light. The only exception is the phenomenon of Haidinger’s brush where many people can see a visual pattern in light after looking at completely polarised light for a longer period of time and then looking at a surface that is as neutral as possible.

It’s a completely different story when it comes to insects. Karl von Frisch discovered that honey bees are able to detect polarisation patterns and orient themselves using this ability along with the position of the sun. Cool, right?

About the author

Johannes is 24 years old and enjoys cycling in remote regions of the world. Three years ago, he completely fell in love with photography and began studying the topic and documenting his trips in the process. After 5 years of studying physics, he is quite familiar with most of the phenomena associated with light.

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How self-inflating sleeping mats work

How self-inflating sleeping mats work

15. November 2017

There’s no way around it: a self-inflating sleeping mat is an absolute must on every expedition or trip in the mountains. Not only are self-inflating mats very packable, but they’re extremely comfortable as well. In contrast to a normal sleeping mat, self-inflating ones weigh only slightly more. Plus, they have a bit more to offer than their non-inflating counterparts.

But, how do self-inflating sleeping mats work? What kind of models are there? And finally, what should you keep in mind when caring for and repairing them? In the following, we’re going to answer these questions so that you can find the right mat for you!

How self-inflating sleeping mats work

Although the term self-inflating sleeping mat may sound somewhat complicated, their basic function is quite simple. On the inside of the mat, there is a special kind of PU foam. This foam has open cells. When rolled up, the foam is extremely compressed. Once you roll it back out, the foam expands. When you open the valve, the sleeping mat literally self-inflates because of the vacuum created by it having been compressed. Air is sucked in from the outside into the pores of the foam. Of course, after the mat is completely inflated, the valve should be closed to prevent any air escaping when you lie down on it.

How to regulate the amount of air in your mat

Since some people like their mattresses firm and others soft, you can regulate the firmness and thickness of a self-inflating sleeping mat. As ground conditions can vary, this option is a very useful one to have. In order to get more air into the sleeping mat, all you have to do is blow air through the valve or through a mouthpiece. However, when inflating a mat with your mouth, keep in mind that the air you breathe into the mat can lead to a build-up of moisture and bacteria, which can eventually end up ruining the mat. This is due to the fact that mildew can form on the interior, which can have a negative impact on the foam and the insulating properties. But, mildew is not the only downside. The moisture can also end up freezing in low temperatures, thereby reducing the insulation capacity of the mat. And, believe me, that’s no good.

If you have a mat with foam and down insulation, such as those from Exped, you should make sure that no moisture gets in the mat at all, since it would cause the down to stick together and lose its insulating properties.

If all that sound pretty terrifying and you’d like to keep moisture out of your mat, there are various ways to inflate them without using your mouth. For example, there are integrated pump systems or those involving the use of the mat’s stuff sack as a bellows. The systems vary from brand to brand.

If you like your mat softer, all you have to do is let as much air out through the valve as you want.

How to store your sleeping mat when not in use

When you wake up – hopefully after a good night’s sleep – you’ll usually want to get things going as quickly as possible. To pack your sleeping mat down as small as you can, you’ll have to let all the air out. You can do this just as you would with an air mattress. Just fold the sleeping mat two to three times and then open the valve. As a result of the pressure applied to the mat by your folding it, air will be released through the valve. After doing this, close the valve and roll the sleeping mat up, starting at the foot of the mat. This will cause the rest of the air that is left in the mat to accumulate at the top. When you open the valve again, this air will be able to escape as well. When all the air’s out and the valve is closed, you can store the mat for transport. Oh, and it’s best to keep the mat rolled up during transport. When transporting or carrying the bag, you should definitely use the stuff sack to provide it with enough protection as well.

Self-inflating sleeping mats in different thicknesses

As you can imagine, the thickness of a sleeping mat can have a major impact of the its overall comfort. Mats usually have a thickness of anywhere from 3cm to 10cm. Mats with a thickness of 3cm are really only suitable for shorter trips, as they offer little in terms of comfort. What they lack in comfort, though, they make up for in their extremely small pack size! Much more comfortable are mats with a thickness of 4-6cm. When combined with a high-quality sleeping bag, a mat like this can give you all the comfort you need for a good night’s sleep! Even more comfortable, however, are sleeping mats with a thickness of 10cm or more. The obvious downside to these mats is their much larger pack size.

How to clean and repair your sleeping mat yourself

Since sleeping mats are used exclusively on hard and rough surfaces, it’s not at all rare for them to get torn or scratched up. Even if your mat’s been reinforced and you’re super careful, there’s really no way around this. It’s annoying, I know, but fortunately these minor battle wounds are easy to patch up yourself. Most sleeping mats come with a special repair kit you can use when you find a tear in your mat. The kits usually consist of patches for the top and bottom as well as a special adhesive to secure the patch to the material. That way, you can seal up holes and tears in the mat’s material with a few easy steps and go along your way without missing a beat!

Cleaning a sleeping mat is just as easy. Since sleeping mats are used exclusively outdoors, cleaning your mat regularly is a must, especially if you want it to last. To do so, all you have to do is wipe your mat with a cloth and a mild household cleaning agent, but make sure to do so when the mat is inflated and the valve is closed. Then rinse off the residue thoroughly. To prevent the growth of mildew, be sure to let the mat dry completely before deflating it and rolling it back up. If you follow these simple directions, you’ll be able to enjoy the comfort of your self-inflating sleeping mat for a long time to come!

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

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