All posts with the keyword ‘Mountaineering’

Sustainable or greenwashed? Outdoor brands in portrait: Patagonia

6. May 2021
Equipment

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

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

Not only climate: What is sustainability?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Patagonia’s sustainability programme

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

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

Environmental aspects of sustainability

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

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

1 Reduce

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

2 Repair

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

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

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

3 Reuse

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

4 Recycle

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

Social sustainability and employee management

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

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

Economic sustainability

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

Marketing

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

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

What do the critics say?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

On the proper use of walking poles

15. April 2021
Tips and Tricks

Go up to the mountains, they said. It’s nice there, they said. But no one mentioned that it can also be quite exhausting. And certainly no one mentioned that it could have been significantly more pleasant with sticks.

It is one of those “aha” moments that you experience every now and then when climbing mountains. At least that’s how I felt the first time I used walking poles. They offer better stability, physical relief and ultimately a much more pleasant mountain experience all round.

But as is so often the case, it is not simply a matter of picking up sticks and getting started. There are a few technical tricks to consider which ensure that the whole thing actually works. We are certainly planning on explaining these to you, but firstly…

The pros and cons of walking poles – yes or no?

There are many advantages to using walking poles. As previously mentioned and among other things, there is the lower body joint and muscle relief, e.g. when walking downhill. This type of strain can amount to several tonnes depending on the duration of the tour. In addition, the poles provide the necessary stability, especially when crossing rivers or névé fields, or improve surefootedness and balance when traversing. Ultimately, the poles even help to optimise posture as they straighten the back leading to an overall “better” way of walking.

Nevertheless, what reasons could there be against the use of sticks? There is, for example, the aspect that poles can quickly tilt in difficult terrain and thus cause problems. In rope-secured passages, in particular, poles can also be quite unhandy, and critics repeatedly note that excessive pole use inhibits training the sense of balance. Finally, of course poles are not immune to breaking, which is why you should never fully trust their material in dangerous situations.

The medical commission of the UIAA (Union Internationale des Associations d’Alpinisme) above all recommends poles in cases of:

  • Old age.
  • Excess weight.
  • Joint or spine diseases.
  • Carrying heavy loads.
  • Setting the correct length

As a rule, always keep to 90 degrees!

Once you have chosen the right pair from the wide range of different walking poles, you are faced with the question: “How long should the poles actually be?” A simple basic rule helps here: they should be so high that the arm reaches an angle of 90 degrees when you hold the handle of the pole in your hands and the pole is standing vertically on the ground. You can lengthen the poles a little on steep descents and shorten them a bit on steep ascents. When adjusting, make sure that the locks are tightened firmly so that the poles do not collapse.

Pro-tip: At high altitudes or in particularly cold regions, the poles should be long enough to open the arm angle slightly so that the hands lie below the elbows which allows for a sufficient blood flow.

By the way, you can also easily figure out the optimal length using our length calculator for walking poles (we have separate calculators for ski poles, cross-country ski poles and Nordic walking poles).

The right grip

A popular mistake on the first tour with poles is the wrong grip, meaning that the loop is often simply threaded from above. Correctly, you should reach through the loop from below so that you can exert pressure on the pole even with an open or loose hand. This allows you to open your hands during backswing movements without having to give up on the relief. Furthermore, it prevents the hands from cramping up too much.

On a traverse, it can be helpful to grip the uphill facing pole by the hold extension – if applicable. The valley facing pole should be held like a pommel which allows for a better support. Besides, in case of doubt, it is recommended to not have your hands in the loop when doing a traverse, so that they are free in case of emergency.

Using the walking poles correctly

To achieve the best possible effect, it is advisable to keep the poles close to the body at all times. In flat terrain, the poles are diagonal and are used alternately, according to the natural pattern of movement. In principle, this is the Nordic walking technique, only without the conscious use of force. Obviously, under these circumstances they are also most likely to be left out.

In steeper terrain, the double poling technique is the more sensible option. The poles are usually placed at every second step whilst pushing yourself up forcefully with both arms. This ensures stability and relief. Even downhill, the double poling technique constitutes the best choice. However, if possible, you should not poke, but grip the hold normally and, above all, pay attention to a clean technique so that you do not slip away, stumble and, in the worst case, fall.

Where do we go from here? Do I need sticks or not?

So the answer to the question of whether you should always have walking poles with you is a resounding YES and NO.

They are always useful, but only if you know how to use them properly and take a few simple rules into account. If not they will either prove useless or even pose a hindrance. Perhaps a good recommendation could be to use the poles at times – especially on technically difficult tours – and to leave them at home at other times, seeing as without poles the sense of balance is trained and muscles are exercised more effectively.

What is your opinion? Yes or no to sticks? We look forward to receiving your comments!

GET RID OF YOUR EQUIPMENT – THE ENTRY INTO THE WORLD OF ULTRA-LIGHT

9. March 2021
Equipment

Today we want to take a look at the topic of ultra-light walking and ultra-light trekking. We’ll take a look at how I came to explore this topic, what entering into the ultra-light touring world looks like and what you should consider when doing so.

Ultra-light – that’s what I’m talking about

The term ultra-light has recently become increasingly common in the outdoor industry Large, bulky equipment is a thing of the past and now more and more outdoor enthusiasts are turning to ever lighter alternatives. The term ‘ultra-light’ is not conclusively defined. As a rule however, a pure equipment weight (without food, water and fuel) of approx. 5 kg is spoken of as ultra-light, whilst equipment weighing 5 – 9 kg would be term lightweight trekking.

The advantages are obvious: if your luggage is light, you not only feel freer on the move, you also travel more quickly and can cover longer distances. It also protects your joints and back, so pain and fatigue don’t occur or take much longer to set in.

The first step – a lighter backpack

In recent years I have suffered from severe back problems. This was partly due to my build, but also due to bad posture that I developed in my youth. Since then, I have managed to keep the problem under control through targeted training, but there is one thing that hasn’t changed: I can’t carry heavy backpacks. It’s not that I immediately collapse under the load of a 15 – 20 kg backpack, but I sometimes have to end a tour after just a couple of days because of the pain. So, for me, there’s one logical conclusion: I need a lighter backpack.

My first step was not anything to do with ultra-light equipment. I just took a look through my packing list and checked it critically. The main aim was to find things that I took on every tour but actually never used . I’m not talking about pieces of equipment like a first-aid kit, which you rarely need but you should always carry on longer tours. It was more a case of leaving behind the three packs of spare batteries, the fifth spare penknife and the huge spare torch.

All these useless, surplus or unused items can just be left at home on your next tour. If you still tend to pack too much, there’s a simple trick: take the smallest backpack possible! The more space you have, the more you pack. Also, larger backpacks are also heavier than smaller ones.

Weight optimisation – targeted selection of equipment

Once your packing list has been trimmed down to its essential items, you should also take a look at the remaining equipment a bit more closely. There are often items which are total overkill for your planned tour. Do you really need that thick winter sleeping mat for a three-day tour in summer in central Europe? Equipment required for the tour should always suit the length, terrain and weather conditions. So, if I’m on the road for three days in August in the local low mountain range, the chances are that I won’t need a down jacket. I can also opt for a lighter (and less warm) sleeping bag.

If the weather forecast is good and stable, you can leave some of your rain protection and spare clothing at home. Tours in winter or in high alpine terrain require a different packing list. However, even here, discipline can save some weight.

Wherever possible, you should try to replace a heavy piece of equipment with an (already owned) lighter piece. With large, heavy things like your rucksack, sleeping bag, sleeping mat and tent, there’s a lot to save. It’s also worth considering whether equipment can be completely removed from the packing list. The tent is a common point of discussion in this regard. A lightweight tarp or bivouac could also be an option.

Once you have optimised your equipment in this respect, it is time for the scales and a first test run. For me, this phase was the decisive one as it allowed me to considerably reduce the weight of the equipment I was carrying with just a few targeted measures and at no additional cost.

Ultra-light equipment – the featherlight alternative

However, depending on the equipment you have, there are areas where you can save a little weight. For me, this was my sleeping bag. I have an extremely warm, and correspondingly heavy, down sleeping bag for the winter as well as a second model for the summer. This one is older and made of synthetic fibre, but is in no way inferior to the “Camping in winter in the North Pole” gear. As for the backpack itself, I was able to find comparatively light models in my personal inventory, but I discovered that by replacing it with an ultra-light model, I could save even more weight.

My experience reflects reality here. The first pieces of equipment that are normally swapped for ultra-light alternatives are the so-called ‘big four’. This is your backpack, sleeping bag, tent and sleeping mat. In terms of backpacks for example, models such as the Ultra Tour by Montane, which offer plenty of space at under 1 kg.

For sleeping bags, there is often no way round a down sleeping bag. This is because down sleeping bags are significantly lighter than their synthetic fibre counterparts, while providing the same level of thermal insulation. The choice of sleeping bag is particularly dependent on where you’re heading on your tour, the expected temperature and your personal feeling of warmth.

However, there are heavier and lighter models with comparable values. Three-season sleeping bags such as the Hitchens UL 20 by Big Agnes come in ultra-light versions weighing less than 800 g. If you only tend to travel in summer, so you don’t need an excessively warm sleeping bag, you can find even lighter models.

As mentioned, in terms of ultra-light hiking/trekking, the question of whether you really need a tent is often discussed. If you’re heading out in good weather in the summer, a tent may actually be superfluous and could be replaced with a much lighter tarp or even a suitable bivvy bag. However, this decision has to be made individually, as it depends strongly on personal preferences and needs. Ultra-light tents such as the Laser Ultra 1 by Terra Nova weigh less than 500 g and therefore offer considerable weight-savings over their conventional counterparts.

The sleeping mat sector is also highly competitive. It is not unusual for foam mats to be used in the ultra-light area. This type of mat usually weighs around 400-500 g. The advantage of this is that they can be used to stiffen the rucksack, allowing them to be packed away safely and helpfully. If you want something even lighter, you should take a look at air mats. Mats like the NeoAir Xlite by Therm-a-rest weight a good 100 g less than their foam counterparts, depending on their size.

Conclusion

If we add up roughly the weight of the ‘big four’ now, we get to a value of just less than 3 kg. If we combine this with the method of limiting ourselves to only the most important pieces of equipment and not taking any unnecessary items, we can enjoyed multi-day tours with very little weight. If this is still too much of a burden, you can move on to optimising other items such as food, cooker and clothing. What makes sense, and what the tricks of the trade are, is explained in separate articles for the various outdoor disciplines.

TREAD LIGHTLY – OUTDOOR FOOTWEAR BY WEIGHT

9. March 2021
Buyer's guide, Equipment

Last Sunday I went to the forest to look for mushrooms. Unfortunately, it had rained the night before, so I was expecting it to be pretty muddy. Normally I wear worn out running shoes or my approach shoes when I’m heading into the forest, but because it was looking muddy, I decided to wear my heavy, leather trekking boots.

This turned out to be a good decision, because I arrived home with dry socks despite the wet forest. However, these heavy shoes were complete overkill for the terrain, and I was glad when I could change back to lighter and more comfortable shoes. But were they necessary? Or are there lighter alternatives?

Finding the right shoe

If you are wondering which pair of lightweight shoes is right for you and your tours, there are a few things you should think about first. For example, it is important that the shoes not only fit the tour and its terrain, but also the season in which you plan to walk. Furthermore, a good fit is crucial for the wellbeing of your feet. Other things you should look out for when looking for hiking or outdoor shoes are revealed in our blog post “The right shoes for your outdoor adventure”.

Now though, we’re going to take a look at the varied world of walking, trekking and mountaineering boots and see where there’s weight savings to be made.

Lightweight shoes for moderate terrain

Like my Sunday mushroom trip to the Black Forest, I don’t always need a heavy pair of mountaineering boots. Particularly when I’m heading to low mountain ranges, lightweight walking boots are usually sufficient. Lightweight walking boots are, as the name suggests, lighter than their ‘normal’ counterparts. This is usually because they have a half-height shaft or come as half-shoes. It is also not uncommon for lightweight walking boots to forego rock guards and the like, to make considerable weight savings.

So, if you’re heading for relatively easy terrain and are trying to travel light, you should definitely take a closer look at this group. Lightweight hiking shoes with a half-height shaft, so classic representatives of Category A, usually weigh from 450 grams.

For ultra-light tours, trail running shoes are often used. Models such as the Roclite 325 GTX by Inov 8 weight less than 350 grams and offer a half-height shaft and an extremely grippy sole. Barefoot shoes offer another alternative, but opinions on these vary widely.

Some people love this free and natural way of moving, but others report issues occurring from using muscles that aren’t normally worked. If you do decide to try out this type of shoe for hillwalking, it’s recommended to start with short test routes to allow your body to get used to them. You should also avoid carrying any luggage on these practice trips. Barefoot shoes are of course very light and hardly weight anything.

Lightweight shoes for exposed and unpaved terrain

For more demanding terrain and multi-day tours when you’re carrying a lot of luggage, Category B or B/C trekking boots are most suitable. However, these are usually relatively heavy, designed for maximum surefootedness and an optimal stabilisation of the ankle joint. This type of shoe is also recommended for people who have ligament problems and have a tendency to twist their ankle.

Many trekking boots also fall into the category of “partly crampon-compatible” and can be worn with crampons with strap binding and snow spikes. As mentioned, trekking boots are not exactly lightweight, but even in this category there are models which enjoy a significantly reduced weight. A good example here is the S-Lab X Alp Carbon 2 GTX by Salomon. These shoes weigh just under a kilogram and are among the lightest in their class. Nevertheless, they are still considerably heavier than their lightweight hiking or trail running companions, but they can do much more.

Lightweight shoes for high mountains

For scree, snow and ice, you definitely need proper trekking boots. These have a crampon-compatible sole and offer stability even on rough terrain. In general, trekking shoes with tilting lever crampons can be worn. Depending on the model, auto-locking (front with basket) or automatic (front with bracket) can be attached. A raised rubber edge, which mainly serves as a rock guard, usually features as well.

It’s no surprise that we’ve left the ultra-light range behind by now. But there are still lighter and heavier models among Category C trekking boots. Let’s take a look at the Badile Combi II GTX by Hanwag for example. These trekking shoes have everything that is needed for tours in high alpine terrain. And they come at a relatively low weight of just 1,080 grams. They also offer a stiffened sole suitable for semi-automatic crampons as well as a proper rock guard. Alternatively, you could also take a look at the Trango Guide Evo GTX by La Sportiva, which weigh a little less than 1,200 g (per pair).

Advantages and disadvantages of lightweight shoes

  • Benefit 1 – Weight-saving

Of course, if you’re travelling with lightweight shoes, you’re carrying less weight and this impacts every step you take. This is particularly noticeable on steeper terrain, as the foot has less load and walking is less tiring. Even if you’re carrying your walking boots in your backpack, they are less heavy.

  • Advantage 2 – Comfort

Lightweight shoes are generally more flexible and softer than their heavy counterparts. This usually makes them more comfortable. On warm days, they often allow better ventilation and are generally not as warm as higher walking boots due to their lower shaft.

  • Disadvantage 1 – Risk of injury

Features that offer additional comfort can also hold a higher injury potential. Soft and flexible shoes with a low shaft provide much less support for the foot than higher-cut shoes.

  • Disadvantage 2 – Weatherproofness and general suitability

There is no question that there are weatherproof models with membranes offered in the field of trail running and lightweight hiking shoes. These are fine for mud and rain, but are not ideal for snow, as the snow can more easily get into the shoe without a high shaft. If you are planning tours that require the use of crampons, you will need shoes with a suitable sole.

Ultra-light shoes – the conclusion

It is hard to find ultra-light outdoor, hiking and trekking shoes. While researching this topic, I kept coming back to something a friend of mine says, “You can run in ski boots if you want to!” In other words, you can do a lot of things with equipment, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it makes sense. Of course, you could go for a run in the mountainous terrain in flip-flops (the Sherpas in Nepal do this very impressively), but I would advise against taking such extreme measures for the sake of weight reduction.

In my opinion, the most important criterion for shoes is not the weight, but that they fit perfectly and don’t rub or pinch even after long tours. After all, the greatest weight saving in your shoes means nothing, if you have to carry the same weight of blister plasters in your backpack. Fun fact: one pack of blister plasters weighs around 15 grams.

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

15. February 2021
Tips and Tricks

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

HIKING – VIA FERRATA – CLIMBING

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

Basically there are three different variants of via ferrata walking:

  • Insured paths

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

  • Classic Via Ferrata

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

  • Sport Via Ferrata

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

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

EQUIPMENT

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

The climbing harness

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

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

The Via Ferrata Set

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

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

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

The Climbing Helmet

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

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

CLIMBING GLOVES

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

Shoes

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

CLIMBING – HOW DOES IT ACTUALLY WORK?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At last..

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

GETTING TO GRIPS WITH ICE TOOLS – BUYING TIPS

24. November 2020
Equipment

Ice axes have been around since the beginning of modern mountaineering. Over the decades, however, much has changed. Even though ice axes in their current form are considered technically mature ice tools, there are still a range of technical innovations. This can be very confusing when you’re looking to buy one, and the question quickly arises, “Which is the correct ice tool for me?” Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution in this field, so the perfect tool depends on your personal needs.

 

(more…)

DOWN IMPREGNATION – DOES IT WORK?

19. November 2020
Equipment, Tips and Tricks

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

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

HOW TO CLEAN AND CARE FOR HIGH-QUALITY GORE-TEX® PRODUCTS PROPERLY

12. November 2020
Care tips, Tips and Tricks

GORE-TEX® products are particularly robust and durable. To make the most of these benefits for as long as possible, regular care of clothing is essential.

This is the only way to ensure that the dry treatment always performs reliably and can optimally protect the ambitious hiker, mountaineer and outdoor enthusiast from adverse weather conditions. This article is dedicated to the cleaning and care of GORE-TEX clothing. You can find an article on the correct care of shoes in separate care instructions.

How to correctly care for GORE-TEX® clothing

In order to avoid unnecessary strain or even damage to the fabric in the washing machine, it is important to close all zips. This applies to the front zip as well as to all pockets with zips and ventilation zips. You can then put your clothing into the machine without hesitation. The optimum result is achieved at a temperature of 40° C with a little liquid detergent. Nevertheless, the manufacturer’s care instructions should always be followed before washing. After washing, rinse sufficiently clear to remove all detergent residues. Powder detergents, fabric softener, stain remover and bleach should never be used as these can clog and attack the membrane.

In order not to wrinkle the clothes too much, it is best to keep the spin cycle as low as possible. Ideally, you should also avoid washing heavily soiled clothes together. If dry cleaning is required, it is important that this is carried out with a distilled hydrocarbon solution. In addition, before drying a water-repellent dry treatment should be sprayed on.

Drying and ironing clothing

GORE-TEX® is best air-dried. As this is not always easy, particularly in cities where you have a lack of space, you can also use a tumble dryer. The clothes should be dried at a warm temperature. Once dry, put into the dryer again at a low temperature for about 20 minutes on a gentle cycle. This reactivates the water-repellent dry treatment of the fabric and allows it to regain its full protection.

By using the tumble dryer, additional ironing is generally no longer necessary. However, if you haven’t used a tumble dryer, ironing at a low temperature and without steam is recommended. To protect the fabric sufficiently, place a cloth between the clothing and the iron The heat generated by ironing always reactivates the permanent dry treatment (DWR).

The water-repellent dry treatment of the clothing

If the water-repellent dry treatment of the individual garment can no longer be reactivated, it is possible to add additional dry treatment. This is usually available from shops and retailers offering GORE-TEX® garments.

GORE-TEX® gloves – how to care for them properly

Generally, GORE-TEX® gloves can be washed by hand in warm water. For more detailed information, you should also consult the manufacturer’s care instructions. If there is leather on the upper material, make sure to keep these areas free of soap. After washing, press the water from your fingertips to your wrist. Do not wring as this may damage the material!

To dry the gloves, place them or hang them with the fingertips pointing upwards. The gloves can also be tumble-dried at low temperature and steam-ironed warm. As with clothing, it is advisable to place a towel between the outer fabric and the iron.

The correct care and cleaning ensures a long life for GORE-TEX® products

Clothing, shoes, gloves: proper, regular care of individual GORE-TEX® products extends the life of the dry treatment and if necessary, reactivates it. This, in turn, results in more fun off-road and offers adequate protection against wet and cold on a wide range of tours. So after the tour, invest a few more minutes in cleaning so your equipment is ready for the next trip!

LIGHT UP THE NIGHT: TIPS FOR FINDING THE RIGHT HEAD TORCH

10. November 2020
Buyer's guide, Equipment

Watching the sunset from the summit is a wonderful thing – romantic, dreamlike and sometimes breath-taking.

But as the daylight slowly fades, you face a problem: without additional lighting, the descent can be difficult and even dangerous.

And because you might need to use your hands for other things than holding a torch, a head torch often makes the most sense.

Here’s some tips on what you should consider when buying one: (more…)

VEGAN ON THE GO – ANIMAL-FREE PRODUCTS FOR OUTDOOR PEOPLE

5. November 2020
Equipment

It’s an unavoidable topic nowadays: the issue of sustainability dominates the outdoor market like no other. Manufacturers have put the concept of “social and ecological responsibility” on their agenda, obtaining certifications such as bluesign or developing their own. This is, of course, very welcome!

With this background, product lines for vegetarians and vegans are now also being developed. As this is becoming increasingly topical, every now and then a customer asks, “What vegan items do you have in your shop?” We wanted to explore this question…

Vegan for your feet – walking boots

One of the first things that comes to mind when talking about vegan outdoor equipment is probably shoes. Of course, leather is ubiquitous in trekking boots and walking shoes, so this is particularly problematic when looking for animal-free alternatives. However, its not just the material itself that can pose an issue. The devil is in the details and for example, the adhesive used on the shoe may contain animal protein.

Fortunately, there are companies that have recognised the need for vegan alternatives. LOWA, for example, is conquering the hearts of all wanderlust vegans with its own product line. A textile/synthetic material is used for the upper and the built-in GORE-TEX membrane makes the shoes waterproof. The Swiss outdoor company Mammut offers a very similar design with its T Aenergy models. The shaft is made of two differently structured polyamide yarns, which makes it abrasion and tear resistant. Gore-Tex ensures that the shoes remain waterproof. In the Approach footwear segment, the Vegan Award goes to Salewa, whose Wildfire series also manages without animal components. For climbing shoes, Red Chili also offers vegan versions with the Durango VCR and Durango Lace, and last but not least, the The One by SO ILL should also be mentioned.

And today, you don’t have to sacrifice good performance just because you wear synthetic shoes. Leather shoes are very durable, but the development of synthetic shoes has progressed so far that, with the right care, they too can be a faithful companion for a long time. Genuine leather adapts to the shape of the wearer’s foot but expands over time. This does not usually happen with synthetic leather or synthetic shoes. They retain their shape. Synthetic shoes are also particularly suitable for everyday use, as they are very easy to clean and do not require the intensive care of a leather shoe.

Vegan on top – what to look for in clothing

Vegan outdoor equipment does not stop at footwear, although this is probably the area where the issue is most relevant. There are also a few things to keep in mind when it comes to outdoor clothing.

The big elephant in the room is ‘down’. This comes from geese or ducks, so is not vegan. The alternative is synthetic fibre. This insulation technology based on polyester has now also progressed so far that there are numerous jackets and thermal layers that can keep up with their down counterparts and even surpass them in some areas. The key concept is ‘thermal performance with moisture’. Companies such as The North Face are trying to imitate the structure of down. In marketing speak, this is known as “Thermoball“.

Generally, you will be able to see in the attributes on our product page, whether animal components have been used. It will say “contains non-textile elements of animal origin”.

If you’re interested in the ecological production of clothing and the sustainable conservation of resources, you should look out for products made of recycled polyester. Production from melted PET bottles consumes between 50 and 70% less energy than the conventional production of a chemical fibre from crude oil. Some brands such as Bleed (which also explicitly offers vegan clothing), Klättermusen, Patagonia and Vaude already have such products in their range.

You should take a look at the label, which will explicitly state whether recycled content is used. The American outdoor outfitter Patagonia, which has long been a pioneer in the industry when it comes to environmental protection, has gone one better. Patagonia operates its own take-back system. This means that customers can bring their clothes back to the shop or send them to the factory and new clothes will be made from them again. Patagonia also offers to repair broken or damaged clothing to prevent products from ending up in the bin too soon. Pyua from Kiel has also specialised in this and takes back goods after use. This creates a cycle in which outdoor clothing made of synthetic fibres is always reworked into new garments after use.

Back to the Roots – Back to natural fibre

You can even go one step further and use natural fibres. I know what you’re thinking, “Do clothing made of natural fibres and sweat-inducing activities really go together?” At first glance, you might think that you’ll start to smell quickly, and for a long time the idea was considered unthinkable. Until now, base layers have been made of microfibres that had to be treated with nano-silver to prevent odour formation.

But it works. The Swedish company Fjällräven has used its reliable G-1000 material since its foundation. Today, although it is no longer 100% cotton, it is still one third cotton. The big problem – at least from an animal perspective: many Fjällräven models feature leather applications and the wax that makes the clothing weatherproof contains beeswax.

Lundhags, on the other hand, offer polycotton technology similar to Fjällräven, but models such as the Women’s Gliis Jacket and the Lomma Jacket forego leather appliques. However, this synthetic hardshell material is still not quite up to the job in terms of rain resistance. And you still need to check carefully here, as polycotton is occasionally offered in a waxed version.

Vegan food on tour

Of course, there is also the issue of nutrition. After all, what would a hike or trekking tour be without a snack to keep you going? Anyone who has been a vegan for a long time probably has a good idea of what works and what doesn’t in terms of nutrition anyway. But of course there are also companies who supply suitable trekking food, such as Adventure Menu, BLA BAND, Lyo Food, Innosnack and Chimpanzee –to name just a few.

In case of doubt, check the ingredients list, as this will tell you exactly which ingredients are in the product.

At the end of the day…

…whilst vegan clothing and outdoor equipment are not yet dominant in companies’ product lines, they have at least made it onto the radar in recent years. And fortunately, it’s even reached well-known companies who produce high-quality animal-free products. In light of the fact that more and more people are changing their lifestyles, this is certainly a welcome development.

You can find vegan products by searching for ‘vegan’ and then filtering. Or, simply follow the link below:

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

19. October 2020
Tips and Tricks

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

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

So, enough talking, here we go:

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

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

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

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

Netherlands and Luxembourg

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

Switzerland

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

CZECH REPUBLIC

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

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

IBERIAN PENINSULA

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

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

The Balkans

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

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

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

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

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

ICELAND

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

FRANCE

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

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

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

GREAT BRITAIN

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

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

AUSTRIA

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

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

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

BELGIUM, ITALY, DENMARK AND GERMANY

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

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

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

NORWAY AND SWEDEN

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

CONCLUSION

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

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

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

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.

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