All posts on this topic ‘Tips and Tricks’

Implementing training at home – the mind is (un)willing…

10. June 2021
Tips and Tricks

Closed climbing gyms. Closed yoga studios. Closed gyms. No mountain tours. No sports meetings. Welcome to spring 2020.

On all channels we are provided with home workouts, online fitness classes and yoga sessions. The idea of simply continuing to do your sport (in an adapted way) within your own four walls is of course great at first.

But you might well be aware that this is not that easy to implement. It’s different whether I roll out my yoga mat a metre from my bed or in a yoga studio surrounded by familiar faces who share my passion. I can shimmy along climbing holds in the hallway, but even that is somehow different from being in the gym or on the rock with friends. In other words, it is not about continuing with what you are used to, but about starting something new (for a certain period of time).

If, after the introduction, you are now thinking of the notorious but rarely implemented New Year’s resolutions, you are not so wrong. Because here, too, we are faced with the same problem: How do I implement something new and manage to integrate it so that it forms a regular part of my everyday life? To achieve this, we reach into the psychologist’s box and use behavioural therapy techniques.

What am I going to do?

First of all, let’s take a look at our own values. Behaviour that is aligned with one’s own values is easier to implement. What do you want to train for at home? What should the training mainly be about? And what is important to you? What actually is my goal? The next step is to think about what your goal is. Is it about mastering a certain move at the end? Are you concerned about your general fitness? Do you want to work on a specific muscle group or achieve an endurance goal?

Maybe you have an ultra-marathon in the Alps, a difficult climbing route or the forearm stand in mind, but in reality your current training condition is still far away from that. That’s not bad, dreams motivate us. However, there is nothing to gain from planning big and then failing. It’s easy to slip into an all-or-nothing attitude: if I don’t manage to do a two-hour workout right away in front of the laptop, then I don’t do anything. As with every mountain climb, the same applies to training at home: we plan “rest breaks” and set ourselves intermediate goals. We start small and increase.

When setting goals, we use the SMART rule, which comes from the business world.

  • Accordingly, a target must be specific, i.e. be formulated as concretely as possible.
  • It must be measurable. So you have to have something to prove that the goal has been reached. If I have as a goal to be fit, I can’t really objectively determine whether I have achieved that. But if I define being fit in such a way that I can do 20 push-ups, then I can say exactly whether I have done that or not.
  • A goal should also be attractive. So it should be something you actually want.If you don’t want to run a marathon, don’t set that as a goal.
  • A goal should also be realistic. Can you actually achieve the goal in the real world? If it’s outside your given conditions, consider setting a smaller peak as your goal.
  • A goal should also be scheduled. So you need a fixed time by when you want to reach the goal.

The SMART rule applies to your big goal and also to all the intermediate goals you set yourself along the way.

Planning

Before you start full of energy, you should think about a concrete plan: What tools, mats, holds, weights, etc. do you need? What preparations should you make?When I do yoga, I have to vacuum the floor beforehand, otherwise I just focus on the dirt to the right and left of my mat the whole time.

When do you have time for your workout? When are you undisturbed? What difficulties or obstacles might arise? Think in advance about possible stumbling blocks and how you can overcome them. Example: After a long day at the home office, you are hungry. But sport with a full belly is not your thing at all and after dinner you don’t get up any more anyway. So one solution would be to snack on something healthy during the afternoon coffee break to prevent cravings at the end of the day.

Or do you need support from others? This also works in times of Corona! Coordinate with friends so that you all train at the same time and exchange information on the phone afterwards. You can also tell your friends when you want to do which sport. This increases social commitment. So you feel socially obliged to go through with the training – you announced it.

Make as concrete a weekly plan as possible, on which day and at what time you would like to do which training session. In the activities you did before in the social space, you also had fixed training times.

Implementation

Follow the plan you made and not your mood! We are all masters at making excuses as to why we cannot implement the training session at the planned time. After a long day in the home office with never-ending video meetings, relaxing and resting on the sofa seems very tempting. When doing this, be guided by your goals and values that you thought about earlier. You do it because you set out to do it and because it’s important to you.

It is very helpful if you build up routines, i.e. integrate the training sessions into your daily routine. You get up and you know it’s Thursday, so it’s core training. When you brush your teeth, you don’t think about whether you really want to do it every morning.

Reward

Even though we think we are very complex beings, and we certainly are, our behaviour is predominantly controlled by reward and punishment. If a behaviour is followed by a positive reward, it increases the likelihood that you will do the behaviour again. (By the way, it also works great if you want to influence your partner’s behaviour, but that’s another topic).

So you need to create a positive reward for behaviour that you want to do regularly. Sport often has a natural reward: we feel stronger after a training session, have a positive body feeling and our mood is improved. But there are also units that don’t have any direct positive consequences in the short term because they simply don’t go the way you want them to, you are dissatisfied or simply have a physically bad day and struggle. Then it is important that you set yourself another reward. Afterwards, treat yourself to a delicious tea, as far as I’m concerned a beer, something good to eat or a warm shower.

Through training, you experience self-efficacy, that is, the experience of doing something you set out to do. That alone can also work as a reward.

Failures

Now we don’t live in an ideal world and there will be days when you don’t do your training the way you planned it. If this should ever be the case, the following will help:

Do a little situation analysis. This includes looking at the triggering situation (i.e. when you would have wanted to do sport), your reaction on a mental and emotional level (your excuses), your concrete behaviour (i.e. not doing sport), the short-term consequences of your behaviour and the long-term consequences.

Here you will most likely discover that the short-term consequences were positive. You could relax, continue watching your favourite show on Netflix or indulge in gluttony. In the long-term consequences, you may find that dissatisfaction sets in because you did not stick to your training plan and did not get closer to your goal.

Think about what your goal is and what solutions you can come up with so that you don’t fall into the same trap next time. Reward yourself from time to time for sticking to your plan: if you have completed your training plan on four days in a row and fail on the fifth, be happy about the four successful days and focus on them. Have you perhaps already developed a strategy for exercising at home? Or do you have no problems with motivation? Feel free to let us know and leave a comment!

Land of limited possibilities: climbing training at home

17. May 2021
Tips and Tricks

Oi, what was that?!? Loud moans, wild gasps and this strange pressing scream. Hmm, new girlfriend? Clicked on a dirty film and accidentally left the speakers on? Wait a moment, no, the voice is male and real men are known to enjoy in silence. So clearly someone is doing climbing training at home!

Which exercises is he doing though? And what kind of torture device does he have in the room? Surely it’s something that he pulls and cramps himself up on. But why does he train at home at all? Maybe because there are still places in Germany where the next bouldering hall and the next rock are not just around the corner ..

The two most important tools – not only for home use

The most important tools are not necessarily of a material nature. Or to put it another way, the “hard” tools are of no use without “soft” and abstract assistive equipment such as a plan and a goal that is as clearly defined as possible. “Climbing better” or “more power” are certainly all well and good, but unfortunately a bit too woolly. The more specific the goal, the more appropriate training plans can be selected or created. Beginners and occasional climbers should question the purpose of climbing training at home and of equipment, because up to the difficulty level of about 6th to 7th grade UIAA, the best training actually consists of simply going for a round on the rock or in the hall. Training at home really makes sense when you have already developed enough “basic strength” to put in extra shifts in your chamber of torture at home on top of your “usual” climbs once or twice a week.

Speaking of chambers of torture: in his bestseller “9 out of 10 climbers make the same mistakes”, Dave MacLeod advises not to place the gym & fitness equipment in a musty, out-of-the-way corner, but in a way that is as “communicative” as possible and right in the middle of the cosy part of the flat. From this position you can talk, drink tea or watch climbing videos during the breaks between two exercise series. This can turn monotonous basement training into a much more positive and motivating experience.

Creating training opportunities with little effort

Even for targeted and planned training, in purely material terms you need less equipment than you think or no equipment at all – depending on what, how versatile and how specific you want to train. Ultimately, you can even turn various everyday objects such as a door or a table into sports equipment on which you can do a lot of pulling, pushing and holding exercises. You can also make several out of one piece of equipment, for example by hanging a towel or a few rings around a pull-up bar and thus creating further grip variations for more dynamic exercises. Anyone who is active in sports is sure to have noticed the bodyweight trend, which promotes training with one’s own body weight and is creating a stir under names such as “Fit without equipment” or “Freeletics”. And in my opinion, it’s a good trend, because you can achieve a lot with little effort and almost no money, even in the area of climbing. Even if it’s just the following really good warm-up and strengthening exercise for hands and forearms:

Upper arms on torso, forearms bent 90°, palms facing down. Now stretch your fingers as far as possible and spread them out, then pull them together as tightly as possible to form a fist. Now repeat the whole thing as quickly and firmly as possible: Open, close, open, close, 50 to 100 times. Hands and forearms should be on fire after 2-3 series :-)

It is pleasingly easy to create an efficient basic training and to gain the “basic strength” just mentioned. However, it turns all the more complicated when it comes to fine-tuning, which becomes necessary at the latest when certain weaknesses become more apparent as progress is made. You will then have to decide what to train instead of continuing blindly. Is there a lack of pulling force in the upper arms? Of holding power in the fingers? Of stability in the torso, known as the “core”? Or several at the same time? And what about the supporting muscles, the antagonists and the mobility?

In view of these many questions, possibilities and sources of error, it makes little sense to quickly slap a random fretboard over your door and start muddling along with some “super-strong-in-three-months plan”. That’s how I tried it many years ago and, looking back, I suspect it contributed to a stubborn elbow problem rather than an explosion in performance. At that time, I had no idea about the variety of gym & fitness equipment. That is why I have listed a few for you here, ordered by increasing installation effort:

  • Training without equipment from towel up to door frame
  • Pull-up bar
  • Sling trainers and rings
  • Pegboard
  • Finger board aka grip board aka fretboard aka hangboard aka zlagboard
  • Holds on walls, ceilings, loft beds and dark corners
  • Campus board

Before we delve into the details here and pick out some toys, we need a few basic comments and general tips. Since the boards especially have a lot of potential for overstraining, frustration and injury if used carelessly.

“The brain is the most important climbing muscle” also applies for training at home.

It is well known that finger boards and the like can be used to train finger strength, arm strength and, with some restrictions, stamina. This is just as clear as the basic rule that it should only be done with thoroughly warmed-up muscles and fingers fully supplied with blood. But how many (pull-up) moves in how many sets, blocks and intervals am I supposed to do now? How long do I hang on to which hold with which arm angle? Should I do more static postures or more dynamic movements? How dynamic – slow or full steam ahead? At what point am I “allowed” to train with finger holes without a blatant risk of injury? What is my personal starting position (performance level, constitution, experience)?

Questions upon questions, which once again make it clear that it is not a good idea to go off the cuff with some ready-made plan fished from the internet or a magazine. Instead, the most extensive use of the brain muscle is called for – just as a certain Wolfgang Güllich once suggested. It is not for nothing that state-of-the-art training books such as “Gimme Kraft” (or “Gimme Kraft Air for beginners”) are not exactly thin and deal with the complex and detailed relationships in many individual steps. In addition, there are more and more good climbers who are using more and more different training methods and strategies and are then happy to recommend them to others. As a beginner, you then find yourself in a maze of sometimes contradictory training tips.

So it’s best to get started “right”, i.e. with a persistent and regular investment of time and energy. Otherwise you might be better off just sticking to getting better by climbing in as many different ways as possible. Or by just having fun without big ambitions – seeing as that’s supposed to be out there, too. Just steer clear of half-measures that lead to failures, motivational gaps and injuries.

The main reason for the complexity of the matter lies in the very many performance-determining factors of climbing. More and more of these are being “discovered” since climbing is increasingly viewed holistically. Starting with the realisation that climbing requires the entire body, including the head and legs, it has now become necessary to carefully examine pretty much everything from sleep to eating habits, from addictions and vices to basic attitudes to life and social situations. It’s not for nothing that the yoga and mindfulness wave is also passing over into climbing. This is quite a good thing, even if it does spread a lot of kitchen psychology and calendar wisdom. It is well worthwhile to at least refrain from ignoring all the “soft” and seemingly incidental factors. Maybe it’s not the wrong periodisation or way of exercising that stands in the way of progress, but the daily three after-work beers, the negatively coloured attitude to life or the regular pot of coffee in the office.

However, all this does not mean that beginners cannot train successfully. It also doesn’t confirm older climbers’ fears, who think there’s nothing left to get after their wild years of youth. In his book, Dave MacLeod refers to top climbers like Stevie Haston and Enzo Oddo, who are in the form of their lives beyond 50(!). In order to achieve top personal form without injury as a beginner at any age, the following general training tips should be followed:

  • Goal setting: A concrete, clearly formulated goal with a fixed point in time. The time at which it is supposed to be achieved constitutes the point of reference that you can always look back on and use as motivational aid. The more specific and detailed it is formulated, the clearer and more transparent the step-by-step implementation becomes. So do not phrase it as “eighth grade by next year”, but instead formulate it as “eighth grade in single pitch climbs at the limestone/sandstone/gneiss of ‘my’ home rocks or any given climb in ‘my’ hall by July 2018.” Even better for motivation are intermediate goals that can be used to measure progress and, if necessary, adjust the final goal up or down.
  • Developing a good connection with your own body. Above all this includes a feeling for the correct use of muscles and muscle groups. This can be attained in particular by really being “present”, i.e. with one’s attention in the body, during all movements. If you are not “fully involved”, you move “uncleanly” and breathe in a too shallow and too compressed fashion. If possible, your breath should not be held and blocked, even during the greatest tension.
  • Muscles get stronger quickly, often after just a few weeks. However, the apparatus of ligaments and tendons takes much longer for this, because, to put it bluntly, its “cell conversion” is slower. You might be completely thrilled about the small grips you can hold onto and not even notice the overstraining. This constitutes another reason for starting slowly and managing strains very carefully.
  • Use only large holds at first. Going all the way and explosive movements can only be incorporated with a well-trained tendon and ligament apparatus.
  • Create variety and diversity, even if this is more difficult than constantly reeling off a routine programme. After all, who wants to be a climbing field idiot?
  • Never look at and train your muscles in isolation, but rather the entire chain of movement, which is only as strong as its weakest link. Of course, this “holistic” approach also includes consideration of the antagonists (e.g., when the biceps contracts, its antagonist, the triceps, is stretched).
  • Create relief opportunities either by using foot benches, slings or beer crates

The list of these tips can be extended arbitrarily and my possibly random selection is based on what seems particularly important to me from personal experience. For a comprehensive perspective, you need either good mentors, one of the training books mentioned here, or extensive online research. It is advisable to start the latter with well-known training luminaries such as Udo Neumann or Guido Köstermeyer. Furthermore, there are good private websites, some of which are linked here. Most of the information online is only incidentally related to home training, but it provides a good basis for getting started with one or more of the following home tools:

Training completely without equipment

In the field of bodyweight training, there are many exercises that are suitable for climbing and can contribute a lot of strength. A very simple example is the warm-up exercise “the grab” explained above. Other than that, you can really use whatever your flat has to offer. Besides the door frame, the door itself is also a useful training tool for hanging exercises and pull-ups. Putting a towel over it (only with stable doors) can bring a few grip variations and dynamics into play. The towel is generally a good biceps and forearm trainer: if you stand with your back against the wall, grab one end of the towel with each hand and then place one leg in the sling, you have the starting position for the biceps curl, where you pull your arms up against the resistance of the leg. This is very effective for chest and forearms as well!

Pull-up bar

Many a climber turns up their nose on this topic, because the pull-up bar “has no point”. However, the two-time Russian bouldering world champion Dmitry Sharafutdinov has a different opinion. Sharafutdinov had neither colourful new bouldering halls nor rocks nearby in or near his hometown of Yekaterinburg. Therefore, a large part of his physical conditioning “consisted of semi-specific strength exercises, namely pull-ups, and a hell of a lot of them!”. Dmitry also mentions as important success factors of the training: “Experience and listening to the body!”

The installation is definitely doable, provided there is a reasonably solid door frame. There are poles that are simply placed on the frame and that clamp under load. These usually even have additional side holds. The other standard model has telescopic screw threads and is simply extended to the appropriate length by eagerly turning it and clamping it into the door frame.

Sling trainers and rings

Slings and rings are notoriously wobbly and therefore offer a very good training that additionally strengthens the stabilising supporting musculature and the entire muscle chains involved. This helps especially with holding really strenuous positions and body tensions in “hardmover” routes. Besides that, you gain gymnastic and acrobatic skills.

What is particularly nice is that you can attach suspension trainers and rings anywhere, whether to large screw hooks in the ceiling or to a sturdy tree in the park. Depending on the desired alignment, you can hang up rings and slings using either two cords (for transverse alignment) or only one (for parallel alignment to the suspension). Should you not be able to hang up anything heavy at home: A door frame with a pull-up bar is feasible even in the worst hovel, ergo suspension trainers and rings can be hung over the pull-up bar. Okay, you might be hanging pretty low and not look your coolest, but a temporary solution like that is still better than no training at all.

You can also hang bolas (exercise ball), towels or anything else that you can use for more or less static or flexible exercise from your pull-up bar.

Pegboard

The pegboard is a wooden cuboid with a grid of holes into which round wooden holds are inserted and pulled out while hanging in the climbing position. This is not intended to evoke sexual associations, but to get a strong upper body. It is a very effective technique without any great risk of injury, as you completely block the timbers for a short time whilst moving hand over hand and keep on inserting. This leads to a very balanced strain on the entire chain of muscles from abdomen to fingers.

With ready-delivered pegboards, the required assembly material is usually included. In the case of the Antworks Ant Hill Pegboard, for example, these are stainless steel Spax screws and Fischer dowels, which are mounted directly into the wall or onto a (free-standing) framing device. You don’t necessarily need a spacer here, as the wooden holds prevent any direct scrubbing of the wall (as long as you don’t do too many pendulum swings).

The one with the many names: Fingerboard

Probably the most common and well-known gym and fitness tool, this is a synthetic resin or wooden structure with a large number of positively (outward) and negatively (inward) shaped holds, bars, tongs, holes and slopers (overlays). Many climbers swear by the grippy texture of the plastic, others find the smoother grip of wood gentler on the skin. There are many possible opportunities for straining and grip combinations for fingers and arms. A small market overview with some training tips can be found in this article on climbing.

Of course, this area is subject to an increasing amount of differentiation as well. For example, hangboards, as the name suggests, offer the possibility of hanging up the board – although this also requires correspondingly stable fixed points. Another special variant is the zlagboard, which comes with a mobile phone holder and an appropriate app to control the training. Despite the “sponsoring” involved, there is a quite critical test report to be found on Ulligunde.com.

Assembly is quick if the masonry is solid: screw a few thick Spax bolts through the holes in the board and into the wall, done. In the best case, you will not even need a drill and dowels. However, if the walls are only made of plasterboard and/or are hollow exactly where you want to put the torture device and/or there is not enough space above the door frame, you will need a substructure. Or, if in doubt, opt for a free-standing frame construction, which will even make you mobile ;-)

Handholds in the wall – a bouldering corner inside the flat

From super simple to highly complicated – anything is possible: a few climbing holds in any sizes, shapes and combinations can be screwed into the smallest corner – always provided that the dwelling does not threaten to collapse under body weight loads.

Drilling directly into the wall is possible, but then requires extremely liberal landlords or plenty of putty when you move out. If the walls can’t take it, a free-standing construction is needed here as well. Given that you have some space, you will always find a way to make it work. Inspiration for this can be found at any children’s playground. Or in the student flat next door, where I’m sure someone will have bolted climbing holds to their loft bed. Other boards, slats, squared timbers and panels can in turn be attached to such stable designs, which serve as a base for holds.

It is best to use solid plywood boards as a base. You could then perforate them with a variety of holes which will enable you to rearrange the holds at any time. The diameter of the holes must of course match the bolts used (usually M10s) and their drive-in nuts on the back of the wall. Small holds and steps can also be fixed directly using Spax bolts. Using a cordless screwdriver for all the screwing is for wimps – it is the perfect opportunity to savour your first finger training.

Campus board

It was invented by climbing legend Wolfgang Güllich and Jerry Moffatt, another climbing legend, swears by it: the campus board. Dave MacLeod, however, has a not entirely uncritical opinion: “Campus boards are the most dangerous form of training for climbers. (…) almost everyone who trains on the campus board for a long time comes to experience problems with their fingers or elbows sooner or later.”

As always, it is a question of well thought-out and targeted use. Used correctly, the campus board allows for endless static and dynamic pulling and hanging exercises, depending on the number and size of the slats. In addition, depending on the height and quantity of the screwed-on slats, it allows you to climb up and down hand over hand really nicely. However, the requirements for space and sturdiness of the walls or ceilings are, once again, significantly higher than for the fingerboard. Unless you want to scrub along the wallpaper every time you move, you cannot attach it to the wall just like that. On top of this, almost all campus boards hang over slightly, which makes an appropriate substructure or rear construction inevitable. Of course, this must equally be built with appropriately stable wood or metal, which in turn increases the weight.

The few building instructions available on the internet, such as the one at Target10a, mostly refer to real whoppers that you will hardly be able to fit into your own four walls. Besides, German-language instructions usually lack concrete information on how to attach the whole thing. By contrast, English-language instructions such as the rock climber training manual are more concrete.

Images of the rear construction have similar rarity value. In this Wikipedia illustration of a relatively small campus board, they are visible due to a very simple construction of the board. And you can also see that despite the relatively small size, a lot of stabilising metal is already built in. So even with small campus boards, depending on the space available, an extensive hardware store arsenal of mounting rails, beam hangers, frame brackets, consoles, retaining plates, etc. may be necessary. This raises the question, especially for non-peak performing climbers, of whether effort and training benefits remain balanced in the right proportion.

Conclusion

There are a plenty of home training options that can be used to increase a lot of physical performance-determining factors. The limits lie in aspects such as technique, tactics and psyche – you won’t really be able to train these three aspects in a tangible way at home. The only thing that helps with these is to go into the hall and – better still – to the natural rocks.

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!

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

5. August 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.

ABOUT THE SUBTLETIES OF THE CLIP STICK AND WHY IT REALLY MAKES SENSE

26. November 2020
Tips and Tricks

Is a clip stick a useful addition to your climbing equipment for ambitious rock climbers? Or is it more for indoor climbers, who find that the sometimes sparse protection on the rock makes them nervous?

Firstly, what is a clip stick anyway? Shrewd sport climbers will recognise it immediately, it’s a stick with which you can clip. Ideal for express slings with inserted wire rope in bolts. You can also choose to place only the rope in the hanging quickdraw. Sounds logical, but theoretically you can also do it without using your arms. A view on the sense and nonsense of a clip stick:

(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!

WHAT IS… CYCLOCROSS?

2. November 2020
Tips and Tricks

The days get shorter and the weather is taking a turn for the worse. The racing cyclists among us are cleaning their bikes (well, most of them) for the winter and mountain bikers are looking forward to splashing through mud. However, since last winter at the latest, there have been a number of cross-breeds from both worlds, especially among Alpine Trekkers. Here in Germany, a niche sport is slowly becoming established that has long been known to the French, Belgians and Dutch – as is so often the case when it comes to cycling. For those who haven’t guessed yet, we are talking about cyclocross. If you don’t know what we’re talking about, here’s some clarification:

When shortcuts were allowed

The emergence of cyclocross (also known as cross-country racing or bicycle cross) cannot be dated exactly, but it is thought to have been conceived in France in the early twentieth century. A popular theory traces the history back to steeplechases. The challenge: to reach the next village – usually marked by the church tower – by bicycle. The route: whichever you choose. The cyclists rode their bikes over hill and dale, carried them in between and tried to reach their destination by the shortest route. Shortcuts were the order of the day.

Over time, it became clear that handling the bike on unpaved surfaces and the resulting completely different loads had a positive effect on the performance of road cycling, and cross-country cycling began to develop as a sport in its own right. The Frenchman Daniel Gousseau then organised the first French championship in 1902. By the 1930s, the sport had spread to Belgium, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Italy and Spain and has since become an integral part of the cycling scenes there. Germany only followed suit in 1954 with its own national championship, but in our country “Crossing” has a rather marginal existence between mountain biking and road biking.

What are the main differences?

Cyclocross bikes can be described as relatively flat hybrids between mountain bikes and road bikes, but more in the direction of road bikes. Frame, handlebars and components look like a racer at first glance. If you look at the tyres and brake system, the mountain bike influence becomes clear.

The studded tyres, which usually measure over 3 cm in width, are necessary to move better on soft ground and disc brakes have the advantage of not collecting so much dirt. In addition, the braking performance in damp and dirty conditions is significantly better than that of conventional brakes. However, there are also models that still rely on cantilever brakes – usually the slightly cheaper ones. Compared to racing bike brakes, however, these are designed to be much more open, so that as little dirt as possible can get stuck.

A closer look at the frame reveals even more differences. The fork is wider and more robustly built, just like the rear triangle. The reason is relatively simple: firstly, the load is much higher off-road than on asphalt, and because you often ride the Crosser on muddy surfaces, less dirt will stick to it.

Speaking of forks: don’t expect cushioning. Cyclocrossers usually come with rigid forks. This takes some getting used to, because if you don’t relax your arms on uneven ground, you’ll be shaken pretty badly. You also have to deal with obstacles in a completely different way. The pros jump over them, but if in doubt, you should dismount, shoulder your bike and go over the obstacle.

What equipment do I need?

The mountain bike influence can also be seen in the choice of shoes. As mentioned, you’ll have to carry the bike on occasion, so mountain bike shoes are usually used because of their profile and more flexible soles which makes them better suited for walking than road bike shoes.

In terms of clothing however, road bike attire is usually preferred. Just put on some tight-fitting bib shorts with comfortable (!) padding, an aerodynamic cycling jersey and the fun can begin – as long as the weather plays along. You should always have a spare inner tube with you, especially if you are venturing into difficult terrain with the Crosser. You can still play around with the tyre pressure, but you don’t have the same possibilities as with fat mountain bike tyres. A hard impact from a pointed stone can mean the end of the tube!

Special case: gravel bikes

Anyone interested in cyclocross will inevitably stumble upon the term ‘gravel bike’ at some point. Gravel bikes were invented by the US bicycle industry and are positioned somewhere between cyclocross and so-called endurance road bikes (racing bikes with a touring geometry). They are mainly used for riding on paved roads with gravel. However, the big difference lies primarily in the tyres, which are wide and have a less pronounced profile than cyclocross tyres.

This category of bicycle is especially popular with bike commuters and bike packers, or bike travellers, as there are now also numerous ways to equip racing bikes or road bikes with bags.

Why cyclocross?

Instead, the question should be: why not? After all, a golden rule among cyclists is that the right number of bicycles to own is N+1. And there should definitely be a crosser in the collection.

All jokes aside. Whether or not a new pair of wheels makes sense is a matter for each individual to decide. But a cyclocrosser can be a great change, especially in autumn and winter – especially for all those who want to keep their beloved racing bike posture or simply prefer to ride on forest tracks rather than asphalt. It’s also great for mountain bikers who have been tempted by a road bike for a long time, but don’t really want to go out on the road.

Finally, a personal recommendation: get handlebar tape that is as soft as possible, as this will significantly increase comfort!

What about you? Do you already have a crosser and enjoy it? I look forward to hearing about your experiences!

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”…

The perfect cycling jacket for your next bicycle tour

1. October 2020
Equipment, Tips and Tricks

Not only is it necessary to wear a cycling jacket in the colder months but it can even protect you from an unexpected downpour or cold winds in spring and summer. Plus, only with a great jacket can you complete your tour with the necessary vigour.

You may ask yourself: how should you choose a cycling jacket based on your different requirements? Which details, equipment and other features should you pay attention to before purchasing a cycling jacket? To help you out, we’d like to present to you a few models that are suitable for the most diverse conditions.

(more…)

Hotel Europe – Where is wild camping permitted?

1. October 2020
Tips and Tricks

Simply grab your tent, get outside and set up camp anywhere with a nice view. That would be amazing… but it’s unfortunately not as easy as you might imagine. Because in many European countries, wild camping is prohibited or is subject to strict regulations. Plus, since there is no single Europe-wide rule, you may get into some trouble with the local law enforcement agents. So, we’ve decided to take a closer look at Germany’s extended neighbouring countries and will give you a few tips on how wild camping is regulated in the individual countries.

In some cases, however, the legal situation is unclear and it’s sometimes hard to keep an overview without having spent years in law school. In addition, different municipalities or regions within individual countries have different regulations. So, in extreme cases, what was clearly allowed is now completely forbidden and vice versa. Our list is by no means complete. And, if you don’t feel like ruining your vacation budget with a hefty fine or locked up for a night, you should definitely inform yourself before your trip on your destination’s rules.

Camping or bivouacking?

This question is often the heart of the matter. As our colleague Anni has already mentioned in her article on wild camping in Germany, there’s often a considerable difference. For example, setting up a tent for one night in a field, forest or meadow in Germany is prohibited (with some exceptions). However, setting up an (emergency) bivouac, i.e. staying overnight only with a sleeping bag, a sleeping mat and, if necessary, a tarp, is not explicitly regulated by law in Germany. So, is bivouacking permitted or forbidden? But, we’re only talking about bivouacking here, not camping!

The promised land – where wild camping is allowed

Hurray, they still exist: Countries where wild camping is generally permitted. But, there is an exception to every rule. The statement does apply to these countries, but you should properly inform yourself about the special local specificities before travelling.

Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania

Wild camping is permitted in the Baltic States. But, camping is only allowed outside of national parks, nature reserves and private properties. However, there are a few things to be taken into consideration. Noise is taboo and animals shouldn’t be disturbed by it. And, you should avoid harming the nature around you. Although wild camping is generally permitted throughout the Baltic States, regional or temporary restrictions may apply. And, it’s prohibited to camp or bivouac in both national parks and nature reserves.

Finland, Norway, Sweden

Scandinavia is probably an absolute paradise for many wild campers. Bivouacking and camping is allowed there based on the everyman’s right. Plus, this rule also applies to private property, but not to agricultural areas and you should also make sure that the tent is not set up near individual homes. For example, it’s permitted to pitch your tent on private land for up to two days at a distance of at least 150 m from inhabited houses in Norway. However, stricter rules may apply in nature reserves and national parks. Here, camping is permitted for up to two nights in all areas that fall under everyman’s right. And, the same applies here as everywhere else: Don’t break anything and take your rubbish with you. You can find more information here: Finland, Norway, Sweden.

Scotland

In Great Britain there is no general regulation on wild camping. This means that England, Wales and Scotland have completely different laws. However, wild camping is only explicitly permitted in Scotland. There, wild camping is regulated by the Scottish Outdoor Access Code. This code states all important do’s and don’ts. And, there are places like nature reserves or private land that are subject to special regulations, of course. But, outside these areas, camping and bivouacking are allowed for one night.

Yes, no, maybe – wild camping is partly tolerated here

In countries such as Germany or France, wild camping is actually prohibited and is punishable by fine. But, there are legal (!) ways to go around these rules.

Denmark

For the time being, wild camping is also prohibited here. So, you can expect controls and possible fines in touristy areas. However, you can camp at some places (outside typical campsites) without a problem. For example, there are many forests in Denmark where camping is legal. But, it’s important to follow the rules that apply there. Here are the rules at a glance:

  • You can only stay one night in the same place
  • A maximum of two small tents (with a maximum of 3 persons each) may be set up in the same spot
  • The tents must be set up out of sight of houses, streets, etc.
  • If at all, fires are only allowed at designated fireplaces.
  • Due to the risk of forest fires, only very safe storm-proof stoves may be used. And, individual areas can be closed if there’s a high risk of forest fires.

In addition, Denmark also has designated natural campsites with (occasionally) running water, a simple toilet and fireplaces. This map shows you, where these areas are (only available in Danish). Further information on this subject is also available (also only available in Danish) by the Danish Nature Authority. Here, you can also find a link to the list/map of the approved-for-wild-camping forest areas.

Belgium and the Netherlands

In both Belgium and the Netherlands, the situation with wild camping is similar to that of Denmark’s. Camping is also not allowed anywhere on the plains and you may even get fined. But, the good news is that especially in the Netherlands, but also in parts of Belgium, there’s a legal way to set up your tent city in the wild: the Paalkamperen, literally “pile camping”. Although it may sound like it, it doesn’t require you to set up your tent or bivouac on poles. Rather, it says something about the legal campsites themselves. Whenever you see a pole with a special sign that isn’t in the vicinity of a campsite, that means that you can camp. So, just set up your things at around a 10-metre radius around the pole. But, there are some other important rules that must be noted:

  • The stay may not exceed three days or 72 hours. In some areas, you’re only permitted to stay for one night.
  • A maximum of three small tents may be set up at the same time.
  • You must take your rubbish with you.
  • Open fires are absolutely prohibited. However, you may use a gas stove.

These are the basic rules, but you’ll find specific regulations that apply to the site you’re at on the pole. Here, you can also find overview maps for Belgium and the Netherlands (only available in Dutch).

Germany

As already mentioned, the legal situation in Germany is quite confusing. However, those who only bivouac (i.e. stay overnight without a tent) usually don’t violate any laws. But, you should always inform yourself in advance on the regulations of the specific state. More detailed information can be found in our blog post on wild camping in Germany.

France

The situation in France is just as confusing as in Germany. Basically, wild camping is forbidden here. And, the authorities especially control tourist centres and borders and may give out some hefty fines. Some communities do however have designated areas for wild camping. Signs that say “Camping reglementé – s’adresser à la mairie” indicate exactly this. This means that you should contact the town hall/mayor’s office for more information about wild camping. Then, you should receive a list or a small plan with information on where to put up your tent for one night in the extended urban area. However, camping is absolutely prohibited in national parks. So, it’s similar to Germany, but not when it comes to bivouacking. In other words, bivouacking at an adequate distance from the exit of a National Park (at least one hour on foot) is tolerated between 7 pm to 9 am. And, you can usually find a list of information about bivouacking at the entrances to the national parks.

Austria

In Austria, wild camping is regulated differently from state to state and you can even receive extremely high fines. Plus, the tent can theoretically also be confiscated. For this reason, it’s very important to know the local rules. As a rule of thumb: Camping in forest areas is not allowed under any circumstances. Camping on private property is also prohibited without the owner’s consent. However, there are exceptions to this rule, especially on barren alpine land above the tree line. Plus, in some states, such as in Burgenland, small groups may camp for up to three days, but in other states, such as Lower Austria, it’s strictly forbidden to set up tents outside of designated campsites. Also important to note: unplanned, emergency bivouacking (for example in the event of an injury or bad weather) is tolerated everywhere, but deliberate bivouacking is punishable by hefty fines, just like camping. A detailed overview with information on where, how and what can be found on of the Austrian Alpine Club website (only available in German).

Switzerland

Even in Switzerland, wild camping is not uniformly regulated, so different restrictions apply from canton to canton. In addition, entry restrictions or stricter nature protection laws may apply to individual areas and may automatically exclude camping. But, in general, camping and bivouacking becomes less problematic with the height of the location, so you should follow the below mentioned rules:

  • Camping and bivouacking is prohibited in these nature reserves: Swiss National Park, federal hunting reserves (game reserve), various nature reserves, quiet zones (during the closed season).
  • These areas should be avoided: Forests, meadows and wetlands.
  • In these areas, special consideration is required: In the vicinity of mountain huts (consultation with the owner required) and close to climbing areas (note the breeding season of cliff-breeding birds).
  • Wild camping is safe here: above the tree line, alpine pastures, rocky terrain.

Important information on wild camping in Switzerland as well as how to behave can be found on the SAC’s homepage (only available in German).

Caution whilst choosing a site – wild camping is prohibited

Wild camping is generally banned in Europe. And, in some countries, punishments are only to be expected at the borders and in touristy areas, while others are subject to stricter controls. In general, camping, etc. is not allowed outside designated campsites in most countries. However, things look a little different when it comes to private property. For example, you can camp on a farmer’s meadow after consulting with them. A little tip: Either knowing a few words in the local language or gifting a good bottle of wine can work wonders. And, if you’re staying on a self-sufficient farmer’s land for example, it’s both practical and helpful to buy some milk, eggs, fruit, etc. from them. Not only does this help break the ice but you’ll even receive something tasty in exchange.

Here are two more examples of how prohibitions are dealt with.

Italy

In Italy, wild camping and bivouacking are strictly forbidden and are subject to hefty fines. Plus, borders and touristy areas are strictly controlled for this reason. So, anyone who decides to set up a tent or bivouac should expect to be fined. Plus, the fine usually costs as much as a good-quality hotel room. In the backcountry, things are a bit more laid-back. However, this does not mean that it isn’t also prohibited there. But, if you know a few words in Italian and have money left to buy a good bottle of wine, then simply ask the next farmer. With these small tips, you’ll increase your chances of success and can then camp legally.

Poland

Wild camping is also prohibited by law and can be punished with a fine of up to 150 €. This is taken very seriously in national parks and regular controls are carried out. However, outside these areas, things are a little different. Here, wild camping is also prohibited by law, but many places don’t take it too seriously. So, there shouldn’t be a problem if you want to camp for only one night out in the wilderness. Plus, wild camping is also widespread amongst locals. But if you want to be on the safe side, you can also contact the respective landowner and ask for their permission. Farmers are usually very helpful, especially outside of touristy regions.

Conclusion

Luckily: It’s still possible to set off and spend the night somewhere in Europe’s wilderness. But, you should inform yourself beforehand about the “somewhere”. In some cases, the legality is not very clear. So, this blog post is by no means complete. Now, we’d be super interested in knowing: What is your experience with wild camping in Europe? Have something you’d like to add/share with us? Then leave us a comment!

Bannock bread – the classic of the outdoor kitchen

27. August 2020
Tips and Tricks

Since the Middle Ages in Europe, bread has been the quintessential food. It’s not only at the bakery that the options are endless – there are also undreamt of possibilities for making it yourself, both in terms of the style and the preparation. A real classic of the camp fire and the gas stove is bannock bread. Bannock comes from the Scottish Highlands, and is a kind of flat bread that can basically be made from two ingredients. Hanna from the Alpinetrek online editorial team is here with some tips on how to make it taste the best and what you should pay attention to when preparing it.

Bannock breadWhat you need for bannock bread:

  • Must-haves
    • Flour (2 parts)
    • Water (1 part)
  • Nice-to-haves
    • Salt
    • Oil
    • Baking powder, bicarb or dry yeast (in which case, some sugar, too)
  • Practically decadent
    • Spices (helpful here: the spice shaker with 6 compartments!)
    • Herbs (wild garlic, dandelion…)
    • Chopped nuts (hazelnuts, walnuts, beechnuts…)

Tipps for the bread dough

Know your cup. Nobody takes a measuring cup or scales with them on tour – but you’ve always got a cup. You can check at home what quantity it holds. You might even want to mark where 100 ml of water or 250 g of flour come up to.
Don’t knead in all the flour at once, always leave some extra in case the whole thing sticks to your hands. If the flour/water ratio is correct, your hands will be clean when you’ve finished kneading.
It’s easier to knead with oil. Well-organised bread bakers have a plastic bag (preferably zip-lock) of oil with them. You can even knead the dough in it without touching it with your skin at all – just put all the ingredients inside and then knead the bag.
When all the ingredients have been mixed together a bit but the whole thing hasn’t yet been kneaded until it’s soft, you can divide it into portions and knead smaller pieces – this makes it super quick to get the first loaves into the oven.
To do this, press the dough as flat as possible and fill it into the “baking tin” properly.

Caution when baking

The classic method for the gas stove is to cook it in a pot or a pan. If possible, use a lot of oil so the bread doesn’t burn. It’s best if it’s moved around constantly. And don’t let it get too hot!
If you make a fire, you have more options. The original bannock bakers simply pushed the dough into the hot ashes and dug it out again a few hours later. An incomparable aroma! Like with a gas stove, a pot can also be placed in the embers. In that case, it’s best to lay rocks beneath the pot so that it doesn’t all get burnt (but something will always burn). If you’ve had some tinned food and you can wash out the empty cans, you can also bake rolls in them. This is best with lots of oil inside so that the bread practically fries, and so it doesn’t stick. For a fire, there are of course also specialities like the Dutch oven and the ranger’s oven (ultralight for touring – you build it yourself). An interesting in-between is the bushbox, which can be folded up.

A few pro tips

The possibilities are endless. Hardcore survivalists make their own flour and use white, cold ashes as leavening. For home-made flour, you need a dish cloth or cotton t-shirt, a stone, patience and your choice of beechnuts, roots, clover or acorns (all gluten free). You have to leach the latter a lot, though, until they are usable, so either boil them out several times in hot water or put them in running water for 24 hours (e.g. in a stream in your socks).

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