All posts on this topic ‘Tips and Tricks’

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).

Two boots und four paws – hiking with your dog

20. August 2020
Tips and Tricks

Whether in the lowlands, on the coast or in the mountains – walking with your dog is a great experience and really enriching for both the human and the hound. To ensure that dogs and their masters or mistresses can enjoy rambling without a care in the world, it’s sensible to consider and prepare a few things before dog owners set off into the mountains with their four-legged friends.

The following ten questions, frequently asked by dog owners and hikers with an affinity for the great outdoors, show what you should think about and look out for when hiking with dogs.

How old does my dog need to be to go walking in the mountains?

There is no universal answer to the question of how old a dog should be to go walking in the mountains. Longer hikes can lead to increased stress on joints and knees for very young dogs and puppies. With older dogs, the dog’s general fitness and any ailments it may have will decide the type and length of the walks. Older dogs with back or hip problems in particular should be looked after in this respect.

Of course, it’s not just age and physical condition that play an important role, but also the breed and disposition of the four-legged fellow.

Which breeds are best for mountain walks?

Some dog breeds are, generally speaking, more active than others. Dogs are also different in terms of their frame, size and constitution, so not all of them are suitable hiking companions. In this respect, it is not necessarily recommended that a sausage dog, pug or Chihuahua accompanies you on your upcoming hut tour or Alpine crossing.

Working or hunting dogs, on the other hand, are better qualified. They are also readily used in alpine farming to help with sheep, goats and cows. Others help people as trained rescue dogs, search dogs or avalanche dogs.

Dog breeds with a medium to high shoulder height and good physical condition are ideal companions for strenuous mountain touring. Whether the Australian Shepherd, Siberian Husky, Bernese Mountain Dog or the Labrador Retriever – many thoroughbred dogs make perseverant and intelligent hiking dogs.

How do I prepare my dog for longer hikes?

Through long strolls and short hikes, dog owners will soon get a first impression of how fit their particular dog is, and how much it likes walking. When doing this, it is of course important not to overextend your dog and to ensure that there are enough breaks with plenty of fresh water, especially at the start. Really high temperatures should also be avoided if possible so that the soon-to-be hiking dog isn’t stretched to an unhealthy extent.

How long you can hike for with your dog depends on many different and very individual factors.

Which hikes are good for dogs?

Dog owners have to adapt their hikes to the condition of their dogs so as not to endanger their health. In addition, the planning of the tour always requires some care and caution: passages that are too narrow where there is a risk of falling and especially via ferrata must of course be avoided.

Steep and stony paths are no problem for many dogs. Of course, steep ascents are just as challenging for dogs as for human hikers, but they are doable.

Summer hikes with shady passages and running water to cool down in and to drink from are also optimal.

What food is suitable for hikes?

Because of its shelf life, dry food lends itself better to longer or multi-day hikes than wet food. The dog should be fed the usual quantity and in the rhythm that it is used to.

Nevertheless, it’s better not to feed your dog right before a strenuous hike in the mountains. When hiking, dog owners should plan in at least a one hour break for their four-legged friends for digestion and regeneration.

With the increased exertion, getting enough fluids is extremely important. Plenty of water for the dog, a water bowl in your walking backpack and regular drink breaks are therefore of utmost importance. Especially in summer heat, dogs quickly run the risk of getting heat stroke. Some hikes are therefore better done in spring or autumn.

What equipment is important for hiking with a dog?

On stony paths, sharp rocks can cause uncomfortable lacerations and cuts to the paws. A first aid kit for dogs should therefore always contain a disinfectant, the most important bandaging materials, and tweezers. A pair of tick tweezers and an extra towel so you can dry your dog if necessary should also be packed for any longer hikes. The low weight and packed dimensions of microfibre towels make them especially suitable for both dogs and people.

Food, a drinking bowl and enough water are likewise indispensable when hiking with dogs. A dog toy and perhaps a light dog blanket will of course also find their way into your pack on longer tours.

Dogs can even carry a few small things themselves with the appropriate dog panniers. Of course, whether the panniers disturb them while they’re walking and how much weight they can carry varies from dog to dog.

A leash and a comfortable harness or collar are also important for dogs when you’re hiking.

Which leash is right for hiking with dogs?

In many situations, a lead is very helpful when you’re hiking, and in some regions it’s even mandatory. Nature reserves and cow pastures are particularly sensitive mountain areas when it comes to this.

Whether your dog can or should in general run free when hiking depends on many different factors. To do this, the dog must be very obedient and reliable. Depending on their breed and character, some dogs might look ahead more, while others are rather clumsy. Surefootedness and the ability to recognise and assess danger are not possessed by every dog to the same degree.

When hiking, dog owners can choose between flat leads and flexible leashes. Flat leads are only suitable for hiking in the mountains to a limited extent because they aren’t comfortable to handle for a long time, and the leash tends to get tangled and caught.

To keep your hands free when you’re hiking with a dog so you can use walking poles, for example, flexible leashes can be attached to your backpack’s harness. If you do this, though, both dog and hiker should be equally sure-footed and experienced.

In dangerous areas, hikers are best advised to undo the fixed connection to the harness in order to avoid accidents.

What should be considered if dogs and cows come into contact?

Again and again, you hear reports of incidents where cows have attacked dogs. If walking paths lead through cow pastures, caution is advised, especially in spring. At this time, mother cows are bringing their calves into the world, and are very concerned for the safety of their young. From the perspective of a cow, a dog poses a threat to their offspring, which must be protected by any means possible.

When travelling through cow pastures, hikers should cross quickly with their dogs on a short leash. The hiker should neither run, nor lose sight of the mother cow (but don’t stare them directly in the eyes, either, so as not to further alarm them). If it’s possible, grazing cows can be walked around with a wide berth.

If a cow does attack hiker and dog, the dog should be let off its lead immediately. This way, both human and animal will have a better chance of getting away quickly.

Can you stay overnight in a hut with a dog?

As a general rule, dogs aren’t allowed to stay overnight in the sleeping quarters or rooms of a hut. But, if dog and owner don’t want to be separated even in the mountain hut, dog owners should get in contact with the manager of the hut in advance. This way you can ask whether there is anywhere to sleep that is appropriate for dog owners. Especially in the low season, good, mutually agreeable solutions can be found.

What else should be considered when hillwalking with dogs?

Targeted training and particular commands help the human-dog team to travel through the mountains as safely and efficiently as possible. When going uphill, dogs usually walk in front. At confusing or dangerous points, the dog should be tightly secured by the collar, harness or on a short lead.

When climbing downhill, it’s often helpful for the dog to go behind the walker. This means that difficult passages can be negotiated together, and the stress on the dog’s joints isn’t as high as when it’s running and jumping quickly.

Conclusion

Whether a day trip, a weekend of hiking or a walking holiday with a dog. With the right equipment and a bit of training and preparation, the days in the mountains will turn into an unforgettable experience for hiker and hound. Many camping sites and holiday rentals are specially equipped for the needs of dog owners.

Additional information about hikes suitable with dogs, as well as current regulations, can be found at the local tourist office, information point or the town hall.

If dog owners are not sure if their pet is fit enough for a longer walk, they should consult their vet beforehand just in case. Only when both dog and human are motivated and in good physical condition is walking in the mountains fun!

Climbing and bouldering in Scandinavia

Training tips for strong fingers

13. August 2020
Tips and Tricks

“How on earth are you supposed to hold on there?” This is a question I get asked sometimes, and that I ask myself much more often when I’m faced with routes that are clearly beyond my limits. I now know the answer: Amongst other things, it comes down to a good deal of finger strength combined with a really good climbing technique.

Without doubt, finger strength counts as one of the most dominant factors in being able to climb really difficult tours. This can also be seen if you take a look at elite climbers. As different as the physical appearance of these “super humans” may be, they all have one thing in common: They can grip quite small holds damned well, and have a lot of experience with this. But there is hope for us mere mortals. Even though genetic components play a major role in how strong and susceptible to injury our fingers are, with a little time and patience, they can become really well trained.

Perhaps I shouldn’t begin extra training yet?

Before we get started, a few words for beginners of our great sport. To you I would say that climbing is more than just pure strength. In the first few years, all aspects of climbing can be improved really well just by climbing. Targeted finger training is linked to a high risk of injury for beginners. So instead, it’s better for you to first concentrate on technique, tactics, getting a feel for the movements, your mental capacity etc.

Sound strength building requires a lot of time

Even if it may seem like the hand ends at the wrist, its extremely complex system extends through many joints right to the shoulder. It’s important to know that the hand’s musculoskeletal system is made up of a large number of complexly interconnected bones, tendons, ligaments and muscles.

The latter gives us the strength to grip small holds. They can be trained easily and make progress quickly. But it’s a different story when it comes to the tendons and ligaments in our hands and forearms. They require higher training stimuli and also a great deal longer to develop the same capacity. Finger tape doesn’t help with this either, only time does!

If we begin finger training at an early stage in our climbing careers, our muscle power develops too quickly and can lead to injuries when climbing. The injury process then happens as follows: The hand and arm muscles are trained and capable of gripping small holds, but the tendons and ligaments in the fingers are not yet tough enough. But with your new strength, you now embark on your long-term goal of finally reaching the top.

But suddenly, at the crux, your foot slips and you absorb the momentum with your upper body. Either you hear a “pop” straight away, and you’ve got acute trauma to one of your annular ligaments, or you repeat this scenario and cause chronic strain. Both cases are typical patterns of injury for climbers and increase the risk of injuring yourself again in the future.

It turns out that you should take a rather conservative approach to the subject of finger strength. Keep in mind that an injury will set you a long way back; the healing process for fingers can take six months or longer.

Reasons to strengthen your fingers

It makes sense that strong fingers can grip smaller holds. But finger strength has an additional benefit. You can hold on for longer. Why? The reason is maximal strength. This is the maximum force that you can initiate in a muscle through purely deliberate effort. Through good training, you can get your discretionary capacity closer to the limits of your emergency power reserves. This means that the muscle cells are supplied for longer and you can stay longer on the wall. Long story short: the stronger your fingers are, the smaller holds can be before the performance of your muscular system is reduced.

Start training right

For finger training to achieve its full effects, you must be well prepared. Part of this is a sufficiently long break between the finger training sessions. It’s recommended that you do finger training a maximum of twice per week. So, between the training sessions, you can take a 48-hour break and you still have time for climbing or bouldering.

On the training days, it’s especially important to do a proper warm up. It’s best to start with exercises such as jumping rope or doing jumping jacks to get your circulation going. Then you can dedicate yourself to your fingers, with repeated hangs on large holds and a little stretching (<10 second strain).

When you are hanging correctly, or training on a fingerboard, you put weight on both your fingers and your shoulders. This is why it’s important to hang onto the board with the right technique. You should therefore consider the following criteria:

  • Only hold the training board with open hand, or with the fingers in half crimp and not supported by the thumbs.
  • To stop your shoulders from getting overburdened, it’s important to tense your shoulder muscles. This is especially true for training with added weight!

Through the repeated hangs and stretches, you reduce the risk of injury and increase your capacity for the next training.

It is recommended that the following training programs be followed for four weeks each, and that you take a break for at least a week afterwards. Then you can either use the same programme and increase the intensity, or do one of the other two programmes. Of course, you can also get used to your new strength first and let a few weeks go by without any finger training. We’re not pros, and we don’t have to keep to perfect training regimes.

Training for maximal finger strength – you don’t always have to completely drain yourself

The following training methods are different in terms of length, intensity (hold size/added weight) and rest time. Each variation of these factors has a different training effect on the finger muscles, as well as on the tendons and ligaments.

To train your maximal strength, the training stimulus has to be very high intensity, which means the exercise can only be done for a short time. A longer rest is then necessary so that you can do the next round at full capacity again. After a training session like this, you’ll feel unexpectedly fit. But don’t be fooled, your body has done a lot and needs a break.

With these kinds of training routines, it’s above all your nervous system that gets a workout. The effect is ultimately that your body improves the activation of your muscular system. This can mean that more nerve impulses are sent to your muscular system, more muscle cells are activated at the same time, and more powerful types of muscle fibre are activated earlier. This neuromuscular adjustment is a qualitative feature of the performance capacity of the muscular system, and, in this case, of your grip strength.

Eva Lopez’ minimal board training

Eva Lopez researches training methods for climbing. Based on her studies, she has recommended the following training programme for maximal finger strength. For this, you need a large range of training boards. She uses, for example, the Progression training board. A little less choice isn’t bad, either. From amongst the holds, choose one that you can hang from for just 15 seconds at maximum effort. This is your training hold. It will be your friend for the next 4 weeks.

  • 12-second hang
  • 3-minute break
  • Repeat 4 times

Points 1 to 3 make up a set. After a 5-minute rest, you can do another set. Beginners should leave it at 2 sets. The advanced can do up to 5 sets using different holds.

Advanced climbers (UIAA 8 to 9) and boulderers (Fb 7a) can use this protocol as an introduction to fingerboard training and make significant progress.

Maximum strength training with added weight (after Eric Hörst)

After you have done the first programme over several training cycles, the holds that you can hang from will be very small, and at some point also very painful. Now if not before, it’s come to the time to choose bigger hold in the board again and to increase the training intensity through added weight (an extra 10 to 50 kg). When adding the extra weight, remember that this is supposed to be about sensible training and not about impressing anyone else. First choose a training board that you can hang from with the first phalanx. Add enough weight so that you can hang onto it for just 13 seconds.

Soon I’ll show you how to choose the right weight in a video on our YouTube channel. Using this board, you train with the weight as follows:

  • 10-second hang
  • 3-minute break
  • Repeat 4 times

Then rest for 5 minutes and do another set.

Keep the amount of added weight the same for at least 4 weeks; then you can check if you need to adjust it.

Strength endurance – when “getting drained” works

When you’re climbing, you don’t just want to be able to grip the smallest holds, you also want to get to the top of the route. For this, you need to repeatedly grip onto holds and let them go again. The longer the route, the more often we have to keep gripping. You feel your forearms getting tighter and tighter, and they begin to burn. The following programme will make it easier to tough this phase out.

Intermittent hanging (repeaters)

The Beastmaker (Ned Feehally) may well have made this training programme famous, or at least, I see a lot of people training using the Beastmaker app’s programme/intervals. A lot of people also talk about the good results that they’ve got with this method. Essentially, this programme is really good at training your fingers specifically for climbing, but it’s wrongly labelled finger strength training. Because of the high number of repetitions and the comparatively low intensity, it should be categorised as strength endurance training. This becomes particularly apparent from the physical reaction to the training.

The gripping and releasing corresponds to the pattern when you’re climbing, and “pumps” the forearm. It is precisely this pumping that shows that we’re in the realm of energy production through the “lactic anaerobic system”. This means that the muscle gets its energy primarily from partial glycolysis. It is partial because the energy needs to be available more quickly than the biochemical process can supply it.

This process is not a problem for the body. It just leaves a few things behind, including lactate. This lactate accumulates in the muscle, and can only be broken down again at a particular intensity. As soon as the intensity of the exercise exceeds this threshold, the muscle starts to burn. Above a certain lactate threshold, the muscle will ultimately fail.

Through the following programme, you train strength endurance by improving this break-down process and the muscle’s lactate tolerance. You have two options for doing the programme:

  • Option 1: Get yourself a Beastmaker and the app that goes with it (the intervals suggested are quite challenging, so they shouldn’t be integrated into a bouldering or climbing day).
  • Option 2: The Eva Lopez method. This can be integrated into a bouldering or climbing day.

For the training, choose a hold that means that you can only just grip it when you get to the last repeater of a set. This means that you need to do a session first to find out the right hold.

  • A repeater is a 10-second hang and a 5-second rest
  • You do this repeater four or five times in a row
  • Then you rest for a minute and repeat these actions three (not too bad) to five times (quite hard), depending on your training level.

Regardless of the training programme, please do remember: tendons and ligaments don’t adapt as quickly as muscles. This means that, when we’re climbing, we have the ability to grip smaller holds, but the load-bearing capacity of the finger is not necessarily guaranteed. This is why you should be particularly careful directly after a finger strength cycle so that you don’t hurt yourself while climbing or bouldering. It’s also important to strengthen the finger flexor muscles’ antagonist muscles. You can find out how this works by reading our article on antagonist training.

 

Hillwalking, hiking, trekking & Co. A pocket guidebook to the Babylonian confusion

6. August 2020
Tips and Tricks

Walking, hillwalking, long-distance walking, trekking, hut-to-hut trekking, hiking, long hikes, speed hiking, mountain hiking, backpacking, fastpacking, pilgrimages: these are terms that all more or less describe walking in the great outdoors. Why so many words to describe this wonderful, simple activity where all you do is go outside somewhere and put one foot in front of the other? What differentiates all these “disciplines”? Are there actually any differences worth mentioning? It’s precisely these questions that we want to answer, so we’re taking a closer look at the different disciplines. In doing this, we’re limiting ourselves to movement at a walking pace and without equipment on your feet (such as snowshoes or skis).

Not all walking is the same

An initial answer to the question could be as follows: Outdoor activities on foot are becoming more and more popular, so they’re becoming more and more diversified, too. The spectrum ranges from simple day trips in rural areas close to home to week-long ventures in Central Mongolia. The options vary in terms of their length and the geographical location, as well as according to the effort required and the difficulty. A further differentiating factor for categorising outdoor walking activities is the equipment used. The reason for setting out can also serve as a distinguishing feature. Some people just want to have a nice time, others want to achieve sports goals, while others still want to find themselves or higher meaning. These religious or spiritual motives have become a mass phenomenon with the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela along the Way of St. James.

Awkward descriptions, German anglicisms and cool neologisms

The fact that today every variation on moving your feet in nature has been given its own name is likely because we humans like to categorise things. The marketing campaigns of tourism and outdoors companies are definitely not without blame, either, since a wide spectrum of activities naturally brings with it a wide spectrum of equipment and products. Add to this anglicisms from other languages, such as German, which also muddy the waters. These anglicisms can be very practical for German marketing teams, and make it all sound very sexy. At least in comparison to some real German words, which can seem somewhat awkward and outdated to their original audience. So, “speed hiking” seems more impressive than “Hochgeschwindigkeitswandern” (high-speed hiking), and the neologism “fastpacking” rolls off the tongue more easily than “trail running with ultralight packs”, no matter what language you’re speaking!

Nevertheless, this linguistic richness creates vague terminology that can’t always be transferred easily from language to language or marketing campaign to marketing campaign. If you try to, confusion can ensue. For example, the German “Wandern“ can simply be translated as “hiking“ (which, to add to the confusion, can also be “hillwalking” in the UK), while what Germans call “Trekkinghose” are “hiking trousers” or “walking trousers” in English. So are “trekking”, “walking” and “hillwalking” all a little bit different? So it would seem. Then why are “trekking poles” classified as hiking equipment, and why do Germans translate “Trekking pole” as “Wanderstock”?

As if this all wasn’t confusing enough, as well as “trekking”, “hiking” and “walking”, let’s also throw “backpacking” and “fastpacking” into the mix. While the former can include being on the move with a vehicle if we’re talking about tourism, the latter also involves going somewhere with a backpack. “But wait a minute,” you might say. “When I’m hiking or hillwalking I also have my rucksack on my back.” So is it all just rubbish? No, it’s a question of how different regions and countries use the terminology.

Anyway, so far we’ve determined that the terms hiking and hillwalking are identical to Wandern in German. They are always translated like this when, for example, hiking opportunities are touted on a tourism bureau’s multi-lingual website. According to Outdoor Magazin, both describe “daytrips for which a backpack/daypack with a volume of 20 to 30 litres is used”. And for both, you usually return to a fixed place to sleep in the evening. Tours with an overnight stay (in a hut) can thus be defined as hiking tours.

The many other terms for walking in the countryside do not overlap quite so much, but they still cannot always be “cleanly” separated. So perhaps we shouldn’t compare them so much, but instead simply unravel the terms one after the other – then the differences will surely become apparent:

Hiking and hillwalking

If a walk lasts several hours, you can call it a hike. The German Ramblers Association (DWV) sets the more or less arbitrary limit of one hour. Apart from this, the DWV adds “appropriate planning, the use of specific infrastructure (…) (and) suitable equipment” to the definition of hiking.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re walking through woods and meadows, across hills and over mountains, or along rivers, coastlines or beaches. The difficulty is kept in check, since you only walk on “good, marked paths that do not feature any alpine challenges”. The terrain can be traversed without aids, or with minimal ones such as trekking poles. This last thing is, however, no longer part of standard equipment, which is limited to robust, appropriate footwear and clothing that is suitable for the climate of the area.

And that there is a definition that is as beautifully uncomplicated as hiking itself.

Mountain hiking

Here, the definition is already contained in the name: we’re dealing with hiking in mountainous terrain. Marked or at least clearly recognisable paths and trails are generally used, which can usually be travelled along without a need for climbing equipment. Exposed areas are often secured, and pathless passages are usually short.

The line between hiking and mountain hiking is just as blurred as that between mountain hiking and mountaineering. Attempts to determine it according to individual criteria such as altitude or difference in elevation just wouldn’t make sense either because they could never do justice to the variety of landscapes and all the possible itineraries. So a great number of criteria, such as the equipment required, the length and the planning effort involved, or the demands on fitness, navigational skills, surefootedness and having a head for heights, must also be brought into consideration and compared. The only thing you can say here is that the bar for all these criteria is “set a little bit higher” than when you are “just hiking”.

The range of mountain hikes is very wide, extending from walking along wide forest roads to a managed alpine pasture in the foothills of the Alps, through to ascending an ice-free 3000m peak on the main Alpine ridge. There are also many variations such as high-altitude hiking, which takes place at high altitudes without big differences in elevation; or traversing, which usually progresses from one alpine hut to the next.

Trekking

The word “trek” means to “march”, “walk” or a variety of other kinds of travel by foot. If you look up “trekking” in the Cambridge Dictionary, it is defined as follows“the activity of walking long distances on foot for pleasure”.

This would mean that trekking was just the same as hiking, and that trekking, hiking and hillwalking were therefore all interchangeable synonyms. So is it all just rubbish after all? No, of course not! With trekking, you conquer longer distances with more luggage. If nothing else, then, there are differences in the criteria of duration and equipment. According to Trekkingguide.de, there are also other differences in terms of movement and the “means of transport”:

“For us, trekking is a journey over the course of several days on foot, or with simple, muscle-powered vehicles such as a canoe or a bicycle, usually with luggage. You could of course call the whole thing ‘multi-day hiking’, ‘multi-day boating’ and ‘multi-day cycle touring’.”

The destination can also serve as another distinguishing feature:

“Remote, less developed areas in largely untouched natural environments with traditional culture are thus the preferred destinations for trekking.”

This also matches the classic idea of trekking as a kind of precursor to an expedition into isolated areas that are often also culturally “original”. As well as a place to sleep (in the form of a tent), you also take a greater quantity of provisions with you.

But Outdoor Magazin, which is certainly a voice that carries some weight, has it’s very own perspective. According to them:

As soon as you stay overnight – whether in a hut, a guesthouse or a tent – Outdoor talks about ‘trekking’.

A somewhat more exclusive point of view, but still completely legitimate. So let’s agree that trekking often leads you to countries far from the Alps such as Nepal or Canada, and happens further from “civilisation” than classic hiking. And you also have substantially more luggage with you, and sometimes you also cross through real wilderness.

Long walks and long-distance hiking

Long walks and long-distance hiking could be defined as putting long stretches behind you over several days or even weeks – and it’s another one of those  phenomena that is currently thrusting itself before the public eye like a pop-up window. If you take a look at social media or on the blogosphere, the whole world seems to be off somewhere on an Alpine or a longitudinal crossing at the moment. Why is everyone so eager to march around for days or even weeks? The web portal wandern.com might have an answer:

When you put a long march behind you where you’ve managed 30 kilometres or even more in one day, when you reach your accommodation with burning feet and an aching back, completely at the end of your strength, your soul rejoices and your heart sings. Thanks to this achievement – and not least because of the high levels of oxygen in your blood – you experience a real rush of happiness.

The accommodation is also the crucial factor in distinguishing long walks from trekking: unlike the trekker, the long-distance walker never travels through completely undeveloped terrain. And when your long walk doesn’t return to the accommodation that it started from, the Germans further differentiate this as long-distance hiking.

The German and Austrian Alpine Clubs’ trail guide draws the distinction in terms of the length: Long-distance hiking trails are over 500km long and travel through at least three countries. Long walking trails are over 300 km long and travel through at least three states or counties. Of course, these precise specifications don’t prevent anyone from constructing a route that covers as many national and regional long-distance walking and hiking trails as they want!

Because of the connection of long-distance trails to local resources and infrastructure, people who go on these hikes play a much bigger economic role than the trekker. Accordingly, the former are courted much more than the latter. This economic component is also one of the less romantic explanations for the long-distance hiking boom. In this context, more and more paths are being connected to long-distance trails, marked, developed and marketed.

Pilgrimages

“Long-distance hiking with a spiritual motivation“ – this phrase could sum up the pilgrimage. More than any other, the paths that make up the Way of St. James in Spain, with its atmospheric landscapes and the extensive network of lodgings, attracts long-distance hikers from all over the world. The most famous of them leads from the Pyrenees to St. James’ tomb in Santiago de Compostela.

Speed hiking

We recently dedicated a whole article to “turbocharged hiking”. This intensified kind of hiking often takes you onto difficult terrain, often with sturdy poles and lightweight equipment. The poles provide stability and strengthen the muscles of the upper body.

At first, speed hiking was mainly done as a recreational sport or training method for other kinds of mountain sports such as ski touring or trail running. Recently, however, it’s increasingly come to be seen as its own type of sport, through which you can develop really good conditioning and coordination skills. Speed hiking also suits the current ultra-light trend. Of course, it now has its own competitions with various distances and degrees of difficulty for the growing number of athletes at different levels.

(Nordic) pole walking

At first glance, this kind of brisk walking with pointed poles may seem to be the same as speed hiking, since here, too, poles are brandished and the walking pace is heightened. But Nordic walking rarely tears through many metres at altitude or particularly long distances. Upon closer inspections, the terrain covered and the speed are also decidedly more comfortable. So, Nordic walking may be located somewhere between strolling, hiking and jogging.

In contrast to speed hiking, this kind of walking, also sometimes called pole walking, has a somewhat sedate image, so you seldom encounter young (Nordic) walkers in the woods and meadows. As a mountain sport, Nordic walking barely gets a mention. Its devotees tend to prioritise its health aspects and the social factor.

Fastpacking

Just like speed hiking, fastpacking also swims dangerously close to the waters of the ultra-light concept. Fastpacking is a mixture of (speed) hiking, trekking and mountain running. The motto here is “fast and long”. This means that it happens over several days, on foot, through mountain terrain that is off the beaten track, over steep summits and undeveloped mountain ridges. Ideally, you sleep in a bivvy, or, if you’re a purist, in the open air.

Fastpacking is not for those with no mountain experience, because its minimalism requires an advanced level of training and the ability to handle your equipment with experience and creativity. The light-and-fast attitude of fastpacking is based on the alpine style of mountaineering. Despite this ambition, it is also about minimising the total expenditure without neglecting safety or comfort.

Creative and exotic varieties

Geocaching is the treasure hunt or game of hide and seek for adventurers who are young or young at heart. Playing around a bit with technology and using your GPS device creates a little bit of extra excitement which can even lure people outside who are not so crazy about nature. The GPS device helps to track down the “caches” (treasures) that are now even hidden all over the mountains. Through geocaching, (mountain) hikes seem a little less off-putting, even for young gamers.

Barefoot hiking doesn’t add anything to hiking, it takes something away – the shoes, that is. What is a nightmarish thought for some represents a liberation from constraints for others. Beginners are best off going only a short distance at first, on a suitable surface (grass, sand or soil), so as to feel their way around it, so to speak. Of course, there’s always the option of putting on shoes that you’ve taken with you.

As you can see, the list of activities in the “hiking family” is getting longer and longer. And since we humans keep on tirelessly inventing new outdoor activities , we can only wait in anticipation to see which unorthodox hiking discipline will next be added to the list. So that means: to be continued…

Tips and tricks for sleeping in a hammock

16. July 2020
Tips and Tricks

Do you still remember Magnum, the TV series from the 1980s? If so, an image might immediately flash before your eyes of the eponymous main character, private investigator Thomas Magnum, Hawaiian shirt, dashing trademark moustache and all. Why this digression on the ideal world of childhood television, you may ask? Simple: we’re talking about hammocks! And when it comes to this topic, that TV hero immediately comes to mind: I see him happily lounging in a hammock while sipping a cocktail from a pineapple and smiling at the camera.

A comfortable overnight stay in a hanging sleeping area is, however – especially for hammock camping on outdoor tours – not as simple as the Hawaii-based TV detective makes it look. Whether it’s mosquitos, the cold or that you’re lying in the wrong position, many factors can interfere with sleep in a hammock. So this offers a few pointers on how you can make yourself really comfortable in your hammock.

Which hammock is the most comfortable?

Before we thrust ourselves into the hammock like a bearded Stoick the Vast for a well-deserved slumber, though, it’s important to first clarify which type of hammock provides the most comfortable forty winks.

Let’s start with the uncomfortable candidates. Rod hammocks, that is, models where a spreader bar stretches the sleeping area, are perfect for reading and hanging around in the garden, but not to slumber in for a longer time. Because your body weight is not distributed over the entire sleeping area but is instead located at individual points on the suspended surface, it becomes uncomfortable after a while and causes unpleasant muscular strain in the neck and back.

The rod hammock is also open at the sides, so you quickly grow cold. For the restless sleeper, it also harbours the danger of you rolling out in the night. Another disadvantage that stops you getting a good night’s sleep: the strong tension of the sleeping area means that every movement transforms into an annoying wobble. Another kind that is uncomfortable for long periods of time is the large-meshed rope hammock. If you lie in them for a long time, individual ropes press into your skin uncomfortably, even if there’s a blanket underneath you.

If you’re looking for a comfortable hammock to sleep in, it’s best to reach for a hammock made of a solid material or a fine-meshed rope hammock. Versions made with a solid material are stable, comfortable and keep you warm underneath. Fine-meshed rope hammocks fit to the body really well and ensure great ventilation from the bottom and the sides – perfect for humid nights.

Well hung – how to hang your hammock correctly

Before you can doze comfortably in your hammock, it must be hung up. This doesn’t take much more than two trees, stakes or similar set the right distance apart. The right distance means between 3.5 and 5 metres – the length of the hammock itself plus about a metre at each end. Of course, the branches or trees that you’ve sought out for yourself should be neither rotten nor should they house woodworms, and they need to be strong enough to bear your body weight for a long time.

To attach the hammock, there are special tree protector straps and suspension straps that prevent damage to the tree bark. The two attachment points should be located at the same height so that the hammock ends up hanging horizontally. For the suspension height: The higher the hammock hangs, the cooler it will be. If a humid summer’s night is in store, go ahead and hang it a big higher.

Usually, the straps are hung between 1.7 and a maximum of 2.0 metres high. Make sure that when you attach the hammock, it doesn’t sag too much – remember that there’s still your own weight to come! When it comes to the curvature, if your hammock looks like a banana then you’re on the right track. This results in a roughly 30° angle, which allows a comfortable lying position and ensures the right tension under load. When you’re inside it, the sleeping area should hang approximately 50 cm from the ground.

Me gusta! – The right way to lie in a hammock

Once the hammock is hanging comfortably in the air, it’s finally time for a cosy slumber! But how? There is a pervasive cliché about hammocks that they are at best only good for a short midday siesta, and that a restful sleep in one is practically impossible. It will quickly become clear that this preconception is actually a misconception – provided that you sleep in the right position.

Lying in the right position is crucial to ensure that neither back nor neck pain mess up the next day of touring. The sleeping position we’re familiar with from our matrasses at home, where you’re aligned parallel to the sides, will quickly lead to discomfort when sleeping in a hammock, because the back and the neck area are forced into a strenuous curve. An small but important trick provides relief and, in the best-case scenario, a sleeping position that is better for your back, more comfortable and healthier than on the old matrass you’ve got at home.

Lay yourself in a slightly diagonal line in the hammock, with your feet a little to the left or right and your head in the other direction. This position ensures an optimal distribution of weight over the sleeping area and thus that the hammock has the perfect tension.

At the same time, the fabric will adjust perfectly to a lying position that is relaxing and good for you back. People in many South and Central American countries spend practically their entire sleeping careers lying like this in a hammock. More and more people plagued with back pain in Europe are also finding relief sleeping in a hammock.

And if you’re afraid that you’ll get seasick sleeping in the sack, I can give you the all-clear. A study by the University of Geneva has proved that gentle swinging or rocking movements leads you to fall asleep more quickly and sleep more deeply – even for people who have trouble sleeping.

Camping under the stars – the hammock replaces the tent

It’s undeniable that the idea of exchanging a musty, man-made tent for heaven’s tent on multi-day tours, and being rocked to sleep in a comfortable hammock has a certain allure. If you do choose hammock camping, you can also save a bit of weight since the tent is left at home.

Sometimes, even a very practical consideration calls the tune when opting for a hammock. If you’re going out into heavily wooded or uneven terrain, it’s sometimes hard to find an even surface for a tent. A hammock can be lashed up quickly and easily between two trees or another suitable option for attaching it, and your tent alternative under the twinkling starry firmament is ready! Ok, so maybe that’s a bit romanticised, and gnats, mosquitos and similar creatures might have a thing or two to say. Not to mention that a night-time rainstorm isn’t exactly conducive to a good night’s rest, either.

But you can get tarps for weather protection when you’re in a hammock. These are waterproof awnings that are stretched over the sleeping area. Just like the hammocks themselves, tarps come in all kinds of shapes and materials. From tarps made of silicone-treated nylon or extremely lightweight, high-performance laminate, through to low-priced tent tarpaulin, the market has everything on offer to protect you from the wind and the weather. The latter option is, however, not exactly portable, since they are relatively heavy and require quite a bit of space in your backpack.

Weather and mosquito protection in the hammock

For light showers, asymmetrical, rhomboid tarps are recommended. These parallelogram-shaped tarpaulins are ideal for stretching over a diagonal lying position and have great ventilation. The disadvantage is that these tarps give up ship in heavy downpours or storms. Diamond-shaped or square tarps stay dry even in heavy rainstorms, and are really simple because they are only anchored at two points.

In strong winds, though, rain can blow in at the sides. Bigger tarps remedy this, but they also add more weight to your pack. Six-corner tarps offer amazing weather protection, but they are complex to put up because they need six clamping points. All-round, four-season tarps can be closed at the sides and attached close to the ground, ensuring comprehensive protection from the wind and weather. These companions are, however, comparatively large, heavy and difficult to attach. We’ve taken a closer look at tarps in another article.

If you’re going touring where biting bugs will make you lose sleep, you need to take a suitable mosquito net with you. There are special hammock nets for this that are stretched around the whole sleeping area and are closed with a drawstring or zip. Some models might need some additional tensioning first, and then you’ll be well-protected from aggressive, winged troublemakers.

If an extra bit of warmth is needed, there are hammocks with slots for sleeping mats, or self-inflating insulating hammock pads. Of course, it is possible to use a sleeping bag in a hammock, but it will soon get uncomfortable. The thermal performance will also suffer: because of the large surface pressure, the insulating material cannot trap much air, so thermal bridges form easily.

If it’s really cold, there are what is known as underquilts for hammocks. These are blankets and quilts filled with down or synthetic fibre, which are hung beneath the hammock. This means that nothing gets flattened, and the hammock is insulated from the bottom and sides. Together with a normal quilt for a blanket or a sleeping bag if necessary, you can thus even camp in a hammock in frosty minus temperatures – depending on the kind of underquilt and your own limits, too. For further information on hammocks that are suitable for outdoor use and the different kinds of outdoor hammocks available, we invite you to take a look at our hammock buyer’s guide. After so much reading, you now really deserve a comfortable snooze in a hammock! Sweet dreams!

So, why not bake yourself some mountain bread?

9. July 2020
Tips and Tricks

Germany, March 2020. The Coronavirus is keeping the world in suspense and, like many others, you’ve been spending a lot of time between the four walls of your own home. You’ve already finished all your books, and Netflix now knows what you like better than your own partner does. It’s well and truly time for a bit of variety in your day! So why don’t you try baking some bread? Here’s a recipe for our delicious bread that’s perfect for the mountains!

Bread? That’s very funny!

Yes, yes, we know what’s going through your head right now: Yeast and flour – where am I supposed to get those? A little tip: Go to your local bakery and ask them for some. Most bakers have enough of both and will be glad of the extra income. But always keep the appropriate distance away from them! Otherwise, you could just make the yeast yourself.

Our “Extreme Spelt” mountain bread: The recipe!

Before you can really get going in the home bakery, of course you need a few ingredients. For the mountain bread, you need the following:

Ingredients (for one 750 g loaf)

Water roux:

90 g spelt flour (type 630)

Main dough:
350 g spelt flour (type 630)
90 g sunflower seeds
13 g salt
10 g yeast

Method

For the water roux (sometimes also referred to as tangzhong), simply bring 245 g of water to the boil. Remove the pot from the stove. Add the spelt flour and whisk it in quickly. Leave the mixture, covered, to cool overnight.

For the main dough, place the water roux together with the other ingredients and 140 g of cold water in a mixing bowl (preferably in a food processor – otherwise, for the climbers amongst us, you can get a really good upper arm workout at the same time :-)). Knead well for 10 minutes. If you’re doing it by hand, it may take a little longer.

Cover the dough and leave it to rest for two hours at room temperaturefolding the dough once every 30 minutes. Finally, leave the covered dough to prove overnight in the refrigerator.

The next day, take the dough out of the fridge and allow it to come to room temperature for two hours. After another one and a half hours, preheat the oven using the top and bottom heating elements to 260 degrees Celsius.

If you have a pizza stone, feel free to pop it into the oven! Otherwise, it’s also fine to use a normal baking tray. After the dough has warmed up, use wet hands (with cold water since the dough is really moist) to form the dough into a nice ball.

From there, lay it on baking paper and allow the dough to relax for another ten minutes.

And now it’s time to bake it! Put the baking tray on the lowest rack and ladle a little water into the oven. Then close the oven immediately! This process, known as “steaming,” ensures a great crust. Set your timer for 60-70 minutes. After 10 minutes, reduce the temperature to 210 degrees Celsius.

Your entire apartment will slowly start to smell of fresh bread. Everything is as it should be.

Once the timer goes off, take the bread out of the oven and check that it has baked all the way through. Finally, use a pastry brush to brush a little water on the crust.

And now you have a super delicious loaf of bread. It may take a little longer than usual to prepare, but it’s worth it. We’ve sure got enough time at the moment :-)! If you want to stock up on bread, you can definitely bake several loaves and then freeze them in a freezer bag.

Serving suggestions: After it has cooled down, cut right into it – it’s a dream just with butter alone! And of course, our bread makes for a fantastic summit snack – as soon as we’re allowed back into the mountains.

Altitude sickness – prevention and treatment

7. May 2020
Tips and Tricks

Acute mountain sickness (AMS) can strike anyone, from professional to amateur mountaineer, and often hits quickly and unexpectedly. And you don’t have to be climbing an eight-thousander for it to strike. Athletes can be affected even on 3,000m peaks in the Alps or when cycling across mountain passes. In this article, we’ll give you an overview of the symptoms as well as how to recognise and treat the condition.

Altitude sickness: the symptoms

A distinction is made between acute mountain sickness (AMS), high-altitude cerebral edema (HACE) and high-altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE). Below, you can find the main symptoms for each to differentiate the conditions.

However, all three conditions have common factors that significantly increase the risk:

  • the absolute altitude
  • the speed of ascent
  • insufficient acclimatisation
  • individual predisposition

When assessing the risk for one of the altitude diseases, it is important to consider the ascent profile (how many meters of altitude are to be covered), the sleeping height and past individual susceptibility.

Symptoms of acute mountain sickness (AMS)

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Insomnia
  • Dizziness

Symptoms of high-altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE)

  • Significant loss of performance during ascent
  • Dry chesty cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cyanosis (blue colouration of mucous membranes and lips)
  • Crackling noise when breathing

Symptoms of high-altitude cerebral edema (HACE)

  • Severe headache
  • Signs of paralysis
  • Loss of consciousness, up to coma

The most common form of altitude sickness is acute mountain sickness (AMS). The most common symptom is a headache. In addition, there are usually unspecific symptoms such as a general feeling of illness, dizziness, loss of appetite, nausea and insomnia. Acute mountain sickness manifests after min. 4 – 6 hours from an altitude of 2,000 to 2,500 m.

Acute mountain sickness is often most pronounced after the first night at high altitude. Intensive physical exertion such as long, technical ascents further intensify the symptoms. If the patient doesn’t ascend any higher and rests, symptoms generally disappear in 24 to 48 hours. However, the danger increases if they continue to ascend despite existing symptoms – and acute mountain sickness develops into high-altitude cerebral edema (HACE). Then, they must descend immediately.

It is important to listen to your body and pay attention to any changes. It is equally as important to observe your companions when you are not travelling alone. Is my long-time mountain buddy just tired? Or are they moving a lot slower than normal? A noticeable loss of performance at altitude and the first signs of acute mountain sickness are usually noticed more quickly by others in the group, so that countermeasures can be taken early on.

High-altitude pulmonary edema

An early symptom and warning sign of High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE) is an excessive loss of performance during the ascent, often accompanied by shortness of breath and, initially, dry coughing. High-altitude pulmonary oedema develops after very rapid ascent to altitudes above 4,000m in a period of 2-3 days.

How can altitude sickness be prevented?

The most sensible way to reduce the risks of altitude sickness is a slow gain in altitude as well as being sufficiently physically fit for the tour. Sleeping lower than you have ascended during the day is also important for effective acclimatisation. If you know you are susceptible to mountain sickness, you should aim for no more than 500 m ascent per day above 2,500 m during trekking and (hut) hikes. If you have been susceptible on previous tours, you should also avoid ascending quickly (e.g. on a cable car) to heights above 3,000 m. Symptoms often only appear on arrival at the hut. Before undertaking a trekking tour in mountains such as the Himalayas or the Andes, it is also advisable to stay overnight in the Alps above 3,000 m.

How is altitude sickness treated? Are there medications?

The most effective treatment for the symptoms is to improve oxygen supply. This is most easily achieved by descending to lower altitudes. If there are indications of cerebral edema (HACE) or pulmonary edema (HAPE), you must descend immediately! In most cases, this requires a reduction in altitude of 1,000 metres in order to significantly alleviate symptoms. Mild symptoms of acute mountains sickness (AMS) often disappear within 24 to 48 hours after the onset of the disease, if you rest and undertake symptomatic treatment (drink lots of water!).

When staying at high altitudes, in areas with no infrastructure or in technically demanding terrain, it is often not possible to descend immediately. If necessary, the use of medication can temporarily relieve the symptoms and in the worst case even save lives. However, medication should only be administered by doctors or mountain guides trained in high altitude medicine! Therefore, this article will not go into any more detail about medication for altitude sickness.

Coca tea in the Andes

In the Andes, locals swear by coca tea. To make it, hot water is poured over the leaves of the coca plant. The mountainfolk in the Andes mix the plant with chalk or ashes as a to produce something between chewing tobacco and chewing gum and it is very popular. Firstly, because coca dispels hunger, fatigue, stomach-aches and headaches as well as the cold. But also because coca is effective against altitude sickness. In fact, the leaves seem to increase oxygen uptake in the blood. However, the plant is also used to produce cocaine, which is one of the reasons why the plant cannot be purchased in Germany.

Oxygen deficiency and the symptoms

Hypoxia is the medical term for lack of oxygen. Hypoxia specifically refers to the lack of oxygen in the body’s arterial blood. Characteristic symptoms of oxygen deficiency are changes in breathing, acceleration of pulse and/or chest pain. Mental symptoms such as spontaneous euphoria, delirium and feelings of lightness can also indicate a lack of oxygen. Dizziness, weakness and general discomfort are also among the most common symptoms when on the mountain.

If body tissue is undersupplied with oxygen for a longer period of time, it can lead to weakened circulation and ultimately, loss of consciousness. Another symptom is nausea without any actual digestive complaint. Manifestations of an oxygen deficiency can come to light in many different ways. Particularly deceptive: the typical complaints are usually unspecific symptoms, which can also be signs of numerous other diseases.

A few closing words…

In summary, altitude sickness can be an extremely life-threatening situation. For those who are susceptible and predisposed, the first symptoms can appear at an altitude of about 2,000 m. With slow acclimatisation and careful preparation, the occurrence and possible symptoms of the disease can often be alleviated, if not completely prevented. However, acclimatisation only works up to a certain point. That’s why you often hear about the so-called ‘death zones’ on the seven and eight-thousanders – areas on the mountain where the body literally begins to die and which no acclimatisation, no matter how perfect, can prevent. Specific preparation, physical fitness and a slow ascent remain the best measures for healthy trekking and mountaineering at high altitudes. The motto “climb high, sleep low” is the definitive mantra of all mountaineers who want to get up high.

How to sh** properly in the woods…

24. April 2020
Tips and Tricks

It’s a perfect day: the sun is shining and you’re heading climbing with some friends. You arrive at the foot of the wall, pack your things and get climbing. It’s your turn to belay first, which isn’t too bad because the sun is so beautiful and a bumblebee is flying around entertaining you as your friends tell stories; life is beautiful. Then suddenly the wind turns and you think Hm, that’s not wildflowers that I can smell.

At some point during the morning, you feel a twinge in your bladder. You run a few metres into the forest and behind the next bush hides a frightening sight – it’s a minefield! White ‘flags’ lined up in rows warn against continuing along this path. You realise where that smell was coming from. Going any further is not an option.

The more people climbing, the greater the problem of what they leave behind. But while it’s relatively easy to dispose of cigarette butts, bottles, paper waste and other rubbish, and these kinds of things will often be picked up by kind passers by, getting rid of poo is a little… harder. Yet this waste is more problematic; not only does it look and smell bad, it can also become a real threat to the environment as well as human and animal health.

Some Facts

“It’s completely natural and will decay, so why clean it up?” This is true, but few people realise that it takes a long time for these things to decay. Tissue, for example, takes about three months. Excrement doesn’t take so long, but will still be lingering after about two weeks.

Let’s do a simple calculation. We are at a beautiful climbing wall. Every weekend, about 100 people come here to climb. If everyone left their business, that would be 100 dumps and 100 tissues. As these dumps take a long time to disappear, that’s 400 dumps a month. Just think about how the forest will look and smell after one season. Admittedly unbleached toilet paper decays faster, but even that takes a few weeks and it doesn’t look nice.

Tissues are also questionable from a sustainability standpoint because of the manufacturing process. A lot of water, energy and wood is used in their manufacture. In addition, dangerous substances are discharged into water bodies through chemical treatment. You can find more information on the Federal Environment Agency’s webpages.

The unhealthy business…

Actually, there is not much negative to discover about excrement, stool or faeces – apart from the fact it’s just gross. In the ecosystem, faeces play an important role, for instance as fertiliser or as food for fungi and mites. The scarab beetle even uses excrement to reproduce by laying its eggs in it.

However – and this is where it becomes problematic – excrement can also transport a lot of nasty substances. Simply put, it contains everything that our body either cannot digest or simply wants to get rid of very quickly. Therefore, countless bacteria, viruses, bacilli, parasites and other unpleasant things can be found in faeces. It becomes particularly unpleasant when pathogens travel and enter areas where they are not actually native.

But animals do it?

Yes, animals also poo in the woods, but that’s not a reason we should; the comparison is flawed. Animals also transport pathogens in their faeces, so water from streams near grazing fields should not be drunk unless it’s been filtered.

And, animals usually spread their excrement over large areas. A deer has the whole forest at its disposal, while climbers are usually limited to a few square metres near the wall.

And, animal waste can also be pretty nasty. Many farmers have to deal with dog poo which contaminates their hay.

So, what should you do?

  • Use suitable facilities: take some time after a good breakfast to do your business in the comfort of your own home. If you’re not ready at that point, maybe you can stop at a service station on the way. Some areas have even installed toilet facilities. Granted, they may not have the most pleasant odour, but it’s for a good cause.
  • Distance matters: going a couple of metres further into the woods has never hurt anyone – except maybe in bad horror movies. Stay away from the nearest water and any favourite bushes. If you are above a body of water, you should take extra care to ensure sufficient distance between yourself and the water. When i

    t next trains, your waste will be washed in and travel along the whole water course. And nobody wants that.

  • Burying: Dig a deep hole (30 cm) and do your business in there. Digging a hole has many benefits. The poo decomposes much faster, animals cannot dig it up so quickly, the rain does not wash it away and it spares others from seeing and smelling it- and stepping in it. But what should you dig with? Approach shoes have pretty hard soles, sticks can be helpful, or if you know you will be digging for a long time, you can get shovels for that purpose.
  • If you can’t bury it: sometimes the ground is too hard and too dry to dig a deep enough hole. In that case, you’ll have to take it with you. You’ll need a bag (plastic is recommended) and the aforementioned shovel. Wrap the bag around the shovel, pick it up and then roll the bag back so it encases everything. The mine is wrapped up. When you next reach civilisation, you can dispose of it. If you’re away for a longer time, we recommended bringing an extra box to store the waste.

I know it’s not particularly appetising, but, hey, it’s natural and you should be able to do it if you’re tough enough to take on this kind of adventure.

Climbing Technique Part 2 – Types of Handholds

15. August 2019
Tips and Tricks

To someone who has never climbed before, an artificial climbing wall may just look like a wall with a bunch of randomly placed hand- and footholds. But an experienced eye will see an array of climbing routes and movements. Plus, an experienced climber will also more quickly recognise how to best grip a climbing hold and which position his body should be in at any given moment. This and the next article will help you develop a better eye for holds.

Types of climbing holds

Jugs:

Every beginner’s favourite hold. But they’re few and far between on more difficult routes, unless there is an overhang.

Even if jugs make it tempting to climb using brute force to pull yourself up, this “technique” will just frustrate you in the long term. Pullups won’t get you very far on rock walls and difficult routes. For these, proper climbing technique is much more important. That’s why you should practice on vertical routes, and those with a slight overhang, indoors to practice the basic techniques. When the difficulty increases and the jugs only serve as a spot to rest, good climbing technique is more helpful than pure strength.

Ledges

One of the first major hurdles you will encounter are the very small ledges (often called crimps) where only one or two fingertips have space. If you have excellent finger strength, these usually don’t pose a problem. But because annular ligament injuries in the fingers are among the most common injuries in sport climbing, ledges should always be “enjoyed” with caution. Depending on how you place your fingers, ledges can really put a strain on your fingers.

Correct placement reduces the risk of injury. We distinguish between three grip techniques:

  • full crimp
  • half crimp
  • open grip

The safest but most technically demanding grip is the open grip. Because of the smaller angle, the body needs to be positioned more carefully. This is why most climbers use either a half crimp or full crimp when climbing. This creates a larger angle, which allows you to actively pull on the grip when moving through a wider range of motion (see image). In a full crimp, you also use your thumb, but this position puts a high amount of stress on the annular ligaments.

As far as injury prevention goes, it makes more sense to climb using an open grip. But, climbing with crimped fingers is a part of climbing and is unavoidable on very small edges. You can learn more about preparing your fingers for the stresses of climbing in our article on finger strength (currently only available in German).

Pockets

Slim fingers tend to have the advantage here because the size of a pocket determines how many fingers you can stuff in there.

But just as with ledges, there is a high risk of injury, which is why you should pay a lot of attention to how you position your fingers. Pockets with sharp edges place additional stress on your ligaments. The two-finger pocket is the most common type of pocket hold. Which fingers you use is generally not all that important because there’s no difference between the combination of ring and middle finger and an index and middle finger when it comes to muscles. However, because of the anatomical differences in the lengths of the fingers, one of the two options will be more comfortable.

Sloper

These large, smooth holds should be gripped with the entire surface of the hand. These holds are all about friction, and this is dependent on both the pressure you exert and the contact area. Some slopers also have small raised bits that can be held onto like edges.

One of the most important factors when it comes to slopers is the direction of pull (see article 1). On easier routes, there is usually a foothold directly underneath so that you can “dive” right under the hold (as seen in image 2). More difficult routes will require more technique and strength. It’s often necessary to create counter-pressure using other parts of the body (as in image 1).

Volumes

These aren’t all that different from slopers and, because of their size, they can also be used for support as in the first image. But if you’re underneath a volume, it can be a bit trickier. They’re easiest to grab hold of if you place your fingertips at the edge of the volume.

Supports

You don’t always need to pull yourself up using holds; it can also be helpful to support yourself with your hands. If there’s a good hold with less support options, you can press your hand against the wall to take the stress off of one foot.

Pinch

Like twisting a bottle cap! By using the thumb for opposing force you can create additional pressure in a pinch. Depending on the size of your hand, wide pinches will be more or less difficult to hold. Aside from that, you should pay attention to your positioning; it may be possible to hold them like a ledge.

Horns and edges

One hold that is rarely found outdoors, but frequently in climbing gyms, are holds that stick out of the wall like a branch. These allow you to grip with the entire heel of the hand to relieve the stress on your finger muscles.

What’s next?

In this article, you learned about the different types of holds. But there are subtle differences between the individual types that can end up being the deciding factor between success and failure on a route. You’ll learn about these in the next article.

Until then, have fun climbing and bouldering!

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