All posts on this topic ‘Tips and Tricks’

On the proper use of walking poles

15. April 2021
Tips and Tricks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As a rule, always keep to 90 degrees!

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

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

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

The right grip

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

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

Using the walking poles correctly

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

15. February 2021
Tips and Tricks

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

HIKING – VIA FERRATA – CLIMBING

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

Basically there are three different variants of via ferrata walking:

  • Insured paths

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

  • Classic Via Ferrata

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

  • Sport Via Ferrata

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

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

EQUIPMENT

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

The climbing harness

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

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

The Via Ferrata Set

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

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

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

The Climbing Helmet

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

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

CLIMBING GLOVES

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

Shoes

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

CLIMBING – HOW DOES IT ACTUALLY WORK?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At last..

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

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

26. November 2020
Tips and Tricks

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

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

(more…)

DOWN IMPREGNATION – DOES IT WORK?

19. November 2020
Equipment, Tips and Tricks

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

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

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

12. November 2020
Care tips, Tips and Tricks

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

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

How to correctly care for GORE-TEX® clothing

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

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

Drying and ironing clothing

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

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

The water-repellent dry treatment of the clothing

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHAT IS… CYCLOCROSS?

2. November 2020
Tips and Tricks

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

When shortcuts were allowed

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

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

What are the main differences?

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

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

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

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

What equipment do I need?

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

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

Special case: gravel bikes

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

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

Why cyclocross?

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

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

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

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

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

19. October 2020
Tips and Tricks

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

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

So, enough talking, here we go:

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

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

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

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

Netherlands and Luxembourg

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

Switzerland

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

CZECH REPUBLIC

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

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

IBERIAN PENINSULA

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

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

The Balkans

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

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

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

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

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

ICELAND

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

FRANCE

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

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

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

GREAT BRITAIN

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

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

AUSTRIA

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

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

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

BELGIUM, ITALY, DENMARK AND GERMANY

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

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

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

NORWAY AND SWEDEN

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

CONCLUSION

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

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

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

The perfect cycling jacket for your next bicycle tour

1. October 2020
Equipment, Tips and Tricks

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

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

(more…)

Hotel Europe – Where is wild camping permitted?

1. October 2020
Tips and Tricks

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

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

Camping or bivouacking?

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

The promised land – where wild camping is allowed

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

Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania

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

Finland, Norway, Sweden

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

Scotland

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

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

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

Denmark

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

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

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

Belgium and the Netherlands

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

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

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

Germany

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

France

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

Austria

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

Switzerland

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

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

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

Caution whilst choosing a site – wild camping is prohibited

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

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

Italy

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

Poland

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

Conclusion

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

Bannock bread – the classic of the outdoor kitchen

27. August 2020
Tips and Tricks

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

Bannock breadWhat you need for bannock bread:

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

Tipps for the bread dough

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

Caution when baking

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

A few pro tips

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

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.

 

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