All posts with the keyword ‘Trekking’

Packing list for camping

Packing list for camping

15. December 2017
packing list

What we mean here is going camping by car or public transport, so basically any camping trip where you don’t have to carry your kit by yourself. There’s a whole other list, namely one for trekking, for those trips that require you to carry your own gear.








Sleeping






Eating and cooking













This is what you always need







Optional (depending on the trip and time of year)












If you still have room in your pack/vehicle







Yeah, it’s quite the daunting task to write a packing list for camping, especially if you’re not going on foot. There’s no limits to the luxury you can afford yourself! Luxurious camping is often referred to by purists as glamping. Anyway, the aim of our list is to provide you with some info on the bare essentials you need for your camping trip. It’s completely up to you whether you take more or less with you!

How to break in your walking boots properly

How to break in your walking boots properly

8. December 2017
Equipment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Breaking in your walking boots properly

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

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

Breaking in leather or synthetic walking boots

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

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

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

Barometric and GPS-based altimeters

Barometric and GPS-based altimeters

12. December 2017
Equipment

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

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

Barometric altimeters

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

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

GPS-based altitude measurement

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

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

Which device is better

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Packing list for hut-to-hut trips

Packing list for hut-to-hut trips

8. December 2017
Equipment, packing list

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

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

Clothing

1. Layer (base layer):




2. Layer (insulation):

3. Layer (weather protection):





Food





Hygiene & Health








Gear









For the hut



If you still have room in your pack








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

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

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

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

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

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

So, that being said, have a fun trip!

How polarised sunglasses work

How polarised sunglasses work

8. December 2017
Equipment

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

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

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

What are we really talking about?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do polarised glasses do?

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

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

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

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

Areas of use

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

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

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

About the author

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

How self-inflating sleeping mats work

How self-inflating sleeping mats work

15. November 2017
Equipment

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

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

How self-inflating sleeping mats work

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

How to regulate the amount of air in your mat

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

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

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

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

How to store your sleeping mat when not in use

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

Self-inflating sleeping mats in different thicknesses

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

How to clean and repair your sleeping mat yourself

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

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

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

Walking day trip checklist

Walking day trip checklist

22. November 2017
Equipment, packing list

So, what do we mean by day trip? Well, a day trip basically means that you don’t have to take all your gear with you, but rather just enough to get through the day until you make it back to where you started. The most important thing is to take enough gear with you for the day (without an overnight stay). Here it is, our walking checklist:

Clothing







This is what you need













Optional (depending on the trip and time of year)











If you still have room in your pack









The biggest advantage of a day trip? If you forget something on your list, you only have to go a single day without it! Nonetheless, there are a few essentials that you absolutely must take along on your trip. All other items fall under the category of “personal preference” or “weird habits” :-).

A buyer´s guide to softshell jackets

A buyer´s guide to softshell jackets

8. December 2017
Buyer's guide

In the outdoor industry, softshells are often praised as the do-everything jacket: They’re highly water-repellent (sometimes even waterproof), windproof, highly breathable, extremely lightweight and conform to your movements, making them perfect for almost every situation. But, can softshell jackets really do everything? What are the differences between them and what should you keep in mind when looking to buy one?

Well, we’ve put together all the pertinent info for you. Welcome to our buyer’s guide to softshells!

What is a softshell anyway?

Well, that’s not an easy question to answer. The amount of softshells on the market is as large as the jackets are versatile. Whilst many jackets are reminiscent of hardshells, others are more like your classic jumper. Softshells make up the mid-layer between a fleece jumper and a hardshell jacket. In contrast to fleece jumpers, softshells are more wind and water-repellent but not waterproof to the extent that a hardshell is. Plus, they are more breathable and elastic.

Manufacture

Most softshells are windproof. This is achieved by way of two manufacturing techniques. There are jackets with membranes, such as the Montura Ski Fighter Jacket with Gore Windstopper fabric, and there are jackets that have such dense fabric that they are windproof like the Tatonka Dorum Jacket. If you’re interested in membranes, we’ve put together an overview of the different ones available here. In other words, a jacket can be windproof as a result of a membrane or the weave. The advantage of a membrane, however, lies in the fact that it repels rain to a large extent, which is something a special weave can’t do. The disadvantage of a membrane is that it doesn’t allow as much water vapour to pass through, so you lose some of that breathability.

Which one is better is something we can’t answer. You have to decide for yourself! If you expect your softshell jacket to protect you from wind and light rains and remain breathable at the same time, a membrane would be your best option. If you’re looking for a jacket that is particularly warm and breathable, shields you from winds but not so much from rain, then a jacket without a membrane would be your best option.

If you’d prefer the one with a membrane, you should ask yourself the following question:

Why not a hardshell?

As was already mentioned, there are softshells on the market today that are pretty much up to snuff with hardshells. They may not be 100% waterproof (and seldom have watertight seams and zips), but they are much more breathable. Another difference you’ll notice is the material used, which is much softer and more elastic. This not only makes it more comfortable to wear but also allows for more freedom of movement. This is the main reason softshells have been so popular:excellent performance and a high level of comfort!

For those challenging multi-day trips with those inevitable heavy rains and no shelter in sight, there’s no way around a hardshell jacket. For all other endeavours, a softshell is a great alternative.

How did these softshells get so comfortable?

Like hardshells, Softshells have multiple layers. The outer fabric is an abrasion-resistant and water-repellent material that transports moisture well but doesn’t absorb any. For this purpose, polyester, polypropylene or polyamide is used. The second layer is often a membrane, which allows water vapour to pass through but repels wind. On the inside of the jacket, you’ll find fleece, fur or wool for comfort, freedom of movement and protection from the cold.

Areas of use

As a result of the plethora of fabric combinations, softshells are just as numerous as their possible applications. In order to find the perfect jacket, you should have a close look at the features. Softshells come equipped with underarm zips, helmet-compatible hoods, drawcords and other cool features, all of which can be pretty useful or pretty redundant, depending on what you need the jacket for.

If you’re looking into buying one for cycling, jogging, trail running or some other highly-aerobic activity, you should definitely get yourself a breathable jacket. If you tend not to cycle or run in the rain, you can do without the membrane. The most important factors are the fit and the venting options (e.g., pit zips). You can also opt for a softshell without a hood for the same reason as above. For cycling or climbing, however, it’s always a good idea to have a jacket with a drop back hem. The Arc’teryx Incendo Jacket, for example, is a classic running jacket: it’s got no unnecessary features and is extremely lightweight and packable. Plus, it will give you sufficient weather protection if you take the long way home!

Jackets like the MaruanM. from Maloja have a special combination of fabrics. The front is windproof, whilst the back is not. Instead, the back is made of breathable fabric, so it’s perfect for all cyclists, runners and ski tourers! For alpine activities, these kind of jackets won’t do, though. You need complete weatherproof protection! The Ultimate Eisfeld Softshell Hooded Jacket from Mammut, for example, comes complete with an adjustable, helmet-compatible hood, ventilation zips and a membrane that is built to withstand light showers with ease. Plus, it is significantly stretchier than a classic hardshell and thus perfect for alpine climbing routes.

Jackets like the Vaude Roccia Softshell Hoodie are intended for everyday wear. They are completely windproof and come with a hood that will shield you from any rain shower. Plus, they’ve got quite the simple, yet stylish design. In other words, with a jacket like that, you’ll get the weather protection you need without always having to take along that swooshing hardshell.

The sheer quantity of different softshell jackets on the market today can make it difficult to keep track. But, if you give yourself some time to think about exactly what you’re looking for, the chance finding the perfect jacket are pretty good!

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

There’s a lot going on in the climbing and outdoor industry. New products are being invented, existing ones are being reworked and improved, and we too, are learning more every day. And of course, we would like to share this knowledge with our customers. That’s why we regularly revise the articles at base camp. So, don’t be surprised if a post changes a bit in the coming months. This article was last edited on 02/11/2017.

A buyer's guide to synthetic sleeping bags

A buyer’s guide to synthetic sleeping bags

16. November 2017
Buyer's guide

It’s time for a new sleeping bag. And, not just any sleeping bag. This bag has got to be tough and durable. Its pack size and weight are less important for the time being. Over the course of this gruelling search for a new sleeping bag, you’ll stumble upon heaps of terms, including but in no way limited to down fill, comfort rating and the like. And, you’ll inevitably come across the term synthetic sleeping bag.

And, for good reason: there are plenty of advantages of synthetic sleeping bags, and toughness is one of them. But, you may be asking yourself: what the deuce are synthetics doing in a sleeping bag, anyway? Wouldn’t down insulation be much better? Well, as you’ll find out after reading this article, not necessarily. In the following, we’re going to talk a bit about the advantages and disadvantages of synthetic sleeping bags so that you can pick the one to fit your needs! So keep on reading!

What is synthetic insulation?

The first sleeping bag with synthetic insulation came to market as early as the 1950s. The Norwegian brand Ajungilak, which belongs to Mammut today, was one of pioneers in the development and manufacture of sleeping bags. In fact, they quickly established themselves as the go-to brand for international expeditions and normal outdoor travels. But, ever so gradually, other companies began making sleeping bags with synthetic insulation as well.

As you have probably already gathered, the insulation in this case is provided by synthetic fibres. How? Well, these extremely thin fibres loft and thus trap heat, resulting in an insulating layer. But, in order for the fibre to loft to their full potential, the surface of the fibres has to be as smooth as possible. For this reason, synthetic fibres used for high-quality sleeping bag insulation have a silicone coating. This treatment serves to help the synthetic fibres perpetually repel each other. The smoother and more robust the silicone layer is supposed to be, the more complex the manufacture of the fibres. But, the time and effort put into the process is definitely worth it, because it results in a long-lasting fill that won’t lose its fill power even after extended periods of use. The quality of the fill is one of the main reasons for the major price difference you’ll see every now and again between synthetic sleeping bags.

The advantages

The big advantage of synthetics is that they hardly absorb any moisture. If the sleeping bag does get wet at some point, its synthetic insulation will maintain its insulation properties even when wet. Plus, it dries quickly as well. Another great thing about synthetics is that they’re very resilient, making them incredibly easy to care for.

If you tend to travel in regions with high humidity, this is something you will certainly appreciate. For long trips and expeditions in the winter, you’ll want to opt for a synthetic bag as opposed to down as well because it may be days or even weeks before you’re able to dry your sleeping bag properly. If you were to use a down sleeping bag in such conditions, there’d always be the risk of the down clumping up when it gets wet, which would result in the down losing its insulation properties, leaving you out in the cold for the rest of the trip! A nightmare in icy-cold temperatures, to say the least.

Thanks to the resilience of synthetic insulation, synthetic sleeping bags are perfect for overnights at campsites, trips in warmer regions or when you crash on your mate’s couch at the weekend as well.

Things to consider when shopping for a sleeping bag

Before buying a synthetic sleeping bag, be sure that it has high-quality insulation. Materials such as MTI from Ajungilak / Mammut or G-Loft from Carinthia are of the highest quality and have been tried and tested on various trips and expeditions. So, it will come as no surprise that the Tyin EXP 5-Season from Mammut has established itself as an absolute classic for winter expeditions.

The synthetic insulation in this sleeping bag has been designed for expeditions to damp, cold places. Synthetic sleeping bags often have a “loose shell” construction with off-set stitching to prevent from cold air penetration and give maximum warmth. Synthetic bags also often have “offset quilted layers”, which help to eliminate cold spots, making for a warmer sleeping bag.

As with all sleeping bags, you should always make sure it has the appropriate temperature rating. We recommend paying close attention to the T-Comfort rating, which is the lowest temperature you’ll ever want to use the bag in. That way, you won’t run the risk of freezing. Some manufacturers use the “T-Limit” as the lowest temperature, which can give the impression that the sleeping bag is warmer than it actually is. We know from experience that it can get pretty chilly in many sleeping bags when exposed to these kind of temperatures, so, again, pay close attention to the T-Comfort rating, regardless of whether you’re a man or a woman.

Another important factor is the shape of the sleeping bag. If you’re just looking for one to use sporadically for camping or sleeping over at your mate’s, a rectangular sleeping bag with a circumferential zip is your best bet. That way, you’ll be able to convert it into a blanket in no time at all whenever you get too hot. A long zip is a really nice feature, as it will allow you to manually adjust how warm it is in the bag.

If you want the sleeping bag to be as warm as possible, we recommend you go for a mummy-shaped bag. These are more form-fitting, so there is less air around your body and thus less heat needed to maintain a comfortable temperature. Do make sure that the size of the sleeping bag is corresponds with your size. though. You don’t want it to be too long or too short.

The biggest disadvantage of synthetic bags is that they are much heavier and have a larger pack size than down sleeping bags. But, that’s about it. Synthetic sleeping bags are more resilient and easier to care for than their down counterparts. You can even machine-wash a lot of them. Plus, they’re usually less expensive than down, too, which, for many, is the winning argument.

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

How welded seams work

How welded seams work

9. November 2017
Equipment

Dedicated outdoorsmen and women usually don’t plan their trips according to the time of year or even the weather for that matter. As long as the snow isn’t a metre high, there’s really nothing keeping them from going, not even adverse weather conditions. Of course, in conditions such as these, the proper clothing is absolutely essential.

In other words, you need waterproof clothing. But, what makes a garment waterproof and how would you make those weak spots on jackets like zips and seams waterproof, anyway?

It may come as a surprise, but the answer to this question isn’t as complicated as it may seem. To make the seams, which are basically a bunch of holes in the fabric, on both hardshell and softshell jackets and trousers waterproof, manufacturers either weld or tape them. This along with the garment’s waterproof fabric forces water droplets to roll off the face fabric, stopping it penetrating the interior.

Another advantage of welded seams is that they make the clothing windproof as well. If a windproof material is used in the manufacture of the garment, it can then prevent wind getting in through the previously open seams as well, resulting in a garment that keeps you nice and warm whilst simultaneously keeping the bitter cold out.

How welding works

Basically, welding seams works much in the same way as any method used by a welding apparatus, namely by applying heat and pressure in order to fuse two materials together, in our case waterproof material over the edges of a seam. This results in a seamless connection between both bits of material, resulting in a solid surface. Afterward, the seams look like little strips.

Clothing with welded seams should still be breathable

By welding the seams, you basically make them hermetically sealed. Normal seams would still allow air to seep through, resulting in the circulation of air and breathability we outdoorsy folk crave! Since this is prevented by welding the seams, the fabric itself needs to have breathable properties. Only then can overheating and excessive sweating be prevented. As you can imagine, this is absolutely crucial for high-intensity physical activities because it helps to maintain a high level of comfort.

Another way to increase the breathability is to use ventilation zips. Since these are waterproof as well, they won’t allow any water to penetrate when closed. But, when you open them, you feel the wonderful cool air against your body, giving you the relief you need when the going gets tough. This is an excellent feature because it basically gives you a manual ventilation system you can adjust to your liking.

Where welded seams are used

Welded seams are so effective that they are now used for other outdoor gear as well, such as tents. How could it be any other way? After all, you don’t want to sleep in a tent that isn’t up to par with your jacket in terms of waterproof protection, right?

In addition to clothing and tents, you’ll also find welded seams in shoes, which is necessary for obvious reasons. Without that waterproof protection, your feet are bound to get wet, even in lighter rain. Welded seams are also of particular importance in autumn and winter, as trails and forest paths are often wet, muddy and/or ridden with puddles, all of which can soak your feet as trudge through them. If you’ve ever had to walk a good distance with wet, you know how fun it is! For this reason, waterproof walking boots come complete with welded seams to keep your feet dry and protected in wet conditions.

How to repair sealed seams properly and effectively

High-quality functional apparel comes with incredibly durable sealed seams, and that for good reason. The bits of a garment considered to be high-stress areas, such as the shoulders, benefit significantly from said durability. For whenever you wear a backpack, the shoulder straps will rub up against the material used to seal the seams and can, with time, end up damaging them, if they’re not tough enough. Though inconvenient, it’s not that big of a deal if the welded seams do happen to get damaged. Fortunately, you won’t have to buy yet another expensive jacket. You can simply repair them yourself!

To reseal the seams, you need special seam tape. These are sometimes self-adhesive or come with an adhesive coating that reacts to heat. By ironing the seam tape onto the area in question on the inside of the garment, the tape adheres to the material as a result of the heat and reseals it. You should iron it on without putting on a steam setting. And, this method should only be used on heat-resistant fabrics. To prevent more major damage, try it out in a small or less obvious area beforehand.

Also: you can use seam tape to patch smaller tears and holes in your garment. All you have to do is iron them on, thereby sealing the defective area.

Rely on quality and you’ll stay dry

As with all products, there are individual garments that different significantly when it comes to quality. The same goes for sealed seams. Cheaper garments tend to have taped seams as opposed to welded seams. The downside to the former is that they come off fairly easily and don’t really seal up the area very well. So, you can get pretty soaked pretty fast. For better waterproof protection, it’s worth investing a bit more to get something with welded seams. That way, you won’t have to worry about bad weather the next time you head out!

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

How to Take Care of Your Sleeping Bag

How to Take Care of Your Sleeping Bag

9. November 2017
Care tips

There are some products that you can’t just buy on a whim. They’re either too expensive or so complex that you have to do all sorts of research before determining which one is right for you. When it comes to sleeping bags, both apply: Not only can they be unbelievably expensive, but there is quite a bit you need to take into consideration before buying one. After all, you want it to last, right? Right.

But how? Well, you’ve come to the right place! In the following, we’re going to tell you how you can get the most out of your sleeping bag.

First, it is important to know what kind of sleeping bag you have. There are two basic types: Down and synthetic sleeping bags. Both have their advantages and disadvantages in terms of functionality and care, but each works in the same way: They trap your body heat, thereby keeping you warm.

Storage

The most important rule of all: Do not store your sleeping bag compressed. That way, you won’t reduce the bag’s loft, and the bag will be able to return to its lofty self when in use. This applies to down sleeping bags in particular.

A sleeping bag usually has two sacks to its name: a storage sack and a stuff sack. The storage sack is larger and made of mesh, cotton or a different lightweight, breathable fabric. This is the size your sleeping bag can be packed down to. The great thing about storage bags is that they double as transport bags if you’ve got a vehicle and aren’t not worried taking up extra space. The stuff sack or compression sack, on the other hand, is much smaller, constructed from a durable material and often has external compression straps to compress the sleeping bag down even more. As long as the bag isn’t kept this way for long periods of time, it won’t have a negative effect on the insulation.

A tip from a professional

Hang your sleeping bag up in a dry place by the loops at the bottom end. Do not expose it to direct sunlight. That way, you won’t compress the insulation at all when the sleeping bag is not in use, guaranteeing a long lifespan! If you don’t have a lot of space to work with, store your sleeping bag under your bed. It will stay lofted and won’t get in your way.

Proper use

Try to keep your sleeping bag clean and protect it from wear and tear. Presumably, you’ll be using your bag in your tent for the most part, so that bit shouldn’t be a problem. Make sure to keep your dirty boots away from it and never step on it with shoes on.

If your sleeping bag happens to get wet (regardless of the source), be sure to dry it thoroughly. Otherwise, it could develop a funky smell, and nobody wants that!

Again: try not to expose your sleeping bag to direct sunlight because the UV rays could damage the material. Yeah, but sometimes, laying it out in the snow is the only way, especially if you’re camping in the snow! We get that, but don’t make a habit of it! Don’t compress the bag when it’s wet. This is particularly important for down sleeping bags because compressed wet down can’t loft out until it’s dry.

How to wash your sleeping bag

Let’s face it: Your bag is going to get dirty, regardless of the pains you take to keep it clean. After all, what do you expect after a long day of walking? It’s going to get dirty, stink and eventually need to be washed. As down and synthetic sleeping bags aren’t washed in the same way, this is where it really does matter what kind of bag you have.

For down sleeping bags, you’ll need a special down wash, such as Nikwax Down Wash. Down has a special natural oil coating for protection and allows it to loft out in order to trap air. If the down gets dirty, it loses its ability to fully loft. When that happens, your sleeping bag will lose the warmth you need for a good night’s sleep! Using special down wash is crucial, for even though normal detergent will get your sleeping bag clean, it will strip the down of its oils in the process, causing it to get dirtier more quickly and to lose its ability to loft as it did before. Down wash helps the down maintain these oils as well as its insulation properties. If you’d like to more about how to wash down, you’ll find a detailed guide here.

For synthetic bags, it’s best to use Nikwax base wash, which is made for cleaning synthetic fabric. It will clean both the inside and the outside of your bag, whilst simultaneously increasing its lifespan.

Repairs

So, you’ve got a hole in your sleeping bag? Fortunately, there are several different options to rectify such problems. One such solution is using Renovative Self-Adhesive Tape from Sir Joseph. This tape adheres well to nylon and is so flexible that you won’t have to worry about ruining it after pulling it in and out of your stuff sack.

Duct tape is always a good quick fix, but it won’t stand the test of time. Because it loses its stickiness over time, you’ll need to keep replacing it, which in turn can result your inadvertently enlarging the hole every time you stuff it in or pull it out of your stuff sack.

The best – and, unfortunately, most expensive – thing you can do is send it back to the manufacturer for professional repair. They’ll charge you for it, but it’ll be worth your while. If you buy a high-quality sleeping bag and take care of it, it will last for years!

This article was not written by your friends at Alpinetrek. The original was written by Matt Park for our partners at Backcountry.

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

Gore Windstopper: Your bulwark against wind

Gore Windstopper: Your bulwark against wind

17. November 2017
Equipment

An icy wind’s a-blowing over the piste, and the snow is being whipped over the mountains like a sandstorm. You’re shaking in your boots at the mere sight of it, knowing full well that you’ll have to leave the toasty warmth of ski lift station and venture out into the storm. So, you zip up your ski jacket, put your hood over your helmet and head bravely toward the door…

If you’ve ever found yourself in this or a similar situation, I’m sure you were relieved you were sporting your trusty windproof clothing. And, in all likelihood, both your trousers and your jacket bore the distinctive red, octagonal Windstopper logo from the company W.L. Gore & Associates, who also happens to be responsible for those oh-so famous Gore-Tex laminates. But, the American company doesn’t just specialise in waterproof jackets – they’ve set all new standards in all things windproof gear as well.

Windstopper: completely windproof and very versatile

Similar to their big waterproof brothers, the Gore Windstopper laminates consist of three layers as well. The core thereof is the ePTFE membrane (expanded polytetrafluoroethylene), which has numerous pores: around 1.4 billion pores per square centimetre, to be precise. These are so small that they are impenetrable to wind and liquid water, but still allow water vapour molecules to pass through. The fabric is completely windproof, water resistant and breathable. Perspiration can escape easily through the breathable membrane. Pretty cool, right?

So, it will come as no surprise that this advanced membrane makes up the core of various laminates:

  • Windstopper Active Shell is particularly lightweight, space-saving, completely windproof and very breathable. Thus, it is ideal for highly aerobic activities, such as trail running, running or cycling.
  • Windstopper Soft Shell products are those that offer a balanced combination of windproof protection, breathability and flexibility to conform to your movements. Products with this laminate are perfect for just about every physical activity.
  • Windstopper Technical Fleece combines the advantages of a windproof membrane with those of fleece. It won’t let any air pass through and simultaneously provides warmth and breathability. This is effective as a mid-layer or outer layer.
  • Windstopper Insulated Shell, unlike other laminates, consists of not three but four layers. The additional layer provides lightweight, breathable synthetic insulation and is thus the warmest in the Windstopper family. All while retaining its breathable and windproof properties! This is used in functional jackets like the Vanguard Jacket from Mountain Equipment.

The commonality among all laminates is that they get water-repellent properties from the membrane. Plus, a DWR treatment provides the additional protection of water repellency as well. This coating must be renewed after multiple washes. You can read about how that works and why it’s important here.

As a result of their versatility, Windstopper laminates are found in just about every kind of outdoor clothing. They’re especially popular among fans of ski touring because it not only provides protection from the cold, but offers mobility, can withstand snow and is breathable as well. It’s also used for base layers, such as the Craft Active Extreme WS Shirt, which was designed primarily for cyclists who often have to battle strong headwinds.

Defy the wind chill factor

Windproof active wear is an absolute must. After all, it will protect you from the wind’s chilling effect! The wind-chill is the difference between the perceived and actual temperature depending on the speed of the wind. In other words, the stronger the wind blows, the colder it’ll feel. It sounds fairly harmless in theory, but it can become a huge problem in practise, especially if you don’t have the proper windproof clothing. Even with the slightest decrease in body temperature resulting from wind-chill, you may experience reduced blood flow to your extremities and your circulation may become unstable, resulting in numbness and shivering. But, if you don’t give the wind a chance to get between you and your clothing in the first place, it won’t be able to take all that precious heat away from you!

Windproof clothing also plays a crucial role in layering and should not be underestimated. Even though waterproof jackets are always windproof as well, they pale in comparison to Windstopper clothing in terms of their breathability. For this reason, you should really make sure you have a long, hard think about whether you’d rather opt for a lighter, but windproof jacket on your next adventure in the mountains.

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

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