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A buyer's guide to synthetic sleeping bags

A buyer’s guide to synthetic sleeping bags

6. October 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

26. September 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

21. September 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

12. September 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.

Repairing your fleece

Repairing your fleece

22. August 2017
Care tips

We outdoorsy folk tend to get a lot of use out of our fleece garments, so it goes without saying that they’re subjected to quite a bit of wear and tear. Regardless of whether your favourite fleece has burn holes in it from those nights by the campfire or is just beginning show signs after years of wear, worry not. There’s plenty of life in it yet! In the following, I’m going to give you a few tips on how to make minor repairs to your fleece and broken zips. Plus, as a little extra, I’ll let you in on a secret of how to make your garment look as good as the day you bought it, even after years of use! So, keep reading – it’s worth it!

So, you have a burn hole in your fleece – what now?

It happens so fast, doesn’t it? There you are sitting by the campfire, and all of the sudden sparks fly your way and burn your fleece or your mate accidently burns a hole in your jacket with his cigarette. We’ve all been there. Unfortunately, warm and cuddly fleece fabric is usually made of a type of polyester, so it is particularly sensitive when it comes to burns. The worse thing about burn holes is not that they look bad (because they do) – but depending on the size, they can also have very negative effects on the functionality of the garment and even expand with time, making everything worse. What to do, what to do.

Luckily, smaller holes can be closed back up by using fabric glue. But, before doing so, be sure to remove any singed fibres with a pair of scissors. Then, turn the garment inside out and glue the hole shut. Let it dry and, hopefully, you won’t be able to see the burn hole anymore. In an emergency, you can also use a less aggressive kind of superglue. The important thing here is to make sure the glue doesn’t contain any solvents, which could damage the synthetic fibres or elastane – if there is any – in the fabric.

Unfortunately, if you’re dealing with bigger holes, this method won’t work. So, try to remember any handyman skills you’ve acquired over the years and darn that darn hole. You can do this more or less professionally, depending on how motivated you are. If you want it done right, you’ll need a needle, a darning mushroom and darning yarn in the appropriate colour. A darning mushroom? Yes, indeed! It’s just a tool shaped like a mushroom that keeps the hole open so that you can mend it. Since a darning mushroom is not something you’ll find in everyone’s household, you can use a coffee cup, an empty yoghurt cup or a can of ravioli instead. The important thing is that the substitute for your darning mushroom have a slightly curved surface. Lay the part of fleece you need to mend over your darning device so as to keep the hole open. And, get to work! Darning a hole means to weave thread or yarn across the hole. And, if you want to do it correctly, you need time. Weave your needle in a straight line in and out of the fabric. After your first pass, turn the needle in the other direction and repeat next to the first line you did. After you’ve covered the hole with stitches in one direction, you have to weave through these to form a net. The more precise you work, the better the result will be! Because a darning session can take up your entire evening, I recommend pouring yourself a glass of wine and watching something on Netflix.

For larger holes, the only thing you can do is use those good ol’ fabric repair patches. These are available in sewn-on or iron-on versions. But, be careful if you opt for the latter. As we’ve already established, fleece is relatively sensitive to heat, so there are a few things you should keep in mind. If you use iron-on patches, be sure to set the iron to the lowest setting and don’t let the iron come in direct contact with the fleece. Put a cotton cloth between the patch and the iron instead. Do not apply too much pressure, as you could damage the pile. If you have a functional fleece garment, such as Windstopper fleece, there are special patches you can use. By the way, the patching method can be used for other kinds of holes as well. It’s not just for burn holes.

What to do when a zip quits on you

When a zip calls it quits, refuses to close or keeps getting stuck, you may feel it’s time to stop using the garment altogether. After all, what do you want with a jacket that won’t close? Fortunately, there are a couple of things you can do to fix it, so don’t toss it yet!

If the zip is stuck, the culprit is usually a bit of fabric or lint caught in the zip. If that’s the case, try to pluck it out and tug down on the zip in one fell swoop. Sometimes a pencil can help, too. Yeah, that’s right! A pencil! Graphite acts as a kind of lubricant, so it should get your zip unstuck. Start by rubbing a sharpened pencil tip up and down the teeth of the zip. This should remove any dirt or whatever else is caught in there and allow the zip to slide over the teeth more smoothly.

Another reason for a defective zip could be that the teeth will no longer close. To test this, zip your jacket open and closed and see where the teeth no longer come together. If one or several teeth are bent, you can try gently bending them back into place with a pair of small pliers . The slider can also be the culprit. With time, the slider, which is supposed to form the connection between the teeth, can get bent as well. This will prevent the zip from closing properly. A pair of pliers can help here, too: Squeeze the slider together, see how it closes and repeat, if necessary. If the slider is broken and has to be replaced or individual teeth are missing, the whole thing gets a lot more complicated. The best thing to do in such situations is to consult an expert, such as a cobbler or tailor. They’ll fix the zip for you for very little money and can even replace it, if necessary.

Whip your fleece back into shape

Pilling or little balls of lint can build up on the surface of your fleece over time, which will not only make it look rather ugly and old, but it will feel that way as well. That soft, fluffy fleece you once knew will be long gone before you know it. True, pilling can be prevented if you carefully wash your garment, but sooner or later almost every fleece will fall victim to pilling. Fortunately, once your fleece does begin to pill, there are ways to remove the irritating little fuzz balls.

One thing you can do is use a lint remover or a lint brush on the garment. This will help to loosen up the knots and remove any dust or little hairs from the fabric. Another way of going about this is to use a fabric shaver. Available at just about any fabric or department store, these work much in the same way as electric razors, cutting off those pesky fuzz balls whilst not causing any damage to the surface of the fabric.

Not bad, right? Once you’ve patched up those burn holes, bent your zip back into place, removed pilling and replaced any missing buttons, your fleece jacket or jumper will look (almost) brand new!

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.

Care tips for clothing with a Sympatex membrane

Care tips for clothing with a Sympatex membrane

16. August 2017
Care tips

If you’re planning on staying indoors today because dark grey skies and continuous rain are dominating the weather where you are, I beg you to reconsider. Instead of mulling over the adventures that could have been, grab yourself a jacket with a Sympatex membrane, head outdoors and make them a reality! After all, Sympatex membranes thrive in bad weather! Of course, you’re probably wondering, “but what if it gets dirty in all that rain and mud?”

You wouldn’t believe it, but just toss it in the washing machine! Wait, won’t that ruin the membrane? Isn’t there a whole laundry list of dos and don’ts when it comes to washing jackets like this? Indeed there is. When it comes to outdoor clothing and membranes in particular, unanswered questions abound. But worry not! It’s a completely different story when it comes to Sympatex. In the following, we’re going to tell you everything you need to know about caring for Sympatex membranes.

What is Sympatex and how does it work?

Let’s start with some theory. Anybody who has any interest in the great outdoors is bound to have heard of Sympatex at some point or another. But, what exactly this rather odd word refers to remains a mystery to many. So, let’s briefly describe what Sympatex is. Sympatex is a nonporous, waterproof and breathable membrane that is usually laminated onto the another fabric. Such textiles are absolutely windproof and waterproof, making them bulwarks against bad weather. Plus, they offer extremely good moisture transfer, are durable and, most importantly, easy to clean.

How does all this work? Well, the membrane has hydrophilic and hydrophobic components. Sounds complicated, I know, but it’s actually quite easy. Hydrophilic just means water-attracting or moisture-directing. This just means that such fabrics take sweat and release it to the outside where it can evaporate. In other words, the fabric breathes, hence the term breathability. The hydrophobic, water-avoiding components, on the other hand, prevent water, such as rain, from getting in from the outside.

Washing Sympatex clothing is easy

So far, so good, but what was that about Sympatex being easy to clean? You may not believe it, but it is! Since a Sympatex membrane is nonporous, there are no pores to be clogged. Neither sweat nor dirt nor detergent residue can negatively affect the performance of the membrane. This means that you can wash your Sympatex clothing in your washing machine without blinking an eye! All you have to do is follow some easy instructions and nothing will stop you washing your expensive jacket – on a gentle cycle mind you!

Gentle cycle is the key word here. Sympatex textiles should be washed on a gentle cycle at 40 °C. When doing so, be careful not to overload the washing machine. If you’re wondering about detergent, your standard mild detergent will do just fine. The important thing here is not to use brighteners or bleach. If you’d rather err on the side of caution, you can also opt for special detergent for functional clothing. In order to preserve the treatment, you should not use fabric softener, either. On some machines, you can select an additional rinse cycle. As nonporous membranes are not susceptible to detergent residue, an extra rinse won’t hurt. Excessive spinning could, however, damage the garment, so be sure to select a lower spin speed.

Dry cleaning, drying, ironing and reproofing

As I mentioned before, Sympatex is very easy to clean. So, does that mean you don’t need to dry clean it? Dry cleaning is possible but not at all necessary. You can just rely on your good old washing machine! How easy is that? In some cases, dry cleaning a garment can even damage it. So, if you think dry cleaning your clothing is necessary, do have a look at the care label beforehand!

The membrane is just as easy to dry as it is to wash. Just toss your jacket or trousers in the dryer have a cuppa while you wait! The only thing you need to remember is not to use excessive heat. The same thing goes for ironing. Less is more! Everything over 100°C is off limits! The good thing about the heat generated by the iron or the dryer is that it reactivates the water repellent as well.

Speaking of water repellency, if moisture no longer rolls off the surface of your garment and is being absorbed by the fabric instead, the DWR coating needs to be renewed. This can be achieved in one of two ways. Use either a wash-in product or a spray. As you can imagine, the wash-in method is extremely easy. All you have to do is pour the product in where you would usually pour the fabric softener and wash the garment according to the instructions. Sympatex HigH2Out textiles, however, don’t respond well to this method of reproofing. For these, it is extremely important to take a look at the care label before reproofing. The spray isn’t at all difficult to apply, either. Just spray it on your garment, let it dry and that’s it! However, do remember to apply the spray in well-ventilated rooms or, preferably, out in the open. And don’t inhale the fumes! After the wash-in or spray method, throw the garment in the dryer so that the water repellent can be activated and set in. That’s all folks!

If you’d like to know more about how outdoor garments are washed and proofed, you can find some more information in our care tips.

What about shoe care?

Shoes with Sympatex membranes also happen to be extremely easy to clean. As long as you follow these easy steps, you won’t need to worry about ruining your expensive brand-name shoes! To clean the shoes, all you need to do is use a brush and lukewarm water. For stubborn stains, there’s a bevy of special cleaning agents you can buy. Afterwards, air dry the shoes at room temperature. Then you can reproof them to restore water repellency. Before using any of the DWR sprays or care products, do make sure that the respective product is suitable for the shoe’s fabric. If you do, your leather shoes will stay in tiptop shape for a long time to come!

So, what are you waiting for? Start washing, proofing and drying your Sympatex gear! But, don’t forget to take them outdoors and really dirty them up first!

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 wash and care for your synthetic insulated jacket properly

How to wash and care for your synthetic insulated jacket properly

8. August 2017
Care tips

Much like the choice between a synthetic or wool base layer, trying to decide between a jacket with down or synthetic insulation can be quite difficult.

Luckily, we’ve come to a point where there are so many manufacturers designing hybrid jackets that incorporate treated down or a combination of different materials into one jacket that the decisions we have to make as avid outdoorsman have become a bit easier.

Nevertheless, many of us still choose to wear classic synthetic jackets with their light and fluffy synthetic insulation! But, as is often the case when it comes to outdoor gear, we sink into despair as soon as we read the care label. Fortunately, caring for synthetic jackets is much easier than you may think. Read on and we’ll tell you everything you need to know in order to keep your jacket in tiptop condition. One of the advantages synthetic jackets have over their natural down counterparts is how easy they are to clean!

How to wash your synthetic jacket

Jackets with synthetic insulation usually consist of a windproof outer with a smooth or slightly rough surface. These very light fabrics are treated, making them water-repellent. The synthetics used for the insulation are ultra-thin with a continuous filament, which weaves around, interlocking with itself. In the air spaces in between, warmth is retained, resulting in an insulating effect. You could compare the insulation in such synthetic jackets to a wad of cotton.

When cleaning synthetic jackets, it is important to wash it – as you would all your functional textiles – at 30°C and refrain from using fabric softener. If you wash it at a higher temperature, the fabric can thin out, become matted or damaged in some other way. The same thing will happen if you use fabric softener. What’s more, if you don’t care for your garment properly, any damage to your clothing will no longer be covered by warranty. In other words, be sure to care for your expensive gear properly. It’s worth it! You should also wash your gear yourself, as giving it to the cleaners will result in you losing warranty coverage as well.

To wash your garment, turn it right-side out, zip up everything, including the pit zips and pockets, and loosen up the hook-and-loop fasteners and drawcords (keep both closed just not tight) and toss it in the washing machine. Then use a detergent for functional apparel. You have a choice between your standard care product or wash-in treatment (a 2-in-1 detergent). In contrast to down jackets, synthetic jackets don’t need a special kind of detergent. After washing, spin the garment at a maximum of 800.

Then, you’ll have to reproof the face fabric of your wet garment with a spray (to apply it, hang it up), provided that you didn’t use a wash-in treatment. Keep in mind that regardless of whether you choose to use a spray or a wash-in treatment, the result will be the same. One is not better than the other! It’s all subjective. After applying the water-repellent, the garment will have to be exposed to warmth for the treatment to fully set in. The easiest way to do this is to use the dryer. By the way, heat has the added plus of rejuvenating the fill power of the insulating material. So, put your wet and treated jacket in the dryer at a low temperature for about 45 minutes. Afterwards, your jacket will be just like new!

How often to wash your garment

The same goes for synthetic insulated jackets as for all your outdoor gear: As frequently as necessary, but as seldom as possible! In other words, don’t wash your jacket every other day because every wash will take a toll on the fabric. Of course, all that salt, oil and dirt left on the garment from all those outdoor adventures can have a negative effect on your garment’s performance as well. Thus, synthetic jackets should only be washed when you’re convinced that you’ve really put them to good use – and you have sweat, dirt and mud stains to prove it! There’s no general rule as to how often or when you should wash your outdoor jacket. Some may have to wash it immediately after a hill walking trip at the weekend while others may do so after weeks of cycle commuting to work. It’s different for everybody.

Thus, as with your sport shirts or fleece jumpers, wash your synthetic jacket when you feel like you should! If you just wear your jacket casually and don’t use it for sports, then you can wash it about every three months or so.

Caring for and repairing synthetic jackets

If your synthetic jacket is only dirty on the outside, you can usually just wipe it off (carefully) using a cloth and some water or neutral soap. Unfortunately, getting the stank out of a synthetic jacket is not easy as getting it out of a down jacket. You can’t just hang it up outside over night. You have to wash it.

On the plus side, though, if your synthetic jacket happens to get damaged, it’s much easier to fix than down products. So easy if fact that if it gets torn one of your trips, all you have to do is just tape it up with some duct tape. Because the material is connected, you won’t need to worry about losing any insulation if you just tape it kind of haphazardly. With down, it’s a different story. You have to make sure to seal the tear or hole completely. Otherwise, you may lose all the down in that particular baffle. If you find that there’s a tear or hole in your synthetic jacket before you head out on a trip, you can repair it with a needle and thread. You can use a patch as well. Since the fabric is only water repellent and not waterproof, you don’t need to use any special kind of repair tape or patch. But because such patches are self-adhesive, you can use them as well. After all, they make the procedure a whole lot easier.

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.

Finding the right outdoor trousers

Finding the right outdoor trousers

16. August 2017
Buyer's guide

With public interest in the outdoors on the rise, the selection of outdoor gear has become larger and more diversified as well, especially when it comes to textile industry. Those trousers we referred to as outdoor trousers just ten years ago can now be clearly divided up into one of several categories according to the fabric it’s made of, the fit, its features and the intended area of use.

Because trousers, like other outerwear, have to fit with your layering system, personal preferences and how you intend to use them, we thought it’d be useful to give you some tips on how to find the right outdoor trousers to fit your needs. So, brace yourself as we delve into the jungle of softshells, hardshells, walking trousers, climbing trousers, running tights and much more.

Outdoor trousers today can be divided up into the following categories:

Softshell trousers

Softshell trousers are characterised by their versatility. Made of elastic synthetic fabrics, these trousers are available with or without a membrane and with or without lining. Softshell trousers with a windproof membrane are just as unsusceptible to rain as models without a membrane, but not waterproof. Those with a lining have a loose mesh or soft fleece lining and are best suited for use in autumn or winter

Softshell trousers are so versatile because they boast an excellent combination of breathability, weather protection (water-resistant and usually windproof) and comfort (elasticity, soft to the touch, no swishing noises). They are usually worn directly against your skin. You can also wear them underneath a pair of hardshell trousers or along with some long underwear in the wintertime as well.

Softshells come in numerous varieties, so choose a pair that is in line with your needs. As a general rule, the thicker, rougher and less elastic the fabric is, the tougher these trousers will be. Such models are usually a bit looser and best suited for mountaineering, ice climbing, alpine climbing, winter mountaineering and high-altitude mountaineering, ski mountaineering and demanding trekking.

Thinner models made of soft, stretchy fabric are more for (alpine) climbing in the summer and mountaineering, hill walking, trekking, travelling and cycling. They have a slim, ergonomic fit and will conform to your every move.

Softshell shorts and 3/4 length shorts are just as readily available as long trousers. There are even a few models that come with a zip-off feature. Some models are available in short or tall sizes as well.

Hardshell trousers

Similar to their jacket equivalents, hardshell trousers are much more than just waterproof outerwear. As the name already suggests, hardshell means that the garment has a tough and protective outer shell. Hardshell jackets and trousers are primarily worn as the outermost layer and serve to provide long-lasting protection from the wind and rain. They are incredibly hard-wearing, breathable and have a smooth surface. On the interior, hardshells are usually fitted with either a fleece or mesh lining (lined trousers), a brushed laminate (3-layer trousers) or a smooth interior with a coating (2.5-layer trousers).

Such trousers are used as emergency weather protection (overtrousers) for all sorts of activities or as a tough pair of trousers built for use in harsh conditions. For protection from sudden rainfall, most would resort to a lightweight, compact pair of 2.5-layer hardshell trousers. These consist of a laminate with a membrane and have a smooth coating on the interior to protect the membrane. They are usually worn over a pair of cycling, walking, softshell or other kind of trousers in bad weather only.

Three-layer models are much more robust, since they have an entire laminate layer on the inside protecting the membrane. Such hardshell trousers are designed for long periods of use on your mountaineering, ice climbing, high-altitude mountaineering, backcountry skiing or challenging trekking trips. Since you have them on for the duration of the trip, you would usually only wear them with long insulated underwear or models made of fleece for cold conditions.

Lined hardshell trousers have a mesh or fleece lining on the interior and are good for virtually all areas of use. The same goes for three-layer hardshell trousers, but only in persistently cold conditions. These, of course, don’t necessarily have to be worn along with long underwear or fleece trousers. Hardshell trousers are generally baggier so that there’s room for more layers underneath.

There are some hardshell shorts as well. These are supposed act as overshorts for summer activities, like cycling or walking, when rain is flying at you from the front and you just want to keep your thighs dry to prevent them getting cold. Hardshell trousers usually only come in one length.

Trekking and walking trousers

Since softshell trousers can be worn for hill walking and trekking and there are even special softshells specifically made for these purposes, we’re going to use the term walking trousers for all trousers made of blended fabrics and intended for backpacking. These trousers are usually constructed from soft, usually non-elastic fabric, consisting of synthetic fibres like polyester or polyamide interwoven with organic cotton. This results in an incredibly tough, durable, breathable and soft pair of trousers. Depending on how they are made, these trousers offer moderate to strong weather protection (some even completely windproof) and are usually resistant to thorns, mosquito bites and other strains.

For better weather protection, some models are waxed as well. This natural treatment sticks to the fabric longer than synthetic treatments, making the trousers stiff and giving them water-repellent properties. The incorporation of cotton not only makes the trousers very soft but also serves to cool your skin. The synthetic portion of the fabric provides breathability, quick-drying properties and abrasion resistance. The trousers themselves are a bit looser, as walking trousers are rarely elastic.

For warmer conditions, there are also walking trousers made of thinner, usually non-elastic synthetic fabrics, but these do not fall under the category of softshell trousers. In contrast to softshells, these are not water-resistant but quick-drying and suited for backpacking in the summer. Due to their small pack size, these trousers are the perfect backup for adventures of all kinds.

Trekking and walking trousers are available as shorts or long trousers. Plus, there are plenty of tall models and ones you can shorten yourself. 3/4 length shorts and zip-off trousers are available as well.

Trousers for specific sports

These trousers include climbing and bouldering trousers as well as running and cycling trousers/tights.

Climbing and bouldering trousers are usually made of slightly elastic cotton. Sometimes, polyamide, elastane, polyester or hemp is mixed in to improve the flexibility of the fabric or the amount of time it needs to dry. The thickness of the fabric is rather thin, the abrasion resistance high and the fit relaxed. As a result of the casual design, these trousers are great for slacklining, lying around on the couch or hanging out by the campfire in the summertime. The great thing about cotton is the fact that it has a cooling effect and makes the climbing trousers nice and soft. Climbing trousers are made to be nice and light, so they’re perfect for everyday wear in the summer or when travelling. Of course, climbing trousers are available in all lengths and can be shortened if necessary.

Running trousers come in either slim, but not formfitting models, or skin-tight tights. Even though one has some clear advantages over the other, it’s mostly just a matter of taste which one you pick. If you’re looking for durability, the models with no elasticity are more robust and thus more suitable for runs in more rugged terrain. Running bottoms are made of a blend of synthetic fabrics and range from being hardly elastic (running trousers) to very elastic (tights). Breathability, comfort and light weight are the most important characteristics here. There are few models that are windproof (with a membrane) or that have been treated with a water repellent. Most are fast drying. Running trousers are available in all lengths.

Cycling trousers are also available as tights (short, long, 3/4 length) or as shorts (MTB). Long trousers with a more relaxed fit are more of an exception in this category. Tights are suited for cycling trips of all kinds and are available with or without a bib. They are constructed from very elastic and breathable synthetic fabric and come with a chamois. The more relaxed shorts are made for mountain biking and available in various lengths (even above the knee). They are available as overshorts or shorts with removable padded inner shorts. These are tough and protect the padded shorts underneath from wear. Plus, they’re pretty casual looking.

Winter trousers

Winter trousers are insulated trousers. These include the lined softshell, hardshell and walking trousers mentioned above as well as warm fleece, down and synthetic models. Fleece trousers are available as close-fitting trousers made of stretchy fleece or more relaxed models made of traditional fleece. They’re a great thing to wear underneath another pair of trousers or to relax in on cold winter evenings. As for down and synthetic trousers, they are particularly lightweight and very warm. These go over your trousers when you’re stationary and in need of warmth in cold weather or when building a belay station when ice climbing. These trousers have a much looser fit.

Casual trousers

All jeans-like trousers, corduroys and casual shorts that are not climbing trousers fall under this category. These are great for slacklining or hanging out at the park, in town or at a bothy. They are usually made of cotton with some synthetics, and the fit is usually looser but not too baggy.

Some more important details on outdoor trousers

In addition to fit, fabric and model, other important factors to consider when buying outdoor trousers are the pockets and closures. For example, is there a side zip for an easy on-off? Are there belt loops or maybe even an integrated belt? Sometimes, a flat elastic waistband or just a drawcord (climbing trousers) will do the trick. Lastly, you may also want to look for reinforcements, elastic panels, ventilation openings, gaiters and reflectors for added comfort and safety!

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.

First aid for your sleeping bag

First aid for your sleeping bag

1. August 2017
Care tips

A quality sleeping bag is one of the most important part of your kit, especially if you’re travelling with a tent. After all, if you are unable to sleep and regain your strength by night, you won’t be able to perform by day. In other words, a good sleeping bag is key. But, what if your beautiful bag happens to get damaged? How would you go about repairing zips or patching tears or burn holes? And, what in the world would you do about flying feathers and down?

No idea? Well, let us delve into the world of repairs.

Avoiding damage

You can prevent or at least limit damage to your sleeping bag simply by taking care of it and storing it properly. A step in the right direction would be never storing your sleeping bag in the stuff sack. Why? Well, the compression causes the insulation to be pressed together, which can have a negative effect on the loft and the insulating power of the bag. So, you can imagine that if you were to store an sensitive down sleeping bag in this way, you’d most definitely damage the fill as well.

Speaking of down, if you ever happen to notice down or feathers poking through the fabric, never pull them out. If possible, shove them back inside the sleeping bag. You need that stuff! Besides, if you were to pull them out (especially thicker feathers), it could result in small holes forming in the fabric, which would not be good.

When carrying or transporting your sleeping bag, it’s important to make sure it doesn’t get damaged. This is where your stuff sack comes in. When carrying it around, you should always use a tough stuff sack. And, this probably goes without saying, but try to keep any sharp objects away from your sleeping bag as well. You don’t want anything poking it!

Fabric tears and holes

But, these things do happen, and it happens more quickly than you think. One second of inattention is enough to poke a tiny hole in your precious sleeping bag. Fortunately, small holes aren’t that big of a deal. It’s the longer tears and cuts in down sleeping bags in particular that can lead to a major loss of insulation material. If you’ve ever slept in a sleeping bag with a tear like that, you’ll know what I mean. When you wake up the next morning, it looks like a fox was asked to guard the henhouse, doesn’t it?

Smaller (burn) holes can be sealed quickly and easily using a sealer like Seam Grip. However, if there is a larger cut or tear in the outer fabric, you’ll need to be more thorough. For this, though, you can forget the needle and thread. More major damages are usually taped. Before you begin, try to find out what caused the damage in the first place. If it’s due to material fatigue, taping up tears can be quite difficult, as the damaged spot usually covers a large area of the bag. Damage caused by wear and tear can be patched using patches and repair tape. Brands like McNett sell repair kits , but do make sure that the material in the kit matches that of your sleeping bag. Not every patch will stick to every surface!

Patches and sealing tape are usually self-adhesive, so they are fairly easy to work with. Keep in mind that a patch should always be cut at least one centimetre larger than the damaged area in every direction. But, before you apply the patch, don’t forget to thoroughly spot clean the damaged area! A could way to do that is to use alcohol wipes. After drying the spot, you can then proceed to patch up the tear. Make sure that there are no wrinkles and that the patch is securely glued to the fabric. This repair method is very effective and will hold up for a long time.

By the way, the patches are available in a variety of colours, so you can pick one that matches the colour of your sleeping bag.

Damaged zips

Zips with minor damage are usually pretty easy to repair yourself. The zips on sleeping bags are more susceptible to damage because of the pressure they’re often put under. All that pressure can eventually lead to the zips getting worn out. If the zip tends to get off track when you open and close the bag, all you have to do is adjust it a bit. This can be done by using a pair of pliers. Just pinch the sides of the slider together and voilà! But, do be careful not to put too much pressure on the slider – you might break it! If the zip is torn or the elements are damaged, there’s nothing else you can do but replace it. Refrain from doing replacing it yourself, though. Get an expert to help!

Tips for when you’re out and about

Regardless of whether you’re trekking, mountaineering or cycling, the weight of your pack always plays a crucial role. That said, it’s understandable that most of us are hesitant to add extra weight to our packs by lugging around a whole bunch of repair materials. However, it is important to have something, especially since down sleeping bags tend to require immediate attention once they’ve been damaged. If you don’t take immediate action, you can say goodbye to the precious down fill! In emergency situations such as these, tape is a camper’s best friend. Tears, holes and cuts can be fixed and sealed up pretty nicely with duct tape or finger tape. This technique, however, should only be used when you have no other option. The tapes’ adhesive sticks so well to the material that you’d waste a lot of time and effort trying remove it.

Professionals at work

There are problems that even the handiest of handymen couldn’t fix. That’s why, there are experts. But, be careful because repairs performed by experts can be pricy. So, before sending it in for a repair, it’s best to consult the retailer you bought the sleeping bag from first. Retailers can usually tell you whether it’s covered by warranty and often even help you find the appropriate repair service, if needed.

Conclusion

Damaged sleeping bags can look pretty bad. And, if you don’t take immediate action (and the proper steps), you can lose a good amount of your sleeping bag’s fill. A good, long-lasting repair doesn’t have to be expensive. You can even perform it yourself, provided you have the proper materials. But, if you find that the damages are major, you should consult an expert or maybe even replace it with a new sleeping bag.

Remember: certain defects can be prevented by storing and transporting your sleeping bag properly!

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.

Sleeping mats: Proper care, storage and repairs

Sleeping mats: Proper care, storage and repairs

11. July 2017
Care tips

Every true adventurer has a sleeping mat – be it a self-inflating or foam one. I mean, how could they not? After all, they’re so comfy and practical! I know I couldn’t get on without one on my various camping trips or at weekend festivals. Despite how much use we get out of these things, a few questions remain: For one, how should we store our precious sleeping mats? In a dark, dank cellar? Oh, and another thing: How should sleeping mats to be cleaned? And finally, what should we do with our battle-tested veteran mats that are slowly but surely starting to show signs of wear and tear? Well, you’re about to find out! In the following, we’re going to share some tips and other useful information so that you and your trusty sleeping mat can enjoy many adventures to come.

A brief intro to sleeping mats

Let’s begin by differentiating between the different kinds of sleeping mats. Basically, there are two types of mats: the “normal” sleeping mat and the self-inflating kind. The first is usually made of an insulating and cushioning foam material and can be rolled up or folded. The latter – the self-inflating mat – consists of a compressible, insulating filling covered with an airtight shell and equipped with one or more valves. When you fold it up to store it, the filling is compacted. When you open the valve, the filling returns to its original state and the sleeping mat literally self-inflates because of the vacuum created by it having been compressed. This – also quite literally – gives rise to quite a comfortable sleeping mat with very powerful insulation. Why did we address this difference, you ask? Well, even though both types of mats serve a common purpose (to prevent us from freezing our bums off on the hard tent floor), they are quite different from each other when it comes to care, storage and repair.

How to store a sleeping mat properly

No matter what type of mat you have, where you choose to store it is of utmost importance. The storage area should be dry and warmed up to normal room temperature, so storing it in your dank, dark cellar is not an option. Speaking of dankness and moisture in general, it is incredibly important to make sure your sleeping mat is dry before putting it in storage. Regrettably, I’m speaking from experience. If you leave your mat all rolled up when you get home and store it along with the all the moisture it has accumulated over the course of the trip, after a few days you’ll come to find that your mat has turned into a stinky mouldy mess – and nobody wants that.

Other than that, there aren’t any other similarities between the two when it comes to storage. In contrast to normal foam sleeping mats, which aren’t all that fussy when it comes to storage, self-inflating mats are pretty high maintenance. If you have a warm, dry place to store it in, a foam mat can be stored rolled up. A self-inflating sleeping mat, however, can’t be stored in this way because doing so would crush the foam over time, rendering it unable to return to its original state. In other words, it won’t blow itself up anymore. For this reason, be sure to roll out the mat and open up the valve before storing it. It logically follows that you shouldn’t store any heavy boxes or containers on top of the mat, either.

Why open the valve? This will allow any moisture to escape from the inside. Plus, the fabric won’t be unnecessarily worn out by continuous pressure from the inside. So, roll out that mat and store it behind a door or in your wardrobe. It doesn’t matter whether it’s upright or lying flat. And here’s some more good advice: don’t try blow up the mat with your mouth! If you do, moisture and microorganisms can make their way into the interior of the mat, damaging the filling and potentially resulting in a build-up of odours and mould. Yuck! Then, when exposed to sub-zero temperatures, the moisture on the inside can even freeze and damage the foam core. Again, nobody wants that.

How to clean your sleeping mat

Cleaning your sleeping mat is an absolute must. I know it’s easier said than done, but look at it this way: The end of one trip means another is about to begin! In other words, start prepping for your upcoming adventure by cleaning your sleeping mat! Here are some tips on how to go about cleaning doing so: Most spots and stains can be cleaned using a cloth or sponge or a soft brush and warm water. However, there are some things you need to keep in mind: the sponge can’t have a coarse surface, nor should the brush have any damaged bristles, as these could damage the mat’s outer material. For more stubborn stains, you can use detergent (make sure it doesn’t contain any bleach, fabric softener or other additives), or mild washing-up liquid.

Thoroughly rinse the mat afterwards and refrain from using aggressive agents such as vinegar or chlorinated cleaners. Not only do they smell horrendous, but they’ll also damage the foam and the outer material. Let the mat dry at room temperature or outside in the shade . Don’t lay the mat out in the sun or try to speed up the drying process with a hairdryer or clothes dryer! Doing so could also damage the mat. After a couple of hours, your mat should be dry and ready to go! If you know you won’t be using your mat for a while, you should give it more time to dry.

If you’re cleaning a self-inflating mat and using water, be sure to close the valve. Before cleaning, make sure the outer fabric doesn’t have any holes in it so that any water you use doesn’t penetrate the interior. If you stumble upon a hole or two, here’s how to repair them.

How to repair minor damage all by yourself!

The insulating properties of standard foam sleeping mats usually remain unaffected by minor damages to the material. However, it’s a completely different story when it comes to self-inflating sleeping mats. Even the smallest holes in the outer material are enough to allow insulating air to escape the interior of the mat. If the hole or tear can’t be seen with the naked eye, it’s high time you did some sleuthing. There are a variety of ways you can do this, but the easiest way by using a leak detector, a small container filled with foam pellets that help you to detect a leak. If you don’t have access to such a master detective, you can always use soapy water. Rub the soapy water on the mat, and bubbles will start to form over the damaged areas. If you’re out in the middle of nowhere and don’t have access to soapy water, you can get your hand damp and patiently (very patiently) try to find the hole.

Once you’ve found the “enfant terrible”, you can start your repairs. How? Well, for one, there’s a bevy of repair kits you can buy. If you’re using one of these kits, all you have to do is let the air out of the mat, patch it according to the manufacturer’s instructions and let it dry. Now, fill up the mat with air to see if it’s sealed In addition to holes and tears, there’s always the possibility that your mat has a damaged valve, which could be the reason your mat’s losing air. If a valve is indeed damaged, consult the manufacturer of the mat, as they are the only ones who could replace it, if and when necessary. If you’re looking for more detailed instructions on how to patch and repair your mat, please click here.  Your mat will thank you for it!

How to pack your rucksack

How to pack your rucksack

5. July 2017
Equipment

“We’re all too familiar with the trials and tribulations of a backpacker: Neck, back and shoulder pain is all part of a long day of walking. But, it doesn’t don’t have to be! It’s high time you put a stop to all that pain so that you can have fun again on your outdoor adventure! And, you can do just that by adjusting your rucksack correctly and using the right packing strategy. In the following, we’re going to show you a few tricks on how to adjust and pack your rucksack properly so that the contents of your pack are balanced and you are comfortable on the trails!

The importance of properly packing your rucksack

In order for you to be comfortable and feel secure in difficult terrain, you need a well-balanced load. Hopping from stone to stone, crossing a river or climbing require a good sense of balance, and it is exactly that which can be very easily disrupted by a poorly-packed rucksack. It can force you to lean forward to keep your balance or even make you feel as though you were tipping over. A properly fitted and packed rucksack is easier for you to control. Keep in mind: If it’s poorly packed, it will control you! In other words, properly packing is not only a matter of comfort but also of safety.

The most important rules of packing

Packing systematically is the only way to go! Proper balance and control depend heavily on your ideal centre of gravity. If your centre of gravity is too high or too low, you’ll end up battling with your own pack and lose valuable energy as a result. Plus, it’s flat-out uncomfortable. If you pack too many heavy items toward the top of the rucksack, it will rock back and forth on your back. If they’re too far to the outside, you’ll run the risk of tipping over backwards, and if items that are too heavy are positioned too far back, this will put quite the strain on your body.

Thus, it is important to place the heaviest pieces of equipment close to your upper back, as this places the load’s centre of gravity closer to the body’s centre of gravity. Heavy pieces of equipment are things like your tent, camera or a heavy food bag.
Light, but bulkier items, such as your sleeping bag or back-up shoes, should be packed at the base of the rucksack. Medium-weight itemslike clothing should be stored in the middle away from your back and small items in the lid compartment or in the side pockets. It’s best to pack the light items around the heavier ones to stabilise them and prevent anything for shifting.

Daypacks and backpacks under 30 litres needn’t be packed as meticulously, as they’re not suitable for large loads, anyway. Loads that are that small don’t have such a negative effect on your body’s centre of gravity as heavier ones do.

Rucksack fitting

At the beginning of my “outdoor career”, I, too, had wondered what all the buckles and straps were for – a lot of pointless dangling?!, it seemed to me. In fact, I found them so pointless that I grabbed a pair of scissors and cut off the load adjuster straps, sternum strap and hip belt. Take that! But, not too long thereafter and with a bit more experience under my belt, I realised how beneficial it can be to have so many adjustment options, especially when it comes to comfort. One such option that all packs have in common is the shoulder straps. Every rucksack, even the super lightweight models have adjustable shoulder straps so that you can prevent it from slipping off your back.

The hip belt can have a significant effect on how you carry the load. If the hip belt is fitted properly, it will reduce the load your shoulders are forced to bear, thereby literally taking the load off both your mind and body. After all, the hips are supposed to carry some of the load as well!

Usually, the hip belt can be expanded or shortened using additional straps. The sternum strap, on the other hand, will come in especially useful when you have walking poles. It will not only give your arms added mobility but also stabilise the entire rucksack.

The load lifter straps, which connect the top of the rucksack to the shoulder straps, may be often overlooked, but they play a significant role in stabilising the load and making you comfortable. When pulled, the rucksack is brought closer to your body, thereby reducing the angle of the load and stabilising the pack so that it doesn’t move around as much.

However, even with the best adjustments, it’s all for naught without the correct back length. The beginnings of the shoulder straps should be positioned in between your shoulder blades, whilst the hip belt (which will be described in the following paragraph) should rest comfortably on your hip bones.

If the shoulder straps are hovering over your shoulder blades or if they’re too short, the back length needs to be adjusted, provided the pack has an adjustment system (e.g., the Bergans Spine System or the Lowe Alpine Axiom System).

Guide to fitting your rucksack

Now, it’s time to adjust the shoulder straps to your body so that you can comfortably stretch your arms out in front of you. Then you can check to see if the load is really resting around your hips. After that, clip on and tighten the sternum strap so that the shoulder straps rest comfortably around your shoulders. You can put the finishing touches on the fit by adjusting the load lifter straps.

Keep in mind: Since your posture tends to vary depending on whether you’re going uphill, downhill or straight ahead, rucksacks give you the option of experimenting with the load lifter straps, sternum straps and shoulder straps to determine the best fit for your current posture.

What should women keep in mind?

Most outdoorsy women have surely already noticed that most rucksack brands have models for women, and for good reason: the anatomy of a woman is much different from that of a man. The most significant differences include the smaller back length and a women’s specific contoured hip belt to accommodate the female body type.

Ideally, you’d also have the option of positioning the sternum strap somewhat higher than you would on men’s models so that nothing gets squished. This option could also be an argument in favour of men using a women’s rucksack or vice-versa. Some are just more comfortable than others!

Conclusion

Use these tips and be ready for your next hill walk or trekking tour! Believe me, your back, neck and shoulders will thank you. Plus, you’ll have so much more fun out there on the trails!

VAUDE: A pioneer in all things sustainability

VAUDE: A pioneer in all things sustainability

12. July 2017
Tips and Tricks

“It’s easy to get lost in the sea of labels, certifications and all the hifalutin promises regarding sustainability and environmentally-friendly production. I mean, there are so many manufacturers out there, working tirelessly to establish sustainability in both their product line and their value chain. A very welcome development, if I do say so myself. Of course, as it is with every movement, you’ll find some brands spearheading the movement.

One such brand is the German company known as VAUDE. The outdoor company from Tettnang is not only a member of the Partnership for Sustainable Textiles but have even created their very own label called Green Shape, in accordance with which over 88% of the company’s products have been manufactured as of 2017. In the following, we’re going to talk about both Green Shape as well as VAUDE’s other environmental endeavours.

The need for an their own label

The Green Shape label is the result of the desire to introduce a uniform quality evaluation system for ecological products geared toward all parts of the product lifecycle as opposed to only certain areas. In other words, the focus is not only on environmentally-friendly fabrics and socially-acceptable products but also on the recyclability of the products, easy and gentle care as well as a long lifespan and repair service. More specifically, this means:

  • VAUDE emphasises the use of certified resource-conserving materials (e.g. bluesign, Ökotex 100, GOTS, etc.) and recycled materials. Plus, environmentally-friendly natural materials are used, such as organic cotton, Tencel or hemp. What’s more, there are no PTFE membranes, genetically engineered products or nanotechnology involved in Green Shape products. Other eco criteria include refraining from using bleaches containing chlorine or hypochlorides.
  • The manufacturing sites have verified social standards as well. All suppliers were and are subject to intensive training in the areas of environmental, chemical, workers’ safety management and social standards. Printing methods are also environmentally friendly and free of any harmful substances.
  • Central topics of design and development are reparability and the lifespan of the product.

More detailed information on the Green Shape label can be found here!

Comprehensive sustainability

VAUDE’s dedication goes far beyond jackets, trousers, shoes as well as their employees and suppliers. In fact, it extends throughout all areas of the company, something VAUDE calls the “green theme”. The company’s headquarters in Germany is “climate neutral” and has an in-house childcare centre and organic cafeteria. Plus, the products are transported in an environmentally-friendly way. And, they even have their own repair service that customers can contact if there happens to be a problem with one of their products. There’s also a VAUDE second-hand shop on eBay where old products are sold.

Strong partnerships

As was already mentioned, VAUDE is a member of the Partnership for Sustainable Textiles and a bluesign system partner. They’re also an affiliate of the Fair Wear Foundation, which supervises the supply chain and working conditions and helps to uphold social standards. In collaboration with the Economy for the Common Good, VAUDE regularly creates a balance sheet that assesses their contribution to the common good as well.

One of VAUDE’s many partners is the WWF. As a partner, VAUDE supports various projects, such as the removal of so-called ghost nets (fishing nets) in the Baltic Sea, and even supplies WWF employees with clothing and gear. Along with myclimate, VAUDE also works tirelessly on reducing emissions. Since 2002, the company has also been the main sponsor of DAV (German Alpine Club).

Just lip service?

In all honesty, it has been extremely difficult to find a fly in the ointment, as it were. So difficult, in fact, that I haven’t found a single one. At the very most, one could criticise the fact that a small portion of their gear is treated with PFCs (per- and polyfluorinated chemicals). But this, too, should be history by 2018, thanks to the Greenpeace’s Detox Campaign. For more detailed information on VAUDE’s efforts, have a look at their sustainability report. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask! Post a comment or send us an e-mail at service@alpinetrek.co.uk.