All posts with the keyword ‘Trekking’

So, why not bake yourself some mountain bread?

9. July 2020
Tips and Tricks

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

Bread? That’s very funny!

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

Our “Extreme Spelt” mountain bread: The recipe!

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

Ingredients (for one 750 g loaf)

Water roux:

90 g spelt flour (type 630)

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A buyer's guide to outdoor jackets

Nubuck leather – the pros and cons of a natural product

25. June 2020

Doesn’t the term nubuck leather automatically make you think of those classy leather shoes for upscale occasions? Well, interestingly enough, this natural material is used for much more than just fancy footwear. You can find nubuck leather upholstery, car interiors, in the form of reinforcements for clothing and oftentimes as the main material for gloves and mountaineering boots.

But, as with every other natural material, there are upsides and downsides to nubuck leather. In this post, we’re going to focus on the pros and cons of nubuck leather and they pertain to mountain sports.


Outdoor clothing in the city centre? I need that!

18. June 2020

It is the nightmare of style icons, fashionistas and cultural guardians: the outdoor wave that is sweeping the city centres. Ten years ago, people were sure it was one of those silly crazes that would be laughed off in 10 years’ time. But far from it, it still remains and shows no signs of fading. It’s even expanded into new areas and has long catered to those yearning of hunting, dog sledding and motorcycling adventures.

Even the fashion pages have become resigned to it. Strong criticisms can only be found in older articles. More recently, articles in outdoor blogs and fashion magazines have been favouring the trend. Let’s take a look at the critics and advocates and examine their common ground. As we do so, I’ll add my own two cents into the mix.

But before that, let us turn to an important, but difficult to classify controversial issue: sustainability.

The Controversy of Sustainability

Let’s get straight to the point: yes, it’s true that a multifunctional jacket uses more resources and “toxins” than grandpa’s good old wool coat.

But is “outdoor stuff” with its evil chemicals really so much worse than the “normal stuff” in the department stores and online shops? It is by no means the case that before the “outdoor boom” people only wore sustainable natural clothing. On the contrary, the percentage of “Made under bad conditions and with undeclared chemicals“ is quite high in on-technical everyday clothing.

What is more sustainable: if I wear an expensive, technical winter jacket from brand XY for ten winters, or if I wear several “simpler” and cheaper” quilted jackets from H&M, New Yorker etc.?

There is also criticism because of controversial “ingredients” in outdoor clothing such as down, leather and fur. But these things are also used in “non-outdoor products” and the outdoor industry also offers a growing range of alternative materials. There is also a growing segment called “Urban Outdoor”. These products are less “highly engineered”, do without membranes and chemicals, are not “polarized” and are not brightly coloured. They are more functional than conventional everyday clothing, as well as highly attractive.

Even so, it is a waste to buy technical-functional outdoor clothing for the evening dog walk. In the same way, you have to question when people wear it for show.

Annoyed by the outdoor wave: the features section

The harshest outdoor critics are most likely found in the culture pages A good summary of classical style criticism is provided by the Tagesspiegel article,which is probably the most frequently read and quoted on this topic:

There seems to be an unspoken agreement on this point: there are some clothes and situations that don’t go together. However, this intuitive sense of style regularly seems to fail thousands of people in this country when it comes to outdoor clothing.:

This taste is debatable in many cases. This is followed by two unfinished sentences, which seem to be about the fact that the clothes are made for the most adverse conditions and the buyers know exactly how nonsensical their behaviour is.

True, but only in part: by no means are all products seen in the pedestrian zones “suitable for polar regions” or “suitable for the Himalayas”, nor are they all brightly coloured. Such frequently read exaggerations suggest that the authors are rather less than outdoor enthusiasts. And their unfamiliarity with the subject matter becomes even more clear when they try to imitate technical outdoor jargon. Sometimes this doesn’t fit, as here in the FR, where there excessive exaggeration results in unintended humour. Want an example? Here:

Presumably, the wild colours (of outdoor clothing)can even scare away bears. And make campfires.:

Ha ha. Well, if only you knew, dear FR writer, how many bear attacks the Active-Bearprotect Shield of my Gore-Tex has averted at the last minute. And how many times I’ve been saved from frozen fingers by the integrated InstantFire Jet Technology…

Want another example? Here you go:

No one needs storage for carabiners, oil lamps or a three-day supply of jerky while they’re walking around the pedestrian zone.:

Yes, they do! I need oil lamp storage (fire retardant) in my climbing harness, which is always attached. And my jerky rations (tofu jerky, of course) have saved me from many a rumbling stomach in the CBD.

And one more to finish? No problem:


It might be true that we, the summiteers, do not always have the firmest foothold when it comes to the downhill run. But this is often because of the others walking around the fields after summiting. We still need a good grip when we’re picking up toilet paper in Boots.

However, it must be said that not all criticism is so easily refuted. Here’s the Tagesspiegel again:

In my circle of friends, there’s one crazy one who regularly goes on snowshoe holidays through Greenland or Lapland. I understand that he needs a Polar jacket. But when he returns home to civilisation, it returns to the cupboard where it belongs. He goes to work in a woollen coat. He understands: Everything has a time and a place. (…) The thermal coat belongs on the pack nice, not in the city centre.:

Very impressive. But is there really such thing, this law of nature for where things belong? Or is it not just someone’s opinion that has been elevated to a general standard? What if I’ve already spent quite a bit on my ‘mountain skins’ and so spending more on a ‘suitable’ woollen coat seems unnecessary? What if I wear a Gore-Tex jacket when it’s pouring down in the city just because I don’t have another waterproof jacket lying around?

Yes, I’m exposing myself here as one of those “overlapping users”, who actually does go into the mountains and the “wilderness’ in their outdoor clothing.

Also annoyed: ‘real mountaineers’ who ‘actually use this stuff’

As us “overlapping users” are so underappreciated, we are of course upset about the invasion of fake adventurers. For it is only us that should have the right to bear the signs of being an outdoor enthusiast.

So, dear outdoor clothing critics, please don’t always lump us hard nuts together with these fancy dress impersonators! We brave really icy wind and terrible weather. And when we put on a Gore-Tex jacket, softshell, fleece or synthetic trousers in everyday life, the unsuspecting confuse us with these wannabes. If only people could tell the difference, they would finally give us that slightly intimidated admiration that we well deserve!

I therefore propose that we introduce a permit for outdoor clothing: Goretex and Windstopper would only be able to be worn upon evidence of undertaking a tour. In order to avoid any confusion, we should also attach labels or stickers to our clothes:

”Hey, I’m actually going above 4,000 metres in this!”


”This jacket has been to Greenland and Nepal!”

Please recommend more effective differentiation measures in the comments ;-)

Elated rather than annoyed: the advocates

Is the case for outdoor clothingspan style=”font-weight: 400;”> sound and convincing at least? Are there good, strong ‘pros’ for Outdoor in the City?

Hm, not really – I only found a little andit’s hard to follow, like the following from Brigitte magazine for example:

Today, with the right clothing, you can demonstrate your love of outdoor sports, trekking, danger and adventure without ever having seen a mountain, a forest or a lake in person. This is certainly very fashionable, even though it may not always make sense to wrap ourselves up in clothes that have functions we don’t even need”.:

I find a person never seeing a mountain, forest or lake in person sad rather than fashionable. But perhaps you don’t know what you’re missing if you don’t know more than a picture. Maybe that would explain the following thought as well:

So-called ‘Sensation Seeking’ has become very popular. Our clothes should at least remind us of the wilderness. If danger (or a hailstorm) should befall us in the urban jungle, we are prepared – and can feel a bit like McGyver’s wild daughter in our Jack Wolfskin jacket.:

Oh, yeah. Except that, as the only male Brigitte reader on the planet, I’d rather be McGyver himself than his wild daughter. For me it’s much more important not to ‘imagine’ being in the ‘wilderness’ through clothing, but to actually travel to such environments.

So, to sum up, neither side are really rational or sensible. It’s about taste and personal preference.

Love of nature, vanity and fear of disaster: explanation attempts

Because there’s so little rationality, most attempts at explaining the phenomena ultimately fail. Let’s try anyway. We’ll go back to the Tagesspiegel to start:

Some people say its a love of woods and meadows, which makes it happen. (…) However, even a brief look at the products shows that this so-called closeness to nature is nonsense. After all, you can hardly get more artificial than an outdoor jacket. The lining is made of polyester fleece or polyamide and sealed on top with a layer of polyurethane or polytetrafluoroethylene. Does that sound something that would grow on any tree in the world?:

It’s rare that Teflon, PU and fleece would all be used in one item, but not inconceivable, and more and more companies are making progress in replacing artificial with natural components.

If love of nature is not the sole motive behind the outdoor wave, we must look elsewhere. One of the less positive motives would be vanity, which the Tagespiegel will illuminate here:

If you wear something you don’t need, you want to represent something. (…) In this sense, wearing outdoor clothing is no longer about preparing for extreme situations, but about simulating them – or better: claiming proficiency in them. Look, I would be prepared to brave wind and weather, arctic temperature drops and steep scree slopes – if I were to put myself in danger.”

Yes, you heard me right. This is addresses a sore point. But a sore point of what? Vanity is a driver for many types of clothing. And also for many human actions in general. So it is just as unspecific to our beautiful, colourful outdoor world as the compensatory instinct (also mentioned in the article).

Now, we’re just missing the entertaining motivation theories. One would be a fear of catastrophe, but that’s going too far in the psychological fog in my opinion…

What conclusion can be drawn from this? Well, if you’re out in the city in outdoor clothing, you can always hope for some attention.



Tips for choosing waterproof trousers

15. June 2020

A downpour or steady drizzle. Big drops, little drops. Pelting down from above, blowing in from the side, or lashing from the front. Bad weather can quickly ruin a day on the mountain. But does it really mean you have to get soaked? Not necessarily! Get out your waterproof trousers, pull them on and keep going! Easy as that.

In this article, we’ll explore what you should think about when buying waterproof trousers.


Walking, hiking, trekking…: the language confusion guide

8. June 2020

Hiking, mountaineering, long-distance walking, walking, trekking, hut trekking, speed hiking, backpacking, fastpacking, undertaking a pilgrimage: all terms that describe walking outdoors. Why are there so many words to describe such a simple and beautiful activity, which ultimately is just putting one put in front of the other? How do all these “disciplines” differ? Are there any significant differences at all? We’re going to take a closer look at these different terms to try and answer these questions. To make it a bit simpler, we’ll limit ourselves to moving at walking speed and without any equipment (like snowshoes or skis).

Walking is not just walking

An initial answer to this question could be: on-foot outdoor activities are becoming increasingly popular and therefore more diverse. The spectrum ranges from simple day trips around the Sauerland to trips lasting several weeks to Karakorum. The different disciplines differ in their duration, geographical location and in terms of effort and demands. Another distinguishing criterion for outdoor walking activities is in the equipment used. The reasons behind undertaking the activity can also be used to differentiate. For instance, some people are doing it for pleasure, others for sport and others have mental or religious reasons. Religious or spiritual motivations have also become a mass phenomenon with the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.

Awkward German and cool anglicisms

The fact that nowadays every kind of walking in nature has its own name is probably related to the fact that we like to categorise people. Marketing departments in the tourism and outdoor industry certainly must take some of the blame, a wide range of different activities suits a wide range of different products. In Germany, many English terms have added to the naming confusion with their cool and sexy sounding names. Well, sexy at least in comparison to their German variants, which sound rather awkward. Speed hiking is certainly more appealing than “Hochgeschwindigkeitswandern” and fast packing much cooler than “Leichtgepäckschnellwandern”.

However, this language diversity has also created ambiguous terms that cannot always be translated one-to-one. If you do try, it’s easy to get confused. Both languages use hiking and trekking, but not always in the same manner – for instance, the English ‘hiking trousers’ is often translated into German as ‘Trekkinghose’. So, is trekking different to hiking? Yes, so it seems. But the translations are not always consistent…

And if all this confusion wasn’t enough, as well as trekking, hiking and walking, there’s now also backpacking and fastpacking. While the first three describe being on the move, the latter two refer to moving but with a backpack. But hold on, when you’re hiking, you’re still carrying a backpack. So, it’s all just rubbish? Not quite, it’s more a question of region- and country-specific uses of terms.

We’ve already established that hiking and walking are virtually synonymous, and are usually used interchangeably on tourism websites. According to Outdoor Magazine, both are “day trips that use a daypack with a volume of 20 to 30 litres”. Both are usually used when you’re returning to a fixed sleeping place in the evening. Touring when you’re staying over night (in huts) can also be described as hiking.

The many other terms for walking outdoors don’t overlap quite so much, but there’s not always clear differentiation. Maybe that’s why you shouldn’t compare so much, but simply explore all the terms one after the other and then the differences will become clear.


If a walk lasts several hours, it can be called a hike. According the German Hiking Association, there is an arbitrary minimum of one hour. They also say that “hiking” should include “appropriate planning, the use of specific infrastructure (…) (and) suitable equipment”.

Hiking can be through forests and meadows, hills and mountains or along rivers, coasts and beaches. The degree of difficulty is limited, because “good, marked paths are used, which do not present any alpine difficulties”. The terrain can be walked without or with minimal aids such as a walking stick. However, a stick is not standard equipment, which is limited to robust, suitable footwear and clothing appropriate to the local climate.

There we go – a definition as simple as hiking itself.


The definition is in the word: this refers to walking in hilly areas. Most of the time this is on marked or easily recognised paths, which can be walked without any climbing equipment. Exposed areas are often secured and there are only short sections without paths.

The boundaries between hiking and hillwalking are about as well defined as those between hillwalking and mountaineering. Attempts to define them according to individual criteria such as altitude and differences in altitude would be utter nonsense as they would never be able to do justice to the diversity of landscapes and tour possibilities. A wide range of criteria including equipment requirements, duration, planning effort and fitness demands, orientation ability, surefootedness and freedom from vertigo would also then have to be included and compared. It’s simpler just to say that the criteria are just ‘a bit higher’ than just walking.

Hillwalking covers a broad spectrum of activities, ranging from walking on wide forest paths to a managed alpine pasture to climbing an ice-free 3,000m peak in the main Alpine ridge. There are also many variations including high-altitude hiking, which covers hikes that take place at high altitude but don’t involve a great difference in altitude and traversing, which usually refers to travelling between mountain huts.


The word “trek” refers to “march” or “hike” and various types of travel on foot. The word “trekking” is defined by the Cambridge Dictionary as, “the activity of walking long distances on foot for pleasure.”

This gives it a very similar meaning to ‘hiking’ and even ‘walking’. So, it is all rubbish after all? No, of course not, usually trekking is used to refer to walking longer routes with more luggage. The difference is in the duration and the equipment. According to there are also further differences in terms of movement and means of transport:

“Trekking for us is travelling over several days on foot or with simple, human-powered vehicles such as a canoe or bicycle, usually with luggage. You could of course also call it ‘multi-day hiking’, ‘multi-day water boating’ and ‘multi-day cycling’.”

The location can also be used to differentiate:

“Isolated, poorly developed areas with untouched nature and traditional culture are therefore the preferred destinations for trekking.”

This reflects the classic idea of trekking as a kind of preliminary expedition stage in remote and often culturally traditional areas. In addition to a sleeping place (in the form of the tent), a larger amount of provisions are also transported.

The well-respected Outdoor Magazine has its own opinion. They say,

If you stay overnight – whether in a hut, guesthouse or tent – it becomes ‘trekking’.

A somewhat exclusive viewpoint, but still pretty legitimate. We can agree that trekking often leads to countries far away from the Alps such as Nepal or Canada and takes place further away from “civilization” than classic hiking. Plus, you usually have more luggage and you might experience real wilderness.

Long distance walking

Long distance walking could mean covering long distances over several days or even weeks – and it’s another of these phenomena that come into the public eye like a pop-up window. If you take a look at social media and the blogosphere, the whole world seems to be crossing the Alps in some way. Why is everyone so keen to walk around for days and weeks on end? The portal might have an answer:

When you’ve walked a long way and have 30 or so kilometres behind you in a day, when you reach your hostel with burning feet and an aching back, and at the end of your energy, your soul rejoices and your heart sings. Your success – and the high oxygen levels in your blood – gives you a real rush of happiness.

Hostel is a key word here, because unlike trekking, with long distance walking you’re never discovering unexplored terrains. If a hiker reaches another hostel rather than returning to their starting point, they are named a long-distance walker.

The Alpine Clubs Trail Book differentiates long distance walking even further based on route length: “Fernwanderwege” are over 500 km long and go through at least three countries. “Weitwanderwege” are over 300 km long and go through at least three German states. Of course, these precise specifications do not prevent anyone from planning as many national and regional long-distance hiking trails as they like.

With their attachment to local resources and infrastructure, long-distance hikers are far more important economically than trekkers. Therefore, advertising often appeals to the former. This economic component is also one of the less romantic explanations for the long-distance walking boom. As part of this, more and more paths are being connected, marked, developed and marketed as long-distance hiking trails.


“Long distance walks with spiritual motivation” – is one way of describing a pilgrimage. The Camino de Santiago in Spain, with its atmospheric landscapes and dense network of hostels, attracts long-distance hikers from all over the world. The most famous leads from the Pyrenees to the tomb of the apostle James in Santiago de Compostela.

Speed hiking

We recently devoted a whole article to this ‘ turbo-charged hiking’. This intensified type of hiking often goes through demanding terrain with strong poles and lightweight equipment. Poles are used to stabilise the body and strengthen the upper body muscles.

Initially, speed hiking was mainly practised as a compensatory sport or training method for other mountain sports such as ski touring and trail running. In recent years, it has become a discipline in its own right, which is great for conditioning and developing coordination skills. Speed hiking also fits into the current ultra-light trend. Of course there are now also competitions, with different distances and levels of difficulty for the growing number of athletes of different levels.

(Nordic) Walking

At first glance, this brisk walking with an accentuated use of poles seems to be the same as speed hiking, because the poles swing and it’s performed at high speed. However, Nordic Walking rarely involves altitude gains or particularly long distances. The terrain and speed are also more comfortable than they appear at first glance. Nordic Walking should be somewhere between walking, hiking and jogging.

Also known as power walking, this walking variant has, in contrast to speed hiking, a slightly more leisurely image, so you’ll rarely come across young (Nordic) walkers in the forests or fields. Nordic Walking doesn’t really count as a mountain sport. Its followers tend to focus more on the health aspects and the social side.


Just like speed hiking, fast packing is part of the growing ultra-light movement. Fastpacking is a blend of (speed) hiking, trekking and trail running. It motto is “fast and long”. This means several days on foot through remote mountain terrain, over rugged peaks and unexplored mountain ranges. Ideally, you will stay overnight in a bivvy or just out in the open as nature intended.

Fastpacking is not for mountain novices, as the minimalism requires an advanced level of training and an experienced and creative handling of the equipment. The quick and easy flexibility of fast packing is based on the Alpine style of mountaineering. However, despite all the ambition, the aim is to minimise the overall effort without neglecting safety and comfort.

Creative and exotic disciplines

Geocaching is a scavenger hunt for the young and young-at-heart adventurers. The GPS device provides that little nudge to tempt even reluctant nature-lovers outside. The GPS device helps to locate the “caches”, which are now hidden all over the mountains. With geocaching, (hill) walking becomes less daunting for young walkers.

Barefoot walking doesn’t add anything to hiking rather it takes something away – shoes. What might seem like a nightmare to some, feels like total liberation to others. Beginners should start by walking short distances on suitable terrain (grass, sand or earth) and feel their way (quite literally) into it. Of course, you can always put your shoes back on if you don’t like it.

As you can see, the list of “walking activities” is getting longer and longer. And as we humans are forever inventing new outdoor activities, it will be fascinating to see what other disciplines will be added in the future. So, to be continued…


Merino wool – the functional fibre in detail

23. June 2020

At the end of the 1980s, many outdoor fans considered functional clothing made of synthetic fibres to be the ultimate products – after “normal” wool and cotton had become obsolete due to their “unsuitability”. At that time only a few pioneering companies in the outdoor sector such as Icebreaker, Smartwool, Woolpower and Ortovox were using merino wool. Nowadays however, almost all outdoor clothing manufacturers offer products made from this “new wool”. The merino sheep has become the favourite animal of many sports and outdoor enthusiasts. Once you have worn merino wool clothing, you will not want to go without it again. But what is so special about this natural high tech fibre? In the following we will take a closer look at merino wool and its properties:

Where does merino wool come from?

Merino wool is a natural product obtained from sheep’s wool – indeed, from the wool of merino sheep. The animals originally come from the North African plateaus of the Atlas Mountains and are now among the oldest and most hardy sheep breeds in the world. merino sheep lived there in extreme, often adverse weather conditions of the kind you only get when you spend all four seasons up in the mountains. They had to – and still have to – withstand extreme temperature fluctuations of minus 20 to plus 35 degrees in the Southern Alps of New Zealand. That’s why they have a coat, which is perfectly adapted to such harsh conditions. In the Middle Ages the sheep reached Spain, where their wool was sold as valuable “Spanish wool”. In the 18th century, the first merino sheep were exported to Australia, which has since become the largest global exporter of this precious commodity, along with other wool-producing countries such as New Zealand, South Africa and South America.

What are the properties of merino wool?

Merino wool has a number of natural and very beneficial properties:

  • It doesn’t itch.
  • It warms when it’s cold.
  • It cools when it’s warm.
  • It warms when wet.
  • It does not develop unpleasant odours even after being worn several times.
  • It is water and dirt repellent.
  • It is particularly lightweight with a high heat output.
  • It has natural UV protection.
  • It does not accumulate electrostatic charge.
  • It’s flame-retardant.
  • It doesn’t crease.

These are all excellent qualities when it comes to producing functional clothing for outdoor activities. First let’s look at the most important features in detail and find out why merino wool has these properties.

Why doesn’t merino wool itch?

Merino sheep belong to a breed of fine wool sheep. The coat of these sheep is made up of very fine, soft and highly curled hairs with a fibre thickness of only 16.5 to 24 microns (the fibre thickness of wool fibres is expressed in microns; 1 micron corresponds to 1 micrometre, i.e. 1 thousandth of a millimetre). This means that the fibres of merino wool are only about half as thick as “normal” wool fibres and only a quarter as thick as a human hair. The finer the wool fibres are, the more they bend when they touch the skin. While thicker wool fibres hardly bend at all, merino fibres curl with up to 40 directional changes per centimetre. As a result, the nerve endings of the skin are much less irritated and there is no unpleasant itching. The human sensitivity limit, above which fibres are perceived as scratching, is around 25 microns. This is why normal wool is perceived as scratchy, while merino wool feels pleasantly soft against the skin.

How does merino wool warm when it’s cold?

Merino wool has excellent insulation properties in cold weather. This is due to the ingenious structure of the merino fibres. The fibres of merino wool consist – in relation to their total volume – of up to 85% air. The fine, wavy fibres lie so loosely on top of each other that air chambers can form between them. And as air is a poor conductor of heat, it provides excellent insulation – against both cold and heat.

The effect is comparable with double-glazing on windows. The air between the two panes has an insulating effect – both in winter and summer. Merino wool is not warming itself, but it prevents body heat from escaping by enclosing insulating air cushions. It keeps the heat of our body where we need it when the ambient temperature is cold. In addition, the merino fibres have fewer contact points with the skin due to their strong wave and therefore dissipate less heat. In a nutshell: The advantage of the curled fibres of merino wool is that more insulating air is bound in and less heat is emitted.

How does merino wool cool when it’s warm?

The human body has a natural air conditioning system. In warm temperatures or during intensive physical activity, we start to sweat. The body secretes moisture in the form of sweat to cool down and keep the body temperature at a constant level.

Merino wool supports this natural bodily function perfectly. It functions like a second skin, which further enhances the cooling effect. On the one hand, the air cushions in the merino fibres insulate not only against cold but also against warm ambient air. And on the other hand, the fibres behave uniquely towards moisture. The level of moisture management that they achieve has never been reached with any artificially developed textile fibre. The fibres of merino wool can absorb up to a third of their own dry weight in moisture – for synthetic fibres, the value is less than ten percent. The fibres owe their high moisture absorption capacity to their chemical structure. They are hygroscopic, which means they can bind moisture in the form of water vapour, and they can do so in great quantities and very quickly. Sweat or rainwater is quickly transported to the inside of the fibre through a network of tiny channels.

At the same time, the fibre surface remains dry because it is water-repellent. This is why merino wool still feels dry even when it has absorbed a lot of moisture. Amazing, right? The hygroscopic fibres function like a storage tank that optimally balances the moisture fluctuations in the environment.

Warm ambient air now ensures that the moisture absorbed inside the fibre evaporates on the outside of the garment. However, for the process of evaporation – i.e. the transition from a liquid to a gaseous state – the water molecules need energy. They extract these from the nearest ‘body’ – the merino fibres – in the form of heat. The fibres cool down, causing the skin and the body to cool too. This process is called evaporative cooling, and it causes a pleasant cooling sensation on the skin.

Synthetic fibres, on the other hand, can store almost no moisture in their interior. This results in a particularly rapid transport of moisture to the outside. This causes a build-up of heat and the body reacts by increasing sweat production to induce cooling. Of course, this needs correspondingly more energy, which is then no longer available for performance – for example during sporting activities. Studies at the University of Graz have shown a higher lactate increase in athletes who wore synthetic fibre textiles. All in all, the natural function of merino wool also contributes to a higher physical performance – what more could you want?

How does merino wool warm even when it’s wet?

Compared to cotton or synthetic fibres, merino wool retains its good material properties well even when wet. Unlike a cotton t-shirt, a merino shirt does not stick unpleasantly to the skin when it gets wet. And in a sweaty merino garment, you don’t experience any unpleasant shivering either, as you would when you take a break on the summit in a synthetic t-shirt. But why?

Ultimately, this warming effect in a moist state is also based on the ability of merino fibres to absorb moisture. When moisture is absorbed, an exothermic process takes place, which generates absorption heat. That means that the fibres heat up when they absorb moisture. Sounds incredible, right? But it’s true! Merino wool actively warms as long as it absorbs moisture. This is because the protein molecules of merino fibres release energy in the form of heat when they come into contact with water molecules – enough to cause a temperature increase of up to ten degrees, depending on the quality of the fibre.

This process continues until the wool fibres are saturated with water molecules. A slightly damp merino baselayer can therefore generate heat, whereas a layer that is completely soaked from the rain cannot. But even then, the merino part still keeps warm – due to the frictional heat of the fibres that is generated mechanically during movement. But, with light rain it actually makes sense to wait a short time before putting on a waterproof jacket. If the merino t-shirt gets slightly well, it will start producing warmth.

The warming process works best if the merino functional clothing is completely dry beforehand, because then the fibres can best exploit their potential for absorbing moisture. It is therefore sensible to completely dry the garment before starting an outdoor pursuit – especially in winter. This is best done in a warm room with the lowest possible humidity, such as a room heated by a stove or central heating. Spare clothes made of merino wool should be packed in a waterproof stuff sack or a plastic bag before your trip, so that the wool fibres cannot absorb moisture from the ambient air. After all, you only want them to warm up when you put them on!

Why doesn’t merino wool smell even after wearing it several times?

The unpleasant smell that we often perceive on ourselves and our clothes is not actually sweat. Fresh sweat is odourless. We first start smelling when the skin bacteria begin to break down the sweat into its individual parts. Sweat provides nutrition for them, and they like to multiply especially in warm and humid regions – like the armpits. Of course, sweat and skin bacteria also settle in our clothing, so these – at least if they are made of synthetic fibres and do not have an odour-inhibiting treatment – will also start to smell unpleasant at some point. So why are garments made of merino wool different?

Synthetic fibres have a smooth surface to which sweat and bacteria can adhere particularly well. Merino fibres have a scaly surface, almost like a tiled roof. The bacteria don’t stand a chance. In addition, the fibres absorb the moisture of the sweat so quickly that the bacteria do not even have time to break down the sweat. The water-repellent fibre surface also prevents the development of a humid climate, which the bacteria need to grow.

Finally, wool fibres have a specific fibre protein (like all animal hair) – keratin – which breaks down the bacteria responsible for the bad smell. Merino wool therefore has a natural antibacterial effect – and its permanent, because the effect doesn’t weaken. Even the silver ions incorporated in synthetic fibres, which are intended to inhibit odours, cannot match this ingenious biological function. But that’s not all! To perfect this mode of action, merino fibres also have a mechanical self-cleaning effect. This is because the core of the fibres consists of two different cell types that can absorb different amounts of moisture. This means that they swell unequally when absorbing moisture. This results in constant friction, which the fibres use to continuously clean themselves.

Why is merino wool water and dirt-resistant?

Even though merino fibres can absorb relatively large amounts of moisture, their fibre surface is water and dirt repellent. This is because the fibre contains the wool grease lanolin. When the wool is processed, a large proportion of this is washed out, but some remains on the fibres. The wool grease acts as a protective layer. Dirt and odours stick to the fibre surface and can’t penetrate inside. Lanolin can also have a pain-relieving effect on rheumatic joint complaints, which is why people who suffer from this like to wear woollen clothing. Due to the strong curling of the fibres, water drops only have a very small surface area to attack and simply roll off due to their surface tension. This works in exactly the same way as with certain plants, which have fine hairs on the surface that ensure that water drops roll off.

Merino wool in the outdoors – are there only pros? Or are there cons too?

We’ve probably spoken enough about the advantages of merino wool in the outdoor sector. For all the reasons mentioned above, it should be clear this “high-tech wool” is particularly well-suited to outdoor use. In summary, merino fibres are true all-rounders that do what is needed in every situation – they warm when cold, they cool when warm, they warm when wet, they do not develop any unpleasant odours and last but not least they feel pleasant on the skin. With this flexibility, merino wool garments are naturally perfect for outdoor activities. Because no matter whether it’s warm, cold, wet or dry outside – when you’re outdoors, you need clothing that is just as flexible as the weather we’re exposed to.

Above all, the temperature and climate regulating properties of merino wool are a huge advantage in many outdoor situations. The body temperature always remains at a comfortable level despite different temperature conditions and different activity levels. And these are common conditions – especially in the Alps. Changes in the weather or temperature play a major role when you’re covering hundreds of metres in altitude. You might be sweating in the valley, but once you start rising up to the breezy ridge, you’ll start to shiver. And when you need to take a break at the summit, a material which can warm when wet is invaluable. The temperature-regulating wool is also ideal for activities such as cycling, ski mountaineering and skiing, where activity levels and temperature conditions vary greatly as you go up and down the mountains.

The odour-retardant property of merino wool is particularly beneficial when you are out and about for long periods and aren’t able to wash. On a trekking tour or backpacking trip, where you are travelling with the least possible weight, you’ll want to take merino clothing which can be worn for an unlimited period of time. After all, it takes quite some time until they smell strong enough that you feel the need to wash them. And thanks to the elastic fibres, a merino shirt won’t crease much even if it’s squashed into your backpack for days on end.

Basically, there are almost no limits to the use of merino wool garments in outdoor activities. Whether you’re a keen train runner, climber, yogi or just want something for everyday wear – the material is simply great. However, there are a few disadvantages that should be mentioned. Merino fibres are not as robust or resistant to wear and tear as other natural or synthetic fibres.

If you wear a pure merino wool t-shirt under a heavy backpack, it might damage the fabric. If weight and pack size are your most important considerations, synthetic fibre garments usually perform better. They also usually dry faster. Sometimes clothing made of pure merino wool can feel too warm in summer despite their cooling properties. And last but not least, there are particularly sensitive people who find that merino wool is itchy.

However, the outdoor textile industry has now found possible solutions to eliminate these disadvantages of merino wool – by using fabric blends.

What types of fabric blends are there?

The current outdoor trend is to combine merino fibres with other natural fibres such as silk or synthetic fibres. Synthetic fibres include synthetic fibres such as polyamide and polyester, but recently also synthetic fibres that are artificially produced from natural cellulose – such as Lyocell or Modal. This allows the strengths of the natural and synthetic fibres to be combined to get the best of both worlds. Different materials are used depending on the manufacturer and application.

For example, Icebreaker adds a small amount of elastane to its merino base layers. This is not a classic blended fabric, but a sandwich construction that ensures that only pure merino wool lies next to the skin. The addition of elastane makes the fabrics more tear-resistant and durable, as the fabric can stretch more under mechanical stress instead of tearing. As even finer wool fibres can be used in this way, the fabric feels more comfortable, especially for sensitive people, than fabrics made of pure merino wool. At the same time, the fabric has a pleasant stretch effect as well as a mostly body-hugging fit.

Ortovox and Icebreaker also offer collections which use Lyocell fibres together with merino wool. Lyocell is the generic fibre name for a fibre made from bamboo wood. It is marketed by the Austrian fibre manufacturer Lenzing AG under the brand name Tencel. The addition of Lyocell or Tencel gives the fabric a pleasantly cooling effect on the skin, which is of course particularly beneficial in summer. The Lyocell fibres have a particularly high basic moisture content, which does not feel wet but cooling on the skin. Furthermore, the material is more durable and long-lasting.

Modal, for example, is used by Ortovox to complement merino wool. Modal is made of beech wood cellulose and has a particularly smooth surface. As a result, Modal fabrics feel very soft and have a silky feel. It is especially loved by those with sensitive skin.

Falcon and Angel produce outdoor clothing with a mix of merino wool and silk. These textiles also feel very soft and pleasant on the skin. Silk also gives the garments a shimmering sheen.

If you choose garments made of blended fibres, however, you should look carefully: blended fibres can be used for two reasons: either to improve the functionality of the material or to reduce costs by using a cheaper material. If the proportion of merino wool is too low, the good properties of merino wool fibres are then lost somewhat.

How sustainable is merino wool?

When it comes to sustainability, it is also worth taking a closer look when buying a product. On the one hand, merino wool is by nature a very sustainable material. On the other hand, however, there are certain problems in animal husbandry, which are among the unpleasant aspects of wool production. But first of all, let’s look at the advantages of merino wool in terms of sustainability.

Merino wool is a naturally renewable raw material. Merino sheep can be sheared up to twice a year and produce up to ten kilograms of wool per animal. Furthermore, compared to the production of synthetic fibres, the production and processing is particularly low in resources and environmentally friendly. Synthetic fibres are produced using crude oil, which requires a large number of chemicals and the use of large amounts of energy. Moreover, synthetic fibres are almost completely non-degradable. Synthetic clothing takes 30 years or more to decompose.

This means they end up in landfill after use. Products made of pure merino wool, on the other hand, are biodegradable without any residues. You can just throw them on the compost heap. A merino t-shirt buried in the ground will completely decompose within 90 days and can then be used as fertiliser. Furthermore, merino wool has natural properties such as its UV protection or odour inhibition, so it doesn’t need any environmentally harmful chemical additives. This is because the “technology” is already contained in the fibre. Last but not least, the self-cleaning function of merino fibres also protects the environment, as the garments do not need to be washed as often.

However, animal welfare is not always the top priority in merino wool production. In Australia and New Zealand, there is an issue with fly maggot infestation in merino sheep farming, which can cause the deadly disease, myasis. The animals are virtually eaten from the inside. In warm temperatures, such as those found in the Australian summer, the flies lay their eggs in the poorly ventilated skin folds on the anus, which are smeared with faeces and urine. In Australia – the country with the most merino wool producers – a brutal method is unfortunately used to prevent fly maggot infestation – mulesing.

This involves surgically removing a plate-sized part of the skin folds around the anus, tail and vulva of lambs up to eight weeks old. This is usually done with a hot cutting device, without anaesthesia and while the sheep is fully conscious! The wounds are not treated, but must heal and scar by themselves.

Great pain is inflicted upon the animals during this bloody and mutilating procedure. Studies show that the sheep still flee their tormentors 113 days after such an operation – that’s how traumatic this experience is. At present, there are very few uncontroversial alternatives to solve the problem of fly maggot infestation. Particularly because the fly maggots were probably – just like the merino sheep – only imported to Australia and New Zealand during the colonial period. More complex and expensive methods include regular shearing of the skin folds around the anus, regular checks of the sheep and timely medical intervention in case of infestation. Animal welfare activists therefore demand the targeted breeding of sheep with fewer skin folds on the buttocks. In fact, Australian merino sheep were deliberately bred to have more skin folds and thus a higher yield of wool.

In view of these gruesome facts, when buying a merino product you should consciously make sure that only mulesing-free merino wool was used. This is guaranteed by the ZQUE seal of the New Zealand merino industry, for example. Many companies such as Icebreaker or Ortovox also state exactly where they get their wool in a traceable way. Merino wool that does not come from Australia or New Zealand is always mulesing-free, as there is not the problem of fly maggots.

Most outdoor companies such as Icebreaker, Ortovox, Bergans, Woolpower, Smartwool, Rewoolution, Devold and many others do not use wool if mulesing has been practised. If you are unsure, you should contact the manufacturer or dealer. If a merino garment is a very reasonable price, it may be due to the practising of mulesing. It is worth taking a closer look and maybe spending a little more. In return, you’ll get flawless quality and support the species-appropriate keeping of merino sheep.

Still have questions?

Whilst this seems unlikely with the amount of information provided, there will always be more questions. As it is always important to ask questions, you are of course welcome to contact our experts in customer service. They are available during the week on +49 (0)7121/70 12 0 or by email. Alternatively you can of course leave a comment below the post.

Thinsulate – the life of a product family

5. June 2020

If you spend a lot of time outdoors and aren’t a fan of the cold, you’ll know that a good fleece is worth its weight in gold. Warm gloves and a comfortable beanie also go a long way to improving your wellbeing. So today, we’d like to introduce a material that is not only often used in fleece clothing, but has also been on the market for decades: Thinsulate.




But what actually is Thinsulate? Where is it used and what can it do?

Thinsulate Insulation is a microfibre material from 3M, which is known for its excellent insulating properties. A brief look at the history of this fleece fabric shows that it has proven itself for decades. 3M was already experimenting with microfibres in the 1960s. Thinsulate Insulation technology was first used in skiwear in the 1970s. When the 1988 Winter Olympics were held in Calgary, Canada, Thinsulate got involved. In the course of the 1990s, 3M expanded the Thinsulate Insulation product family and since then has been synonymous with a wide range of materials used in a variety of areas, from occupational safety to sports and fashion. The product family continues to impress today with lining material in winter clothing and sleeping bags as well as material for beanies, balaclavas and gloves.

A little material science

Thinsulate Insulation consists of a material made of polyester or a blend of polyester and polypropylene. Thinsulate’s distinctive feature comes from the fact that its made from considerably smaller fibres than conventional polyester materials. With a diameter of about 15 micrometres, Thinsulate fibres are about ten times smaller than other synthetic fibre. This means the fibres can be processed with a very high density. The tight structure reduces the heat flow between the individual fibres. As a result, body heat is reflected by the fibres and the material keeps warm even at low temperatures. According to the manufacturer, Thinsulate should provide 1.5 times more warmth than down of the same thickness. The material is also breathable and moisture-repellent.

Application areas and product variants

Thinsulate Insulation is a product family that is divided into several different material types. Different types, with tailored properties, are used depending on the application. The following types are mainly used in outdoor and mountain sports:

Type B

This material is extremely robust and thin. With its high durability and good insulation performance at low thickness or in compressed condition, this is mainly used for footwear.

Type C

Thinsulate Insulation Type C is particularly suitable for leisure and outdoor clothing. This fleece material offers very high insulation performance and feels very comfortable. Its low weight and the thin material makes the material especially good for jackets, beanies and gloves.

Type P

Type P material combines numerous good properties. The material is not only very warming and robust, but is also very easy to maintain. This makes it perfect for clothing, which is subject to challenging conditions outdoors.

Type FR

Type FR is flame retardant. Therefore, it is mainly used in work clothing, as well as sometimes in outdoor wear.

Type TIP

This material is used in bedding such as duvets and pillows, as well as in sleeping bags. As it puffs up, it provides not only effective heat insulation, but also a high level of comfort at a low weight. The material can also be washed in a washing machine at up to 60 °C.


In general, all Thinsulate products are easy to clean. They can be simply washed in a washing machine. However, as products such as jackets and sleeping bags often contain several different components, it’s important to observe the manufacturer’s instructions. Companies such as Nikwax, Holmenkol or Toko also offer detergents that are suitable for washing outdoor clothing. The exact method for washing the product can be found on the washing label on the product.

In short…

Warm, soft and fluffy are words that can be used to describe many Thinsulate products. They offer a range of excellent properties which can be utilised in different applications to provide optimal comfort. From shoes to sleeping bags, Thinsulate Insulation is a technology that has been established and proven over the decades. In addition, Thinsulate materials are breathable and moisture-repellent. This makes them ideal for use in harsh and adverse conditions and ensures the products have a long service life.

Any questions? If so, feel free to ask our experts in customer service. Hannes is our Thinsulate expert. He is available during the week from 9 a.m. till 6 p.m. and can be reached by phone at +49 (0)7121/70 12 0 or by e-mail.

Flyweights for the back – the world of ultra-light backpacks

5. June 2020

Can you still remember your first trekking tour or multi-day hike? I remember mine well, I had borrowed a backpack and it was far too big for the tour I was doing. Of course, it’s never possible to leave empty space in a backpack, so I managed to fill it with all sorts of odds and ends until the backpack was full to the brim. Of course, this was far from ultra-light; it was more ultra-heavy. This meant that, despite the backpack having a good carry system and numerous other features, it was not only heavy, but became a real problem.

Anyone who has had a similar experience will have surely proclaimed, “Next time, I’ll put less and lighter things in my backpack!” But what’s the best way to do this if you want to save weight in the backpack itself as well? Let’s go deeper into the world of (ultra) lightweight backpacks.

What makes a ultra-light backpack different from a traditional backpack?

The ultra-light class distinguishes itself above all by one thing: minimal material usage. In order to produce a backpack with a capacity of approx. 70 litres for trekking, that weighs less than one kilo, you have to do without anything non-essential. This includes things like an internal frame as well as thick padding. Another pretty significant way to save weight is in the materials that are used.

This sounds like it would produce a pretty crude, basic backpack. Obviously, this is not the case in practise. Let’s take a look at where weight can be saved on backpacks and some of the finer details:


frame and carry system

Ultra-light backpacks generally don’t have a frame. The reason for this is very simple: less inside means less weight. This is why elaborate frame constructions and the associated carry systems are deliberately omitted. In order to achieve good carrying comfort, it is important that the backpack is not too heavily loaded and is packed in the optimal manner. In another article, we have summarised the most important do’s and don’ts when packing a backpack. I’ll give you one simple trick here though:

Use a sleeping mat (in the ultra-light sector, these are usually made from foam) to stiffen the back panel. This not only ensures that the rucksack is stable, but also that the mat is neatly stowed away. Companies such as Exped also offer conventional backpacks, such as the Mountain Pro 40, which can be slimmed down as required, to reduce its weight by almost a third.

Compartments and Pockets

There is no question as to the practicality of compartments in a rucksack. However, these compartments also add extra weight and often result in the rucksack being packed according to organisation rather than functional benefits. That’s why most ultra-light rucksacks don’t have additional compartments. These backpacks often only come with a large main compartment and 1-2 smaller compartments or pockets. Many ultra-light rucksacks also have a roll-top closure, so there’s no lid compartment or similar. Depending on the model, ultra-light backpacks may also have attachment points for pieces of equipment. A holder for walking poles or ice tools is almost standard. Compression straps are crucial on most larger ultra-light rucksacks. They are particularly effective on bags larger than 45 litres. Backpacks of this size are usually completely sufficient even for multi-day tours.


It is also possible to save weight in the materials. Lighter and often thinner materials are not necessarily worse than their heavier counterparts. Materials such as Dyneema allow quality, durable products to be produced in the lightweight segment. It’s important that these materials  aren’t overloaded – but then that would kind of miss the point of an ultralight backpack.

Sharp and pointy objects shouldn’t be loose in the main backpack; they should either be packed carefully or attached to the outside of the bag. If you want to see a good example of a large yet lightweight and durable walking backpack, we recommend the Radical by Ferrino. This large walking backpack has removed everything that adds on extra weight. In addition, lightweight materials such as Cubic-Tech and Dyneema have been used, ensuring that the backpack is robust and resistant despite its low weight.

Preconceptions and misunderstandings

It sometimes feels like the world has split into two camps: the ultra-light enthusiasts and the durability fanatics. During discussions with friends and colleagues, and during the research for this article, I have come across several preconceptions, incorrect beliefs and unresolved questions. Therefore, I have once again listed three of the most frequent discussion points. I won’t take sides with either the ultra-light group or the ultra-heavy club.

  • Preconception 1: ultra-light = ultra expensive

In short, that’s not true. And in more detail – it’s not always true. Admittedly, in the ultra-light range there are pieces of equipment which, due to their material, design or innovative technologies, are considerably more expensive than other comparable pieces of equipment. However, this is also the case with “normal weight” equipment. Especially with backpacks, however, ultra-light backpacks, due to their mostly rather simple design (no elaborate carry system etc.), come off well in price compared to their conventional counterparts.

  • Preconception 2: Ultra-light = ultra sensitive

This preconception must also be challenged. However, the question also depends on what the backpack is actually supposed to do. If you are looking for a super robust backpack for spelunking and chimney climbing, then ultra-light backpacks might not be the right choice. But for (multi-)day hikes and trekking tours, there are numerous ultra-light backpack models that can easily keep up with their heavier counterparts in terms of durability.

  • Preconception 3: Ultra-light = ultra uncomfortable

Admittedly, changing from a backpack with a sophisticated carry system to one with a rather simple contact back was strange for me at first. But that was also because I was imagining carrying a heavy weight, and that’s not what ultra-light rucksacks are designed for. It wouldn’t make any sense to save all the grams possible on your backpack, only to then fill it with heavy equipment. A clear distinction must be made here. If I want to travel with lightweight, minimalistic luggage and the trip allows, then an ultra-light backpack is certainly a good choice. But if my tour requires me to carry a lot of equipment as well as food and water (which isn’t freeze-dried), I’ll need a backpack that is suitable for heavier loads. In this case, I should just try to reduce the weight of the contents to a minimum.


Ultra-light backpacks certainly have their place. Depending on their usage and contents, they can contribute to a successful and enjoyable tour. If you’re looking to join the ranks of the ultra-light, the backpack is certainly one of the pieces of equipment where you can save the most weight. However, it’s important to make sure that the model you want fits your usage and personal needs. What are your experiences with lightweight backpacks? Are there any other preconceptions you would like to dispel? Leave a comment!

Altitude sickness – prevention and treatment

7. May 2020
Tips and Tricks

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

Altitude sickness: the symptoms

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

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

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

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

Symptoms of acute mountain sickness (AMS)

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

Symptoms of high-altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE)

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

Symptoms of high-altitude cerebral edema (HACE)

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

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

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

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

High-altitude pulmonary edema

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

How can altitude sickness be prevented?

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

How is altitude sickness treated? Are there medications?

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

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

Coca tea in the Andes

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

Oxygen deficiency and the symptoms

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

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

A few closing words…

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

How to sh** properly in the woods…

24. April 2020
Tips and Tricks

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

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

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

Some Facts

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

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

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

The unhealthy business…

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

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

But animals do it?

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

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

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

So, what should you do?

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

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

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

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

The supposedly easy choice of the right outdoor socks

8. April 2020
Buyer's guide

Walking socks – not a lot to talk about, right? But if you take a look at any manufacturer’s description of their latest high-tech socks, you’ll probably lose all hope. Hundreds of material combinations, plus a wide variety of yarn counts and innovative product treatments make the once ordinary knitted sock from yesteryear a product that now requires a great deal of advice. It might be hard to believe but choosing the right outdoor socks is an underestimated task.

What should walking socks do?

The first question is: are you looking for socks for hillwalking, which are normally worn with mid-cut, lightweight and breathable shoes? Or are you shopping for more serious trekking tours where you’ll be carrying a heavy backpack? Or do you need socks for a winter hike?

Die richtige Outdoor-Socken findenFirstly, there is a right answer for all these uses. In general, however, an ideal sock should protect the foot from friction and therefore, from blisters. It should offer cushioning around the heel, support for the ball of the foot when rolling and it should quickly transfer moisture outwards. This last point is particularly important, because you lose up to a quarter of litre of moisture in sweat from your feet every day.

It makes sense then that the vast majority of manufacturers of functional socks rely on synthetic fibre materials whose core competence is the transfer of sweat. These make the perfect team with a suitable pair of Gore-Tex shoes. In addition, there are various proportions of elastane (for stretch socks), merino wool (and not just for the feel-good factor) as well as treatments of all kinds (e.g. Polygiene) to prevent odours and more.

Sock Buying Essentials

Point 1: a wrinkle-free fit! No matter what kind of trip you’re planning for, your socks – thick or thin, synthetic fibre or merino wool – must fit perfectly. If they wrinkle at the toes or anywhere else, this results in unpleasant friction and pressure points, which can lead to blisters. Good shoes mean nothing if your socks don’t fit.

Die richtige Outdoor-Socken findenPoint 2: with or without padding? As a rule of thumb: the heavier bag on your back, the better the padding on your socks should be. There is a wide variety of designs – with more cushioning in the heel area, the midfoot and/or the toes. For summer day trips in low mountain ranges, you can definitely go for a thinner pair with little or no padding. If you’re heading off on a trekking tour with a tent and sleeping bag on your back or walking in winter, you should pick a thick pair of socks and also make sure the padding fits well for you!

Point 3: the material. Polyamide, polyester, merino, elastane? This is a personal choice. All materials have their own pros and cons, it’s all about the perfect blend. Polyamide, for example, is generally more abrasion resistant than polyester and is mainly used in particularly stressed areas such as the heel and toes. Merino at the ankle and midfoot provides comfort and padding, while a stretch-polyester blend on the instep improves fit and breathability. In addition, there are inserts which increase the compression pressure to promote blood circulation. Every company has their own recipe for the perfect outdoor socks!

Trivia and practical tips and tricks

Three simple questions to find the perfect socks:

  1. Which season am I walking in? This helps decide whether the socks should be thin or thick and whether they should have a higher content of virgin wool (in winter).
  2. wool_compression_socksWhat kind of touring am I planning? A hiking tour with light footwear? Then a mid-cut pair with little to moderate padding is recommended. A difficult mountain or trekking tour? Then go for a shin-high pair with more padding. Ski touring or trail running? Compression socks can be very useful.
  3. What kind of shoes am I wearing? Even the most breathable pair of socks isn’t much use if you’re wearing full leather shoes. Socks with a higher proportion of virgin wool and padding to reduce friction and pressure points would be appropriate here. For breathable and lightweight Gore-Tex shoes on the other hand, I prefer socks with Coolmax, Fibretech or similar polyester/polyacrylic fibres.

I shouldn’t complain either when my good old cotton socks feel like heavy, wet rags after 800 metres of ascent because of dripping sweat. The right combination of shoes and socks makes the biggest difference – and this is something that everyone has to find for themselves.

And last but not least two comments on frequently asked questions: Never wear freshly washed socks! this may sound disgusting to cleanliness champions, but there’s a serious reason behind it: detergent residues in the sock fabric can attack the sensitive foot skin and when mixed with sweat, can cause irritation. You can easily avoid this by wearing your walking socks at home after washing and before the next trip.

The second point is about the debate on wearing two pairs of socks at the same time. I don’t want to take sides at this point, but I’ll weigh up the advantages and disadvantages from my own experience. When military service still existed and young recruits had to march 30, 40 or 50 kilometres with luggage, we were instructed to wear two pairs of socks if we had problems with blisters. And lo and behold, I have never had problems with blisters – despite or perhaps even thanks to wearing two pairs of coarse cotton socks together.

In my own time, I enjoys hikes and hill walks in a proper, modern pair of walking socks – and lo and behold, they were also great. The most important thing is that the socks and shoes fit perfectly. Recently, I was embarrassed to have problems with pressure points whilst mountaineering (admittedly, I was wearing pretty new mountaineering boots). And who would have thought it, all my worries were forgotten with a second pair of socks…

Making a Fire Part 1 – the Right Preparation

31. July 2019
Tips and Tricks

You may be asking yourself why bother making a fire when you can get all the heat you need from a stove and all the light you need from an LED lamp. Is it because people like sitting together in a cosy group or because being outdoors isn’t just about functionality – it’s about the atmosphere, too? Well, that’s part of it, but there’s much more to it than that. Fire doesn’t just deliver warmth and light – it can also be used for cooking, sterilising and protection. If you don’t know how to make a fire in the great outdoors, this article is definitely worth reading.

The first thing to remember is that you can’t really stroll into your neighbourhood forest and light a couple of sticks on fire. Along with the physical challenge of building the fire, there are rules and regulations to keep in mind as well, especially in Germany. We’ll take a closer look at these before we delve into actually building the fire. But, let’s get a little definition out of the way first.

Not all fire is created equal

When we talk about “building a fire”, it generally refers to “open fire” – not a fire in a stove, fireplace or oven. To put it more simply: fire is “open” when it is not lit in a closed chamber, so campfires are clearly open fires.

But incinerators, hobo stoves, barbecues as well as some types of camping stoves are also considered “open”, so it’s easy to get lost in a morass of grey areas, forcing you to use your own judgment. For this reason, this series of articles will focus solely on traditional campfires in the great outdoors.

What do you mean it’s not allowed? Rules and regulations

At first glance, the answer is as simple as it is sobering: in Germany, open fire and naked flames (candles, torches, lanterns) are forbidden in forests and within 100 metres of the forest edge. Smoking is normally forbidden between 1 March and 30 October, and disposing of glowing cigarette butts is, of course, also prohibited. There are also restrictions and prohibitions for meadows, fields and shore areas.

But, as always with rights, rules and prohibitions in Germany, the ones concerning fire are complicated and comprehensive. The German Federal Act for the Protection of Nature and the Federal Forest Act provides the regulatory framework, but many things are also regulated at a state level and can even vary from one municipality to the next. This means that the rules can be contradictory on various levels. According to outdoor and survival expert Kai “Sacki” Sackmann, when in doubt, the state-specific regulations apply. Sackmann’s very interesting article is one of the few detailed and clearly structured commentaries on the legalities of outdoor fires in Germany.

But why are things so complicated and heavily regulated in Germany? Well, there are a lot of people there (225/km² on average) who share relatively few, generally small natural areas. The rules and regulations aren’t there to annoy outdoor enthusiasts; they are there to protect the remaining forests and natural habitats from fires and other damage.

The great majority of forests are freely accessible, but not in the least wild. They are usually properties used for forestry, belonging to cities, states, municipalities or private individuals. Even permission from the property owner doesn’t always mean that you can do whatever you want because restrictions also apply to private properties – especially when they are near a forest. When in doubt, it’s better to just leave fire out of the picture entirely…

Environmental aspects

Even though the millions of grill aficionados don’t like to hear it: every fire produces air pollution. For that reason, you should always ask yourself whether your grill or campfire is really a sensible thing to do – regardless of the legalities.

You should also always be considerate of residents or other campers who might be bothered by the smoke. You might even be able to get them on board by inviting them over for some bread on a stick.

Even when fire is permitted, it doesn’t mean you can just toss any flammable materials you want into the fire. Generally speaking, only dry, untreated wood or charcoal should be burned. Wet materials create excessive smoke; treated material (such as lacquered wood) is harmful to the environment and your health.

The legal situation in Switzerland and Austria

If you’re a mountaineer, the legal situation in the Alps is obviously also of interest as well. So, what do Germany’s neighbours to the south have to say about fire? The Swiss put a certain amount of trust in people’s common sense when it comes to nature, so they take a more liberal stance on the issue:

At the federal level, there is no law that would generally prohibit building a fire in the outdoors”, Rebekka Reichlin from the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment explained to the Swiss consumer magazine “Espresso”, which is published by the broadcaster Radio SRF 1.“There is no explicit prohibition on the use of fire in Swiss legislation on forests, hunting or natural conservation. This means that, in principle, building a fire is permitted.”

That may be great news for fans of grilling and fires in Switzerland, but it doesn’t mean that you can just light fires anywhere you want. There are very well regional and temporary prohibitions, most of which are in place as a result of the risk of wildfires. According to research performed by the SRF, there are at least 500 official fire pits that are pretty luxurious (free firewood)!

The situation in Austria is similar to that in Germany. Here, too, it can be generally assumed that fire is prohibited in the forest. As for other areas, it’s always a good idea to ask the responsible municipality first to be on the safe side.

Where? The right place for a fire

Fortunately, there is more to life in the outdoors than just prohibitions. Outside of protected areas, you’re certainly free to ask the responsible forestry authority for permission. According to “Sacki” Sackmann, experienced bushcrafters have a success rate of about 50%.

Other than that, the question of where you can find a suitable and “definitely permitted” spot for a fire almost answers itself: use designated grill areas and fire pits, which are usually marked on walking maps or signs in the local area. You can also sometimes find a list of official fire pits on the website of the local tourism association. Google Maps will occasionally show these locations if you search for “fire pit”, “grill area” or similar.

You should try not build a fire within the forest itself. If it must be in the forest, choose the most open area available, such as a clearing.

Furthermore, not only should you be aware of the fire risk caused by smouldering coals and flying sparks, but you should also avoid leaving an unattractive hole in the ground vegetation. For this reason, you should use existing fire pits whenever possible. In general, sand, gravel, rock, and mineral surfaces are the best choices. These surfaces are also the easiest to remove traces of fire from.

If no such surface is available, dig a hole and carefully repack it before leaving. A strong knife or a foldable spade can work well for this. But be careful: on peat, moorlands, and marshlands, organic material can smoulder unnoticed underground long after the fire has been put out, which can cause fires!

It goes without saying that the fire should be built at an appropriate distance and on the downwind side of your tent, away from any flammable objects.

Preparation: what else do I need to look out for?

Some outdoor enthusiasts build fires that are much too large. Not only do these burn more material than necessary, but they’re also harder to regulate. When you’re cooking, it doesn’t do any good if the fire heats a huge area, but then you can hardly touch the pots or pans.

Once you’ve determined the right size, you should clear any leaves, moss or other organic materials within approximately a one-metre radius around the fire area. This also applies to any damp materials that could catch fire after the moisture has evaporated.

Before lighting the fire, you should also have plenty of tinder and firewood in various sizes close at hand to get the fire started and keep it burning. Frantically gathering it just before it goes out is counterproductive. We will cover tinder and kindling in a later article, which will detail the proper way to start a fire.


As was already mentioned, only dry wood and charcoal should be used for fuel. Straw and brushwood (thin, dry twigs) are suitable only for use as tinder because they burn so quickly, produce a great deal of smoke and come with a high risk of flying sparks.

Burning green waste or garden waste is generally prohibited due to the poor flammability and, most importantly, how harmful the smoke can be to the environment. Doing so can result in heavy fines.

Which wood for which fire?

What is the purpose of the fire? Do you want it to burn hot and fast+ to boil a pot of soup or water for tea? Or should it last longer and burn evenly in order to grill or simmer something? Perhaps, you just need a big fire for some warmth? Basic knowledge of the different types of wood and their characteristics is extremely helpful, even if you won’t always be able to find the right wood.

The first principle is to use only deadwood rather than taking “limbs” from living trees. Deadwood that is still standing (or hanging) is ideal. Wood found lying on the ground can also be used, but this tends to smoulder rather than burn because of the moisture content. But when the fire is really burning, damp wood can be dried next to the fire to some extent and then added to the flames.

Living wood is known as “green wood” among experts. Because of its high resin content, it produces a great deal of smoke and sparks when burning. This is especially true of coniferous woods. They are relatively soft, burn easily, and produce a lot of heat, but they create much more smoke and sparks than they do embers. Pinecones can be used to help with this issue, as they smoulder brilliantly.

Wood from deciduous trees such as beech or oak is more difficult to light than coniferous wood, but it burns longer, produces longer-lasting embers, and creates less smoke and sparks.

What can you do when there are no trees in the area? You can use stuff from bushes and shrubs or driftwood from beaches and riverbanks. However, the latter is very dry and burns accordingly hot and fast. In emergency situations, grass, moss and reeds could also be used; they should ideally be tightly compacted before use. Additional emergency solutions include peat and dried animal dung.

Fire accelerants such as alcohol or gas are a bad – and sometimes deadly – idea! Aside from the fact that the fire could get out of control, you also run the risk of it backfiring while you’re pouring or spraying the accelerant, meaning that the flames could suddenly leap out at you.

Wind, rain, snow: fire in difficult circumstances

If the area is wet or full of snow, you’ll need a bowl or other base (such as sand, gravel, rocks, damp greenwood) because the fire could otherwise sink and go out in a puddle. If wood is used as a base, place similarly shaped twigs and branches next to each other like a grate.

If there are strong winds, protect it with a fallen log, a wall of rocks or with other available materials. However, because fire needs oxygen, be sure to allow for enough airflow. Instead of building a wall, you can also build the fire in a pit – we’ll go into that and the different types of fire in our next post.

When it’s raining, the lower branches of coniferous trees are usually fairly well protected. If you remove the outer layers of spruce or pine branches with a knife, you’ll get firewood that is still relatively dry even in wet weather.

Last but not least: use caution on wet or icy rocks! They often have water in the pores and cracks that increases in volume as it turns to steam. This can create so much pressure that it causes the rock to explode, turning it into a dangerous projectile! This risk can be decreased by heating the rocks very slowly.

After all this thorough prep, were ready to get this fire started! In the next article, we’ll not only discuss how to light a fire but also tell you how to keep it going. We’ll also introduce a few other useful types of fires. See you in part 2!

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