With all the snow we are getting these days you may have added a pair of snowshoes to your Christmas wish-list. If you've taken a minute to check on-line or in a shop, you'll quickly notice that nowadays there are LOTS of options out there when it comes to snowshoe types and budgets. Santa may need a little guidance to get the right pair for you. Here are 6 things to consider to help Santa out:
1. KNOW WHAT TERRAIN YOU WILL BE USING YOUR SNOWSHOES IN
Manufacturers divide snowshoes into 3 categories: flat terrain, rolling terrain and mountain terrain. If you are going to be using them in the Jura, I would go for a rolling terrain model. However, if you plan on being a little adventurous with them and may be snowshoeing up steeper terrain or in some icy conditions, the mountain terrain model will provide the gripe you need as they have built-in crampons.
2. A UNIVERSAL MODEL VS WOMEN'S MODEL
A universal model will be designed to accommodate both weight & boot sizes for men and women so will tend to be bigger than what women will need. A women's model will feature narrower, more contoured frame designs and their bindings are sized to fit women's footwear.
3. FLOTATION IS KEY
Snowshoes basically have the function of keeping you afloat on the snow by bearing and spreading out your weight across the snowshoes. Generally, the heavier the person the more snowshoe surface area is required. Snowshoes will indicate the recommend load that the snowshoe is adapted for. Don't forget to factor in your weight, clothing and backpack load.
4. SNOWSHOE BINDINGS CAN MAKE IT OR BREAK IT
You will find many different binding systems but make sure you have a free rotation system (one where you're heal can be free and move up & down) to accommodate going uphill. Also, over the years I have observed that a "ratchet" system tends not to loosen with friction between the binding and the snow as much as nylon strap systems.
TIP: If you do go for a nylon strap system, avoid your boot coming out of your bindings by retighten after an hour or so of snowshoeing, especially if you are out in a "wet" snow.
5. A LITTLE HEEL CAN GO A LONG WAY
Look out for a pair of snowshoes with a heel lift. They can be flipped up under your heels to relieve calf strain on steep uphill sections which will result in you saving energy on those long ascents. This feature gives the feeling of walking up steps and prevents exaggerated calf and Achilles strain.
6. TO FLEX OR NOT TO FLEX
And what about those new hyper-flexible snowshoes on the market? The TSL Symbol Elite has met with a lot of success. It's made with a flexible, carbon-reinforced deck and has 8 long crampons underfoot. This results in increased traction on very steep slopes as the flexible deck matches the shape of the terrain resulting in all the crampons bitting in. In addition, users report less fatigue as it matches their natural gait. All this does come at a cost though (retail priced above CHF 300.- ) so I would recommend these for a frequent snowshoer that will spend most time off trails with steep and/or icy terrain.
If Santa needs more help or if you have a snowshoeing related questions, just leave it in the comment below.
Trust me, you may think your outdoor ethusiat has all the gear they need but there's always something new to get them excited. Or hooked to a new outdoor sport! Whether you're looking for a stocking stuffer or a huge splurge, your outdoor enthusist will be over the moon with any of these Christmas gear gifts.
1. Tenacious Tape™ by Gear Aid®
I always have a roll of duct tape in my backpack for gear mishaps when out on the trails (I've even fixed the bumper of a Porsche at a trailhead parking. Seriously. I'm not kidding.) but it definitely doesn't win any fashion points when patching up a rip on a jacket. However, the Tenacious Tape™ gear patches by Gear Aid® do! They come in these fun image shapes & colors and are useful to fix (and personalize) jackets, packs, tents and other gear. Just peel and stick; no sewing, ironing or heat-setting required.
2. The Deuce of Spades™ by The TentLab
Minimising our impact when out trekking is high on the priority list of most outdoor enthusiasts. And this should include leaving no trace when nature calls! To help achieve that goal, a potty trowel can come in mighty handy! The Deuce of Spades™ by The TentLab weighs in under 17 grams; is made of made of 7075-T6 Aluminum ensuring it's durability; and, you've got to admit, is kind a cute with its colourful shades.
3. Lifestraw Steel® by Vestergaard
This might just be the most convenient way to ensure you can continue to have clean drinking water while exploring the outdoors. The Lifestraw Steel® is a personal water filter system which cleans and purifies liquids while you’re sipping directly from any water source. It's made up of a two-stage filtration system that removes pathogens and reduces chlorine in any water you sip through its barrel - muddy puddles, a still pond, a murky stream... The carbon capsule will filter up to 1000 liters and is replaceable (they recommend chaning it after 3 months). You may get some funny stare if you're seen slurping up some muddy water but it can literally be a life saver!
* Note it will not remove salt.
4. H7R.2 Headlamp by Ledlenser®
I SERIOUSLY love this headlamp. The H7R.2 by Ledlenser is light to wear (165g), easy to manipulate -- even with gloves on -- and has the most amazing 300 lumen of light. The light beam is so intense, I've even used it to light up subjects for night photography. You can easily switch between an intensely focused long-distance beam (maximum up to 160m) and a circular wide beam by rotating the wheel at the back of the head strap. It uses a rechargeable battery which you can recharge by using a USB port. Nothing but love for this one from me!
5. Chair One by Helinox
Good things come in small packages. And this foldable chair is no exception. The Chair One is so compact and light (960 grams) you can even take it in your backpack for a day hike. There are two parts to the chair, the mesh seat and the single shock corded pole structure (similar to many tent poles) that allows you to assemble or take it apart quickly. Comfortable & sturdy (it will accomodate up to 145 kg) there's really nothing not to like about it!
6. Fold 4.2 Kayak by Nortik
Love to kayak or love the idea of kayaking but storage space is an issue? Consider Nortik's foldable kayak Fold 4.2. When fodled it fits in a 90x70x30cm pouch and weighs only 19kg. Made of polypropelyne, it's rigid and resistant to cold as well as UV rays. And you won't be trading off on performance with this enginuous kayak. It's sharp v-shape hull allows it to cut through the water making it effective at tracking in straight lines but can be a little tipsy for beginners as it offers more secondary than primary stability that a u-shaped hull would. After a full season of use, I've found mine to be very watertight, enjoyble to paddle even in waves, easy to put together (about 10 minutes and I'm on the water) and store it easily... well, almost easy between my bikes, skis, snownboards, tents, bords, snowshoes...
7. Flite Tree Tent by Tentsile
Ever put up your tent, get in, lie down expecting a peaceful slumber to sadly find out youre lying on some hard, wet, uneven ground? No more with this tree tent! The Flite by Tentsile is designed for 2 people and will easily fit their gear as well (max load of 220 kg). As long as you have trees (!) you can easily put up this. The tent kit comes with a small ratchet and the entire unit is compact so it’s easy to carry on your adventure (weighs 3.5 kg). It's made with a lightweight polyester and nylon composite and is fully breathable. A 3-season tent that will let you get real creative!
What would you add to the list? Share with us below.
When approaching Decathlon's Mountain Store, what strikes you beyond it's shear size (over 10'000m²) is the beauty of the location. Built with natural coloured wood and glass, the height of the building was kept low enough to benefit from the backdrop the Aravis mountain chain provides. That attention to the building's natural surroundings doesn't stop with the beauty of the mountain views; care & thought was given to maintaining (I'd even stretch that to say aiding) the local flore & fauna. The landscaping around the building obviously includes a sizeable parking lot but they have also greened the space and included sitting and picnic areas by the Arve river which is adjacent to the building. Rocking up to the Mountain Store is more reminiscent of approaching a natural park reserve Welcome Center than a commercial shopping mall!
The Mountain Store probably is what I've come across here in Europe that resemble the most to a "flagship" outdoors sport store as you'll find REI or MEC having in North America. The particularity of the Mountain Store is that the location actually houses both the company's design center (actually, the company's design headquarter) and a store specialising in offering mountain sport gear. Why is that interesting for us as clients? The proximity between designers and visitors means there are more opportunities for exchanges and discussions on ideas & needs which will influence design as well as properties of their products (Quechua, Simond and Wed'ze). This isn't just left to chance, as they regularly house exhibitions and workshops to create these exchanges. When we dropped in, they were hosting a Trocothon in their dedicated events space and this Saturday they are holding a roundtable debate on accidents in the mountains.
What about what's in the store?
Like most Decathlon's, a great majority of the products stocked at the Mountain Store are their own brand products though you will come across TSL snowshoes, Salomon trail shoes, Sea to Summit collapsible cup, etc. If you are looking for a particular item from a specific brand, I'd definitely check their website or call them before heading over to the store. However, their own brand products are cost efficient and an especially great option for growing kids that need to renew their gear every season. That's not to say adults should abstain but like anything else, knowing what properties are most important to you in a piece of gear will help you make the decision. I personally have invested in a top-end outer shell not from their brand but have been please by the performance of my insulating layer, one of their Quechua down jacket, and it's lower price tag.
Because the store is dedicated to all things mountain, you'll find hiking, climbing, mountain biking, camping, skiing, snowshoeing gear and more. If you can do it on a mountain, they probably have it! It also means they will stock a generous amount of out-of-season gear as long as it is mountain relevant. At the time of our visit their was still an extensive choice of camping gear even though the first snow was only a week away.
On site you'll also find a climbing block and slack-line, the regional tourist office and two restaurants (self-service or with table-service). It's totally worth grabbing a warm drink or a cold one -- depending on the day you pop in -- and enjoy the nature surrounding on their terrasse...
NOTE: I am in no way affiliate to Decathlon or the Mountain Store. This is an independent review. All pictures copyright of Charlaine Jannerfeldt.
When your go-to rain jacket fails you, it can make for a grim & soggy hike. Not nice. Why does it even happen?
Most rain gear will have had their exterior treated with a durable water repellent (DWR) finish. This is the gear's first line of defence against precipitation. It does this by stopping the precipitation from saturating the gear's exterior. This is different from the role of a waterproof/breathable membrane like Gore-Tex® that will stop water from penetrating a rain jacket's interior.
After some time the unavoidable happens: although your jacket still keeps you dry, it looks like it's been soaked in water. Eventually, some of that rain gets inside and your base layers start getting damp. Why does this happen?DWRs's performances reduce because of a number of factors: abrasion, repeated laundering, dirt and body oils.
What can you do about it?
You can either attempt to revitalise the garment's DWR or apply a new DWR.
Revitalise existing DWR
Follow the cleaning instructions for the type of rain gear you own. Washing away the dirt and oils may be all that's needed to restore its DWR's water repellant properties.
TIP: If your garment has stains, first pre-treat with a stain remover, then wash in the machine with a normal detergent to remove stains. Afterwards, wash it again with a technical cleaner to clear away any dirt trapped in its waterproofing layers.
2. Apply heat
After washing, exposure to heat does the most to bring a DWR back to life. Place the garment in a dryer set for low or medium heat for up to 15 minutes. Make sure to check the manufacturer's instructions before placing in the dryer.
If that's not enough to revitalise your DRW, it may be time to retreat by applying a new DWR.
Applying a new DWR
You can reapplied a DWR via a spray-on or wash-in revival product. I like Nikwax water proofing products because they are are water-based, non-flammable, contain no harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and are fluorocarbon free. Whichever product you choose to use, follow the instructions given by the manufacturer of your chosen product for best results.
TIP: Clean the detergent dispenser in the washing machine before treating your garment to avoid contamination and get the best results.
Do you have other gear you need maintenance tips for? Let me know in the comments and I'll get to them in a follow up post.
If you're new to backpacking or find yourself in the situation where you need to update your gear, it can get pricy once you've gotten all the kit. Thankfully, there are some affordable options that you can use that won't break the bank and will be just as performing as backpacking-specific gear.
1. Backpack Liner
Most backpacks are not waterproof, even if they are made with waterproof fabrics. That’s because the stitching used to sew them together creates several tiny holes in the fabric that leak water unless the manufacturer seals them with seam tape* (and that's not common practice). That's where pack liners come in. If the fabric of your backpack is reasonably waterproof, any water that leaks in at the seams will be stopped by the waterproof liner.
Low-cost gear hack: garbage bags (CHF 3.00/10 bags) and oven bags (CHF 4.30/5)
Line your pack with a heavy duty garbage bag instead. It's completely waterproof and you can even pack your gear loose without stuff bags and it will stay dry. If you know the weather will be really ugly, you might feel safer having your gear packed in a smaller system of stuff bags. You can use oven bags that are sturdier than Ziplocs. They are also great to protect water-sensitive items like camera and first aid kits.
2. Pocket Knife
Even if you tend to favour a minimalist or lightweight approach to backpacking gear, you probably have a pocket knife as a must have item. Useful for many circumstances from opening packets of food, cutting cord to splitting that yummy mountain cheese.
Low-cost gear hack: razor blades (CHF 8.95/100)
Razor blades are ultra-light at just a few grams and take up almost no volume in your pack. Wrap them in some cardboard and duct tape and you can use them to cut everything from bandages to wood shavings for a fire. Even if you do have a main knife as part of your gear, they make a great back up in case you lose or break it.
3. Carabiners & Webbing Straps
When backpacking you will most likely want to attach some gear to the outside of your pack either because it's too bulky, you'll want to keep it easily accessible, or wet and you need to dry it out. Compression straps on the side of your packs will let you do that without additional attachment. However, in the case of daisy chains - webbing loops sewn to the sides or back of a backpack -- you will need to clip gear to your pack using carabiners or webbing straps.
Low-cost gear hack: hair ties (CHF 1.70/4)
Durable nylon hair ties are great for attaching things like your rain jacket to the outside of your pack. Loop the tie through the attachment points on your pack and stuff the jacket so the elastic band holds it i place. You can also use them to attach hiking poles to your pack.
These next two low-cost gear hacks are about preserving your gear so you can use them longer:
4. Fresh Smelling Hiking Boots
Low-cost gear hack: mint tea (CHF 3.20/25)
Place a dry tea bag in smelly hiking boots when you come back from your trek. It will keep bad odours at bay.
5. Fluffy Sleeping Bag
Low-cost gear hack: tennis balls (CHF 12.90/6)
After washing your sleeping bag, add a couple of tennis ball to the dryer. It will help to fluff up the material in your sleeping bag so it will stay as warm as when you first bought it. Do check the manufacturer's instructions on washing & drying as each sleeping bag is different.
What backpacking hacks have you been using and recommend?