Mountaineering and camping equipment
A little foreword and introduction into the topic
The question of choosing equipment for mountaineering and travelling is as old as the world. Equipment can be discussed in terms of practicality, sufficiency, durability, aesthetics, fashion trends, professional use, ecological footprint.
Equipment is an important topic in our ‘Mountain I Love You!’ campaign, which we are realising together with Stenata shops and Lyubomir Popyordanov. By buying products by Deuter, Berghaus, Buff and Julbo in Stenata shops, you support the campaign and give a child and a youth a present in the form of a meeting with the mountains. Quality equipment for the experiential camps will provide children and young people with safety, comfort and knowledge. With a series of articles, we take a journey into the knowledge about quality equipment. The magical words to open the cave are “Mountain, I love you!”.
During the golden 1980s, when the turmoil of the anti-war movement in the United States, the Prague Spring and the May events in Paris had subsided, travelling and vacations around the world were becoming a global trend accessible to the majority of the working people on both sides of the Iron Curtain, so much so that they were perceived as a basic human right… And here came the big moment for equipment manufacturers who, from handmade pitons, tents and army utensils, moved on to produce equipment for trips, mountaineering and camping, as well as clothing, shoes, backpacks, travel bags and accessories that had to express individual style and belonging to a group. Outdoors activities and equipment become fashionable.
Today, external frame backpacks, heavy shoes, flashlights, wool sweaters and waxed jackets are a thing of the past. Side by side the initial 4–5 tents manufacturers serving large armies and expeditions aiming to conquer the eight-thousanders of the world, we now find at least 20 more brands that deserve trust. It there is a challenge, it is how to choose from the huge range of brands, fabrics and innovations, and how to build our list of equipment we need most.
Theory and practice unanimously show that there is no universal equipment suitable for all occasions. Yet, when faced with the need to make choices, it is good to ask questions such as: how often will we use it; can a piece of equipment be used for more than one task in our day; how will we use it – without much care or we will constantly think about it when travelling, camping, by the fire; do we want to create some special impression about our personality and get noticed thanks to it, or is this piece of equipment a part of a wish list, is it related to some dream, does it make us feel stronger and courageous…
The most important pieces of equipment are the backpack, the shoes and the polar fleece jacket or the membrane jacket. They must be present at every trip to the mountains. Sometimes their quality and comfortableness can be crucial to the success of a more engaging adventure or an alpine climb, and they can even save lives. The second most important things to consider are the price and warranty period. Alas, buying equipment is becoming less and less an act of sober choice.
The inappropriately large backpack we have carelessly filled up and poorly arranged will inconvenience us and will even challenge us. That’s why the right choice of backpack is so important. In certain cases, we can use the backpack in a rescue operation, and we ourselves can also find warmth and salvation in it. There are backpacks that, from an ergonomic point of view, are made to meet the specifics of women’s or men’s bodies. The experienced guide will tell you that the optimal backpack of the professional and the good mountaineer should not exceed 50 litres.
In addition to blisters, poorly chosen shoes can also cause muscle fever, falls and other serious injuries. Shoes are chosen according to the terrain and the season we need them for. It is good if they match our personality – ladies love certain colours and small nice details, but above all the shoes should be comfortable, from the first time you try them on. You need to feel the shoe like your shoe. When you have no experience, consultants come to help – this is perhaps the strongest side of Stenata shops, apart from the range of models – both for men and women. For children, as always, things are more complicated and connected with compromises, and only very enthusiastic parents manage to solve the shoe issue well. However, the basics are important. It is not recommended to get the shoes second hand because it is important that they fit the anatomy of our foot. Seasonality and terrain determine whether shoes have a high rubber rim and a membrane or a lightweight model. Sandals are part of the equipment of every traveller, just like the towel for the galactic hitchhiker, according to Douglas Adams. When choosing them, it is also important to know what terrain we need them for and whether we will use them more in wet or in dry conditions.
The jacket is a really broad topic. I personally, when I walk very fast even in the high mountains and in winter, I use a windbreaker or a jacket that keeps the body’s heat in even in strong wind and cold. There are jackets with breathable membranes like GoreTex, the main qualities of which are to take the heat and sweat away from the body to keep it dry during intense activity – fast-paced walking uphill and downhill … sun combined with snow. In classic cases, a jacket with a membrane reinforced with a polar fleece should provide comfortable warmth, and the down jackets, which we see so often in the city as well, give us the necessary combination so that we feel comfortable with fewer layers of clothing. Sizes and cuts are sometimes created specifically for certain activities. Very often in parallel with the jacket, we also choose our fleece and thermal underwear.
Everything mentioned so far will help you feel more safe and secure. This will allow you to focus on important things like weather conditions, your route and getting safely to your destination. Good equipment is our shield.
Our message is that equipment should only be purchased if it is really necessary, if you are faced with new and much more ambitious projects that require equipment other than the one you already have and that you will continue to use afterwards. Factors you must take into account when choosing it are: weight, volume (because the equipment must also be carried and it must be able to fit in the backpack or the trunk of a car), reliability, which is mainly determined by the trust you have in the brand and the experience of our family and friends. Last but not least, we need to ask the question of the environmental footprint. Every day we consume more than our planet produces.
At the beginning of April, it is time to think about taking off and for our long put off plans for a long holiday in a tent or for a trip to distant countries and high mountains. In his book “The First Seven”, Boyan Petrov shares his algorithm in choosing equipment. Together we will take a look in Stenata shops, like in a fairy-tale cave, and with the next articles we’ll try to help you build your algorithm for choosing equipment, backpacking and creating an interesting, memorable, safe and responsible mountain trip or travel.