Category Archives: Climbing Gear

Outdoor Clothing Explained

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Whatever the weather, we hope that this article helps you to keep warm and dry during the winter months.

To understand what we should be wearing for the great outdoors we should first consider what we need the clothing to provide.

Essentially clothing must provide you with warmth and offer you protection from the elements. Your clothing should enable you to lose as much heat as you are generating to help maintain your natural body temperature or ‘thermal equilibrium’. Rather than wearing lots of warm clothes that will increase body temperature, by reaching thermal equilibrium you will be conserving energy that your body may have otherwise used generating heat or losing heat through sweating.

One of the ways of achieving this is to use a layering system as outlined below. Firstly, you have a base layer (with wicking qualities) and then an insulating layer (that retains your body heat) and finally, an outer shell (that protects from wind and rain). Below is a more in depth look at each of these three layers.

base-layer

Base Layer
The base layer is in direct contact with your skin so it is important that it can adapt well to constant sweating and cooling. Whilst materials like cotton tend to soak up and retain moisture, other fabrics that work well as base layers include natural fibres such as silk or wool or synthetic fibres such as polypropylene or nylon.  We would advise wearing natural fibres like wool as synthetic fibres tend to smell after activity!  Merino Wool is a material we could highly recommend as a base layer.

Some of the common qualities of base layers are:
– They are made from light fibres that are also very durable.
– The materials absorb only a very small percentage (less than 1%) of their weight in moisture. This enables them to retract moisture from skin and dry very quickly also known as fast wicking.
– The problem with synthetic materials such as polypropylene or nylon is that they start to smell more than the natural fibres do.

mid-layer

Mid/Insulating Layer
The main purpose of the insulating layer is to retain your body heat. They work by trapping a layer of ‘still’ air around your body.

Fleece: A common material used for the insulating layer is fleece. A dense knit of polyester fabric is passed through a ‘napping’ machine which basically creates a solid weave on one side of the fabric and a fluffy side on the other that retains the still air layer.

Similar to fleece is pile. This is a much thicker fabric.

down-layer

Down Jackets: Many a down jacket can be seen on blustery days at climbing crags. These are great for keeping you warm, a bit like wearing your duvet, but there is a downfall to these, in that they loose their insulting values when wet. There is also synthetic insulation such as primaloft which doesn’t have the same warmth to weight ratio as down but does keep most of its insulting qualities when wet.

outer-shell

Outer Shell Layer
The main purpose for the outer shell is to protect you from the elements by being both waterproof and wind resistant whilst still being breathable.

Waterproofs: These can range from lightweight (for running, rambling etc.) to high tech specialised jackets that are created specifically for mountaineering or snow sports. Choosing a jacket that is waterproof (such as a PVC rain coat) may keep the rain out, but without the benefit of breathability you could become soaked in your own sweat.

Laminated Outer Shells: Materials such as Gore-tex provide a combination that is both waterproof and breathable. It is made by laminating a waterproof membrane to different fabrics. The membrane itself has about 9 billion pores per square inch and each pore is around 20,000 times smaller than a water droplet. So the fabric is able to block out rain and wind whilst allowing body moisture to escape. Although Gore-tex is windproof it doesn’t have any insulating qualities, which is where the other layers mentioned come in.

You may also want to think more about the colour of your outer shell as bright colours are easy to spot in emergency situations.

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Tips for Buying your First Pair of Climbing Shoes

climbing-shoes1When I first started climbing I was overwhelmed with the amount of choice when considering buying my first pair of climbing shoes.  I had no prior knowledge, all I knew was that I wanted a pair that were:

  1. Reasonably priced
  2. Long-lasting
  3. Comfortable

After trying on a few pairs of shoes and chatting to friends, shop assistants and checking out online reviews I opted for a lace up shoe – the Boreal Lunas which came in a girly shade of lilac.

I made the purchase and when I got home I excitedly opened the box and proceeded to endure the torture of wearing in my very fresh pair of climbing shoes around the house.  My feet were not happy bunnies, but over time they’ve tolerated the Lunas and now have formed a beautiful and long-lasting friendship.

As far as climbing shoes go the Boreals are really quite comfortable…obviously not comfortable compared to normal shoes, but comfortable when stepping into the realm of climbing footwear.

I would highly recommend the Boreal Lunas as a great shoe for the beginner female climber.  They were around £70 new and gave me everything I was after in my first pair of climbing shoes.  After a years use they are only just on the verge of needing a resole.  They have done me proud, bouldering and climbing indoors 2-3 times a week and heading outdoors on Southern Sandstone and gritstone in the spring and summer.

Women’s feet tend to be narrower, with lower volume and a lot of climbing shoes don’t give a snug fit.  The Lunas are designed especially for women and they have always fit me nicely.  They have mid shoe lacing eyelets which really help to adjust the tightness of the shoe around the arch and encourage an even snugger fit.  Over time climbing shoes tend to stretch a bit which the Lunas have slightly but the laces help and pulled tight they still retain an excellent fit.

The sole of the Lunas is made of Boreal’s FS-Quattro rubber and thickness varies depending on the shoe size (4-4.6mm).  I found the thickness of the sole has been a good balance, providing me with enough sensitivity to feel smaller holds and also providing plenty of support.

Summary:Overall the Lunas aren’t the most technical shoe but they are great for beginners and offer comfort and support for those climbing for longer periods of time (ideal for long sport or trad routes.) Laces help to keep the fit snug if the shoe stretches over time and the thin low profile toe of the shoe makes it great for crack climbs.  They are reasonably priced and long lasting. I would highly recommend, but of course, everybody’s feet are different so make sure you try a few different shoes and pick something suitable for you.

Guide to Buying your first pair of climbing shoes: 

Try before you buy –  You can try shoes in shops or if you visit your local climbing wall they may have a selection for you to try out.  Make sure you visit a shop with experts on hand to help and with a variety of shoes for you to try.  Expert retail staff will also be able to measure your feet and advise on the best size shoe for you.

Fit – Shoes should be snug, not painful but reasonably uncomfortable.  If you are a beginner climber you don’t have to get really small shoes!  As you advance with your climbing you may find that you start looking at more technical shoes, but these aren’t necessary for the beginner climber as routes will be easier, on balance and with larger holds.

Use – For your first pair of climbing shoes you want an all rounder.  In the future as you advance with your climbing you might look at purchasing a few pairs for different things but initially one pair will suffice!

Fastening – Each type of fastening has its plus points.  Laces provide more adjustment then other fastenings, but are slow to get on and off.  Shoes with Velcro and slippers are easier to take on and off making them better for indoor walls where you may decide to go with a slightly smaller or more technical shoe. Choose which will be best for you and the type of climbing you want to pursue.

Sizing and Stretching – Different brands of shoe can offer variations in sizing.  For example, if you are a size 5 in one brands shoe it doesn’t mean that you will be a 5 in another brand.   Some shoes will stretch a bit with use and time.  The stretch isn’t much but could impact fit. Make sure when you first buy a pair of shoes that you don’t need to pull the fasteners completely tight otherwise there wont be any room for future adjustment. Lined shoes are less likely to stretch as than unlined shoes.  A good fit means its nice and snug with no loose areas or pockets of air.  Make sure the fit around your ankle is comfortable.  Some shoes can dig in because they sit to high on the bone.

Feet – Everyone’s feet are different and shoes vary to suit different needs.  Make sure you choose a shoe that is perfect for you, not for one of your mates.  What suits them might not be the same thing that you need.

Rubber Soles – A stiff shoe gives support and is better on small positive holds.  A soft shoe bends more and is better for smearing and slopey footholds. Stiff shoes provide less sensitivity meaning that you are unable to tell how the hold feels. There are a vast amount of different types of ‘sticky’ rubber on the market, many of which claim to be the ‘stickiest’. While some are definitely better than others its not worth getting to hung up on with your first climbing shoes.

Happy shopping and happy climbing!

By Clare Hume

Buying Your First Climbing Rope

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Where to start?
The first thing to start with when choosing a rope is its intended use. Are you looking to buy 1 rope that you can use for a range of different types of climbing, or are you looking for a rope designed for a specific purpose?

Different Types of Climbing Rope
There are 2 main types of rope that climbers use, first is dynamic rope which is designed to stretch in a fall to lower the impact force on the climber and anchors holding the rope. The second is commonly referred to a Static rope (although this in not strictly true as all ropes have some stretch in them and the correct term is semi-static or low stretch rope). semi-static rope is mainly used in situations where climbers may have to ascend or descend the rope over a long distance (such as abseiling) or used for rigging rope systems.

We will be looking at dynamic climbing ropes for the rest of this article.

Dynamic climbing ropes are subdivided into a further 3 categories:

Single Ropes (8.7mm-11mm)
Single Rope Logo (Single rope identifying logo)
Single ropes are where the majority of climbers start and finish with their choice of ropes. Single ropes are simple to use (there’s only 1 rope!) and can be used for everything from indoor climbing to long alpine routes.

Uses
Indoor climbing, sport climbing, top/bottom ropes, single pitch traditional routes and alpine climbing.

Advantages
·         Simple to use.

Disadvantages
·         There is only 1 rope (2 is always going to be safer).
·         Rope drag on long or winding routes.
·         Limited abseil length (only half the length of the rope).

Half Ropes (often call Double Ropes) – (7.9mm-9mm)
Half Rope Logo(Half rope identifying logo)
Half ropes are really the benchmark for traditional and muliti-pitch climbing. Both ropes can be clipped into alternative runners but must be used as a pair of ropes as they are not designed for single rope use.

Uses
Traditional climbing, multi-pitch climbing, winter climbing and harder alpine routes.

Advantages
·         2 Ropes are safer than 1.
·         Full rope length abseils can be made.
·         Less rope drag on long or winding routes.

Disadvantages
·         Higher level of ropes skills are required to belay with 2 ropes.
·         Higher lever of rope management skills required at stances.
·         Heavier overall rope weight.

Twin Ropes
Twin Rope Logo(Twin rope identifying logo)
Twin ropes must NOT be confused with half ropes. When using twin ropes, both ropes MUST be clipped into every runner! Twin ropes have an advantage over single ropes, as it unlikely that both ropes will become damaged at the same time. Twin ropes are mainly used in long mountain routes where there are long run outs so are less prone to rope drag, but where full length abseils will be required.

Uses
Ice climbs, multi-pitch sport routes and alpine climbs.

Advantages
·         2 Ropes are safer than 1.
·         Full rope length abseils can be made.

Disadvantages
·         Limited UK application.
·         There is a possibility that 2 ropes in one karabiner can place an incorrect load.

Properties of a Rope

Construction
Most modern climbing ropes are constructed kernmantel weave. The word Kernmantel originates form the German language which describes the construction (core and sheath). In most ropes the design is that the core bares the majority of the rope strength, and the sheath provides some strength but its main function is to protect the core. Some ropes such as indoor climbing wall ropes, are designed to have a higher level of strength in the sheath, this is to help with wear and tear but also reduces the handling quality.

EU Standards – Dynamic Mountaineering Rope EN892
CE Logo
All climbing ropes sold in the EU have to meet stringent safety requirements and standards. Paying more for a rope won’t necessarily mean you’re getting a stronger or safer rope, but it may have other features associated with it such as dry treatment, more abrasion resistant and better handling etc.

UIAA – (Union Internationale des Associations d’Alpinisme)
UIAA Logo
The UIAA is the International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation, and since 1964 climbers have been able to look for the UIAA safety label when buying climbing equipment. The UIAA is a voluntary standard (only the EU label is a legal requirement) but it is the benchmark for most manufactures.

How to Choose your Rope?
Once you have decided on either single, half or twin ropes, its time to decide on the rope length and diameter, before looking at additional features.

Length
If you are only ever going to be climbing on the Southern Sandstone, then you would want to choose a 30m rope. If however you were thinking of Trad climbing in the UK, then you would need a minimum of 50m or may opt for added security with a 60m rope. If sport climbing and travelling abroad is your thing, then you would be better off with a 60m or even 70m rope.

Diameter
The diameter of the rope will affect the weight and the durability of the rope. If you are pushing performance, then choosing the lightest thinnest rope possible would help, however there is generally a trade off with the amount of falls and the wear and tear a thin rope can handle in comparison to the a slightly thicker rope.

Elongation
Elongation is measured by both a static and dynamic test. In the static test the rope is subjected to an 80kg load and the measurement is recorded in a % of the rope length, with a maximum of 10% for single ropes and twin ropes and 12% for half ropes. For dynamic the test, the elongation is recorded on the first drop of the UIAA drop test and the maximum elongation is 40%.

Impact Force or Peak Force
The impact force (or peak force as it is sometimes known) is the force regenerated in the rope during the first drop in the rope drop test. As the rope elongates the rope gradually loses its elasticity and so the force generated goes up. The lower the impact force the better the rope, as this means there will less force generated on the climber, the belayer and anchors.

The maximum forces must be lower than 12kn for a single rope, 8kn for half ropes and 12kn for twin ropes (on both ropes). It should be remembered that only tests on similar ropes (single, half or twin) can be compared as the test for each are different.

No. of Falls.
All single ropes must withstand 5 successive factor 1.77 falls, with an 80kg weight and double ropes with a weight of 55kg. Twin ropes must withstand12 successive falls with a weight 80kg (on both ropes). All ropes will show the maximum number of falls (of the lowest results found at the time of testing).

A few points to note with the drop test are that the test is carried out over a round edge (which is designed to mimic a karabiner). If the ropes were tested over a corner or a sharp edge then the ropes would most likely fail on the first couple of drops! The test also makes no account of dynamic belaying as it is intended to be a worst case scenario, however it should also be remembered that the test is only carried out with an 80kg weight (so if you’ve eaten too many pies) the results would be different again.

Weight
The weight of a rope is measured in grams per 1m of rope. Single ropes range from 55-88g, half ropes 42-50g and twin ropes 37-42g. The rope core must account for at least 50% of its total weight.

Knotability Ratio
This is the diameter of a hole in the middle of an overhand knot and a 10kg weight is applied. It is measured at specific points and a figure is given. The lower the figure the more supple the rope. The maximum allowed is 1.1-multiple of the rope diameter.

Sheath Slippage
Sheath slippage is measured on a 2m sample of rope and the rope is subjected to continuous pulling. The maximum allowed is 40mm or approximately 2%. A low sheath slippage rope is important if you intend to do a lot of abseiling or lowering of (as in the case of indoor climbing walls).

The following headings are not quantifiable (as they can’t currently be tested) however they are well worth thinking about when buying a rope.

Dry Treatment
Many manufactures offer ropes with a dry treatment, all use their own treatments and chemicals. This is worth considering in the UK as there is a high chance that your ropes will become wet. Wet ropes are heavier, harder to handle and are slightly weaker. Dry treatment is a must for winter and alpine climbing.

Abrasion Resistance
There is currently no standard test for this; however a more abrasion resistant rope will be most likely affect the belaying and handling performance.

Surface Friction
New ropes are always slicker and require more care when belaying and abseiling, however this will wear off with use. The sheaths finished with dry treatment are likely to be even slicker.

Handling
How the ropes feels and handles is entirely subjective and the only way to test this is to get your hands on the rope. All of the above characteristics will affect the handling.

Maintenance
Remember to look after your rope (it’s the most important piece of kit in the climbers arsenal) and is your lifeline! When its not is use, store your rope in a dry place at room temperature out of direct sunlight. If your rope gets wet, let it dry naturally away from direct heat sources. Always read the manufactures information of care, maintenance and rope life span.

Final Word
Over the years we have used a range of ropes from a variety of manufactures and have found that like most things in life, you get what you pay for.