Munich - Mountain and hill hiking is becoming an increasingly popular leisure pursuit. Many people are drawn to the mountains at weekends, particularly in autumn. However, hiking trips require good planning. In the mountains, where weather conditions can change from one hour to the next, excellent equipment is especially vital. TÜV SÜD expert Volker Kron gives useful tips on what to look out for in good hiking equipment.
According to the German Alpine Club (DAV), starting on a mountain adventure without proper preparation is a common mistake made by amateur hikers. Even if the number of fatal accidents has been decreasing steadily in these days of mobile phones and improved weather forecasts, inadequate gear is still one of the leading causes of hiking accidents. “Consumers buying hiking gear should consider the season and region in which they plan to go hiking, and how often they intend to use their gear”, explains Volker Kron. “And even hikers that only rarely go to the mountains should make quality their priority.”
Clothes: Experienced mountaineers rely on the layering system in their choice of clothing, and align the number of layers they wear to the prevailing weather. As perspiration is only natural when hiking, clothing should be made of synthetics; this will keep hikers drier than cotton, which absorbs and retains moisture, thus losing its insulating properties and resulting in chilling. Make sure to always carry wind- and waterproof breathable raingear in your backpack.
Hiking boots:Hikers purchasing new boots should make sure that their boots fit closely. Good hiking boots are made of real leather or waterproof membrane and are ankle-high. They also need to have an anti-slip sole and a deep tread. Last but not least, the shoe should also offer firm footing on steep slopes and scree. Wet feet are known to be the nemesis of hikers and mountaineers. Given this, it is recommended to waterproof hiking boots before each hike. Soles with a thermal insole made of sheep’s wool or lambs’ wool also ensure excellent insulation in the shoes.
Poles: Hiking downhill is particularly hard on knees and other joints. Hiking poles are an excellent choice for cushioning the weight while walking downhill. The poles should be made of carbon or aluminium and not weigh more than 700 grams. Their handles should be made from cork or EVA foam rather than plastics. Poles that bear the GS marking or TÜV SÜD's blue octagon have been thoroughly tested and confirmed to be of high quality.
Backpack: A hiking backpack should have a waterproof rain cover and a hip belt, which transfers the weight to your hips and thus removes most of the weight from your shoulders.
The backpack should also have an adjustable back system and padded shoulder straps. Many hikers make the mistake of carrying an excessively heavy load. Backpacks for short hikes should not weigh over six kilos. Hikers should also avoid fastening any loose items to the backpack, to avoid getting stuck in narrow passages.
Supplies:Excessively large water bottles quickly take up too much room in the backpack and increase the load. The recommended procedure is therefore to drink plenty before starting out on the tour and only take along a small water bottle with a capacity of one litre. Hikers prone to muscle cramps should take along magnesium tablets. Fruit and cheese or ham sandwiches provide ideal sustenance on the hike. As a matter of principle, no alcoholic beverages should be consumed while hiking. Water, tea or well-diluted juice spritzers are ideal thirst quenchers.