Post COVID-19 in the Outdoors - Being Prepared
With Australia looking to be slowly stabilising and moving towards opening up again, now is the time to start getting prepared for your post COVID-19 adventures. You may have noticed whilst drooling from within your house that the skies have been clear of smoke and the days beautiful recently. Now is the time to make sure you're ready for action when adventuring becomes appropriate again.
Ramp up the Training
For many, social isolation has been a time to focus on the other aspects of our lives, which can often become neglected in the search for adventure. This means whilst your fingers may be able to pull OFF Stairway to Heaven on guitar, they may no longer be able to pull ON that crux crimp of your project. So it's time to select your favourite combination of Taylor Swift and Midnight Oil and get into training mode.
For climbers the most effective prescription is training on a home woody as this allows for the perfection of technique as well as the rebuilding of strength in a range of grip types. If a woody is not an option then hang boarding is sure to make you feel strong (or weak...) again. The key is to ensure that you are not going to hard too soon. Following up social isolation with 6-8 weeks of pulley healing time is a grim prospect indeed. If you've used a hangboard before try going back to one of your earlier routines that were a bit easier on the tendons. If this is your first time you want to be starting with big holds and even bigger rests. Remember it is VERY important to take it easy on the hangboard, you will get far stronger with a relaxed long term routine than you will with a week of super high-intensity weighted micro-crimping followed by a consecutive months of healing time. Start on the big ones (whatever that is for you)!
For hikers, canyons and mountaineers who are probably now missing the familiar burn in their calves and thighs from their uphill escapades, pack training is the way to go. It's similar to all those 'walks' everyone has been going on only with a few extra kilograms, a little bit more pain and a lot more gain. In terms of weight, you want to be starting off light. If you know what sort of weights you are used to carrying on your trips you may want to start with half of that or even less. Then the goal is to gradually increase that to your regular load (or slightly more) over time.
For aid climbers who like the thigh burning pain and endurance of hiking but prefer to experience it in the much scarier vertical realms of climbing, the solution is simple and cheap. First locate an appropriate tree branch, as high as you can get a rope over. Now jumar to the top... and again... and again.
Outdoor Gear Repair
Gear gets damaged or broken from time to time, and as a result often ends up banished to the "future problems" end of your shed (the back corner). With a little bit of time and effort, repairing this gear can be a cost-effective, waste-reducing, fun, did I mention cost-effective way of getting you back outside in the future. Here are two of the most common things that need repairing:
Air Mat Leaks
These are very annoying, especially because they are almost always found at the worst of times. They are quite an easy fix though so be sure to follow the video link below and get that mat back into shape.
Click HERE for leak repair instructions
Broken Pack Buckles
Pack buckles can break for a number of reasons and they are the weakest part of every pack due to their mechanism. While it often seems like a minor issue a broken buckle can render your pack useless until it is repaired. In repairing buckles here are a few things to keep in mind:
- What thickness is the webbing? The buckles come in standardised sizes that will match your strap width so make sure to pick up the correct one.
- Can the webbing be threaded through a buckle? The buckles come in both styles that need to be threaded through and styles that can be attached to fixed loops.
- Does it need a clip? There are also buckles that don't have clips which are perfect for straps that do not need adjustment. For example the shoulder straps on packs.
Remember it is best to avoid unstitching/restitching straps as the factory sewed stiches are usually much stronger than what can be done at home. It is also very difficult (almost impossible) to find a male buckle clip to suit an existing female buckle clip and vice versa so it is easiest to simply treat the buckle as a package deal and replace both sides. Over the years we, at Mountain Equipment, have become quite skilled buckle technicians so don't hesitate to give us a call for some pointers.
Outdoor Equipment Maintenance
You know all those jobs you have been avoiding since... always. Those things you know you really should do but never got around to because you just never had multiple consecutive months locked inside your home with nothing else to do. Well now there are no excuses. There are so many things in the quiver of an adventurer that may need maintenance so here is a list of some common ones and some uncommon ones.
Washing Shell Layers
Are your waterproof layers feeling less and less waterproof every time you go out? Often this is more of an issue with the breathability of the fabric than the waterproofness. Imagine going for a run dressed in a garbage bag, its 100% waterproof but you'll end up 100% wet. The waterproof membranes in shell layers have millions of tiny pores in them that allow them to breathe. These pores are easily clogged by oils, sweat and dirt from your skin, or from the outside by water (ironically). For this reason while you can't really change the 'waterproofness' of a shell layer, you can improve its the 'anti-wetness' (Disclaimer: this is not a scientific name). To do this you need to ensure the jacket is clean and that the surface fabric doesn't absorb too much water and 'wet out' (this is a more legit name). Doing this is pretty simple and includes washing your shell in a 'tech-wash' and also in a 'proofer' (proofers are also available in spray-on form). It is important to avoid washing your shell in regular washing detergents as this will damage the membrane layer and can cause actual waterproofness issues.
Click HERE for proofer details
Click HERE for tech-wash details
Re-Waterproofing Hiking & Walking Boots
Boots are probably the piece of kit that gets the dirtiest when we go on trips, unfortunately they are also often the piece of kit that receives the least attention. Boots can be expensive and take a while to wear in properly but they also perform numerous crucial tasks such as keeping your feet dry and supported. They suffer from the same waterproof/breathability issues that shell layers do.
- Remove the laces and brush off any loose dirt
- Continue to scrub the boot while applying warm water to it. Make sure to focus on the seams and flex point as this is where the waterproof coating is likely to be most worn.
- Using an appropriate boot proofer, spray the wet surface of the boot generously and let this soak in for a minute.
- Wipe away any excess proofer and allow to dry slowly in the shade.
Ideally this should be done before any big trip but can be done at any time.
Click HERE for product details
Washing Climbing Ropes
Ropes can get very dirty after prolonged use, especially if they are used without rope tarps or on more adventurous routes. Dirt and grit can mix amongst the core fibres and slowly wear the rope from the inside. This reduces the performance and life of your rope. Grit from the rope can also wear on your gear. As one of the few non-redundant items climbers trust, the performance of your rope certainly isn't something you want to ignore. Solving this issue involves washing your rope:
- Tie the length of your rope into a daisy chain
- Rinse your bath tub/washing machine to remove any residual soaps
- If using a top loading washing machine switch to a hand-wash or gentle wash mode to prevent the agitator from causing damage to your rope.
- Wash your rope in rope-specific detergent
- Air dry your rope slowly and out of the sun
Click HERE for product details
How many times have you been told that you should clean and re-lube your cams but thought "Who has time for that?". Well at the moment... YOU have time for that! Cams initially rely upon friction to stay within the rock before the mechanical advantage of their geometry kicks in, and this friction is directly proportional to the outward force of the lobes. When your cams mechanism becomes gritty, slow or sticky it is time to give them some TLC. This is a two part process beginning with the cleaning phase:
- First use a toothbrush to brush away loose dirt particles from in and around the lobes. The more you brush away the faster the cleaning process is.
- Place the cams in warm to hot water and swish them around. This can also be done with a mild dish washing detergent. It is important to avoid getting the slings of the cams in the water as this may damage them, especially if detergent is used.
- Engage and release the trigger constantly as you do this to ensure that you reach all parts of the cam head.
- Use the toothbrush again to remove any remaining dirt and repeat the above process if necessary.
- Dry your cams really well. Compressed air can be useful for this as it will also aid in the cleaning process but is not necessary. This is also a great time to replace any trigger wires that are damaged.
After cleaning your cams it is a good idea to re-lube them. This is not only because lubing them whilst clean is ideal but also because you will have dislodged some lubricant in the cleaning process.
- First place a very small amount of lube onto the springs and axles of the cams. Again it is very important that you avoid the lube contacting the slings of the cams as this may cause them to degrade.
- Engage and release the trigger constantly in order to spread this lube around. The mechanism should slowly become more and more smooth as the lube spreads.
- Wipe away any excess lube from the cam, especially if any has found its way onto the lobes.
There are a few cam-specific lubricants out there that are designed to reduce the extent to which the lubricant gathers dust. If you cant find one of these other lubricants such as teflon or silicone based bike chain lubricant work well but you may have to re-apply a little more often.
Learn New Outdoor Skills
As we start to dream of crisp mornings at the crag, brisk trips down canyons and nights huddled around the dehydrated meal sachet again, it is a great time to give our skill-sets an upgrade. Maybe look into a new style of climbing, a different rope setup in canyons or a new trick to get those socks dry overnight. Coming out of isolation more knowledgeable has many benefits including increased comfort, enhanced safety and improved ability to show off your flashy new skills to all your mates. Learning how to cook a new camp meal (non-dehydrated... obviously), investigating the sport of rogaining or discovering the wonders of aid climbing (it's better than it looks) could all be on the ticklist.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been hard for everyone, especially those who get their energy from the outdoors. As things are slowly starting to look a little bit more positive it is a great time to prepare yourself for future adventures. Now is the time to finish all of those little finicky jobs that you never got around to.
By Daniel Butler