latest issue
Online newsletter
Product Knowledge
Research reports

Know you outdoor products!

April 2007

Camping accessories go compact

With tent camping becoming more popular, accessories are compact and multi-functional

Tent camping is a growing trend, especially amongst younger people, several retailers and suppliers report, although there is a difference of opinion about the profile of tent users.

In the previous issue of Sports Trader we reported that Wimpie Coetzee of Kloppers Sport said that campers are switching from caravans to tents because of the convenience factor. David Imrie of the Midas Group agrees: "There has definitely been an increase in the number of tents we sell. A tent is much more convenient cost effective," he says.

An interesting trend he perceived in KwaZulu Natal was that some schools are now buying tents predominantly the hiking fraternity or adventurous family holidays.

Campmor Outdoor has also experienced a marked increase in the demand for their tents from retailers."We are already supplying more tents this month than last month — we sell hundreds of tents per month," says Tersia Kruger.

While there is still a big demand for products for caravan camping, it is noticeable that the demand for tents is growing, especially amongst younger people who want a better quality tent, says Andre Breytenbach of 4x4 Megaworld in Fourways. "This demand is driven by the fact that there are now more tents and better quality tents on the market."

A new tent development that is becoming popular, says Bradley Moritz of Outdoor Warehouse, is a turbo tent with a unique, aluminium, framing system that allows one to pitch and strike a tent very quickly "This Outdoor Warehouse product is very good value for money."

But, not all agree that there is a swing towards tent camping.

Demand for global brands

"We have not experienced an increased demand for tents — but it may be because many people prefer the cheaper tents supplied by mass discounters instead of the better quality hiking tents from internationally recognised brands that we stock," says Mark Ponting of Trapper Trading.

Interestingly, he found that when it comes to accessories for camping, there is a high demand for more specialized, high end, branded products.

"For instance, people specifically ask for Petzl headlamps " — these top brands have become more main stream, They are no longer used exclusively by climbers or hikers," he says.

He also found that there is nowadays a much bigger demand for products from well-known brands.

The outdoor market in general seems to be booming.

There is a growth in sales for all kinds of outdoor equipment across all categories — not just tents or camping, says Moritz. "The lighter, compact items have followed suit. I cannot conclude as to whether this is particularly as a result of the (tent camping) trend you are referring to."

While caravan campers have the luxury of cupboards and floor space for stowing crockery, cutlery and camping furniture, people who camp in tents have to fit everything into a car boot, trailer or roof carrier. Camping accessories therefore have to be more compact.

Compact and portable

"Young people want to camp in small, reliable space-saver tents and therefore want equipment that are more compact, durable and longer lasting," says Breytenbach.

A popular item is a cutlery set that can fit into a small briefcase that contains all the cutlery you might need: steak forks and knives, sharpeners, and all your usual knives, forks and spoons, he says. "This is very popular because it is not a big box that you have to move around."

Outdoor Warehouse has also found that their camping crockery box — a compact, insulated ammo box that facilitates an easy way of storing and transporting crockery for campers and travelers is very popular.

"A new multi-purpose stainless steel scissors with 12 useful functions from Coghlan’s is also a very handy item to take along," says John Fonteyn of Eiger Equipment. It is a pair of scissors, that also has a knife, screwdriver, magnet, can opener, wrench, fish scaler, nut cracker, jar wrench, wire cutter, wire stripper and bottle opener attached.

E3 Gear has introduced a titanium spoon and fork in one product, called a Spork.

Tent campers also need furniture that are easily transportable and stowable.

"There is a big demand for inflatable mattresses that can fold up small," says Breytenbach. "You used to get these huge bulky camping chairs – now you get some very nice looking fold-up chairs that are much more compact. Lightweight plastic moulded camping tables that can fold in half are also popular."

A new innovative product that is selling well is a wash up basin that you can attach to a tap that works just like your washbasin at home: you turn on the tap for water, drain the dirty water by removing the plug and there is even a handy sprinkler attached for showers, says Breytenbach. The unit is made of lightweight plastic that can fold up.

"There is a demand for easy-to-carry chairs," says Imrie, who also reports an increased demand for other smaller items such as torches and camping cutlery.

Tent campers also have a greater need for lighting equipment like lanterns and torches as tents do not have built-in lights like caravans and many tent sites do not have electricity.

"There are some very nice, compact rechargeable lanterns on the market that you can plug into your battery while you travel and when you arrive at a camp site without electricity, it will burn for up to 11 hours," says Breytenbach.

LED headlamps are becoming popular for camping — from the cheapest to high quality Petzl and Black Diamond that are also suitable for hiking.

Tent campers are also more dependent on portable cooking equipment than caravaners who have built-in stoves.

Coghlan has introduced a new hand-held cast iron camp cooker that can be used for years and years over an open fire, says Fonteyn. "It makes delicious snacks, toasts sandwiches, grills meat by sealing in the flavour. It is also easy to clean." Their multi-spice holder with six spices in one container, each with their own flip-top shaker lid, is also popular amongst campers.

There is still a big demand for the Cadac gas lights, cookers, woks and braais, as well as the millennium design prize-winning Cobb braai, says Breytenbach.

In cool boxes people tend to go for the better makes — when people go camping for a week or so they do not always want to take a fridge, but take one of the big cool boxes that can keep their food cool, he says.

Another handy item is a heated blanket that works off a 12-volt battery. "It is not bulky – it is about 1m x 1m - but will warm a sleeping bag or camp bed nicely on a winter night when you enter a freezing tent from the campfire," says Breytenbach.

Popular products

Andre Breytenbach of 4 x 4 Megaworld: the demand is for chairs, mattresses – nice inflatable one’s – sleeping bags, lights, small water purifiers, anything used in camping.

John Fonteyn of Eiger Equipment: the biggest demand is for things like toasters, tent peg pullers, repair kits, and insect repellants. Steel tent pens that do not bend and can penetrate hard ground, are also popular with campers.

David Imrie of Midas Group: sleeping bags, camping cups & plates, easy-to-carry chairs, torches, lanterns and gas stoves are popular.

Bradley Moritz of Outdoor Warehouse: the growth is in general across most of our categories, but currently especially across the equipment categories — i.e. furniture, mobile refrigeration, tents, GPS’s, vehicle accessories, etc.

Mark Ponting of Trappers Trading: we find that the highest demand is for GPS’s, LED torches, headlamps and lanterns. Hydration packs are also popular.


October / November 2008

Tents now lighter & bigger

New technologies are bringing lighter, more spacious tents that can be erected with ever greater ease to the market

Internationally tents are becoming more lightweight and bigger as family and group tents have taken over the lead from expedition tents in the popularity stakes.

The tent city (actually cities, as they were spread across two halls) at this year’s Friedrichshafen OutDoor Show, showed that many technologies developed for the one- or two-man expedition tents have now been extended into 3- or 4-man tents.

Other trends are to make tents more stable and comfortable in the worst wind and weather conditions, and to improve the setting up time and ease.

Tents now also come in every imaginable shape. The gold Industry Award at OutDoor Europe, for example, went to Bergans of Norway for their modernised copy of a nomadic tent used by the Sami people, the indigenous inhabitants of Scandinavia. A variation on the igloo design, the Wiglo is massive: 2.5m high, with 15m² interior space that can accommodate at least eight people and their gear.

Local manufacturers have also developed tents that offer more space to cater for the growing family camping trend, and include features suitable for our bush conditions.

Huffin’ n puffin won’t blow Vaude down

In their latest tent range launched at Friedrichshafen, Vaude has fused their two most innovative technologies — Powerframe and Ultralight. The result: extremely wind stable, yet lightweight tents.

Thanks to the Powerframe technology these ultralight tents are incredibly stable, even in gale force winds – Vaude says about 80% more stable than comparable constructions. The steep walls also offer a good amount of space and comfort inside.

The double-sided siliconised polyester fabric is ultra lightweight, yet very resilient, with a high resistance to tearing, maximum UV resistance, and excellent water beading characteristics. The life span of this material is about three times that of the average conventional PU-coated polyester tent, because if a branch or sharp stone pierces the material, it practically repairs itself — you simply rub your finger over the point and the fabric fibres close together.

Ultralight tents with Powerframe technology are the Power Taurus UL (2.5 kg) and Power Odyssee UL (2.05 kg).

When designing the Power Atreus touring tent, Vaude went one step further: they combined two extremely wind stable technologies (Powerframe and a geodesic construction) into one system that won’t even buckle under gale force winds. (In architecture, a geodesic construction gives structural strength but uses as little as possible material – for example, a dome composed of a complex network of triangles).

In this instance, the geodesic construction is already remarkably wind stable due to its five pole intersections. The Powerframe technology increases the wind stability further: the tent suspension creates triangular trusses along the entire frame so that the wind is uniformly distributed over the pole construction. This allows the tent to absorb more energy, which keeps it stable under more pressure without deforming the poles. This improvement in stability doesn’t add any weight to the tent, because the Powerframe construction allows the use of poles with a smaller diameter (10.2 mm).

Additionally, the tent walls are steeper with the Powerframe construction, which increases the inner tent volume by 40%, creating enough space for three people. It is simple and quick to pitch – even in the worst Southeaster – with reliable Powerclips that attach the tent directly to the poles.

The Power Atreus is made of an ultra lightweight, durable, two-sided siliconised polyester material that is extremely tear resistant, UV resistant and water repellent, ensuring that it will last and last.

Black Diamond for double protection

Mountain gear company Black Diamond entered the tent market about five years ago when they acquired Bibler tents — the legendary single wall, bomb proof tents popular among altitude climbers for probing the extremes of our planet. Black Diamond then evolved the single wall concept by applying Epic fabric to many of the Bibler designs which produced the award winning Super-light range. These tents are very light weight and are easy to pack – and have proved very popular with cyclists & bike tourers.

The next step was the light weight double-walls — the DoubleLights — which are more conventional in their double skin design, but still incorporated a number of trend setting features like the use of pole hubs that allow all the tent poles to be connected, while still folding up into a compact space. The Mesa and Vista were the first in the series. The two new two- and three-person Mirage and Oasis double-walls are Black Diamond’s strongest 3-season tents, offering optimal shelter for climbers and backpackers concerned about weight.

Both have a lower, more streamlined profile and offer integrated vestibules at their front end. The Mirage’s vestibule opens with a unique side angle that allows more space for gear storage away from the door opening, while the Oasis has double doors on both the tent and integrated vestibule, providing easy entry and exit. These tents are simple and easy to set up and despite their light weight, will handle strong wind conditions.

The inner tents can be set up on their own and incorporate a lot of mesh offering a 360º view and excellent ventilation, while nylon ripstop along the lower perimeter allows for privacy. For major weight savings the tents can be set up with only the fly- and optional ground cloth.

The latest extension to the Doublelight range is two 4-season designs — the strong and spacious Squall and Stormtrack tents — that offer a combination of weather protection and breathability. Both these tents have the same design, but the Squall is designed for three and the Stormtrack for two people.

Both can be set up in a flash and come with two entrances and vestibules, while adjustable vents in the front, back and top guarantee good air exchange in all conditions. The free standing inner tent with its mesh/nylon construction creates an airy space.

E3 Gear — deluxe features at affordable prices

E3 Gear offers a versatile range of tents at more affordable prices — ranging from tents aimed at backpackers trekking in high altitudes (Echo), mountaineers setting up altitude camps (Element), cycle tourists (Eclipse) or campers that avoid extreme weather conditions (Escape). From January, they will be adding three new models: the Endurance 1 and 2 and Extreme 3. The Endurance 1 and 2 are designed for less extreme conditions and come with a longitudal opening on the side — “a bit like the Echo, but the three-pole structure is more robust and the profile lower,” says Simon Larsen of local distributor Ram Mountaineering. Lightweight and with a 3-season rating, they are ideal for SA hiking conditions.

The Extreme 3 is a larger version of the popular Element high altitude base camp tent that can fit three people with comfort and four at a squeeze. It has been designed with features like an innovative multi-angle guide system and is tough enough to be able to handle high mountain ice climbing conditions, as experienced, for example, at the top of the Drakensberg.

One throw and the Quechua stands!

Easy set-up takes on a whole new meaning with the Quechua [ket- ch- wa] 2 Second tent range. It literally requires one throw to unfurl and fold out as a tent — a mere two seconds and the tent is standing.

Easton Outdoors became the sole SA importer and distributor of the Quechua (meaning people of the mountains) 2 Seconds Range in 2006, when this tent-nology was still completely unknown, says Wayne Easton. “Since then, it has grown to be one of the most recognised quality self-deploying tents in the stores of our SA stockists.”

Quechua released this, self-deploying tent technology after years of design approvals and patents in 2006 and have since then been continuously innovating and building on the success of the original 2 Second range. The tents are now available in sizes for one, two, three and even four people.

The innovative design made it possible to make the 2 Second XL lll (3-man) and Seconds Base units (4-man) pack down to a mere 81cm and 85cm respectively, even though they are almost the same size as their original 2-man tent. Excellent waterproofing of 2 000mm, from flysheet to groundsheet, ensure camping comfort.

The compact 2 Second II and III Man series is characterized by good dimensions, while the Air Premier series has air cooling technology added. As the name implies, the XL series offers massive space and also includes a vestibule.

The tents are supplied with a 2-year no fuss guarantee, and a one year guarantee on the poles.

Bushtec covers all needs

Bushtec’s comprehensive range of tents and gazebos which offers something for every possible user, was developed by people with a sound knowledge of the SA bush — and then further honed in the design laboratory.

The result is a range that serves the needs of families on short or long camping trips, friends enjoying a day outing, bikers on a run, anglers on fishing trips, the 4 x 4 safari fraternity on a bush trip and a range of military specification tents manufactured to the highest worldwide standard.

Apart from the military grade canvas tents, their leisure market tents and gazebos come in three different fabrics:

  • A lightweight range of spacious nylon tents — from adventure and survival tents to larger tents suitable for family camping, ranging in size from the three-roomed family camper that can sleep 14, to tents suitable for eight and four people.

  • Lightweight canvas, which offers the breathability and other benefits of canvas, combined with the easy handling and lighter weight of nylon, suitable for eight, four or two people;

  • The lightweight ripstop, popular with the 4 x 4 safari fraternity, offers excellent quality ripstop in free standing and family tents for the leisure market.

  • The latest addition to the range is the Duo-Dome, which offers two domed tents in one, as its name implies. This not only provides more floor space, but also more privacy for sleepers in the back section. With the innertent in breathable polyester and a flysheet with UV-protection, it is lightweight, easy to erect and comfortable to live in.

    The Bushtec range is completed with a comprehensive range of affordable and durable sleeping bags — from a single to a double, from an envelope to a cowl — as well as gazebos, tables and chairs and backpacks at very affordable prices.

    Tentco offers 143 years’ experience

    The Tentco team put 143 years’ combined experience as Southern African campers and canvas tent manufacturers into the development of their extensive range.

    The range covers all bases, from small, medium and large bow, hexibow, combination and family frame tents, through rooftop tents and gazebos, to their large safari lodge tents aimed at the bushveld accommodation facilities.

    The waterproof and rot- and mildew-resistant canvas ripstop used in the manufacturing of their tents, is SABS approved and offers UV protection. Other comfort features include galvanised high tensile spring steel poles, electroplated frames, YKK Lifetime zips and electric cable traps.

    Their combo range offers a two-in-one option: by adding a frame extension to a domed tent (ideal for short stopovers or short weekend trips) it is transformed into a larger family space ideal for longer holidays. The extensions, which fits on most of the domed tents in the range, can be purchased separately. The Snr Deluxe Extension Combo (featured above) offers a spacious 7.6m x 3.3m interior, where even tall people can move with ease (height 2.2m).


    August / September 2008

    New trends in backpacks:

    Multi-functional, back-friendly, light and bright

    At the OutDoor Europe show in Friedrichshafen it was clear that many brands have put a lot of thought into the development of multi-activity backpacks that are brighter, lighter and more user-friendly, reports TRUDI DU TOIT

    Like most other sporting and outdoor goods, backpacks are also becoming more multi-functional — offering consumers more use than merely for the once-a-year hiking trip. Backpacks are seen on the backs of scholars, cyclists, motorcyclists, travellers and mall-crawlers. They have to a large extent replaced big shoulder bags for everyday use, and recognised outdoor brands are seen in all school corridors.

    The opportunities for selling backpacks has never been better, nor the choices wider.

    Vaude has, for example, developed an innovative adjustment mechanism for a hipbelt, called the Twist2Fit system. Every person’s hips differ, yet the fit at the hips plays a central role in how comfortable a backpack is, because the more precisely the hipbelt fits, the better the transference of the load to the hips. The Twist2Fit mechanism is a dial that can be adjusted until the hipbelt fits comfortably around the individual hip shape — especially effective when carrying heavy loads.

    Their patent-pending ergonomic suspension system flexibly adjusts to the entire back — arching the backpack to lie flat against the back, instead of arching away from it. This distributes the pack load more evenly across the whole back, instead of just a few contact points. The back panel system is flexible and therefore lies flat against the back’s natural curve and adjusts itself to the wearer’s movements. Functional ventilation prevents overheating in the contact areas.

    Karrimor’s key competence has, for many years, been as backpack manufacturers. Following a change of ownership a few years ago, they re-established the brand with new product and designs and hence claim the #1 spot for backpacking and daypacks in the UK.

    “We were number one in convertible travel bags — and with the re-development of our 2009 range I believe we shall be number one again,” says Garry Bardsley, European sales manager.

    Their latest travel range offers a two-in-one option: a smaller daypack zipped onto a larger bag, which can be worn as one unit on the back, or carried by handles when the padded shoulder strap is removed. The detachable daypack is ideal as an on-flight and sightseeing bag, while the larger storage bag has a lid that zips open on the side, just like a suitcase (in the top-end of the range). There are plenty of compartments, ventilation and moisture management, and a more substantial removable hipbelt to spread the load — all in very lightweight fabrics.

    The innovative Fformat backsystem — a removabe, flexible moulded harness inserted in the ventilated foam back that can be bent to fit the shape of the wearer’s back in order to spread the load more evenly — is found in top-end models across the Karrimor ranges.

    They patented their size-adjustable back system 25 years ago and has now added the SA3 with X-wing technology that tranfers the load through the middle, top and bottom into the hip belt.

    Other features that make their new ranges special are the attention to ventilation and breathability, (the Air Space daypack, for example, creates a big gap between the bag and the back and is therefore ideal for walking, hiking and multi-sport), added detail to make it more user-friendly (the Indie urban pack has an attachment for a skateboard), the use of very light weight durable nylon, a PU coating printed on to fabric to provide waterproofing that makes the bag more durable, but still very light, lazer-etched logos and hydration sleeves in all bags (they also have a hydration bag with a 2 litre bladder that is small and light enough for running and cyling).

    Following requests from retailers for a wider outdoor offering to complement their popular trail running footwear and hydration packs, Salomon SA will now be introducing backpacks into the SA market, explains Bennie Botes, who was in Friedrichshafen to explain the features of the aptly named Custom backpack.

    “The whole system is lighter and faster — whether in hiking or trail running packs,” he says. “The backpack can be customized according to the user’s needs with clip-on accessories — it is a basic lightweight pack, with the option of adding five types of accessories, depending on whether you are going on a morning, full day or four day hiking trip.”

    People want multi-functionality in backpacks and rucsacks says Simon Larsen of Ram Mountaineering. Adventure racing, as well as a number of other extreme sports like mountain biking, trail running, road biking or canoeing have had a huge impact on the thinking around backpacks.

    Some form of hydration system has, for example, become an essential feature in backpacks.

    “We now have to think differently and look beyond the hiker that would go on a four-day trail, and see to the needs of the consumer who will mix and match his activities. On Saturday he might participate in a cycle race, on Sunday he might go mountain climbing or scuba diving or rowing,” he says. “They don’t want a different bag for every activity, they want a bag that will be suitable for most of these activities.”

    He covers the bases with three different backpack brands – premium Black Diamond, his own e3 Gear and Pacific Outdoor.

    Black Diamond, with their worldwide reputation as a hard core mountain company, has now launched a significant urban range of trendy lightweight day packs in smaller sizes with a modern look in a lot of cherry red and black colours. They also introduced an ultra-light hydro and runing pack to add depth to their top-end climbing and expedition packs.

    From February next year Ram Mountaineering will be able to import a much wider range of products at a very reasonable price point, due to a new distribution agreement with Black Diamond. Despite the increase in the exchange rate and fuel prices, their prices have remained fairly consistent, says Larsen. Most of the backpack ranges currently available in the SA market are imported and he believes Black Diamond is in a good position to compete head on head with them “as we are pretty well priced.”

    While Black Diamond offers a more technical range, the emphasis in e3 Gear cycling packs and hydration systems is on affordability, says Larsen.

    In the Pacific Outdoor range, which continues to expand in SA, the emphasis is on dry units – for example, waterproof daypacks with dry zips and dry bags and proper waterproofed dry packs for canoeing and the fly fishing market. There are also hip packs with dry zips, popular with motor cyclists, and a new item will be panniers for cycling bikes.


    February 2008

    Comfortable and dry

    on trek and trail

    Do you know what to stock to meet the growing demand for waterproof breathable garments — and how to respond to the questions your customer is most likely to ask?

    As more and more people participate in activities that keep them on the road or veld for many hours — whether on foot or on a bicycle — the demand for garments that can protect them against unexpected rain, yet do not interfere with performance, will keep on growing.

    No longer is it mainly the elite climber, intrepid expedition adventurer or overseas wintersport enthusiast who will be looking for technical garments that keep them dry on the inside as well as outside.

    A different kind of customer is now asking for waterproof breatheable gear: the adventure racer or trail runner who does not like to get wet, but need to keep his or her body temperature regulated; cyclists, road and off-road runners who are out training in good or foul weather; hikers, hunters and holiday tourists who work up a sweat while on the go, but want protection from the rain.

    While there are hundreds of raincoats or rain jackets on the market, they are not necessarily suitable for wear during strenuous activity.

    A human expells about 4l of moisture per day — depending on the level of activity. "To have a waterproof garment with no or limited breatheability will mean that the user ends up being as wet inside (from perspiration) as if the garment wasn’t waterproof," says Ian Little of Capestorm. "Therefore, all our waterproof jackets have a high level of breatheability making them ideal for walking, trekking, adventure racing and all outdoor activities."

    Customers participating in these activities are often discerning users that demand a high degree of performance from the equipment or clothing they buy. They will want to know why one garment is more expensive than the other and when they buy a waterproof breathable garment they expect it to do exactly what this description implies: allow perspiration to evaporate and keep water out. They also don’t want something that weighs them down.

    How breathable or waterproof?

    A black bag is the ultimate waterproof covering, a string vest the most breathable. But wearing a black bag over a string vest is not going to give you a waterproof breathable garment that will satisfy your active customer’s needs. This combo will be wetter on the inside from perspiration that can not disperse than on the outside from the rain. It will cling to the skin like clingwrap.

    Put simply: you do not really want a 100% waterproof garment that traps moisture like a sauna (black bag), nor will a breathable garment (string vest) be of much use if it does not keep rain out and the perspiration from the skin.

    Between these extremes are a myriad of possible combinations — some more waterproof and others more breathable. The trick is to establish what your customer needs and which product will best meet these needs. Do they want something more breathable (in which case a windproof rather than waterproof jacket might suffice) or are they more concerned about not getting wet.

    How do you know what to recommend?

    In an ideal world you would be able to get a chart that gives you the percentage waterproofness and breathability required for a specific activity from which you would be able to select the appropriate garment or fabric. Much like selecting the right size shoe.

    But, unfortunately, even if such a chart existed, it would not necessarily give you the answer you seek.

    The problem is that the tests for the breathability of fabric all give different results. Therefore, one result might look quite impressive when compared to others, while in in actual fact it is not good at all. Or one piece of fabric will come with several different test reports, depending on which tests were used.

    Different tests were devloped in SA by the SABS, in Japan, the US, UK and Europe. The results will differ according to the methods used, laboratory conditions like temperature and humidity levels, and the kind of lamination or coating used.

    And just to confuse matters even further, Gore-Tex, considered by many as the industry leader in waterproof breathability, have their own tests and standards that differ from all others.

    "There are many red herrings when manufacturers announce the level of breathability of garments," says Morné Strydom, marketing manager of First Ascent. "This can lead to a lot of confusion. I suggest that a retailer ask a manufacturer which tests were conducted. A top quality manufacturer will supply test results based on different methods."

    Breathability

    In measuring the breathability of a garment, one laboratory would, for example, use the upright cup test, the other the inverted cup method and yet another the Ret, or Resistance to moisture vapour transmission test. (See below).

    Although the format of the tests differ, they all measure the Moisture Vapour Transmission Rate (MVTR) of fabric — in other words, how many grams (or pints) of moisture will move across a square meter (or inch) of material over a 24 hour period (gr/24hrs/m2). The more moisture that moves across from the one side to the other, the better the breathability of the fabric.

    As a rough guide, someone who is very active — for example, doing trail running or cycling — will produce roughly double the amount of body moisture in the same activity period as someone who is less active, for example, taking a leisurely walk.

    The climate outside will also affect the MVTR: in the extreme dry air on a high mountain top, moisture would rapidly move across from the moist conditions inside to the dryness outside. But, in the extreme humidity of Durban on an overcast day, the moist air outside will leave little room for perspiration drops to disperse.

    A backpack worn over a waterproof jacket will also reduce the ability of the fabric to wick moisture away and disperse it — the garment will therefore get wet on the inside where it is covered by a backpack.

    Waterproof

    Most outdoor retailers will be familiar with the hydrostatic head test that is conducted to measure the waterproofness of, for example, tents or backpacks. A sample of the fabric is spread over a hollow cylinder and water is then pumped into the cylinder until the water pressure is high enough to come through the fabric. The length of the column of water prior to seeping through the fabric is measured, and expressed in meters.

    "The typical standard is 5-10m," says Strydom, "but again some manufacturers completely overstate the waterproofness specifications achieved through testing, even though it is not applicable for the intended use of the fabric. This can confuse consumers."

    But, keeping in mind the black bag and string vest example, it is not the breathability and waterproofness individually that makes this kind of garment good (or bad), it is how they combine.

    In the top end jackets worn on expeditions features like a hood that fits over a helmet but is articulated so that it swivels with your head, high reach sleeves without shoulder seams that will be damaged by a backpack and taped seams will also be important to prevent moisture entering, says Little.

    Membranes

    There are two ways in which a breathable fabric can be made waterproof — through coating the fabric or by applying a membrane. A membrane can either be

  • microporous: minute pores allow perspiration to pass through the membrane, but are too small for drops of water to penetrate;

  • hydrophillic, or water-attracting. The moisture will be attracted to the membrane and move across to the outside in a process similar to the osmosis that takes place across the membranes of body cells

  • Microporous membranes are not ideal for use by sailors on long sea voyages, explains Strydom, as the salt crystals become trapped in the pores and because of their jagged nature can over time agitate the pores and enlarge them to such an extent that they allow water drops through. The jacket will therefore no longer be waterproof.

    The membrane is laminated to the inside of the face fabric, with dots of glue. Since glue traditionally does not breathe, the manufacturer does not want to use too much glue as this will affect the breatheability of the garment. On the other hand, too little glue will not keep the membrane properly attached. The percentage of glue coverage is usually about 15-20% of the surface.

    "There are now adhesives available that are breathable, which makes it possible to apply more adhesive without sacrificing breathability," says Strydom.

    Two or three ply?

    Due to the fragile nature of membranes or coatings, they are usually protected by a liner, in the case of a 2-ply construction, or a scrim, in the case of a 3-ply construction. This additional layer further enhances the membrane or coating’s ability to breathe by creating a thin layer of air between the membrane/coating and the next layer, whether that is the skin or another layer of clothing.

    A 3-ply construction is generally regarded as the most robust, but often also the least breathable, as a result of the additional glue required to secure the scrim.

    The latest innovation is a 2.5 layer construction: 3D polymer dots on the reverse side of the membrane (like an egg tray) act like spacers to allows air circulation and protect the membrane from brushing against the skin. This means that no extra lining or mesh backing is needed, reducing weight.

    Coatings

    Coatings are sprayed on face fabrics with micro-jets and the excess liquid scraped away in a highly specialised process until a veneer thin layer (30 microns) remains. This application requires a high level of skill. If the coating is too thick, it will impair breathability, and if it is too thin, it will leak.

    Because this is a difficult technique that not all manufacturers master with equal skill, the perception developed that membranes are superior to coatings.

    "Improvements in the application and performance of coatings has, however, meant that many of the modern coaings are producing better performance results than membranes," says Strydom.

    Durable water repellent (DWR)

    This is a finish treatment applied to the outer material to improve waterproofing. The finish causes waterdrops to form beads that roll off the fabric, instead of water pooling on the outside of the fabric and saturating it.

    This is often used in combination with a coating or membrane.

    While a DWR on its own does not make the garment waterproof, it will repell sufficient water to keep the wearer dry in a light rain. It also forms a buffer between the inside and outside of the garment that helps to reduce condensation on the inside and aids in water vapour transfer.

    Without the DWR — or if it no longer works — the outer surface will become saturated, which will make it feel cold due to increased condensation. This will create the impression that the jacket is leaking.

    Just like a car needs to be serviced, the DWR finish needs to be refurbished when it is affected by wash, wear, or dirt. A special purpose wash restores the DWR and rejuvenates the garment face fabric.

    Breathability tests

  • The Upright Cup method (A1): A substance with a high affinity for water, like calcium chloride, is placed in a cup. A piece of the test fabric is placed over the cup. After 24 hours the cup is weighed to see how much water has been pulled into the cup through the fabric. The weight shows the number of grams per 24 hours per sq metre (gm/24hrs/m²) of fabric that will pass through the fabric. High is more than 10 000, low less than 4 000. This kind of test is more effective for fabrics used during low-intensity activity and for hydrophobic coatings.

  • The Inverted Cup method (B1): A substance, like potassium acetate, is put into a cup and sealed with a piece of ePTFE (expanded polytetraflouroethylene), which is waterproof and extremely breathable. The test fabric is then placed over the cup with the fabric side to the cup. The cup is inverted into a pan of water. After 24 hours the cup is weighed to see how much water has been pulled into the cup through the fabric. High is more than 20 000, low is less than 10 000. This test is most effective for high-intensity activity and hydrophilic coatings.

  • Ret test: Resistance to moisture vapour transmission (MVT). A fabric is placed above a porous metal plate that is heated. Water is placed in the metal plate, which is then kept at a constant temperature. As water vapour passes through the plate and the fabric, it causes Evaporative Heat Loss which cools the metal plate — more energy is therefore needed to keep the plate at a constant temperature. Ret is calculated by how much energy it takes to keep the metal plate at a constant temperature. The more energy, the less resistance in the fabric to MVT. A Ret of 0–6 is extremely breathable, while Ret 30+ is not breathable.


  • June/ July 2009

    Dressing to keep dry

    Anglers, sailors and other watersport enthusiasts know how uncomfortable a soggy, clinging shirt can be, especially when a chilly wind starts blowing. Now, imagine the comfort of a shirt that dries quickly, and offers protection against wind and sun… you can now offer your watersport customers the same kind of technical benefits in their clothing as all other athletes wanting to perform at their best, reports FANIE HEYNS

    Imagine Usain Bolt running the 100m final at the Beijing Olympics in jeans and a Madiba shirt, or the former legendary sailor Bertie Reed skippering Voortrekker in the BOC Challenge Round-the-World-race wearing an Armani suit.

    Not appropriate, you would say.

    Apart from not been approved by the purists or the international ruling bodies of athletics and sailing, their apparel would have spoiled what turned out to be a world record breaking day for Bolt, and an unforgettable life-changing experience for Reed, when the illustrious yachtsman finished second in the famous race in Newport in 1982/83.

    Just as in competitive sports, inappropriate attire for anglers, canoeists, sailors and adventure racers could spoil the fun… and adversely affect performance. Clothing worn for these sports and activities ideally need to dry fast and not cling when wet, and should offer protection against wind and sun.

    But, what is the difference between a technical fast drying shirt designed for water sport and an ordinary shirt? And do the consumers appreciate the benefits?

    We asked a few experts in the field about their views.

    Synthetic vs cotton

    Generally there are two types of technical garments used for aquatic sports — those made from knitted fabrics, and those made from woven fabrics, explains Morné Strydom, marketing manager of First Ascent SA.

    Knitted fabrics are generally worn by active aquatic sports athletes like paddlers and adventure racers for kloofing legs.

    The key performance attributes of these types of garments are that they are generally stretchy (to allow comfortable movement) and the yarn used doesn’t absorb water, and therefore dry quickly.

    Strydom believes that the most suitable fabric (yarn) for quick-drying knitted fabric is polypropylene, due to its inability to absorb moisture and its naturally low conductivity rate, allowing the garment to be a great insulator (keep you warm).

    Synthetic fabrics like polyester, nylon and polypropylene — or a combination of these, together with, or without, elastane — are all suitable for knitted fast-drying applications, explains Dr. Andrew Baxter, Capestorm MD, who introduced locally made fast-drying clothing to SA about ten years ago.

    He agrees with Strydom that polypropylene and blends thereof are best suited to sports like sailing and paddling, due to their non-absorbent nature and fast drying properties. Polypro also has the best thermal retention when damp.

    Cotton and other natural fibres and blends are not advised, although there is some benefit in having fine micron merino wool/synthetic blends for thermal retention, he believes.

    Traditional rash vests made with high percentages of elastane are useful for reducing UV exposure, but they generally take too long to dry and because of their clinging tendency also contribute to adverse cooling and wind-chill when used in immersion sports such as paddling and sailing.

    Its in the weave

    Woven synthetic fabrics, on the other hand, are typically denser by construction than knitted fabrics, says Baxter.

    The synthetic technical yarns themselves do not absorb moisture. Therefore, should a technical woven shirt become super-saturated (if, for example, you fall in a river), it will dry as much as five times faster than a conventional cotton shirt, because the only place for moisture to accumulate is in the tiny spaces separating the yarns, as the yarns themselves tend to repel water.

    Once wet, the cellulose in a cotton shirt absorbs and retains a large percentage of moisture, which can lead to adverse cooling (leading to dangerous wind-chill effects) as well as chafing and clinging, thus making for a very uncomfortable experience altogether, says Baxter.

    But, according to Strydom, common thinking about the handling of the moisture management element has evolved over the past couple of years - to the point where synthetic yarns and cottons are now blended together to achieve an optimal drying rate, depending on the climate and environment where the garment will be used (see box: Quick dry clothes on the market).

    Woven fabrics have the added advantage of offering considerably higher UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor), says Baxter. As such, they are well suited to say angling - especially fly-fishing — where UV protection is paramount and where fast drying technical apparel is much more comfortable than those made from traditional fibres, such as cotton.

    However, new generation fabric finishes are now available that are able to impregante cotton fabrics to prevent moisure absorbtion and to significantly enhance moisture repellency, thus allowing a cotton handfeel to combine with a semi-technical end-use. Finishes such as Schoeller’s 3X-DRY are one such example. For now, they are very expensive, but the cheaper substitutes do not have the longivity to make them worthy contenders.

    Strydom adds that some woven fabrics have a UV protection factor of 50+ - as good as permanently wearing a factor 50 sunblock — and are to a large extent windproof.

    Do consumers appreciate the benefits?

    Baxter says that once consumers have tried a technical product and truly found themselves in situations where the product is able to demonstrate its significant performance advantages, there is no turning back.

    Once a user has experienced the advantages of technical apparel, they are more likely to pay the obvious premium, but usually only after they’ve found out the hard way, adds Baxter. Try hiking in a wet pair of jeans and then try the same trick in a pair of tech longs to get the message!

    Whether consumers appreciate all the effort and research and development that goes into producing garments like these, is really a matter of education, says Strydom. “One uses something which you believe serves your purpose — unless you’re presented with an alternative option.”

    The challenge is therefore to convince the consumer to innovate and take the step of trying your product. As a manufacturer, you have to believe that the benefit the consumer derives from using your product is significant enough for him to become your mouthpiece, he explains.

    Over time those innovators or risk takers become your entire market and they start to look for the next innovation. This is what drives product development and evolution, together with changing consumer needs and activities.

    “Moisture management fabric for active sports is a good example: a couple of years ago these fabrics were synthetic aliens, now they’re the norm and everyone uses them.

    “Whether customers are willing to pay the premium… well, once again it depends on your target market,” says Strydom.

    “People who are passionate about their particular niche activity certainly have a much more price elastic appetite for products and innovation. Technical products will therefore not sell in a bottom-end budget type retail operation, but rather in a technical and specialised environment,” he adds.

    “Sailing consumers have, for example, been educated over the years to look for the correct apparel when going out on the water as it could be crucial for survival,” says Susanna Hammerstring, EMEA regional merchandising manager for Puma international — now making its mark as a sailing brand.

    “Sailors know what they want and look for the appropriate brands. The consumers are prepared for the more expensive and technically superior garment, as they know they need the benefits and that it will cost some extra money.”

    Many consumers, especially anglers, canoeists and other watersport enthusiasts thoroughly enjoy the benefits of quick-dry clothing and are willing to pay a premium for technical products when they appreciate the various technologies, says Jackie Gouverneur, brand manager for Columbia Sportswear in SA.

    Convincing anglers

    An avid angler like the Springbok Barry Wareham, of Basil Manning Fishing Equipment, who developed a fishing clothing range, knows only too well that clothing that does not dry quickly, becomes heavy and clingy, more often than not making one suffer a lot more from the effect of wind chill.

    But, the average SA angler, who spends less time on the water, might not appreciate or pay for the added benefits of technical clothing, cautions Preston Dale, owner of Goya Trading, who also supplies a range of fishing shirts.

    Clothing UV protection is, however, gaining popularity in the American markets and will certainly become popular in Africa in the coming years.

    “I believe, as the sport fishing market in Southern Africa continues to grow, more and more anglers will spend longer periods of time on the water and will want to purchase more expensive, but technically superior, garments that allow them to enjoy a more comfortable day’s fishing.


    June 2007

    What is the story with women’s hiking boots?

    How popular are women’s hiking boots? What do women look at when buying boots? Is it important for women to wear women’s styles or can they wear men’s? Carin Hardisty investigates

    The women’s outdoor market is growing. The brands have awakened to this fact and are bringing out more women’s specific apparel, footwear and equipment. This is all well, but what is the actual difference between men’s and women’s products? To be more specific — hiking boots.

    Lauren Ploos from Hi-Tec says about 35% of their hiking boots range is for ladies and that the hiking boot market is skewed towards men.

    There is however a growing number of requests for ladies’ outdoor footwear, not only in boots, but also other items, for example watershoes, sandals and hunting boots, says Iqbal Baruffwala from Bar Global Trading, distributors of Wolverine

    Miles O’Brien from Jordan & Co., distributers of Olympic, feels that women do not find rugged hiking-specific boots a necessity when hiking. They even use off-road running shoes instead of hiking boots, or men’s boots.

    O’Brien says that they sell about 1 ladies hiking boot to every 7 men’s hiking boots.

    Geoff Ward from Outward Ventures, distributors of La Sportiva, reckons the gender breakdown amongst hikers is close to 50/50, but that the proportion of ladies’ hiking boots sold by retailers is more likely between 10–20% of their hiking boot sales.

    Ward says the low sales percentage of ladies’ hiking boots in stores is probably due to women being willing to try on men’s hiking boots. However, Ward adds that on the flip-side of the coin, men are very reluctant to try on a ladies’ boot — even if the fit might be better.

    Often women buy men’s boots, because there is insufficient stock in the ladies’ and they cannot buy a ladies’ boot if they wanted to, or just because the men’s boot has a better fit for the individual.

    Retailers are often aware of the fact that women are willing to buy men’s boots and, to reduce the risk of holding stock that will not sell quickly enough, often do not stock the ladies’ boots if they can get women to buy men’s.

    Must women wear ladies’ boots?

    The big difference — and reason why women should in fact wear ladies boots — is that women have longer calf muscles, meaning more attention must be given to the heel area of the boot. The last is also different due to the shape difference in men’s and women’s feet.

    However, Ploos adds that it is usually a personal preference whether to wear a men’s or ladies’ boot. It also depends greatly on your foot shape as some women have wider feet and thus prefer men’s boots.

    Baruffwala, on the other hand, says there is not much difference between men’s and women’s hiking boots.

    He agrees that one of the big differences is the last, which is narrower for ladies. He adds that sizing is probably the biggest issue when buying ladies footwear — where men’s sizes start at UK6, the most popular sizes being 9 and 10, ladies sizes 5 and 6 are the most popular. This means that retailers have to order specifically for women, since their sizes are usually not stocked well enough if they opt for men’s footwear.

    O’Brien suggests that women are more likely to buy a mid-cut boot, as opposed to a low-cut, due to the stability the higher cut provides.

    To a retailer this suggests that the sale should rather be done on the cut of the boot — and not the (male vs female) label.

    Are looks important?

    Baruffwala believes aesthetics is an important criteria when women buy their boots. He says they have done very well with Julia, a navy/grey ladies boot, whereas men seem to prefer their Spencer (a brown boot).

    Ploos believes it is a combination of aesthetics and technical specs that sell the boot.

    "Women want to look good but at the same time they want the boots to be comfortable and have the necessary features," says Ploos. "A very important part of women’s hiking boots is that they need to be lightweight." This is where Hi-Tec’s V-Lite technology has done very well for them — it allows a reduction in the boot’s weight without compromising on performance.

    O’Brien says that it is mostly aesthetics that sell women’s footwear, because women tend to be more image conscious than men. He says that the toned and lighter colours sell well with ladies, for example a good combination would be fawn with a touch of lilac or orange. However, various shades of brown are still the predominant colours.

    Hiking boots for casual wear

    Compared to their male counterparts, women are less likely to buy low-tech hiking boots to wear as leisurewear — generally they prefer sneakers says Baruffwala.

    O’Brien agrees that women are less likely to wear hiking boots as casual wear. While men wear their boots to the rugby or a braai he feels that women will not easily do the same.

    Ward adds that men are also likely to wear their boots for hard, rough work where their feet need extra protection.

    However, he goes on to say that women will wear their boots for leisure, but yet again aesthetics plays a big role. The boots should not make the feet look large and clumsy.

    La Sportiva offers womens sizes in around 75% of their models ranging from serious mountain boots to technical rock shoes. When designing their women’s boots the brand especially takes into account that women’s feet are more sensitive to pressure, that the forefoot has less volume, the heel is narrower and straighter, and the calf is lower.

    A lot of Hi-Tec ladies boots are bought for casual wear, as is the case with most sporting footwear. Hi-Tec hiking boots are worn casually because they are comfortable, durable and lightweight.

    The right boot for the right job

    A hiking boot is a hiking boot is a hiking boot … right? Wrong! When selling a hiking boot to customers you need to ask what kind of hiking they will be doing, for example day trekking, backpacking trekking, or serious mountaineering.

    For a short hike the customer will need light boots, which are comfortable, but also great for setting a quick pace.

    For a 3–4 day backpacking hike, advise the customer to go for a mid-weight boot. The boot will offer better protection than a lightweight boot, but it is not heavy enough to slow the customer.

    The customer will need heavy boots when climbing and trekking for long periods over rough terrain. The heavy boots provide the necessary support and can take a lot of wear-and-tear. To check the boot for strength, bend the boot sideways. If it bends easily it is not strong enough. For the toe, apply hard pressure to the front of the shoe — if it goes in easily, the boot is not strong enough.

    Finding the perfect fit

    Finding the right fit for hiking boots is not as easy as you would think. There are various factors that come into play — from what socks the customer will be wearing when they wear the boots on the hike, to the weight of their backpack. When not fitted correctly, the boot can cause painful blisters, black nails, stress fractures, etcetera.

    So how can you as a retailer help your customer get the most from their hiking experience with their new boots?

    Get socked

    The proper sock can create a comfortable environment, prevent hot spots, and control moisture and climate, thus it is important to inform the customer to find the right one. It is recommend that the customer wears two pairs — a thin or lightweight pair on the inside, and a thicker pair on the outside. Two socks rub against each other, whereas one sock generally rubs against your foot, potentially raising blisters. Ideally, the socks should be synthetic or wool. Cotton socks get damp and soggy, and will raise blisters on your feet. Synthetic and wool socks do a much better job of wicking moisture away from your feet, thereby keeping them relatively dry.

    DIY tests

    There are several quick tests available to see if the boot fits correctly.

    The finger test

    Unlace the boot fully and have the customer move their foot as far forward in the boot as possible. If the boot is the correct size, the index finger should be able to fit inside the boot at the back of the ankle. This is to ensure that you have the extra space needed when backpacking downhill — when your foot has a tendency to slide forward.

    The sensory test

    Have the customer take off their socks and wear the boot barefoot. This makes it possible for the customer to determine if any part of the boot feels tight – especially important around the small toes where they might feel pinched or jammed – which is sometimes difficult to feel through socks. Pay special attention to the sides just behind the toes (ball of the foot) and the middle of the foot on either side of the arch.

    Next, have the customer do the same with the socks on, making sure the socks are stretched smoothly over the feet and are not loose, which may cause the sock to fold over when inserting the foot into the boot. The boot should not feel too tight or loose in any area. If a part of the foot feels ‘jammed’, advise the customer to try wearing a lighter, medium-weight sock on the outside – making use of different thicknesses of socks can be used as an option for making size and fit adjustments. If the foot still feels jammed or loose, the customer should look at another boot.

    Women, some being used to tight-fitting street shoes, should pay close attention to comfort in the width of the foot. Wide feet wedged into tight boots might cause the boot material to relax and stretch, which allows the foot to extend beyond the sole of the boot and can lead to increased stress on the body as the hiker works to maintain balance on a shoe platform that is too small for the foot. Alternatively, the edge of the sole could possibly dig into the bottom of the foot through the boot material, which can lead to foot bruises and blisters.

    Women who have wide feet might want to consider a men’s foot, but advise your female clients doing so to pay close attention to the heel area of the boot, because women have narrower heels. As a guide, a women’s "D" width is generally a men’s "C" width.

    The stride test

    When the customer walks in the boots, the boot should crease comfortable across the top of the toe. The top of the boot should not be jamming the back of the toes. If the heel slides noticeably in the heel area the boot is too big, however note that new, rigid boots will cause a small amount of heel slide due to the newness and stiffness of the sole.

    The slant board test

    The last test is to walk on a ‘slant board’ where the customer can test how the boots feel on an incline. If the foot jams into the front of the boot and toes feel pinched while walking down the incline, or if the toes touch the end of the boot, the customer should look for another pair.

    Resources

  • Hall, G. If You Are A Serious Hiker Choosing The Right Hiking Boot Is Crucial. Jan 2007. EzineArticles.com/?expert=Gregg_Hall


  • August 2007

    Clean water — enough of a priority?

    As many an unfortunate off-road enthusiast or hiker can testify, nasty bugs and germs that lurk in streams and dams can spoil a trip, or worse, cause severe illnesses. Water treatment systems are no longer a luxury, but rather an essential for travellers to the outdoors or excotic locations, reports Trudi du Toit

    Joking about Montezuma’s revenge ceases to be funny when you spend your precious holiday time huddled in a hotel bathroom nursing a cramping stomach. The effects of drinking contaminated water becomes more serious when you have to rush from bush to bush during a 15km hike, doubled-up with diarrhoea and nausea. The consequences can be fatal when you develop diseases like cholera, dysentery, life-threatening gastroenteritis and typhoid fever because you drank water from a contaminated stream.

    These are, sadly, not far-fetched scenarios.

    According to the World Health Organization (WHO) 1.8-m people die every year because of drinking infected water. According to a population report on water published by Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, 60% of infant deaths worldwide are caused by contaminated water and 2.3-bn people suffer from diseases caused by organisms in water. The WHO also says that more than 80% of diseases suffered by travellers are caused by drinking contaminated water.

    Whether hiking, picknicking or touring in exotic locations, water containing viruses, bacteria or intestinmal parasites can cause discomfort – if you’re lucky – or serious illness and even death if you are not treated timeously.

    Enough to make one wish that you were a camel that carried your own water.

    An alternative is to carry some form of water purifying device with you — and a retailer selling travelling, hiking, camping or canoeing gear would do his or her customers a favour by displaying these with the equipment sold for outdoor activities.

    There are many different types of devices on the market to treat water, depending on where your customer is going, the quality of the water there and what he or she plans on doing.

    Some devices filtrate — kill bacteria and turn murky water into clear water (although the smaller viruses will remain). Other devices purify — in other words, kill all the bugs, big and small, in the water, but does not clear the water. Some combine filtration and sterilization to give you clean, clear safe drinking water.

    "The type of product you choose depends on the contamination level of the water source. Is the water turbid or clear? In addition to all bacteria, must viruses also be eliminated? Is the water contaminated with chemicals?" advises Katadyn, manufacturers of water purification and filtration devices (locally distributed by Eiger Equipment).

    Other factors to keep in mind are how much portable water will be required, how fast must it be available and will it be stored for a longer period of time.

    Purification

    A crystal clear mountain stream or water coming out of a tap may look harmless and inviting, but many a traveller can testify to the germs and other nasties lurking in the water that can sabotage a trip. There are three ways of getting rid of bugs in the water: you can boil ‘em, douse ‘em with chemicals, or zap ‘em.

    Boiling: Nothing wrong with killing the bugs by boiling water for cooking and cleaning – its cheap and easy. But its not exactly the solution when your throat is parched after a long and hot hike, nor is it much fun to build a fire in wind or rain. The hotel manager also might not take kindly to your boiling efforts in his room. When you are in a hurry, the tedious wait for water to boil and then cool may even tempt one to risk a few sips of dirty water.

    Douse with chemicals: The simplest way of sterilizing stagnant water is to add half a cup of chlorine bleach, but the idea of drinking stuff that cleans drains may not appeal to your customers. Therefore most travellers and campers prefer to buy liquids or tablets – usually containing chlorine or iodine tincture – manufactured specifically to purify water. The fluid used to sterilize babies’ bottles, for example, works equally well for adults.

    Water sterilizing tablets are small and easy to carry around and add hardly any weight to your pack.

    The taste is, however, an acquired one, which can be a problem when trying to convince children there is nothing wrong with the water. Other negatives are that some products have a longish waiting period (up to 4 hours) before you can drink the water and this method will also not clear debris from the water.

    Some chlorine tablets have to be crushed and the correct dosage measured – which is not always so easy to control. While iodine is more pH-independent and more readily storable than chlorine, it is not quite as potent and have a short shelf life even when new, and rapidly lose potency after opening. It can be harmful if used over an extended time period. To eliminate the disadvantages of iodine some manufacturers (like Katadyn) only uses iodine with activated carbon filtration systems, which removes the nauseous taste.

    Zap with UV: A unique device kills bacteria as well as viruses and protozoa with ultra-violet radiation. It is very simple to use: you place it in a container of water, press the switch once or twice, depending on the amount of water used, and stir until the UV light switches off at the end of the cycle.

    It is safe to use, as the UV light only activates when it is immersed in water, which contains the radiation, and it switches off automatically at the end of the cycle. Many US towns now use UV radiation to sterilize their water supplies and this method has been used by oyster and mussel farmers for many years.

    Plus factors are that the device is compact, lightweight, fast, strong (therefore unlikely to break) and easy to use. It also does not affect the taste of the water. But, it requires relatively clear water – it will actually not work as well if the water is too murky to allow the UV radiation to penetrate. It also targets living organisms and will therefore not neutralize poisons from chemical spills or pesticides that may be in the water.

    Plus factors are that the device is compact, lightweight, fast, strong (therefore unlikely to break) and easy to use. It also does not affect the taste of the water.

    But, it requires relatively clear water — it will actualy not work as well if the water is too murky to allow the UV radiation to penetrate – and dirty water therefore needs to be filtered first. It also targets living organisms and will therefore not neutralize poisons from chemical spills or pesticides that may be in the water.

    Filtration

    Off-roaders, adventurous campers and hikers often have no option but to get their water from streams or dams so muddy or silty that they are glad that they can’t see what’s on the bottom. This is when a filtration system is essential.

    Apart from removing the tadpoles, grass and other plant material, filtration transforms brown water into an acceptable colour and removes most of the organic taste. Some systems will even reduce the taste of iodine or chlorine used to sterilize the water. Many manufacturers, for example, recommend that the container is doused with iodine or chlorine before adding water.

    The best water systems have a maximum filter size of 0.2 microns (a micron is a millionth of a meter) that is effective against bacteria (0.2 microns up to 10 microns) - but does not catch viruses that are much smaller (0.004 - 0.1 microns in size).

    Some systems have a pre-filter structure to remove the worst mess before using the proper filtration system. Alternatively, the worst debris can be removed by pouring the water through a coffee filter, a piece of muslin or even a clean sock. Leaving very muddy water to settle before pouring through the filtration system will also improve efficiency.

    Some manufacturers make their micro filters resist bacterial growth by adding silver and other ingredients. It is a good idea to sterilize the container and filter hoses with iodine or chlorine from time to time to prevent bacterial growth and some manufacturers recommend a soaking in household bleach between uses (hikers report no aftertaste when used again).

    The cons: Some filtration systems require that you pump the water manually, which can be cumbersome. Filters need to be wiped clean after use as sediments collect on the outside. Otherwise they can clog from the dirt collected, which will require the filter to be replaced … but then, the gunk removed from the filter is a reminder of what could have entered your system!

    Spare ceramics can also be expensive.

    Resources:

  • Product Reviews: www.backpackgeartest.org/reviews/Water%20Treatment/Filters

  • www.drinksafe-systems.co.uk/feedback.html

  • Population Reports: Solutions for a Water-Short World. Volume XXVI, Number 1, September, 1998. Published by the Population Information Program, Center for Communication Programs, The Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, Maryland. www.infoforhealth.org/pr/m14/m14chap5_1.shtml

  • www.infoforhealth.org/pr/m14/m14chap5_1.shtml

  • www.katadyn.com

  • www.msrcorp.com

  • www.steripen.com

  • http://thetravelinsider.com/travelaccessories/steripentraveler.htm

  • stuff.silverorange.com/archives/2004/september/msrmioxpurifier


  • April 2006

    What to know when selling binoculars

    Given the pleasure and value they add to life, binoculars are, arguably, one of the most underrated items. Ideally every household should own a pair. That they do not is undoubtedly due in part to the impression that binoculars are only for the specialist like the birdwatcher or yachtsman. But it is also due to the difficulty in unravelling the ‘jargon’ with which they come — and when a retailer can do that, a whole new world is opened up for his customers, reports JONATHAN SPENCER JONES

    A pair of binoculars fulfils the function of a telescope in magnifying a distant object to make it visible, and essentially comprises two telescopes that are mounted side by side – one for each eye – and aligned to point in the same direction – their advantage over a single telescope, or ‘monocular’, being that they are used with both eyes, which gives a more natural, three dimensional image.

    Binoculars come in two main types — the small compact form in which the ‘objective’ (which gathers the light) and the ‘eyepiece’ (which one looks through) are in a straight line, and the larger more bulky form, in which the objectives are offset from the eyepieces (with more complex internal optics).

    The key to understanding binoculars is to understand the figures with which they are described: all binoculars come with a specification, such as 8x40 or 10x50 and these two figures give an indication of the binoculars’ performance — the first figure referring to the magnification, or the number of times that the image is magnified, and the second to the diameter of the objective lens in millimetres, which is indicative of the light gathering power of the binoculars.

    In general, the larger these two numbers are, then the more useful the binoculars will be, but the penalty is that the binoculars also come with increasing size and weight, not to mention cost.

    In practice however, there are limits to these specifications: a magnification of 10 is the largest that is practical for hand holding and that requires a very steady hand! Binoculars with a larger magnification generally require a tripod.

    An 8 is probably the most useful magnification for general use, particularly for a family in which the bins will be used by the various family members of different ages.

    Similarly, for general use an objective size of 50 is the maximum that should be recommended and again binoculars larger than that normally require a tripod because of their increased weight.

    Typically compact binoculars have objectives up to about 25 mm, while standard binoculars have larger objectives.

    In selecting binoculars a number of questions need to be asked: What will they be used for? Is a compact binocular preferred for travelling? If one is out in the field all day will a large pair of binoculars be comfortable to have around one’s neck?

    Most importantly, the buyer should be encouraged to try out the binoculars, even if just to view the opposite side of the street — surprisingly, binoculars of apparently similar quality from different manufacturers can vary considerably, for example in terms of image brightness.

    Are the binoculars comfortable to hold in the hand and easy to use? Often, like so many other items, the final choice may come down to one of personal preference — bearing in mind that quality of binoculars is broadly related to their price and in general the more expensive the binoculars the better the quality of their optics and build. Indeed, cheap, no name brand binoculars should be avoided at all costs as their quality is likely to be so poor that they end up unused on the shelf and their owner disappointed.

    Also to be avoided are binoculars with features like zoom or image stabilisation, as these are normally heavier and more expensive, and do not perform as well as the binoculars of the same specifications without these features.

    Any reasonable pair of binoculars will have separately focusing eyepieces, in order to accommodate the normal minor differences in optical quality between one’s two eyes. Assuming the right eyepiece is separately adjustable, the procedure is to focus the left eyepiece with the main central focusing wheel, and then to separately focus the right eyepiece. With the relative focus for both eyes fixed, thereafter only minor adjustments will be required with the central wheel to focus for distance.

    Looking after binoculars

    Binoculars are a precision optical device and they require care in handling. They should not be knocked or dropped as, apart from damaging the casing, the optics can go out of alignment or come loose in extreme cases. In that case they should be taken to a specialist for repair and the owner should not attempt to repair them him- or herself. The optics comprise several components, which could easily be mislaid or damaged, and their correct alignment requires sophisticated testing.

    Binoculars also should not be allowed to get wet, although the odd drop of moisture is unlikely to harm them. If they do get wet, they should be dried off carefully. Sea water or spray is particularly damaging to binoculars, as is sand, and particular care needs to be taken at the beach or near the sea.

    Care should also be taken with the optics and the lenses should preferably not be touched to avoid fingerprints. Better quality binoculars have lenses with optical coatings, which improve the image quality, and these may be easily scratched. The lenses should be cleaned in the same way as a camera lens, starting with a blower brush to remove any grit or other matter which might scratch the lens coating. Then the lens may be cleaned by rubbing gently with lens tissue or a soft, old well-washed handkerchief. Avoid tissues, which contain fibres that will scratch the lens coating.

    When not in use, binoculars should not be allowed to stand in the sun, and they should be stored in a cool dry place. In occasional cases, such as particularly humid or damp conditions, condensation and/or mildew may occur inside the binoculars and then they should be taken to a professional for cleaning.

    That said, hopefully the binocular will not spend too much time in storage, as a pair sitting in a cupboard is money wasted. Binoculars are designed to be used, even if they do get a little damaged along the way — and if the owner is happy with his choice, the binoculars will be used, opening up new, otherwise inaccessible vistas.

    Jonathan Spencer Jones has an MSc in Applied Optics from the Imperial College of Science & Technology, was employed as an astronomer at the SA Astronomical Observatory, is a past president of the Astronomical Society of SA, and is a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society.

    April 2005

    WowTech!

    From the gadget-obsessed to the Saturday-stroller, there is a GPS unit out there for each and every user — and their pockets. The latest gadgets are re-writing the rules. There are now heart rate monitors for the outdoor enthusiasts and GPSs for the athlete, and manufacturers are constantly introducing new and innovative uses. What were once luxury stock items, have now become must haves, reports CARIN DU TOIT

    A heart rate monitor is for the sports market; a GPS unit for the outdoor market. The GPS unit furthermore belongs in the cab of a 4x4 or the cabin of a boat.

    Right? Yes ... and no.

    GPS devices have become so small, manageable and affordable that they are now used for just about every activity, from athletes’ training, to hiking, canoeing ... even golf!

    Like the computer industry in the last century, the developers of GPS units are constantly inventing features to attract consumers and turn these former luxury items into "must haves".

    Garmin has improved on the product that was the 2003 winner of the SA Sports Trader Outdoor Product of the Year competition, namely street mapping software.

    While the previous street map only covered the three major city centres, the new Garmap SA Streetmaps v3 now offers full auto routing (voice directing turn-by-turn) on all South African major, primary and secondary roads, with mapping detail of more than 1 000 South African cities, towns and rural villages — all of which tallies up to nearly 300 000KM of road data.

    To launch this new mapping product, Avnic Trading is running a promotion which will entitle all Garmin users of auto-routing products to purchase this mapping at discounted prices, provided it has been purchased through an authorised SA dealer.

    "Those currently using City Select can purchase Garmap for R855 incl VAT and those using earlier versions of Garmap can upgrade for R741 incl VAT," advises Richard Gie. "As a standalone product, Garmap will retail at around R1710 incl VAT, so this introductory special offers a considerable saving."

    They have also introduced a Garmap "road atlas" of Africa on a CD that downloads on to their map enabled GPS units — giving the African adventure traveller the up to date information (through Internet downloads) needed to plan any trip from the Cape to Cairo.

    The pocket-sized Magellan eXplorist 600 GPS, locally distributed by Pertec, also has the capability to add detailed street maps and topography charts.Unlimited memory expandability allows the user to add up to 5 track log files, each with 2 000 track-points and store an unlimited amount of track log files to optional SD cards.

    This range of waterproof GPS units shows speed, direction and the distance to the destination. Other luxury features include a built-in electronic 3-axis compass, a barometer, a barometric pressure altimeter and a thermometer.

    As more and more manufacturers from related fields enter the GPS market, expertise developed for other activities become part of GPS devices ... and vice versa.

    Attract different clients

    This means that the stockist of GPS units can now attract a whole new group of clients to his store. Instead of just attracting the hiker or 4x4 enthusiast through stocking GPS units, outdoor stores can now also attract the runner, cyclist, sailor or shore angler looking for GPS units to their stores.

    Marine electronics supplier Humminbird, for instance, has made a small hand-held fishfinder for the shore angler.

    Another traditional marine electronics supplier, Lowrance, is now also launching more affordable handheld GPS devices.

    Where Polar always provided heart rate monitors for the sports market, the AXN Outdoor Computer range introduced late last year, also caters for the outdoor enthusiast. Features like slope counters, compasses, barometers, personal energy expenditure monitors, and even a rest test,enables climbers,canoeists, hikers, extreme sport enthusiasts and others to keep track of just about every conceivable change: whether in terrain, weather or body functions.

    Personal trainers

    Athletes like runners, canoeists or cyclists are now also able to enjoy the use of GPS information as a training tool.

    Garmin’s Forerunner 301 is a wristop combination heart rate monitor and GPS device that can be used for multiple sports, such as canoeing, running and cycling. The user can record the route, distance, time, lap time, calories burnt and heart rate and download it onto a computer for further analysis.

    With the receiver, one of the strongest in the Garmin range, athletes training with the unit have experienced little loss of GPS reception, despite predictions that satellite reception might be compromised by tall buildings or trees.

    According to Gie, Garmin’s GPS solution is set to revolutionise the world of sport. "Runners now have accurate speed and distance data with no need to calibrate external sensors. Information such as altitude, heart rate, calories burnt, etc. is now available on a 2 device system (wrist worn GPS and chest strap).

    The Forerunner 301 integrates with the Garmin training center software that displays exercise information and even overlays the exercise on a Garmin compatible map. "Up to now athletes participating in activities like kayaking and canoeing did not have much choice when it came to an integrated GPS/Heart rate training system, as GPS is the only external sensor that can be used when it comes to supplying an accurate speed and distance component," says Gie.

    "The market for complete sports instruments that combine multiple fields of information has become very competitive — both technologically and economically," says Steve Saunders of Suunto distributor Manex and Power Marine.

    "Garmin has produced the first integrated unit that performs really well, but we will have to see what is to come, I know Suunto has a few tricks up their sleeve!"

    The T6 Personal Training System by Suunto records how the body performs during exercise, enabling later analysis and planning with the training manager. It also displays speed and distance information. The unit is compatible with wireless POD’s.

    Suunto has opted to go for an inertial sensor system, rather than a GPS system, which provides them with the capability to record either running or cycling speed accurately without the risk of losing signal.

    Polar’s S625 Speed and Distance Monitor (SDM), also uses inertial technology, as opposed to GPS navigation. GPS is, as yet, not viable for runners, because "the size and power consumption of current GPS technology generally makes that technology cumbersome for use in the running market," says Peter Figg of local Polar distributor Intelligent Health & Fitness.

    "GPS technology is unable to deliver accurate enough vertical resolution required for route profiling, a key benefit sought by runners", he says.

    "Inertial sensor technology can still deliver good accuracy when running in city centres with tall buildings as well as in forests, where GPS technology often struggles due to the difficulty in obtaining satellite reception in these environments".

    Inertial technology can also be used on indoor tracks and on treadmills.

    Even golf is going the GPS route!

    GPSI, a Vancouver, Canada, based company has developed a "GPS golf business solution" aimed at managers of golf facilities or resorts.

    The GPSI WiFi systems can be used to monitor how fast carts on a course are going in order to speed up play; allow a golfer to measure precise distances of play; display data and leader boards during tournaments; allow golfers to go online while at a course... and even display lunch menus and take orders!

    What will they think of next?

    Some developments in the pipeline for the future are eyewear that measures heart rate and blood oxygen levels and a football shirt that records heart rate and hydration levels of the wearer!

    Technospecs, developed by Cambridge Consultants, a UK technology development and consulting company, displays information like the wearer’s heart rate and blood oxygen levels in a head-up display. They are even considering the possibility of adding a wireless communications link to the Technospecs chip to enable the athlete to transfer performance data to a PC or their trainer.

    A UK Northumbria University student is the mastermind behind a football shirt that records heart rate and hydration levels of players while they are on the field and allows the coach to "buzz" the player when it is time to return to the bench to rehydrate.

    Electrocardiogram (ECG) sensors record the electrical activity of the player’s heart and send the information about irregularities to a computer.

    Hydration levels are monitored by silicon gel-based strips that react with sweat loss. If dehydration is detected, a signal is sent via radio waves to physios who in turn "vibrate" the player that someone on the bench wants to talk with him. The shirt is fully washable and apparently the design has already received a substantial amount of interest from manufacturers around the world.



    *Read our copyright notice before making use of this article




    © SA Sports Trader