Planning an overseas adventure travel is a magnificent experience it self. Here's a view of the village in the maldives I will be visiting soon!
The following post is a bit of a reflexion mixed with a small step by step guide of how i plan my adventures.
Sounds a bit obvious but, after doing a bit of research, I discovered there are a lot of you guys out there who are wondering what and overseas adventure travel really is and how to plan for it.
What we want first, is to define adventure!
The common definition is that an adventure is something exciting, daring and unusual. While this is not too far from the truth, the other definition of the term adventure says that, it is actually when something goes wrong.
Why would I want things to go wrong?
I’ve heard countless people say they want a life full of adventures and the instagram world has more than raped the meaning of the word by blasting at you, countless perfect sunsets and people holding hands in a constant feeling of perfection.
A true adventure is not this sense of perfection. A true adventure is a challenge. It should make you feel like you grow, like you have accomplished something to further improve yourself.
This, unfortunately, comes -most of the times- hand in hand with something going wrong.
Hopefully not wrong enough to have consequences you will regret the rest of your life but, for sure all adventurers are looking that brush with the limits to find adventure.
Risk is definitely not for everyone but, there are many levels of risk. Find the one you feel comfortable with.
But what if I don’t like risk?
Well, needless to say that some sort of risk is required to have a true adventure. However, this risk can be a controlled risk. This risk can be a small one, or simply put: something that pushes you out of your comfort zone.
Here is also when we start delving into the realm of that overseas adventure travel!
The first steps into adventure you will probably take near you. You will explore, play and discover the places or situations close to home.
There is an investment component intimately linked to reaching that far corner (doesn’t have to be that far) of the world that makes us dream.
Ok, but now explain me the whole overseas adventure travel part
Well, this one is probably the tastier part of it. Think about it… An adventure doesn’t start when you’re already executing it but rather when you dream, decide and plan on it.
I have spent way more hours preparing trips than actually living them and I honestly enjoy it. It’s the whole sensation of getting ready, knowledgeable and fit for the challenge ahead (even considering the things that could go wrong).
Good, now help me plan my next awesome trip.
So, just for you to have a piece of content that can help you beyond this reflexion, let me tell you what I do to plan my travels, from a big sponsored expedition to a weekend mission with friends.
Enjoy planning the adventure as much as you enjoy going into it!
How to plan an overseas adventure travel
Define your objectives (primary, secondary, etc.)Define the time-frame (for research, planning and execution)Define your budget (getting in and out, extra gear, unforeseen events, emergency, etc.)Define companions (or is it a solo mission?)Define the necessary gear (how big of a logistic point is it?)Define your exit strategy (always have one or preferably more. Redundancy is key)Search for experts in the field (even if you are one)Have the necessary insurances (Duh)Outline your weaknesses and strengths (Be honest about your weaknesses)Find sponsors (If you need them or consider them necessary)
For those of you needing more than just a list. Let’s get into the rationale for the points above and why each carries a different type of weight when planning.
Define your objectives
Where to go, what to do, why to do it… Believe or not, these are difficult questions. I find inspiration in the most strange places but, above all, I try to do extraordinary things. I don’t want to do just about the same as everyone else.
However, this is a bit of a foolish dream because, unless you have unlimited pockets or you’re willing to step into the absolute unknown and participate in frontier expedition, you will -most likely- end up doing things others have done before.
I have also done that in Patagonia, where I have reached unnamed
I have done that by sometimes looking at a point in the globe with google earth and just decide: ok, I want to get there, just for the sake of standing where none stood before.
That, is material for another story.
It's easy to evaluate your skills higher than they actually are. This can lead to uncomfortable situations
Choose a realistic adventure, but something that makes you vibrate.
Hold the stoke. It is easy to get stoked about going somewhere and just book a flight. Then you’ll get desperate and you’ll start improvising.
The key to a successful overseas adventure travel is to first define why the hell you want to go there! With this in mind, everything else falls into place.
Let me illustrate this by using the example of the trip I am currently planning and the reason why I recently wrote this post about how to build a waterproof camera rig for under 1k.
The first thing that came to my mind was the fact that I wanted to dive with several big animals. I wanted to do one diving trip that would include at least a “big three” selection.
Manta raysWhale sharksTiger sharks
This already narrowed down the options of places I could go to due to the actual possibility of finding the three species in one place. The selection: The Maldives.
Define the time-frame
I don’t know about you but, the majority of human beings reading this will have to take vacations to go on an adventure so, this point will definitely affect your budget and options according to the place you have selected in relation to your objectives.
Transport is the first BIG thing. How to get there fast and hopefully cheap. In my case, fast is more important than cheap.
A student might be able to take the long and cheap road. I can’t afford that. However, a good way of estimating the best rate is to use google flights. You’ll get a good overview of price-to-dates.
Flying there is just one part of the deal. If it is a remote corner you will have to consider ground or sea transport to your final objective. Be sure to count this carefully in.
Define your budget
Sometimes a good way of forcing you to evaluate the appropriate options is to have a strict number in your head (and a % of tolerance for it). It’s like a healthy visit to a casino. If you go with a defined amount to lose, you will have a more pleasant experience.
That said, your budget should consider things like:
Transport in and out of destination (Is not just taking a plane)The gear that you will have to buy, rent, renew, replace, repair and maybe lose.Food and accomodation (many times I wanted to pitch a tent and just couldn’t)Medical insurance (In will talk about this later)Guides (No matter how good you are, locals are always better than you)Porters (if it is a gear intensive trip you might even need animals)Tips (sometimes the only way of getting beta or getting to your objective safe)Location taxes (parks, protection fees, tourist tax, etc.)Unforeseen or emergency (a 25% increase sometimes)Cancellations / Connection Loss (air, ground, sea)
Define companions (or is it a solo mission?)
This is a critical thing to do. In the industry (outdoor industry) I know a lot of guys that love the whole “solo” thing. I have to admit I’m not such a huge fan of it.
To me, the right companion always bring something nice to the adventure.
No matter if we are talking about the weekend or the overseas adventure travel concept. But choosing this shouldn’t be something random.
My personal policy is to always choose someone who know -hopefully- a lot more than I do regarding the objective at hand.
I enjoy travelling with people more experienced than me as it is a perfect chance to learn and grow into that defined activity.
The right partner can simple make or break a trip.
If this is not possible, you can also be the leader if you feel comfortable with that. Nevertheless, I can’t say I would recommend the option of finding someone through a webpage and just jump into a full-blown adventure, half-across the world with someone I don’t know. I’ve done it.
It turned -most of the times- pretty well, but I just want to be sure I will enjoy a great time with someone I know.
If no one is available, inscribe to a local club and build a bit of a network or at least give yourself the time to screen for potential partners.
Believe it or not, is a huge safety component and, returning home safe is the most important thing.
Define the necessary gear
This is actually my own gear room. As you can see, I have a thing for accumulating toys!
I love this point. I’m a sucker for gear and I have no problems admitting I’m completely addicted to it.
I will even buy a full pro-setup from a sport I haven’t even tried yet just because the investment forces me to practice the activity harder and more committed that if I just rent some gear to try (I do that sometimes, also. I’m not THAT crazy).
But when it comes to planning, one has to be critical with these things. Sometimes it makes no sense to travel with all your gear and it’s ways more effective to rent it there.
If the gear is something highly safety-related, you might feel better bringing your own stuff no matter what. Let’s see the diving case (could be climbing also).
I am definitely considering acquiring a complete diving setup but, for the present moment and considering the amount of dives I put on a regular year (I do want to certify myself as a divemaster this year) I don’t need to have everything.
Nevertheless, I do have my own regulator. Why? Because Is the piece I consider critical within the whole thing and it’s the one thing I want to make sure works absolutely perfect! (I mean, you breathe through the damn thing).
I don’t want to get a regulator which I don’t know who serviced it or one that has been into multiple mouths (that’s just me thinking it’s gross).
But I’m perfectly comfortable renting a BCD or using rental fins and wetsuits. That being said, in this case there’s only one piece of critical gear, while for example, in climbing, I would rather carry most of my personal gear and leave some heavy stuff I can rent on destination.
Define your exit strategy
I can’t stress this point enough. You need to give this part a lot of thought, especially if you plant to get into places with difficult access or where the possibility of rescue is remote.
This point is far too complex to take this as everything you need to know about but, in my case, I always want to think of the following cases if we are talking of adventures that consider remote areas.
Bring a GPS locator ( A Garmin -former Delorme- InReach ) that transmit your positions and has an SOS service.Leave detail plans with someone you trust and if necessary task him with monitoring different milestones of the trip. If you don’T reach one, he will contact emergency services.Have a schedule for reports. Respect the report scheduleHave a complete medikit and for f***sake learn how to use it.Do a first responder course.Have your partner do the same. Always be the partner you want to have next to you.Have a way of charging the electronics you depend on (extra power bank or solar)Always have the contact for local emergency service and leave notice at the correspondent police station or emergency service, when entering a complicated area.
There rule of thumb to this point should be: If you’re getting in it, know how to get out if it. If you think you can’t then simply don’t go.
Where you would otherwise be lost, a local guide can help you navigate a complicated terrain with ease.
Search for experts in the field
No matter how good you think you are in a certain sport or activity, if you’re doing an overseas adventure travel, chances are you know jack-shit about the location.
Sure, you have done your due diligence and studied a lot of posts and pages and charts, etc.
Well, you will never have the knowledge or insight of a local guide or expert. Be sure that part of your plan is contacting them beforehand to get the necessary information to make your plan bomber.
If possible, include them in your trip budget and pay for their services to ensure you will get the most out of the experience and in the safest ways possible.
No matter how confident I feel about an activity, I always bring a local. Unless I am the local, in which case I bring a buddy with more experience (see the “buddy choosing” point).
Have the necessary insurances
If you spend enough time outside and -especially- in high consequence environment, chances are things will go wrong eventually.
Being prepared for it is one thing and having the proper network of insurances is another. No matter how skilled you are, you don’t want to pay for that heli-rescue you needed because you lost a front-point in the middle of your climb.
Or in more simple situations, you don’t want to pocket another 300 euros just because you missed a flight because of traffic and then you will lose all other connecting points further down the trip.
Insurances are necessary and they give you a good chunk of peace of mind to enjoy your activity without worrying about these things.
Always do keep in mind one thing: the best insurance is the one that you never have to use :)
Outline your weaknesses and strengths
This one is another critical point. Whether you talk to yourself while planning or you plan something with a buddy, talk about what you don’t feel comfortable.
Be honest about your experience and skills, because once you’re in the situation, your level (or lack of it) will turn into a serious problem.
I had situations where I was in the middle of a climb and we couldn’t move forward because the person told me he could do something he actually couldn’t.
Luckily we just rappelled down and nothing major happened other than me being overly frustrated and uncomfortable with this person.
However, this could have turned into something terrible, given the right ingredients for disaster.
Always speak the truth and be conservative. Get into situations where you know you can maintain control and you are a component that brings safety to the equation.
If you feel like you want to push the limit a bit, get the adequate training and let your partner know so he/she can evaluate whether he is able to cope or solve a potential threatening situation alone.
Last but not least, reaching out to sponsors and brands that can make your trip come true is always a good option.
Some brands are open to work with people that have small names or no names at all in search of organic, user-generated content that will improve their brand presence.
Think about this topic if you believe your trip could potentially add value to a brand and a brand could add value to your trip.
Well, that’s about as comprehensive as it gets to guiding you on planning an overseas adventure travel.
If you need more specific help with a given topic or a destination that I have already been to, don’t hesitate to leave a comment and I will be glad to give you more insight.
A Cute Jellyfish off the coast of China. A sample image taken with a similar rig.
Hey there Gents,
I’ve been doing a lot of diving lately and i’m building towards my dive-master certification. However, diving alone it’s not enough fun for me and I don’t really want to hunt (kill things) so the natural option is to go into underwater photography or filming.
For this, obviously, you need a waterproof camera rig, which -incredibly-, is even more expensive than normal photography rig!
Now, I don’t really mind paying top dollars for the right equipment and I’m all about getting the best gear, because I rather pay once high than being constantly on the upgrading road.
The problem is, I don’t want to spend 10k or 12k without having built enough experience or finding if I really like it. I also don’t want to spend 400 euro and then be completely unhappy with the results and start thinking I should have invested more.
In this post I will tell you how to fabricate-assemble the best possible rig without breaking the bank and get the most out of your bucks.
A close-up to a young turtle in the Caribbean. A sample image taken with a similar rig.
1.- The purpose of the setup
There are tons of waterproof camera options out there but, the best one -in my opinion-, is the camera that you can also use for other purpose, because I don’t plan to be diving every damn weekend.
Somehow, the same happens with clothing. Here's an article about layering that talks about that. If you're interested.
Image credits: GoPro Shop
With this in mind, the best way to go is to GoPro :) No, seriously, the GoPro hero 7 is the best option out there for several reasons:
You can get your hands on one for mere 399 eu (VAT included)It comes with hypersmooth stabilization (I will get into more details later)It’s lightweight and has a minimal profile (helps keep everything streamlined)It’s a plug-and-play system and delivers awesome qualityYou can use it for every other “sport” activityThe housing is a mere 60eu investment and will go down to 60m
Of course, someone could say that a GoPro doesn’t really give you a professional look because you can’t get RAW footage. Well, not true. You don’t need RAW to make a quality clip and you definitely do not need this format unless you’re shooting at a completely professional level. Even at that level, most professionals rely on an action cam for POV footage. The rest, is just music.
2.- You have your waterproof camera, but, are you ready?
No. A waterproof camera is just the core of your rig but, as you will discover, underwater photography is quite complex in many aspects, one of them being the loss of color depending on how deep you go.
If you’re not aware of this fact, you can read a bit more in-depth posts about this here. But, to make matters very simple, red is the first color you start losing as you go deep.
This is because water absorbs different wavelengths of light to different degrees. The longest wavelengths, with the lowest energy, are absorbed first.
Even water at 5ft depth will have a noticeable loss of red. For this reason, strobes and filters are usually used to add color back to subjects.
Here's a good explanation video made by a professional underwater photograph that shows clear examples of "with" and "without" lights.
3.- So, do I use a filter on the light? Or do I use it over my waterproof camera? Or both?
Well, there’s not straight answer to that. It normally depends on a combination of factors related to your budget.
While you could just take a simple waterproof lantern and stick a red plastic on top or you could just stick the same red (transparent) plastic in front of you camera, this won’t really produce a quality result.
Shot of LumeCube in use by jakemarote
4.- So, without further ado, let’s talk about filters and lights!
Waterproof lights are expensive. Simple as that. Nonetheless, they are crucial to bringing back color underwater.
You will notice that even if you have the best of filters on top of your camera, you still need light to bring back the brightness and color of your subjects. No light, no color.
This means that, no matter how good your camera is, you will find yourself having a dull, green-blueish footage at the end of the day.
There is hope when it comes to lighting solutions for those who don’t want to break the bank. Enter, the Lume Cube.
I first got to know this cool solution at photokina a few years back when I had the chance of meeting the owner of the brand.
I never really expected I would be finding it so incredibly appropriate for diving until a month ago when I started working on my own rig.
Lume cubes are small, easy to fix, super-waterproof and delivers 1500 lumens of bright light each!
The whole thing is that a normal 2500 Lumen waterproof light will set you back a hefty 1500 eu while lume cubes retails for 189 eu in a set of two!
For my particular setup I’m attaching 4 of them but, two should be enough for filming at a relative “close distance” from the subject. Say, 2 meters away.
If you're aiming for Macro-images then you surely have enough light available.
The Lume Cube has 10 positions to regulate the intensity and will provide 30 mins of light at full-power. Considering that a normal dive at, say 20m, will last for about 45 mins, you have enough juice to film.
Lume Cube also provides a wide range of filters to throw on top but I’m not using any of those for this particular setup. Just to keep it under the 1K mark.
5.- But you said you need filter!
Indeed, filters are an important factor in this equation. Although you could go both ways and use filter on lights and camera, if I had to choose (which I had) I rather put a quality filter on the camera because don’t want to rely on the reach of the light beam alone and I obviously won’t be able to filter the sunlight. Duh!
Being knowledgeable enough in the world of regular photography, you understand that you can have the best quality lens in the planet but if you throw a shit-quality (pardon my french) filter on top of it, then you have a shit-quality image as a result.
Flip Filters by Backscatter
While you have to understand that the housing of your waterproof camera is already a filter, whatever you throw on top will continue to diminish the quality of your images. Therefore, investing in high-end filters is mandatory.
I did quite of research on this topic and while GoPro offers their own line of filters (I assume good ones) the have one small inconvenient.
Different depths, require different tones of red for different absorbed wavelengths. Now imagine you need to be swapping the tiny filter while operating the rest of your gear and trying not to lose any parts. You have maybe gloves on and you need to store, reach and bla bla. Uncomfortable.
The solution: backscatter filters. Backscatter has a pretty dope filterset that comes with a machined frame (roughed) with two different filters already mounted that allows you to go from one grade to the other with just one flip.
The quality of the filter is neat and the fix to the Hero 7 is just flawless. It has a stop system to avoid the unused filter to flap around and when you buy the set, comes with a shallow water filter that will allow you to bring back the magenta tones.
6.- Are we done yet?
Almost, but, so far so good. We just need a few more pieces and your waterproof camera rig is turning into a pro-level underwater filming setup.
For the finishing, we have to add a few pieces of hardware to have the maximum performance.
In order for your rig to be a rig, we need a frame to mount everything. There are several options and I chose one from backscatter but, when it comes to this I would respect only one thing: comfortability.
A sample rig, you should choose the most comfortable for your hands
It is important that you look at measurements and grips and understand what you think will best fit your hands and style of diving. There is not much more to this point than that, as your choice should be based on “the feel” of it.
7.- The last piece of the puzzle are the flex-arms.
First, they look cool. Second they look cool (lol). But for real, if you want to make the most out of your light setup, you will need to adjust the relative position to your subject.
From my four Lume Cube configuration I’m having two fixed to the GoPro sides and two on the flex arms. Now, like I wrote at the beginning, you should be fine with just two but I have a tendency to overkill it (just feels good and as a climber I love redundant systems).
There are multiple choices of flex-arms but I found a pretty good one in Amazon for a cheap price.
I will be updating this post with some 3D printed pieces, in case you want to go that way. I just modified some things to have it more customized to my hands, but you definitely do not need to follow this option.
8.- Small note on the hypersmooth stabilization
one of the reasons why I chose the Hero 7 over a Hero 6 which is much cheaper is the new feature. Although GoPro claims it will kill all gimbals out there (this is not true at all), when it comes to underwater filming, it does add a tremendous difference.
This is because underwater, images tend to be already steadier then above water and if you add this feature, you will get pretty smooth footage. In my opinion, a decisive factor.
Now remember that you can use hypersmooth stabilization only up to 60fps which eliminates the possibility of hyper slo-mo (the camera goes up to 120fps.)
9.- Here's the price summary (and what the rig looks like)
- GoPro Hero 7 (399€)
- Lume Cube set (189€) - Remember I'm using 4, just because I want a bit more light.
- Backscatter FLIP6 3 Filters (120€)
- 2 Flexarm YS Adapter M8 (42€)
- Lume Cube Two Light Mounting bar for GoPro (39€)
- Backscatter Diving Rig Pro (79€)
Grand total = 868€
I also want to remind you guys (as written on my about page) that I'm not bought by any of these brands and that's why I'm not putting any link to the products. I paid full price for all of them and I don't have any affiliation whatsoever. That being said, feel free to copy paste the name of the products in google and find the best deal near your location.
I hope this was useful and I’ll be making a post about a trip to the Maldives, where I plan to test this rig!
As it is the rule of this section, it is time for some good ‘ol adventure ideas. This time, I want to tell you about a perfect combination of factors:
A good friend, a nice ski tour, topped by some vertical ice. Sounds good? Check this out.
A few weeks ago (early November that’ll be) I was quite desperate to get on ice already. I had just gotten new picks for my ice tools and new front points for my crampons (from A.Gent Equipment, of course) and, for the lack of a better term, I was pretty horny about trying them. You know what I mean.
So, I started pushing a buddy of mine for us to find something -whatever- we could climb that would have sort of decent conditions.
This is how we ended up finding Sertig. A small town within the Davos area in Switzerland. It’s quite a drive (about 4,5 hours from Munich) but it is absolutely worth it.
Now, here’s the beauty. The whole approach is quite of a ski tour so, you get the 2 in 1 (but obviously you need to pack for both).
I don’t want to mention too many times that: mountaineering is a lot about hauling weight from one point to the other but, it freaking is. All of these activities are gear intensive when you think of one. Imagine when you combine two. If you’re the kind of gentleman that wants to move light, then skip this adventure.
The alarm went of that saturday at 3:00am and with everything packed from the day before, all I had to do was zip a coffee, wearing my zombie face and wait for my bud to pick me up (yeah, I’m a princess).
At 3:30 the doorbell rang and I grabbed all the ski and climbing gear and shoved it in the car. The excitement -and the responsibility of a good co-pilot- kept me from falling asleep during the long hours (bunch of Red Bull too).
Anyways, we got to the parking lot, unloaded the entire circus and got ready for our mission. We started at 8:00 am and we were looking to tour for about 3 to 4 hours before reaching the base of the climb.
However, on the way there we noticed these insane waterfalls coming down the side of a different section of the mountain and we looked at each other just to say: “
Duuuh! Ski touring that horrible long valley or skitour a steep slope with some serious ice at the end???” Not really a difficult decision.
- Follow the road until it ends up at a gate. From there you will easily spot the waterfalls to your right and also the small creek you have to cross. We didn't notice the bridge next to the road so, you don't have to cross the stream like we did.
We changed course and crossed a small creek to start cruising through some soft nice powder pillows that we were just dreaming to pop on the way down.
It took us about two hours to get up there and, unfortunately, by the time we reached like 70% of the ascent, we had to take off the skis and start bootpacking to the base of the waterfalls, we noticed how the slope we were drooling about skiing down was just crap.
Not enough snow to charge on it, with lot’s of rocks underneath and especially dangerous as wind-blown snow formed the perfect conditions for some serious avalanche terrain. Better not risk it, we said. It was going to be a bootpack descent.
Sad! But better be sure and live to see another powder day.
- Use your shovel to build up a platform at the base of the waterfall to leave your ski gear (or any other gear you don't want to carry up. From this point you can move a few more meters up and start with the climb.
Everyone says adventure begins when something fails. Well I guess it also starts when you know the chances of something not going the way you planned are pretty obvious.
We gazed upon the line we wanted to climb and noticed that while there was quite a bit of ice, it was very thin and you could see the rocks behind it. We decided to give it a try no matter the conditions and I led the first two pitches.
The beginning was more of a weird snow-icy terrain with little protection (not that it was terribly needed) until I reached the first possible belay point.
On the last 10 meters I wanted to place a screw and even using a 10 cm it was almost impossible to get it completely through. It was sketchy but I decided to just keep moving toward a belay point.
In the middle of the section where I was going to build the anchor there was no good ice at all and I had to try 6 or 7 different placements to find a relatively safe configuration.
The worst part is; I was so immersed in finding something among that crappy ice, that I totally overlooked a bolted ring on my left.
In my defense, it was very far to the left and getting there was not really a great option either. My buddy climbed to the belay station and didn’t even notice the damn ring! So, It wasn’t just me.
- The bolted ring is directly to your left on a small portion of overhanging rocks. If you just pay attention to this side you wont miss it. However, the ice was very weak on this section so you might want to consider just progressing until you reach a flat lump where you can comfortably stand.
The second pitch was even worst hahahah! The ice was brittle, thin and there was water running behind, making complete plates to separate very easy from the rest of the mass.
Rarely a place to put any screw and my calves were already feeling miserable from all the time and energy it would take to put half a screw into horrible ice. It was mental! Terence (the buddy) came to the belay station and he was concerned that I was going to take a huge fall.
I was pretty tired so he took the next lead. The ice was looking far better on this next section and we could finally put a proper amount of progress.
We did pitch 3 and 4 pretty fast and, standing atop the 4th one we felt how the wind started picking up and things got cold. We could barely grip on the tools and from there, the ice was getting wetter and weaker.
We had to call it off and decided it was just smarter to go down while it was still easy.
- This sections forms quite a strong column. The left side of it offers good, fat ice and there is an interesting rock side that you can use in case you want to add some mix movements to the pitch.
After a few quick rappels, we got to the base and enjoyed some hot tea (heaven). The route got us pretty destroyed and we still needed to bootpack through soft snow all the way back to the car and then drive another 4.5 hours back to Munich.
But, even with all you just read, it was a freaking awesome day, full of excitement, fear, and laughs.
If that’s not the very definition of a good adventure, then I don’t know what it is. Maybe you can think of Sertig a bit later in the season and you will find perfect conditions. For me, it was perfect anyhow.
I hope this was useful and If you have anything to add, make sure you leave a comment :)
Hanwag better known for their tradition leather hiking boots, have brought out a very stylish full gator mountaineering boot for high alpine use. Hanwag is looking to compete with the well known Scarpa’s Phantom Tech and La Sportiva’s Batura 2.0 GTX. With it’s bright red gator, the Avior GTX is a striking and unmistakable boot.
The Tech specs
Gore-Tex laminate linerReplaceable Vibram soleTIZIP Waterproof zipperSize 40.5 EU weigh only 930 grams ( on my scales my 45 EU weighs 1127g per shoe)Step-in crampon compatibleNeoprene gatorFiberglass insole for increased stiffnessThermal Insulation down to -20°CShock absorption in the heelMade in Germany
Hangwag uses their alpine wide last for these boots. This fit opens up the toe box a bit so that there is room to move for better climbing performance.
They have also reduced the amount of seams in the boot to reduce possible hotspots. I found these boots to fit very well and didn't notice any significant heel lift. For sizing I used a 45 EU which is also what I've used with La Sportiva boots in the past.
The shoelaces have a lock at the arch of the foot to lock down the mid-foot which is an extremely useful feature. I found the top half a bit harder to tighten down as the hook system doesn't hold onto the laces while tightening.
Once done up they stay tight but it can be a bit of a struggle to get above the ankle as tight as one may want. I found them to be a bit on the bigger side for sizing so maybe wear a thicker sock or test out a half size down from your normal shoe.
Picking up the boots they feel surprisingly light. Once they are on they continue to feel light but aren’t overtly light. They still feel sturdy enough to kick steps in a solid snow slope or kick your crampons into an icefall.
Compared to the gold standard Nepal Evo GTX, the Avior GTX feel incredibly light on the feet. They also look slender from above.
The boots are very warm and while testing I never had cold toes. The inner boot is bright silver, I assume this is to reflect and keep heat in the boot I'm not sure if that is actually the case.
They are a step up from the Nepal GTX boots in terms of warmth but I don't have a direct comparison to boots like the Batura 2.0 GTX or the Phantom Tech.
The first thing you notice is the red Gore-Tex lined neoprene gator. This is very similar to other boots and performs it task.
The gator has a waterproof TIZIP zipper that goes straight up the front. The zipper is pretty burly looking and comes with a silicone gel to lubricate the zipper.
At the top of the zipper is a neoprene piece to cover the top of the zipper from rubbing against your shin.
The top of the gator also has an elastic drawcord to cinch down to prevent debris and water from getting in the top of the boot.
During testing I never noticed any moisture on the inside of the boot even when the neoprene on the outside looked "wetted out".
The boots are solid and I can imagine that they would last quite a long time. My biggest concern is the laces.
They are quite thin and I could see them breaking after a lot of use. They would also be a real pain to replace if they do as the Gator covers the first couple lace loops.
The Gator might also over time get holes in them from crampon snags but this wasn't evident while testing them.
These aren't hiking boots but saying that, they aren't terrible to hike in. They have a small camber under the toes.
This allows the shoe to rock forward as you walk and have a more natural gait. Over time the stiffness does get tiring to hike in but that is the same with all other similar boots.
With a sticky Vibram sole they climb as one would expect. The front of the sole has no lugs so that you can edge and smear on your toes. I won't be doing any 9a's in these boots but I could see myself comfortably scrambling up to grade 4-5 (UIAA IV - V+, YDS 5.0 - 5.8) climbs with easy.
Petzl Lynx crampons fit on the boots absolutely perfectly. The stiffness is great and I have zero complaints about how they climb ice. I did however notice once or twice the insole slip forward while kicking a crampon placement but it wasn't enough to disturb my climbing.
I really liked these boots overall. I feel the lacing system could use some refinement but this isn't a deal breaker for me. The fit is overall just a touch larger than other boots I've tried on but only like a 1/4 euro size.
Sizing down or wearing a thicker sock would fix this. I'd recommend these boots for ice climbing and mountaineering up to 4500-5000m
Glad to have you around again. Today is rock climbing time :) With the first rays of sun and the ice disappearing in most of the northern alps, is time to get those fingers going so, I went for a really quick tour before work this morning as I could arrive to the office a bit late today. I completely recommend this mixed tour as it is fast and powerful enough to get you pumped throughout the day. So, here it goes.
Clipped into the ferrata but not using the cable!
I started in München Daniel (one of my climbing buddies) at 7:30am. We drove directly to the Karwendel Bahn stationand took the first gondola up at 9:00am. Before you get all the tourists. At the station we did a quick run up to the base of the climb. In our plan -as a training- we wanted to do a section with ropes and a fast section using the via-ferrata to then finish with a solo ridge-run to get a sense of a complete-environment climb. Think of this training as putting a bit of everything in the blender to get a power juice.
Simul Solo climbing the first easy section
We scrambled to the connection point of the Via Ferrata doing a simul-solo since the conditions were perfect and the climb was light enough to do it safely. We then proceeded to put away the rope and clip into the steel cable. However, there’s a trick here. You can clip to the cable as a safety measure to go fast but you cannot use it with your hands. You still have to climb all the way as is you were rock-climbing. This will allow you to get the most out the exercise as you will have to move fast but still pay attention to your technique and be climbing rock wearing alpine boots without crampons.
Approaching the ridge and ready to untie the rope
At the top of the ferrata there’s a beautiful ridge connection two sections of the mountain. Move fast and steady without using ropes on at first and rope up if the ridge gets uncomfortable for you. The ridge is not technically difficult so, it is a great place to develop the confidence to attack other situations when you have to move fast and light under pressure. Great mental exercise.
Getting out of the knife's edge while coming back
At the end of the climb there is an exit point to the right that leads to a trail going down next to the face. Take this trail and you’ll be heading down to the station in no-time and ready to take the cable car down and be on your way to work!
Today I have a bit of a special topic. Within the range of possible outdoor activities one can jump into, kayaking was always something I considered to be fun but highly impractical. I mean, think about it, you need this huge piece of gear (the kayak) which you have to mount on a car because you cannot really transport it by yourself, etc.
Yet I always wanted to organise some kayak adventure. I guess is just one of those “bucket list” material kind of thing and I wasn’t really going to rest until I could pull it off.
However, the whole logistics of the kayak was enough to keep me from doing so, until.... Enter the foldable kayak!
Now, is not fair to say that this solves all the logistic issues but, boy, it does bring it to a bearable level. With this in my mind, was time to just start thinking where to go and how could I make an interesting experience out of it.
With the motivation in place I started thinking about cool places to go and play and, Patagonia came instantly to my mind. I mean, it’s far, its exotic and, obviously beautiful.
Now it was about giving the whole story a cool twist I could use to reach out to a brand so they would send me some Kayaks :)
After a few phone calls and a bunch of emails ( and some other tricks ;) I managed to convince the people from a Oru Kayaks to send me a couple of units.
The hook? I told them I was going to prove that the kayaks are so portable, that not only you can drag them half across the world but also 2000 meters (elevation gain) up a mountain in order to paddle on a beautiful glacial lagoon!
With the kayak situation already solved, it was time to start devising the whole setup to get down there and actually put the story together so, just in case you guys want to repeat such a feat, here’s what happened.
The best time of the year to go down there is probably in the very end of february when the season is already coming to an end and the prices drop and also the amount of people.
I had my sights fix on Cerro Castillo that features an insanely beautiful lagoon with more or less 1.700 vert. Until you reach it.
I Booked tickets from Munich to Chile and paid around 800eu (which is pretty good). From Santiago de Chile, I rented a car and drove down with a friend, because we wanted to check the landscape on our way down.
Take this option only if you have tons of time, because is a pretty F…! Long drive until you reach Cerro Castillo Village. But, oh well, who cares anyway :)
We reached Cerro Castillo Village very late at night and –obviously- we took a couple of wrong turns in between that led us all the way to the border with Argentina, trying to find the campsite.
A bit of food and excitement would close the day and the promise of a perfect sunny day was taking over. It was time to bring those kayaks up and be the first ones to paddle this lagoon and, of course, bring some images back.
The day started early and we got things ready as fast as possible, grabbing an apple a couple liters of water and of we go.
The trek to the lagoon is only 7 km in length (which is honestly not that much) but after some 500m of gain on -almost- flat terrain, there are another 1200 elevation-meters in a tiny stretch!
The terrain is not very aggressive but the angle is steep and sustained, with few places to rest. Oh, and carrying about 27kg on our backs.
Now here are a couple of cons when it comes to this whole thing. I know I got myself into this pickle by saying I was going to prove its portability to the extreme but the kayak backpack is not the most comfortable and it is not really meant to carry many things other than the paddles and boots.
Even storing the dry suit and life vest (oh yeah it’s glacial water, you need a drysuit) proved to be quite a challenge.
Anyways, what I forgot to mention before is that paddling on glacial waters means you can’t just jump in wearing your classy Hawaiian-beach bathing suit.
It means going in water at 3 degrees and that, is serious business. Even in the most conservative scenario for the activity, it is as simple as to be a couple of hundred meters away from the shore and, if you capsize, is not good news.
Luckily, I’ve learned from a previous expedition to Antarctica that getting into that kind of water is a horrible idea with proper protection, thus, we brought the dry suits and all possible security gear we could.
We also had all necessary things to spend the night, including: tent, sleeping bags, food, etc. To that, you should add: camera bodies, 4 different lenses including a 600mm, batteries, tripod, bla bla. All in all, heavy! The ascent wasn’t going to be fun.
The route starts with paying the entrance fee (once to Conaf and once to the land owner with access to the trail.
Welcome to Chile and then goes a couple of K’s through a very beautiful forest and near a river which, later opens to reveal the view of the Castillo range and its magnificent glaciers and valleys. We were psyched and bluebird conditions make this day –absolutely- perfect.
But things could not be that easy, right? I mean, it wouldn’t be an adventure otherwise. That’s why the mountains had another surprise for us and the alarm on my watch’s barometer and the alarm on my GPS barometer started going off warning of a possible storm rolling in. Damn!
This meant two things: on the first place, our plans of spending the night up there were shattered and we just carried a bunch of gear just for the "fun of it". The second aspect wasn’t to think the storm was going to caught us unprepared but, it was certainly going to cover the view from the lagoon and ruin the shooting I had in mind! And that, I was not comfortable with, at all.
We began pushing up harder, without resting too much. We could see our objective very far but, we were committed. After a bit of suffering, we reached the top of the moraine and finally saw our objective. Man, what a view!
We assembled the kayak (finally) and wasted no time to get into the water. The kayak works perfectly, the suit is protecting us from the cold and the presence of the mountain with its glacier is just majestic. We felt small, humbled.
After a successful mission, we took some time just to relax the shoulders and try not to think that we need to haul the weight all the way back to the camp. Trying to avoid thinking of this moment is went by very fast and we had to start thinking of our next move but, for a few minutes, the magic of Cerro Castillo is means everything.
If you would like to follow such an adventure, here are some pointers:
Easiest way of getting there is to take a plane to Santiago de Chile and then from Santiago, right to Coyhaique. It’s about 2 hours and normally not very expensive, depending on the season.
From Coyhaique you can rent a car or take a bus directly to villa Cerro Castillo which is about 1.5 hours south from the city.
Cerro Castillo is very small and doesn’t really have much services or anything other than the usual very small, very local shop that will allow you to get the most basic stuff (food and cleaning products). So, it would be a good idea to look at your stock while still in Coyhaique.
You will have to consider the Campsite fee which is about 9 EUR per person, per night and then you have the Conaf fee (another 3 EUR) and then the private fee another 9 EUR.
The Refugio next to the camp has somewhat a Wi-Fi connection (which will be completely useless due to the amount of people and the remoteness) and has a couple of electric outlets which will be collapsed by the climbers trying to charge their own devices. We brought gear from GZ so energy was never really a problem. If you’re looking for a sweet setup, consider the Venture 30 and Nomad 7 Plus from their line. It just works.
There is another beautiful trek (if the weather allows) that takes about 4 days (depending on your speed) where you can have a deeper look into the valley and its greatness. It is worth the while.
I hope this was useful and If you have anything to add, make sure you leave a comment :)