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There is a whole range of reasons why we acquire new outdoor gear for our cycling and walking holidays. More often than not, the items we have, can still be used…. Don't discard them, instead take them to a clothes recycling point or why not Gift Your Gear.
Gift Your Gear, an initiative that accepts gear donations and then provides them to community organisations, youth groups and charities that work with young people in the outdoors. This outdoor gear exchange initiative was founded in 2012 by Sarah Howcroft, who was co-founder of the outdoor clothing company Rohan. Sarah has been involved in the outdoor industry for over 40 years and this has taken her all over the world. We asked her some questions about the clothes recycling initiative Gift Your Gear.
“It has been great to follow the development of some of the outdoor travel areas over 40 years.” – Sarah Howcroft
What is the story behind Gift Your Gear?
Gift Your Gear came about out of a realisation of two realities. Because I have been in the outdoor industry for over 40 years I have seen a lot of outdoor gear. I have made the gear, sold the gear and used the gear. In general, outdoor gear is made to last. It is made well and because product failure is not an option by default, the gear last.
However, over the last few years I have become increasingly aware that most gear does not get used until it wears out. The outdoor industry is innovation-lead and active travellers in general want the latest gear. That means there is a lot of outdoor gear that is unused and unwanted. I spent some time looking at what happens to this gear. The answer is anything from nothing to ending up in charity shops.
About the same time, I became more aware that funding for the groups responsible for getting young people out on to the hills was being reduced and cut. This resulted in, amongst other things, a serious lack of outdoor equipment available to groups.
So the solution was simple: redirect the gear that was no longer wanted to where it is needed and that is what Gift Your Gear today is.
"The solution was simple: redirect the gear that was no longer wanted to where it is needed."
What happens with the gear after you receive a donation?
Gear that is sent to our depot in Manchester is sorted, checked and donated to Gift Your Gear beneficiary groups. We also have a network of local groups that are involved in getting young people outdoors and who will collect gear donations around the UK.
Gift Your Gear provides a reuse solution. There is very little that cannot be reused. Maybe not for the original purpose or we recycle the clothes for other means. For example, a waterproof that is no longer waterproof can still make a great windproof.
Can travellers from outside the UK donate their gear too?
We collect outdoor gear by various methods inside the UK. We also receive parcels from people all over the world at our depot in Manchester and if Sherpa travellers are looking for a good place to recycle their clothes, they can send the goods or bring them to Europe with them. When people are in the UK, they can drop off gear either at our depot or through a national network of outdoor shops and supporters that collect for Gift Your Gear.
Do you have other tips for travellers to recycle their outdoor clothes & gear?
Well, my number 1 tip is be careful what outdoor clothes you buy. Make sure you can use it to the end of its life. Longevity of use is by far the best option. Better even than to reuse and finally recycling the gear. There is no global network for the reuse of outdoor gear, but one solution is to put a free ad on the UK-based platform RecycleOutdoorGear.com. Here you can state if you wish to donate your gear to a particular profile or group it is also a place where travellers can browse and purchase second hand outdoor gear.
What are do’s & don’ts for travellers who want to donate their gear?
Do your research before you go out to actually bring a donation. There may be similar initiatives like Gift Your Gear locally to you. Please also send us an email at Gift Your Gear and we will look at ways at how we can help.
Can you tell us some examples of what has happened with donated gear?
Since 2012, Gift Your Gear has supplied over 1000 groups in the UK with quantities of unwanted outdoor clothing and equipment. They range from DofE Groups, scout and guide groups, cadet groups, school groups, forest schools and more. Let me give you two examples that embody the spirit of Gift Your Gear.
Au Revoir Olfio
An Olfio is a classic Rohan over-the-head piece of clothing; a padded top with lots of pockets. We have two nationwide Olfio collections each year through Rohan Shops in the UK. The ideas is that during one collection, we receive a substantial number of donated Olfios, some appeared to be even over 30 years old and all are in great condition. We decided to send them back in to the great outdoors.
This is a programme that was created especially for young adults with a range of challenging life issues. The youngsters are from both mainstream and special needs schools. The programme was created, coordinated and delivered by the Equine Assisted Learning section at the Dartmoor Pony Heritage Trust, and is called ‘Ponies Inspiring People’.
Is there anything else you like to share with our travellers?
Because dedicated travellers rely so heavily on their gear, they often become very attached to their gear. We know of travellers that have experienced the disappointment of going out with gear that really does not perform to expectations. So, for anyone that has a special attachment to their gear, we like you to know that we will make sure your gear goes on to a new life in the outdoors after you donate it to Gift Your Gear. It’s a nice feeling and this way of clothes recycling really makes a difference.
Learn more about Gift Your Gear or contact one of our team for any specific questions you may have.
Finding the right route on a walking or cycling trip in a new environment is not always straight forward. The maps and route notes that you receive on Sherpa's self guided cycling and walking holidays allow you to take the right decision on the trail. Another useful aide are trail blazes, as writer Richard Mellor describes in this article.
By Richard Mellor
Do you ever wander about waymarks (or trail blazes, as they’re called outside of the UK)?
I mostly spend my hikes looking for these symbols, feeling either triumph when one appears, or a growing trepidation that I’ve gone astray amid their continued absence.
But occasionally – as with this section of Sherpa’s Cilento Coast & Mountain walk that I am currently undertaking [red. May 2017], following a high ridge down from mighty Monte Stella, the sea glittering far ahead – I have a rare certainty of being on-track, and can instead ponder these universal hiking signposts.
The Cilento’s paths mostly utilise the classic red and white bars, plus some same-coloured wooden arrows. To install these, trail blazers must therefore have had to stride long sections lugging a large tin of red paint, a large tin of white, brushes for each and, for the arrows, lots of nails to sink into trees or rocks.
They’ll also have been needing all the stuff I carry: water, extra clothing, maps, food (my main luggage fortunately was transferred by the Sherpa team).
Which means – I realise while crossing butterfly-rich heather, the stone-built village of Galdo now visible ahead – they’re probably hauling heavy loads around for long distances, and often up and down steep hills. Ouch. Suddenly, waymakers seem like heroes.
Last year I hiked in northwestern Spain, and let’s just say the waymarks were intermittent. At certain forks invisible on my map, there they, er, weren’t.
At the time, I blamed wild boars or rogue farmers. But now I’m imagining that perhaps the daubers simply ran out of paint, or were conserving their last precious blobs for a tougher junction.
Who are these blazers anyway? Is waymarking an official thing, only to be done by official people? I make a mental note to find out this evening. (Wikipedia, it later turns out, suggests a mixture of volunteer and local authorities)
Also, how often are waymarks updated – some smudges here are very faded, yet others so fresh I swear I can smell paint – and who decides? Do they travel in pai...
Hang on a second. I’m now entering Galdo and, now I think of it, when was the last waymark? Uh-oh. Let the worrying commence…
Richard describes the panoramic day walk along the Monte Stella ridge on day 4 of the Cilento Coast & Mountain walking holiday. Superb views of the Amalfi Coast and Capri, an abandoned fortress, and charming historical villages like Celso, Cannicchio and Galdo characterise this day’s walk.
Like to know more about the Cilento Coast route in a remote section of Italy? Find the trip details, grading and cost of the Cilento Coast & Mountain walk now.
Richard Mellor is a freelance writer and copywriter on mainly travel related topics. He gives lectures on journalism and you can read his articles in Metro, The Times, The Guardian, Telegraph Online and many more. Early May 2017 he walked solo Sherpa Expeditions’ 5-day Cilento Coast & Mountain trip in Italy. Follow Richard on Twitter.
Scotland’s take on the Coast to Coast and the French flair of the Channel Islands
New in our walking holidays offer are the John Muir Way in Scotland and part of the Channel Island Way in Guernsey.
If you are planning a trip to Scotland this summer and wasn’t sure yet what part to cover, consider the new John Muir Way that links the east and west coasts of the country. As such, it is also affectionately known as the Scottish Coast to Coast. Visit historical features including the Antonine Wall and Roman Forts, follow in the footsteps of a Scottish legend and walk past lochs and bens of the Scottish Lowlands.
Much further south, close to the French coast of Normandy, is the island of Guernsey. You already have the possibility to go on a three-centre cycling trip in the Channel Islands, but the offer is now complemented by a week-long walking option on the islands of Guernsey, Herm, Sark and Alderney. The islands brim with character and are a walker’s paradise.
John Muir Way
John Muir was born in 1838 in Dunbar, on the southeast coast of Scotland, and as a child developed a deep love of the natural world around his home. Best known for encouraging the establishment of the Yosemite National Park, Scotland has been rather slow to recognise its famous son – it was not until 2014 that he was honoured with a trail in his native land. The John Muir Way is a path that symbolically links Dunbar with Scotland’s first national park, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs, and the seaside town of Helensburgh in the west, forming a Scottish coast-to-coast route.
The John Muir Way 12-day self guided walking holiday launches in April >> View trip
The Channel Island Way
This week-long walking tour around the islands of Guernsey is the longer half of the Channel Island Way. Originally part of the Duchy of Normandy but bequeathed to the English Crown by William the Conqueror, today they are independent in many ways yet maintaining a special relationship with the UK. Expect long sandy beaches and beautiful undulating cliff paths leading to tiny coves with sparkling rock pools, with forts of various sizes, some dating back to the 1600s while others, more recent, were created by the Nazis during their occupation of the islands in World War II.
Guernsey Islands – The Channel Island Way 7-day self guided walking holiday launches in April >> View trip
Contact our team of travel experts for more information on these new UK walking holidays and for booking details.
Every month our resident guide, John Millen, brings you an anecdote, update, or tip on the gear you are likely to use on a walking or cycling holiday. Always from his personal point of view. This month, he looks at the best portable chargers and some points to consider when choosing to buy a power bank for your next cycling or walking holiday.
The following scenario is a possibility on any tour, but more significant when you are walking in the mountains. There is an accident, you reach for your phone to make the emergency call, but, you forgot to recharge it last night and the one bar of power left is already flickering! However, help is at hand: you reach into your backpack and pull out a USB connected portable charger from which the device can feed off and perhaps recharge from fully. It could literally save the day.
I have been carrying one of these chargers on my walking holidays for some time now and had to use it to recharge my phone and camera, especially in remote destinations where there was no power supply.
Size & Capacity
Most portable battery chargers either are lipstick sized or a similar size to a mobile phone containing a lithium battery. Specifications of course vary, but they nearly all have USB couplings to power any kind of device that can be USB recharged. The size of the power bank will of course effect the weight, but also how many times you can do a full recharge. Measured in milliampere hours (mAh), the number of times a unit can recharge your phone or camera depends on its capacity and the capacity of the device itself. In order for your device to get at least one full charge from the charger, make sure the phone’s capacity is no more than 70 percent of the charger’s capacity. Another important consideration is the portable charger's power output. The higher the better, as it means it has the potential for powering up a device more speedily.
Hardware at Low Charges
Nearly all the portable phone chargers are very economically priced. On the small side, but beautifully light at less than 100g, are the little Barrel rechargers for example by Belkin or Anker. They have capacities of around 3000 mAh - enough to recharge a smartphone once or twice. At the other extreme, weighing five times as much, is the Zendure A8 Pro. This one has a capacity of 25,600 mAh and has four USB slots so you can really go to town recharging basically anything. In between these options, you can look at popular and cheap models from places such as Amazon, such as the AmazonBasics Portable External Battery Charger of which you can get models with different power ranges from 2,000 mAh to 16,100 mAh.
Before you head for the hills and set off on your walking holiday with your portable charger, let me supply you with a couple of obvious suggestions:
- make sure that the charger is itself fully charged (this can take hours depending on the capacity) and
- take the correct USB coupling cables for your devices before you leave.
For more advice on the gear to bring on a cycling or walking holiday, contact our team of travel experts.
For more in John’s series of Gear Matters blog posts and tips and advice for cycling and walking gear, see the full overview of blog articles from the past months.
New exhibition offers rare insight in the role and daily life of the Roman Empire’s cavalry forces
Walking Hadrian’s Wall Path this year will give you the opportunity to gain a rare insight in the role and daily life of the cavalry forces of the Roman army. Hadrian’s Wall World Heritage Site hosts a temporary new exhibition: Hadrian’s Cavalry, which launched in April 2017.
Hadrian’s Wall forms part of the ‘Roman Limes’, which represent the border line of the Roman Empire when it was at its greatest in the 2nd century AD. At present, remains of this border line can be found in Germany, Scotland, and of course England. Protected by UNESCO since 1987, Hadrian’s Wall today stands as the largest remaining artefact from Roman times anywhere in the world.
Hadrian’s Wall Walk
A must-see for history aficionados, Hadrian’s Wall can be followed on foot along the adjoining 84-mile (135km) Hadrian’s Wall Path. With Sherpa, you have two options, an 8-day and a 10-day version, that can take you on a self guided walking trip across the rugged countryside of Northern England, from Whitley Bay in the east to Carlisle in the west.
The undulating, well-waymarked walk follows the ancient Roman Wall with a largely rural feel. Enjoy stunning vistas from places like Newcastle Keep, Highshield Crags and Bowness-on-Solway and walk in the Northumberland National Park. At night, enjoy the hospitality of country B&Bs brimming with personality and local charm. Self guided Hadrian’s Wall walking holidays
depart daily between April and October.
Hadrian’s Cavalry exhibition celebrates the cavalry regiments that once guarded this famous North West frontier of the mighty Roman Empire. Ten museums and venues form a unique wall-wide exhibition that takes place from Saturday 8 April to Sunday 10 September 2017. Ornate helmets, shields, decorations and weapons have been collected from museums around Europe and are now on display in various locations. Spectacular re-enactment events at different places along the Wall will also be part of the exhibition. From July, a specially commissioned piece of contemporary art will be on display at English Heritage’s Chesters Roman Fort and Museum (day 5 or 6 on our walks).
For more information on Hadrian’s Cavalry and our Hadrian’s Wall Path walking holidays
, contact our team of travel experts
or browse information on Hadrian’s Wall, Classic Hadrian’s Wall 8-day walking holiday
, or the Hadrian’s Wall Trail 10 day walking trip
Besides linear or circular walking holidays, you also have a choice to opt for a (semi) centre-based walking holiday in Europe with Sherpa Expeditions.
Perhaps you are interested in exploring a certain region more in depth or you like to reduce the number of times to unpack and prefer sleeping in the same bed every night. The European Alps are an excellent destination to enjoy this style of travel. From the Austrian Lake District and the Dachstein Alps via Meiringen and on to the Bernese Oberland, below you can find ideas for centre based walking holidays.
Austrian Lake District & Dachstein Alps
This semi-centre based walking holiday evolves around:
- Bad Goisern
Towering peaks, high mountain passes, alpine meadows and lakeside walks are all combined in this surprisingly compact area. The heart of Austria’s Lake District encompasses 76 crystal clear lakes, the impressive Dachstein Glacier, and breath-taking rock faces up to 3,000 vertical metres high. Wander through mountain forests and alongside glimmering lakeland shores as you explore alpine villages of wooden chalets decorated with colourful window boxes.
We grade this tour as moderate-challenging and although most days are easier, you will find some steep stony trails and perhaps an element of exposure on certain occasions. For those that like to avoid the challenging parts, there is public transport available between centres.
Go there on the 8 day semi centre based walking holiday Austrian Lake District and Dachstein Alps.
This centre based walking holiday evolves around:
Situated at the convergence of three of Switzerland’s major passes, Meiringen is famous for the Reichenbach Falls, a spectacular cataract that was the setting for the death of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s character Sherlock Holmes. A place for anyone who wants to see the real Switzerland, in autumn the landscape is painted with a riot of colour and in spring and summer you can find lush alpine valleys and flowers bloom. Walks here encompass all grades from gentle strolls to high ridges, while a superb integrated network of cablecars, postbuses and trams takes you in all directions quickly and easily.
The high places can be reached quickly without long uphill climbs out of the valley and, at any time of the year, you can fill a week with excellent day walks, from gentle strolls to high ridges. Choose yourself how easy or hard you care to make it.
Go there on the Meiringen: Panoramas of the Swiss Alps 5 day or 8 day self guided walking holidays.
Bernese Oberland & Reichenbach Falls
This semi-centre based walking holiday evolves around:
A stunning region of rock and ice, Bernese Oberland is the perfect introduction to walking in the Swiss Alps. The route follows classic mountain trails to charming mountain refuges. Along the way you’ll be able to enjoy views from a variety of vantage points of vast glaciers that tumble from some of the highest peaks in the country, many over 4,000m!
Each day you can choose between a range of walks, often with differing grades and distances; you can also utilise the extensive mountain transport system to shorten the walks further. You also have the option to take the mountain railway to the Jungfraujoch, Europe’s highest railway station.
Go there on the Bernese Oberland and Reichenbach Falls 8-day self guided walking holiday or join a small group of like-minded travellers on the Bernese Oberland and Reichenbach Falls Guided Walk.
Interested in more choice of centre based walking holidays in Europe? Find out about the advantages and extra suggestions for this type of travel in the article ‘In the Centre of the Action: 4 Trips’.
For more information or booking requests, please contact our team of travel experts in our London office.
The alps are full with mountain flowers and especially in the summer months, you’ll very likely be rewarded with the sights of many colourful versions. When you’re walking in the Alps, bring a mobile device like a mobile phone or tablet with you, or print this article so you can look up a little information on the species that you’ll see along the way.
When does it flower? June-July
Where can I find the plant? There are many variants of gentians, we especially like the yellow gentian. The plant can grow as old as 70-100 years and the flowering part of the plant dies around July-August. This alpine flower is native to the mountains of central and southern Europe and grows in grassy alpine pastures. Other names by which the plant goes are 'bitter root', 'genciana', or 'bitterwort'.
Alpine Pasque Flower
When does it flower? Very early in the season, May-June, sometimes springing up from under the snow
Where can I find the plant? The alpine pasque flower is native to the mountain ranges of central and southern Europe and you can find the flower in mountains all the way between Spain and up to Croatia. Besides the white one, there is a yellow variant of this mountain flower. Look at rocky areas or in dry stone wall gaps to find the flower.
When does it flower? April-June
Where can I find the plant? The leaves of the plant look like grass and it’s flower looks very similar to a cotton wool ball, hence its name. When you come across peat or acidic soils, open wetland, or moorland on your walk in the Alps, there’s a good chance that you can find a patch of cotton grass.
When does it flower? July – September
Where can I find the plant? Edelweiss is quite a special mountain flower if not only because it being used a symbol for alpinism. Edelweiss normally grows between 1800-3000 metres altitude and in rocky limestone places. The alpine flower is a protected plant in France, Switzerland and Italy among others.
When does it flower? July – September
Where can I find the plant? We believe that the harebell is perhaps one of the most attractive of all wildflowers. Look out for the mountain plant on dry grasslands, in the valleys or on heaths.
When does it flower? April – September
Where can I find the plant? The wild kind of heartsease is quite rare and blooms yellow and white, it appears in a white or purple form and you may know it from your garden at home in the name of wild pansy or love-lies-bleeding. But did you know that it also is a powerful medicinal herb? It can benefit for example people with skin problems, respiratory problems or chest infections.
When does it flower? It only flowers a short period between late June and mid-July
Where can I find the plant? This plant is a Eurasian variety of the lily and it grows as far east as Mongolia. It’s also known as Turk’s cap lily, Lily of Istanbul, Sultan Lily or Dragon Lily. You can only see the Martagon Lily from late June to mid-July and plants can grow as high as 2 metres.
When does it flower? April - June
Where can I find the plant? Saxifrage is a very common alpine wildflower that appears in as many as 400+ shapes and forms. The plant is also known as saxifrages or rockfoils. Often you can find them on old grassland, especially on chalk or limestone soil.
When does it flower? July
Where can I find the plant? You can find the cobweb houseleek (or cobweb sedum) between rocks that are quite moist. They form mats that cover up the rocks and are happy in full sunlight. Especially in the summer months, when it flowers, the colour of this wildflower is pinkish and reddish.
When does it flower? July – September
Where can I find the plant? Usually the Rosebay Willowherb grows in rocky places or woodland clearings. It is common to find the plant in places where the ground was burned.
Nigritella nigra bzw. rubra
When does it flower? July
Where can I find the plant? It is quite likely to find the almost black or purple vanilla orchid in grassy, limestone meadows above the forest limit. The more grassy variant that we saw on one of our walks on the Haute Route is quite a rare variety. What’s special about it? Smell this wildflower and you understand where it got its name!
When does it flower? Around August until October
Where can I find the plant? A native flower to the Alps, you can find the crocus on mountain grassland in France, Switzerland as well as Italy. Besides the obviously pink version in the picture above, you can find paler rosy/pink versions of the flower.
See mountain flowers on one of our alpine walking holidays to France, Italy, Switzerland, and Austria.
Being one of Europe’s most impressive mountain regions, extraordinary Mont Blanc is hard to grasp in words. A diverse flora and fauna, ever changing scenery, charming settlements, and a plethora of tracks and trails all make up the mountain area that covers France, Italy and Switzerland.
To give you an idea what you may expect on one of our walking holidays circumnavigating the peak, check out this overview of Mont Blanc images and be awed.
Tracks & Trails
Flora & Fauna
Scenic Mont Blanc Region
Alpine Mountain Hamlets
Do you, after seeing these fantastic Mont Blanc images, like to experience this part of France, Italy and Switzerland for yourself? You can on one of our Mont Blanc walking holidays:
Tour du Mont Blanc – 14 Days >> An extended self guided circumnavigation around the highest mountain in Western Europe, through the meadows and mountain passes of Mont Blanc in France, Italy and Switzerland.
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Tour du Mont Blanc – 11 Days >> A classic alpine walk that starts in Les Houches and finishes in Chamonix walking around Western Europe’s highest mountain through the valleys of three contrasting countries.
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Mont Blanc Classic Walk – 8 Days >> Discover the highlights of the Mont Blanc region on this self guided walk through France, Switzerland and Italy.
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Mont Blanc Guided Walk – 8 Days >> An exhilarating hike around Mont Blanc taking in sweeping vistas of famous peaks and glaciers.
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Mont Blanc Family Adventure – 7 Days >> A special family walking adventure through the Alps to view the Mont Blanc regions famous peaks and glaciers.
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Mont Blanc in Comfort – 6 Days >> An exhilarating guided horseshoe circuit hike around Mont Blanc staying in private rooms instead of dorms.
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Every month our resident guide, John Millen, brings you an anecdote, update, or tip on the gear you are likely to use on a walking or cycling holiday. Always from his personal point of view. In this post, he takes a closer look at compact binoculars. Get the basics of binos, learn about testing, find out about the difference between Porro and roof prism and much more.
The whole walking experience can be enhanced by bringing with you a decent pair of compact binoculars. Maybe you are walking and you catch a bird flitting about and you would like to identify it; maybe there are two paths some distance ahead and you want to check which is your route; and is that a bull or a horse running across the field to greet you? Nowadays, the best compact binoculars are light and hardly get in the way. You could bring bigger ones on your trip, but they are heavier and if you just carry them in your rucksack, you will never use them! So here we just concentrate on some of the smaller models.
Then comes the question of how to choose binoculars. There is a whole range from ‘el cheapo’ ones with plastic lenses, ones with dodgy hinges that break after a few views, all the way up to compacts with titanium chassis and beautiful optics. From personal experience, I would always aim for a mid-range pair, but it depends on how you want to use them.
Let me first focus on the basics. Binoculars are often referred to by two numbers separated by an "x". For example: 8x25 or 10x42 or 10x50. The first number is the power, or magnification, of the binocular. With a 10x42 model, the object being viewed appears to be ten times closer than you would see it with the unaided eye. The second number is the diameter of the objective or front lens measured in millimetres. The larger the objective lens, the more light enters the binocular and the brighter your image appears. The utility of more expensive pairs such as Leicas, Opticrons or Swarovski are increased because of the quality of their lenses and prisms which allow the binocular to be used in low light situations, observing that owl floating along at dusk for example.
Not all compacts are created equal and there is a difference between ‘Porro prism’ and ‘roof prism’ compact binoculars. Many of the cheaper options are built using 'Porro prisms', in this case the lens and the eyepieces are unaligned. This prism design means that the compacts will be less compact when folded than the roof prism varieties. But the quality can be very good.
A Closer Look
Over to testing and choosing the best compact binoculars for you. Ultimately you have to make a choice in relation to the cost, but if you have a chance to test your binoculars, reject any models whose hinges don’t offer much resistance when you widen them etc. Reject models with extreme chromatic aberration, this is when things you look at may be miscoloured especially along edges. Distortion is another factor, binoculars are sharper in the middle rather than at the edge. The better models of lightweight binoculars have better edge to edge focusing. Reject any that have misaligned barrels – the image is not smooth, for example if you look at a telegraph wire, it is slightly lower from left to the right barrel. It is said that the ultimate test for your binoculars is to take them outside at night and look at a bright star (not the sun!). Then after you have the star centred and brought the binoculars in focus, the star should be a sharp near-point-like image, without any irregular spikes. It should remain a round disk.
Focus on Binocular Brands
Resolving the brands may be useful as well. If you just want a cheap pair then that is fine, but a little bit of investment goes a long way in terms of optics and better hinges. Bushnell makes a very good range of affordable compact binoculars, some claiming to be waterproof such as their H2O models. Have a look at the PowerView 10x42 or NatureView 10x42 models. Pentax, Nikon and Hawke all do varying compact binoculars at this level. A bit higher up the scale look at the Opticron Discovery WP PC 10x50 roof prism binoculars, an exceptional optical quality in an ultra-compact and waterproof design. The Discovery WP PC series are among the smallest waterproof roof prism binoculars available.
Now on to resolving different types of compact binoculars. Canon have gone down a different route with their models using image stabilisation. Their 8x25 model is the smallest in this range. These so called IS binoculars are larger and heavier than other, non-IS binoculars of a similar performance. Although the dimensions of these binoculars aren’t vastly larger in comparison with other Porro prism models (roof prisms are smaller and more compact by design), the weight is more of an issue. The Canon’s are about around 200g heavier than many of their 8x25, however you get a tripod socket, and they are easier for comfortable viewing due to the stabilisation.
A Case for Binoculars
Finally, it makes sense to have your small binoculars in a little pouch that either attaches to your rucksack belt or clips on to a handy strap from where you can access your them very quickly. Bear in mind that if your compact binoculars are not waterproof your pouch should at least be highly water resistant.
If you like more information on choosing the best compact binoculars for you, contact John and our team of travel experts by phone or email.
Interested in learning more about your walking or cycling gear? There is a whole range of Gear Matters blog articles that range from advice on walking poles, water bottles, how to clean hiking boots, and much more. Find them all under the Gear category.
The Alpine Pass Route (APR) – now fully waymarked as Swiss Via Alpina 1 (VA1) – is a hiking trail of over 350km across Switzerland. It crosses high mountain passes through the eastern Alps, the Bernese Oberland and the Vaudoise and Lesley Williams, Cicerone guidebook director, describes this relatively quiet walking trail for us.
Imagine spending three weeks in the mountains traversing the Swiss Alps, with a central highlight of the Bernese Alps crowned with glaciers and summer snows, either side of which are mountains, valleys and lakes rarely visited by anyone but the alpine trekker. In the valleys, villages that are still centred around cheesemaking provide simple accommodation and high above, farms and alpine huts offer refreshments amid the sound of cowbells.
This may sound like a tourist brochure, but the reality of the Alpine Pass Route (Swiss Via Alpina 1) is just that – many days where you rarely see another person, although there are also days, particularly in the Bernese Alps, where you become something of an object of interest among the tourists thronging the railway platform at Kleine Scheideg!
"A break in the cloud and a shaft of afternoon sun revealed our first view of the mighty Wetterhorn when we walked the Alpine Pass Route."
As the name implies, The Swiss Via Alpina 1 route involves crossing sixteen Alpine passes, and showcases some of the country's most breathtaking mountain landscapes. The route is not suitable for first time alpine trekkers, but best undertaken by those with some experience of Alpine trekking: it amasses over 20,000m of ascent and involves some steep and occasionally exposed sections, mainly on the three high passes – the Sefinenfurke (2612m), the Hohturli (2778m) and the Bunderschrinde (2385m). The entire route can be completed in 2-3 weeks, although it is also possible to walk shorter sections; alternatively postbus, cable-car and rail connections could be used to allow for a tighter schedule if time is limited, and may be recommended in order to avoid one or two sections of walking through urban areas and busy roadside paths.
The Swiss alpine route officially begins in Lichtenstein, a week later reaching Engelberg, starting point of the Sherpa Expeditions itinerary. Engelberg is a thriving town with an impressive 12th Century monastery situated on the eastern border of Switzerland. From here you spend three or four days wandering through mellow alpine landscapes largely ignored by tourists. The passes are generally of a steady gradient, however there is nothing mellow about the views – as you see alp upon alp stretching far into the distance. From the Bernese Oberland, the landscape changes as the mountains become higher and the impact of tourism becomes more evident. When I did a late summer trek in 2016 researching the new edition of the Cicerone guidebook, the weather was unsettled and on one day we realised we had only taken three photographs, and very poor ones at that!
“Over the next two days however, the skies and moisture gradually cleared. High on the new Via Alpina route hugging the crest of a grassy ridge, views down to the valley below were mainly shrouded in cloud. But a break in the cloud and a shaft of afternoon sun revealed our first view of the mighty Wetterhorn; its great bulk and snowy peak seemed unimaginably high. The following day we crested the Grosse Scheidegg to walk beneath the ‘giants’ of the Bernese Oberland – Wetterhorn, Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau in perfect clarity against a vivid blue sky,” says Cicerone director Lesley Williams.
These giant mountains remain in view for several days as you follow the route through the beautiful, but busy Bernese Oberland, leaving the crowds, trains and cable cars behind as you scale two huge passes on the way to Kandersteg.
The final few days of the trek to the west of Adelboden again revert gradually to more verdant lower mountain scenery, although some days of necessity are quite long. Although the official Via Alpine route takes walkers to Lac Léman (Lake Geneva), Sherpa Expeditions finishes the hike in Lauenen (short bus ride to Saanen) to allow for a two-week itinerary.
The new Cicerone guidebook on the Alpine Pass Route contains a wealth of practical advice and information on local points of interest and is written by Kev Reynolds. The trail is one of the great Alpine routes and embraces much of the best scenery Switzerland has to offer.
For more information on walking the Alpine Pass Route with Sherpa Expeditions, have a look at the 14-day self guided The Alpine Pass Route or look at The Alpine Pass Route Guided Walk that departs at the end of July.
For more information and booking requests, contact our team of travel experts by phone or email.