Category Archives: Climber’s Tips

Do I need a Swiss Army Knife (SAK) for my Kinabalu climb?

Not necessary, but it is better if you have one. I use to have my own multi-tool while I was in the university. Mostly used for daily usage, this handy multi-tool are also lightweight when I go for any outdoor trip.

But when I came to Sabah and fell in love with Mount Kinabalu, I know that I need to upgrade my multi-tool to become more suitable for my climb. I bought a Victorinox Swiss Army Multi-tool just before my first trip up on Kinabalu in 2002. It was a bit expensive then, but it was really worth it.

Why do you need a multi-tool?

My mentor always tell me, “Hope for the best but prepare for the worst”. By taking the advise seriously, having a multi-tool during your climbing trip up on Kinabalu might save your life. Although I only used the can opener and the knife of my Victorinox Swiss Army multi-tool during most of my climb, it gives me a “peace of mind” to know that I have other tool elements that I “might” use during emergency situation.

So, by having this multi-tool, it completed my preparation for the worse of the climb, apart from my first aid kit and other necessary items.

Why Victorinox Swiss Army multi-tool?

Apparently, it is the only high quality multi-tool that is easily available almost anywhere in Malaysia. At one time, because of the expensiveness, I bought a similar looking multi-tool – but not the original Victorinox – that was “Made In China”. Unfortunately, the blade broke when I use it for few times, and rusts sets in in just few months.

There are other multi-tools around, but I don’t think that it has the credibility, performance, versatility and value like Victorinox has.

Victorinox History

Victorinox Swiss Army Climber Pocket KnifeIn 1891, Karl Elsener, then owner of a company that made surgical equipment, discovered to his dismay that the pocket knives supplied to the Swiss Army were in fact made in Germany. Upset, he founded the Association of Swiss Master Cutlers. Its goal was simple — Swiss knives for the Swiss Army.

Upon suggestion by his engineer friend, Jeannine Keller, Elsener began working on what became the predecessor to the modern Swiss Army knife, called the “Soldier’s Knife”. The original had a wooden handle, as opposed to the plastic and metal seen today, and featured a cutting blade, a screwdriver, a can opener, and a punch.

This knife was sold to the Swiss army, but Elsener was not satisfied with its first incarnation. In 1896, after five years of hard work, Elsener managed to put the blades on both sides of the handle using a special spring mechanism, allowing him to use the same spring to hold them in place, an innovation at the time. This allowed Elsener to put twice as many features on the knife; he added a second cutting blade and a corkscrew.

Karl Elsner used the cross and shield to identify his knives. The same symbol is still used to identify a Victorinox Swiss Army Knife. When his mother died in 1909, Elsner decided to name his company “Victoria” in her memory. In 1921 the company started using stainless steel to make the Swiss Army Knife. Stainless steel is also known as “inox”, short for the French term acier inoxydable. “Victoria” and “inox” were then combined to create the company name “Victorinox”.

The term “Swiss Army knife” was coined by US soldiers after World War II, as they couldn’t pronounce its original name, “Offiziersmesser”.

Which Victorinox multi-tool?

Aah… It is really mind boggling when you head to Victorinox official website and see there are hundreds of similar tools in the website. Don’t know which one to choose? Maybe this short guide on choosing your Victorinox Swiss Army Knife may help:

  1. Features. The good thing about Victorinox Swiss Army Multi-tool is that they have categorized the multi-tool according to your usage. For example, in our case, I choose “Victorinox Swiss Army Climber Pocket Knife“, which I personally have. It has all the basic features that’s necessary for climbers. And because of their varieties, Victorinox has also created their own multi-tool “Collection”, for those who wants more specialize collector’s series. For example, GolfTool – Victorinox – Swiss Army, a specialize multi-tool for golfers which has “removable ball marker & tee punch with groove cleaner”.
  2. Budget. How much should you spend for a multi-tool like Victorinox? Well, I must tell you that it doesn’t matter how much you spend, as it worth every penny. But make sure you know what activities are going to do, and then compare the features that they have before buying. Size of the multi-tool is almost unimportant, as each and every Victorinox multi-tools has been designed and engineered to be compatible with each activities.

What does Victorinox Swiss Army Climber Pocket Knife has?

  • Contains 13 stainless-steel tools
  • Large knife blade, small knife blade, large screwdriver, small screwdriver, reamer/punch
  • Can opener, bottle opener, wire stripper, tweezers, toothpick, scissors, hook, corkscrew
  • Just 3-1/2 inches long
  • Includes key ring; lifetime warranty against defects

By the way, do you know that Victorinox also has multi-tool which features 2GB of USB memory drive?

First Aid Kit for your Mount Kinabalu climbing trip

These are the most common incidents that can make climbers injured during the trip up the Summit of Borneo.

Muscular aches

Everybody knows that climbing Mount Kinabalu is a strenuous activity. Muscular aches happens to all climbers. Most of the aches involves lower limbs – both legs, thighs, knees, calves, ankle and foot – because of the 8-12 hours of trekking up and down the mountain. Upper body aches happens if you bring too much of a load in your backpack – anything around 10kg is considered to much for an average casual climber. Apart from the strenuous activities, low fluid intake with inadequate minerals and electrolytes, can worsen the muscle aches, as it can’t function properly. Fatigue may sets in, and climbers can feel very week to continue the climb.

Minimize muscular aches by having a regular training before the climbing journey. Do cardio workout, at least 30 minutes a day, 3-4 days a week, and try to concentrate more on your lower limbs. Optimally, you should do the training and exercise at least 1 month before the climb.

Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS)

Low’s Peak of Kinabalu is categorized in Very High altitude scale (12,000 – 18,000 feet [3,658 – 5,487 meters]). The risk of you getting altitude sickness or acute mountain sickness (AMS) is there. Laban Rata, the place for you to stay overnight before ascending to Low’s Peak is at the High altitude scale (8,000 – 12,000 feet [2,438 – 3,658 meters]). It is really difficult to say who are susceptible to AMS and who will get it, until they really make it up there.

However, you should know what are the symptoms of AMS, so that you will be alert of this conditions. The symptoms of Mild AMS are;

  • headache
  • dizziness
  • fatigue
  • shortness of breath
  • loss of appetite
  • nausea
  • disturbed sleep
  • general feeling of malaise

Minimize the effect of AMS by climbing the mountain slowly, better still, at your own pace. A simple Panadol or Ibuprofen can relief the symptoms. Stay properly hydrated – make sure you take a lot of fluid during the journey. There are 7 “pondok” (huts) along Summit Trail where you can refill your water bottle with untreated water. I elaborated more on the prevention of AMS here.

Trip & Falls

Climbing in a wet seasons gives extra challenges to climbers because of the water. Wet boulders and rocks can be very slippery sometimes. Wrong judgement and misaligned foot while walking through slippery surfaces can leads to fall. It is not about the mountain all the time, but climbers can sometimes be careless and ignorant.

Getting a pair of good shoes for the climb is necessary. Don’t follow what your porters and guides wears for their foot. A good trekking / climbing boots should at least have a traction sole, and high cut boots (which covers your ankle) is an option if you are afraid of ankle injury. Shoes guideline for climbathon runners can be a good reference for your trip.

Blisters

Blisters can be an annoying condition to have during your trip. New shoes with new socks can aggravate the production of blisters on your foot. That is why you need to “run in” your shoes for at least 2 weeks before the climb, so that your foot can get use to the new shoes. Prevention of blisters involves wearing a good thick socks and a well padded shoes. If it happens, you should know how to treat a simple blister.

Hand blisters can happen if you don’t wear gloves properly. During the second phase of the climb (all the way from Laban Rata), you will have to depends and hang on the rope that has been put there by the authorities. Waterproof gloves is better, but it may be a bit expensive. Normal wool gloves gives you some protection against the friction while using the rope.

Acute gastroenteritis (means that food & water poisoning)

Untreated water tankA well known medical problem to climbers who has a sensitive stomach. There is a water tank in each and every hut on the Summit Trail. However, the water comes from the mountain directly – hence, the tanks are all painted with “Untreated Water” sign. Wet season is slightly safer, as the water amounts are huge and it “dilutes” the microorganism inside, and the dynamic of the water makes the tank a “not so good” place for them to grow. Compared to dry season, when the water supply is limited, the water in the tanks can be stagnant, and it will be a good place for the microorganism to grow. The water will be slightly “concentrated” with microorganism during this period of time.

For most climbers who have a resistant stomach, this is not a problem. They could drink the water without any problems. However, some non-Asian climbers found out that they suffers from diarrhea from drinking the water directly from the tanks. If you happens to be like one of them, the best way to prevent this is by disinfecting the water with iodine salts. Iodine salts can kill the germs inside your water supply, and it is safe for you and your stomach. Bare in mind that the salts can produce an unpleasant odour with the water and some climbers may find it annoying.

First Aid Kit suggestion

Adventure Medical Kits have a good First Aid Kit that you can have for your trip up the Summit of Kinabalu. Small enough to take with you everywhere, the Fast and Light Personal Kit from Adventure Medical Kits contains enough first aid supplies for you and a friend Features:

  • Includes a First-Aid pamphlet Medications
  • 1 Splinter Picker Forceps
  • 3 Safety Pins
  • 4 Ibuprofen (200mg)
  • 2 Aspirin (325mg)
  • 2 Anitihistamine (Diphenhydramine)
  • Bleeding care items include 2 Nitrile Examination Gloves and 1 Infectious Control Bag Wound care
  • Sprain and blister items include 2 Butterfly Closure Strips
  • 2 Antibiotic Ointment
  • 6 After Cuts and Scrapes
  • 6 3×3 or 2×2’s Sterile Dressings
  • 1 Non-adherent Sterile Dressing, 1 Conforming Gauze Bandage (2 or 3)
  • 1 Adhesive Tape 10 yards (1-2)
  • 5 Strip and Knuckle Bandages
  • 2 Cotton Tipped Applicators
  • 1 Moleskin 4 x 3

Features

  • Reflective trim makes it easier to find kit in low-light conditions
  • Medications for inflammation, pain, allergic reactions, bites and stings, and heart attack symptoms
  • Nitrile gloves and infectious control bag
  • Wound care supplies
  • Moleskin dressing for preventing and treating blisters
  • Fine pointed, precision forceps allow you to pull out the smallest splinters or ticks

As a medical personnel myself, having a good first aid kit is a must when going into this kind of activities. In my opinion, the package by Adventure Medical Kits for climbers with the above kit is the minimum requirement that you must have. I would recommend you to have the kit – if you don’t want the hassle of buying the items inside the package separately.

“Hope for the best, prepare for the worst”. Happy mountaineering!

How to treat blister during your climbing trip

Blisters can add a heavy load to your climbing trip. Just as with bites and stings, the best defense is a good offense.

Prevention

  • Be sure shoes or boots fit properly. Tight shoes cause pressure sores; loose shoes cause friction blisters.
  • Break in new boots gradually before any long hikes.
  • Wear a thin liner sock under a heavier sock. Friction will occur between the socks instead of between the boot and the foot.
  • Keep feet dry.
  • Before hiking, apply moleskin to areas where blisters commonly occur.
  • Treat hot spots immediately. A hot spot is an area where skin is red and irritated but has not yet blistered.

Treatment

Blister treatment with moleskin For hot spots: Cut an oval-shaped hole slightly larger than the hot spot in a rectangular piece of moleskin. Center the hole over the hot spot and secure with tape or knit dressing. Be sure no sticky surfaces touch irritated skin.

For small, intact blisters: Do not puncture or drain. Apply a piece of moleskin or molefoam with a doughnut style hole cut out slightly larger than the blister over the site. Secure with tape.

Rhodiola Rosea – herbal remedy for acute mountain sickness

Rhodiola Rosea - herbal remedy for acute mountain sicknessI received another email from one of our members, who managed to climb Mount Kinabalu on the 4th of July. Alison went to climb the summit with her family – her husband and two children. She did asked me about Rhodiola Rosea, few weeks before she climbed Mount Kinabalu, but I could not give her a good answer.

She went up to the peak – and prepared herself with Rhodiola Rosea one week before the climb – after Googling about the herb from the net. And the result was stunning. This is her email:

Hello Ruhaizad,

WE DID IT!! Thanks to our wonderful guide, Sapirin Sumping, I am happy to say that 3 out of our family of 4 made it to the summit on 4 July. My husband and 19 year old son who are both very fit, experienced headaches. The 16 year old who is less fit suffered severe AMS symptoms and stayed at Laban Rata while we climbed to the summit.

I had chosen to take Rhodiola Rosea (2 capsules daily for week before climb) and experienced NO AMS SYMPTOMS AT ALL. Thought this follow up might interest you and possibly your readers.

Thank you again for your informative newsletter. We will return to Sabah next year but not to climb the mountain…..once was enough!!

Alison Zorn

Well, congratulations and thank you for your feedback, Alison! I really appreciate what you have done for yourself and for other readers of this blog. After receiving your email last two days, I did some research on Rhodiola Rosea. As I am a practicing medical physician, I don’t like to endorse medication or supplement to the climbers, UNLESS I have a good and solid information about it and have a positive feedback (like the one that I received from you).

I did some Googling the past couple of days about Rhodiola Rosea and I found a very interesting new information about combating acute mountain sickness – without using paracetamol and ibuprofen. Although the result that I found were merely mixed (positive and negative), I guess it is no harm using Rhodiola Rosea as a supplement for preventing acute mountain sickness.

Quoted from All-The-Tea Company:

Rhodiola has been used by Tibetans as a traditional remedy for more than 1000 years. Today, it is popular around the world, used as an adaptogen. Adaptogens are defined as substances that have no toxicity or side effects at normal dosages and that non-specifically increases the body’s resistance to disease and to physical and chemical stresses.

Rhodiola has been used by Tibetan doctors in formulas to treat dysentery, back pain, lung inflammation, painful and irregular menstruation, leukorrhea, epidemic diseases, limb edema, traumatic injury, and to heal burns. According to Chinese interpretation, rhodiola can support vital energy (qi), help the body resist pathogens, enrich the blood, nourish the brain, improve intelligence, and preserve health.

Recently, various preparations of rhodiola, alone or compounded into prescriptions, have been produced and used in clinical practice to prevent and treat various diseases. The rhodiola preparations have been shown the following effects: to reinforce physical strength, enhance body endurance, compensate for low oxygen, relieve tiredness and weakness, improve efficiency of physical and mental work, treat cardiac and pulmonary diseases, and counteract side-effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy for cancers.

In the clinical studies, rhodiola was evidently effective for treating weakness, poor appetite, heart palpitations, dizziness, chest distress and insomnia. The herb could also increase blood levels of hemoglobin and platelets and reduce the heart rate. After rhodiola was used to treat patients with coronary heart disease, attacks of angina pectoris were relieved along with the partial blood oxygen pressure of the arteries and arterial blood oxygen saturation was elevated.

One of the adaptogenic applications of rhodiola that has received considerable research attention is for aiding adaptation to high altitudes, thus, as a preventive and treatment for mountain sickness. Perhaps by related mechanisms, rhodiola has been shown to significantly aid athletic performance and to delay fatigue by improving oxygen utilization during exercise. Researchers speculate that rhodiola also helps reduce the stress that occurs secondary to exercise by regulating the parasympathetic nervous system, normalizing the body functions more rapidly after vigorous exercise.

So, if you plan to climb Mount Kinabalu next time, try Rhodiola Rosea as a supplement. It will then reduce the risk of you getting acute mountain sickness during your once a lifetime quest to the summit of Borneo.

Can we sleep at Laban Rata Resthouse restaurant floor?

Laban Rata ResthouseI received and email yesterday asking about sleeping at Laban Rata Resthouse restaurant floor if climbers did not be able to secure a place to stay at any huts in Laban Rata area for the night. This is the email:

Hi Ruhaizad,

Could you please help us as you seem to know all about Mt Kinabalu! We are
planning a visit to Kota Kinabalu from the 27th July to 3rd august and are
very keen to do the Mount Kinabalu hike especially after reading your reviews.

We are having problems booking accommodation as everything appears to be
booked out. We have heard that you can actually sleep on the Laba Rata Restaurant
floor, do you know if this is possible and if so how do we go about organizing
this?? Your help would be much appreciated as we really want to do this
climb!

We aim to climb on the 30th July but could also to the 31st July, 1 or 2nd August.

Look forward to hearing from you and hope you can help!

Cheers

D & J

And this is my answer:

Hi D & J,

Thank you for your email. I am sorry to tell you that Sutera Sanctuary Lodges is right, as there are no more places for you to stay in Laban Rata at that time. Its too short notice. I usually advice climbers to book at least 6 months in advance, to make sure that you place is secure.

At the moment, the rules and regulations by the Sabah Parks has not changed. Climbers are not allowed to sleep at the Laban Rata restaurant. It is prohibited, and they also will not allow you to camp around Laban Rata.

Maybe the best way is to call SSL directly and ask for any last minute cancellation. I would not advice you to just pop in at the park the morning before your climb to look for last minute cancellation, as you may risk of not getting any chance to climb if there were none.

I am sorry for your inconvenience. Hope the explanation helps.

Ruhaizad

Altimeter Watch buying Guide – for your climbing trip to Kinabalu

Timex Altimeter WatchI met a group of Mount Kinabalu international climbers last week, who are an educated bunch (one of them is a professor in mathematics), whom like to climb mountains from all over the world. They are very fanatics about being at the highest altitude of the mountain they climbed – and they even bring their own GPS on top of the mountain! Okay, you may not be as fanatic as them, but maybe an altimeter watch is a good companion for you to know at what altitude you are while climbing Kinabalu.

What is Altimeter Watch?
Altimeter watch is a compact and lightweight watch that shows altitude, or in the simple term, a watch that shows the height of the earth above sea level. The watch will calculate the altitude by measuring barometric pressure changes whilst compensating for the effect of temperature changes. A change in pressure of 1Hg represents an altitude change of 1,000ft and a good altimeter watch can sense pressure changes equivalent to a 3m altitude change.

For your information, it is not necessary for you to have an altimeter watch with your Kinabalu climb, but for those who are curious (or a hardcore climber who would like to top up their gadget), choosing a good altimeter watch can be a very daunting task. After some research, I hereby state to you 10 basic simple guides (mostly on the features) on how to choose your altimeter watch, so that it will be easier for you to get one from Amazon.

10 features to look for in your Altimeter Watch are:

  1. Make sure that the watch, in the first place can maintain and display accurate time. Watch which has a time zone will be better if you are coming from the other side of the globe and planning to summit Kinabalu. Choosing a durable watch with a good battery lifespan can be an advantage if you plan to be away for a long time. 12-24 hours time formatting with date, day, week and month calendar would be one of the main criteria of the watch.
  2. Barometer – one of the two main features of the watch which will be use to calculate the altitude. Current barometric pressure which is calculated continuously should be shown on the watch while you are ascending and descending. Special feature like 24 hours barometric pressure reading chart would be a bonus, and the working range of the altimeter should be from -1600 to 29500 feet (-500 to 9000 meters). I don’t think anything more is necessary (hint: Everest is 8800m asl). The units of pressure used are millibar (mbar) which are numerically equivalent to hectopascal (hPa).
  3. Weather and temperature – the other main features that is important on calculating altitude. Weather forecast feature is an estimate of the weather conditions for the next several hours and is determined based on past and current barometric trends. Make sure that it is possible to change the temperature units from Fahrenheit to Celsius.
  4. Altimeter – the main feature of the watch. To get the most of the altimeter, it should be able to:
    1. Displays a readout of the present altitude (resolution to 1 foot or 1 meter, with display range from -1600 to 29500 feet (-500 to 9000 meters).The watch can be changed to report the altitude in meters and feet.
    2. Tracks and stores maximum and accumulated altitude over time.(Maximum altitude is the maximum altitude attained since the measurement was last reset, and accumulated altitude is the sum of all individual altitude increases measured since the last reset – this is NOT the same as net altitude increase).
    3. Display the altitude history, at least for the past six hours.
  5. Compass – Most altimeter watch nowadays are equipped with a digital compass. It should be able to provide the degree reading (at least the resolution should be up to 1 degree) and an abbreviated orientation (N for north, W for west, NW for northwest) on the watch. However, digital compass is only recommended to be used for general navigation. In situations where exact direction and navigation is required, I would recommend that a true map compass be used.
    • For Muslim climbers, having a Qiblah compass (a special compass that could show them the direction on Kaabah, Mecca) when climbing Kinabalu is almost necessary. It is because you will arrive at Low’s Peak just before dawn, and most probably you have to do the Subuh prayer (solah) near the peak. Having said that, knowing the degree of Kaabah from north is an advantage, as you can use your digital altimeter watch compass to find your direction through, without the need of bringing a separate compass for Qiblah.
  6. Chronograph is an extra feature which almost every watches have it. Chronograph functionality will allow you to measure the elapsed time between various events. It is a good feature to have if you want to measure your elapsed time of your ascend/descend on Kinabalu.
  7. Alarm would be another good feature to have on your altitude watch, especially if it includes altitude alarm. Altitude alarm is an alarm that will inform you the level of altitude you are at, provided that you set it up first at the desired level.
  8. Must be water-proof – to some degree. Generally, altimeter watches for climbing CANNOT be use during your SCUBA diving trip to Sipadan (as example). It has a small opening on the body which house a barometric and temperature sensor for the calculation of the altitude. Salt water from your SCUBA diving trip will definitely kill the sensor.
  9. Durable – a difficult feature to assess, as only time could tell. However, you could get the feedback from the user of the known altimeter watches brands from various sources around the net. One of the best place to check out is Backpackgeartest.org.
  10. Other extra features are backlight, navi-bezel, vertical speed, number of runs, degree of slope, altitude log recording and rate of ascent and descent will complete your altimeter watch.
  11. Did I said 10? Anyway, the altimeter watch that you choose must fit your budget! It would be no use if you buy the most expensive altimeter watch, but unable to pay for you flight to Kinabalu!

There are a lot of altimeter watch in the market nowadays, such as Suunto, Polar, Cyclosport, Oregon, Synchronic and Timex which has different features and styles to suit your individual requirements. Wondering where to shop for your altimeter watches? Chitika eMiniMalls is a one stop center for online shopping. It has thousands of merchants that could show you the desired altimeter watches that you are looking for. Mine? I am going to get one ASAP!

How to choose a climbing backpack for your Kinabalu trip

Choosing the right backpack is all about choosing a back that fits your needs! So before reading on take a moment to think about what you need a back for, you don’t want a 7000 cubic inches (ci) monster back for your trip up to the peak!

Okay, let me show you backpacks that I used for my Kinabalu trip. So, which one do you think is suitable? You can get the answer at the end of this article. Read on.

My backpacks up on Mount Kinabalu

The first thing that you have to know before you start Googling for the best backpack for your trip is knowing the features of your Mount Kinabalu climb. Basically, it would be:

  1. A 3D2N trip up to the peak (the most is 4D3N, but sometimes climbers do it in 2D1N) is usual. It depends on your preferences.
  2. As the weather on Mount Kinabalu is mostly unpredictable and wet, it is good if you have a backpack that is slightly waterproof.
  3. It’s a climbing, hiking and trekking combined together.
  4. As it is not a ‘technical climb’, you would not need a backpack with special features and extra pockets.
  5. As an advice, have a budget in your mind, how much you are willing to spend for the backpack so you still have plenty of money to buy other items.

Knowing all the climbing features of Kinabalu will actually narrow down your options to a more specific features of your backpack. Too big will be a hindrance for the climb and too small can leave you shivering while at the peak because of not enough clothing.

First, let us learn about the anatomy of the backpack (so that you know which one is the best for you):

Loading access:

  1. Top-Loading: Top-loading packs have one big hole at the top. Pro: These are stronger and more moisture resistant than panel-loaders. Con: They require more careful packing than panel-loaders, both to balance the load and to make items easily accessible.
  2. Panel-Loading: These have a large U-shaped front zipper, allowing access to more of the pack. Pro: You can find things faster, and don’t have to pack as carefully. Con: You can’t pack this as fully as a top-loading model, and zippers can fail.
  3. Hybrid-Loader: The best of both worlds. Usually a top-loader with vertical side zippers.

Size (with image examples):

  1. 10 L (liter) ~ 625 ci (cubic inches) – my Body Glove backpack
  2. 20 L ~ 1250 ci – my Pierre Cardin backpack
  3. 30 L ~ 1875 ci – my Sony Wega backpack
  4. 40 L ~ 2500 ci
  5. 50 L ~ 3125 ci
10L 20L 30L
10L (~625ci) 20L (~1250ci) 30L (~1875ci)
40L 50L L=liter
ci=cubic inches
40L (~2500ci) 50L (~3125ci)  

(Anything bigger than 50L is NOT suitable for your trip up to Low’s Peak of Kinabalu, unless you are climbing up to Eastern Plateau of the mountain)

Internal or external frame?

  • Internals feature a narrow, towerlike profile and integrate their framework inside the pack, behind the shoulder harness. The frame usually consists of “stays,” or flat bars, about an inch wide and 1/8-inch thick. Stays are usually aluminum and are configured in a V-shape. Alternative frame materials (such as composites) and stay-alignments (parallel, X-shaped; U-shaped) are sometimes used. Stays are removable and can be shaped to conform to your torso.
  • Externals connect a packbag to a rigid frame made of aluminum tubing. Externals ruled the backcountry until internal-frame design was introduced in the late 1970s. Internals have surged in popularity, yet externals are still a great choice for transporting heavy loads along trails. With an external, the pack’s weight sits more squarely on your hips; with an internal, the back, shoulders and hips share the load.

10 smart features of current available backpack:

  1. Generously padded hipbelts (unlike the thin cloth waistbelts found on Sixties-era backpacks) represent a major advancement in pack design and greatly enhance your ability to carry tonnage up the mountain.
  2. Most consist of various grades of foam: open-cell foam for cushioning, closed-cell or molded foam for firmness. The hipbelt should straddle your “iliac crest” – the 2 prominent bones on the front of your hips. This is the area where your pelvic girdle begins to flare out, providing the hipbelt with a stable, fortified foundation.
  3. Some internal packs place a thin but stiff sheet of plastic between you and the packbag. Often this is a material known as HDPE, or high-density polyethylene. This adds stiffness to the frame without adding much weight. Plus, it prevents objects in your pack from poking you in the back.
  4. Internals sometimes include some type of mesh or foam panel that rests near the middle of your back. This is an attempt to separate the pack from your back and encourage some air flow between the two. It offers modest help. Here is a trail-tested truth: Count on having a sweaty back if you tote an internal.
  5. This involves the shoulder straps (padded and contoured), load-lifting straps, a sternum strap and belt-stabilizer straps. So-called ladder suspensions typically allow you to reposition the shoulder harness in 1-inch (or, preferably, smaller) increments. The more fine-tuning a pack permits, the better the fit.
  6. Common materials are packcloth (a sturdy grade of nylon) and Cordura, a burly fabric with a brushed finished. Both resist abrasion and are coated for water resistance. Cordura is tougher and a bit heavier. Ballistics nylon, a strong, lightweight material, has popped up in newer pack designs and seems to work well. Internals usually offer an “extendable collar” or “spindrift collar” – additional nylon with a drawstring closure that allows the main compartment to stretch higher and hold extra gear.
  7. Many internals allow you to detach the “floating lid” pocket from the pack and convert it into a fanny pack or daypack. That’s a handy feature for your second phase of your climb up to Low’s Peak.
  8. Water-bottle holders/hydration pockets: Externals offer plenty of side pockets where you can stash a water bottle. Internals rarely do, although several now offer elasticized mesh “holsters” on the side where you can keep small bottles handy. Hydration systems (water reservoirs, or bladders, connected to a long sipping hose) have boomed in popularity. Many high-end packs now offer such systems.
  9. Lash points allow you to attach even more gear to your pack if you feel the need. Climbers should look for hiking pole loops and daisy chains (a series of small loops where you can dangle gear, such as carabiners). A so-called shovel pocket holds items tight against the back of your pack; it’s a good place to stash wet things. All of these extras, of course, add weight to a pack.
  10. Some of the backpack manufacturer have also designed a backpack that is suitable for women’s back. For example, Deuter have actually made their SL system a special backpack “from women for women”.

Deuter SL for women

(Image courtesy of Rock Creek Outfitters. Click to enlarge.)

Enough with all those technical things. So, what would be the best for you? I have some little tips from my experiences…

I used 30L backpack {C}, waterproof with panel loading access for several of my 3D2N climbing trip to Kinabalu. I once used a 10L Body Glove backpack {A}, but find it a bit too small. With 30L I could lug more foods (as it is expensive at Laban Rata), medicines and first aid kit for the group I escorted. My 30L has an internal frame, nice padded hipbelt and sternum strap which I actually got it as a gift when I bought my 29 inches Sony Wega television 6 years ago. It also has double mesh side pockets for my water bottles. As the backpack does not have a detachable pack, I also brought separate lumbar/waist pack {D} for the second phase of the climb.

I never use my 20L {B} as it is my computer backpack. It has a notebook/laptop compartment, which I usually use during my travel back to Peninsular Malaysia by plane.

But that’s just my choice. I don’t know about you. If you think that you are going to do more activities other than climbing here in Sabah, you might want a bigger backpack (which you can actually keep it at Kinabalu Park while you are climbing up the mountain) and another smaller 10-20L backpack just for the climb.

Recommendation: You can choose from numerous number of available brand (or Made-in-China-without-a-brand), as long as it has all the features that you are looking for, value for money and durable. I personally would recommend that you check out Chitika eMiniMalls which have a lot of choices. Feel free to use their search button if you want something else. Deuter, The North Face, Gregory Alpinisto, Eagle Creek, Arc’teryx – to name a few recognizable brand around.

How to choose a good hiking sandals for your trip to Kinabalu

Men’s Teva SandalsOne of my fellow traveler ask me this question: Can we wear sandals to climb Mount Kinabalu? Well, I would answer YES and NO. Yes, if you choose the correct sandals and use it during your day climb (first phase of the climb) and NO, if you choose the wrong one and using it during your night climb. Huh? Isn’t that obvious? The truth is, choosing sandals for trekking/hiking/backpacking up Mount Kinabalu is not as easy as it looks like. I will tell you the secret…

I did several trips up the mountain and I do not have a good experience of wearing trekking boots – on my earlier attempt. Why? Because boots injured my toes, especially during the descend, as the weight of my body seems to fall on my ball of foot, and indirectly pressed the toes. The pain was there for several days after the climb. However, during my last trip up, I used a good sandals. The injuries were reduced.

Practically, not every sandals on the market is suitable for you to wear during your climb. Highly specialize sandals that is made for trekking/hiking/backpacking from most of the known brand is generally suitable for you. Oh, it is elegant for you too. Active Sandals have a lot of various choices on selection of sandals that you can choose and do your shopping online. I would suggest you look on Teva Sandals and Keen Sandals, as they are the specialize producer of these kind of sandals. Active Sandals are a top rated Yahoo! store (5 stars out of 5) for top customer service.

But, how do we choose the best that suits our need? These are some practical tips for you to consider while choosing your good sandals:

  1. Choose either nylon or leather straps, look for arch support, heel shock pad and cushioning midsole.
  2. Look for anti-pronation plugs in the midsole.
  3. Outsole should be sufficiently cleated to offer grip on rough terrain.
  4. Sandal construction integrity and longevity essential – look for straps that are continuous and cannot pull out – failure of the sandals in some remote part of the world could be serious.
  5. Arch support and padded straps and posts are also important for comfort.
  6. Ensure light weight – you don’t want to carry kilos of footwear around with you!
  7. Don’t use leather or synthetic leather footbeds – they cannot take continuous wear over weeks.
  8. Have a pair of leather sandals, or thongs, for casual use.
  9. Make sure you wear a pair of cotton socks with your sandals to minimize blisters.

Oh, the best time to use the sandals on your day climb is during dry season. Your feet can be be a bit cold if you use it during rainy season. You can also use the sandals during your sightseeing trip in Kota Kinabalu city or maybe rafting in Padas River!

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Jungle Adventure Tips – For Kinabalu Park Trail-ers…

  • My son in one of the jungle trail of KinabaluFind out about the trail and surroundings, be sure that you have enough time to complete the entire route before darkness falls. Do not stray off the path to chase after animals.
  • Use good judgment regarding fitness level required for the trek, and know your physical limits.

  • Always inform the park officials or let someone know your plans and destination for the day, especially if going alone.

  • Take plenty of water and pack a few easy snacks to keep energy level up. Unless trekking with a local guide, it is not advisable to eat jungle fruit or drink from any water source.

  • In the highlands try to trek on the ridge tops to save energy traversing the steep slopes and to catch a cool breeze.

  • Be as quite as possible to avoid scaring any wildlife. Getting an early start during the dawn provides the best chances to sight animals seeking food and the warmth of the early morning sun.

  • Wear thin, loose preferably cotton clothing to remain comfortable.

  • Cover arms and legs with long trousers and long-sleeved shirts to ward off mosquitoes and to provide protection against thorny plants.

  • Wear leech socks or long socks to prevent leeches from finding an entry way.

  • Choose sturdy footwear with proper ankle support and good traction.

  • Be prepared for sudden rain showers by carrying poncho that wraps over both body and your carrying pack to keep everything dry.

  • A white brimmed hat helps to shade a trekker from the heat of tropical sun.

Kinabalu Park itself have more than 10 jungle trails that you can use, although you have no intention to climb the mountain. The trails varies in distance, and you can choose whether you want to follow the 30 minutes trail or 3 hours trail. Information can be obtained from the Kinabalu Park office, and maybe you have to inform the park rangers on your trip and activities. Most travelers take the trail to see the flora, fauna (mostly birds) of Kinabalu.

How To Avoid Blisters: A Hiking Sock Guide.

Copyright © 2006 Marc Wiltse

Great hiking socks are critical for a comfortable . Do yours deliver in all the important areas? Learn how to pick the hiking sock that is best for your trip.

Your hiking socks are probably like you at work… they do a lot more than they’re given credit for. They must be comfortable, wick moisture, protect against shear, support your natural posture, keep your feet at a good temperature, distribute pressure, promote circulation, absorb shock, and be tough. That’s no small order.

Socks are almost as important as your boots and shoes when it comes to your comfort. Here are some things to consider before investing in your next pair…

Blood Flow- This is the circulation of blood through the foot. A decrease or cut-off in blood flow can be caused by unyielding fabrics in hiking socks. Acrylics in combination with other fibers and a terry weave can help with this and shear. Lack of blood flow can cause fatigue, numbness and leave your feet more susceptible to injury.

Moisture- With exertion one foot can sweat 1-2 pints of vapor/fluid per day. That’s like dumping a whole soda in each shoe! OK, so pop is stickier, but wet skin still has a tendency to stick to other surfaces which causes even more stress and trauma to your tissue. That’s why wicking technology in hiking socks is so important.

Keep in mind too, if your socks don’t wick well, bacteria and fungus can also become more of a problem. And we’ve all known that camp mate that had funky smelling feet. One of my friends actually resorted to burning his shoes in the campfire, but that’s another story… 😉

Position- If your hiking socks don’t help to maintain correct anatomical alignment it can cause premature fatigue. Correct posture also helps to correctly position your foot in your boot or shoe to make it feel like it’s an extension of your body. If you wore your dad’s shoes when you were a kid, or had a pair of shoes that were too large and floppy you know how important position is.

Pressure Areas- Pressure can cause discomfort and lead to damage if it’s not addressed. A good example of this is a bedsore. Most people hopefully won’t experience pressure to this degree, but it’s something you want to keep in mind when looking at hiking socks. Padding is especially important around bony areas like the heal and ball of the foot. Bony prominences as they’re called, don’t have the luxury of much padding. A good sock will provide just enough, but not too much cushion.

Shearing Force- This happens when your tissue is moving in opposite directions, like when jumping over a stream, or descending a steep slope. Part of your skin is moving one way and the tissue underneath it another, this causes a tearing action just under the surface of the skin. This is the most common way of getting blisters.

Temperature- Good hiking socks need to be appropriate for their intended use, from a warm weather day hike, to a week-long mountaineering trip. Once in that environment, they should help maintain a consistent comfortable temperature.

Like a shoe or boot your hiking socks should be matched to the type of hiking you’ll be doing. Whether you’re trail running or hiking the Appalachian Trail with a 50 pound backpack. Selecting the right tool for the job makes all the difference.

My website offers hiking sock reviews and recommendations as well as other gear information. I hope you found this article informative. Happy hiking. 🙂

About The Author:

Marc Wiltse began investing in quality gear after a flooded tent forced him to sleep in his tiny 2-seat Honda CRX. His hiking equipment & camping gear guides, reviews & newsletter save you time & money. Find reviews on hiking socks here: http://www.hiking-gear-and-equipment-used-for-camping.com/hiking socks.html
© Marc Wiltse. Reprint permission if author, copyright, links & this notice intact.

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