EOCA enables European expansion of The North Face Explore Fund

The European Outdoor Conservation Association (EOCA) is delighted to announce that it is working in partnership with The North Face (TNF) to support the brand’s grant funding programme for conservation projects in Europe

The TNF Explore Fund aims to create access and drive equality in the outdoors by funding non profit organisations around the themes of Enabling Exploration and Loving Wild Places.  Having met with extraordinary success in the United States, the TNF Explore Fund is expanding its funding across Europe and has turned to EOCA to help find suitable conservation projects with a lasting legacy.

Julian Lings, CSR and Sustainability Manager for The North Face said, ”The Loving Wild Places part of the Explore Fund is all about valuing wild places for the mental and physical benefits they bring – and therefore protecting them and looking after them so that those opportunities are available for everyone, now and into the future.  We are thrilled to be working with EOCA to find some really exciting projects to fund.  The Association has been working in exactly this area for the last 13 years and its knowledge and experience in funding, assessing and managing this type of conservation work is invaluable.”

EOCA will be looking at organisations working in the UK, Germany and Italy and once projects have been shortlisted, the The North Face employees in those countries will get involved in choosing which projects they would like to see funded.  Tanya Bascombe, Joint General Manager of EOCA added,” This is a fantastic opportunity to show what kinds of projects are out there, and to be asked to help The North Face in their search for their prestigious Explore Fund shows how well regarded the projects that EOCA funds are.   The North Face automatically becomes a Summit Member of EOCA through its funding of the projects it chooses.  It has also generously signed up to become a Sustaining Member, thus helping to finance the running of the association, and we look forward to many more fruitful years of cooperation together”.

Sprayway Kalmar soft shell jacket

I’ve been told I need a soft shell jacket to take with me on the Grand Traverse

I have searched and searched and searched for the right one and was getting close to the point of giving up when up stepped Sprayway with their new Kalmar jacket and this is what they say about it….

Lightweight, packable weather resistant protection for the British summer.

New for Spring Summer 2019, the Sprayway Kalmar Hooded Jacket offers superb weather resistance for unpredictable summer days out.

The Kalmar has a technical look and feel, made from Stretch TecWEAVE™ with a TecSHELL™ fabric overlay for added durability. The 4-way stretch TecWEAVE in the main body and arms has a PFC free DWR coating for added weather resistance. This is topped off with a 30D TecSHELL ripstop fabric also coated with PFC free DWR through the chest and hood.

Sprayway has also insulated the hood with 20g INSOtherm and added a wired peak and the jacket has plenty of pockets where needed and fully adjustable cuffs and hem. The Kalmar is an extremely versatile jacket as it is lightweight and packable, wind and rain resistant, durable and can be worn as an outer or a mid-layer dependent on conditions.

It is the ‘Go To’ jacket for the unpredictable summer weather, perfect for nearly all outdoor activities and looks as good as it performs.

My initial joy on receiving the jacket is how light it is, perfect for the Grand Traverse! Every other jacket that has been described to me as “Soft Shell” may well be soft but everyone of them have been heavy and totally unsuitable for carrying for 38 days!!!

EOCA Conservation Funding Reaches €3 million

This March thousands of outdoor enthusiasts joined European Outdoor Conservation Association (EOCA), and it’s members, to participate in it’s annual spring public vote. As a result of the public vote and also the members private vote, six new conservation projects have been selected for EOCA to support. With almost €150,000 being pledged to these six projects, this also marks a new milestone in the history of EOCA – the funding of €3 million in vital conservation projects around the world!

During this spring vote, 43,637 votes were cast resulting in the selection of three new conservation projects for EOCA, and it’s members to support. In addition, EOCA’s members voted to select a further three projects. For this funding round only, all six of these projects will tackle EOCA’s ambitious new focus targeting plastic pollution – to collectively clear 3000km of habitat, trail and beach of plastic waste and pollution over the next two yearsThat is the distance from the Mediterranean coast to Lapland! EOCA is making a great start to this target by supporting almost 1000km through these six projects.

As well as addressing current plastic issues and their threat to a habitat, landscape or species, each of these six projects will also have a link to outdoor enthusiasts, work with and benefit local communities, involve an educational element, and leave a legacy. All funds are raised by membership fees and fundraising monies coming from the European Outdoor Industry. EOCA holds two funding rounds per year, with the second round taking place in autumn.

Last month EOCA also launched it’s new public fundraiser to help EOCA, and it’s members reach this two year focus of clearing 3000km. The project, part of Surfrider Foundation Europe’s ‘Ocean Initiatives’ programme will work to raise awareness and educate thousands of people through waste collection and clean-up events. EOCA is calling on individuals and companies to donate via their website to fund this ambitious project.  Every €10 donated via EOCA will help fund an area of 50 metres squared – the area of two olympic sized swimming pools! – of clean-ups.  Please see the donate button on www.outdoorconservation.eu or www.eoca.de .  There is also the option to go onto www.oceaninitiatives.org to find a clean up event to get involved in.

Cat Barker, Conservation Project Coordinator said “We are very proud to have reached a new milestone in funding €3 million in conservation projects following another successful funding round. We are yet again amazed by the number people getting involved in the voting process and it is fantastic to see the public involvement, as well as the time and dedication projects put into it. These six projects will focus on one of the biggest topics in current conservation issues, plastic pollution. The projects, and EOCA’s public fundraiser project will make great inroads toward achieving EOCA’s ambitious new target to clear 3000km of plastic waste and pollution over the next two years. And, of course, all of this is only possible with the continued funding and support given by EOCA’s membership.”

The six projects selected during the spring vote are:

Bird Watching to Reduce Plastic Pollution, Brazil

Nominated by: Pertex

The Lagoa do Peixe National Park (LPNP) protects migratory birds. The area is part of the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network, with 273 bird species registered in the Park. The main tourist activity is bird watching, focused on the threatened species. The main threats to birds and endangered marine fauna are plastic waste pollution, ingestion, and damage to the natural landscape through the accumulation of debris on the beaches. Through this project, Instituto Curicaca will focus on reducing the plastic contamination in the habitat of endangered birds and other threatened animals, through clean up events, education and training. A workshop for teachers and local bird watching guides, a photographic exhibition highlighting the problem, clean up events and diagnosis of waste collected, awareness raising amongst fishermen regarding net disposal and the production of waste management plans for the local municipalities will involve more than 700 people, including school children, locals and visitors. The project aims to change the habits of the community via 20 beach cleans to clear 20km of beach and their surrounding habitats of plastic waste.

Campaign for a plastic free Ria Formosa, Portugal

Nominated by: Paramo

Ria Formosa is an extensive 18,000 hectare lagoon system with sandflats, mudflats and saltmarshes, protected from open sea by a long, thin belt of sand-dunes called barrier islands. The 5 barrier islands and 2 peninsulas are separated by 6 inlets connecting the lagoon to the sea. This is an important area for wildlife, particularly birds, indigenous plants, seahorses and fish. Since rubbish produced by residents and the increasing numbers of tourists is a serious threat, our project focus on the conservation of the shoreline, protecting marine animals and preserving the environment for nature lovers, water sports enthusiasts and hikers. EOCA funds will expand the annual clean-up to 11km carried out by RTV-aECO – Responsible Tourism Volunteer – Ocean Research and Conservation Association by adding an underwater clean-up.  Funding will also enable an awareness campaign to tackle the problem at its source, targeting non-sustainable behaviours such as plastic consumption and littering. To engage tourists, residents, fishermen and students there will be photographic exhibitions in the main cities of Olhão and Faro, art installations made with the rubbish collected, in-store communications in selected supermarkets and shops as well as a digital campaign to broaden the campaign’s impact. 

Jaizkibel-Ulia Clean Up, Spain

Nominated by: Ternua

The coast of Jaizkibel and Ulia is one of the best conserved coastal stretches of the Basque Country with spectacular hilly and rocky landscapes attracting hikers, runners, bikers, climbers, divers and fishers. There are many species of fauna and flora of European interest, and endemic species. The inaccessibility of the cliffs has attracted important colonies of seabirds as well as nests of raptors and scavengers, many of them threatened. The rich marine bottoms and intertidal environments host one of the most important populations of the Gelidium algae of the Basque coast.  Dolphins and other cetaceans often visit this coast to feed. Marine litter affects habitats, species and ecosystems leading to serious risks for humans and wildlife, through exposure to chemical substances, lethal or detrimental effects due to ingestion, as well as entrapment of marine fauna and other animals. Through this project, Itsasa Gela-Aula del Mar will: clean the riverbed that leads to the study area, as well as cleanings creeks, seabeds and removing floating debris; raising awareness of the natural value of the area, plus the issues and solutions.   Education workshops will introduce alternatives to and reduction of consumption for different sectors of the population and visitors. 

The Himalayan Cleanup, India

Nominated by: Grangers

Nominated by: Grangers

The Indian Himalaya is part of a global biodiversity hotspot with a high percentage of protected and community conserved areas, as well as being an important source of water for millions of people. Due to ever-increasing tourist footfall and changing consumption patterns, plastics have entered the remotest mountain environments where the terrain makes it extremely difficult, if not impossible to retrieve and/or dispose of plastic waste. Lack of awareness leads to burning of waste, dumping down hillsides or into streams and rivers.   Wildlife including red pandas and black bears consume plastic through food left in plastic packaging. In 2018, a Himalayan Cleanup across the 12 mountain states mobilised 15,000 volunteers across 200 sites, sorting and recycling waste and making ecobricks from non recyclable plastics.  Integrated Mountain Initiative’s will run the Cleanup day again, alongside other community clean up events raising awareness locally as well as amongst the travel, transport and tourism sectors. A workshop will be held with government and CSO stakeholders to discuss sustainable waste management strategies and keeping key habitats clean, underpinned by results from a waste audit. 

ECO Relief, Lesvos, Greece

Nominated by: Proagencies Ltd

The island of Lesvos is perhaps best known for the many species of migratory birds that find shelter in its ecosystem. Nature-lovers are captivated by the biodiversity of the island’s wetlands, rivers and rich chestnut forests that are perfect for hikes, mountain biking and bird watching. Life jackets, rubber dinghies, outboard engines and the waste generated by thousands of refugees arriving on the island mount up on its beaches, polluting habitats on the cliffs and shore. The situation is compounded by items discarded by the local population, as well as by general commercial waste washed up by winds and currents. Following on from Lighthouse Relief’s successful 2018 programme, their objectives in 2019 is to clean approximately 32 km of coastline and 50 km of trails, which constitute an important aspect of the natural beauty and appeal of the island. A special focus will be placed on recycling, as well as on community- and school-based involvement and educational activities to reduce overall plastic use. A series of events will encourage participation in beach-clearing, recycling and upcycling initiatives.

Montaña Limpia, Latin America

Nominated by: The North Face Italy Srl

Since 2013, Acceso PanAm has engaged climbers, hikers and local communities to give back to the mountains via an annual mountain clean-up event. Poorly planned visits and tourism in mountainous areas is leading to increased amounts of discarded litter, harming the environment, threatening wildlife and polluting habitats and water sources with everything from picnic waste, to camping and technical equipment in mountain environments.  The Montaña Limpia (Clean Mountains) campaign runs simultaneously across a number of countries in Latin America and has been gaining in momentum and popularity.  In 2019 the aim is to have 30 events happening across 6 countries with over 600 volunteers cleaning over 300km of trail, from tropical areas to mountains over 6000m altitude. Funding will help take the communication and education to the next level by developing an app to engage younger people who are increasingly disconnected to the mountains, as well as helping record data on the types of trash found, the impacts on habitats and wildlife and offering educational and waste collection resources to help events.

Passing Melrose

Heading back down from the Central Belt, Scotland on the A68 I have always been intrigued by what I thought was a single lump of rock sticking out of the ground to the right as I pass the sign for Melrose.

Monday 29th April was a beautiful day and so I detoured and in doing so came across a road sign for the Rhymer Stone!

I couldn’t resist and turned onto a no through road that initially lead me past the local crematorium and a horse riding stables before coming to a halt at an information board for Thomas the Rhymer and his stone. It was at this point I asked two riders carrying bridals on there way to collect some horses “Where is the stone?” to which the male replied “Just up there on the left”, this was a matter of a few hundred metres away. I then asked him if it was worth a look and his reply was “Not really”, at which point a lady joined the conversation from behind and said “It’s a great view!” to which I replied “Surely the better view is from up there?”, pointing to what I now know as the first of the Eildon Hills. The male horse rider agreed with me and said it would take me 40mins to get to the top! Much to his colleagues surprise at that point I committed to the climb!

Following the sign for the Border Abbeys Way I set off along a green track between two hedges and ascended the first hill!

Booked the TGV from Paris to Dole

So excited to have booked the TGV from Paris to Dole! It was saying to me “you’re committed now, next stop Nice!

When I saw the difference in price between 2nd Class and 1st it was a no brainer, 1st Class all the way, after all a trip on a TGV is on my bucket list so why not do it in style?

Ticket booked I then did some research and posts on Trip Advisor suggested I’d made the wrong choice as all you get for your extra euros is extra leg room, unlike the Eurostar and 1st Class in the UK you don’t get free food on SNCF!

Even without the food I think Trip Advisor contributors are wrong! Although I’ve not yet had the TGV experience I am very much looking forward to it and all the more so because I could afford that little extra to go 1st Class at the start of my journey of a life time, so thank you SNCF!

SNCF Thank you

New Public Fundraiser for EOCA

As part of its newly-launched focus on plastic clean-up, the European Outdoor Conservation Association (EOCA) has launched a public fundraiser to raise money to help reduce single use plastic.  The project, part of Surfrider Foundation Europe’s ‘Ocean Initiatives’ programme will work to raise awareness and educate thousands of people through waste collection and clean-up events.

Plastic pollution is found in mountains, around crags, in rivers and lakes, forests, coastlines and oceans, impacting disastrously on wildlife and blighting every type of habitat and landscape enjoyed by outdoor enthusiasts.  It is estimated that 100,000 marine mammals and 1 million seabirds are killed every year through entanglement or by ingesting plastic litter.

As an organisation raising money to look after the health and well-being of the planet, EOCA is committed to playing its part in achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.  SDG 14 (Life Below Water) is one of those highlighted by EOCA as of utmost of relevance to its own vision and new focus as it aims to “prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds, in particular from land-based activities, including marine debris and nutrient pollution”.

With this in mind, EOCA will work with its members and the European outdoor industry to reduce their use of everyday single use plastics, whist also raising awareness through the organisation of clean ups to educate people on how to stop plastic waste from getting into wild habitats from the summits of mountains to the depths of the oceans.  The headline target is that EOCA and its members will collectively clear 3000km of habitat, trail and beach of plastic waste and pollution over the next 2 years.  That is the distance from the Mediterranean coast to Lapland!  Whilst EOCA’s public vote is now underway to select its first conservation projects for 2019, the association has also launched this public fundraiser to raise further money for and get involved in another vital project.

Since starting in 1990, Surfrider Foundation Europe has placed the problem of marine litter at the heart of its mission. The overall objectives of its ‘Ocean Initiatives’ programme, which has been running for almost 25 years, are to limit new waste generation, promote a circular economy for 100% of generated waste and limit the impact of existing waste in the environment. EOCA funding will help organise at least 1600 public clean-up events, expanding into new areas such as in-ocean cleans, mobilising 60,000 people in 47 countries, and educating 100,000 people. Data on the number and type of collected items from 1195km of beaches, lakes, rivers and seabeds all over the world will fuel scientific research and underpin lobbying of the EU for stricter targets on the reduction of waste and pollution entering our oceans.

EOCA is calling on individuals and companies to donate via their website to fund this ambitious project.  Every €10 donated via EOCA will help fund an area of 50 metres squared – the area of two olympic size swimming pools!- of clean-ups.  Please see the donate button on www.outdoorconservation.eu or www.eoca.de .  There is also the option to go onto www.oceaninitiatives.org to find a clean up event to get involved in.

Bridgedale Hike Ultra Light T2

Just put on a pair of Bridgedale Hike Ultra Light T2 boot height walking socks for the first time!

Stripping away the cardboard packaging I realised how light these socks are and wondered how on earth they are going to comfort and protect my feet on a hike?

Putting my feet into these “Fusion Tech” socks made “of the highest quality yarns”, “wrapped with high performance microfibres” I immediately felt the wrap around comfort and support that Bridgedale promised.

First impression is they will be great for walking the Grand Traverse of the Alps in the summer.

Next stage is to put them into my boots and start walking!!!

12 hour heat retention test on 5 flasks

It was the Fire and ice box that set the challenge, HOT 12 HRS COLD 24 HRS so at 7am on Friday 6th April we took five flasks and filled them with boiling water, recorded the start temperatures and left them outside for twelve hours before opening them up and taking the temperatures again. The heat losses are shown in the table below.

The flasks are from left to right

Mizu Adidas Terrex 650ml / 22oz

#mizulife http://www.mizulife.com

Hydro Flask 532ml / 18oz (New)

Hydro Flask 532ml / 18oz (Old)


Chilly’s 500ml


Fire and Ice 500ml


Please note that the tests where not carried out in the lab but in the great outdoors!

As Spring progresses here in the United Kingdom we will look forward to a hotter day to test the COLD 24 HRS challenge on all five flasks in a similar fashion.

Both the Chilly’s and Fire and Ice were purchased. The Mizu and Hydro Flask were given to us free of charge for review.

Keen Karraig Mid WP walking boots

Keen Europe have kindly supplied me with a pair of Keen Karraig Mid WP men’s UK size 10 walking boots to trial for the Grand Traverse of the Alps.

It’s great to see that Keen Europe are continuing to support boot manufacture in one of boot making’s traditional heartlands, Romania.

In the coming weeks we will be taking these boots out for a number of test walks to get the feel of them prior to my departure on the Grand Traverse of the Alps and will let you know how we get on.

We’ve just taken them out of the box and this is what they look like and…

Keen Karraig walking boots front elevation
Keen Karraig walking boots tread
Keen Karraig walking boots side side elevations
Total grip Keen Karraig walking boots
Keen Karraig walking boots full frontal!

…we’ll follow their instructions on how to put them on!

Instructions on how to put on Keen Karraig walking boots
Keen Europe logo with link

LifeStraw, bladder or flask?

Two of the major considerations on any long multi day walk are the weight on your back and hydration on route.

I realise that utilising any container to carry fluids will add considerable weight to my pack so have looked at ways to avoid this where possible.

In the main the Grand Traverse of the Alps passes through a landscape that will provide plentiful opportunities to re hydrate. It is only in the last few days in the Southern Alps where there is a need to carry sufficient water to last the whole day.

Given the geography of the route I have decided to use a LifeStraw for water on the majority of the walk as it is both light compared to a full flask or bladder and more compact.

The size is 212mm x 28mm dia including solid sealed caps at either end that protect both the entry and exit of the water.

The only difficulty I have in using it is my own physic! You do need to get close and personal to the water source from which you attempting to drink!

One other aspect of using the LifeStraw that only became apparent on first use is that the water you are drinking can be very cold when it hits the back of your throat.

I will be taking an empty flask or bladder to use on the last section because of the rarity of natural running water there.