Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Are you plugged in: 2.0


"Recharging" on vacation just got a whole lot easier.

About a year and-a-half ago I wrote piece titled Are you plugged in: A guide to recharging on vacation. In the article I discussed the dos and don'ts of running electrical equipment while traveling in a foreign country. That was a year and-a-half ago, and a few things have changed.

The most notable change concerns voltage converters. I originally stated, “You’ll fry your U.S. camera charger if you take it to Switzerland and just put an adapter on it.” In addition, “You also need a converter that will “step down” their higher voltage to meet the lower voltage requirements of your device.” These statements may, or may not, be true depending on your device.

More and more electrical devices use a universal power supply these days because electronic manufacturers realize that lugging around voltage converters can be a pain. Take a look at the power supply on your electrical device. (Or better yet, read your owner’s manual). Those designed for use just about anywhere have a section on the label that looks something like this:

Input 100-240V 50/60HZ

This means that your device can handle nominal voltages in between 100 and 240V on a 50 or 60 HZ AC system. Put simply, if your device has a label with these parameters, then you CAN take it to Switzerland and just put an adapter on the end of the plug. The power supply will automatically adjust to accept to the higher voltage. Likewise, the device will also accommodate the lower voltage that we use in the U.S. All you have to do is change the shape of the plug to fit the outlet. If in doubt, read your owner’s manual.

This is what the label looks like on my Canon battery charger. (Click for larger image)


…and the one from the power supply on my MacBook.



Please note that devices with these labels are designed for alternating current (AC), the power supply that most utilities companies use today. They should not be used with direct current (DC). DC systems are not common but they do exist. Small, developing countries and people living off the grid sometimes use DC. Just be aware.


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Where Two Worlds Meet



Yesterday I posted a few photos of this beautiful Citroën on our Facebook page. What do photos of an old French automobile have to do with hiking? The answer is “a lot” depending on your perspective.

We all hike for different reasons. Some take to the trail to escape civilization. Others simply enjoy the exercise. Some of us, myself included, enjoy discovering the cultural frontiers that hiking tours allow us to explore.

I commented on FB that I spotted this little car while hiking through the quiet little village of Trient, Switzerland. At first glance, Trient appears tranquil. Some might call it sleepy. Peel back the rural patina, however, and this tiny village of roughly 130 people reveals something more.


Trient is a geographical and cultural crossroads. Every summer, hundreds of hikers and backpackers from all over the world descend upon this tiny mountain hamlet while making their way along the Hiker’s Haute Route and the Tour du Mont Blanc. The chatter of German, French, and 10 other languages fills the evening air, while at the same time, intrepid wayfarers steer their motorized chariots across the Col de la Forclaz and down past Trient on the sinuous motorway between Switzerland and France. Most drivers just cruise right by, having watered themselves at the top of the pass. Every once in a while though, somebody stops, parks their little Citroën, and a passing hiker quietly snaps a photo.

Trient is a place where two worlds meet, and this little car was the bridge between those two worlds on the day that I hiked through, though the Citroën could have just as easily been an old farmer, a delicious local dish, or something completely new and undiscovered.

Journalists once referred to the Citroën as a symbol of the avant garde and they even called later versions “radical solutions to automotive design”. What does the Citroen have to do with hiking? Consider this: André Citroën started producing automobiles back in 1919 and his innovative, some might say crazy, designs carried them all over Europe. In the end, however, it was a pair of hiking boots and a high mountain pass that brought us together, in a secluded corner where two worlds meet.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Old School

I met this gentleman while hiking across the Col de Torrent last week. He was extremely nice and had just come down from Basel for a day hike. He was about 4800 ft. into his climb by this point and actually continued to climb higher after he reached the top of the pass. His pack, and most of what was left of his clothing, dated back to World War II. Nice.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

2010 Tour Schedule Sneak Peak

We’re still taking registrations for 2009 self-guided hiking tours, but here's a quick look at the 2010 guided schedule. As an added bonus, book before October 30, 2009 to receive the 2009 price on next season's tours.

European Tours

Italian Dolomites Trek: June 15-22, 2010

Cortina & the Lakes of the Dolomites: June 24-30, 2010

Tour du Mont Blanc: July 4-13, 2010

Hiker's Haute Route: July 13-22, 2010

Eiger Trail: July 13-23, 2010

Secret Swiss Valleys: July 25-31, 2010

Zermatt and Saas Fee: July 25-31, 2010 (New village based Flex Tour)

Via Alpina Stage 1: August 1-8, 2010 (New)

Jungfrau Trail: August 1-7, 2010

Engadine Trek: August 10-17, 2010

Engadine Summit Series: August 20-27, 2010

Jubiläum: 2.0: August 28-September 5, 2010

Historic Switzerland-Appenzell: September 7-12, 2010

Otzi Trek: September 14-21, 2010

Heart of Austria: September 23-29, 2010

Italian Lakes District: Como to Bellagio October 1-7, 2010


India Trekking (New)

Markha Valley Trek: May 27-June 7, 2010 (New)-Call for details


U.S. Tours

Canyon Country Escape: May 2-10, 2010

Telluride Trek: September 22-30, 2010