Travel Tips

Disclaimer

I don't take any responsability for the correctness, accurateness, or completeness of the information provided on this page nor can I be held liability for any damages to persons or property resulting from its usage.

Food & Drinks

If it's warm (and windy), don't go with less then 1.5l of water.

Yup, you guessed it: this is not all :-) ; stand by.


Clothing

Mechanical protection. Lava can have a glassy coating and is often sharp and craggy in general. I recommend you wear sturdy hiking boots, long trousers and gloves.

Gloves? They come in handy when you have to recover from stumbling or just want to hold on some rock while climbing or clambering. Trust me on the gloves; just by moving around a couple of rocks to stabilize a sign in Hawai'i I badly cut the skin on my fingers in about 100 places, without even feeling it. It just started dripping...

Weather protection. Volcanoes are mountains, and some of them are pretty high, so be prepared for nasty weather all year round. Just that it is summer doesn't mean it couldn't snow on 3000m ASL. Take something light and warm such as a fleece shirt, and carry a dry T-shirt as well - it will come in handy when you arrive at the summit drenched in sweat.

A rainproof jacket and overtrousers are essential. Rainproof overtrousers? I always thought this is fancy equipment, but since I've got them they often got used in cold weather with high winds and/ or rain.

There's nothing worse than having to run around in wet pants clinging to the legs and sucking the warmth out of you (danger of hypothermia as well!). It's so much more comfortable being able to hang around an interesting area when you feel warm and dry though the elements misbehave.


Breathing Protection

Christian & Noisy Nelly Christian & Noisy Nelly

Volcanoes emit large amounts of a whole variety of gasses and quite a number of them are not very healthy to inhale.

Apart from that, steam plumes from lava/ water contacts may contain tiny glas shards and new products from the interaction of the very hot lava with the (salty) water (producing ie. hydrochloric acid).

If you're only watching from afar you should be alright, but if you're going close you might consider wearing some breathing protection equipment.

I've been looking into the subject myself and my approach was:

  1. Will I need protection from particles?
  2. What gasses will I encounter?
  3. What protection is available?

Particles

Since steam plumes from lava entering water can contain glass shards (and the wind might blow them around on a dry lava field), particle protection is recommended. This can be achieved with a cheap dust filter that your hardware store sells.

Fancier (read: industrial style) filters against particles comes in three classes, coded P1, P2, and P3, and the higher the number the more particles they can hold before they are "full", that is become plugged.

Gasses

Volcanoes mainly produce the following gasses:

Gas Name Filter Code
H2O Water vapour -
CO2 Carbon dioxide NO FILTER, oxygen supply needed
SO2 Sulphur dioxide E P3
Lesser amounts
CO Carbon monoxide CO
H2S Hydrogen sulfide B P3
COS Carbonyl sulfide B not B1 P
CS2 Carbon disulphide B P3
HCl Hydrochloric acid E or B
CH4 Methane NO FILTER, oxygen supply needed
HF Hydrogen flouride E P3 or B P
HBr Hydrogen bromine E P3 or B P
Hg Mercury Hg

Protection

This means a filter against B, E, Hg, and CO is needed, a particle filter class P3 is good, and theoretically you would want breathing equipment to be prepared against carbon dioxide and methane. Practically you'll find combination filters which cover ABEK P3 but leave you unprotected against Hg, CO, CO2 and CH4. That's how it is, and I decided to go with that solution.

Low oxygen situations. Keep in mind a filtering mask only works if there is enough oxygen (more or equal than 17% by volume) in the air. If you're standing in a carbon dioxide filled depression (ie. a crater), a filtering mask doesn't help you at all, and you might suffocate. This is why you should avoid depressions, especially when no wind is going.

High gas/ particle concentrations. Another thing is concentrations. A filtering mask can only filter out so much of toxic gasses. If you smell anything through the mask or breathing becomes difficult, retreat into safe area and remove mask immediately. Avoid obvious high concentration of gas (clouds/ fog), and don't expose yourself too long to harmful conditions. The same is true for high particle concentrations: your filter might get plugged in a short time.

Filters in Europe are marked by the following codes (according to EN141/143/371; modified and translated list from the Dräger web site, German makers of high quality protective equipment):

Color code Filter type Main purpose
brown AX Gases and vapours of organic compounds. Boiling point < 65°C
brown A Gases and vapours of organic compounds. Boiling point > 65°C
grey B Anorganic gases and vapours, ie. chlor, hydrogen sulphide, hydrogen cyanide
yellow E Sulphur dioxide, hydrogen chloride
green K Ammoniak
black CO Carbon monoxide
red Hg Mercury vapour
blue NO Nitrose gases, incl. nitrogen monoxide
beige Reactor Radioactive iodine incl. radioactive iodine methane
white P Particles


© 1999 Anita Ford & Christian Treber