Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Hendrik's Ultralight A-Z - The Video Guide To Lightweight Backpacking

Another quick heads up to a project that's originated on Kickstarter for the lightweight backpacking geek amoung us. A video guide to everthing ultralight just here...

Hendrik may be known to a great deal/all of people who read this blog, but just in case you've not heard of him, or what he is up to then perhaps you should click the link above and find out.  It's something that if (fingers crossed) it gets off the ground will benefit the lightweight backpacking community now and into the future.  Remember the more people who get into our little hobby the more gear people will make for us....

Monday, 18 July 2011

Mini Cat Cut Tarp

After having a night on the moors a couple of weekends ago under a tarp I got to wondering... Do standard size solo tarps really need to be as big as they are?  I always tend to use a bivi under a tarp to keep wind blown rain off the sleeping bag/quilt.  So if I use a bivi why don't use a smaller tarp to keep direct rain off and save a bit of weight in the process.

I've also been looking into making stuff with Cuben Fibre, mainly tarps and stuff sacks.  It's not cheap stuff.  In fact it's very expensive and you also need bonding tape and different techniques to manufacture than the sewing of conventional fabrics.  The material comes in 54" wide rolls and therefore any conventional sized tarp will need twice the length of the tarp in raw material to make.  This means that unless you can get Cuben cheap (if you can, I'll be your best friend) you can't buy the material for less than a finished tarp in many cases.  But if you could make a tarp by cutting the two sides from a single piece of cuben you half the cost of a finished tarp, albeit a much smaller one.

After having a trawl around the internet it would seem that Mountain Laurel Designs make exactly such a tarp.  I want one, but I didn't want to spend a lot of money getting a tarp that would end up being too small to practically use.  So I thought I's make one just to get to grips with the size and to see if I liked it.  So I set to work...

As always when making new things, the measuring and making the pattern takes up the majority of the time.  The whole "Development" part of the process took one evening.  The dimensions were worked out on paper then some cheap material was tacked to an 8' X 4' sheet of ply and this was taken into the garden.  Using a spirit level I levelled up the edge I was working on strung a piece of heavy string between each end and when I got the curve I wanted I went over with a spray can and hey presto... A nice cat curve was transfered to the material.  All edges of the tarp have a cat curve.  Then the usual cutting with the soldering iron, sewing the ridge line, then the 10 tie out points, the exterior hem and finally the grosgrain pull outs.  The finished product looks like so

The pitch was restricted by the rabbit hutch.  But first impressions were favourable.  My first tarp was an 8' x 5' flat tarp, so I'm used to squeezing into a corner to avoid wind blown rain.  You would definitely need to use a good bivi under this tarp if the wind was up.  But for a summer overnighter or weekend trip a tarp of this size is more than adequate.  The fabric used in this one is pretty heavy and I wanted a prototype to play with rather than to try and make the finished article.  The re-enforcement patches are spinnaker as it resists holes being pulled in the fabric, which this black stuff is prone to do.  I will hopefully get a bit of use from it this summer, the seam will need to be sealed first though.

I think a higher flatter pitch is needed for non windy days to maximise coverage.  I see no reason why one edge can't be pitched down to ground, making a mini lean to if conditions dictate.  I will be putting a couple of pull out points, mid panel on each side which will result in a very stable little shelter.  Even with 0.75oz cuben I reckon it would come out around about the 100g mark (sorry for the imperial/metric mash up).  A true mentalist lightweight bit of kit.  If this summers outings go well with the prototype I hope to build a cuben one over the winter.

I also think that to be a truly useful bit of kit a beak would need to be employed as it's only 8' long.  More stuff to play with!

Sunday, 10 July 2011

1.95kg Overnight trip.

On Friday night I escaped to the North Yorkshire Moors for a sneaky overnighter. It was a rainy night but as I left the car the rain stopped and I enjoyed a rain free evening until I got back under the tarp just after midnight and the rain cam down for most of the night.

A quick kit geekfest video was taken just before I packed up which I share with you now.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Elephants Foot Bivi Bag.

I had to bow out of the TGO this year but I was up until a month before going with my friends Seth and Tom. Tom had just purchased a brand spanking new PHD minim 400 with a dryshell outer to keep the moisture out of the down.

They were both sharing a Go-Lite Hex 3, with no inner just a floor that I had made for them. A single skin shelter with two people in can suffer a lot with condensation. Tom was having issues with soaking his new bag at the foot end even with the dryshell outer so he asked me if I could come up with a solution. And here it is...

The green fabric is a two layer waterproof breathable fabric.  I have not a clue what it is but it is alright on the breathable stakes.  I got it to make overmitts with, and the prototypes (coming soon) worked well.  The black strip is Pertex with a drawcord around the top to stop the bag coming off.  The pertex strip is there for two reasons.  Firstly if you can put the drawcord above your knees it doesn't have to be on that tight and therefore  compression of the down is minimised.  Using Pertex for this last bit reduced the weight of the overall item.  Secondly the green fabric although breathable is no where near as breathable as the Pertex. Having a semi sealed sack of this fabric around the foot end of your bag could lead to condensation issues.  The Pertex panel gave the bag that extra needed air flow.  Tom reported back that it worked well, no issues with condensation even in the damp cold conditions that they faced.  The only issue was that I made it to fit me not taking into consideration that Tom is a couple of inches taller.  Therefore the draw cord was a bit low for him.

I don't think that something like this would suit everyone, I can think of another blogger who can destroy a footbox in down quilt with moisture without enclosing it in a membrane fabric bag!

At 84g and a small pack size it wasn't a great extra burden to carry and resulted in Tom's bag staying dry for the duration of what was a very wet couple of weeks.

I know a lot of people use their waterproof draped over the foot of the bag to keep the damp at bay.  As I'm as not as tall as Tom I don't tend to have problems hitting the end of the shelter so I can just use a thin Pertex bivi without issue.  I'm not sure how well a wet waterproof would have worked over two weeks so perhaps Tom made a call using this?

Friday, 1 July 2011

Luna Sandals

I like wearing Sandals and I like going barefoot. I hate wearing shoes in the summer as my feet run hot. I was made aware of a forum dedicated to minimalist shoes and started having a sniff about at the beginning of the summer looking for something that I could wear for work and also perhaps use for a camp shoe for backpacking.  Toe Salad was duly poured through and I came across Luna Sandals.

Not only do these look cool to my delight they also sold all the component parts to MYOG,  You can choose the sole material, the upper sole material (the bit your feet are in contact with) and the laces.  I went for the 6mm trail nubby sole, the tan suede uppers and the half inch elasticated Equus laces.  The primary use for these sandals was for leisure and work.  I did take a few photos of the construction process but with the death of a laptop I only have a few remaining.

The process is quite simple, basically trace round your feet to make a template, glue the sole sheets and the uppers together with the glue provided. Use the templates to cut out the base of the sandal.

Punch or drill some holes in the sole and thread the laces through and you have a new pair of cool looking sandals.  I would suggest if you do want to make a pair then read the instructions on the Luna Sandal Site and watch the videos.

I've worn the sandals everyday for three months now and they look like this.

So how have they fared and what are they like to wear and use for backpacking?  First things first.  If you're not used to having things between your toes, things such as half an inch stiff leather straps prepare to be in pain, lots of pain.  These things hurt like hell for first week.  People on the forum told me I would get used to it, I didn't believe them, but after a week they didn't hurt and now they are by far the most comfortable shoe I've ever worn.

I've got them tied in the slip on formation of laces to enable me to get them on and off easily.  This works well for casual use, for extended periods of backpacking or running the more traditional methods of lacing would be more secure.

To be fair the suede uppers are not suited to outdoor pursuits, when they get wet it's like walking on seaweed.  For crossing streams I would suggest they would be potentially dangerous, for walking up or down inclines in the rain they can be impossible.  However this is just because of the suede uppers.  The concept is good and lends itself to MYOG well.  I'm hoping to pick up some of the Croc clones that you can get for less than £5.  Crocs are very light and good for stream crossings and camp shoes, but they are bulky.  But what if you cut the tops off and got some long shoe laces and with a bit of drilling you could have a less bulky and even lighter camp/river crossing shoe?  Using the insoles from some old shoes or the worn down soles of a favourite pair of trail runners, plenty of MYOG versions of this idea.

I love these Sandals, perfect for casual use and also backpacking on established trails in the dry, which is not all that often in this country.  I will post again with new incarnations of this idea as when they are developed.


Just a quick post about flattr.

If your not familiar with it the best way to describe is that it's a button you can put on your own web content, in my case this blog.  It's like the "Like" button on facebook but if you press someone's flattr button you give them money.  Small amounts of money, in my case I subscribe two euros a month and each click I do on someone else's content they get five cents.

I got a flattr invite when it first started up but you had to add code (or something) into your content to get it to work.  I'm not all that good with things IT and could never manage to get it to work.  I gave up on it.

Until however I started commenting on twitter that flattr would be used more, if people like me could just use an app, or a simple set of instructions to integrate it into blogger.  Then up stepped @kejsarmakten who is currently working at flattr and created this little tool.

Just click it, enter your flattr ID and as if by magic all your posts and your blog have a flattr button plonked right in just waiting to be flattred.

I like the concept of flattr, unless your web content is huge I don't think you're going to get rich by using flattr, it's more of a way of saying a little thank you to the person who's content you've enjoyed.  This isn't a plea for you to press the flattr button below, but I would suggest if you've got a few minutes investigating flattr. I reckon it's a pretty good idea.