Tuesday, 28 September 2010

New Backpack

I've had an attempt at a backpack before. It was a good project and did produce a useable backpack. However some of the stitching and seams were a bit iffy. I used a variety of seams to see which one worked best and came to a way in which I thought worked. This seems to be how some commercial backpack companies also stitch up their bags. I'll post a photo when the sewing starts so you can have a look. My previous pack was made from very lightweight PU coated ripstop nylon. This was the wrong choice. Substantial holes developed around the stitching after a bit of use.  They didn't get any bigger and the material has proved to be tougher than it looks but it didn't inspire confidence and I don't use the pack now.

The new fabric is this.  Apparently it's the stuff that some hot air balloons are made from.  It's strong, very very strong and waterproof and cheap!  Now the colour I got hold of is yellow, the photo below does not show the full glory of this fabric, it's the brightest sunshine yellow EVER!  As you can see (from the link) they also do black.  It's tempting to get some and do a stripy wasp style backpack.  That's got to be first for the lightweight backpacking community (and probably the last).

So where was I..?  Ah wasps...  So that's the fabric sorted.  The design was the next step.  I have been really impressed by these packs.  I got one at the beginning on the summer and it's been well used and lent out to friends.  Everyone's reactions when they see it is that I've bought something that's the lightest because it the lightest and not that its functional.  Believe me it is functional and featherweight too.  Brilliant kit.  So I wanted a larger version around 35l.  The pack was picked apart over the course of a couple of evenings and a pattern taken from the individual panels.  These patterns were enlarged using a photocopier and then panels from the new fabric were cut and pinned together.  Although time consuming this part is relatively straightforward.

A couple of further evenings were spent creating the pattern for the straps and the pockets.  Pinning all these together and seeing how it looked.  I've still to do the hip belt.  The level of adjustment on the straps is minimal as I making the pack for me.  The small amount of adjustment will save on weight and materials and be enough to cope with changes of clothes and the adding of layers.

I have realised that the sewing machine I have can't cope with heavy weight thread or do bar tacks, or even zig zag stitching any more.  Luckily my next door neighbour is a professional seamstress.  So a bit of sweet talking and hopefully I can borrow her machine to sew up the final version.

At the moment I have most of the bits ready to sew up.  To get to this stage I reckon has taken around 15 hours of work and countless of hours of thinking.

 Backpacks are hard to get right.  I've a feeling that this may be too wide across the shoulders.  So I'm going to quickly put this version together and see how it works out.  There will be adjustments to make and a couple of working models before the final version is done.  I'm hoping to take this across Scotland on the TGO if I get on.  I'm aiming to get the weight under 300g, halving the weight of my current pack, the original GoLite Jam.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Apologies for the extended interval.

Hello all. I would like to apologise for the rather large gap between posts. This is due to a number of real life matters, non serious you'll be glad to know and generally a lack of time.

However normal service is soon to be resumed. I still have to get round to doing the extended Lakeland Bloggers video which will probably appear on either Phil’s (http://lightweightoutdoors.com/) or Steve’s (http://www.stevenhorner.com/) blog, being as they’ve had to wait months for me to get my arse into gear, sorry chaps.

An application has been submitted the TGO Challenge*. This year, if I’m selected, I shall be walking with two friends, Seth and Tom. After last years trip which was held in unusually good weather I reckon my kit can be reduced somewhat (cue dramatic music and claps of thunder) and I hope to be making some new bits and bobs for May’s crossing.

Shelter - I wish I had taken a tarp. I really like the MLD DuoMid but you still have that fully enclosed feeling of a tent which I don’t like. This time I am putting together a version of the cat cut tarp which I trialed in the lakes. I would like some Tarp user’s views on this one. I’ve got some spinnaker material which I reckon will bring the weight of the tarp itself down to around the 200g mark, pegs and guys on top of that. This one will have substantially more tie out points to secure it. I am also making a full size beak for it which will cover the opening at the front. This is removable and will provide protection during changeable weather. On paper I have a design that will allow the walking pole to be situated under the main canopy and the beak to clip next to this. It’s hard to explain but hopefully a prototype will soon become reality. I would like to get the views of regular tarp users who have used spinnaker tarps, mainly how flappy/loud are they? I’m presuming a lot is down to shape? Also have any of you had catastrophic failures of spinnaker?

Bivvy – I’m also looking to make a much lighter bivi than I used last year, that was half way to becoming an inner tent.

Backpack – This is a project that I’ve already started. I want a streamlined backpack around 35l-38l in volume with mesh pockets and very lightweight. It doesn’t have to feature rich but it does have to be comfortable to carry. I’ll do a separate post about this project in the near future. I’ve got some odd material, which I’m told is used for hot air balloons! It’s not a ripstop but you can’t rip it, even if there is a nick in the edge. I can’t anyway. I’m hoping the full pack will come in around the 300g mark.

I’m also looking at starting to do some podcasts. I’m slowly coming to grips with the technical aspect of things. This is a project which I’m giving myself a budget of say £20 to start up. I’m not sure it can be done, my phone makes an adequate recording device. Indoors it’s very good, outside the wind noise can be overpowering, I’m thinking of making a furry mic cover that you see on other devices to see if that has any effect. Any suggestions welcome!

So hopefully you’ll get some regular content from now on in and pictures/videos/podcasts too – but don’t hold me to that.

* http://www.backpackinglight.co.uk have done podcasts of last years TGO Challenge which can be found here http://www.theoutdoorsstation.co.uk/The_Outdoors_Station/2010_Listing/2010_Listing.html I also understand that you can buy a CD of the previous four years podcasts with a slideshow of pictures directly from Bob, the proceeds going to the Mountain Bothies association and Mountain Rescue.