Thursday, 25 August 2011

Quick Update

Due to the purchase of a new (150 year old house) and the subsequent making moment (complete renovation) I won't be sewing, blogging, walking or doing much outdoorsy stuff until 2012 when hopefully I will be doing  MYOG SUL Pennine Way trip during the summer some time.

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.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Lifeventure Ti Mug

Titanium (Ti) is good. FACT.

Well in my eyes it is. For most uses I reckon titanium is the best material for the lightweight backpacker. Yes you can get aluminium pots that for the same size are lighter, but try drinking freshly brewed tea from them. Actually don’t if you value your lips. Also aluminium pots compared to Ti pots are relatively fragile. Easily crushed and dented and there’s alleged health risks from using aluminium pans.

Ti is strong, thermally clever in that the top of the pot remains relatively cool compared to the part that’s in direct contact with the hot liquid/food and light.

Webtogs asked me to have a look at the Lifeventure Ti Mug. I already own a similar size Ti Mug and wondered what benefit the Lifeventure would bring to me. 10g that’s what. Now that seems a small amount to most people, but for a bit of kit that weighs less than 100g, 10g is a big deal. I like it when similar kit weighs substantially less with no downsides. This is the case with the Lifeventure Mug.

You may remember the stove that I made in a previous blog post. I made another one for the mug. With the stove and the mug and a lid you have a perfect little system for having brews either for day trips.

But you may say the mug doesn’t come with a lid? What about boil times and fuel efficiency? Are you mad? Well make one that weighs nothing, 0g! Actually it may be my scales but at most it’ll weigh 1g.

That 1g makes a big difference to boil times, it also means that with an elastic band or the little draw string bag provided you can keep all your brew kit in the mug. You will also need to keep the whole set up in a bag of some sort as solid fuel tablets can leave a sticky residue on the pot itself.

Back to the lid the series of photos below hopefully explains the very simple process of making a gravity defying lid.

Basically get a tin foil roasting tray. You can pick up two large ones from most pound shops for a £1. Smooth the foil out with the end of a rolling pin to make it perfectly flat. Roughly cut a piece at least 2” bigger than the mug’s top. Get another mug which just fits inside the Ti Mug and with a series of pushes and gentle taps push the foil 3-4mm into the Ti mug. Whilst holding the top mug in place fold down the foil around the lip of the Ti mug, then when it’s folded down go over the lip of the foil covering the Ti Mug with a rolling pin and flatten out all the creases as best you can. Then remove and trim the edge leaving 5mm or so overhanging.

Now as the lid has a rim it also has rigidity. It also clips in place over the mug and won’t blow off in the wind.

As you can see the finished item looks home-made but is functional and under controlled experimental conditions (my kitchen) boil times were a lot faster with a tight fitting lid rather than a piece of foil sitting on top of the mug.

There’s a lot of Ti Mugs out there, but the Lifeventure one stands out as one of the lighter options with handles. I think that they are a pleasure to drink from, not only hot drinks but the occasional mug of wine of whisky too. My other Ti mug of a similar size and design’s not going to get a look in now.

Quick Quilt Update

The quilt has been used for a single night in the great outdoors. Well actually whilst "testing" a new tent in the neighbours garden.

I used it with my own bivi and the night time temps dipped to around 5-6c. I was just warm enough in the quilt at this temp. I hadn't had anyting to eat and had been sitting still reading for a couple of hours before retiring so I was slightly chilled anyway. But it fulfills it's design criteria even if it is a slightly over target weight.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Summer Quilt

As part of my drive to drastically reduce my kit weight (as well as belly weight) for next summers SUL attempt on the Pennine Way I’ve been putting a lot of thought into my sleeping arrangements.

Currently I own two sleeping bags, both made by PHD. I have a minim 300 which appears during their sales, this is rated down to 0C comfort and weighs 598g. My other is a the Piqolo which was until they did a lighter version, the lightest commercially available sleeping bag in the world at 395g. Mine weighs 430g and is comfortable down to around 8C. I find the PHD temp claims a bit on the optimistic side, I don’t put any blame on PHD for this, it’s just that my body must run a wee bit cold.

Being cold on a night on a long distance trip is something that must be avoided. Bad, or no sleep can lead to unhappy days and with this in mind I wanted to develop something that would be light and keep me warm down to 5C. I think this is as low as I can expect the night time temperatures to go in the hills in England during the summer.

I’ve been looking at quilts and quilt users with a wary eye for a year or so now. They claim that quilts are warmer and more comfortable than bags. All the insulation is above you so nothing is compressed and wasted. I’m guessing a number of you readers will be quilt users or familiar with the argument. So onwards to a making moment…

I managed to get hold of some old Pertex, that was apparently some of the last stuff made by the British firm before they sold the company. I can’t vouch for what exactly it is. All I know that it’s pretty light weight, very water resistant and downproof. This cost about £25 with postage. I wish I had bought the remaining roll as it’s not available any more.

For the quilt I looked to the internet for tips and hints and what I found was this.  Brilliantly put together comprehensive instructions on how to MYOG quilt. All I can say is thank you to Jamie and to all potential quilt makers following these instructions was a dream. I would recommend this as a good first MYOG project. If you can sew a straight seam in thin material you can make this quilt easily and quickly.

Right back to my attempt. I slightly altered the size of the quilt as I am 1” taller than Jamie, and therefore the size of the baffle spacing. The maths are easy enough. The pattern ended up being 80" long.  I then cut out the material. I have a 8’x4’ plywood sheet that sits on the kitchen table, I use a fine pointed soldering iron and a lightweight Aluminium I beam for a straight edge. This reduces the need to mark and then cut the material as you can “draw” down the straight edge with the hot soldering iron and leave an edge that will not fray.

The material was then sewn together as per the instructions, the baffles marked with chalk and these also sewn together. As this was a sewn through baffle quilt the sewing is a very quick and easy process.

The down was purchased from £55 including postage for 200g of the 860fp stuff. I then used the hoover method to fill the baffles. This method is fantastic, quickish and more importantly mess free. There were a few down clusters floating about the kitchen at the end but nothing to worry about.

 A word of caution about the hoover method. I nearly caused hoover apocalypse as I underestimated the air resistance of compacted down.  Top tips to avoid hoover meltdown.  Firstly remove the bag from the hoover to increase air flow into the motor. You won’t need the bag as the noseeum mesh stops anything entering the hoover itself. Secondly don’t run the motor when vacuuming the down for more than ten seconds or so. You can usually pick up around 4g of down with each suck. I ran the hoover for around 30 seconds on the first go trying to hoover up the half a bag of down, the motor cut out and proceeded to get very very hot which resulted in a quick motor extraction from said hoover. No long term damage but I may not have been so lucky.

I put all 200g of down in the quilt just to see what would happen. Jamie puts in 172g in his slightly smaller quilt. I reckon that with the slightly larger size and the bits that got away I put in about 10%-12% more down. I had inadvertently overstuffed the quilt, i.e the fp of the down if fully fluffed up would fill the chambers of the quilt, the down I had put in would fill a quilt with 10% more internal volume. This means that the quilt now feels a lot firmer than the PHD bags that I’ve got, which in turns means the baffles stay lofted a lot easier and don’t compress as much.

There is about 2” of loft and the quilt is warm, really warm. Once the rest of the seams were sewn up and 18” of Velcro was sewn on the edges to create the footbox the quilt was nearly done. A few small loops of ribbon were sewn on the edges for the purposes of keeping the quilt wrapped around me during cold spells.

I’ve yet to use the quilt outside but from the appearance and testing on the sofa I think it will comfortably keep me warm down to 5c and will be a useful addition to my other bags into the colder months.  With a bivi bag and clothes on the quilt is uncomfortably warm inside.  I would say it is as warm as my PHD bag rated to 0c.  This is a very unscientific test.  The quilt finished up being 68" long when fully stuffed which is plenty long enough when the footbox is cinched and velcroed up.

Following are a few pictures of the finished article.  Oh and the final weight now that it's finished is 460g.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Solid Fuel Tablets

Just a quick post about solid fuel tablets/esbit call them what you will. I found some of the Highlander square fuel tablets in Millets. Something that used to be common on the high street but I've not seen them for a while. I've mainly been using the round tablets which they always have in stock.

So I decided to do a quick comparison whilst brewing the breakfast tea. A few quick stats. Both boxes cost £2.99. You get 24 round tablets in a box and 8 square tablets. I can just get a boil of a mug of tea with one and a half round tablets which weigh 10g. I can get a boil easily with half of the square tablets with fuel to spare and that weighs 12g. So both boxes have 16 boils in them for the same price.

Not surprising as there's 20% more fuel in the square tabs that they work better. However there's much more flame and heat as well and in windy conditions this is going to be a big plus over the round tabs. The other thing is that with the round tabs you get a carbonised foam mess left after the burn and sometimes in less than perfect conditions, which is most of the time this foam can choke off the last bit of the tab which remains un-burnt. The square tabs just completely disappear (see picture above) burning all the fuel. More efficient and no fluff blowing about the countryside.

All in all the square tabs outperform the round ones and will be my solid fuel of choice in the future. One tip, chop them in half with a sharp knife before leaving home. They're hard to snap in half!

Friday, 10 June 2011

New Backpack

Hello all

This is just a quick post to show you the first complete pack of a new design that I've been working on for a few months now.  A previous post explains the basic design.

This pack is fully functioning with straps, which I find quite useful and a zip, something that is not often found on lightweight packs.  This is a light pack weighing in at 218g.  I reckon it's in the 35l range plus slightly larger mesh pockets than the first mock up.

The tin of beans is for scale.

Side pockets that nicely fit a 500ml water bottle and angled for easy access.

Home made ultralight straps from closed cell foam,, mesh and grosgrain type ribbon.

I'll do a video when I've got more time.  There's no hip belt, or sternum strap as it's designed for light loads.  I think I will need a sternum strap and I wait to see if I can cope without a hip belt.

So far 88g under target weight for this bit of kit  for the SUL trip along the Pennine way next year.

Monday, 30 May 2011

Berghaus Freeflow 25+5 Backpack

Despite not being a very active blogger over the last few months I have been out and about a bit and quite active with the sewing machine.  All of the trips I have been doing are day walks or outings with kids to various events.  Handily just before this mini period of activity Webtogs sent me a new day pack to test Berghaus Freeflow 25+5 Backpack

I used to use Berghaus stuff quite a bit in my past as they are a name that’s associated with well designed kit and toughness.  This doesn’t always mean that it’s the lightest kit around and therefore I don’t really use much of their kit anymore.  

If you’re going to be doing any distance/time with a pack you’ve got to get one that fits.  This is not as easy as it sounds.  The lightweight way is to try on all the packs that you like the look of with your kit inside and find out which one fits the best.  Most lightweight packs aren’t adjustable and some do come in different sizes to accommodate various back lengths.  I order packs online, making sure first that I can return it if it doesn’t fit and then getting them delivered to my house, trying them on with my kit in (in the house).  A long and potentially expensive way of trying out new gear if the retailer doesn’t cover the return postage.

You don't need to bother with all that business with this backpack as it seems to be infinitely adjustable.  To test this I put about 5kg of kit and water in the pack and set it up with the adjustable back length, load lifters, sternum strap and hip belt.  It took less than five minutes and once adjusted, apart from minor tweaks doesn’t need adjusting again.  Then my partner had a go.  I’m 5’11 she’s 5’ 5’ and weighs substantially less than me.  Again within five minutes the same pack fitted her as well as it did me.

The Freeflow system takes a bit of getting used to if you’re not familiar with it as carries the weight in the pack  away from your back.  10 minutes of using pack you forget about the different feel to packs the carry the load nearer to your back.  Due to the size of the pack you’re not going to be carrying a great deal of weight anyway so this is not an issue.  It certainly works in reducing sweaty backs. 

Packing the bag takes a bit of thought.  The main compartment is quite small compared to the overall size of the bag.  The side pockets (not the mesh ones) which I was dubious of their usability when the main compartment was full work very well.  Each one being able to take a 500ml bottle and have room for hats/gloves etc.  Again the lid pocket holds more that on first glance it would.  I think the size rating is accurate but seems small as there are so many different compartments to put things in.  If you’re an organised sort this will appeal to you.

I did use the pack for a two day and night backpacking trip with Steven Horner.  I wanted to see if I could get all my kit in and still have room for a couple of days food.  The kit I used is below.

All the kit went in comfortably.  Most of my kit is pretty light weigh and therefore low bulk and with that kit I could get two days food and one and a half litres of water.  The pack also has a zipped pocket right on the base which contains an integrated rain cover which is a nice touch and also means it won't get blown away.

The pack carries very comfortably, this is due to the way in which it's able to be adjusted and I expect Berghaus' experience in putting kit together.  My only slight issue I have with it is that the hip belt strap kept slipping. I would like to qualify this, in that I do like hip belts to be really tight.  When I tightened the strap to my liking it would slip over about 10 minutes or so to be relatively tight, but not tight enough for me.  I expect that I have hip belts tighter than most so it may not be an issue for many users but I don't have this problem with other packs that I use.

Overall it's a very versatile pack that works equally well as a day pack or an overnight pack with low bulk kit.  The pack harness itself is very well made and can cope with weights that you'd never be able to put into the back due to it's small volume.  The construction is very good and I expect that if you bought this pack you wouldn't get rid of it because it fell to bits.  It's designed as a 25l day pack and as day packs go it's jammed full of features and is comfortable, it weighs more than some but the comfort of carrying means this really isn't an issue.  If you're looking for a comfortable pack that's going to come on a lot of adventures for a lot of years then you should consider this one.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

I have a plan.

Sometimes I need a grand plan, something big to consider, ponder over and a reason to make kit.  No doubt this year will see a lot of this mainly in the form of renovating an old house that I’m hoping to buy.  I know from past experience that when taking on such a big project as a whole house renovation I need to be able to daydream about something that’s going to be there when it’s done.  Daydreaming about stuff when I’m stuck, hacking off plaster for the tenth evening in a row and getting thoroughly sick of having no spare time.

Watching @philoutdoors and others crossing Scotland via the magic that is also gets me itching to plan a big trip.  I had to pull out of this years TGO for a number of reasons, mainly for the sale and subsequent purchase of houses.  So I started looking into doing the Pennine Way.  An iconic trail in the UK and one that’s not talked about as much anymore.

If need be I could pack for the entire trip with stuff from my gear cupboard, although I’ve sold a lot of stuff recently I’ve still got a full range for three season camping from lightweight gear to air beds and gas stoves for car camping.  But no really lightweight stuff.  This led me to thinking that I wouldn’t mind making some really lightweight summer kit and using this kit for the trip along the Pennine Way.

Followers of the blog may have realised that I start a lot of projects, get partly through them, find a problem and stop.  Some projects get used, the cat cut tarp gets regular use as does the bivi bag.  That process of going wrong, or as I like to think, discovering something you didn’t know, is important.  Unless you have someone to learn from you have to just jump in and learn from your mistakes.  I think I’m at the stage now that projects seem to be going right and I’ve set myself the task of walking the Pennine Way in the summer of 2012 using a Super Ultra Light (SUL) base weight of 5lbs or 2.268kg. 

On the face of it, it seems practically impossible to walk safely in the hills in the UK with such a small amount of gear.  But… with modern materials and making kit that specifically for your own size and needs you can cut down on weight.  I’ve already started designing and making some kit and I’ll post about these separately as it’s the kit you want to hear about!  Below is a list of big stuff that I want to carry and target weights for each piece and you can see that it does seem possible.

Backpack                     300g
Sleeping bag/quilt          450g
Sleeping mat                 100g   
Bivi                              200g
Shelter/guylines 300g   
Pegs                               75g
Pot and Stove               130g
Waterproofs                 100g (yes that’s 100g, I have a plan, I'm sure I mentioned that?)

Total                            1,655g

Obviously there’s still quite a bit to add to list and I’ve only 613g to play with, insulation included and I’m up to my base weight.  But I’ve given myself a bit of wiggle room in the target weights.  There has to be some minimum specifications for the kit, I don’t want to suffer and I want to be safe.  The shelter will be designed for three seasons, you don’t get one season weather in the UK unless you’re lucky.  The sleeping bag/quilt will have to be good to 5c without the need for further insulation and I need to be able to cook and brew tea.

I’ve got a 100 ideas buzzing about in my head about the kit, how it’s going to be made, multiple uses for it.  Some of it’s been made or part made some of it is still just ideas.  I hope that by having a plan that a lot if not all of this gets made, it gives me something to daydream about and you something to comment on and chuckle about.

I welcome any comments, suggestions, or any well meaning criticism of the plans or my intentions and I promise to post more about kit and do shiny pictures and videos soon.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Further apologies and an explanation.

I’m still alive and still doing stuff that I’ll be blogging about, but at the moment there’s a lot going on in real life that restricts my online time and activity, mainly – not having internet access at home, selling a house and the inevitable purchase and probable renovation of a complete wreck of a cottage (again).

Having read some very good posts about the art of blogging recently I do recognise that consistency and communication are the key to keeping readers.  I have been lacking with both recently and have replied to all comments that you good readers have left.

At the moment I’m making a couple of bits of kit for my friends Seth and Tom whom I was doing the TGO challenge with, now having to pull out due to the above reasons.  I’ll pop a post up about these when they are done.  One’s a bonkers idea that I was requested to make!

I’m testing a Berghaus day pack for Webtogs which I’ll write about when I’ve used it a bit more.

Finally I made my own barefoot Luna Sandals over a month ago and have been wearing consistently ever since so I’ll write about them when I have the time too.

Meanwhile please accept my apologies for neglecting you again and my thanks for sticking with me.



Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Boring but essential gear. Socks.

I’ve heard a lot about X-Socks form fellow Blogger and Backpacker Andy Howell on his blog and was quite keen to test a pair.  With the upcoming TGO Challenge I am in the market for some decent socks.  Webtogs happily suggested I try a pair of these

For years I’ve used the same thick Rohan Merino wool socks.  These set the bench mark for all other socks, in my opinion anyway.  Warm, even when wet, loads of cushioning and don’t loose their shape when soggy.  Sadly I can’t seem to find any more. 

As mentioned before I have hot feet and as you can see from the specs from the Webtogs site they are a mixture of synthetic fibres.  I was curious to see how good these would be to dry out between inevitable river crossings and other watery adventures in Scotland as well as keeping my feet dry in waterproof boots.

As socks go they look and feel very well made.  They do have quite a tight, foot specific fit without being restrictive.  In the lined Keen  boots they performed very well.  My feet didn’t overheat even though it was a sunny day, they didn’t loose their shape and there was no rubbing or hotspots.  I couldn’t really fault them.

In the Inov-8s I wasn’t as impressed.  I purposely crossed a couple of large streams which involved full submersion of my feet.  The socks again didn’t loose their shape and again there was no rubbing or hotspots even after five miles of walking after the stream crossing.  My only slight grumble was that the socks didn’t dry as fast as my merino socks, they retained more water and my feet were colder in them after the submersion than they usually are, although they were warm in around 90 seconds so you can’t really complain there.  They were pretty wet at the end of the walk and I would have doubts they would dry out much overnight if you were backpacking.

Perhaps comparing these to the Rohan socks is unfair as the materials used are different so you can expect different results, these may be more comparable?

Apart from that small, perhaps unfair gripe I do have to say that they have performed like kit should – with no issues.  Comfy, brilliant fit, retain their shape with no hint of hot spots or blisters.  I think these particular ones are more suited to waterproof  footware and I would have no qualms in recommending them to others for such use.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

New Pack

Hello all

It's a while since I've blogged about anything that I've made myself.  I had been planning on taking a number of home made items on this years TGO Challenge.  But time and circumstances have meant that this is now looking unlikely.  I have, however been plodding away at a number of projects.

This one has been on the go since before Christmas.  I've wanted a new backpack in the 35l-40l range with mesh pockets.  It would be very simple, no frame, no fancy harness just shoulder straps and hip belt.  Whilst making this pack it's given me a good idea for another pack which eventually I'll get round to doing which will be a totally original design, but that's another blog post...

The idea for this pack comes directly from the Sea to Summit Ultra Sil Day Pack.  I love this pack.  The simplicity and the comfort really appeals to me.  As I was wandering/wondering (sorry Helen its to good an pun not to steal) along one autumn day I got to thinking what if you scaled up the size, whacked a few mesh pockets and gave it proper shoulder straps and a hip belt you'd get something like this

This is a full scale mock up, the pattern was made by picking apart the original day pack, making a paper pattern, blowing it up with a photocopier to the right size.  Making the fabric panels and putting it all together.  It could do with a little more mesh to allow more to be placed in the outside pockets, but overall it's looking good. 

If you make a mock up of the body first you get to see if there are any problems with the finished design before spending all that time on the straps.  Straps! Now they do take time if you make them from scratch.  You also get a feel for which seams should be sewed in which order.  This does make a big difference when putting a 3D project together.  I'm guessing that the pack is in the region of 35l and the mock up without straps and a zip weighs in at 108g. 

It's made from a non rip stop polyviscose material which I can't tear with my hands, it's slightly stiff and 100% waterproof.  Good pack material.  I'm not sure all my kit will fit in it for the TGO as I will need to carry up to four days food in some places but I'm going ahead with a full version as I like how it's turned out so far.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Keen Targhee II Mid Walking Boot. The first 50 miles...

Throughout winter and early spring I tend to stop using Inov8's for my main shoes.  For two reasons.  Firstly I don't tend to do as much backpacking during the winter, secondly I like a warmer and waterproof boot.  However I'm like the princess and the pea when it comes to boots.  My feet are very particular.  I have skinny heels and a very wide forefoot.  I also can't walk in stiff boots, use ski boots or anything that restricts natural foot movement too much.  I get a lot of pain in the arches of my feet.  On top of all these requirements I have HOT feet, really hot feet - goretex lined shoes are a complete no go area, far far to hot even in cold conditions.  E-vent lined shoes I can get away.  So when Webtogs asked me to test some Keen Targhee II Mid Boots I was apprehensive (I didn't tell them, don't let on).

My old Hi-Tec v-lite Recon mid boots had finally given up the ghost.  Event lined, fabric boots, very flexible with soles made by Satan himself.  If it was wet you were on your behind at least three times during the day.  I kept them for snow and ice and used microspikes with them.  In those limited conditions they were perfect.

Getting back to the Keens.  I'd seen mixed reviews from bloggers and general users alike.  It would seem that most of negative reviews were of the earlier e-vent lined models not being waterproof.  The "Keen-Dry" waterproofing seems to have gone down better.  I was also unsure about the look of the boot.  However when you put them on and look down at your feet they look like the kind of boot that means business.  Looks do matter.

First impressions were good, the way they are cut means they are very easy to get on and off, no struggling at all.  Laces that stay tied.  It still amazes me that some shoes come with laces that can't hold a knot.  Pretty light for such a sturdy boot, about 580g per boot (UK size 10) on my scales.  A good degree of flex in them as well to allow good foot movement.  A word on sizing here.  I usually fall between a 9 and 10 in a UK size.  Gareth from Webtogs suggested I go for the 10 and it fits like a glove.  If you straddle a foot size go for the larger one as they are a little conservative.

I've done about 50 miles in them now.  All of these day walks, the longest being 15 miles.  I've used a pair of Bridgedale liner socks and some thick Rohan Merino Wool socks on all the walks.  What can I say about these boots... Well they work, they work well.  Issue free walking from the outset.  No foot pain, no blisters not even hot spots, no leaks, plenty of underfoot cushioning when on tarmac and enough flex for your foot to move with the contours of the ground and not slide about on rocks and tree roots.  Also they don't cook your feet.  In fact your feet stay nice and warm.  I probably wouldn't use them in high summer but my feet do run hot.

The grip is better than most boots and most vibram soles of which I'm not a fan.  The last walk was very wet with extended sections of ankle deep mud.  What follows is a dirty video.  You have been warned.

I like these boots, they work well.  I personally will use them for the cooler months as I don't like lined boots during the summer as my feet are too hot.  If you don't suffer "hot foot" like me I don't see why you couldn't use these year round.  I think you'll find it difficult to find a better all round three season boot as this.  I will report back when they've had a few more miles on them to give an indication of wear and also to see if the stay waterproof.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

New MYOG Blogger

Here's a new blog from Sam Minnich.  I saw the link on the BPL light forums, never met the chap, seems he's from Europe and is obviously skilled with a sewing machine.  Early days but well worth bookmarking.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Tips for seam sealing

Just a quick post on a couple of labour saving tips for seam sealing. If you've ever had to do this you know how time consuming this can be. This is how I do it and it works for me.

Firstly mix two parts white spirit with one part clear silicone sealent. These don't like to be mixed together, the silicone floats about in the white spirits. I find a snapped off fork in a battery drill serves as a handy whisk, job done in two or three minutes.

I don't use a brush to apply the mixture. It takes forever. I use a small pot with a nozzle that held glitter glue. You can pick these up from craft shops. Not only is this very quick, you can control the amount applied and you don't get the mixture drying out in the pot before you've finished, therefore you mix a lot less. I find you get a much more even line along the stitching.

I then lay out the seam to seal on flat surface. Most people suggest setting the tarp/shelter up outside and painting it on then. If you can, all well and good. But if not this still works and you don't have to lean over to the middle of the tarp to apply. Make sure there's adequate ventilation. This stuff won't kill you but its not pleasant.

I tend to do both sides of the tarp so you make sure the mixture is absorbed into the stitching as much as possible and therefore filling up any small holes.

Hope this helps.