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.