Wednesday, August 31, 2016

size matters when it comes to tents

Without any research I bought an 8 person tent; and I was wrong. 

My thinking was that my family consists of the four of us. Two kids less than 48" and two adults. The choice was made because I thought we would use cots. That's what my friends were using and so why not me. The problem is that unless you spend upwards of $75 per cot the feet are likely to damage the tent floor; assuming it has a floor. Also, the tent weighs enough that it's meant for car camping and not backpacking, Finally, it has a high ceiling so that I can stand in the center but to what end? This was still intended for simple camping and there are few activities to be had. Sleep, nap, change. Everything else should be out of doors.

Doing a little research I bought a 6 person tent; and I was wrong

I was uncomfortable in the first tent so I bought a Coleman that promised a 10% deperature differential and a dark, cave like, interior good for napping. Besides the floor with holes and the damaged tiedowns... I set it up once and quickly realized that the performance was greatly exaggerated. (I missed my return date by almost a month) The tent is also supposed to be a "fast pitch" but it's not. I'm not sure that setup is as important as disassembly; and it's far from that. And so I'm reminded... Sleep, nap, change. Everything else should be out of doors.

Doing a lot more research I bought a hammock and rainfly; and I was wrong

At this point I had decided that I was going to do some hiking on the Appalachian Trail. I did a lot of research. There are a few options. [a] sleep in the provided shelters [b] tent or hammock in preferred areas [c] stealth camp. The bottom line was that I wanted to be comfortable and my intuition said that hammocks were the way to go. I had also read and watched enough hikers to know that hammocks were a legitimate shelter. (And what could go wrong in 4 days). The problem is I could not test my hammock. The county parks where I live do not permit hanging anything on trees. At the time I was not aware of any national parks and so there I was. A great tent and no place to dance.

Doing even more research I bought a bug net; and I was wrong

Once I discovered the Florida Trail I watched everything I could. Most, if not all, hikers were ground sleeping. The videos I watched indicated that the types of trees might be useless for hammocks. I was not feeling good about this. So it dawned on me that since I did not have a bugnet with my hammock, I was relying on permethrin, that re-purposing my hammock tarp and adding a bugnet style bivy I might have multiple choices as far as how/where to sleep. And as at least one section was mostly underwater setting up a hammock off-trail in the swamp was possible instead of trudging to the next, possibly soaked, campsite.

So I purchased an inexpensive bugnet and continued to research other bugnets and bivy. I found a few good bivy but they were expensive; starting for $175 for cuben fiber. I also found a nice mosquito net (500hpi) for $57. The plan was to add the bivy or bugnet, re-purpose the tarp and sleep on the ground. The problem was that when I tried to setup my diamond shaped rainfly as a ground shelter I realized how exposed I was going to be. I have a second rainfly with 2 large catcuts on each side; between the 5' width and the cuts florida's sideways rain is going to get me.

I have a daughter who reacts poorly to mosquitoes so the bugnet is not going to go to waste, it was just wrong for me.

Doing some exhaustive research I bought a 24oz 1 person tent; and I have no idea if I'm wrong

I have watched a number of people talk about their gear. I've also watched people talk about bushcraft and ultralight hiking; and the message is essentially the same. Carry the least amount you need to be safe and make sue that a thing you want to carry can perform more than one function. So in the end I found myself comparing the Big Agnes Fly Creek UL1 and the Six Moon Designs Luna Solo and Solo LE. The BA is about 1 pound heavier than the Solo. The Solo LE is 6oz heavier then the Solo (different floor). The Solo uses trekking poles for it's structure and while that adds $30 to my cost of the tent... I do not count the cost, size or weight as part of the sleeping system since I would need them anyway. The Solo has an adequate vestibule as well as a '+' in storage which could be for the pack or a child. Since this is a short tent, about 48" tall I can sit up... Sleep, nap, change. Everything else should be out of doors.

Honorable mention

As I was struggling with the bivy and bugnet I was also thinking about the SMD (six moon designs) tarp tents. These are tarps that resemble tents. They look like the Solo tent in some cases but are absent of a floor or bugnet or support a bugnet accessory. So depending on the conditions you could pick the components you want. There were many options here including a convertible poncho tent that would work with the bugnet accessory. And in the case of the poncho we have some dual duty.

Ultimately the poncho was cool. It might be useful as a backup to my main shelter and maybe even more useful with the hammock as part of the ALT-sleep system. But as a primary, the poncho shelter,  and the other tarptents lacked security from certain bugs and snakes that might crawl or slither into my tent. When money is no object different choices can be made.

making breakfast with RUCAS

If there was a lesson to be learned this morning it's practice makes perfect. It's not enough to boil some water with a new piece of kit. It means making some food, purifying some water, making camp and testing your skills and the systems you are going to depend on.

And here is why...

Here is my cook kit minus my long spoon. It's a RUCAS alcohol stove and a stanley pot.

The complete setup... minus the spoon. Making biscuits and gravy.

I tested a homemade windscreen as recommended. Either my tinfoil was inferior or the stove was too hot. The foil burned.

I cannot be 100% certain but I think the tab melted. There is a small ratchet in the tab that I did not notice when I started. I'm just not sure; upon close examination it's wonky.

I've boiled a few cups with this stove but the windscreen did something to the heat pattern that it stained my table. I suppose I could have started a fire if I had not been watching. On the trail this could be a very bad outcome.

The biscuits required 1 3/4 cups of water. The pot was in ml and oz so knowing that 8oz to a cup is important. More importantly the pot was so hot that as I was pouring the water into the meal bag the water hissed and spit. Clearly the top of the pot had retained some heat. This could have ended up in a 3rd degree burn on the trail.

Pouring the super heated water into the pouch was a trick. I had to hold the pouch open. Pour the water. Not scold myself and then hold the pouch and stir. I should have made a cozy or pouch from reflectix.

While I did not have any instant coffee I should have boiled a little extra water for coffee for more practice.

At this point the water is in the pouch. The water and food have been mixed. I'm just waiting for the stove to cool.

I tried using the bandanna to insulate my fingers but it's synthetic and slippery. So it's good to clean or dry my kit and kinda hold the bag. Not much more than that. I need to add a scraper and sponge to my kit in addition to the cozy.

Finally I learned a few other things.

  • keeping everything clean in order to prevent disease is non trivial. If I had made the meal from scratch or in my pot I would have a lot of cleanup before the next meal. Meaning, using my pot for water made the most sense and I won't try anything else.
  • While I'm waiting for the meal to steep I really wanted to cleanup my kitchen. The stove was super-hot so I had to wait. But even after it cooled I could not put my kitchen away. Unfortunately for me I still needed to put my spoon away.

So I added an s-biner to my spoon to clip onto the outside of the pack. Or I might clip it somewhere else but more accessible. But I'll not likely carry it inside my cook kit.

I might also take this cup, or one like it, with me. This is likely to be the last thing I drink from before continuing on. It also means I can have a coffee while breaking camp and not have to be concerned that my kitchen is not packed. There are pictures or drawings of wanderers with pots and pans on the outside of their bindle.

UPDATE and a few more things to learn...

  • 1/2oz of alcohol did not boil a cup of water
  • once the flame is out the stove is still hot and therefore may still vaporize meaning that the jets might reignite instead of the typical cool-preignition state
  • my bandanna is 100% cotton but still slippery and maybe black is not a good color if I need to see if it's clean so that I don't get germs.
  • having a second spoon in the cook kit might be a good idea but then that's just one more thing to clean or keep clean.
  • Read the instructions carefully. This egg and bacon breakfast is awful. Possibly because I'm supposed to drain the excess water or could it be that I need more bacon
  • Using the stanley pot instead of my tin cup [a] measuring marks [b] the handle is longer [c] the bot is taller and so the handle is away from the open flame
  • The reason the pot spits is because the flames from the stove extend up the side of the pot increasing the area of the heat transfer. This is goof for a fast boil but bad when you don't need that much hot water. The bottom of the pot is cooler because the heat has been absorbed by the liquid... and so it spits when pouring.
  • The s-biner on the spoon is a pain. Put it on the thing it is attached to

I thought this spoon was going to be a good idea.  It's not. While it has the reach of the toaks and does not absorb or transfer heat it more than makes up for it with nooks and cranneys. The spoon an fork connect like a transformer but while stirring a meal food can get trapped in the grooves. Takes more time and water to clean.

Maybe there is some wisdom to cooking and eating away from where you sleep. The obvious benefit is that you do not track smells that attract animals. But more importantly you should be focused on that one task. The food, the fire, cleanup etc. This way you do not walk away from the fire leaving it or your meal unattended whether the consequence is a forest fire or attracting animals. Localize and focus on the task.

Ultra-lite Status

In my previous post I talked about just grouping my gear into categories. When most packers weigh their gear they do not include consumables. While I have not included my t-shirt, shorts, socks and underwear everything else in my pack just weighed in at 11.4 pounds. And if I go with the tent then I'm likely to be under 10 pounds. Pictures to follow.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

RANT - what do I know today?

I ranted, posted it, and then deleted it. There might still be echoes in the tubes but it's not worth anything. I'll imagine something else tomorrow.

Camping in Florida - shakedown prep

I'm planning my hike in Big Cypress as a shakedown hike. While gear is arriving I'm still trying to go as lite as possible with possibly one exception. Hammock vs tent.

ENO DoubleNest 19oz (the single is only 16oz so I would not be saving much)
Straps 11oz (there are some rope systems I could have used but I was trying to be friendly to the trees)
DryFly 22oz (I have another rainfly that weights 14oz but has limited cover.)
The tent is 24oz. (I'm not counting the footprint because I plan to bring it in either case.)

The hammock system weights in at 52oz or about 3.4lbs.
The tent weights 24oz or about 1.5lbs

There are three choices to be made... [a] hammock [b] tent [c] both. For some background I have been talking with a Big Cypress volunteer and he said he was on the trail a few weeks back and they used hammocks to stay off the wet ground. And while I trust his opinion I watched some video that suggested adequate trees were hard to come by.

I will eventually have to decide between an alcohol stove and isobutane.

Anyway... categories

Reminder(C's and 3's): Cover, Cut, Combustion, Cordage, Container, water, food

Shelter or cover: hammock, tent, rain gear, T-shirt, shorts, Sun shirt, convertible pants, socks, underwear, hat, sunscreen, camp shoes, bug spray, mattress, pillow, blanket, schmog, boots or runners

Kitchen or combustion, container and cut: lighter, ferro rod, pocket knife, spork, alcohol stove, fuel, pot or cup, isobut fuel and stove, bandanna, scrubbing pad, scraper, ziplock bag

Food: instant coffee, poptarts, instant oatmeal, trail bars, dehydrated meals, bear bag and cordage, bannock ingredients and seasoning, oil

Water: 3x 1L SmartWater bottles. mini Sawyer, AquaMira, bandanna

Survival: Compass, first aid, foot cream, phone, map, emergency blanket, cordage, knife, cup, tape, ointment, baby powder, diaper cream,

Misc: treking poles, saw

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Hammock Camping in Florida

Living in South Florida and wanting to do some hammock camping seem to be diametrically opposed.  The county parks do not permit hanging anything on trees and if you watch any of the "Florida Trail" videos you'll see that there are very few hammock worthy trees in the prescribed campsites.

Videos (link)

Wikipedia (link)

Florida Trail (link)

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Hennesey Snakeskin and an ENO DryFly

Initially I was not very happy with this recommendation. My ENO DryFly is not one of the biggest they offer but at the time I was OK with it. When I doubled checked the dimensions I wanted a larger fly but in hindsight this one will be sufficient.

Hiking the AT I wanted a tarp that would double as a ground shelter in case I was force to seek shelter in a non-optimal location. For the same reason a hammocks should leave a smaller footprint.

I did not realize that the package was going to come with two skins and for a moment I thought I had order too many. After watching a hennessey hammock setup I realized I was supposed to use both tubes.

This was a pain in the ass because the cords were still bundled and I had not "pre" organized the tarp so sliding the skins was a pain.

Finally I had to lie one end to a chair. This made some steps easier. I do not think it's going to fit right until I complete my shakedown. Looking here it seems that the working ends of the tarp provide some compression but I don't think it's going to get to the size of the ENO stuff sack.

Before I made my purchase I had emailed the support team at ENO and they recommended the Hennessey skin. XL. Until that last eureka moment I was still pretty pissed at them. In the end it seems to have been the right purchase even thought the documentation let me down and the same for Amazon. (Thank you youtubers)

PS I tried to skin my ENO doublenext hammock. That was a bit of a disaster. [a] the skin was not long enough. [b] the bundle near the carabiner was too tight for the end. [c] using both skins would have been a waste. [d] the compression sack does a better job compressing the hammock.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

scripting in golang

There are a number of choices when it comes to scripting in golang. The first and most obvious is the template library. The point of the template library is to produce a document as a resultset and while data goes in and is partially mutable inside the template there is nothing other than the document coming out. Therefore as a general purpose scripting language it's not that effective.

When golang was younger there were a number of places where people could get reliable vanilla packages. A vanilla package is a package that has no dependencies of it's own other than the packages supplied with golang. This is a very big problem for nodejs because there is a lot of nested dependencies.

All of that mess aside I have many use-cases that are solved by having an embedded scripting language. First and foremost I direct your attention to the SQLite team. They implemented their testing framework on tcl. Historically a new phone came along that did not support tcl and they had to implement a variation of tcl call th1. This was a fine choice because tcl and th1 have a very small codebase and they are easily ported to new targets. It's that ability to port the tests that allowed the team to leverage their nearly 1M lines of test code. If they had to rewrite the test cases then any number of other issues could have presented.

Where to go for embedded scripting languages? One team that popped is the awesome-go. This is a variation on a project that a group of rubyists developed. The idea was to develop a curated list of projects. I'm not sure how well curated the project is but they cover a large set of projects. In this instance I'm looking for embedded scripting languages(link).

I followed this project page for a very long time. It was the first one and dates way back. project awesome came much later. Buyer beware!

My interest is in 100% go so that projects can be statically linked and not have to worry about more nested dependencies. For example there are multiple lua interpreters. Some are fullblown go and others are API gateways. I have had tremendous success with:

  • otto - javascript
  • golua - lua
  • gotcl - tcl
I elected not to try lisp. I'm not a fan. I also decided not to use a new language (this inspiration for this post is zygomys). I'll never use a customer DSL that someone else designed regardless of correctness or my wrongness as it will be impossible to be in a leadership position. For example the gotcl project is incomplete but it's also a few thousand lines. The basic functionality is there. I also supports channels. If done right you can get a lot of work done right.

hiking shakedown

Next weekend I'm going to do a shakedown hike to campground about 3 miles from my home. There is no doubt that I will look out of place in my community because hikers are not the sort of people you see every day and while there is a major highway that is the most direct route I'm going to walk through my community instead as it should be safer.

My back should be a little lighter in that I won't carrying as much food but until I determine if there is a water community water source I'll probably carry 2 days worth of water. I also won't need 4 days of socks and underwear, however, i will probably carry my saw and bushcraft knife so I can make a campfire. I will also have to select my shirt and shorts ahead of time so I can pre-treat them with permethrin.

Part of a 1 day shakedown is figuring out what the typical activities are going to be during the day.

  • wake up
  • breakfast
  • bio break
  • pack up
  • hike
  • check-in at the campground
  • camp shoes
  • setup camp
  • get water
  • collect tinder and wood
  • wash socks
  • tend the fire
  • make dinner
  • recharge electronics
  • treat blisters etc
  • read a book
  • sleep
  • repeat
One interesting thing about this suburban hike is that I won't be pooping in peoples' backyards. 

Next I need to anticipate some disaster scenarios for this hike:
  • rain - tyvek, rain gear, waterproof liner, pack cover, if the hammock is not protected by the tarp then consider the emergency blanket
  • spill my fuel or lose starter - eat dry food
  • damaged gear - gorilla tape
  • spill water - It's a bit early in the process to start filtering canal water. There is a store across the street from the campground
  • no fire material or starter - go without. It's Florida after all and we're in the 80s
  • get run over by a car - call 911
**I must keep in mind this is just an exercise. I'm not trying to find out what my tolerances are or to pivot into survival mode. If any of the critical systems fail then call it a FAIL and call for an extraction and try again next week

Saturday, August 20, 2016

very fast disaster recovery

Yesterday morning there was a fiber cut that effected everyone in Weston Florida. As I understand it this included every internet and cable provider in the city. Assuming that there is only one trunk into Weston would make it a very bad place for certain businesses that depend on reliable services.

Anyway, this prevented me from using my usual development machines because they are located in Weston and the databases that they connect to are at Amazon. Google's OnHub does not have a feature that would allow me to bridge my entire network nor would I want to given how much bandwidth my YouTube kids consume.

I managed to move my development and get back to work and this is how I did it.

  1. Put mu phone in hotspot mode.
  2. Connected my desktop, a Chromebox, to my hot spot. Since it was already connected to my local network via Ethernet I was able to talk to both networks.
  3. Logged into Digital Ocean and created a CoreOS instance
  4. Logged into the instance
  5. Created a key: ssh-keygen
  6. Gave the key to github
  7. Cloned my current project
  8. Added my personal credentials to .ssh
  9. Tested the helloworld compile/run procedure
  10. Asked the sysadmin to add my IP to the DB server auth list
And continued as if everything were normal. This process took about 15 minutes. I could almost make a case for shutting down development at night if there were some cost savings. And that might permit me to have a bigger machine during the day.

Here are some of the facts:
  • CoreOS is essentially immutable in the host partition
  • git and many other basic tools are available on the host. These are the tools that are generally immutable. The GREAT news is that CoreOS keeps them safe and up to date. In a way they do all of the research that I would have to do if I were running the IT department and startups are way understaffed for that.
  • My build script has many layers. First of all I use CoreOS' rkt-builder. It's a version of sid that is meant to build rkt. I'm reusing that tool chain to build my project. Inside my project there is a build script that launches rkt to build and once that container is running it launches the project build script that creates the binary and also an associated aci file. The build process also shares the host volume so that the compiled targets can be returned to the host.
  • There is a separate run script that can launch the executable inside a rkt container.
  • There is a separate build script for a wrapper project which compiles multiple targets and combines them into one container and can run them all at once.
  • The bottom line is that I do nothing except the keys in order to get my environment operational. This means anyone taking over the project will not have to do anything special in their environment. (one of the things I always hated about assuming someone else's projects was the net effect on my environment. With this structure the net effect is ZERO.
The next part of this process is going to be spawning the build instead of doing it locally. This way I will not need a huge local machine in order to compile/run my project. In fact I think I can make a case for some sort of golang sandbox making an IDE out of the go slide server.

Open Letter to Bear Butt Team

I literally stumbled upon your website and products as I was in search for my first hammock. I had previously found hobo hammocks and while I liked their mission statement I was less inspired by your own mission.
"He also knew he didn't want to get a J.O.B."
Maybe calling it a job instead J.O.B. would have given me a different opinion. Maybe he/they meant something else... but after seeing many different hammock re-sellers on Amazon and in one case identical artwork, specs and descriptions as another Amazon seller I was left with the opinion that Bear Butt was merely branding a generic hammock.

I could be wrong but I do not see or recognize any passion or vision in this company. I see a couple of twenty somethings that do not want to do the necessary work whether it's college or entrepreneurial spirit and rely on social advertising to do the work for them.

Passive annuity still requires some work.

I think John Cusack's character sums it up nicely. He's also not the kind of guy I want marrying my daughters.

hiking, backpacking, bushwhacking as a technology metaphor

Going back a few years I used to refer to certain stages of software development as going rogue, the dark side, or cowboy. These term meant something to us because we were watching Indiana Jones, Star Wars and Star Trek, and a resurgence of the western. And now that hiking and bushcraft terms are now in my dictionary I've realized they are also metaphors for my professional work and in there are some lessons to be learned.

There are many different types of hiking.
  • day hikers carry enough regular gear to make the day pleasant and to handle so normal survival conditions
  • section hikers will have a few overnights and so they need to carry more supplies and comforts
  • thru hikers have to make some choices based on total trip as well as just the next section
Back in the day a backpacker was considered someone who might be traveling with a pack on their back. I would typically see someone hitching from NY to FL or maybe from the east coast to the west. Or maybe backpacking thru Europe. Much more urban and suburban travel.
Backpacking is more Amazing Race than it is Survivor.
Bushwhacking is what happens when you blaze your own trail. Grabbing you machete or chainsaw and going where no one has gone before. Travel is going to be slow. While your making a trail you'll be making a lot of noise and working hard. And you won't be going very far.

I think there is also a sub-genus of the backpacker called the trailblazer. Where a bushwhacker is trying to get to a destination the trailblazer is trying to make a trail for others to follow but doing the hard work up front.

So let's recap

  • hikers - typically trek on trails with a primary function of covering distance. Everything they carry is about supporting that with minimal luxuries.
  • backpackers - similar to hikers in that they are trying to cover distance, however, it's a less primitive trail and so long as you have currency recovery is swift.
  • bushwhacker - going full primitive where no one has gone before
  • trail blazer - a cross between a bushwhacker and a hiker
There is some or plenty of overlap for instance: Sometimes hikers bushwhack to take a shortcut.

As a programmer, project manager, or manager use those terms to describe projects you've been on.

Back in the 1990's Microsoft was just starting to take computer networking seriously. The company I worked for was hell bent that everything was going to be hosted by Microsoft Servers and yet the Java war was not over. At the same time we were still using paper forms to get management approval for production releases. It was a nightmare to find the management chain necessary to get permission to deploy changes. And so I automated it. At first I was bushwhacking just trying to get things going. I was using FreeBSD, perl and MySQL even when we had this corporate mission for everything MS. The reality was that I could not carry those systems with me. Laptops in the 90's were still very heavy and under powered. SQL Server was a pig and getting a suitable environment was just painful.

I managed to shift from bushwhacking to trailblazing by making the user interface something that the CIO would like and would then endorse. With his approval everyone else would fall in line as he was the guy that hired or attracted a majority of the employees who followed. 
The trail was blazed and they followed.
When I think about the differences between hikers and backpackers I'm a hiker. As a hiker I like to write raw SQL instead of using an ORM. I'll write my own message protocol or use a basic MQ which includes redis instead of those erlang MQs. I also like to use editors like vim or joe instead of IDEs like visual studio, netbeans or forbid eclipse.

The best metaphor for my tools is that I use Chromebooks and Chromeboxes almost exclusively. These machines are like my packs. They are just the outer layer of my shelter. They work anywhere there is power and internet and when not there... I should be focusing on something else anyway. And when I need to backpack I drag my Apple MacBook Air with me. I realize it's kinda counter intuitive that the MBA is self contained and the Chromebook relies more on the environment around. I decided to strikeout the previous sentence because realized I got it wrong and that in this sense I'm actually a technology backpacker and sometime trailblazer. (I'll have to change my LinkedIn description now).

UPDATE I might have been correct the first time. While having a MacBook Air is self contained and will go long stretches with little outside support, similar to a hiker, it also contains many of the luxuries that you might enjoy as a backpacker. Compared to using a Chromebook and logging into a remote server through a terminal session... as is the general use-case when not going browser everywhere.

Solo Shakedown

I have not weighed my pack yet but I can already tell it might not be big enough.

Once I've added some snacks, water, and more fuel this pack is going to weigh more than I expected. This shakedown is going to be the first of many. It's not a question of getting stronger or endurance it's what most hikers call comfort. And yet many of my 3's and C's of Survival have not been packed.

I have a few of the Cs

Container - cup in my cook kit
Cordage - part of my hammock
Cover - liner, emergency blanket, rain jacket with hook, baseball cap
Combustion - fero rod

And I need some more

Container - 2x liter Smart bottles, 2x liter platypus bags, Renovo filter, water tabs, pack liner
Cut - Swiss Army Farmer, Mora 8" and a Silky saw
Cordage - 25' for bear bag
Cover - reflectix, sun screen, mosquito repellent, mosquito net, change of socks, tyvek, camp shoes
Combustion - lighter

and I have not decided if I'm going with ma pillow luxury item.

Looking at the contents of my 40L pack I've already seen some room for improvement.
  • the cook kit could use space better by using a smaller fuel bottle or a better pot
  • the big reflective tar is 10x10 and can be replaced with a piece of reflectix for the hammock or tyvek for the floor
  • the first aid kit can be repackaged in a Ziploc to save space and weight
  • only 1 microtowel instead of 2
  • stop treating the freeze dried food like gold and pack it smaller (beef mac n cheese did not fold well as there seems to be an inner pack)

Packing a little more creatively and I managed to get everything in with plenty of room for more.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Backpacking vs Hiking

Recently I read an article which tried to compare backpacking to hiking based in the length of time on the trail. I take issue with that comparison because AT, CDT, PCT and other thru-hikers travel at least 2100 miles. Similarly another writer suggested that a section hiker traveled a minimum of 500 miles. Furthermore the first author also addressed food, food quality, and cost. Apparently one or the other thinks that freeze dried meals are too expensive and another talked about how his 8 oz isopro only lasted 4 days. And yet another addressed the shelf life of various foods.

On the one hand I'm frustrated because I'm new to the concepts and execution but my intuition is screaming from every vantage.  For example, freeze dried Mac-n-Cheese only requires boiling water. Getting to a boil takes about 4-6 minutes and about 1oz of alcohol. On the other hand Craft with regular noodles requires a 9 minute boil which will take at least 3oz more fuel. This is going to translate additional weight for fuel.

In their packaging....
  • Mountain House - 8oz, 3 servings, 320 calories per serving, 
  • Annies's - just under 8oz, 2.5 servings, 260 calories per serving
  • Cliff Bar 250 calories
  • Nutella 200 per serving (2 tbl spoon)
  • Mixed nuts 200 calories per serving
  • harvarti 100 per serving
Annie's calorie measurement likely includes the butter and milk you have to add and the Mountain House does not have to be adjusted. 

Looking at this page I have determined that I will burn a minimum of 279 calories per hour. I'm setting a goal of 12 miles per day @ 2mph. That means I need a minimum of 1700 calories a day for the activity. My maintenance calorie level is about 1800 per day accounting for sleep cycles and recovery I probably need between 1200 and 1800.

So let's error on the side of caution and say I need 3000 calories a day. The Mountain House MNC provides nearly 1000 calories in one meal. The bigger challenge is getting the balance without cooking.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Amazon... would the real hammock please stand up

Buyer's beware

Eagles Nest Outfitters Hammocks
Bear Butt Hammocks
Hobo Hammocks
Pro Ventures
Live Infinitely
Nature's Hangout

Let's face it there isn't much difference between these hammocks. My guess is that they all use the same fabrics, same hardware, and same ropes or straps. They all have the same costs centers:

  • internet e-store
  • social media and other advertising
  • reselling through Amazon
  • salaries
  • office space and related
  • materials and manufacturing costs
  • warranty costs
There is no way that any of these startups is individually tooling up a manufacturing complex in order to produce the product. And there is a good chance they they never actually negotiated with the factory. Having a hint of how this works it's likely that they negotiated with a US based rep.

And so we have so many different hammock companies.

One thing I like about Hobo Hammocks is that they give back by feeding the homeless. On the other hand they are also charging about $5-15 more than the lowest. Keep in mind that Amazon is a store and they are not very responsible about what they put on their shelves. At least when you go to the grocery store they tell you he cost per ounce, count, etc.

The cheapest I saw a hammock for was $18. The color choices were pretty bold but it was very strong.

UPDATE... as I predicted ... they are all the same:

UPDATE 2: some other things that seem to stick out. [a] how many of the hammock sellers are actually outfitters many seem to sell branded swag [b] one product startups without a real web presence

I have an outstanding email into the sales department at ENO. If they are actually manufacturing in the US I'd pay a little extra. This other practice of just marketing some crap product just does not sit well.

what is in your wallet?

I'm starting to think that preparing for hiking a segment of the AT is more like motorcycle maintenance than what I thought it was going to be. Recently I posted a comment on a hiker's gear review:
Looks like you have traded some big money for lightweight. But you've got some comfort items too. In the last month my AT segment pack has evolved from all the comfort of tenting in the backyard to sleeping under my poncho on a garbage bag. I've decided to partition my pack into 4 categories. Bindle (things I need), Survival (things for safety), Extra (just a little above the Bindle) and Luxury (something like a coffee press that takes me over the top). Things come in and out of my pack depending on the weather. Going north I do not need a puffy jacket until the weather drops to the 50 or 60s.
 What I think I have discovered is that this seems to be a metaphor for life. In my bindle might be 3 square meals a day, and my survival depends on my faith, extra items might be money to get the girls to summer camp and luxury might be a VW instead of a Yugo.  Of course these containers can hold things and thoughts.

One thing about a traditional hobo bindle is that it is characterized by a bandanna or handkerchief. And as such should hold the things we hold dear. As I look back on my yesterday I wonder if I'm carrying the right things in my bindle.

keyring - tip up or tip down

I've noticed that the keyring loop is at the butt end of the Victorinox Pioneer but at the head end of the Classic SD. While I have watched a few videos representing the history of the SAK I do not recall if anyone mentioned the keyring.

In my setup I put my hand through the lanyard and give it a few twists to prevent my hand from slipping down the handle and onto the blade. Keep in mind that I fully realize that if that were to happen that clearly I was using the knife wrong. In a different setup I use a paracord knot that makes the knife body feel bigger and thus a better grip.

While I could have used the same cord on the Classic SD I decided to try the microcord instead. I didn't discover anything new except the lanyard was not going to steady the knife. All I was going to get here is something I can loop on a d-ring or hook with a carabiner.

Recalling my Champ and one handed the keyring was always tip up like the pioneer. The Cadet and the Champ have a smaller second blade meant as a backup. The electrician has a smaller blade on the same side as the big blade. There must be something to this.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

'C' is for Cut - on the Appalachian Trail

In the Five C's of Survival it is recommended that you carry a knife. However after many countless Appalachian Trail gear reviews not many have talked about full tang, folded or any other cutting edge except in passing. One guy said he carried because it made him feel better and another said a friend gifted him a new one because his was too small. Another said he kept his small Gerber in his cook kit to open freeze dried meals. And one girl made mention that she had one and it appeared to be a Victorinox Pioneer.

The one thing that seems to be common is that the AT is relatively safe in that you probably will never go into Survival mode unless you get lost or possibly some other sort of disaster. (unlike the PCT). In fact one thing that is said about Survival is that you need water and for the most part there is water on the AT. If you lose everything except a container you can still scoop out enough water to get back to civilization. Of course you may have the runs but you will have survived.

So for my first section hike from Springer Mountain I'll take my pioneer, hunter pro, and a classic SD for the kitchen. There is a chance I would take my farmer instead of pioneer but only a small one. Why so many? Because I like to make feather sticks and when stressed I like to sharpen my knives.

BTW: I have not seen anyone mention sharpening stones. Again survival is only a few days away at worst.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Why do you want to walk the AT?

There are several interview vlogs where the interviewer asks hikers why they are hiking the AT. The answers vary.

  • walking to school in the north east
  • trying to find myself
  • trying to hid
  • because it's hard
  • because it's there
and so on.

In the meantime I have been thinking about my own reasons for want to hike the AT. At first it was to completely disconnect but then I started to watch gear reviews and everyone seems to have an iPhone. So I gave up on that idea... even with a few dead spots I imagine it's not complete. Carry a big enough battery and making it between cities or towns is a snap.

And then I was thinking about my gear. I've been flopping between a tent and a hammock. Without having been on the AT I have no idea which is better for the task. I imagine that there are pluses and minuses depending on the exact time of year and the type of weather I might encounter. As I emerged from that part of my internal conflict I realized I was only going to be on the trail for 3 to 4 days and so anything goes. I need only the barest of essentials and after that it's luxury.

The essentials for 3 - 4 days in Georgia in the summer
  • clean water
  • simple food high in calories
  • basic shelter
I think we can live in the same underwear for 4 days.

While I was no closer to deciding on tent vs hammock I kept searching and just today I made the final tip toward a hammock. I had decided to buy an ENO but had not puled the trigger. The price was OK but then as I started to add the accessories the price started to climb again. I started to learn about whoopie slings and hand made webbing and I was back on track.

One ENO vs Hobo video and I was ready. One blog about the Bindle and I was sold. I don't know what my AT mission is anymore. I thought it was unplugging. Maybe it wpuld be nice to be ALONE for a short time to collect my thoughts. It could be that I'm looking for a way to recharge my reserves. And it could be that I just need to wipe the turd from my shoes.

But the metaphor that bindle represents for Jake is also the physical manifestation that I need to survive for 4 days. And when I finish I hope to see what he sees.

Review: one handed serrated edge

This was a disappointing purchase.

I have yet to hear back from the merchant and Victorinox.... I have complained that the scales are not aligned properly and that the scales themselves seem cheap.

While the knife is very sharp and the serrated edge make it excellent as a replacement steak knife if the restaurant does not have anything better... But the real test was making feathersticks. During my first attempt I was not getting the knife to bite or even make the lightest feather. And when I was able to create a feather it took to much of a bite. Very frustrating

On my second attempt I was able to get some thin feathers but only from the fine edge portion of the blade. Once I started to slide the blade towards the serrations the serrations grabbed hard and I ended up putting more power into the cut and eventually shredded my previous work.

Finally, I started to take a closer look at the blade. The fine edge i not very fine. First of all it's only one sided; which probably has to do with the serrated and all of that means that it's probably meant for a right handed person even though the lock is left handed or so the experts say.

PS: Since my model included a pocket clip I should mention it's also uncomfortable in the hand.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Appalachian Trail

I like camping. I like the idea of hiking but I've never done any real hiking before. Bushcraft training is very interesting to me and Survival for the Zombie Apocalypse is mostly a waste of time except where it overlaps with Bushcraft. Hiking is kinda like car camping except your legs are your transportation and your carry far less supplies.

Sadly I missed my opportunity to backpack through Europe when I graduated college as I was on the 10 year plan. Secondly I missed any chance to take the summer to hike the AT because I didn't have those kinds of friends and it just never occurred to me.

Now that I'm older and possibly wiser I'm intrigued. The idea of going totally or almost totally off the grid for 4 months is a challenge as I have been plugged-in since 1980 or soon after.

So it seems to me that a small section hike is in order. Next summer I think I'll take the family to Helene Georgia and then leave them to hike the AT for 3 or 4 days.

Although it's a year away I still need to do some planning and practicing. And it also occurs to me that I need to think about necessity and luxury. This is what I told a friend of mine who is an experience AT hiker:
I started and finished the book "living with a seal" just a few days ago. I think that no matter what choices I make I'll survive 3-4 days so long as I have water, some basic shelter, and some modest calories. Everything else is going to be a luxury. I think I could do that.
I really want to reduce the weight and complexity of my kit so that it's easy to carry, comfortable to sleep, and safe in case there are disasters.

get what you pay for

I have no idea what I was thinking when I made this purchase, It was about the same time as the other money clip knife from CRKT but this one is cheaper and flimsy.

What I was not expecting was this:

The two pictures above are the front and back of the same knife with the light source and camera at nearly the same angle. This is supposed to be the dark grey victorinox pioneer from DLT Trading. While the front MIGHT be grey the back is not. Also, the quality of the back plate's rivets are very poor such that I doubt the authenticity except they seem to have the correct box.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

buildroot mission statement

I really like the buildroot project from the perspective that I can build a microsized custom container exactly the way I want it. What I find frustrating is that someone on the buildroot team wrote:
Why do we install gofmt on the target? Buildroot doesn't install tools to do development on the target, so installing gofmt seems weird.
That's a particularly frustrating statement. Using buildroot to build containers seems common sense. Without some sort of package manager it's impossible to install the necessary tools especially when the only workaround might be RPMs or some other packaging that requires at least one boot.

Furthermore, while many of the interpreters on the target list it can be assumed from the statement that all 10-15 languages are integrated into the target because they are required. So then why are they optional?

I hope they reconsider that position. Seems wrong and absolute.

SoloStove and RUCAS

I read an article where the user has put his Trangia in his SoloStove. So why not a RUCAS? After the RUCAS warmed up it's flames were about 10-12 inches from the top of the RUCAS. You can see the pink/purple bloom to the right. I practically had to drop my 450ml of water onto the stove or else I was going to burn something. Needless to say this is no way to cook a meal, just heat some water.

This was approximately 1oz and it burned off in about 4 minutes. The water was warm but not hot enough to make a cup of tea. After the alcohol burned out I put another oz in the stove and it started with a quick spark. Since the stove was already hot the jets flamed right away and I nearly burned my hand again from the stove and the hot pot.

To confirm my previous suspicions: [a] gloves [b] wooden spoon [c] better stand [d] no actual cooking. I might be able to alter these parameters if I had [a] a windscreen, [b] a different base. Let me be clear; if 3oz of alcohol is supposed to be 14 minutes of burn time by comparison that would be a lit of twigs and prep.

Lastly, if 3oz is 14min then 9oz is about 60min. By comparison an 8oz isopro is supposed to have 60min of burn time. The tradeoffs are:

  • SoloStove - preptime, care and feeding, soot, bad in damp conditions
  • alcohol stove - short warmup time, any stove will do, limited burn time, clean, 9oz=60min, liquid alcohol has risks that the others so not although there are multiple uses
  • pocketrocket - no warmup time, 8oz=60min, easy to waste fuel
  • tablets - no warmup, needs a cup or plate, soot, east to store
  • open campfires or propane stoves for more elaborate food prep, not good for hiking, and if you're on the AT or PCT you're not likely to have that kind of fresh food worth cooking

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

RUCAS alcohol stove

I've been interested in all things Appalachian Trail and one of the interesting challenges seems to be a cooking fire. Hikers have written, blogged and vlogged that it's a challenge because [a] restrictions on where you can burn and frankly not all shelters are friendly. [b] dead fall may be picked clean [c] some areas do not permit specific tools like a saw [d] white gas stoves appear to have risks.

  • ring or fireplace usually found close to the shelters
  • white gas; think about the old coleman where the tank has to be slightly preasurized
  • butane+propane; ie jetboil or pocketrocket
  • gassified wood stove like a bush buddy or solo stove
  • non-gassification wood stove
  • alcohol stove
  • tablets
side note: when I was researching campfires in US national parks they are all but restricted to specific locations typically a proper fireplace or fire ring. And any other fire must have an instant off which I think means something like a jetboil although an alcohol stove might be ok if you have a snuffer.

I have a SoloStove and a Campfire SoloStove. I like them both very much except they use wood and leave a lot of soot on my cook pots. With some AT videos and demos I started to develop some interest in alcohol and tablet stoves. I like the tablets because they are easy carry. Half an esbit will warm a can of soup. The only aggravation is soot.

There are a number of alcohol stove designs out there. Many use soda cans and fiberglass. Here is a howto. Rather than build one I decided to buy a RUCAS on eBay. The construction was a lot better than I could do or would be willing to do. The easiest alcohol stove is just an open bean dip can and soda can. But the RUCAS looks great.

My RUCAS arrived a few days ago and I finally managed to get to the hardware store to get some fuel. Here are my notes on the first burn:
  • I needed the funnel to transfer the fuel from the can to the bottle.  The bottle came with my kit. The demonstration convinced me it was not going to give me any trouble although the bottle will have to be inside my kit to prevent accidental spillage inside my pack.
  • I did a test fit to make sure the stove was level and secure and that the cup I was planning to cook with was also stable.
  • squeezing fuel into the stove was simple enough. I relied on my internal measuring cup to make sure I was only dispensing one fluid ounce. The information sheet suggested how much to squirt in and that there may be a line inside the stove. But not that I could see.
  • I decided to ignite the stove with my firesteel. I'm not sure that was a good idea as I could have knocked over the stove and ignited it all at once.
  • It took about 2 to 3 minutes for the mechanism to ignite the jets but once they started the heat was intense. I quickly determined that my fuel reserves and tools were just too close.
  • I had opened a can of chili into my cup and placed it on the stove. In about 1 to 2 minutes the food started bubbling along the wall of the cup.
  • I stirred constantly to prevent the food from [a] splattering all over the place [b] heating unevenly or burning [c] or sticking to the side of the pot
The BAD news.

While I like the RUCAS and the pocketrocket they have their challenges. My pot got hot very quickly. My spoon got hot. My insulated square oven mitt was useless and almost caused the stove to spill.

  • buy a proper fire glove
  • use a wooden spoon (something to do at night when resting)
  • I probably want to limit my cooking to boiling water instead of cans of soup and the like. Boiling water requires very little monitoring

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Collision of ideas

blah blah blah bushcraft... blah blah blah camping... blah blah blah living with a SEAL.
Last night I was running reports and while the reports were running I watched some videos from "homemade wonderlust". It's not the first AT (Appalachian Trail) video I had watched but it was the second presenter. The first video was gear, then hygiene; which was more about pooping on the AT, and the last few were about just hiking away. The other presenter was telling a broader story and HW was telling a personal story.

In both videos I noticed a few things. These hikers have made interesting choices when it comes to cost, weight, and space. For example the Big Agnes tent is just about 2lbs but costs about $450. On the other hand using an aluminium cook pot with a home made cozy instead of a titanium pot. While there must be some knowledge acquired when in the action but common sense suggests that there is an advantage in fuel savings by using freeze dried meals instead of carrying the fuel needed for actual cooking.

Assuming 15 miles a day and 2300 miles I thing that's about 153 days. Assuming a mix of provisions where at least one meal a day were freeze dried that's about $1500; assuming that it costs $10 per meal and frankly it does not. One complaint about freeze dried means was that a pouch might represent 5 meals and in terms of calorie count and cost it was a little off-putting.

The one remarkable thing was WL's drive. And that is how I connected with Living with a SEAL. From what I can tell, WL did what she needed to do. Whether it was one food in front of the other, reducing swelling by putting her feet in a creek, or detouring home to quickly bury her late dog. Maybe some day my daughter's will read this and see those accomplishments as a role model.

Monday, August 1, 2016

not all containers need to be micro

Redbeard did a presentation last year and his hypothesis is/was "no large containers". On the surface I agree, however, it's not always fat and skinny.

I'll present a single argument.

I use my CoreOS host for everything from development to production. The idea that I can expect the CoreOS host to be auto-updated and leave me in the same general state is highly desirable. That I can load a different development environment in separate containers is also highly desirable. The last thing I want to do is manage and maintain Ubuntu and CoreOS hosts. This means that as a  true DevOps I have day to day experiences with the entire stack and not just intermittent as I deploy of repair systems. If that were the case then I should go back to RHEL or Ubuntu.

As for buildroot. That's an awesome project and having a container that could build images directly from buildroot in a way that RB likes would also be desirable as it is complicated to maintain. Anyway...

another bad day for open source

One of the hallmarks of a good open source project is just how complicated it is to install, configure and maintain. Happily gitlab and the ...