Friday, February 24, 2017

making coffee is the trail version of making copies

I decided to make some tea this morning but rather than using my electric kettle I decided to use my Solo Stove. The wood I used was birch that I purchase from the grocery store last month. Initially I tried to use my pocket knife to split the wood but that was unreasonable and I thought I might damage the blade since the birch is considered a hardwood. So I used my 8" Mora and was finished in a few minutes. I have a number of butane lighters in my kit but I like to practice with my SOL fire starters.

One serious disadvantage of this stove is that the stove is only a few inches deep. That means the sticks or wood it uses needs to be short. I suppose pine cones might be useful, however, they have tar in the soot. Hacking the wood to the correct size takes work. As much as I like a nice open flame and the ground does not burn there simply might not be enough deadfall to make a fire without a saw and/or ax.

here are my supples. I already processed some of the wood

made two feathersticks with my SAK and there is the SOL fire in the bottom right

making coffee (actually hot water)

steeping the tea. Had plenty of wood
Boil time for 16oz of water was 5 minutes. You can see from above that I did not need much wood at all. This is probably because birch is a hardwood and the bark was still attacked in many pieces.

nature's TV
Feeling good and refreshed. Gonna get a second cup. The wood was nearly completely exhausted. Nothing but crumbs.

"making copies" is a Saturday Night Live skit reference.

trail hunger and calories

Until I've actually been on the trail I won't know for sure, however, I've been watching Neemor's videos and I'm still questioning whether he carry's enough calories. First he talks about carrying 2 pounds per day and looking at his resupply inventory I see less then 1000 calories per pound. Assuming that's 2000 calories a day that's barely enough. I read you can expect to burn 400 calories per hour on a hike. If you hike 10 hours that's 4000 calories. Then you need an additional 1200 calories for the rest of the day. In one video Neemor said he ate 2 personal pizzas and 2 cheese burgers and fries. Sure it depends on how big they were but still that's a lot of food and he is a small guy.

Lastly, during the wilderness challenge these guys figured that for their lifestyle of hunter/gather they needed about 4000 calories a day, however, even they got to a point where they simply could not eat enough. In retrospect it's not clear if that was because of the volume of food or their psyche was just tired of the lack of choices. (lean fish and berries)

Thursday, February 23, 2017

stoves and campfires on the Florida trail

Being a beginner hiker on the Florida trail I have more questions almost every day. The latest questions have to do with cook stoves and campfires. First of all I have confirmed that campfires are permitted almost year round so long as you use a fire ring and most approved campsites have fire rings. There may be exceptions so make sure you check the proper trail guides and web sites.

Stoves, on the other hand, can be tricky. Some state parks do not permit stoves that cannot be turned off. Others do not permit scrounging dead-fall, carrying an ax or saw. And lastly the Florida trail guide makes special mention that isobut and esbit tabs are harder to locate on the trail.

Here are my stoves... and a basic review.

Solo Stove - $69.99 - nice little 9oz wood stove good for one or  two people. Limited to places where this sort of thing is permitted and wood is plentiful and permitted. Also provides sustained warmth on a cold night. The pot is covered in soot. The stove has limited capacity due to the shallow depth but is meant for twigs and other small fuel.

The solo Stove kit came with a 32oz pot which nests the stove.

Olicamp -  $49.95 - if you do not mind carrying around a canister or two this stove is ideal at 4oz. It's also loud.

Olicamp stove packed into a Stanley pot

try packing it in a Toaks 750ml pot

it fits nicely

RUCAS Alcohol stove - $18.95 - I like alcohol stoves but I have get to find a tank or bottle worth carrying. They are just kinda bulky or just heavy like water. Make sure you're drinking from the right bottle. The RUCAS is awful and if I ever went back in this direction I'd buy a new Toaks. Alcohol is probably the easiest fuel to get on the trail or anywhere. One other thing that bothers me is the packaging.

20oz pot, 8oz fuel bottle, 2oz fuel bottle, 1oz measuring cup, RUCAS stove.

4x 2oz fuel bottles

Esbit stove - $16.50 - before I discovered the smell from the tabs I bought 2 boxes of tabs. So either I put this one away in storage for the next hurricane or I use them. Also, I think I need a bottom reflector to prevent scorching the ground. The fish smell can be intolerable and I'm waiting to hear back from the company as to whether there is any danger.

The Esbit fits nicely along with a spoon. This is a 550ml pot and separately a 750ml pot.

One thing about these pots is that they all have measurements stamped into the side. This embossing can trap food and other germs... so boiling water is the only practical use unless you have a sponge and soap.

Honorable Mentions:

Toaks wood stove - $62.95 - it's only about 1oz lighter than the solo stove and basically the same size. The fuel feed port and the combustion column seems bigger. One downside is that the ashes drop out the bottom. This does not mean that it'll start a fire but it does suggest that you'll not leave a little trace. The firebox and firebox nano are similar in that way although the nano weighs 4oz.

Toaks Alcohol stove - $34.95 - twice as expensive as the RUCAS but seems to have some engineering behind it.

Tunafish or fancy feast stove - FREE - DIY and available just about everywhere food is sold.

Ikea Cutlery tote - $2.49 - it's not a gasification stove but it is inexpensive and light, however, some DIY is required to create a feeder port.


It's all about trade offs. wood stoves need fuel, but you do not have to carry it, and there is a chance it'll be wet or none at all. Olicamp is a great little stove. My full kit fits inside my 750ml pot but fuels is not as readily available. I checked the local grocery and home store and neither carried fuel. Someone said that trail towns would be more likely to carry them. Capitalism. I've talked about the RUCAS stove before. And Esbit is also not available locally.

I think the plan is to understand where I'm hiking and what's available. Each of these stoves has a sweet spot. If I'm camping instead of hiking then nature's TV is ideal. On the AT where there are real trail towns then a isobut stove makes sense unless I'm limiting hot want to comfort days.

- Stanley and canister stove 600g
- solo stove 550g (bigger than the rest)
- esbit stove with 550ml pot 350g
- esbit stove with 750ml post 250g
- the alcohol stove weighs about the same as the esbit, however, I think I can argue that the Toaks alcohol stove is probably more efficient than the others.

** YES, as counter intuitive as it is the Toaks 750 weighs less than the Toaks 550. I was able to account for 50g because one stove had 4 tabs and the other only 3.

Friday, February 17, 2017

LED bulbs the actual life

You're in the dark because the light bulb in the room has died and you're all out of spares. You head over to the local home or grocery store to get a replacement and you are face with an endless variety of shapes, sizes, wattage, lumens, incandescent, fluorescent, neon, and LED. The interesting thing is the prices are anywhere from $1.00 to $150.00 depending on the product's proximity to the front of the store and whether it is WiFi enabled and has multiple colors.

I do not remember when and if it's still enacted by incandescent bulbs were being taken out of circulation. And at the time of inflection the prices of the alternatives was crazy high. Now as things start to settle I have come to accept the fact that I will convert to LED. But there is one serious issue.

Look closely to the bottom left of the packaging above. "Last 22+ years" and "Lasts 10 years". There are 2 problems with this claim. [a] there is no way to guarantee the lifetime and in fact there is no such guarantee. [b] How would you know if it did not last 22 years? In the earlier model we accepted that the cheap price of the bulb meant that a replacement was $0.50 or less away. It was also reasonable to have a few dozen spares in storage. And in the case of an electrical storm replacing the bulbs would only cost $100 or less depending on the number of bulbs. My home requires 55 bulbs of different sizes, watts, and decor. At $5.00 a bulb that would cost about $300.

Still, the issue is that bulb lifetime is meaningless if there are no guarantees. So now what?

my shelter before and after

I'm anticipating my next overnight in the everglades. My new gear is 1/3rd smaller than the before and only weights 1/3 of the before.

BEFORE - 24oz and I need to add a groundsheet 2-3oz

AFTER - 8oz

I have a short todo list. The ground sheet needs to be trimmed in order to act as a floating tub for the zpack tent. Also the lines need to be trimmed and installed.

I do have a small criticism of ZPacks the company. They are clearly opinionated about their product and I cannot find fault with that. Watching video of their facility makes me think they are professional. And while I still need to deploy my new arrival there are aspects of the product and their website that lead me to believe that there is still quite a bit of bare knuckles going on. From my vantage it appears that the website is built on one of those microsoft desktop apps instead of a professional store. After finding a bug and in a followup conversation with Joe, the owner, my opinion was confirmed.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

review zpacks pocket tarp vs six moon design luna solo

My new pocket tarp arrived a few minutes ago and I really want to set it up. According to the zpacks website it's made from .34 cuben where their normal tents and tarps are made from .54 and .71 or there abouts (from memory). ZPacks also recommends that the pocket tarp is for limited use and day hikes or emergency shelter and not recommended for long or thru hikes. I have not rendered an opinion yet except to say as an emergency shelter I'd prefer a square or rectangle as it provides many more options and does not specifically require a tent pole or trekking pole. In the meantime I've spent about $200 on this tarp and I am of the opinion that I could have made a polycryo at or near the same weight with the same durability and with many more configuration options not to mention a small fraction of the cost. (this cuben is nearly see thru)

you still don't know the meaning of the word SURVIVAL

I don't know how I fell into this video but it was was amazing to watch the series. The best part was the conclusion as part of the weigh-out and sort of states exactly what I had been thinking. While these guys talk about 3300 calories a day I think hikers are more in the 6000 calories a day range. That said it explains the need for zero days in town and gorging on calories and fat calories.

There were many conclusions and I'd like to summarize them, however, these guys did a lot of work and deserve your likes. I hope you enjoy them.

Here is the playlist of 22 videos

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

review - bear paw wilderness designs

Bear Paw Wilderness Designs LLC is an awesome company with solid products which are flexible enough to customize and some of the features that others would call custom are just features. For example I ordered a net tent but wanted it a little wider (custom) and a left side full zipper (just a standard feature).

But let's start at the beginning... I traded a number of pre-sale emails with the Johm. We discussed a number of project ideas and I settled on a minimalist 1 with a standard slope. A week later and my net tent arrived with almost a new car smell.

I tried a number of configurations with a tyvek groundsheet and a number of different rainfly configurations. In the end I made a few discoveries...

  • polycryo might be better than tyvek for this function
  • my groundsheets need to be paired with the other shelter components so that it's ideal
  • tyvek and SOL blankets come in different shapes and sizes but they can be heavier than I want

I have a roll of 8'x25' polycryo. A small 8'x38" piece should make a nice groundsheet. And an 8'x10' sheet would make a nice tarp. The total weight should be about 14oz compared to my Six Moon Designs Luna Solo with a groundsheet (24oz + 2oz).

PS: I'm not sure where the SMD tents are made, however, I thought they were made in the US by SMD, however, in a recent email exchange it was clear that SMD did not actually product the tents and that they were manufactured elsewhere. Could be anywhere. The BPWD seems to be manufactured in the US.

Friday, February 10, 2017

3 F's, 3 S's and 1 W of hiking

I have been going around and around my hiking configuration trying to compartmentalize my gear so it's nice and neat and in the process I discovered a new pattern.

3 F's
3 S's
and 1 W

It's actually not that interesting but when I look at my day hike and overnight hikes I simply need one bag of each type And maybe a second food bag if overnight.

Food - about 1 pound per thousand calories
First Aid - meds, bandaids, tape, cream, water processing tabs
Fire - tinder, knife, lighter, fero rod
Shelter - poncho, tent or tarp, footprint, cordage, stakes
Sleep - mattress or insulation, bivy or sleeping bag, liner, bugnet
Stove - pot, stove, fuel, spoon
Water - 2 liters, water processing (sawyer filter, dirty water bag, scoop, coffee filter, funnel, premixed aquamira)

You might be asking yourself... what about survival man? Well, the only piece of survival gear you really need for a day hike is either a second pair of shoes, a cell phone and/or SOS beacon. All you really need to survive two days... water, shelter, air. All the rest is luxury.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

So many choices for sleeping gear - best configuration?

Even though Florida is essentially a 3 season climate year round temperatures can range from 50F to over 100F. It's that 50 degree swing that makes selecting the right configuration just as important.

I think of the sleeping system in three parts. [1] the clothes you are wearing [2] sleeping bag or other container [3] insulation from the ground.

There are several reasons why you need to wear clothes and most of them have to do with survival. There's that dirty word again. But the point is; if you had to abandon your shelter in a hurry you would want to be wearing something. Anything. Also, clothing offers some insulation, wick moisture, some thickness to protect protect you from mosquitoes or things that might bite through the next layer.

Depending on the season there could be a lot of rain so either you'll get rained on or the ground will be saturated. Either way you want to be a little water resistant. But not so much that you wake swimming in a pool of your own sweat. Personally I do not use sheets or blankets on top of me so a sleeping bag or quilt is generally uncomfortable but I don't like mylar more than that.

Everyone will agree that you need a barrier between you and the ground. In survival situations you might make a bed of pine needles or leaves. If you have more time you might make a bed of sorts. Depending on how much time you have out in the field the choices will vary. You will have to choose between weight, volume, insulation, comfort, durability.

Here are the common items I have to choose from:

Not pictured here I have various lightweight Columbia shirts and pants. Wigwam socks and ExOfficio underwear. If I can get upwind of myself I might not change clothes depending on the duration of the hike except maybe socks and underwear for hygiene. I might change from short to long sleeves depending, however, everything should be treated with repellent.

Choices for containers...

SOL bivy
SOL thermal bivy
SOL sports blanket
SOL heavy duty blanket
Sea to Summit Reactor liner
Sea to Summit CoolMax Liner

Choices for insulation...

SOL sports blanket
SOL heavy duty blanket
Klymit Static V junior
Klymit X wave
Thermarest ZLite
Thermarest sitting pad
reflectix (torso or full length)

So many choices. The challenge is knowing what's going to give you the widest coverage for the temperature range and ground conditions you expect. Also, if you're going for a quick overnight I could argue for a small folding chair and staying up a little later enjoying a campfire or the stars. A few other considerations could be if the mattress is inflatable then a footprint or groundsheet is recommended. Also if the insulation later is torso length then some additional insulation is necessary for your legs. Some people have recommended velcro to attach sections or even a pillow to the mattress.

The biggest items are the thermarest and reflectix but since I'm a side sleeper I do not need as much coverage and so I could cut it to size. Maybe in half. It's also possible that I only need the sitting pad in some configurations for small area of cushioning.

Let the testing begin...

Not mentioned but I also have two pillows. The Cush is a pillow and a sitting pad. I will wrap the pillow in a shemagh for added comfort.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

DIY - shelter... how low can you go?

UL and SUL rejoice! Hikers and backpackers alike know that most of the weight in their pack is either the big 3 or food. When determining competitive pack weight people talk about base weight because you never have the same pack weight when you start and when you end. Meaning you eat and poop your food. Some hikers nit pick and talk about the weight of the water container but unless this was an actual competition I'm not going there.

The tyvek referred to in this post is the kite tyvek. It's liter and softer than house tyvek. Kite tyvek is actually used to make kites.

My first tent was an 8 person family tent. It's only use is car camping. My second tent was a 6P with the same use case. My next shelter was a lightweight hammock and after testing all sorts of suspension systems I found out that my local county park did not permit hammock. So I purchased a Six Moon Designs Luna Solo.

The Luna Solo weighs 23oz and is the heaviest of all of my shelters. (not pictured here; I need a footprint. The tyvek version is 8oz and the polycryo is less than 2oz.)

Luna - 23oz bare
30oz with tyvek
25oz with polycryo

This is a Bear Paw Designs Minimalist 1. The Minimalist 1 weighs in at 9oz. Since these are mostly made to order there is no reason why they could not reduce the weight with a different netting material. Add to this shelter two tyvek sheets and the total weight is 23oz. A few things that would aid this configuration would be either skipping the ground sheet altogether depending on site selection the sil tub may or may not last as long as the rest of the shelter.

Minimalist - 9oz bare
11oz with polycryo floor
16oz with a tyvek floor
23oz with tyvek floor and fly
13oz with polycryo floor and fly
18oz with polycryo floor and tyvek floor

polycyro is clear so there is no privacy.

For the weight; the shelters above are enclosed meaning no bugs are getting in. The Luna is a proper single wall tent with all the creature comforts you'd expect. The Minimalist can give you plenty of rain protection but there are gaps so consider using an SOL or 2GO Systems bivy instead of a sleeping bag.

Lastly this is the lightest shelter that offers bug protection.

This is a sea to summit insect shield bugnet at 2.9oz. The thing about this bugnet is that it does not have a floor. You could always sleep on the ground with an air mattress but unless you're actually cowboy camping then why.

sea - 3oz bare (no floor)
5oz with polycryo floor
10oz with a tyvek floor
17oz with tyvek floor and fly
7oz with polycryo floor and fly
13oz with polycryo floor and tyvek floor

The last shelter is here as an emergency shelter even though I hate emergencies. SOL, Survive Outfoors Longer makes a number of "survival" products that are good for every day use. I'm considering the blanket and shelter. (The shelter is the same product as the blanket only the kit includes stakes and simple cordage. Essentially this kit is two sheets of mylar, You can deploy a few different configurations. But what makes this material important is it's heat reflectivity.

The SOL blanket is 5' x 8' which is almost the exact same size as the tyvek. It is also the same weight. This makes the SOL blanket better than the tyvek for a groundsheet. It is certainly interchangeable.

(darker colored objects appear smaller than lighter objects but I can assure you the SOL is smaller.)

Friday, February 3, 2017

DIY trekking pole cordage guides

A couple of days ago I saw a professionally made trekking pole cordage guide. I liked it so much that I decided to make my own. My first attempt is here. It took some time and there were a number of failures.

  • my grommet kit would not cut the webbing
  • smashing the grommet caused the webbing to stretch
  • when I glued the grip-side version I ended up with glue all over my hands.
So I decided to try again without the grommets. Unfortunately I still managed to glue my fingers together.

grip up
 I like the grip up model because it means I can jam the tip of the pole into the ground giving the structure some stability. (ignore the tape as the glue is not dry yet.) This is a reasonably strong structure but big and heavier than the next.

grip down #1 

Grip down #2


Thursday, February 2, 2017

DIY trekking pole ridgeline accessory

I have setup my shelter with my trekking poles to support the ridgeline but one thing I hate is that it never feels secure (to the pole). No matter how many times I wrap the cordage or the type of knot it's always a challenge. So I did it myself.


  • gorilla glue
  • trekking pole
  • mallet
  • grommet kit
  • webbing (this happens to be tubular; can make it lighter)


two nine inch segments of webbing

the first band
The webbing was too strong for the punch in the grommet kit. In the end I needed to use a scissor to make the hole and a stake to hold the hole open while I inserted the grommet. The side strap ended up being about 5 inches and not the 9 that I initially cut.

installed grip down
This contraption makes it easier to move the pole around but harder to get started. (see grip up)

installed grip up
Notice that the side strap keeps the contraption from falling off the pole. The grip up configuration means that toe can be locked into the ground similar to a stake.

the finished project

Overall the project works, however, it can be made lighter. [a] shorter length [b] single ply [c] one grommet and glued loops or even just a hole melted open.

DIY groundsheet grommets

I have a bear paw minimalist 1 on order and it should arrive today or tomorrow. What makes it special is the [a] the configurations(see the videos in the link) [b] the weight [c] the net is attached to the SIL tub. Watching the configuration videos I realized that I could turn the minimalist upside down and use the SIL tub as a tarp. The narrator suggested that this was a "survival mode", however, this could actually be a "rain mode".

My concerns, however, is that the bugnet and the SIL are not as robust as my tyvek footprint. And so why not cut one down to size. And while I'm at it add some grommets to get the stakes exactly where I want them. So I dug out a prewashed tyvek footprint, went to Home Depot to get a grommet kit and proceeded to measure, cut and hammer.

Here is what I started with:

  • roll of gorilla tape
  • marker
  • 4 tent stakes
  • plastic mallet
  • grommet kit
  • tape measure
  • prewashed tyvek (from amazon)
  • insect shield 1 person bugnet from sea to summit


I taped the corners with about a 2" square of tape front an back. Then hammered the hole. Then hammered the grommet. When installing the grommet make sure that the smooth side is up and the burr is down.

the first grommet

all four grommets

I spread out the foorprint, hammered in the stakes, attached the bugnet. (the red tabs are supposed to be the head. Even though this is supposed to be a pyramid there must be some bias in the fabric. In this case it fit nicely 4' x 7'.

Finally I attached the peak of the pyramid to a hook above it. Notice the strange shape of the netting? The peak of the bugnet is 36" or 3'. I could have made it more taught, however, I think that it will actually be looser in the field especially since a person would be going in and out. Also trekking pole ridgelines are not as sturdy.

You have to look closely to the peak in order to see the slope of the line from the pyramid to the hook. I will probably cut the excess from the footprint and reuse it as a something to put my pack so it does not get dirty or when... a mini footprint. I'm going to use this footprint for the minimalist by adding shock cord to the loops.

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 ...