Wednesday, March 22, 2017

the packs look nothing like what I bought

In my previous post I was talking round about sales, marketing and manufacturing of packs and what I might want next... looking closely at the Kumo and Murmur.

Here are some other packs that I saw, liked and purchased.

I liked this pack because it was the largest in the Camelbak line of packs, it had one deep pocket and was 22L gross and 19 net capacity. One serious downside is that the bladder is not modern and there is no disconnect or drain.

The Kompressor Plus is a 20L pack. Unlike the Camelbak above this Marmot is down to 18L when I add the 2L water bladder. Although there is a water drain. One interesting comparison with the Camelbak is the location of the frame pad. If you use a bladder with the marmot the bladder is separated from your body by a piece of fabric where the Camelbak frame is between you and the bladder.

The Klymit Stash 18 is just small. And while there is room for a bladder it means having to leave some gear behind. In the previous post I slimmed down to one night with barely enough food.

What is interesting and compelling about these pictures is that they really help sell the product. There are some realities about the volume and amount of gear you really want to carry. That said this is what these packs really look like.

There are simply not very attractive and there is no way I would buy them. So clearly it's a matter to forget the fashion and work on the function.

And so with the biggest of my packs being the Camelbak Arete 22 I packed all my gear and there was plenty of room given the previous constraints. It does not look like the pretty sales material but at least I know this is a solid 2-3 night pack now that I have extra room for food and a trowel.

the cost of a backpack

For some ridiculous reason I have been collecting daypacks like they are a substitute for a good ultralight pack in both capacity and cost. The one 45L pack I own is just not functional beyond being waterproof. And then at the bottom of the pricing scale there seem to be a number of shared manufacturers. The other thing I have determined is that the cost seems to be a product of it's volume, prestige, materials and to some extent features. Some of which seems counter intuitive.

One material I would like to exploit is Tyvek, however, the only backpacks I have been able to find are DIY. And while I like the cost savings I do not own a sewing machine and by the time I would develop the skills to make a half decent pack I might as well have bought one. Anything with Cuben Fiber or Dyneema is going to be a premium. While it is lightweight it is less durable. Then there are the sil-nylon and other nylons. Many are fine, however, a recent experience saw a decorative coral rock pull individual fibers from the pack. I have a different daypack that I used for getting around town when travelling and the bottom is shredding. Waterproof packs are generally tough but heavy.
Needless to say that a hiking pack should be left to the hiking and not urban duty
 In the features department many people like gobs of features. From water bottle stretch pockets to large snack pockets, stretch outer pockets for wet gear like a moist tent. One pack has a bottom access zipper for instant access to a sleeping bag. The new "simplepack" has a large bottom stretch pocket for clothes, snacks or maybe trash. All is well and good, however, many hikers swear by 1L smartwater bottles, however, few packs can actually hold them. At least one hiker complains about putting the water bottle in the side pockets and the "balance" of the pack. Another hike, who I will call my hero, wants a pack to carry stuff and that's it. No pockets.

Comfort comes at a cost of weight. Whether it's straps, padding, waist-belt. it's going to add time and materials. Only gossamer gear thought to make it optional.

I have several 15L and 25L day bags that could do double duty as an overnight pack. The challenge is that I'd actually have to go SUL.

The yellow Klymit Stash 18L is properly packed for an overnight. First Aid, Fire, Stove, 2000 calories, tent, SOL bivy, Platypus Gravity 2L. If I substitute a hammock and fly for the tent then the weight is a push. In these bags there is room to squish more. I could always use a compression sack to compress the hammock or tent. I would add that the pack has some depth to it that might be effecting the center of gravity. I was able to drop a pound by converting my rainfly to polycryo.

The big boys...

John Zahorian and a few others use his Simplepack (40L. < 13 oz). These guys have a pack weight from 5-8 pounds. The rest is food and water. Compared to my Stash that leaves about 22L for food and water.

Honorable mention goes to Kelty, however, their packs were just too heavy.

The winner seems to go to the Murmur. Between it's light weight design, big pockets, few if any zippers, integrated sitpad/frame, 20lb load this seems to be a strong section hikers pack.

One thing I take exception to is the way most companies measure capacity.

While the initial numbers suggest this is a 36L pack it's an uncomfortable 36L. Meaning that it's not an average use of 36L... or the collar of the pack near the top is only rolled once or twice. Sadly, other vendors make it almost clear that they include the pocket in the calculation:

And for that reason again, given the price, the murmur and kumo are a better value.

Monday, March 20, 2017

where are my trekking poles?

I left my trekking poles at the trailhead of the north entrance at MM63 on the I-75... after I made the turnaround it was about an hour later when I was back at the spot where I set them down to update the sign-in sheet. And apparently some asshole decided that they were abandoned on purpose.

I use my poles to construct my shelter

good thing the opportunist did not see these boots at Carpenter Camp

I was about to order new poles but I started wondering... was it really worth it? This was my second pair of poles this year. The first set were damaged when I wiped out hiking the Robert's trail in December. Pokes in that section of the everglades makes sense since because your walking in ankle to knee deep water and it can be easy to lose your balance; and falling can be BAD.

Since I have been hiking the dry north side of I-75 I really have not needed my poles and in fact they have been a bother more than a help; other than I needed it for my tent. So while I was considering replacement poles I decided to just make my own tent poles. I bought the 2 complete sets of parts from (1) from dutchware and (1) from bear paw designs. What makes this plan ideal is that they cost about $15 compares to the trekking poles that cost $50. At least now I can setup my tent.

PS: Given the amount of time that it took to setup that ZPack pocket tent I wished I had brought my hammock and tarp.

Friday, March 17, 2017

RUCAS vs Toaks Siphon

Here are some experiments. First I started comparing the RUCAS and the siphon stoves,

The RUCAS is a much bigger stove than the toaks. Both in height and diameter.

The RUCAS is made from aluminium and the siphon from titanium. After the same burn the RUCAS was hot to the touch MUCH longer than the siphon. The RUCAS ignited immediately with my regular size bic and the siphon required multiple tries. I tried my SOL sparker and it worked first time.

In a separate experiment I tried my SOL sparker on the SOL fire cube (12 min at 1300 F), esbit and some drier lint. The lint took the spark on the first go. The SOL cube took a while as it needs a strong spark and the esbit never worked. I do not have an explanation as it seems to be partially based on a chemical reaction. It's interesting to note that the SOL has a distinctive flame and the esbit does not.

In a third experiment I was finally able to get an esbit started with a fero rod. It took a lot of effort and plenty of crushed esbit.

In my final experiment I made the smallest and lightest featherstick and it started with the SOL striker.

The smaller feather stick had better results.

And my very last experiment also worked

As a result of this experimentation I'm going to change my EDC. Let's be real for a moment. My hands hurt. Making small tinder with a small knife and a small sparker is fun in practice but it I had to do this for real it would seriously SUCK.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

WARNING about hiker food videos

I have been watching a number of hiker videos that discuss food, quantity, calories, supplements etc and most of them are, simply put, DANGEROUS. Whether you are hiking the PCT, CDT, AT, FT, Sea2Sea you need to know a lot more than what is in the guide books and you better start reading, watching, and testing before you head out onto the trail.

I received my copy of Andrew Skurka's Ultimate Hiker's Gear Guide; 2nd Ed. and there is a section on food. He confirms my calculation of about 1 pound per 1000 calories only he prefers ounces; and we are pretty close. Where we differ is that he recommends carrying between 2250 and 2750 calories per day without consideration for the amount of energy burned on the trail or that you WILL be running a deficit. Ge simply says that his number is a good number.

Further reading Andrew talked about pre-hike loading of fat and protein. There are some interesting calculations when it comes to measuring the distance to be traveled and calories needed and what that means in body fat. Here he is only hinting at running a deficit.

So here is the thing. None of the hiker food videos that I've watched make any such warning and they certainly do not go into the detail that Andrew does. And so after all of that... make sure you talk to your family doctor and get a checkup. Make sure the doctor knows what you are about to do.

Then make sure to read [a] the US Army Survival Guide and [b] Bushcraft 101. Know, understand and memorize the Rule of 3s; and The 5 Cs. While I want you know have some survival knowledge I expect that you'll never use it. The point is to avoid the potential of the situation long before it's ever a thought.

Be prepared without sacrificing fun.

For example I carry 3 types of water processing. [a] gravity filter [b] aquamira drops [c] aquamira tabs. The tabs go in my first aid kit. If something goes very wrong or someone else needs help the tabs are the first thing I'm willing to part with.

My Shelter is damage proof. If something should break then I can still make a shelter from the sum of the remaining parts.

Looping back about food; in this picture I have my smallest stove. It's a toaks 500ml cup with an esbit stove, 4 esbit tabs, toaks syphon stove, toaks folding spork, full sized lighter, and a windscreen. The thing is I have not heard anyone talk about resupply and sharing the items that are packaged badly. A box of esbit tabs is qty 16. On the other hand denatured alcohol is cheaper and more readily available. And it does not smell bad.

I just noticed that I can burn an esbit tab on my toaks syphon if I just turn it upside down.

Having a coffee, tea, or hot chocolate is heart warming. There are some alternatives to cooking and hydrating. Eat it uncooked like crunchy ramen. Lots of foods will still be safe after a few days between resupplies. I've read about hikers who hydrate all day long in clean peanut butter containers. The trick might be calorie density.

Lastly, depending on where you are hiking you might want to consider a second pair of shoes. The last time I was in the Southernmost part of the Big Cypress in the Florida Everglades the soles of both shoes fell off. So instead of relying on calorie deficit it's time to get to learning.

review: toaks siphon titanium stove

It's one sweet stove. First of all it's about the same size as a fancy fiest stove but made out of titanium with smaller jets. In my first burn I used 1oz of denatured alcohol and brought 16oz of water to a boil before the alcohol ran out. According to other reviews the store is supposed to be very efficient.

you can see the size relative to the 550ml pot

the wind shield for my esbit stove was not effective for the alcohol stove

16oz water in a 550ml cup meant the lid was going to be popped off

a hearty boil

did not get a true bloom. the slightest breeze prevented a bloom

almost complete protection but still not enough or the stove was manufactured poorly

I'm not sure about the construction but I need to check the bloom in a location with NO wind just to verify, however, I have a call into toaks in order to determine if this is a manufacturing problem.

getting in and and out of your tent

Last weekend I was in the Florida Keys primitive camping with my daughters. We have a nice and inexpensive 4P Alps Mountaineering tent, however, it was not without it's difficulties.

The ground that the tent was resting on was compressed coral rock. [a] than means it's sharp [b] and it's somewhat loose so it get's everywhere. My 5 & 6 year old do not know how to keep a tent clean.

As you can see in the picture there is a small grey square in the doorway. This is a Thermarest sitpad that I thought I would use as a doormat. That was a bad idea because it was not working the way I'd hoped. [i] the sand stuck to it [ii] once you took off your shoes the sand got on their feet. [iii] the coating on both sides of the pad became abrased.

normally smooth
One immediate challenge was that because I was using a torso length inflated mattress and I slept between the girls once we entered the tent the ground was rock hard and so it would have been nice to have a sitpad which we were using for a doormat.

Pictured is the original Thermarest sitpad and a Kelty Bootlick and a bamboo beach mat. The bamboo mat is meant to shed sand. The Bootlick has a closed cell core, small stakes and loops. The Bootlick is also bigger than the sitpad.

Ans so now I'm thinking about process. [a] open the tent door. [b] sit butt inside the tent and feet outside with any luck you have a sit pad or a closed foam mattress to sit on [c] if bugs are an issue zip the door with a wide enough opening to manipulate your feet [d] pull your clean feet into the tent and zip it closed.

So the two conclusions.... a doormat is not necessary and overkill if going ultralight but a sitpad could be useful (just not fun to sit on hard surfaces). And can I train my kids to do it right?

Thermarest and Kelty are good companies. Had I do to it again I'd consider gossamer gear.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

The case for a disposable or dispensable hiking kit

I have achieved a level of super pack envy or hiking frustration I'm not sure which. Take a look at these packs.

Both of these packs are considered day packs. They are made from lite material and yet are fairly inexpensive. Under $50. After just a few uses they have started to develop hot spots. The Marmot was leaned against a slab of coral rock and it started to SHRED the material. The G4Free is constructed from a stronger nylon material, however, like some nylon webbing the ends where things are sewn SHRED easily. And there are a few places where there are hotspots.

I suppose I'm about to contradict my own hypothesis... Considering the "ratio" between a SOL bivy and a military or OR bivy is there a backpack in the SOL variety? First of all It would be interesting to know if someone had hiked the AT, FT, CDT or PCT with nothing but an SOL shelter, blanket and bivy. All I know is that it was in the 60s on Fri and in the high 80s last night. I was just getting acclimated on Friday when Saturday cooked me. I tried to use my sleeping bag line but it kept me too hot on Sat and I could not get comfortable on Friday as we slept on a torso length mattress on compressed coral.

So while this was car camping at it's finest... I used my day pack to tool around town. And of course it was filled with useless junk

** while researching... seems SOL has a survivor pack. It's not what I'm looking for but the subject seems a little deflated. There is a problem with the ROI formula when one considers the merits of cuben fiber and zpacks or simple packs.
Boats are nothing but holes in the ocean. Premium hiking gear is but a hole in the mountain.

Friday, March 3, 2017

making sense of it all - hiking gear

I've been organizing my hiking gear and making some progress. I have decided to categorize my stuff into 3 groups. Active, Inactive, and Junk. While I feel bad about the wasted money in the Junk pile I need to find some AT/FT sort of way to give it away.

The definition of "active" is the gear I would throw into a pack and got for a hike. There should be sufficient calories to complete a section hike. This pile is somewhat active and somewhat inactive and some of it is basic supplies that should be considered inactive.

Of note: my two sea to summit sleeping bag liners are now in the junk pile. And the 2gosystems bivy and two silk liners has been moved from the junk to active buckets.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

spork you - camping utensils

I have a number of camping utensils and sadly most are a pain in the ass.

My first spoon was the long Toaks titanium spoon. It's nice and long. Perfect for mountainhouse due to it's long handle. But I have my complaints. [a] I can never find it. It does not fit in any of my stove kits and with the number of food bags and backpacks I never know which one it's in. [b] the shape of the handle that makes it ridged captures food making it slightly tough to clean [c] being Ti; if the food is hot the heat will transfer to the spoon and burn your lips or tongue.

Next I bought the Light My Fire 4-pack. They are just not long enough for mountainhouse and the serrated edge on the fork side is supposed to cut but it's useless. The surface is slightle textured which might or could trap dirt or food.

Next I bought a "simple spoon/fork" (don't remember the manufacturer). The spoon and fork have grooves so they slide together. Both for storage and for general use. Compared to the Toaks long spoon it longer and almost as ridged. It also has a groove to attach them together only the groove is much more likely to snag food or dirt. Lastly it did not fit in the 750ml pot.

Finally, I bought two Toaks folding sporks; one for each cook pot. [a] the handle seems to be the shortest [b] the wire handle makes it harder to stir the bottom of a deep bag [c] the hinge/lock mechanism is also a trap for food and dirt.

Practically speaking I do not like the plastic spoons. The folding spoons are in my stove kit. And the long spoon is typically in my food bag.

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 ...