Saturday, September 29, 2018

More Cost vs Weight

Six Moon Designs... 26 oz and $200 for a 1P tent. You can decide if the weight of the pole is included in the weight ... I think it should but weights vary.

The is a small 1P tent offered by Amazon it weighs just over 4 lbs but costs $50

Here's the odd man out... a 2P tent costs $52 on Amazon and weighs JUST under 3 lbs.

This Andake costs $107 at 1.7 lbs which is pretty close to the Six Moon Designs at half the price and will ship for free from Aamzon.

And this pyramid tent weighs 2 lbs and costs $119.

And this one is nice too as a 1P at 2.5 lbs and $44

The moral of the story... decide how much you want the tent to weigh and then how much you want to pay. You'll fond something on Amazon that can be there in a reasonable time... make sure it's already in the US because if you have to wait for US customs it might take a while.

There is nothing wrong with any of these tents but I prefer a tarp and a bugnet or bivy. I like to look around and see what's going on. My tarp+bivy shelter runs in the same price range and the one I'm currently leaning toward is from Paria because it's inexpensive and pretty light weight.

SUL but amazingly strong

Hummingbird currently makes 3 hammocks. The single, the single plus and the double. While the philosophy, manufacturing, and specifications are amazing although I'm not sure why... They claim the Single has a capacity of 300, plus has 350 and the double has 400. I'm assuming that the materials are all the same but that the size of the hammock is longer and wider. Assuming that the buckle at either end and the stitching is the same then it must be the distribution of the weight to the fabric that eventually concentrates at the buckle. That was easy.

While I had not thought about it, when I was hanging my hammock with 770 and 850 paracord, I always thought the tension on the straps was equal to the weight in the tarp divided by 2. Meaning a 300 lb person would only be putting 150 lbs of tension against each strap.

From this video I seem to be wrong.

At a 30 degree angle the full weight of the person is on [each] line and at 5 degrees it's over 1100 lbs. That's crazy!

What's worse is that [a] I've setup my hammock in the backyard from time to time hanging it from the cinder block posts and I'm just not knowledgeable enough to know if it can withstand the lateral forces generated by a hammock. [b] which got me to thinking about the last time I was hammock camping and my interested to take a hike and hammock nap today. The trees I was thinking about might not have been a good choice.

And so the tent vs hammock conversation rages on.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

camping with lite light

A few months ago I purchased by first UCO lantern. I thought it was going to be a novel way to light my camp. I experimented with the lantern and shortly after putting the candle out I tried to close the lantern.

That's when I discovered that heat rises and before I could stop myself I burned my hand on the heat shield wind break. It took nearly a month for my skin to heal.

In June 2018 I went on a hike to Carpenter Camp in the Everglades. I brought the candle with me and after 9 hours the candle was finished. Additionally,  I brought a number of string LED lights as either a ridgeline lite or maybe a guyline light as I'm always tripping. The cordage I brought that night was grey and not very reflective so the LEDs were used on the cordage.

I broke my first UCO and decided it replace it. I also purchased some citronella replacements. A few days ago I setup my tarp in a wedge configuration and was getting comfortable with the idea of using the candle as sort of a camp light. But in some unrelated research I learned that the LED lights were good for 72 hours and my 2 replacement batteries weighed considerably less than a spare candle. And then there was the image:

I don't need the glass and the string balls up easily enough. The pros:

  • lightweight
  • compact
  • cheap
  • multipurpose
  • variety of colors

It would be great to have a plastic version of the UCO with a similar LED with a compartment for spare parts.

Monday, September 24, 2018

JZ overnight pack

I've been saying that SUL/UL means spending money or going without. For example a 40L G4Free pack can cost $20 and a sub-pound Palante pack can cost well over $200. While I'm a fan of lightweight gear I also like practicality, functionality, and cost savings. The idea of calling Amazon and having my order fulfilled in 2 days instead of waiting 5-11 weeks is precious. For example my Yama 8.5x8.5 is scheduled for 11 weeks and my Borah 7x9 for 5 weeks.

Another great example. BearPaw Wilderness Designs makes a 8x10 flat tarp with a 1-2 week delivery time and weight 15oz. Paria Offers the same tarp for $80, weights 15oz, and ships from amazon with Prime.

So when I listen to JZ talk about an upcoming hike and his gear:

  • pack
  • sleeping bag
  • sleeping pad
  • 2 days food - bars
  • gallon water
  • thick wool socks
  • thin wool jacket
  • thin socks
  • sunscreen
  • lens cleaning wipre
  • 2x batteries for camera
  • camera
  • toothbrush and toothpaste
  • floss
  • zebralight
  • small scissors
  • hand sanitiser
  • 2x 750ml smartwater bottles
No shelter or rain jacket because it has not rained in a while and he's not expecting any. No cook pot either; why cook for 2 days.

So this is not really UL since the water weighs more than 9 pounds. The pack, if it's a Palante 40L, is probably limited to 25 pounds of gear. With 9 pounds in water he really had to cut some corners.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

rocket stove fail

Here is a set of action shots as I was experimenting with a rocket stove. My goal is to have 9 rocket stoves surrounding the main bonfire but I'm hoping for a descent flame. I drilled a 1 inch hole about 4-5 inches deep and then a 1 inch hole from the side. I poured some swissgel in the hole and ignited it.

I got a 3-4 inch initial flame but it really did not last.

I sispect that because I used a 1 inch bit the walls were smooth and just didn't have the volume to generate a real flame. The gel did not really help either because the gel suspended the heat away from the wood until it would ignite.

I even tried a puddle of fuel on some tinder in order to light the side of the log and it too failed. I even tried to dribbed get along the side and that went out too.

Eventually I opened the hole a little and things got just a little better.

 I tried another puddle of gel under the log but that was really slow.

I leaned some bark over the gel and it ignited but the log seemed to fail.

And then it seemed to ignite.

The gel seems to be a total fail. I need to try some other material like mulch.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Plasma Lighter in my kit

I recently purchased a plasma lighter for my kit. I thought I made a good selection as there are a wide variety of lighters from simple coils, zippo looking plasma, and other formats. Without giving too much away this was what I did:

This is the head of the lighter.

When power is applied there is what looks like a continuous spark. This can be used to light a candle or a campfire.

The neck of the lighter has some reach that I hope will prevent my fingers from getting burned.

It also folds up and has a "safety" to reduce pack size and prevent unintended ignition. I should mention that the safety does not work well. If this were a traditional lighter I'd be concerned about fuel leakage.

Not pictured here is a USB port for recharging the device. There was a mention on one of the descriptions about the number of lights per charge. But I'm not sure that really matters. (see the conclusion)

Yesterday I managed to light some fire gel but I had to get the plasma stream very close to the gel or the evaporating fuel. Today I tried to light a candle and I managed to get some wax on one of the lighters probes. At that point the lighter malfunctioned. I had to use a screw driver to peel the wax off and was successful with the second attempt.

I have a couple of other lighters in my kit including a torch and a traditional mini bic. For me this plasma lighter is novel but useless. I wouldn't be able to use it for birthday candles or a bonfire. While many lights malfunction in the rain I expect this one will too since it is electrical and a bic simply needs to dry. So the winner is a bic in a ziploc.

The world's richest man

Jeff Bezos is reported to be the richest man in the world earning something like $250M per day. But I have some questions:

  • Does "per day" mean 7 days a week or just Monday thru Friday?
  • What fraction of his income comes from AWS?
  • What fraction of his income comes from the Amazon store?
But what I really want to know is what portion of his income is from consumers in the US? If you want to point your finger at a welfare recipient look no further.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

bug bivy

Keep in mind that bivy's are not typically big proof. You still need to spray the bivy with something like permethrin. Too many reviewers skip that step.


Flack posted the question:
I am getting pretty sick of the little *******s. I am in Florida and they are a year-round problem--to the point of making hanging sometimes very unpleasant. I am moving towards a DIY hammock adn have been using a full enclosure net. The problem is where elbows, shoulders, back of hands etc rest against the hammock cloth and press outward against the net. Big mosquitoes have no real trouble getting through that. On a bad night you just lie there like Gulliver afraid to move one way or another. What I want to know is if anyone has any real experience with this and can say if silnylon will in fact block a mosquitoe's stinger? Maybe heavier than 1.1 oz? what is the collective wisdom on this?
This is also my experience and it sucks. There are two things one can do:

  1. spray the hammock, bugnet, tarp with permethrin
  2. while I like hammocks like the Dutchware Chameleon nothing beats a proper mosquito net that wraps 360 deg. I like the Dutchware sock but there are plenty of options
The same can be said for bivy bags and tarps.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Keto and Hellmann's Mayo?

I'm far from an expert on things KETO or even a dietitian but when I buy Avocado Mayo I expect than and not other things. I always thought that mayo was a egg whites and oil emulsified with a little salt. Now Hellman's is flavoring their mayo.

Strangely Helleman's decided to add Soybean Oil and Sugar. Both cause an insulin response. Sugar is the crack of the food industry... WTF Hellman's?

BTW Hellman's is kinda sketchy as they made it hard to find and copy/paste the ingredients and nutritional information.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

the wedge

My 10x10' 2GoSystems tarp with reflective coating configured in a wedge for the first time.

There is a lot of room under this tarp.  Thank you Dave Canterbury for the inspiration.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Tent camping checklist

This is the essential gear needed for tent camping:
  • tent sized for the number of occupants
Commonly required gear:
  • knife
  • flashlight
  • first aid
  • water filter kit
  • water
  • food
  • bear bag or canister
  • phone
  • compass and map
  • hat
  • rain gear
  • depending on the weather some sort of insulation from the bottom; usually an under quilt but a pad or mattress could be useful if there are no trees
  • and some sort of blanket
  • change of socks
  • cook kit including pot, fuel, stove
  • spoon depending on the food
  • stakes unless you make your own or use rocks
  • GPS
  • insect spray
  • sunscreen
  • sun umbrella
  • groundsheet
It's time for a hike

Bivy camping checklist

This is the essential gear needed for bivy camping:
  • tarp with cordage
  • bivy treated with permethrin
Commonly required gear:
  • knife
  • flashlight
  • first aid
  • water filter kit
  • water
  • food
  • bear bag or canister
  • phone
  • compass and map
  • hat
  • rain gear

  • tent poles or trekking poles
  • depending on the weather some sort of insulation from the bottom; usually an under quilt but a pad or mattress could be useful if there are no trees
  • and some sort of blanket
  • change of socks
  • cook kit including pot, fuel, stove
  • spoon depending on the food
  • stakes unless you make your own or use rocks
  • GPS
  • insect spray
  • sunscreen
  • sun umbrella
It's time for a hike

Hammock camping checklist

This is the essential gear needed for hammock camping:

  • hammock
  • straps
  • optional extension straps
  • tarp with cordage
  • bugnet treated with permethrin
Commonly required gear:
  • knife
  • flashlight
  • first aid
  • water filter kit
  • water
  • food
  • bear bag or canister
  • phone
  • compass and map
  • hat
  • rain gear

  • depending on the weather some sort of insulation from the bottom; usually an under quilt but a pad or mattress could be useful if there are no trees
  • and some sort of blanket
  • change of socks
  • cook kit including pot, fuel, stove
  • spoon depending on the food
  • stakes unless you make your own or use rocks
  • GPS
  • insect spray
  • sunscreen
  • sun umbrella
It's time for a hike

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Lighten up dude

I posted the following question on facebook:
HAMMOCK hikers... With a little extra cash I'm able to get my hammock, tarp, straps, stakes under 1 lb and under $200. But so many of those hammock companies are selling mattresses, pods or under quilts for insulation and additional comfort but I take exception to the weight, volume and cost for even the coldest Florida months.
When you hammock camp what do you bring?

What I received was a mixed bag but while I was expecting to hear from some ounce counters they were silent. What has me perplexed is whether or not the respondents were hikers or campers. And there is clearly a difference when you have to carry all that gear with you. After a recent overnight hike with my 17 lb pack it took 3 days for my shoulders to recover; and this was my summer pack. (3.5 lb water, 2 lb food, the rest was shelter, sleeping kit, water filter, and some misc first aid and fire.)

This is my basic hammock kit. [a] hammock, [b] straps, [c] bugnet, [d] tarp, [e] inflatable pillow. This kit weighs just under 2 lb. The only thing not pictured here is a whoopie ridgeline. Luckily there is room for some compression and it still fits in the JUMBO Ziploc. I think if I converted this to a hummingbird brand I might be able to shed 3/4 to 1 lb but not much difference in volume.

In the Florida summer one can expect the daytime temps to get between 90 and 100 Fahrenheit; in the evenings the temps can drop to between 70 and 80 but that does not happen until 11p or later. In my case I sweat a lot and while going to sleep with my clothes on is normal. Above (on the right; in red) is a sleeping bag liner which is also like a sock and can be a challenge to get into and out of. It did help wick away some of my sweat and it did provide some cooling. On the left is a blanket and behind is a hydrophobic pad. As part of my fall/winter kit they provide insulation from the convection airflow when it's breezy. The summer liner only adds about 1/2 lb and the blanket 1 1/2 lb.

So the lesson I think I'm learning here is that volume is not that big of a deal. While my blanket weighs 23oz so do down sleeping bags and although they have greater volume requiring a larger pack they should no change your load. Of course if your goal is to go light and small then that is a different mission and it's going to cost you.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

sharp things

I was 13 years old and pretty independent and adventurous. I was visiting my bio-mom on Vancouver Island in the city of Victoria. While she worked during the day I would go on adventures. I took photos with a film camera and walked to the store to develop and print the film. I stripped a bike down to the bare metal, stripped and painted it and started to putt it back together.

One weekend we decided to visit an island known at the time as Barry's Island. We hopped into the car and rented some snorkel gear, loaded up the canoe, got some provisions and headed out. As memory serves the commute took hours. First we had to drive to the ferry, then drive to the second ferry, and finally drive to the landing where we loaded up the canoe and paddled what seemed like 5 miles to Barry's Island.

It was still pretty early, and as I remember I went off adventuring. I walked the entire perimeter of the Island. I nearly fell in a few times as there were sheer drops from time to time. I survived. We had dinner and they put up their tent. I was handed a sleeping bad and a tarp and told to figure it out. I opted for a modest lean-to close to the water's edge. It turns our this was not a good choice since I was forced awake by the high tide and the water lapping just inches from my bedroll.

Now that I was awake, and hungry, I urged the others to wake up. I remember Barry telling me to start a fire. Looking around I found an ax and started to make some kindling. Unfortunately I was 13 and this was a man's ax. After producing just 2 or 3 pieces of kindling I manged to but my index finger on my non-dominant hand. There was blood everywhere. We hopped back into the canoe, paddled the 5 miles back to the car, drove to either a doctor or a vet and I got 3 or 4 stitches (which I removed myself 5 days later). Returning to the island campsite a few hours later... we put on our wet suits and went swimming with the fishes. The water was crystal clear and there was plenty to see.

I do not remember much else from that weekend. Not even if we spent a second night.

The moral of the story if there is one... sharp things are going to cause some potential trouble when you least want it. Hiking, anywhere, comes with great risk and if you decide to use your tools like a sharp knife at a time when hiking back out could be riskier than staying put. Sure these things do not happen to you... but I'm not hiking 15 miles in the everglades at night to get to a hospital or first aid. Night time is a time for rest.

The overnight pack

Looking at the Sea to Summit day pack I'm drawn to reconsider my overnight pack again. What do I really need for an overnight....

The 5 Cs
  • Cut
  • Cordage
  • Cover
  • Combustion
  • Container
The Rule of 3's
  • 3 minutes without air
  • 3 hours without shelter
  • 3 days without water
  • 3 weeks without food
Since the area I'm talking about is well traveled and limited to about a 12 mile loop not much can go wrong. But again as I consider that my last hike I carried bout 20 lb of stuff in my pack I think I can go lighter... simply put I only used a fraction of what I brought.
  • hammock, straps, bugnet sock, tarp, stakes.
  • poncho
  • lighter
  • bug spray, sunscreen
  • extra socks
  • water
  • water filter and dirty water bag
  • bear bag and line
  • snacks
  • tweezers, tape, gauze, Imodium, water treatment
  • flashlight with fresh batteries
I brought and did not use but good to have
  • mosquito net
  • emergency whistle
  • small knife
  • toilet paper
  • misc meds
  • sleeping bag liner depending on how wet you are
  • anti bacterial
I also brought but did not need:
  • ultralight air mattress
  • fero rod, frankly why bother either this or the lighter
  • solo stove, too wet to burn tinder; food spoiled anyway
  • very light LED lights
And I brought but was a comfort item
  • inflatable pillow
  • sit pad doubled as a floor mat
And I did not bring
  • fuel stove
One other luxury item was a handsaw. It just makes processing wood easier if you want a fire. This is a real saw and not a swiss army knife.

Lastly I can cut the shelter weight in half with just a poncho, a bivy, and a small foam pad.

sweet hammock

I'm not sure what I was doing but Amazon made a hammock recommendation that I'm captivated by. The prices and workmanship has greatly improved over the past 18-24 months but after all my recent tribulations this looks like a steal.

Bugnet, hammock, suspension... weighing in at about 13-14oz. Better still the KIT is rated for 350 pounds and the width is just over 5ft. Many other single/solo hammocks are 4ft wide and that's too narrow for an adult to lay diagonally. The hummingbird double is 7ft wide which is unheard of and still only weighs 10.2oz. That's amazing.

By comparison the Sea to Summit costs $170, a difference of $10) and weighs about 32oz. That's double the weight of the hummingbird and there is no hardware lockin.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

The hammock critics are in

Here are some hammocks and why I do not like them...

The ENO hammock, straps, and tarp might be bullet proof, however, they are heavy. Probably the heaviest in the bunch. I cut my hammock teeth on this hammock and I should have saved my money. I tried to replace the straps with 770 cordage and other straps but both failed. The tarp does not really fit in the bag.

The one Yukon Outfitters(YO) hammock is lighter than the next but their straps are heavy. I replaced one set of straps with some Dutchware gear which made the lighter hammock a better contender but not by much. The bugnet is heavier than the alternative from Dutchware too. It also barely fits in it's sack. Lastly the diamond shaped tarp is useless for anything else and while not heavy it's not the lightest. YO no longer sells these modes. My guess the materials are too light.

I have 2 complete Outdoor Vitals(OV) hammocks and tarps. The last thing I just noticed as I tried to re-stuff the ENO back in it's sack is the similarity to the OV tarp. The corners, the hardware, the way the hardware was attached, the design of the stuff sack. The hammocks are 4' wide which makes it harder to sleep diagonally. These were purchase before they sold their double, however, it's a strange size when compared to the STS who single is 5" wide. UPDATE I forgot to mention that OV uses whoopie slings instead of straps and the demo video cautions against getting them dirty.

Not pictured above is the Klymit Traverse and tarp. These are just stupid heavy and I want to return them before I try them out. I've determined that a modest hammock setup is going to weigh about 2 pounds; this combo weighs double that and nearly double the pack volume.

The dutchware bugnet is awesome. The OV bugnet might be a close second because of it's price but it seems heavier from the materials. The Sea to Summit tarp is tucked away. It has an odd shape making it difficult to use it for other purposes; but not impossible. The stuff sack can be a challenge if you are in a rush. The straps are not universal.

In conclusion I'm confident that a 2 pound hammock shelter is possible and no more costly. Deploying a hammock shelter means that you need trees, some camps do not permit hammocks, and in some cases the ground under the hammock can be dangerous. Of course there is a ground configuration but that takes practice and defeats the purpose.

  • STS pro with hammock tarp and bugnet will cost about $250 at just about 23oz.
  • SixMoonDesigns Luna weighs 26oz and costs $200; all you need is a trekking pole.
  • Borah Bivy and tarp weighs under a pound and costs about $150 but it needs to fit correctly or you'll get bit anyway; manufactured on demand.
  • Paris bivy and tarp costs $140 and weight 24oz; with the advantage of overnight shipping.


THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A SINGLE AND DOUBLE -- One might think that a double is suited for two people. Well, it is, sort of. It just means that there is slightly more width t the product but that does not add any strength. The manufacturers above make no separate claims. The extra width is supposed to offer room for a second person but frankly there are still unreasonable weight limits (400 pounds is not much) and because the hammock is not tapered the side have a tendency to wrap the person like a cocoon. And only more so in the double.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018


Many months ago I built a spreadsheet to comparing about 30 different tarp manufacturers and models. The basic conclusion is that there is an unreasonable premium on some of the superlight materials as well as some brands consider themselves premium and exclusive so they charge extra just because they can.

My new position is that I'd rather pay less, with a little extra weight and/or volume, but I have to be able to replace damaged gear in the time it take Amazon prime to deliver to anywhere in the US. One thing I like about Amazon is that I can order a complete wishlist so I do not have to bring anything with me.

In the last week I have been experimenting with hammocks. Hammocks are no different from any other shelter system in stat there are extremes in prices depending on the materials although some materials have dropped in price.

TARPS - hammock tarps seems to have different shapes. While flat tarps work the other tarps don't always work for others... The Yukon hammock tarp is a diamond that only works for hammocks uless desperate.

HAMMOCK - comes in different lengths, widths, capacities, and materials. No one seems to be able to agree on what ultralight means. Some are double layer and some have integrated bugnets.

BUGNET - sock, bottom entry, zip,

STRAPS - lots of technology here including some exotic cordage and Ti hardware. The seatosummit straps are 100% custom so if you need a hammock you also need straps. The straps are from a light materials... unfortunately they seem to slip and has an extra expense.

RIDGELINE - I hate to explain this item... it supposed to be 83% of the length of the hammock. It;s supposed to create a consistent sag in the hammock material. Mine always seem to be taught like a piano string and the books say that's wrong.

PADS or Insulation depending on the weather.

My gestimate is that an average and reasonably complete hammock system is going to cost about $200 and weigh about $2 pounds. Once you get to exotic insulation the model is broken. One nice thing about a hammock is that it can double as a camp chair offering some camp comfort. On the other hand if you are a hiker then one usually hikes to bed.

By comparison my tarp, bivy, and pad cost $200 and weighed just under a pound. The problem here is that depending on the season this system has a 4-5 week lead time.

By comparison I have a new tarp, bivy that cost $50 less and can be ordered overnight.

One thing for sure, having both has a benefit. Here in FL when the ground is saturated then having a hammock is a benefit. Also, pads and bugnets are not always necessary but you probably need to carry them anyway. But to go light you have to commit to one or the other.

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 ...