Friday, November 30, 2018

7x9 tarp half mid

I have a number of different tarps in different sizes. I'm not bragging because it's stupid to have this much gear specially when I hike about 4 times a year. SAD!

Watching Evan Shaeffer hike with his 8.5x8.5 cuban tarp and JupiterHikes with his tarp and listening to their stories... as well as flatbrokehiker and some books I've read ... There is stuff to be learned. [a] be comfortable [b] endure some discomfort [c] just take what you need [d] camp is meant for sleeping.
I think MLD has a tarp they call the "monk". It's a lightweight 4x8 or 4x9 if they even sell it anymore.
I've been testing my 5x9 in the backyard and it's been OK. No major challenges that I can see. It is clearly the "monk" style where it's just meant for sleep and there is not much wrong with that. There's not much room under the tarp for deploying a pole to keep the bugnet of my bivy off my face.

BorahGear 5.5x9
There is just enough coverage under the tarp and to stay dry you gotta stay away from the opening. You might be able to sit up but hunched a bit. Cooking could be risky.

BorahGear 7x9
You might not be able to tell but the 7x9 is two feet deeper meaning the setup could be dryer from the initial deploy. There were a couple of challenges with this setup. The ridge from the pole to the back tieout had more tension because it was heavier. The trekking pole did not have the basket so getting it to stay put was a challenge and will likely need a better knot. Being almost square the angle were different. What's nice is that I can sit up, even cook under cover (alcohol, tab or gas).

As much as a criticize tarps that a asym or catcut and biased for AFrame conflagrations this seems like the ideal configuration for a flat tarp. Certainly I can create more room or ventilation with a second trekking pole. I can also pitch it closer to the ground. This particular tarp only has tieout points around the perimeter and so that limits the usefulness.

The tarp could not be tensioned in all directions but this seemed like it was still OK. I had not hammered the stakes deep into the ground as I should and with this configuration they'd just pop out so it's reasonable.

I initially thought that the back wall should be square. Once I put tension on the pole through to the back-center I realized that a slight bow was preferred.

Lastly, when folded like a sheet the 7x9 packs small. I'm not sure this is reasonable in the rain but it's possible... but if you are using a small pack like a UD-15 then you better practice. Things I like about this configuration:

  • I only need 3 cords and no special knots.
  • a trekking pole is best but a tent pole works. Even better a bush or a tree can act as a 4th wall.
  • using a poncho tarp eliminates some gear
  • easier to get in/out of than an a-frame
Moving on...

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Google fi FAIL bait

OK OK OK - first of all my SIM cards have not arrived yet so I have not plugged in, however, for some reason YouTube keep recommending Google fi reviews and frankly they ALL suck. Firstly they are just bad, secondly, they are old, and thirdly they are wrong.

The biggest complaint is the number of different billing strategies these people describe. They are generally wrong. One person said that you had to prepay for your data and anything unused would be applied to the following month. Of course that may have been the way it was initially, however, there is this:

This was grabbed from the google fi billing page. Clearly there is no prepay.

Next, even though it's not active yet, google has not asked me to prepay for text and talk. I've completed the registration, awaiting activation, and my balance is still ZERO.

Third, while text and talk has a base monthly cost of $20 plus tax and fees... it's about the same as a residential landline. There was another twit who migrated from google fi to ATT and was talking about billing... Google fi is simply the cheapest so what was he talking about.

I realized a long time ago that I have an audience of none and that this platform has no real value.

Altra goes streetwear

I hate streetwear!

It's an excuse to take money from people who want prestige based on what they wear and not who they are. And many cannot afford. Which may lead to someone stealing the shirt off your back. (I really like what Hasan says about it.)

Just as the person who stored the patterns for skinny jeans and bell bottoms from the 70s they made a killing when they resurfaced just a few years ago. Urbanwear does not tell me anything good about you as a person. It only says negative.

You are not an individual when your impulse is to follow.

Google FI

The project has been renamed from "project fi" to "google fi". If you think that's boring, it is. What is interesting is all the other stuff.

  • I have a, grand-fathered, free G-Suite domain and I was able to enable the service
  • My unlocked Moto G5plus is supported
  • My Wife's iPhone is also supported although I might need to unlock it
  • Combined pricing is cheaper than our ATT family plan, and by $50 a month if we use everything
I'm always conscience about whether my wifi is on or not. On the one hand giving my browser history to the cell carrier versus the local hotspot is always troubling. The idea of a 3rd party VPN is also a pain and sort of a FAIL in itself specially when they are not carrier level players.

What have I learned:
  • now I will not care if wifi is on or not.
  • I will not care if my kids tether movies or games
  • I will still have bandwidth leftover for work
Now the next question:

Is it time to buy the kids their own phone? I do not have an answer for that yet, however, even though they are 7 & 8 I am asking the question because we are talking about buying them Apple Touch but since they are so expensive why not a phone?

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

explain new cars

Kia has to explain why they have 3 car models that are essentially the same with a base MSRP within $1000 of each other.

Well, in the KIA brand it seems that there really are some differences. The Niro is some sort of hybrid, the Sorento is a passenger hauler with 3rd row seating and the Sportage is somewhere in between. While the Sorento might be the battleship of the product line it's price range in the model start's off with the engine and then the trim. It's real easy to get to $40K.

Never Settle

Nice video. I wish I had heard this years ago.

"Every project we do we ask a series of questions"

  • does the project excite us? (projects can last for years)
  • will it be fun? (will it be fun for everyone involved)
  • will the project build our reputation? (will it take me closer to my ultimate goal)
  • will we have creative control? (not the customer; not that we do not want to do our best work for them)
  • do we have time? (no overtime)
any no then we do not do the project

The last question that we ask is "will we make money?". Driven by sales not projects. 

naughty knots - K.I.S.S.

I'm always willing to learn new things but that usually comes at the price of discarding something old. For example bowline knot and taut line hitch are pretty well stuck. I've tried to replace the bowline a few times but nothing sticks. In that case the alternatives have not really improved the situation whether it's cordage used or strength of the know or the use'cases.

This guy has me believing that he's using a double dragon knot and a farrimond hitch and after practicing with them for a while I do not believe it.

Some people collect pens and some people collect knots. I suppose if you've spent years on the same know and like me change means giving something up then I get it. However, they are not better knots. Personally I use micro cordage, anything from 1-2.5mm or #36 bankline. A few extra inches for a good knot is OK, however, the line strength is about 100-300 pounds so any knot will do. And frankly, the simpler the better.

  • bowline - either a small one as a loop at the end or a large one around a tree
  • taut line hitch - guy line tensioner
  • prusik - tarp ridgeline tensioner or even a guy line tensioner
  • stop knot - new but difficult to take apart
  • figure 8 - alternative to a bowline and stop knot as it's sometimes easier to take apart
  • trucker hitch - the other end of a ridgeline but that's it
  • fisherman's knot - similar to a box (think shoe laces) but better
  • clove hitch - stakes or poles


Monday, November 26, 2018

fancy linelocs no more

I was watching this video... then I tried to buy some of the linelocs that he demonstrated but they were sold out.

So I started to looks at Dutchware for some gear that might work. It's not the first time that I've done this recently. But I at least put 5 items in the cart and I started to think about quantities. That's when I realized I was going down the same path again.

At the end of the day it's all about the cordage, knots, and twigs.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Another Amazon FAIL

it's clear that we are in the holiday shopping season and that with all the shipping things are going to go wrong. But I'm not sure that VERY wrong is to be expected and that Amazon is not going to help.

I have two different orders. The first was a pair of long sleeve shirts. According to Amazon it was supposed to be delivered early in the week but then the package was damaged in Miami. So I had the chance to refund or replace. I opted for the replace because I wanted the shirts. Now Amazon is tracking the package, yesterday, it was in Miami and Today it seems to be in San Bernardino. I just do not know how this happens...

The second purchase was a 32GB ram module for my computer. Amazon sent it through their own system and while it was originally reported to be delivered Friday they changed the information Thursday morning to say it was going to be delivered Thursday. In fact Amazon said, OUT FOR DELIVERY.

Well, it never arrived. As of this morning the history has not changed and yet it still reports OUT FOR DELIVERY.

Regardless of the season Amazon Prime made certain promises. They electronically change their collective minds at will without compensation. And Amazon Prime prices are generally higher than non-prime prices.

Amazon is growing so big, so fast, that they seem to be the facebook of retail and by the time government figures it out it may be too late.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Kilt hiking

I wonder if there is a lesson learned for long distance hiking?

Seems like such a compact way to carry your stuff. Just add a bedroll.

half pyramid

I decided to use the hiking pole to make a half pyramid and it worked great.

The cordage is still the doubled up 1.18mm cordage and it was a serious pain in the ass as I tried to deploy. The knots got tangled everywhere. What's great about this setup is that the tarp is 9x5.5 with plenty of room underneath. I will have to give this a try with a torso length pad, pillow, bivy and quilt.

The most important thing about this configuration is that it's compact and lightweight.

Sprint: Lease iPhone

It's Thanksgiving 2018 and Sprint is running an advert:
LEASE an iPhone and it'll be an iPhone XR

This is the stupidest thing I've ever seen. First this is still the retail price. Second they are taking advantage of the lucrative aftermarket. They make no mention of warranty or replacement if it breaks and we all know how fragile the screen is.

You would be better off buying a Motorola for $200-300. Keeping it for 2-3 years and then either trading it in or putting it in the drawer in case the new one breaks.

Just keep in mind that $1000 goes a long way whether it's rent, car loan, food, or a real computer. Personally I'd prefer to have an extra computer or even a better display.

running out of memory

For the last 3 years I have been building and expending a report generator for a client. In that time I've produced about 1700+ individual reports which have run hundreds of times if not more. In that time I have learned a number of interesting things...
  • templates and macros are good
  • parameters and recursion are even better
  • uploading to some storage like AWS and emailing links instead of content
  • scheduling
  • concurrency and DB capacity is a serious challenge
  • replication is going to cause issues
  • reporting engine in proximity to the DB server causes latency and other costs
  • reporting engine capacity
What I'm fighting with is trying to get management to scale up the systems so that we can get more done in shorter periods. As time progresses we are putting more reports in production and they are reporting on more data all of which takes longer and risks failing due to memory or timeout constraints.

This also falls back on the challenge of not paying for idle hardware.

the way I think about shelter

Watching this video where the presenter demoed 3 different pitches for a 5x9 poncho I was impressed. I have a natural bias for the a-frame even though the pyramid and flying diamond are easier to get in and out of. Also, I really like the weight of tent poles instead of trekking poles but I'm getting used to the idea of trekking poles again. Just too many shelter options.

In this demo he used FOUR 6-foot and FOUR 3-foot pieces of cordage. And EIGHT stakes. Each setup used everything.
I can't go with less than a 9x12 absolutely waterproof silly long tarp.. -- a comment on the video
I'm of the opinion that when you hike then you JUST need the shelter to sleep. So there is no real need for all that extra space. If, on the other hand, you're camping then you might want to stay out of the weather for longer periods. Frankly I can make an argument for two 5x9 tarps (one tarp, one poncho-tarp) instead of one large 9x12.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

It's not square!!!

Simply put "flat tarps" meant to be at right angles are still analog and not digital.

This is a Yama 8.5x8.5 flat tarp hung diagonally and the center simply does not hold. The water will pool and it will be damaged.

And it's cheap... Does anyone make quality cordage anymore?

Monday, November 19, 2018

upgrading rancheros in place ... so bad

I'm upgrading RancherOS, in place, on one of my nodes in the my DEV cluster and frankly it's a fail. What started off as a quick download has turned into a build. As to what Rancher is building on my system I have no idea, however, when compared to CoreOS auto deploy interruptions I do not care. I can deal with a system that is rebooted and the Docker Swarm can too... but having to wait while Rancher recompiles swaths of the system and causes the VMware web interface to crash or timeout.

Furthermore with a 32GB ram system having to partition the VMware by node I've already discovered some applications unable to complete the task because the cap on memory allocation.

frustrated yet?

Are you frustrated but all the choices for gear? Just last night, on a Shark Tank rerun, one of the sharks said that hikers/campers would buy a collapsible pot because hikers buy stuff. Then this morning I was watching The Patriot Act when the presenter was talking about conspicuous consumption. All that rattling around in my head as I tried to decide whether my go to kit was going to be ground based or hammock based, tent or tarp, air mattress or pad, cheap and heavy or expensive and heavy.
Let's face it hiking, especially long distance hiking, is in itself conspicuous consumption. I did not like it as a kid and I do not like it as an adult and as a parent too. (as I stare at my small collection of Swiss Army Knives included limited edition.)
The sad reality is that even though these bobs carry Bug Out Bags they really cannot plan for every eventuality. One guy had a tarp and hammock. And said that if there are no trees that a mylar bivy was the fallback. Dropping into urban vs wilderness with the intent to escape and evade is so mu different than going for a hike, making a wrong turn, and just trying to stay alive.

As I look at my 5x9 tarp over my hammock, 5x9 tarp over the ground, the hammock stand and tent poles ... thinking about the fire damage in my favorite hiking places ... being conspicuously UL I know that I know nothing more or new since I started. I know that once I make a gear selection that I can be committed to that choice but getting to that point is difficult.

I like my manicured lawn. Sleeping on the ground and not dragging sand into my bed sleeping bag or bivy means something to me. When primitive camping, with the kids, in Disney or Circle F I'm constantly fighting the sand. Not to mention that the ground is rock hard and puts demands on mattresses and pads. At Nobles Camp the grass was so tall that I had to consider cutting the grass in order to setup the shelter.

One realization is that tent poles are not necessary. [a] Some sort of wedge would work from a tree or maybe a bush. [b] you just gotta look for a stick and improvise.

Getting up off the dirt means having a hammock but that creates new problems when the weather is wonky. Think convection and conduction. Then there is overall fit of the tarps, and the availability of trees. But a hammock has another benefit. Just some place to rack out for a nap. They take no time to setup and especially in the swamp or side of a mountain or hill.

Still no decisions yet.

In the setup above I was using these alloy hooks. THEY FAILED

Yama 8.5x8.5 tarp positioned square did not cover the 9.5 hammock

Diagonally the approx. 11ft length covered nicely. 
The diagonal configuration of the Yama tarp worked well. It had the same challenges that the other tarps did as the variable tension of the stand were a challenge. One offsetting feature was that there were only 2 side tie-outs. These can be raised with a tent or trekking pole. Maybe even some sticks. When taught and connected with shock cord the tarp is reliable.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Nap during the day

Trying to nap during the day in Florida does not pay dividends when it's in the 80s. I pitched my tarp, added the groundsheet, air mattress and pillow.

The groundsheet is some tyvek with a reflective coating. I do not feel strongly one way or the other, however, it might have been better for shade in the afternoon rather than the tarp.

The mattress was comfortable, specially side sleeping. I've used it before and it's not bad. There are challenges because this model seems to have some memory when it's stored and initially it was curled here and there regardless of the inflation. Also, I tried it inside my Boarh bivy because it was thin, however, the ground was hard. Here, in my backyard the grass offers some cushion.

Lastly, the tent poles that I used are about 32 inches. That's not enough to sit up. And depending on the ground my knees are going to take a beating. Lastly the A-frame offers some protection but nothing fantastic. The breeze was nice but that's because it was hot. Hot means bugs so there is a bivy test in the future and the last time I tried that it was a complete fail.

daisy chain or prusik

In my no-hardware post I try out daisy chain guy lines. While using lightweight 1.18mm cordage or even bank line to make daisy chain guy lines is simple and reliable the challenge is that the knots cause things to hangup on itself. Also it uses 2x the cordage (even at 1.18mm).
I do not like bank line because I keep tripping over it in the dark and sometimes in the middle of the afternoon. The line smells and that smell is tr transferred to my hands.
 I still like tent poles instead of trekking poles but most tarps do not have grommets. Yama and Dutchware sell grommet contraptions I just do not know how well they work or how long they last.

1.18mm cordage daisy chain difficult to see

1.18mm cordage with prusik

Initially I take issue with the amount of cordage. And secondly the knots and overall manageability. But now that I think about it some more there is the issue of the stakes. To be effective, and safe, the stakes need to be pounded into the ground at ground level. Take that for what it is. However if you were making stakes from branches then things go sideways quickly. Not everyone has access to hardwood stakes, or a hammer. So once it's in the ground you want it to stay there. And so having an adjustable prusik is a better choice. (linelocs are fast to deploy too.)

Saturday, November 17, 2018

All the same to me

This is not particularly a hiking post but I am at a point where I need to start thinking about a new car as my lease has 5 months left. My preference, at this point, is some kinda smaller crossover.

  • Nissan Rogue $24,800+
  • Rav 4 - no way
  • Murano - no way
  • RX - no way
  • Equanox - no way
  • Forester - $26,583+
  • Explorer - $32,365+
  • Q3 - $32,900+
  • CRV - $24,350+
  • Volvo - no way
  • hyundai Tucson - 20,050+
  • VW Tiguan - $22,250+
What a mess!

no hardware

One article I read make the suggestion that toggles are hardware even if you use twigs. After I initially conceded the point and tested some knots I was OK with the findings. Then I watched this video:

Normally a corner guyline is 3-5 feet... he recommended 6 feet. Attach it to the corner and then tie loops every 6-10 inches. When deploying the tarp pick the angle then the loop and then set the stake. My favorite part about this is that I'm not tying knots in the cold or in a hurry. Also there are a number of ways to attach this to the guy out points so that there is some flexibility. And more importantly I can use some micro cordage.

What I had been considering was some 2.5mm cordage and some variation of prusik knots and soft shackles. The clear difference here is that this configuration is clearly more technical than the former. Also I can carry a lot of micro cordage where the 2.5mm cordage does take up space and weight.

UPDATE I assembled six 5ft segments and two 7ft segments. On each end I attached a small mitten hook. And created a series of knots about every 6-7 inches. Precision was not important. Next I attached them to the 5.5x9 foot Boarah Gear tarp. I deployed the tarp with two 33 inch tent poles.

the cordage
look closely for the knot and mitten hook
quick to deploy a stake
attach the pole for the ridgeline
Considering that some part of the pole get's buried in the ground 36-40 inches would be better. But let's consider some math... 5.5*12/2 = 33.  That means half the width of the tarp is 33in and if I wanted the sides flush to the ground I'd have to go lower than 33 in. I have a 7x9 tarp from Borah and if I wanted the same configuration I'd need a 42 in pole. Which means a 36 in pole with the second tarp might be ideal. You might be asking yourself why poles instead of adjustable trekking poles. These tent poles are much lighter than trekking poles.

UPDATE here's a cool video with some interesting options.

As much as I like tent poles this example with trekking poles make perfect sense. That it's a leanto style means you really need to know where the wind or the rain is coming from. Getting it wrong means you have to re-orient the poles. An A-frame might be OK if the rain is falling straight down. A 32 inch pole does not give you enough room.

UPDATE: six 5 foot and two 7 foot turned out to be nearly 100 feet of 1.18mm cordage. A spool from Atwood runs between 10 and 20 bucks depending on type and availability.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Rancher Labs online classes

Rancher 1.x was a cool project. I liked the approach of deploying the controller, then adding workers, and then deploying applications. Under the covers the orchestration could support several different models including adding sidekicks and persistent container following. They really did some work to spearhead the persistent containers which can be complicated because of remote caching, change management, security and so on. They also supported many different models of orchestration including their own cattle, swarm, meso, kubernetes.

With Rancher 2.x they cut the cord on all orchestration but kubernetes. There may be some backporting except that Rancher excels reverse engineering clusters as well as deploying them. They have not talked about the internal design or motivations but it's clear that a running cluster is more authoritative than the data structure you think you captured that might represent the model.

That said picking the authority is a challenge. Worse still is trying to identify, recover and repair broken systems. I described this problem months ago and it is still an open issue. Strangely while I run swarm in production when it goes south I have to rebuild it from scratch. Docker does not like to be repaired.

Years ago Hightower did some lights out operational demos. They were exciting to see containers crash and then be repaired. Even then the failures were pretty simple. Today Kubernetes is configured with a model that represents "this is how I should look" and kubernetes tests the live cluster and tries for a match. Filling in the parts that do not. I'm reminded of some Erlang cluster networking I did. Repairing an Erlang cluster is near impossible. Erlang would prefer a total failure with a restart... and so does Docker.

There is something to be said for complete redeploys. Especially when the system is small and fast enough. But if you've got hundreds or thousands of systems this is not practical. Then there's the other challenge of having hot spares, keeping the code and data in sync. One thing for certain is that each system is different and with different disaster and availability needs.

This is not really where I was taking this post, but it is clear that disaster recovery is still a thing and neither docker, kubernetes, nor rancher have that problem solved.

the pendulum swings away from hammocks

Today is the first 60 degree morning of the season. my hammock was still set up and I decided to crawl in with my blanket just to see how comfortable this might be overnight. Although the hammock is still rocking a little and there is occasional gust of wind my toes are warm my torso is warm but my back is still a little cold and the 1/8 in foam pad is just too cold.

The funny thing is I can't remember ever watching any demonstration video of somebody climbing into or out if a hammock having to adjust the pillow adjust their pad adjust their underquilt adjust their blanket all while not dropping anything onto the ground. I dropped my pillow once my blanket three times and only got lucky with the pad because I was busy with the others. Even more lucky that the wind was not blowing or the ground wet or rainy.

In the winter one stays warm by moving about and generating your own heat in the summer one gets cool by standing still and sweating. While I lay here in this hammock my feet are still toasty warm I suppose I could have worn some socks for an additional layer I could have warned Long John's as an additional layer but without a thicker pad under my back or maybe another blanket I will wake up very uncomfortable. I just do not think you can go SUL or UL in a hammock unless you are ready for some discomfort or you know exactly what the weather is.

There are a few reasons why people hike/sleep in hammocks the first is comfort the second is location location location. I suppose making the event more technical is another.

I'll make the point that peeing into a bottle in a tent or tarp is the best way to avoid the rain in the middle of the night. Climbing in and out of a hammock in the rain is no fun even if just to pee on your tree.

UPDATE well there was some improvement. I replaced the closed cell pad with a full length partially inflated Klymit ultralight air mattress (Massdrop model so it has some sticky bits on the bottom). With a little finesse I was able to mount the hammock without losing any gear. I was also able to fine tune the position of the mattress, pillow and blanket. The blanket is a Versa, also from Klymit. It shares some features with hiking quilts like some buttons and a pocket for your feet.

By now the temp had increased to 62 degrees but even so I think the test was still valid and consistent. After I was situated I was a lot more comfortable than my previous attempt. The difference this time is that a portion of my back that was exposed to the pad was now covered by my air mattress. This part was now warm. Sadly, because this mattress is slightly more narrow than my shoulders the parts of my shoulders that did not fit were exposed to the chill. Wrapping my shoulders in the blanket had some positive net effect but not enough for a good night's sleep.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

frustrated by hammock tarps

has me thinking about bivy sacks again:
  • Borah Gear Bug Bivy - 6oz, $73
  • Borah Gear Ultralight Bivy - 5.6-6.5oz, $90
  • Bear Paw Wilderness Designs - 9-21oz, $100-150
  • Outdoor Vitals hammock sock - 7.6oz, $37
  • Dutchware hammock sock -  8.1oz, $57
  • Enlightened Equipment Recon Bivy - 7.35oz, $160
  • Paria - 13oz, $59
  • MLD Bug Bivy - 6.5oz, $125
  • MLD Bug Bivy 2 - 7oz, $155
  • the friendly swede pyramid bugnet - 5oz, $16
  • sea to summit pyramid bugnet - 3oz, $34
  • Outdoor Research Bug Bivy - 16oz, $89
There are 2 types of bivys. The first is a more traditional version where the entire sack or apparatus is waterproof and self contained. There is a segment of the 1P tents that might also be considered bivy. The second is sort of a hybrid or even just a bugnet and sometimes just a bugnet tent.

The checklist:
  • cost - I think the cost should be less than $100. Anything more and you might as well buy a tent. There are many light weight tents in the $200 range. For example the SMD Skyscape Scout is $135 at 40oz. The deshutes plus is a SMD tarp with a bugnet skirt for $185 and 16oz.
  • in stock or on demand - Anything you can buy on Amazon is usually good, however, there is a Prime premium. Just so long as you can reach out to the seller and request next day in the same range and it does not cost much.
  • effective - holes per inch... The problem here is that noseeums are small. This site makes some recommendations in their products... 800 holes per inch. Sea to summit mentions 400.
  • weight must be less than 8oz but I prefer 6oz
  • multi-function -  only the hammock sock and the pyramid meet this criteria although they require some DIY to get there.
The rules:
  • check as many boxes as possible
  • extra points for multi function 
  • extra points for comfort
  • mattress or pad on the inside our outside
  • with or without a blanket
  • with or without stakes stays put
  • any bites
  • groundsheet  tyvek or polycryo
The winner:

I'm still recounting because I'm not sure when the hole size is for the different challengers. I'm also not 100% sure what the desired hole size is for keeping noseeums out. Update to follow tomorrow.

UPDATE I corrected the weights of the two pyramids.

As I continue to work out my options I'm reminded of that Fowler "tent vs hammock" video. Since it never took "tarp camping" into consideration I'll say it here that tarp camping would have yielded the same outcome as the hammock.

The next challenge is "what about the tarp"? In the configuration in my backyard right now I have my hammock stand, a 9x5' tarp and a 9.8' hammock. The first challenge is that the hammock will never fit under the tarp or at least not unoccupied because the hammocks stand is variable... also unless I extend the tarp, use a bigger one or the OV bugnet's sock covers the exposed end I'm getting wet.

This morning the outside of the tarp was soaked. It was humid and probably some rain last night. But that's nothing compared to the underside.

With the underside also soaked it's impossible to get out of bed to go pee without getting wet. Strangely since the tarp is so high off the ground I'm surprised even a slight breeze did not leave the underside dry. Therefore [1] sleep with a dry rag of some kind. [2] use a larger tarp.

  • Borah 5.5x9 - 8oz, $53
  • Borah 7x9 - 9.5oz, $98
  • Bear Paw Wilderness Designs 10x10 - 19oz, $115
  • Bear Paw Wilderness Designs 5.5x9 - 12oz, $96
  • Yama 8.5x8.5 - 16oz, $140
  • Snugpak Stash 5x8 - 12oz, $39
  • Gossamer Gear Twinn - 8oz, $155
  • Paria 10x8 Flat - 15.5oz, $79
  • Paria 10x7 cat - 10oz, $74
  • Outdoor Vitals 6 Sided 11x6.6 - 16oz, $79
  • Yukon Outfitters 11x9 - 14oz, $39
  • Sea to Summit hammock tarp 11x9 - 11oz, $149
One of the things I like about the tarps with the 5ft width is that they tend to be seamless which means that the seam will not fail and is slightly lighter than the same size with a seam. The challenge with 5ft wide tarps is the rain. If there is a lot of it your probably getting wet. An A-frame will offer some protection but not a lot. (The Wooded Beardsman was just talking about a storm and how important shelter is.)

Tieouts are a single point of failure. The more tieouts the more likely a failure but some of the tarps simply do not have enough. The Stash for one and the BPWD for second although you can customize the BPWD.

Jupiterhikes was vlogging about tarp camping and his tarp of choice is Borah, however, that particular model is no longer available. And given manufacturing times the Paria is a good choice too. Jupiter clims to have used the same tarp for 5 years.

  • Sea to Summit - vendor lock-in with straps 16oz, $69-79
  • Outdoor Vitals - advertised as ultralight but is not - 9oz, $74
  • Yukon Outfitters - most models are discontinued
  • Hummingbird - extremely light weight however regular straps are kinda useless, 7.6oz, $69
  • Eno - to heavy to research or care
Ground sheet:
  • polycryo - super light and cheap. Easy to replace. $9
  • tyvek - not completely waterproof, easy to replace $9
  • 2Go remnants - not waterproof but better than tyvek, reflective coating providing some R value. Since it's a remnant it's not longer available.

I wish the kit was completely clear but it's not. It really depends whether the primary function is ground or hammock. I like the ground because there is no falling and there are more choices when things go sideways.

The Combo kit:
  • polycryo - it's just too cheap and lightweight; but it's dry until it's not. Sucks that it might be sticky
  • torso length pad or mattress
  • blanket
  • Borah bivy or OV sock? I think the sock wins. First it works with both hammocks and ground sleeping. Second swing it around and get an extra 5 degrees warmth. My first Borah bivy is essentially a sock. The OV weighs less and is half the price. I will need to experiment but I might be able to get an umbrella in here to give me some volume.
  • Borah 7x9 or Paria 10x8 tarp will do the job. They have nearly the same cost and weight. Having that extra 2-3 foot width means keeping my pack close and dry. Where a 5x9 will barely keep me dry depending on the setup.
  • The hammock is a harder choice. First I can save 7-10oz just by leaving it at home, however, depending on the mission it's either a luxury item or a backup. So the hummingbird is a good first choice. And if hammocking were my first choice them the Sea to Summit kit would be my first choice.
The fix is in. Not in the sense of an election but in terms of the tarp.  The 9x5/6 tarps are just fine with the Hummingbird single plus hammock as well as ground shelter. The pack can rest in foot area of the hammock and the OV bugnet will extend coverage of the tarp. This morning there was some weather so my back was chilled. I added a torso length  1/8 inch foam pad and my back was toasty. There was a log of friction between my clothes and the pad so getting it into the right position was a challenge but not impossible. Even thought the comfort level is increasing I'm a side or stomach sleeper and that is a hammock nightmare.

farming food in space

I've started watching Origin on Youtube Originals and the first character is walking though what looks like a farm. I've hit pause for the moment because I'm reminded of Silent Running(1972) even though I do not know or remember the plots. In both cases they are growing plants that have real analogs in terrestrial farming today. And the density is similar too.

Recently I watched a video about the space shuttle and the ISS where the narrator was talking about the cost per pound to lift something into orbit. So that got me to thinking about the cost per sq.ft. and the overall production density. When watching Origin the character sees a small field of wheat. Just how much wheat does it take to make a box of of cereal.

Additionally, given the diversity of the planets food sources how many different machine types would be needed to harvest and process those different type of food? Are there foods that you simply could not produce? If you were going to mars would you takes seeds of every type knowing that not all the plants could be harvested in the first lifetime. So then what would you be willing to leave behind so that you had more of the stuff that you could use on day 1? What happens if the plants introduced in day one became poisonous to the mission? What happens if some condition exists that the plant becomes an alien on day 1?

UPDATE -- or a modern scifi movie why would they create a device called "oxygen storage". The ISS create oxygen from water. Water is almost as important if not more so. I'm not sure what the density of oxygen is in water and whether or not water is more efficient that way.

Shedding some extra gear

I was/am getting ready to shed some extra gear. In the past few months I have been practicing with different sized tarps. I have a number of 10x10 tarps and a newly purchased 8.5x8.5.  The smaller tarp was purchased in response to Evan Shaeffer's AT gear list. As a ground sleeper 8.5x8.5 is OK and it provides options for both with and without bugnets as well as general shelters. But if you've never used a 10x10 they are huge.

This is a 10' tarp and the hammock is also 10'. That means that the configuration needs to be perfect in order to star dry. Even a standard A-frame with a 10x10 flat tarp is a challenge. Once you're in the hammock the length is considerably less but not by much. Also this cat-cut tarp give you few options.

  • 8x8 is 64sq ft with a symmetrical diagonal of 11+
  • 7x9 is 63sq ft with a asymmetrical diagonal of 11+
The weight difference between an 8x8 and 10x10 depends on the material, however, for regular silnylon it's about 5oz. One constant tarp trap is deciding on the size based on the conditions or the mission. I have other tarps that are 9x6 that are black for quick dry as there is humidity year round in Florida. And if there is rain I'd go with a low pitch which can be a challenge. And then with large tarps you lose plenty of cross ventilation.

it was a quick setup and might not be perfectly level.

It looks the same but it is not. I made a number of changes... First it's only one hammock. Instead I clipped the static side to the tree wrap so that the side was generally static. The corner tieouts were the same 5' length as the other tarp so that brought the sides of the tarp close in. Longer lines would be better and offer the ability to use a trekking pole for ventilation. Importantly because this was a half-turtle stand that meant that I needed to guess on the slack. It's a 9' tarp and a 10' hammock. Another challenge will be dealing with the pack.

Ready for a nap it's 9a and dark under the tarp. By noon it will be hot under the tarp and I will need trekking poles or a fan.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

hummingbird hammock first impressions

I've only recently become hung on hammocks. As a hiker enthusiast I like UL and SUL gear in order to test myself in minimalist style or carry gear for different types of options. For example for just a few extra grams I can tarp+bivy camp or tarp+hammock. It's really about the availability of safe trees.

This past weekend I started a DIY project which I think "they" call half-turtle stand. 

hammock stand with two Outdoor Vitals hammocks

One end of the hammock is tied to a tree and the other to an 'X' shaped structure that is then guy'd to a fixed point or strong stakes. In the picture above there are two OV hammocks.

I added a 3rd hammock, hummingbird plus, to the hammock stand (can only use 2 at once) in order to give it a try. It is the lightest of the hammocks I own and the one that makes the most claims about it's strength/capacity, durability an testing. Let's get to the punchlist:
  • I weight 300 pounds at 5'11" and the plus is rated for 350
  • there is a lot of initial stretch as the materials relax and that seems common
  • The stuff sack is small but stuffed
  • The regular straps are VERY light and kinda short by comparison
  • The extended straps do give you some options and are also very light weight.
  • Everything seems well constructed and comfortable
Some drawbacks:
  • when it arrived and I unboxed it the blue hammock appeared dirty lit it was used material. This was not the case as the hammock and stuff sack are thin and somewhat translucent.
  • The stuff sack was so packed that there was no way I was going to get the straps in there... and since it's a "system" I do not imagine using anything else... would have been better to stuff the cords in the sack
  • The straps implement a better whoopie sling and I'm used to a longer compression section. They use some traditional knots as stop points. As light as it is there is some stretch as mentioned above and I'm not sure where that ends.
  • The material is strong however with my weight and center of gravity the hammock stretches at the pressure points.
My biggest complaint is the video:

Some place in the video the presenter talks about the physics of the angle of the straps pulling at 300 pounds but if the angle is wrong that the tension is at some multiple. Since then I've watched some related physics/numberphile videos and I find myself wanting to sleep on the ground again. While it's great to have the perfect setup it's not always likely. It always depends on the trees.

As for the straps both the regular and long are lightweight. Even the extenders are lightweight. My problem with them is that use buttons. These buttons are nice and flexible but they are essentially vendor lock-in; just like the Sea To Summit straps. But what really bothers me is the stuff sack and that there are too few bundle options.

About the size... The single is too small to sleep on as they say. The Single plus is better but I found that a diagonal was a challenge. And I do not have a double but it weighs 2.6oz more than the plus.

PRO TIP - remember to spray your bugnets and hammock with permethrin. This will provide needed protection.

PRO TIP #2 - to not dress your tarp over a ridgeline, hang the tarp from the ridgeline.... the ridgeline WILL bring rain water into the tarp. The same can be said of bugnet ridgelines. Bugnet socks are probably the better option.

PRICE TIP - if you live in the US then buy direct from the company site, $39,  and use amazon pay with standard free shipping. If you buy it on amazon then you'll pay $49 plus whatever it cost for you the annual membership.

UPDATE: The straps need to be flush against the tree in order to get maximum grip but once the webbing goes through the loop on the end it tends to bunch. This is not entirely bad, however, when the hammock is unoccupied the straps loosen such that when you're getting into it they may slip. This slippage happened to me twice. Unfortunately the webbing is not long enough to make it around the tree twice. I think there are a few extra reasons why this happened... it's a palm tree and they are not uniform. There were no branches to prevent it from slipping. The webbing is kinda short so I could not wrap it a second time. I have sent an email to the mfgr for some advice. One interesting bit; when working with Dutch Clips on my webbing they suggested a particular lay for the clip so that it was not taking all of the force but was allowing the webbing to make max contact with the tree therefore increasing the friction. That's just not the case here.

love hate with facts and fiction

 I have a love/hate thing going on with Outdoor Vitals. I believe they are a giving and spiritual based company and I only want them to succeed. However, sometimes I just cannot reconcile facts and fiction. The first is the the claim about being ultralight...

And after surveying different companies like ZPacks, Enlightenment, and a few others there is nothing about OV that is UL. To be clear there is no legal definition of Ultralight but there are norms for base back weight and depending on how long and how far UL means many different things. Basically Ultralight is an aggregate term for more than just what OV supplies.

Second, some months ago I purchase a couple of hammocks. I'm not sure why when one would hve been sufficient. I have a couple of other hammocks from Eno and Yukon-Outfitters that I'm not happy with; so OV seemed like a good choice. And because of how I plan my hiking and camping I like to have choices and backup plans... Therefore one more tarp. I did not own a hammock tarp with catcuts and yet they are all the rage.
The tarp looks great here. The hammock is snugged nicely underneath and so the lengths are good.

I'm not sure which hammock I purchased because the offering has changed since I bought mine.  I'm thinking it's the 10ft model.

The 6 sided tarp should have fit nicely.

But as you can see the end of the hammock is sticking out. Keep in mind that this is not a standard configuration. First I have two hammocks under there. Also, at one end I'm using a hammock stand so there is movement. But even so this is a hammockers worst nightmare...

The tarp is clearly wet. This is from rain, however, it's also very humid as the underside of the tarps are wet too. Interestingly one hammock had a puddle about midway which could only have been a leak as it was better positioned under the tarp but it was also sort of damp from the overall humidity. The second hammock had a streak of water from the end to the center. This was clearly rain.

One thing for sure is that setup and practice is everything. Second it's better when the gear helps or compensates for mother nature. And it's better when sales and marketing teams do not exaggerate.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

glow in the dark

Several years ago we had a peeping tom in the neighborhood. I discovered him by accident when I tried to get into a schedule when walking the dog. One night I say the peeper, before I knew he was a peeper, walk around my block except that in the time it took me to get around the block he had only walked 3 houses. At that moment I was suspicious but not enough to call the cops.

My good friend and neighbor liked walking with a flashlight and so I started to also. (they had moved by then). That's when I started to notice this peeper. He was walking at the same time every night and down my street. One night I caught him between the homes immediately in front of my house. Flashlight in hand I called out and was very loud. I did everything I could to draw attention to the situation... except I left my phone in the house.

So now I carry my phone and flashlight.

Tonight, as I was walking the dog I grabbed my oLight. Only to realize I only use it intermittently and that if I were to drop it I might not see it. I'd have to rely on my cell phone flash light. Not bad but not great. And what happens on the trail. When I went camping last week I used a headlamp. All was fine and there was plenty of ambient light in the camp. But if I were in the everglades and off to pee some place that would really suck to be in the dark...

From now on I'm going to have my backup with me. It is a flashlight that has a glow in the dark shell and a swiss army knife that also glows. So if I use it it will glow and I will find it.

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 ...