Thursday, January 31, 2019

Hummingbird hammocks

Light and strong but plenty to complain about.

try to hang the bugnet from a hammock ridgeline and you'll drag the net on the ground. There is something to be said for having the zipper here as sometimes it's easier to get in/out and some times not. Mostly it's because this is an always on bugnet and it diffuses the wind if you want that sort of thing.

Ridgeline setup is questionable. The buttons are an interesting implementation but depending on the engineering this might not be a good place for the ridgeline.

When the ridgeline is converted to a standalone ridgeline it creates a different problem in that you now have a 3rd line that needs a drip line to prevent water from getting into the hammock. And you have to carry that much more line regardless of the gauge.

One huge plus here is that the hammock and tree straps are super light and super strong.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

so long and thanks for the fish

Google is shutting down Google+ but as I see it there is so much wrong with what google is up to that I've stopped caring and starting the move to a new platform.  I've moved from:

Google Home to Amazon Echo
Google Play Music to Amazon Music Unlimited
Google Cloud Computing to Digital Ocean and on-prem VMware
I could very easily move from GMail to Office365 but the one thing I hate worse than Google is Microsoft.
My desktop is exclusively ChromeOS but I can go anywhere including Firefox. As for the host OS it really does not matter any more. I think a proper AndroidOne tablet is a valid choice.

Let there be light

I want to call these my EDC but I'm not sure. On the one hand having the USB rechargeable lights is handy. They have a number of useful features and lumens. 

Has 2 intensities; 550 lumens max but not clear how long it will last... it has a red and white low light with optional blinking. The clip is good for a ball cap and the luminescent case will give you a few minutes to find it in the dark once exposed to light. You can use it while charging so a longer cord might be useful.

The OLight, pictured above, uses a AAA battery and they can be found anywhere when doing long hikes.

My problem is not knowing when to recharge the rechargeable or when to replace the AAA. A 45 minute quick charge is appreciated but I would not want to plug it in before bed risking a lithium fire.

PS: I've thought about bluetooth headphones but have decided that's not a good idea for many reasons and batteries is only one.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Sea To Summit Stuff Sacks

What is with all those stuff sacks? Is this just their product packaging or is there some intent that we carry these rags with us everywhere we go?

Hammocks, tarps, bug net, sleeping bag liner, head net, hammock straps, gear sling and so on. In this kit somethings need to be dry others no matter and some are just different stages of the setup. Certainly one stuff sack to rule them all is kinda silly and one wet and one dry does not improve in it. So now what?

Sea To Summit Gear Sling

This is how you need to respond when you're tired of dumping your pillow on the ground:

This little sling is easy to reach. Might offer some protection from convection currents if closer to the hammock. Might keep some splash off the hammock. Might keep the contents dry or might be pool. But for the moment it's a place to keep my pillow.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Oh my VMware

For nearly two days my VMware host was pegged at 20% CPU and as a result the machine's fan kept running. On the one-hand I have no idea why 20% warrants the fan except that it clearly generates a ton of heat. As for the guests they are 5 and each is under 3% so that did not cause much. I did notice that ETCD was pegged at 10G virtual ram and no matter what I did I was not able to reduce the footprint. Finally I managed a reboot of VMware and the system recovered. Now the fan is spinning at a much lower RPM.

I like VMware in a certain number of use-cases. The most notable being experimentation, however, cloud systems like Digital Ocean make that even easier. It also means that I can build up and tear down much larger system groups. There is something to be said for on-premise systems but there are challenges there too. Distributing SSL certs is a big one and so is cradle to grave deployment. Scripting to DO makes things really simple... much easier than VMware APIs.

when it rains

It has been raining for nearly 2 days and nights and the backyard is swamped and the grass and sod gets squishy and muddy quickly. If I were tent or tarp camping I would be wet and uncomfortable. The challenges that come with hammock camping mean I could avoid those challenges keeping in mind the hammock tarp offers plenty of shelter. Also the 30 degree hang is only a recommendation.

This morning I changed the height of the tarp and tightened the hammock. It was not ideal but it worked and it kept me off the ground. Really the next challenge is keeping the gear out of the dirt and adding bugnet even though there are currently no bugs. Lastly I might even carry a bivy which could be used inside and outside the hammock as a backup when I need the extra 5F or when there are no trees.


Homemade Wunderlust makes a great point that warrants repeating and expanding. No need spending or holding out for one of those expensive "hiking" umbrellas. [a] you can get a cheap umbrella from most grocery stores that will work fine to get the rain and snow off your face. [b] you might use the expensive umbrella less often if you think you're protecting it.

Frankly any and all gear is not worth the cost or weight if you do not use it.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

things they never tell you about hammocking

When it's cold and rainy climbing into a hammock is like trying to right a canoe in the ocean. So let's run this by the numbers....  It's current 54F and rainy in Florida. I have my Outdoor Vitals 6 point tarp and OV hammock setup in the backyard.

The tarp just barely covers the hammock. The side cat-cut exposes the ends of the hammock. Lowering the tarp closer to the hammock might create other challenges but this is what we have at the moment.

People talk about dip lines and that might make sense too; but not implemented.

In the meantime a pad is required to provide some insulation from the cool air. I've tried others and I'm still experimenting. Currently a klymit Inertia X. It's torso length but has a few voids that let the chill get thru.

A pillow of some kind is required for the same reason. I have many different kinds but I'm opting for a hydrophobic inflatable. The head generates a lot of heat so a quality pillow and/or beanie might also be a good idea. (not pictured)

I do not believe in the high cost down products. The synthetics are as good and not effected by wetness. I've just tested the Klymit blanket and it's comfy warm. It even has a foot box. My only complaint is that for the weight and fill level if the pad is not wide enough compressing the fill against the sides causes cold spots.

And now for the canoe lesson.

I put the pad, pillow and blanket in position.  Took off my jacket and tried to get in. And in a flash everything was on the wet ground. If this was anything other than my backyard my gear would be muddy. Also when I took off my jacket I needed a place to store it. It ended up under my knees which was ok but any tossing or turning any it might end up in the mud.

And as I was getting comfortable I was flopping gear here and there. And if I had my pack with me then it might be hanging from one end of the hammock catching water. While contractor bags might make good pack liners they blow away. So things get complicated.

In my next test I plan to try a loose ridge line which I can hang a stuff sack or two. One for the ready blanket and pillow. One for my jacket. Alternatively I've ordered a gear sling from Sea To Summit. That will also be a place to store my gear at night.

These technical bits make tent camping feel better but you still need to consider the season and comfort level. Not to mention that the hammock setup works on the ground too.

UPDATE I changed out the Klymit Inertia for a Klymit Static V Junior. And the Klymit Versa blanket for a Snugpak Jungle Blanket XL. The systems offered about the same amount of warmth. I was comfortable for hours in my sleep/shelter. Closer to the end of the experiment the weather turned worse with a lot more rain and the occasional gusts. My backyard setup uses a tree and one hammock stand. so when I get in the hammock the tarp will sag a little. I added shockcord to the guy lines to keep the tension and with some tightening it worked fine. When I decided to call it a day I removed the sleep system only to find a puddle of water in the hammock.

I have no idea how that got there as it was a puddle and not just wet fabric. I cannot say for all hammock fabrics but this OV should let the water drip thru. Also I did not see tell tail signs of a drip line from the head or tail.  What seems clear, however, is that if I had been using the Inertia X then I would have gotten wet through the voids.

Friday, January 25, 2019

hammock insulation

I do not care to argue the merit or folly of the underquilt but it does suggest to me that you have to fill the volume of the space with warm air in order to stay warm. And that's going to take a bit. On the other side there are foam and air pads that will act as insulation and the results are immediate.

Speaking of pads I've recently experimented with full and torso length cell foam pads. The 1/8th inch pads did not offer much protection at all. The 1/4 inch pads were much better, however, [a] they had to be hydrophobic in case they fell out of the hammock. [b] pliable enough to wrap around the body [c] and slippery enough that you can roll.

Hammocking and Pillows

I'm getting comfortable with hammocking. Now that I have constructed a hammock stand in my backyard it's a snap to setup. The tarp has been secured with bungee cord to keep it taught when the hammock shifts and so it's solid.

Yesterday it rained hard. I left my pillow in the center of the hammock while I worked indoors. During one of the rain breaks I decided to slip into the hammock but unfortunately I ejected my pillow and without paying attention it was soaked.

This is a thermarest pillow with synthetic fill. It compresses to about 1/3rd but that's it. It's light but has volume. And when it rains it becomes a sponge. I have a Snugpak pillow that is about 1/3rd the size so it could only absorb 1/3rd the water (sure would be nice if they used hydrophobic materials.)

There is something to be said for under-inflated pillows like the seatoummit, snugpak and klymit. There are even some third-party manufacturers that make some nice inflatables with soft covers.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

google is losing it's grip

For years I have been drinking from the google cool-aid machine but lately things have been going south. Systems, Services and devices are just not as smooth as they once were regardless of the features they try to pack in them.

GSuite and GSuite for private domains used to be the testbed/sandbox for new features. Now it's the last place you'll find new features.

Google Home and Mini do not work with a GSuite domain. You need a family music subscription and a plain gmail or 3rd party email account.

Android on my Moto G6 is still version 8.0.0 and it's slow and junky.

Google Fi does not support visual voicemail for iPhone.

T-Mobile does not support Android Visual Voicemail.

Blogger is almost as old as the internet and it shows.

Slate reliability is sketchy.

Here's the thing... as all of these systems that I rely on become more unreliable it's time to consider others. For example I dumped the Google Home and Mini and Amazon Dots are on their way. As I move to best in breed google loses. In the end they be left with search, however, according to L2Inc even that's changing.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Poncho Tarp in bad weather

Let's face it if you are hiking in bad weather and you've already accepted the fact that hiking means discomfort then using a poncho-tarp as clothing and shelter is a real possibility. There are two real challenges. [1] ponchos, in blustery weather, blow everywhere and do not offer much protection. [2] when transitioning from poncho to tarp getting the cordage right can be a challenge.

This weekend I took the family to a soccer tournament. The morning of the second day we saw terrible rain and for the most part it was raining sideways so the colemen tent was almost useless. I ended up using my poncho as a tarp to deflect the rain from the side but it was cold, I only had 550 cord, and my fingers simply would not tie a knot.

In hindsight I could or should have used plastic s-biners. I suppose I could have used smaller cordage but I did not have any on me.  uhg.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

One person's bivy

I have 5 YouTube tabs open to SungPak Stratosphere Bivy demos. Faving watched the first video I have bivy envy. It only lasted a minute and now that it's gone there are real options. Sure it's dry, compact, roomy but compared to what?


For $75 more you give up 14oz (almost a complete pound) and you can sit up and move around. Snugpak uses a heavier material so it is to be expected.

The Trekker weighs and costs the same as the Stratosphere but even with the same weight you can sit up. Open both wings.
Skyscape Trekker

While I almost bought a Stratosphere today I have to acknowledge that cost and weight is a big deal and a meaningless purchase. The Stratosphere weighs 3.5 pounds where a Bora bivy and tarp weighs under a pound and that's if you're interested in weight. There are less pricey tent options that weigh less and give you more room.  So just forget it. The only way this becomes a good idea is if the price or weight drops by half.

more quick packs

This G4Free pack has a frame and a bottom pocket/entry for quick access to your sleeping bag and a hidden pack cover compartment. Plenty of pockets but the side pockets were kinda thingy and the back pockets were kinda blah. Plenty of straps that make it seem pro but in real life is a waste.

G4Free 50L
My first real pack... I remember that first hike; this was awful. Sure the pack is large and functional but it's heavy and the side pockets are sticky and small. Since it's waterproof if anything is wet and then put in the pack then it all get's wet.

More useless drybags... at least no hiking use-case that comes to mind.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

quick packs

I posted about my Klymit Dash packs and then quickly threw them in the trash before I had a chance to think twice. I would have donated them but then why? If they were not good enough for me then why the next person.

Anyway... Here is a brief review of most of my packs in the garage. Sadly it's quite an investment.

Naturehike 25L
 This Naturehike 25L is not 25L and not much of a pack. Based on the straps and construction it might be useful as a stuff sack that could double as an excursion or summit pack. Even if it were 25L it has no structure and with 15lbs of gear the straps are uncomfortable. Just getting it into position is a challenge.

I cannot find the original receipt for this Marmot so I do not recall the model information. While it has deep elastic pockets they are not very functional. The shape of the main compartment and the pockets means there is some shifting. Also the pocket in the center is really small. Hiking with this model feels clumsy.

Gossamer Gear Minimalist
The minimalist has been my go to pack for a while. Even though it's in the 25L range and has a drawstring at the top it is fast to open and close. The back pocket is large although the side pockets are shallow. When I added compression straps things seem to fit better even though I rarely adjust them. The material is slightly stiff and I was able to use a sit pad as a frame. My only complaint is that it does not have shoulder pockets.

Gossamer Gear Kumo 36L
The Kumo(2018) is a nice pack. I've watched some reviews by AT hikers and they seem to like it. It's light and functional with not much to modify. The frame, sit pad, is replaceable so that you carry less. It also has shoulder pockets. The material is thinner than the minimalist but thicker than the murmur. I'm not sure why the back pocket is at an angle but it is. It has a hip belt with stretch pockets. These hip pockets are removable and while usable on the trail seem useless when traveling. The side pockets are deep with an elastic and drain hold, however, they are the same material as the body.

Gossamer Gear Murmur 36L
The Murmur was meant to be the start of my SUL kit, but the pack itself is thin and floppy. The material is quality but I just do not have the confidence that I have with the minimalist or kumo. Also because it's floppy I need to pack more in ziplocks or stuff sacks to keep it all organized. This is not a travel pack as I would not want to keep putting it under the seat in front or in the overhead.

G4Free 40L
I've had a number G4Free packs and most survived. This pack is large but does not have a frame. I was able to put a sit pad inside and still have plenty of room. The straps do not have much padding and there is no back pocket. The side pockets are stretchy and deep. The brain is large and can carry more gear than I like and so it's part of the overall volume. I have a tendency to put heavy things in the brain... so better planning is in order. The materials are robust and give me confidence.

Camelbak Arete 22L
I have sworn off hydration bags, however, this is a 22L pack with a functional stretch pocket on one side and a zippers pocket on the other. There is a ridged plastic frame. Normally I would carry 2L of water in the outside pockets or shoulder pockets but since this pack has neither I might use the hydration pack. This means 22L becomes 20L. Given my setup this might be enough and warrants some testing. The materials are robust and give me confidence.

Ultimate Direction 15
The UD15 is a runner's pack and meant for a skinny person. Unlike the other packs this one uses a vest. I like the vest because it makes the pack feel like a jacket. However, if it were a cold hike I would be wearing a jacket and the pack might not fit. UD seems biased to skinny people. The pack pocket is deep, however, the compression is relative to the amount of gear in the pack. 15L might be the limit for an overnight depending on what I'm willing to leave behind and water availability. The materials are robust and give me confidence. This pack is not really big enough for a foam pad.

As I'm getting ready to finish up this post and I find myself lusting after the UD33. I also thought about the larger CamelBak but changed my mind there. I should be able to condense myself into the UD15 and Kumo 36. The rest might be nice to have but I can probably get rid of them and focus on the hike ahead.

What size pack? That's a tough question because it's a combination of gear volume, weight, and the number of days out. I can do an overnight with 25L... small tarp, small blanket, torso mattress, 3 meals, etc...

Why Shoulder pockets? For me there is only one reason... to carry my water and balance the load a little. 'nuf said!

Klymit Dash 18 and 30

Being a UL hiker (SUL is stupid expensive) I tend to use smaller packs. I also tend to use fewer pockets because what I really need is bags whether they are ziplock, compression sack or contractor bags.
Dash 18 over Dash 30

When I started making UL gear decisions I went to the Klymit 18. At the time I still had too much gear and the 18 was only good for day hiking although having to stop and pull a bottle from the pack was a pain. It was also demanding to remember to make more water because I almost had to empty my pack.

Later I bought the yellow Dash 18 and it was awesome to be able to see inside the pack. Keep in mind that my packs was still full so being able to see inside it is kinda meaningless. Of course you can still make an argument for or against visibility vs dry time. Not to mention that when I kept my water in the black Dash 18 it was always tepid.
Dash 30 cinch

As I continued to transition I bought different packs only to find a Dash 30 was being manufactured for MassDrop and Klymit sold me one from the overrun. The 30 is a great pack because they added shoulder pockets that could carry a 1L Smartwater bottle although a 750ml was better. In addition to the extra volume and a larger zippered pocket there was a flap over the drawstring opening. Unfortunately the material used in the upper was weak and the coating would peal and weather after just a few hikes. Klymit customer service replaced the pack. Unfortunately the same thing happened to the second pack. If memory serves they offered to replace it again but I declined because I'm certain it would happen again.
Dash 18 air frame visible

If you're not familiar with the Klymit Dash it uses an inflatable frame similar to their sleeping pads. Recently one of the inflation/deflation valves malfunctioned and had to be replaced. A quick call to customer service and they replaced the valve which I installed. I wish that was the end of the story but it's not. The frame does not keep inflated and while it's a quick few pumps to inflate I feel like I need something more reliable; furthermore I've come to depend on the shoulder pockets.
air frame removed

One other lesson I've learned is that it is possible to be UL and cheap at the same time. You have to pick wisely and be able to live with some discomfort.

Dash 30 shoulder straps. (air frame for contrast)

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Bluetooth competition

I do not particularly like Bluetooth but it is the current standard for personal area networking (PAN). It's a problem, not to be confused with the PC' "challenge", that here in my office I have no less than 10 active mini computers and laptops (and another 2 cars) and while each device will allow me to pair my headphones the outcome is not always the same.

I have a Jabra Evolve 75 that I like to use for conference calls because it's noise cancelling(both side of the conversation) is top notch. Also the Jabra is supposed to be able to actively switch between 2 different active connections. For some strange reason the connection for the Jabra drops here and there. It's terribly annoying.

Last week I purchased the TicPods. They are pretty good but the BASS I like is tough to get even though I can with my wired buds. The freq range is in the pod not the source. Since this bud is a one source bud I have not had the same problems as the Jabra. One other thing... I've turned off the BT on all the other devices in the room so even though the TicPods are paired with multiple devices turning the BT off has eliminated the competition.

Now that I've learned a thing or two I tried again.  I did a RESET on the jabra and then pair it to my desktop. It's been a few minutes and it's working great. The Jabra is over the ear and delivers the frequency range I like although it's a little less intimate and it's not the sort of thing I would wear on an airplane or in public. After I'm satisfied that the Jabra connection is solid I'll add a second device and see what happens.

One thing I have learned lately is that there is a wide variety of "current" bluetooth releases. Most BT headsets on Amazon seem to be BT 4.0, however, there is an ever increasing number of 6.0 showing up in the market. The thing of it is that I should not have to turn off the BT when the paired devices are in the one room. You should be able to actively hijack the connection when you want. As to the proper way to do that could be device specific.

UPDATE according to L2Inc Apple's AirPods cost $10 per pair to make and they sell for $150. These TicPods cost $125 but there are several Anker models that sell for $25.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

ASUS ZenScreen Brilliant

I bought an ASUS ZenScreen for my mobile computing kit. I had intended for it to connect to my Google Pixel Slate but then it failed to connect out of the box. (more later) I tried to connect the display to my Chromebook Pixel and it worked So I was encouraged.

This morning I decided to connect the ZenScreen to my ASUS Chromebox as my 3rd monitor and it works great!

Back to the Slate. What I have read is that the problem may be in the OS or maybe the firmware related power management. Some people have had success using power hubs but none have described why, only the model(s) that worked. After my reading of product descriptions I got the sense that it is probably PD. Which is the ability for power to be negotiated and multi directional. And so that is the next test. Not all vendors properly describe their products.

In the meantime the ZenScreen is a nice addition.

PS: the ZenScreen got an expensive update this year. They added a battery so that Android devices, including phones, will work too. This means adding a Bluetooth keyboard and you have an all in one solution, sort of.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

bloatware on google pixel slate

For some crazy reason Infinite Painter was auto installed on my new Pixel Slate. According to the splash screen I get 7 days trial. Well, F*CK YOU. The whole reason for going to ChromeOS is that it's not bloated, is secure, and does the work I need done.

I do not want anything extra. I'll get it myself.

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 ...