My bladder is slipping…

Normally when I hike I use a camelback, referred to in the hiking world as a “water bladder” since there are like 30 different vendors that sell essentially the same thing: A plastic bag that holds water. It sits just inside the back of the pack, and theres a little plastic lip that sort of holds it to the shelf sits on. Invariably it slips off, and works it way to the very bottom of the pack while I’m walking. I can tell when this happens because the drinking hose gets really short.

So today I decided to do some modifications. The first was removing the silly adjustable clip and strap from the top of the camelback. It looks like a good idea, but was poorly planned, and I found it quite useless. Plus, there’s really nowhere to loop the clip though inside the pack. The pack has a little velcro loop inside the top, but it comes loose under the weight of a full water bladder. The other option is to undo the clip, work it through the slot for the water tube, and out the other side. It works, but its REALLY HARD to get the thing to come back out, especially in the woods when you’re tired and cold or hot.

So I opened up my pack and looked at it. On the top opening there’s a pretty useless strap with a clip in the middle, that goes from the front to the back. I use it when closing the pack, but since the top also has a draw cord and cord lock, it always seemed superfluous.

I cut the strap off the side of the pack away from my back, and used that clip when I cut and re-sewed the loop on the top of the Camelback Unbottle. So now I had a single, non-adjustable loop with a male clip on it. Then I shortened the backpack strap on the side near my back, leaving the female side of the clip on it. 

14117828_10207162439636366_4080654151018548_n

Now I can drop the camelback in the pack and just clip the two together, and if the strap works its way loose, it can’t go very far. It can’t slip all the way to the bottom of the pack like before.

14064298_10207162439556364_7198701271237042289_n

I’m thinking of designing my own pack from the ground up. Lighter, tie-dye fabric (of course), wrap-around sides like on one of the Gregory models, a proper shelf sleeve for the water bladder inside the back, water bottle holders on the outside you can actually reach without being a contortionist, and a convenient hidden holster compartment for concealed carrying, since some hikers like to do that. Again, one you can reach without being a contortionist.

Hiking – Next!

My old scale broke. I guess I should have expected it – it was a cheap Walmart scale. My wife sells crafts and stuff and has to weigh stuff for postage. When the scale broke she came to me in true woman form with her laptop, and deliberated for 20 minutes on the merits of various scales. She handed the laptop to me and asked my opinion. I looked at two on the list for about 10 seconds and clicked “order now” beside the slightly more expensive one. I was done with cheap scales. Discussion over.

I use the same technique picking out greeting cards. My wife hates watching me pick out greeting cards, because my theory is the shopping cart should never really come to a complete stop. Find a card with a pretty picture on the front, glance at key words inside, and you’re done. The recipient doesn’t know whether you’ve spent 10 seconds or 20 minutes picking it out. What’s really important is the message you write inside to go with it. That’s why the blank page is there.

So – I weighed my new underquilt thing again since my old scale was apparently suffering impending death. It came out to 1 pound 6 ounces, which sounds good. I then weighed my old lower temperature quilt. It came in at 1 pound 12 ounces.

For those of you with 33 month old children, that prefer to overly complicate measurements: it comes out to 22 ounces and 28 ounces respectively. Not as much of a weight savings as I really hoped. I’m considering opening the foot end, and removing the extra side panels of insulation, leaving just the extra layer over the back. BUT – I’ll do that AFTER my next hike. Since I’m doing a full up test in a few weeks. My test takes me back near Erwin, Tennessee.

Organizing a hike is pretty tough to do. It’s really kind of a pain in the ass. I told a friend of mine last week I was probably going somewhere. We started kicking around ideas, and someone else joined the discussion. It took 427 messages and 4 hours over two days, along with 23 blurry pictures from hiking books, and we came back to the A.T. again.

My goal by the end of the year is to have the entire section from I-40 to Davenport Gap completed, a distance of approximately 230 miles. I have several 2 and 3 day sections planned, but I’ve been missing 20 miles into Erwin, TN since March. It a section that crosses an open field called Beauty Spot Gap. BSGap

The above picture was apparently taken right on Beauty Spot. Credit goes to Google Images and Right-Click/Save-As. It presents a chance to tent/hammock out right on a gorgeous bald mountain and catch a sunset and a sunrise. I’m hoping the weather is nice. For example, this weekend the temperatures are supposed to be highs in the 70s and lows in the mid 60s. Where I live it’s like 95 degrees in the shade. I’m really looking forward to trying out the new quilt and walking with my friends, old and new, covering some 20 miles of the AT overnight.

I’m looking at trying some star trails and long exposures overnight. It all depends on the weather. I’ve been practicing a while with my DSLR camera, I think I can do some halfway decent stuff if it doesn’t rain, and the clouds behave. One of my favorite finds recently is the Appalachian Trail Weather site. Just click on the trail, the state, and the shelter you are closest too, then check out the forecast. Its great because a lot of the trail isn’t near a town, or it’s way above town so the weather can be drastically different. Screen Shot 2016-08-18 at 9.20.57 PM

Another site I like is timeanddate.com’s moonrise/set calendar. If you’re planning a hike and want to know whether to expect a moon or not (especially involving photography of stars) it’s information is pretty valuable. In my case, I’ll be looking south/Southeast most of the night. For example, if I was going on August 26th, a photograph of stars needs to take place between dark and around 1am. At one frame every 30 seconds, thats about 4 hours of pictures, or 480 frames. at 30 frames/second, thats only 16 seconds of star motion. If the moon were coming up at 9pm, I could forget it. Looking directly into the moon would totally wash out the stars.

Screen Shot 2016-08-18 at 9.26.12 PM

The biggest challenge is always getting everyone to agree on a place and setting up cars. There are usually a lot more “go-ers” than drivers. I.e. “I want to go, but I don’t have a spare car”. Most of the time I just post a hike on our group and say, “this is where I’m going, you can come or not.” It works pretty well, but sometimes I throw it out there that I’m taking suggestions. Usually it’s much harder to come to a consensus that way.

I’m not usually a summer hiker, but I’m looking forward to escaping the relentless South Carolina heat.

Summer quilt finishing touches!

This morning I got up and decided to finish this thing. I got everything pinned and ready last night, so today my big job was to sew around the outside twice, turn it inside out, and sew the end. I put the sewing machine on the floor, held my breath, and pushed the foot pedal (with my hand).

Sewing went rather well. My only complaint is the HyperD fabric stretches. Its not as stable as regular square nylon, which means measured distances don’t always wind up being right. Good for hammocks, because when you lay in them they sort of conform to your body. Bad for quilts, because you’re trying to sew three layers together. I had a few wrinkles here and there where the shell layer wanted to stretch more than the liner (which was locked in place because of the cord channels already sewn on. I got through it and pulled all the pins out. The fuzzy insulation was still sticking out the sides and I thought it looked sort of like a ridiculous Santa suit for a hippie Santa.

I showed it to the wife, who agreed. A dark red tie-dyed Santa suit. Ho Ho Ho, merry April 20th, and all that. I went back in the den, cut off the fuzz sticking out, and sewed around the entire thing again. Then it was a simple matter to reach into the foot end, grab the loops, and flip the whole thing inside out. The final step on the quilt itself is running the suspension cords. It was pretty easy, all my channels poked out correctly. There was only one channel that I almost sewed closed because it wrinkled, but there was just enough opening to get the cord through. I used black cord on the sides and ends, but I ran short because of bad planning. I had some leftover yellow reflective stretchy cord, so I used that for my hanging rope. It helps that it is yellow, because I know which cord hangs from the whoopie hooks.

Hammock Outside

Above you can see a terrible cell phone picture of my hammock with the quilt hung under it. It hangs rather well, and is the right length. Below is a picture of the hammock and quilt suspension. The bright green line on the left goes to the tree strap. The dark grey line on the right is the hammock suspension line, it is just a continuous loop right to the end of the hammock. The yellow and black bungee cord is for the underquilt. One hook holds everything up. My hands are stained from Tie-Dye AT-shirts I’m selling, but thats another post.

Whoopie Hook Detail

The tie-outs worked pretty well. The one on my right side (when I lay in the hammock) was right on target. The opposite one was about 3 inches off, which is pretty good for fitting a hammock when I didn’t even measure the hammock itself. The tie-out cords are stretchy, also, so if the loops don’t exactly line up, it’s not an issue. The picture makes it hard to distinguish the shell from the hammock. The hammock is also tie-dyed, but it is red, blue, and light blue, where the quilt is all red and black.

Side Tie Out

Below, I stuck my hand out the hammock and took a picture. You can really see the difference between the quilt and hammock colors. The bright red and black strips are my cord channels at the edge of the quilt. The light blue/red with the net is the hammock of course. The quilt set up pretty easily, and provided a good bit of breeze protection on the sides and underneath. The ends sagged a bit, but I suspect with some cord adjustments the ends will snug up just fine.

Hammock in quilt

After a quick test (because it was 97 degrees and the bugs wanted to carry me off), I rolled everything up and dumped it in the den floor. My last chore was designing a stuff sack for the quilt. I normally HATE making sacks, but this one was pretty easy. I had a good idea of the size I wanted, about 7 inches in diameter by a foot long. I took a pice of scrap, cut a rectangle 24 inches wide by about 18 inches. I rolled a hem along the long side for the draw cord, then folded the sack in half and sewed the side, and then the bottom, leaving about 4 inches of scrap which I cut off. I didn’t measure, I just cut it off where it “looked right”. Another set of stitches all the way down the side and bottom, after rolling the edges over,  and the sack was done. I ran the draw cord around the top channel and put on a cord lock. The quilt stuffs into it just fine but it’s a little bulky.

Quilt bag

But, the quilt saves me the hassle of toting my sleeping bag liner, which saves room. I could buy a $25 compression bag and get the thing even smaller, but I’m happy with this for now. I just need a place to hike that’s cool but not TOO cool.

Total weight for the thing: 1 pound, 6 ounces.

Stage 3 – Hiking quilt details

If you’ve been following along, my summer underquilt has been taking shape nicely. Most of the sewing was done yesterday. The big parts are pretty easy, it’s all the little things that take the most time.

My daughter helped me lay everything out. First I had to fix my pattern.

On the original directions, I couldn’t read the numbers. I made both my foot end and my head end 24″ wide. But while reading the instructions, the writer had mentioned “the foot end is slightly smaller”. I was able to work out that the head was SUPPOSED to be 30 inches wide and the foot 24 inches. So now I had an issue. I added “wings” to my pattern, tapering each end so I had 30″ wide at both the head and feet. I could have redrawn and recut the whole pattern, but I’m only using it three times to cut material. Since I made the head and foot the same, I don’t have to worry about which end is which when I hang it up. It’s completely reversible.

We laid out my fabric, and then my pattern. I’m glad I left a few extra inches, because It seems the tie-dying, washing, and drying process may have shrunk it a little somehow. I left about 5 extra inches when I cut it, and I had barely 2 inches sticking out the top end. In the view below you can also see where I added the tapered side wings.

IMG_4209

We cut three pieces, one at a time. Shell, Liner, Insulation. You can’t really draw on the insulation, so I just laid the paper on it and cut. The next issue is what to do with the scraps. Since I had to order 3 yards of Climashield, now I had about a 2 foot section of scrap, 60 inches wide. So I decided to lay it in the middle for extra torso protection.

IMG_4210

The B on there is for “bottom”, I labeled all my stuff in case there were pattern errors, everything would still line up later. I liked the extra piece, but decided to throw on my long side scraps as well.

IMG_4211

Now these I had to quilt in place. I ran a stitch around the sides of all the pieces, by hand, using an “engineer’s cable tie wrap” (a Marline hitch, with each knot tied off) and a curved needle. That took a long time, maybe 90 minutes.

If you recall, my previous quilt was made with 6 ounce insulation. This one was 2.5, but I doubled it just in the torso area. That makes half the quilt a 5 ounce quilt. So, if my summer night is just a bit cooler than expected, I should be able to weather it just fine.

Now came the hard part. After stitching the scraps in place, stitching the darts closed on the shell and insulation (the side cutouts), It was time to do the major work of this project. The liner has the most “stuff” to do to it. First I had to sew on for corner patches. The corners are where the shock cords attach, and take a lot of stress when hung under the hammock. I also had to cut and sew up the 6 shock cord guides. A length of rubbery cord runs down both sides and across the ends, to hold the thing under the hammock. This cord runs through guides. You can see the end of one below, pinned to the reinforcing patch.

IMG_4217

One problem I had was I didn’t have enough material left over for the patches and guides. So – I used a scrap of crimson tie-dye I happened to have from another project. It was a different fabric, however, plain old 1.6 ounce nylon square ripstop. It was MUCH nicer to work with, sewing. The lighter and thinner the fabric, the more it wants to bunch up in the machine. The 1.6 ounce stuff ran right through it, and held its shape well.

By the end of the night I had all six channels pinned, the patches sewn in, and the hang loops in place (you can’t see them because they aren’t on here yet. The toughest part is making sure everything is layered right on the floor, because you have to lay it all out and sew around the entire thing at once. Except a piece of the foot end of course, because you have to turn the whole works inside out so the channels, loops and such stick out, and the insulation winds up on the inside.

ready to sew!
ready to sew!

I’m glad no one has asked me to make one of these. I have $77 in materials. With as much time and pain as this has caused me, I’d probably make one, but it would run you about $200. I’ll stick to selling the AT shirts my wife makes.

Summer Hiking Quilt Stage Two

I was pretty happy with the outcome of my Tie-Dye fabric. I decided to go with crimson and Navy Blue. An artist told me a long time ago, never use black if you can get away with dark blues for darkening colors. Black dulls the color, whereas dark blues still reflect something, making the resultant darker hue more vibrant.

Either way, I went with Navy Blue on my Crimson. I tied up two different patterns. The outside, or the “shell”, is the side that everyone else will see if they walk past my hammock while I’m sleeping. I used a standard spiral pattern on the fabric, after cutting the fabric to length.

get a better browser

The inside of the quilt, or the “liner”, is the side that will be right against my back while I am laying in the thing. Instead of another spiral, I wanted something visually different that says, “hey dumbass, this is the inside of your hammock”, when I’m putting it up. I went with a snake-belly pattern. I’m sure it has a real name, but this is what the pattern reminds me of, a snake’s bottom skin.

Tie-Dying nylon is a bit different than your standard cotton t-shirt. I followed instructions on a hammock web site. Loosely tie up your fabric in whatever style you like, and stick it in a ziplock gallon freezer bag. If you use too many rubber bands and bind it tightly, you’ll get no color in the middle. The fabric is treated to make it mildly water repellant, which makes tie-dying interesting.

Use 1 bottle Rit dye, 2 cups of water and 2 cup vinegar. Heat it in a big pot on the stove until it hits 180, while stirring. Once hot, carefully pour it into the bag, which should be sitting in the sink, while you’re wearing clothes you don’t care if you splash dye on them. Using insulated mitts, push all the air out the bag that you can, and seal it up. Leave it sitting for two hours, flipping the bag and mashing on it about every 20-30 minutes. Then open, rinse and wash. Dry on air fluff or low with a couple of dark towels. Then open it up and see what you’ve got.

IMG_4188So I washed and carefully dried my fabric, and then laid out the pattern. I had to do a little thinking and figuring from the drawing I saved off the internet, because it’s art of a PDF and doesn’t zoom in well. I rolled out two sheets of 4 foot wide paper from a big roll someone gave me several years ago, overlapped them and taped everything down. Based on what I saw, I drew this:

hammock measure

Measure the center line, 90″ or 92″ or whatever you want to use. It’s pink and labeled CL. The two sides are mirror images, and designed to work with whatever tie outs you have on your hammock. Where the outer points are, will be loops. I just put the tie out lines through the loops and they hold the quilt in position. If you generally lay down feet to the right of the center and head left, this will work for you. If you lay down feet left and head right and ordered or made a hammock that way, just flip this pattern over, because your quilt won’t match your tie-outs!

The head and foot ends are 24″ wide, that’s 12″ either side of the center line. Measure down 33 inches from either end, and put a mark, then go out 30 inches. Connect the lines (green and blue) to the ends, the go back and cut your darts. The darts are the notches at the outer points. Measure in 9 inches and across 7, and cut the notch out. These will be pulled together and sewed later, which will give your hammock quilt a rounder form and help it hug your body a bit.

The whole process of laying out the paper and drawing the pattern took me about 90 minutes. But now I can lay down a piece of fabric, lay the pattern over it, draw on it with sharpie marker, and cut it out. Its much easier to make a master template than to try and draw it by hand three times on fabric that’s trying to get away from you.

IMG_4204

Next step: Cutting the fabric itself, and sewing the channels for the bungie cords that this thing will hang from. The little things take forever on a project like this. There are 6 cord channels to sew, as well as 4 reinforcing patches.

Summer Hiking Underquilt – Stage 1

For my lighter, thinner, less bulky summer underquilt for my hammock, First stage was figuring out what it would look like at the end.

Before we begin – if you don’t know what an underquilt is: An underquilt is like half a sleeping bag that hangs outside your hammock. Why outside? Because when you lay down on a sleeping bag it compresses to nothing, offering little to no insulation value on the part directly under you. So the best way to maintain the insulation’s “loft” (puffy heat catching goodness) is to hang it outside your hammock, tight against you. Hammock hangers often use two quilts. One underquilt outside on the bottom, and a top quilt on top of them, inside the hammock. Imagine cutting a sleeping bag in half, sticking half under you and half on top, with a hammock in the middle. This gives you all the coverage of a sleeping bag, without the extra weight of carrying both a sleeping bag AND an underquilt. You could use an underquilt and a sleeping bag together, it’s just more stuff to stick in the pack.

The last quilt I made, I built with green M50 fabric, a very light fabric (half an ounce per square yard – It was like working with a garbage bag made of fabric). This time, though, I decided to go with HyperD ripstop from Ripstopbytheroll.com. Hyper D is a semi-breathable fabric with little diamond shaped ripstop patterns in it. I’ve made a hammock chair with it, and it’s amazing what it will support. Its very light and strong.

The insulation was the big part. I wanted an under quilt for the summer mainly for wind protection. You lose a lot of heat through a hammock, and a 70 degree night with a little wind can get chilly under you. I went back and forth for a bit but finally decided on 2.5 ounce ClimaShield, a puffy synthetic insulation commonly used in jackets and gloves, in various thicknesses. The 2.5oz insulation weighs 2.5 ounces per square yard (of course) and is about 1/2″ thick. This thin insulation along with the wind-blocking fabric should be just what I need for slightly chilly summer nights.

I placed my order and waited the required three days (RBTR is in NC, so it gets here pretty quick). I found a big box on the steps that seemed to have nothing in it. I took it inside and carefully unpacked my stuff. I had purchased 6 yards of crimson 1 ounce HyperD, and 3 yards of Climashield, as well as one 25 foot section of 1/8″ shock cord, and one pack of small cord locks.

Following the Kick-Ass Quilts pattern, I laid everything out and used my tape measure and T-Square, and cut two sections of hyperD 95″ long. HyperD stretches a little, so I left some extra to play with. When it’s done, the underquilt should be right about 90″ long. I was left with a two foot wide section of scrap, which I will use to make the carrying sack for the quilt. I cut the Climashield at 95 inches, leaving a section about 1.5 feet wide. I’m going to use that piece to double up right where the torso goes, since “Cold Butt Syndrome” is a common hammock issue.

13887111_10207045986525111_7420487312743524872_n

Yes, that’s duct tape holding my fabric in place. I cut the fabric with Pinking Shears (the scissors that look like alligator teeth from the side) to keep frayed edges down to a minimum, and because my good straight scissors keep disappearing.


13895130_10207045986445109_1561074415069069736_n

Climashield is “continuous filament fiber”, which means one string, back and forth. It requires little to no quilting, so basically I make a sandwich with the White stuff between the Red stuff, sew the edges and I’m done.

But wait – there’s more. Since I like tie-dye stuff, I decided to go ahead and tie-dye my gear. I purchased a bottle of navy blue RIT dye, mixed it with water and vinegar, heated it up, and dumped it in a ziplock bag with my tied-up red fabric. I hope it does a good job, its always difficult to tell what it will look like when it comes out. Especially since the fabric has a mild water-resistant coating. This is an extra step which is going to add a little time to the process, but I’m not in a rush, I have 2 weeks or so before my next trip. The sewing is tedious but not overly complex.

So, now I have to wait for the dye job to finish, dry everything, and start thinking about carefully cutting my fabric panels.

 

Update 08-04-16 10pm

The wife and daughter have commandeered the den to watch Big Brother, so no pics right now, but I have to say the tie-dye came out AWESOME, as far as nylon goes.

Kick Ass Quilts – time to sew again.

I’ve gotten a bit better at sewing since I first started the whole hiking thing. My first project, which I still have, is my under quilt for my hammock made from synthetic ClimaShield insulation. It gets me down to around 40 pretty good, anything lower than that and I’ll use my professionally made down quilt, which is supposed to get me to zero degrees without the threat of death. My hammock is below – with the bright green taco-liner under it.

My hammock with my home made underquilt.

The problem now isn’t cold, but warm. The ClimaShield under quilt is warm, but thick and bulky. Its kind of heavy and takes up a good bit of room in the pack, sitting at the bottom like a big rock. It would be nice to have something a little smaller and lighter for summer months, say when the nightly lows are around 60. Too cool to go with nothing (especially in the wind), yet where the other quilts are overkill.

I resurrected this article, published on line several years back, which has since disappeared. Warning – you click once and it takes you to an “about” page where you have to click it again.

kickass_quilt

I’m hoping to put it to good use once someone on the hammock forums can tell me a good insulation thickness for dealing with 60 degrees or so.

Stay tuned, Hammocking crafters – time go get out the old “thread injector” and make some new stuff.