For better or worse, my DNA is full of engineer genes. This means, I'm constantly coming up with more crazy or fun ideas for new stuff than I could ever execute on. I love the MYOG (Make Your Own Gear) movement, but just don't have time to spend on it.
Here's my latest brain-fart:
I've been keeping my eye open for a while now for a true Ultralight Tripod. Would it really be possible to have a sub-pound tripod that could accompany a digital SLR in the field without feeling like I've regressed to the old way?
So far… nothing. Carbon fibre is the most promising, but they are still 2lb+ tripods. Generally the photo community says that anything lighter weight is too flimsy or unstable.
So what if one added some weight in the field to pull the center of gravity down and anchor the tri-pod in place?
Here's the idea: a tripod with a threaded pipe connector at the base. You whip out your flimsy tripod, whip out a platypus – fill it with 4lbs of water (or sand) and screw it to the bottom. Voila. Now all I need to do is find a light flimsy tripod.
Target weight: 10 oz, available sometime in the future.
I discovered “Mini Tissue” the other day on a fellow backpackers blog and ordered a pack.
These things are kind of cool. We normally take a few wet-ones with us on a trip to augment our TP supply. The moisture in the wet-ones add a weight penalty that means we don’t take too many. One reader suggested drying them out prior to the trip and re-hydrating on the trail. Neat idea – but I’m too lazy.
Enter the “Mini Tissue”, these tiny compressed tissues expand when you add water into a very strong ‘shop-towel’ kind of material.
They weight about 10 tissues for 1.0 oz.
Here’s a video of me re-hydrating one in our kitchen sink.
The West Coast Trail is notorious for it's wetness. One investment we made prior to the trip last year was a couple of dry bags. These don't show up on my gear-list as I wouldn't normally feel that they are necessary, but they sure gave great peace of mind. They delivered bone-dry down night after night – even after a few mud-pit submersions 🙂
At 0.9 oz for the Small (4L) – I ended up taking two. One to cram in my down sleeping bag and one to protect my spare clothes. Theresa needed to take the Medium (8L) at 2.3 oz to fit her bulkier bag.
The windshield is the biggest offender, and I often tell myself to leave it home, but I rarely do.
As I already have a BPL 550 pot, they make a cone custom to for this pot – which seems like the way to go.
The cone & stove weigh just 1.7 oz. Given that the cone is a natural windshield this saves me a whopping 4 oz! I suspect I could get more mileage on a 7 oz bottle of alcohol than I could in the 7 oz fuel canister.
For just $30, this might be an experiment I'm willing to tinker with.
Total weight savings? The old headlamps weight an outrageous 1.1 oz, and these are only 0.2 oz. A whopping 0.9oz gain!
OK… I agree I'm getting into diminishing returns on my gear list and would be better served eliminating the Tarptent for a sheet of Tyvek. 🙂
So why the upgrade? Aside from just being a gear-head, there were are few other justifications:
1. Not just a simple on|off flash light – this thing is tricked out! It has a brightness control and you can dim it very low to conserve power. It has various 'blinking' modes – like an emergency SOS signal. All of this configuration with just a single button.
2. It runs for 120 hrs on a single battery.
3. The spare batteries are lighter.
4. With a little tab of Velcro on the back, it attaches easily to the rim on a hat to make a decent hands-free head-lamp mode.
5. It's bomb-proof and waterproof.
Finally… if you think about getting this – a word of caution. The light ships in a 'safety' mode to prevent accidental battery drain. If you turn it on, it auto-shuts off after 5 seconds. To get it out of this mode you have to hold the button down for a whopping 20 seconds. I learned this the hard way on the WCT. Three engineers around a campfire failed to figure this out in four nights on the trail. You wouldn't think that a single button can have so many permutations! Moral of the story: RTFM.
I've been looking for a better treatment solution than MicroPUR tabs.
They work great, but we usually only let them sit for a half hour. In icy cold or dirty water, the recommended time is 4 hrs. I've always wondered if we are just being lucky when we are using very cold water from most of the streams around here.
So what are my other options?
Chlorine Dioxide also comes in liquid form – which has a faster reaction time.
Aqua Mira has had a two-part product on the market for quite some time. However, it requires pre-mixing before adding to the water – which sounds like too much effort.
KlearWater is a newer product that is pre-mixed and has a decent shelf life. It comes in small 9ml containers, that weigh 1.22 oz and treats 9 liters+. Ryan Jordan talks about a way to re-pack them down to 0.5 oz and a strategy that can stretch this to get 25 liters of treated water.
Another interesting product is the Aquamira Frontier Pro Filter, shown on the right. This is inline filter is a mere 2oz in weight and fits onto the opening of a platypus bag and the other end to a hose.
I love the idea of not needing chemical treatment and having instant water, but I need to read some more reviews before I'm sold.
Instead of boring old dried milk – which is usually non-fat (unless you use Nido), give this is try on your Granola. It vastly improves the flavor of the granola and packs a whopping thirteenextra grams of fat.
I suspect this will be a new staple for me at breakfast time.
Theresa and I took a quick morning hike yesterday to Snow Lake. I haven't done this hike for a while – and when we do, we like to be on the trail for 5am to have some solitude. It's one of the busiest trails in the Seattle area and is always packed. It's a short 5-6 mile jaunt to the lake and back.
It was raining in Seattle, and we assumed the same in the pass. When we got there, it was snowing hard – with about 2-3" of fresh on the ground.
We had the trail to ourselves and cut fresh tracks most the way to the lake – when we passed a party of backpackers hiking out.
We don't really do much winter backpacking – our gear gets tucked away in favour of Snowboarding season. We've done some day hikes and a few big-climbs in the snow – like St. Helens and Mt. Adams, but not enough to consider myself seasoned in any way.
I was really surprised how well the brolly performed yet again in the snow fall. It got heavy once in a while and needed shaking off, but all-in-all I didn't bother to pull out a waterproof – or the down jacket I had in my pack just-in-case. We did the whole hike pretty much in thermal undies and hat and an Umbrella – neither too hot, nor too cold.
Can umbrellas really be a credible winter-tool also?
In the world of software development The Mythical Man Month proposes the notion of a project triangle. Where the three points of the triangle are Quality, Time to Market and Features. You can pick (at most) any two you want and do them really well, but the other one suffers. Want lots of features, with high-quality – it's going to take a long time. Want something quick with lots of features? It's going to be buggy.
I think a similar triangle exists for backpacking food. The three points are – Lightweight, Tasty and Fast to Prepare.
Still, I really dig the site – the idea of home-made backpacking meals that very easy to prepare in the field and taste really good probably has it's place on shorter trips. I have not tried any of their recipes yet – but I intend to.
If only they would invent a Thai Curry freezer-bag recipe, then I would be in heaven.
I know what I'll be asking Santa for this Christmas… except it doesn't ship until May 2008.
Snow Peaks website lists this stove as weighing in at 3.3 oz – which isn't that great. However, I'm hoping it's a typo. Earlier this year Backpacking Light saw this stove at a trade show and reported it as weighing 2.15 oz.
The general manager responded to my post and pointed out that the first production run used a fabric treatment that left the uppers somewhat brittle. This is very consistent with my first impression of the shoe – the fabric seemed somewhat stiff and thin – and (with hindsight) probably prone to tearing.
I'm going to take them up on the offer and exchange them for a different pair with the new uppers and will report back. I hope they work out – as I really want to keep these shoes!
You can read the full response in the comments section of my previous post.
I bought these GoLite shoes a few months ago, and wrote a very excited and optimistic post about them.
Today I have a different story to report. 🙁
I hiked a grand total of 3 hikes in them:a quick overnight to Kendall Katwalk, a day hike to Annapurna in the Enchantments, and the West Coast Trail.
Comfort and trail-use wise they performed really well. As I said in my first post – they are amazingly comfy and had excellent traction on a lot of terrain. However, durability wise, they were appalling. I'm amazed how badly they appear to be falling apart after a total of 7 days on trails.
On our recent WCT trip, Theresa and I had base pack weights of 9.10 lbs and 9.96 lbs respectively. Fully loaded with 6 days of food and water, we came to a max-weight of 17.5lb and 22.2 lbs respectively.
Our ultralight gear list changes from time-time and we try and keep it mostly up-to-date, so here for prosperity is a record of the exact gear we took on the WCT.
This was the first 6+ day trip I have done Ultralight and it involved a bunch of gear tweaks and adjustments to hit our target weight.