Tarp Tent Success!

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A product that does what it says!

ATSKO Silicon Water-Guard Sealant

I found mine over at Wally World for under six dollars. A quick bit of Internet research on the hammock and tent backpacking forums had persuaded me that plain old ScotchGuard was basically useless in this situation, but there seemed to be a lot of people who were recommending this ATSKO product.

I gave the old tarp a brief cycle through the washing machine with some gentle, “non-detergent” detergent, let it dry completely strung up out in the sun, and gave it a thorough treatment that used up one full can on a 9′ x 11′ tarp. The instructions include the idea that you need to shake the can up regularly while you spray. I found that a steady circular motion not only gave me very efficient coverage but also kept the little ball bearings rolling around almost constantly. There was almost no fluid left in the can when the propellant was exhausted. Just like they claim. The fluid went on smoothly to penetrate the nylon taffeta fabric very evenly, and it was also easy to determine how evenly the spray was covering the surface without any signs of soaking or drips. I didn’t have any doubt that I had followed the instructions and gotten the results that were indicated. This was yesterday morning, and this morning the heavy dew-fall had beaded up almost microscopically on the whole surface. A couple of quick flip/shakes and the whole tarp shed all the moisture. … You can’t ask much more than that.

Six dollars to renovate a 40-year-old tarp seems like a fairly good deal. Back in the 1970s PU treated nylon had just started to be used, and this was a pretty expensive tarp back then, so I’m grateful I was able to bring it back to full usefulness. We will string it up this weekend for a little shelter up by the river, and I’ll let you know whether it works out as well as it seems to.

Tarp Tent Fail

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I found an old catenary cut tarp that I bought back in the 1970s, so, yesterday I took some time to try to rig it up… not once, but twice. Once using an old sectional tentpole to spring it, and once without.

It certainly doesn’t look like it in the pictures, but… Fail! Always check out your gear at home before you leave, Kiddies.

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It went up OK both times, and was at least functional. However, it wasn’t designed for the gullwing/kite configuration I wanted to use. The tie-out points did not line up when the ridgeline was run corner to corner… It was planned for straight A-frame suspension; rectangular, front to back.  No matter what I did, there was always some droop and slackness that was going to flap badly in any kind of real wind.

Still, as I said, it was at least functional. Free, too… ne sait pas ?   The real problem showed up when it got dark and the dew came down. It soaked right through like it was a cotton sheet. Drips beading up on every interior fold, and dripping down. So now I’m left with the conundrum of whether to waste a can of spray Scotchgard on it. I suspect that all I would get was water resistance not waterproofing. I hate getting wet… Any Thoughts?

It looks like they just didn’t make stuff 40 years ago like they made stuff 41 years ago… Nothing lasts,  you just can’t count on stuff anymore.

Onward etc.

New Stuff !!

The post office unloaded a few things on me yesterday that I have been waiting for. As you have probably figured out by now, in order to find good deals, I buy a lot of stuff off the Internet. Some of it comes from overseas and the shipping delays can always be pretty unpredictable. The worst of these is a company out of Hong Kong’s ShamShuiPo tech district. I won’t name names until they piss me off even more, but it seems that their nearly constant refrain is “some items are on back-order” even when they show available for immediate shipment on the site. AND they frequently don’t post that fact for a week or more, and then it appears, but with the date of the post matching the date of the order. Bad business practices. But stuff you can’t get anywhere else at the price, and some stuff at any price. And they do free “shipping” no matter how slow it is. So, I keep going back for the abuse again and again.

Yesterday, I finally got a solar powered, LED lantern that I had ordered a month ago when we first started planning the river-rafting trip.

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SingFire is usually a fairly predictably quality product. I have a couple of their AA and AAA flashlights that are my favorites. This lantern, however, was DOA.

It seemed to have suffered a torturous death. While there were no batteries included, one of the battery terminals was caked with blue-green corrosion. There was moisture inside the battery cover, and even more moisture visible when I opened the carcass. The rechargeable battery also had water in its mounting shell. One wire inside was not even connected to anything, and the adjustable light switch/dial was disconnected and freewheeling. A little screw was in there, but had either come undone or never been attached in the first place. Since, once it had actually shipped, it only took five days to get here, I don’t believe that the corrosion could’ve happened in transit. The shipping package itself showed no trace of moisture. That I have to believe happened previously, while warehoused, and anyway there was absolutely no excuse for the manufacturing defects. So I had to send off a request for my money back…  Despite their other failings, they are usually pretty good about claims, and I’ll let you know how it turns out.

However, when I checked it for salvageability, the rechargeable battery slammed the needle off the scale on my battery checker, so I decided to see what I could do. After a three-hour search for my soldering iron, and then the solder, and then the flux, I was able to jury rig some new wires onto the rechargeable battery and then heat shrink them to the miniscule wires provided. A few more minutes spent trying to figure out how the switch went together and I got the screw back in place. I wiped out the case to get all the moisture, and scraped down the terminals. Once I got it back together, I turned the switch and it lit up, so it wasn’t a total loss.  I need to let the rechargeable run down completely before I can determine whether it actually charges by solar power, or if the circuitry was damaged by the moisture… Just because it turns on once doesn’t mean that it works the way it’s supposed to. Most consumers would’ve just dropped it in the trash. And end-users should not have to go through complex home repair processes to have a functioning item. But we’ll see what they have to say. I certainly feel like I’m entitled to a partial refund for the trouble I had to go through.

All the hassle aside, it’s a nice light. Despite being LED, which generally only dim up/down in increments, the knob will take it from very dim to somewhere around 100 lm. with a nice firm “click” when it snaps off. Perfectly fine for a campsite or in a tent. At eight or 10 inches tall, it’s too large for backpacking, and with four AA batteries in place to provide back up power, it’s not the lightest thing I’ve ever seen, but it hangs or stands, and if it charges, it will provide some nice light when we take off on the river-rafting trip next week… IF it keeps working!

 

 

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Next out of the POBox was a very nice Buck Knife Model #692 that I bought from eBay out of Israel. I was a little hesitant because the 692 is a knife that comes heavily pirated out of China, A lot of unscrupulous people buy them and then attempt to resell them as originals. Those just do not have nearly the high-quality steel that Buck Knives uses. One of the major differences to look for is that the Chinese counterfeits all have stainless steel butts and tangs. The real Bucks feature brass. The photos and description on this knife claimed that it was brass mounted, but the knife sheath, with its Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation logo appeared to be pretty much what you would expect with the Chinese knockoffs. The RMEF logo seems to be a big favorite with the Chinese pirates. They use it on a whole bunch of different sheaths. I guess they think that if you think it’s a specialty, “custom” product you will be more likely to buy their “BUCK” knives… GUYS!… The problem is that you cannot buy a real Buck Knife starting at $.99 !!

Years ago I bought a DH Russell Model #1SF belt knife from Grohmann up in Pictou NS in Canada. We went to the factory on a whim and my wife was nice enough to buy it for me as a gift. But the Grohmann is a REALLY NICE KNIFE! It was pretty expensive back then, and, as much as I love it, I would hate for anything to happen to it. As a result, I have been looking around for a good, fixed blade knife as a knock-about to finish out my camping gear.Because the 692 “model” features a fairly thick, heavy blade with the same saber grind as the Kershaw 10 Camp Knife, it looked like it would be perfect for splitting out really small kindling.

I had originally even figured on just buying one of the Chinese knockoffs, [which are not a bad deal on their own given that they go for eight or $9. At that price it’s a pretty good beater… even with cheaper steel… It would certainly fulfill my 90% of the utility for 50% of the price qualification], however, when the auction for what actually seemed to be an original model 692 was going down at only a few dollars more than the Chinese knives, I went ahead and snipe-ed it. For this deal, the shipping out of Israel only took a total of five days. And, my optimism seems to have paid off. I don’t know what happened to the original sheath, but the knife itself certainly seems to be an original Buck. It is hallmarked “BUCK \”, and the hallmark is where it’s supposed to be. On the Chinese knives the word “BUCK” is stamped horizontally along the top of the blade on the left side just in front of the tang, and they also use a typeface that is more drawnout and wider than the one that Buck themselves use. The additional “\” indicates that the knife was made in 1994 just as the gentleman from Israel purported.

When it got here, the knife needed a little little cleaning up. The brasses [for they were indeed made of brass] were badly tarnished and the handle was covered in grime and dirt to the point that it was more gray/brown than black [that fact had also given me some pause before I made my eBay bid], but the blade itself was in exceptionally good condition with no sign of nicks or mistreatment. It arrived just shy of “hair-popping” sharp.

I was really pleased. With just a little bit of work and cleaning, it came back to the condition it left the Buck factory in back in 1994. After cleaning it, I gave it a touch up on my Arkansas stone and looked over the blade edge with a loupe. It had polished up like glass. I really don’t think that the Chinese steel was going to be capable of taking an edge that clean, so, I am fairly certain I do indeed have an original knife. Regardless, at the price, it was an incredible deal, knock off or not… 90% for 50%.

I then took it out to the stump and was able to split out matchstick sized pieces from a short chunk of oak. With a few quick taps on the back of the blade with a spall I was able to chunk up a 6 inch piece of maple. Taken together with the Kershaw 10 for the heavier work, I think I have found the perfect combination for easily and efficiently working up fuel for the small, “Leave-No-Trace” wood stoves that I have started using as my go to cook setup.

 

Other received deliveries that I will get around featuring here include an elastic cargo net to secure loose stuff to the outside of the OneCoolBackpack, a big bag of those wrist-coil mosquito repellent bands that I will be testing out up on the campout, a bunch of nice, new paracord in various sizes and colors. I’m still waiting on some new mini LED lights, some nicer compasses, and some decent aluminum whistles for the emergency kits… Those are languishing in the clutches off  THAT HK shipper.

And the final good news is that I understand from Mikhail at MerkWorks that the KickStarter FireAnt titanium stove is in production and will ship out in the next couple of days. It would be wonderful if it made it in time for the river-rafting trip.

Onward through the fog…

Kershaw 10 Camp “Knife”

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The Three-word Review: What a tool!

The Full Deal:

Pushing the “BUY” button for this purchase was difficult for me. Because I am trying to reduce the footprint of my camping experience, both in how I touch the wilderness and what I carry out into it, I’ve been searching for that “perfect solution” for something to use chopping up sticks for my smallwood stoves. While the entire point of these small units is to be able to find fuel in the debris of the woods, “good”, dry, hardwood is difficult to break up using just your hands even if it’s deadfall. I have a couple of nice, fixed blade belt knives that I can use to whittle up tinder and kindling, but you can’t really chop with them and I wanted something much lighter in weight than a hatchet, an axe, or a machete. I have also desperately been trying to keep my project down to a minimal cost. I had been almost seriously considering buying a cheapo $12 “Bowie knife” down at the army surplus store… something I wouldn’t care about, and that could get banged up as much as needed without worrying about the cost. Something that I could just whang on the back of the blade with a rock to split up larger pieces of wood. However, I hate cheap tools. Also, I knew I would never feel like I had actually gotten my moneys worth. 90% of the value for 50% of the cost… remember?

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A couple of months ago, I posted a photo of an old, old BOLO machete that I bought 50 years ago when I was a Boy Scout. I think it cost me $5… at the army-navy store… that was about five weeks of my allowance. And this was back when an army navy store actually had decent, actual war surplus items, and halfway quality merchandise. The Bolo has a carbon steel, full tang, build, But it had hollow, plastic handles that cracked the first weekend I used it. That was its first introduction to duct tape. Over the years, it has been used, left to rust, been restored, and left to rust again, rehandled several times… and it still one of the greatest tools I’ve ever owned. I put the scales in the photo above on it back in the 90s. They are made out of South American Ipae from a shipping pallet. Right now it’s been fully cleaned up, re-edged, and resharpened, but I’m still trying to find a source for some brass rivets to replace the scales… That’s why the handles are just wrapped in cotton twine and duct tape. This is not a lasting solution. And as much as I love the old BOLO, it is just too long, and too heavy for my current needs. I’ll get it finished up, but it’s not likely to make the loadout for backpacking I anymore.

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Anyway when I found the Kershaw 10 Camp Knife, and read a bunch of reviews, I was sorely tempted to go ahead and pay full freight. I knew the 14 inch and 18 inch versions were much bigger than I needed, but it certainly looked like the 10 inch version would satisfy my Goldilocks needs. There was also a certain amount of “zombie killer” POS/BS/mojo that automatically attaches itself to any knife this large that was a bit of a turnoff to me.  Why not just go out and get a radioactive green faux katana and a set of num-chuks?  …Still, it looked like it could be the solution… but would the actual product hold up to the hopes and expectations or would I cringe in embarrassment in the way that only a Zombie Apocalypse/TEOTWAWKI nay-sayer can when he finds he’s just bought an Armageddon vanquisher?

Yes. It holds up very well… and it would probably cut the crap out of a zombie, too.

Kershaw makes three versions of their “Camp Knives” in different lengths… 10″, 14″ and 18″, that being the length of the blade itself not including the handle. While Kershaw chooses to refer to these as knives, I certainly consider them far more out into the realm of tool. A knife is just not meant to be this big. Each has a slightly different shape, with the 18 incher being the most machete-like. The 10″, with it’s recurved blade, is most similar to a Gurkha Kukri, or Malaysian parang, but with a smoother curve. As you can see in the photo, it has a saber-grind with the spine being thickest, and then just over half the blade width tapering to the final cutting-edge grind. That secondary bevel seems to keep the tool from sticking and grabbing far better than the fully flat blade of the machete which always seems to want to wedge.  The Camp 10’s weight seems to be almost perfectly balanced at the center of length, the steel is actually thicker than my old bolo machete, it arrived just shy of shaving-sharp, and it comes with a nice ABS, molded case has a detachable belt loop and two 8″ Velcro molle straps. The case also features a total of six holes for paracord tie-downs if you would rather not use the belt loop and straps. With the four slots for the Velcro, that gives you a total of 10 points that you can use for lashing it to whatever you want to lash it to. Additionally, there is a snap strap to go around the tangs of the handle and restrain it from slipping out of the scabbard.

The handle, with its rubberized surface over hard ABS plastic, provides a very secure grip. Some reviewers noted that it might eventually be tough on your hands with extended use due to the nubbled surface. My hands are not overly work hardened, and I did not notice any chaffing after a few days use. Some reviewers also criticized the case for having some rattle. Mine did indeed have this problem. My solution was to pour a little boiling water inside the case [which has a drain hole at the end], and after that I clamped the upper section between two large, flat twigs with a set of vise grips. 10 minutes later the ABS had reformed to fit very snugly on the blade. Even held upside down and shaken, there was no loosening.

The first thing I did was take it out along the stone wall and hacked down and de-limbed a few two and 3 inch diameter “volunteers” that have grown up over the last few years. Worked a charm. Clean cutting without much effort, no sign of any wear or dulling, and cleanup was wiping some sap off on the damp grass. Then I tried it out on some fully dried, hardwood stove lengths. It’s definitely no axe. However, as long as you’re willing to re-drop a log length with the knife wedged in it several times, and there are no big knots, in works well enough. Where it showed it’s true calling is in chopping up smallwood and splitting 1″ to 2″ limb pieces. Those it went through like butter. I think that it will be my “perfect solution” for the little camping woodstoves. One of the things that I like the most about the recurve in the blade is that it allows you to place the forward, rounded portion firmly against a stump and “rock” downward with the rear portion to create shavings and peels. You will not be whittling out  spoons with this, but it is going to make hurrying up some kindling a piece of cake.

At $40-$45 is not exactly cheap. At just under 8 ounces it’s not all that lightweight. However, at that price point you are not going to get a custom- made knife of any size, certainly not something that falls into the full tool category, and even at a half a pound the utility when you get upcountry is going to be worth it.

I’m really happy that I pulled the trigger, or pushed the button. Once it had shipped, it arrived the next day. With just a few days short use, it certainly seems to be what I had hoped and wished for. I’ll plan on taking it along when we go whitewater rafting in two weeks. Even in a campground, I’ll be able to give it a good workout over several nights and see if I have any real criticisms. Right now I don’t see anything that would make me regret my decision. Money well spent.

Onward through the fog…

Smallwood-fired Tin-can Gasifier Stove

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A few days ago I took 30 minutes and finally threw together my own version of the wood gasifier tin can stove. In the photo above you can clearly see the gas igniting from the ring of holes around the top of the interior can. This is a top burning stove, meaning that you load small pieces of wood to entirely fill the interior can and then build your initial fire on top which then burns downward. Since it is the gases that are released from the wood that actually burn, they are drawn downward through the stove and then back up the void between the two cans to re-ignite at the top of the stove. This gives a strong, hot flame right under your pot.

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For this version I used three different cans. The largest was a coffee can with a “peel-off” top. This is a heavy duty aluminum foil seal that left a quarter inch rim around the top of the can that negated the need to cut open the top. Otherwise, you would need to empty the can somehow and then cut out a circular hole the diameter of the next smallest can. You can do this by drawing a circle the diameter of the interior can and then very carefully cutting out the metal with a pair of tin snips or a jigsaw. This can obviously be a pain in the ass. A down and dirty version would be with an old-fashioned “church-key” beer can opener that punches out the triangular shaped holes, making a complete circle of adjoining holes and leaving a 1/4″ edge. The interior can was from a Progresso soup, and the smallest can was of the cat food variety.

Once the top is cut out on the largest can, you make a row of equally spaced 1/2″ holes around the bottom. These are your air intake. I used tin snips to join two holes to provide a clean-out for the wood ash. The soup can has as many 1/4″ holes punched in the bottom portion as you can fit without violating its integrity. It’s top was simply removed with the rotary can opener. You then make a row of equally spaced 1/4″ holes around the top of the can 1/2″ down from the top. I used 10 holes on the larger can, and 24 around the top of the soup can.

The cat food can, which is used as a set off to raise your cooking pot, is the most difficult to deal with. The bottom of these cans are rounded over, and preserving that round-over is necessary for it to sit stably in the top of the Progresso can. This means more careful work with the tinsnips. You want to be able to cut cleanly right around the outermost groove in the bottom. It then has a row of eight half-inch holes for venting.

I think I made a mistake with the cat food can on this version. The holes probably should be adjoining the top edge. I accidentally pierced them at the bottom. I am going to make a second version of the standoff and see if changing the holes makes any difference.  In matter of fact, the number of holes used in each of the components seems to be open to debate. When I make the next model I will probably use a smaller number of holes to provide burners in the top of the soup can [at least]. I may also try making a larger version using a big tomato juice can and a tall baked-bean can.

Once the holes have been drilled, you simply start to wedge the smaller can inside the hole in the top of the coffee can with a slight rocking motion, so that you do not tear the metal rim. When it has started down, you can turn the whole rig over and just push down on the bottom of the coffee can to seat the soup can inside. If you have been careful, it will fit together so snugly that it can no longer be taken back out…. That’s why these photos don’t show the components separately.

Because my Olicamp cook-cup is nearly the same size as the set-off can, I used a 92mm fan grill from the back of an old computer case as a grate. Larger pots or fry pans will sit quite stably on just the set off.

Once the fire was established, I was able to bring eight or 10 ounces of water to a full bubble for coffee in just less than four minutes. Total burn time before I needed to add more wood was around 10 to 12 minutes. Now… there is no way to regulate the heat on this type stove. Cooking and simmering thicker foods will require constant monitoring, and stirring, to prevent them from burning. While it is not shown in the photographs, I found that it works wonderfully with the little aluminum flashing windscreen that I showed in an earlier post.

However, where this stove really proves itself a winner is in cooking or toasting things on a stick. I love to take along a little baggie of frozen, marinating meat that thaws out while I hike and cook it piece by piece over an open flame. This unit is perfect for that type of cooking. Think marshmallows!  Think “Lil’Smokie” wieners, think steak tips, or chicken chunks… hot, sizzling and with that certain kind of char that you can only get over open flames. No huge fire pit to maintain, and you can start your cooking within five minutes. Once you’re done cooking, you can maintain a nice, small fire to hang around by just adding thumb-sized stick-wood in through the top. You end up with all the enjoyment of an open fire in the tiniest of footprints. Left to burn out, the stove will have only fine, white, wood ash remaining to dispose of.  Truly “Leave No Trace”.