Adventures with the Thread Injector

In the world of camping DIY, a sewing machine is referred to as a thread injector… the process is called fabric welding. This sounds a little less wimpy than telling people you have been sewing.

To encourage myself to buckle down and actually git’er’done on the pile of fabric and parts that had been sitting on the end of the dining room table for the better part of three weeks, the other day I started a thread on Hammock Forums called “Thread Injector Log~~ Stardate:____”.

I did the ritual 15 minutes to thread the needle/accidentally pull it out the thread/rethread the needle…, but after the first hour I had gotten some stuff done.

  • L&L patch on bag
  • Patched tear in sq. bag
  • Fixed jellyfish bag
  • Made mesh pouches bag

One rat-nest on jellyfish bag

Another hour:

 

  • Really coffee-d up!
  • Reworked two BlingBags
  • Patched and adapted old yard chair bag to hold ALite chair

 

 

 

By lunch:

$5 kids 6′ hammock from FiveBelow°, repurposed to gear-mock.

 

 

 

  • “knotty-mod on both sides
  • 2 and 3 mesh pocket organizers… one sewn-on/ one prussic-ed on ridge
  • 58″ Zing-It ridge~ tied into channels w/ 8″ to 4′ whoopies on each end
  • 2- $$Tree 4′ dog leashes for straps w/ toggles

 

By dinner time: made a gear-mock tarp~ 64″x 56″ /rock pockets on all four corners/ it will get kam-snaps about 6″ down the sides below the suspension, and tieout tapes on all four corners [in case of really blowy weather]

Don’t stand too close and it don’t look too bad.

Next day:

“Bedding day’:

  • 60″x 70″ Costco Down Throw converted to UQ. Trimmed 3 sq of width, which gave massive, doubled draft collars at each end/1 1/2″ grosgrain tape and ripstop for channels/ standard UGQ~HG suspension…
  • Gathered end “hot-nights” sheet from Chinese terminal sleeping bag *. …Single layer, pongee cotton-poly/ trimmed off hood/ stripped zips and re-hemmed all around/ gathered, drawstring footbox
  • Couple of small repairs and adaptations on  other junk

 

I want to try the UQ out a couple of times before I commit to ripping thread between squares to make continuous down channels. May be fine like it is.

*[these are what the folks take incase of delays/layovers on the long, crowded trips back home over the Chinese winter holiday. They are basically just a 1/2 zip sleeping bag made of heavy sheeting material with a hood to stuff a coat into as a pillow. Really cheap [$7US], easy to wash or even toss, but are quite soft and comfortable… perfect for this use.]

I Am Bald !

….Really, really bald. I claim it is just a solar panel for a sex-machine.

Most days I wear a cap. When I sleep out in the wild, my head tends to get chilly, so I mostly wear a toque.I have a couple, including a sweet down version from UGQ that pulls way down over your face and eyes for the really cold nights. Last weekend I didn’t take one, and I ended up with a tee pulled over my head and tucked into the neck of my shirt when it got windy and wet. I looked even more dorky than usual.

 

When I got home, I found a deal on “buffs” from Amazon. Rather pretentiously, they call them “Outdoor Multifunctional Sports Magic Scarfs”…. Great color selection though [35 different sets of nine patterned buffs each], and way cheap… $7.99 up the bunch. I got the “Totem2” set. Buy a set, get a free buff, so I ended up with 10 total. [As a note: The center left one in the photo wasn’t in  the set… I got some light green one that I don’t like as much] Anyway I’ll be taking a few extras to the next hang and up my karma by giving them away to the others.

If you don’t know what a buff is… look it up on the net. In short, it is a sleeve of stretch fabric that you can “wear” a whole bunch of different ways. Neck gaiter, dust mask, balaclava, headband, beanie, Foreign Legion neck cover… etc. Since it is a super lightweight poly-microfiber, you can also wet it down and use it for evaporative cooling when it gets hot. As well, one of them weighs next-to-nothing. Perfect in the pack.

I turned mine inside out, twisted the center part and pulled both halves back over my head to make a beanie. Perfect for summer night when there is a bit of a breeze, and I can pull it down over my eyes for a daytime snooze.

I really like these, especially at the price. Soft, light, colorful… just loud enough to make a statement [“This guy has NO taste!”].

They come nicely flatpacked, so it is easy to toss one or two into a pocket or in your clothes bag just to have on hand.

 

 

 

At the same time, and from the same maker [Kingree], I picked up one of the Shemaghs that the troops have adopted over in the Middle East to keep themselves both warm and cool. [Again… look it up for more detail].

My buddy Iuri (@brazilianguy) and his lady, Fey (@chinesegirl), both love theirs and bring ,and wear, them at every campout. Last weekend I thought longingly about what a difference having one would have been making to my comfort.

 

I have to work out the stylistic details of tying/wearing one without looking like an even more complete dork, but a lot of the others also have them and vaunt their usefulness. Again, multi-use, in that they can be used in a number of ways.  A bit heavy, since they are all cotton, however, that means you can also wet these down and get the cooling effects, or use them as a camp towel.

[$14… be sure to get one that is “heavy weight”. The light ones are like tissue, and fall apart quickly. Some also reportedly smell like chemical solvents and aren’t colorfast… read them-thar’ reviews first, folks]

Camping Food (pt.3): Something Small & Tasty

On the heels of (pt.1), I wanted to follow-up with some small package items that are easier to carry along in your pack.

I got all of these over my Fell-Off-A-Truck Stop. They went for about $.13 cents each.

[you can see that the Walkers have already been out with me a couple of times and didn’t get consumed… I always take more than I need and enough to share in case anybody else has a sweet tooth, too].

Like the cookies in the larger packages from the original post, these are all “hard” baked cookies, and consequently have a longer shelf life. That’s a nice factor to consider if you’re buying things consume over an entire camping season. All are recommended.

Some Smalls…

Pretty self explanatory.

Got some nice little BIC™ sized lighters, but with long necks that make fire or stove starting much, much easier. Way easier to carry along, too.

Bright colors in case I drop ’em. I’ve got an orange one down in my cook kit already.

I have been using the black one for a couple of months now. It rides around in the pocket of my greatcoat for lighting my pipe, and it shows no sign yet of running out of gaz. From the makers of everyone’s favorite muck-about camp shoes… Crocks™.  I’ll probably grab another couple of bright colored ones in case they disappear.

Buck apiece down at the Dollar Tree.

 

Camping Food (pt.2): Little Packs for Breakfast

The other morning I went grocery shopping and I almost committed a capital shopping sin: I was about to go food shopping while hungry.  For me, this is a disaster. I’m almost certain to get home and discover I bought a 24 pack of pop tarts, Hot Pockets™, or some other ridiculous food that just “looked so good”. Buyer’s regret is almost inevitable.

Before I did any of the rest of my shopping, I picked up the package of Nature Valley Blueberry “Biscuits” that are mentioned in the first part of this series. I opened up the box, and ate three of the four biscuits in one pouch to take the edge off my appetite and save myself from stupidity. Ordinarily I would’ve purchased the green packaged NV “Oats ‘n Honey” crunchy bars, but they didn’t seem to be in stock. The biscuits turned out to be a nice alternative to also have on hand when I put together a weekend’s camping food. Sometimes stupidity has side benefits.

Well I got home, I opened up one of my packages of the Justin’s Maple Almond Butter, and tried it out on the fourth biscuit. I was little disappointed. The Almond butter itself is pretty good, but the maple flavor was quite lacking, and the biscuits themselves have a nutty enough flavor that the nut butter was pretty much wasted on them. As I mentioned in the other, earlier review, these are very dense and the “natural” blueberry flavor comes through well.

The Nature Valley “Biscuits come in at 230 cal for a four biscuit pouch; 80 cal come from oil.

My usual pairing for the “Oats ‘n Honey” bars is to crumble them up into a squeeze pouch of “Ready GO Greek” * shelfstable yogurt. The bars [2 to a pack] have 95 calories each, and a yogurt pouch adds a decent 130 cal. [as a comparison: the CliffBar™ and the NV Almond granola bar that I have on hand come in at 260 cal add 130 cal respectively, but they seem much sweeter and too sugary to me]   I really like this combo as an alternative to a pop tart or granola bar for a field breakfast. It is quick, delicious, and I will gladly do a spot of cleanup on my silicone bowl for the upgrade. When my hiking season is over I also do this pairing up right around the house to finish my supplies of the yogurt [however, it does seem to come dated at least a year out at time of purchase]…  the Oats ‘n Honey Bars are so dense that they seem to have a nearly indefinite shelflife. I’ve eaten them as much as two years after purchase, and they were perfectly fine.

When I have them, since they are also a somewhat come-and-go item over at the Fell-Off-A-Truck Stop, I will sometimes add eight or 10 of these strange little freeze-dried fruit balls. One of the nice things about them is that they come in a resealable zip top bag… as long as you squeeze most of the air back out they seal up very tightly and stay nice and crunchy for quite a long time.

If you will let the crushed up oat bars and the fruit balls soak in the yogurt for a few minutes, they will start to soften up… Too long and they get mushy.

Both of these and the Nature Valley “Biscuits” are also really good as a “munch while you march” snack.

However, you don’t want to add the fruit clusters to a trail mix unless you’re going to eat it all that same day. They will soften up from the moisture in the nuts and raisins.

 

 

* the link I found shows a much higher price, which makes them a lot less bang for your buck, but I picked up my Ready GO Greek yogurt as a four pack for only $2 over at the Fell-Off-A-Truck Stop… It is generally available there in a couple of other flavors as well.

 

 

DIY Combo Summerweight Quilts

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I paired up a $20 Cosco down throw with a $21 lightweight Chinese bag made with “imitation silk” insulation and a “waterproof” outer covering. The silver throw fits inside the orange bag to give me a combo sleep system that should take me well down into the 40°s range. Either piece can also be used individually, or in conjunction with one of my other bags to grab a few more degrees.

You can never tell what you’re going to get with the Chinese stuff, but the “imitation silk” seems to be almost the same thing as the products marketed stateside as ClimaShield… a continuous/single filament insulation that comes on a roll, and cuts and sews just like cloth. I am not going to bet on fully waterproof, but the exterior of the orange bag does bead up water enough that it rolls right off. This should be sufficient, since I’m really mostly interested in it keeping the dew off of my down bag when I don’t want to put a tarp up over my hammock.

I used the Infamous Thread Injector to sew a drawstring channel along the full width of the bottom of each bag. About 2 inches on the silver bag, and about five on the orange one.  That way the foot box space on the orange bag is larger and won’t compress the down in the silver foot box. The two drawstrings can just be tied with an overhand knot to hold the footboxes together. [I also cut out the perimeter zipper on the Chinese bag]

The Costco throw came quilted into six-inch squares. I went ahead and pulled out all of the vertical stitching. This allows some of the down that was caught in the original sewing job to add to the loft. You can also now fluff the down toward the center/top of the bag so that more down will be over your body. I added vertical sewn-thru quilting to the orange bag… mostly as a “just in case” to prevent the insulation from tearing and shifting. And having the channels in the two bags at 90° opposition to each other should help keep down any cold spots.

I still have to put on a couple of snaps on each long edge to hold the pair together. Of course, in the way of all things, these are exactly what I forgot to pick up when I was at the Wallyworld down Babylon today. However, last night I just used safety pins, and then took the comboed pair out in the hammock and down into the low 50°s for a couple of hours to watch the stars come out. Worked a charm.

Specs:   38oz  …78″ x 30″  … approx 2 1/2″ loft in the pair. Together, the two pack down to about the size of a gallon of milk.

A little heavier than I would really like, but the CDT only goes 15oz on its own, and I will probably be using it by itself as my go-to TQ for most of my fair weather camping. So, at a cost of under $45, and just a couple of hours work, it’s a combo that seems awfully hard to beat.

[Jus’ sayin’~~ If you have a Costco warehouse near you, and can pick up one of these throws for $19.99,  you’re foolish to pass it up]

Army-Navy Finds

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My friend Norton from down in Virginia posted some photos online of he and his son tarping it and cooking some MRE chows out in the growing snowpocalypse that was Storm Jonas. I was very taken with the aluminum mug in one of the photos and pulled this clipping from it.

He told me it was a Russian Army issue that is much heavier gauge material than you would expect from the old-timey Boy Scout ones. I really do like the handle styling.

This is the kind of thing that you can sometimes pick up out at a yard sale or an Army Navy store that will turn out to be substantially better than a lot of things for sale in the camping catalogs. “Mil-Spec” items, regardless of nationality, are really made to take a beating. Finds like these are why am always happy to go cruise around a junk shop.

I have [metaphorically] kicked myself in the behind many times over the years for having passed up a knife/fork/spoon set at an Army Navy store down in New Bedford one time. I think it was all of $4 for a set. Made for the Swedish Army, stainless steel, and only two thirds the length of standard US mess flatware, but with the spoon bowl and fork tines full size. Even my new titanium camping set isn’t as sweet as the memory of that passed up opportunity.

Don’t be afraid to grab up stuff. You can always pass it on to others, or it might turn out to be your favorite gear.