“Flash Loops”

Made this proof-of-concept up yesterday morning out of scrap line lying around on the coffee table.

Amsteel “dogbone” with GlowWire spliced into it to create daisy-chain loops for hanging gear.

Under tension, the hollow-core, braided amsteel lengthens and that constricts the line around the buried portions of the GlowWire like Chinese handcuffs. If the loops do pull thru and become unnecessarily longer, they can simply be tugged back open since they just lie against the amsteel.

Good for small gear on carabiners, hanging your shoes, or just stuff passed thru the loops.

These could be made right into the lower portions of a Whoopie Sling hammock suspension. With patience, they could probably be done in the smaller 1.75mm dyneema lines like Lash-It, and used on a fixed ridgeline between the ends of a hammock as well.

[… if it’s not clear, the running ends of the loop line are passed around the amsteel and then buried back inside toward the loops]

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“Elevate Your Perspective”~ a Full Sub-$100 Hammock Setup

To look for the Perseids meteor shower, I decided to try out my “cheap” stuff for a hang last night out in my yard nook.
I wanted to make the point to any n00bs to the hammock hanging adventure who might find this post that a full setup doesn’t have to break the bank. I also wanted to be sure that what I might be loaning out to “elevate someone’s perspective” wasn’t a complete POS.

This whole setup comes in at under $100US.

  • generic ENO/GT clone- branded “White Mountain” $20
  • Rolling Fox diamond tarp- 11’x 9′ on the diagonals- $32 [w/ suspension/tieout paracord and steel stakes][Strangely enough, the stakes were not pointed at all.. just flat cut… and HEAVY]
  • TQ and UQ Diy-ed from two CDTs- $40 the pair
  • straps from Harbor Freight- $4
  • [toss in the illuminated yard stake/trek pole- $5 at the Fell-Off-A-Truck Stop and we go to $101]

I’m not going to count the upgrade mods to suspension, stakes etc. since that was from stuff that I was already out of pocket for any way, and wouldn’t be any big whup to the basic experience if it hadn’t been already done.

 

As far as the hammock goes, just about all of these ENO/GT [EaglesNestOutfitters/GrandTrunk] clones will be basically identical. They nearly all come from the same factories in China, and are of the same, non-ripstop parachute fabric. I would suggest that you not get the “double” hammocks unless you are a really big person. My experience is that the extra width [beyond 58″] just means you have a lot of loose cloth flapping in your face.  I personally don’t see any point in paying the brand-name prices for this kind of hammock. Amazon shows prices today ranging from $ 54 95$ 130 33 on ENO Single Nests. That difference buys you most of the rest of the kit described in this post.

Sleeping last night in this White Mountain hammock: I will have to admit that I was hyper aware of the seams from the clone’s 3-piece construction [40″ center strip w/9″ side piecings]. They were more annoying than anything, and were worst up along my shoulder, but certainly weren’t a deal breaker. Once I was down for the count, I slept fine. They made me assume that the clone was narrower than the 58″ full-width fabrics that are standard on the netless hammocks from our “cottage” vendors, but when I measured it this morning for this post it came in at the full 58″. This particular hammock goes 9’8″ fabric end-to-end. This is also shorter than the offerings from the cottage vendors, most of which are available from 10′-12′.

These differences in size and construction, together with the less stretchy, ripstop fabric options the cottage vendors offer, are the prime reason so many folks move on from the hammocks available in the big-box stores.
As a $20 hammock, and for a day-hanger/napper and starting place for hammocking, it is just fine. If it had come in at ENO$$, I’d certainly recommend spending that same $$ on a netless from the Hammock Forum vendors. [My first hammock was a Grand Trunk Double. I spent a few nights in it, got a little education over on hammockforums.net, and sent it back for a refund. That $70 went toward the cost of my AMOK Draumr and I never looked back.]

The 12′ poly straps from Harbor Freight are meant to be cam-cinched with a come-along ratchet for use on pickups and SUV racks. A quick hacksaw job to remove the ratchets and you have decent enough pair of straps. They are not daisy-chain looped, so you do have to learn to tie a larks-head hitch and use a toggle, but they can just be passed through their own end loops at the tree end. Cheap and easy!

 

The Rolling Fox diamond shaped tarp is new to me in the last few days. I wanted something mostly as a dew cover for fair weather hanging, and to use as a sunshade. The diamond cut appealed to me since it would mean I could rig it narrow-wise as well for a deeper shade when in a camp chair during the day. I do have some concern because the ridgeline [in the 11′ orientation] is seamed, and does not appear to have been seam-sealed. I like the tarp well enough that I will take that chance and seal it if I have to. [Besides, this vendor does offer a “lifetime, 100% money-back guarantee!”. I was in touch with him about the ridge, and he gave me his assurance on it.]

This one is what I had on hand and fit the cost limits. There are many other tarps on Amazon and elsewhere that come in at the same relative price point. If you want a square one, or cat-cut sides, go that way. This whole post is just to point out what you CAN get in the hundred dollar range. They are all going to be in a heavier [maybe 50%-70%] fabric, but they will be PU-waterproofed, and will certainly keep you dry. Up your purchase by a few bucks and you can step up to a 10’x 13′ hex-cut from YuEdge. [I thought about that one myself, just to have an extra rain tarp for bad days]. Go another few dollars and you can get a fully catenary cut 12′ x 12′ tarp from Mountainsmith. Most of them will not be made from a ripstop fabric, though some are and some aren’t.

With these low cost, entry-level tarps the one thing to shy away from is selecting one just because they “include” stakes, tie-out lines, and carabiners. These “bonuses” are all going to be cheaper, heavier, and far, far crummier than you are going to want in the long run. [For example, nothing that was included with the Fox tarp really made the grade]. Plus, these items are so easy to upgrade or source yourself that they are simply a waste of your money.  The same thing applies to the hammock suspensions. They are the first thing you are probably going to want to change out. Once you have tried getting the knots out of a swollen rope suspension, you will know what we are talking about. Doing these items on your own isn’t going to add much to your budget, but will give a lot more satisfaction.

 

I am not going into detail* about turning the Costco Down Throws into top and under-quilts. All I will tell you is that the CDTs are much better value than any others I have seen. Nicer material, higher volume/ better quality down, excellent construction, incredible loft for the cost… and possibly most import to a conversion, a full 60″x 70″ size. I don’t care if the brand is Eddie Bauer, BedBath&Beyond or any other reputable one… Accept No Substitutes! You will not get as good a finished project for your $$, time, and efforts. [and the good news is that they are already back in stock at many Costcos for the 2017-18 season]

If you want to save money, you can skip investing in a TQ altogether for a long while. Any sleeping bag will get you through. However, wriggling into and out of a regular or mummy bag once you are in your hammock is a real PITA. Instead, just open the zip to the foot and use it as an open quilt on top. You can even cut off the zipper and do a drawstring footbox with some ribbon loops easily enough.

If you can’t afford to go for a UQ, you can get a really reasonable rest on a closed-cell foam pad. Wally’s has one for $14. That said, after your hammock and tarp, I think most experienced hammockers would tell you to go for a UQ. The pads, even high cost insulated ones like ThermaRest, are notoriously hard to stay on top of in a hammock. None of the cheapo hammocks have double layer fabric pockets that help hold a pad in place, so , if you can, go for a UQ.

* Instuctables on CDT conversions are all over the web.

So, yada-yada complete… what was my “cheap night out” like. I’d have to say it was better than OK. Certainly better than I remember from my ground-dweller days. No rocks, lumps and sticks poking me in the back. No crawling around on damp ground. No crinkly ground sheet. I won’t have any problem loaning this whole setup out for somebody wanting to “elevate their perspective”. If I didn’t have my experience so far, I would probably give it a real thumbs up. Will I keep using my higher quality gear? …Duh!

Now, the hanging was “OK”, but the Perseids had peaked Friday and Saturday nights, so I only saw a couple of tracers. However, it was wickud clear, and the Milky Way was spectacular.
Basically, I was in a hammock…Out under the stars… what’s not to like?

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.