A 2.8 oz. backpacking chair

Out in the wild I really miss a comfortable place to sit.  So here is my accessory that makes a Big Agnes or other air mattress into a chair.  Complete with a small storage pouch, it weighs 2.8 oz. Some sil-nylon fabric, 3/4″ webbing and two side release buckles, coupled with sewing machine time and presto. Slide the top and bottom sleeves over the ends of the partially inflated mattress.  Fasten the webbing straps together, adjust their length and the inflation level and you have wilderness comfort.

I have used commercial versions in the past that used stays to keep the back rigid.  They were a lot heavier and did not pack down well.  This approach solves the problem by Continue reading

Ultralight Backpacking Fuels, Alcohol and Esbit – Insights from the field

Alcohol stove fuel and Esbit tablets really can be the workhorses of ultralight cooking. The usual canister vs. alcohol vs. Esbit review doesn’t really capture practical or best practices approaches to these two fuels.  Here are my tips on how I make these fuels work well for me in my backcountry kitchen to boil water, to rehydrate a freeze dried meal or bake a chocolate cake. Even in the rain.

It’s not just the fuel, but really the whole system that counts.  That includes fuel, burner, pot support, windscreen, simmer control, stove lighting and extinguishing, burn time, outdoor temperature sensitivity, refueling ease, fuel storage and some factor for operating fussiness.  Add to this weight and cost considerations for both the basic system and for fuel and you will be well on your way to making choices.  Some popular stove products do a good job on addressing most issues, think Jet-Boil.  See how I do better. Continue reading

Black Diamond Mega Light Project – Part 2

BD MegaLite finishedSome projects take longer to finish than others.  But here it is, the Black Diamond MegaLight modified for 4 season use.  It now has bug netting, as well as optional bath tub floor and rain awning. While no longer in an ultralight category for 1 or 2 people, it is pretty light for 56 sq.ft. of floor space with a 65″ center height.  It sheds rain well and can be secured against high winds. I can pick and choose elements to include, depending on the trip, and pack a shelter system weighing between and 2 and 4 lbs.  Part 1 of this project covers the tent as set up for winter snow camping. This post describes making it suitable for rainy, summer outings with bugs. Continue reading

A comfort light trip and a bright idea.

Bilgy2This spring I am helping with our outdoor club’s courses on wilderness travel and backpacking.  To practice what I am preaching and  prepare for an upcoming trip, my wife and I took a leisurely backpack up a wilderness river valley in Olympic National Park.  Snow remains in the high country, but we had spring flowers, fresh bear scat just before camp and evening Harlequin ducks feeding in the river.

Since this was just an overnight family outing, I felt I could pack some extras. I even brought a small can of chicken!  Still, playing Sherpa, my walk-away-from-the-car weight  was only 28 lbs. and my wife carried 15. With two people, this was a trip for the Bilgy2 tent.  We had a large camp site all to ourselves and were joined at supper time by another couple who set up on an adjacent river island.

LuminAID-PackLite-16-Solar-Inflatable-LanternOne of the packed extras was a LuminAID PackLite 16 solar light.  Continue reading

Black Diamond Mega Light Project – Part 1

BD ML MORA

Late fall in the Pacific Northwest brings rain and darkness.  It is a good time for projects.  This one modifies a Black Diamond Mega Light sil-nylon pyramid tent to add tie downs, wind guys, insect netting and wet weather features, while still preserving it’s usefulness for winter snow camping.  And of course, doing so with minimal added weight.

So here is the Mega Light, practice pitched on a nice spring day in Mt. Rainier National Park.  The basic tent weighs only 25 oz. and can be pitched hanging from an overhead line or with a center pole.  You can use a pair of ski or trekking poles with a supplied coupling accessory, or the 11.4 oz. carbon fiber sectional pole that comes with the tent.  Tent weight of 2 lbs. 5 oz. for over 50 sq. ft. of interior space and 65 inches of head room is pretty light.

Still some customization can produce  an even more versatile, big four season  tent, in the range of comfort light packing. Continue reading

Should Fire be a 10th Essential?

FireYou’re lost. You’re cold.  You’re wet. You’re not going to get out of the woods soon.  What’s your plan?  Of course, you need to build a fire!  Good idea?  Bad idea?

Making an emergency fire has long been one of the pillars of wilderness survival response.  The ability to do this is codified in the Mountaineers 10 Essentials List.  After watching big chunks of the west burn during our exceptionally dry summer, it might be time for a “reboot”. Continue reading

GPS trials

Garmin or Android

Oregon 400i – Samsung Galaxy SIII – Oregon 600

A lot our adventures leave developed trails and follow informal boot paths, or sometimes no paths at all. Our terrain is frequently heavily wooded or high relief, so that visual navigation is restricted. We use our GPS’s a lot.

I have always used a handheld Garmin unit.  But lot of my friends have switched to GPS applications on their smart phones.   I wondered if I was missing something.    So this spring I put the smart phone GPS app approach to some real world testing. Continue reading