donderdag 27 augustus 2009

Back again

Yep, I know, it has been quiet for the last weeks. So busy with other things that when the time came for the holiday i collected my stuff and the family camp gear threw it all in the car, and away we were. Not even took the time to write about our weeks off.
We went for three weeks to the Ecrin, Le massif Central, France. A good 1000 km drive from my home town. And made some real fine hikingtrips where i used the modified Laser Competition, and the Golite Hex. I will write about the experiences this weekend.
Until then.

dinsdag 23 juni 2009

Golite Hex / Shangri La Speed Setup

I own a Golite Hex 2. I have got a sort of love-hate relationship with this tent.
I love the shape, and I love to take it in the mountains where a flat spot is sometimes hard to find. And when more tents are there when hiking with a group the Hex quickly becomes the sit-in and cook tent in the evening.
And I hate that because it is not well made or thought over, is too heavy, is rather small, and I need earplugs even with just a little wind.
I did quite some work on extra guy lines to improve wind stability, ad a snowskirt and pegloops that can hold bigger items like ski’s. Reworked the flat laying groundsheet, etc.

Since the tent is totally dependent on strong pegging a good pitch and peg placement is vital. I’ve got a mail from a friend that has got the New Shangri La and had some difficulties pitching it good in one go. Especially on a bit uneven ground. The method I use might be interesting for more people so I post it here.

I use a Hex shaped piece of plastic foil and a piece of rope which has the exact radius. When i align the rope with one of the corners i know for sure the peg will be in the right place.

Within 30 seconds all the pegs are in place and the tent can be attached and put up.

I ve created a sort of discription which i mailed to him and i will post it here so you can use it aswell. Every thing is on there.

dinsdag 16 juni 2009

Night Hike

Sometimes you just want to go out. Enjoying the outdoors. But we tend to see backpacking and hiking as a daytime thing. But that doesn’t have to be. I can be quite rewarding. We spend a lot of time indoors, and therefore love it to go out. We tend to sleep a lot at night but…..

I only had a very short period of time. Spending al the day busy with other things I decided to leave in the late evening for a night hike.

I love this, at night walking through the woods is a complete different experience than during the day. The visual possibilities are greatly impaired to a minimum of using the headlight now and then. From full color, surroundings are stylized to grayscale and the other senses work overtime.

You don’t have to have a light to see if you are still on the path, you can feel it. You feel the direction of the wind much more clear. You smell everything better. You can hear the night animals shuffle through the bush. When the moon is up, its light pierces through the open areas to form strange figures in black and white. Then it’s easy to see something or someone…….:-)
So I packed and left at 23.00h. Cloudy, warm and humid. I checked the weather forecast and although some thunderstorms were on their way they would pass me. But after 2 hours hiking I noticed light flashes in the air and a thunderstorm seems to be getting closer but not very fast. Still I stepped up my pace because I had quite some miles to go. On my mobile phone I tried to check the weather radar if anything would have but I was out of reach of any network.

Outdoors thunder flashes can be seen far more further then in cities because the level of light in cities is higher. But in a forest area it’s difficult to guess a distance. I could still not hear anything after the flashes so I still had some time.
I enjoyed the sudden light flashes through the trees. As if someone took photographs from the other side with a huge flash. Beautiful. The storm wasn’t getting any closer but seemed to drift sideways.

When I at 2.30h reached a small campsite, it started to drizzle a bit. I had to hurry to find a spot. And as I went looking the rain became more heavily. I quickly put on my poncho, and searched for a good spot with my headlight. With the possibility of a thunderstorm still coming a picked a spot in a somewhat open area. Away from high trees and falling branches. I had to hurry, and had difficulty placing the groundsheet because it blew away. I threw my tent on it grabbed my pegs and started pegging. A poncho is a great thing but not when you move close to the ground. And especially this mil-spec poncho which is incredible strong but also has a hood to fit a complete battalion in and so blocking my light.
The tent was up in no time and the Speed Hood of the laser competition has proved to be very fast.
But still everything was wet as I have had to lay the tent on a rained on groundsheet. I stuffed my pack in , put my poncho off and quickly hide in the tent.
The wind picked up and rain was still getting very heavy. A complete downpour. The tent with the new guy lines kept very steady, no problems there. The fly was taut but the rain did make an awful lot of noise.
I use a cut down Thermarest Z-Rest and normally I would put my pack under my feet for isolation. But my pack was soaking wet and this was no option. I laid down my pants as they were only partly wet. I stuffed my spare socks, underwear and my fleece in the OR waterproof sleepingbag bag as a pillow. Within 10 minutes it seemed that the fly was leaking. Very small water drops were coming down. I could imagine that there was more rain and at high speed coming down than the fly could have, but the rapid building up condensation droplets that were most likely shooting of when a big rain drops hit it from the other side. I couldn’t do anything about that.
Tired I fell asleep to be awakened in the morning by again a thunderstorm. Somebody at the weather station must have scratched his head. As well as I. This wasn’t forecasted. Again it was raining hard and pretty windy as well.

I found that the inner tent was wet. Wetter than it should. Water was dripping of the top onto my sleeping bag. Since I went with a double roof tent I and it was warm enough I didn’t take my sleeping bag cover. The sides were wet. Mud platters were up to 35 cm high on the outside of the inner tent and water was dripping inside. And that while the fly was pitched a half inch to the ground. (see the picture, taken in the morning)
I took my towel, loosen up the inner tent halfway and dried of the inside of the fly to get rid of the condensation. This seemed to make some difference in drops coming down. After one hour the rain stopped and a damp fog layered the surroundings.

I made some coffee, took a sandwich and already things started to look better.
I was surprised about the amount of condensation and even more about the amount of water and mud splashed under the fly onto the inner tent.

What would this mean if I would have taken a tarp or the Golite Hex instead of the tent? With a tarp I would have brought my sleepingbag cover but mud would have been all over for sure. A single roof design like the Golte Hex also would have lots of condensation running down the sides. But the walls are steeper and more likely that the droplets run down. But the fly of the Golite Hex does have a higher distance to the ground. And this would mean that more mud splatters would come in.
I broke up and let the gear hang for a while on a wire, to get rid of most of the water and mud before packing and resume the rest of my trip.
Certainly I have picked a not ideal spot for this kind of rain, but looking around and seeing the amount of quite big broken off branches made me realize that things could have been worse.

Resting on the couch the words on the
television come by ”Now you can use it, in the comfort of your own home” Especially the last part is something we like much, but are easy willing to trade in for some uncomforted but ever surprising outdoors.

Night hiking, some info for the first time.
Start in an area or a route you know well in the daytime.
Check the area on a map for possible dangerous areas. No night hiking near cliffs, fast flowing rivers etc. Check the weather.
Wear some stronger clothes, you’re more likely to hit, or scrape a branch. The same for shoes, you’re easily step into mud, a small water pool, or a ditch in a path.
Take at least to light sources. I use a headlight, Petzl Tikka XP, and a small keychain light photon Microlight.
On this trip I had also two bicycle lights with me. Having a black pack, black trousers, and a black shirt I am invisible for traffic when walking along the road side. But also with bright colored clothes make yourself visible on roads.
When hiking with more people wear reflective strips or small lights, stop and do a headcount especially with bigger groups or with kids.
Attach everything ! If something falls out your top pouch of your pack or your pocket, you will most likely notice it when you want to use it. Aka too late.
Be prepared to get lost. When on big trails, paths or roads you’re not likely to get lost, but on smaller tracks you easily can miss a byway. Having a gps you never lost but that doesn’t mean that the way back or finding the right track is easy. Be prepared to spend some time waiting for daylight.
Hiking at night can be useful but also fun to update basic navigation skills.
Animals, Check local fauna and precautions. Here there are no dangerous animals. One exception could be a wild boar. If stumbled upon at night, or during the early morning and dusk. A mother with kids can be aggressive. If attacked. Stand still, due to poor eye sight she can see you better when running, and quick hide behind a tree or step aside when close.

Have Fun!

zaterdag 13 juni 2009

Terra Nova Laser Competition Mod:
The Speed Hood

Today I had some time to work on the Laser Competition.
I was very pleased with the trial setup. The stability is greatly improved, but still can be better.

This was on the agenda
Luc’s Speed Hood
New guy lines, with extra attachments.
Switch the inner tent clip.
Two loops, and a line in the top of the inner tent

I started to sew new strong loops made out of webbing I found at the outdoor shop, onto the seam of the fly.
I’ve made some other guy line attachments, which I describe later.

Then I started on the Speed Hood itself. I made the holes a little bigger, so it’s more easy to put the rope trough. Because the rope is rubbing against the sides I thought it would be a good idea to make a reinforcement patch. This material I had laying around and is made of thick coated fibers. But any strong piece will do. I glued it on with SilNet.

Then I cut up one of the original guy lines in half and attached it with a pole hitch to this new loop. On the end of this piece of rope I made a figure eight knot.

I left the original rope, the attachment ropes for the top and the shock cord of the hood out of the first trial untouched for now.

Then onto the tent. In about twenty seconds the hood is on and fixed securely. Normally it would take me this time just to open one of the small loops to put the rope through. It works so great that I call it the LSH Luc’s Speed Hood :-)

The direct connection of the side guy line to the fly is a great improvement, but experimenting learned that two would be ideal. The choices are an extra point on top, or just below the hood. A guy line connecting to the top will give no problems with the hood. I’ve checked this, but it would require more line. But an extra point might come in handy, when fixing the hood permanently. So I made both. The top with two loops, facing the sides and the ones just under the end of the hood.

I’ve cut this webbing so that the ends are next to each other so that the forces on this point are on a greater surface. The webbing is cut on an angle facing the direction of the pull. This way the guy line is not only pulling the tent down, but really holds it sideways.

The top attachment of the guy line is made by the kite-knot (Lark's head or cow hitch) I described earlier. For the lower I could choose for the same method, but this would give me two disadvantages. The guy line is then separate from the tent, with a change of losing it. And for the adjustment with the line lock I would need an extra piece of cord. This combination seems to me the smartest thing to do.
I’ve attached a piece of shock-cord to the new guy line attachment. This because the guy lines are longer. Now I can after detach the top part, roll it up, and fix it in place easily. I was surprised how easy and fast it worked an decided to do the same with the hood. I didn’t cut of the connection cords in the middle of the hood. These I connect to the new loop. Because the webbing is stitched to the seam on one side of the pole sleeve the rolled up hoop does not come in the way when inserting the pole. A piece of shock cord will fix the rolled up hood.

The advantages of making the hood and guy lines this way are;
Very fast putting the hood on and off.
The integrity of the tent in high winds does not depend totally on a hood which is a separate part and can get lost.
Now that the hood is fixed to the tent, the problem of losing it and possible leakage is solved as well.
The tent can handle more sideway wind force.
The tent is much more quiet in windy conditions.
The ease and possibilities of setup is greatly improved with the bigger radius of possible peg placements, which is almost a necessity in rocky terrain.

I’ve used aluminum line locks that are light (2 gram) but not ideal but work. The bigger plastic line locks that are also used with Hilleberg Akto and weigh also 2 gram are better. These and there are also smaller and lighter ones that work with line of 1 to 2 mm but would have to order them somewhere outside the Netherlands because I have no luck in finding them here. If you know a shop here in the Netherlands where I get them please let me know.

The ones I use now require a bigger line diameter, and I choose a dynema core line with a nylon sheet line, that weighs 2 gram per meter which I found in the kite shop.
The somewhat bigger diameter of this line would give me the opportunity to ditch the line locks and use prusik knot instead. I’ve used prusik knot as a line lock on guy lines before on the extra guy lines I’ve made for my Golite Hex, and that worked ok. If I replace the line locks on all basic guy lines it could gain 6 x 2 grams.
But I will still have to do some testing of using the prussik knot as a worthy replacement in icy conditions.
For the guy lines on the both ends of the tent I choose a double line, and extra attachment point setup. My thoughts were that if I would use one extra peg on each side I must use this extra weight to its full potential. By adding two attachment points, it does not only enhance the stability but also the fly is tensioned better over a much bigger area.

The difficulty of tensioning the inner tent is well known. I’ve seen some solutions of attaching a loop made out of a piece of line. I choose to switch the clips, so that the weight is the same but the handling is easier. Also because I have created the variable vents, there are lines running to that end which I don’t want to get in the way with an extra loop.

I’ve made two small loops in the inner tent and attached to those a piece of line. I have made this in earlier my Akto and was very pleased with it and I use the line more than the loop itself. A light, to dry my socks etc.
Weight gain
Line lock: 2 gram, used 6 total 12 grams
Extra Pegs: 10 gram, used 2, total 20 grams
Guy line new : 2 gram per meter, used 4 x 2 meter, sides 2 x 4 meter, total 6 meter, total 12 grams
Shock cord: 7 gram per meter, used 1 , total 7 grams
Webbing: 2 x 3 gram for side lines, 1 x 3 gram for the top, 4 x 1,5 gram for the end lines, total 15
Loops and webbing for line in inner tent 3 gram, total 3 grams
Sewing yarn: 4 grams
Total 77 grams

Weight lost
Guy lines: including 4 plastic line locks, 2 side lines, 1 end line. 18 gram
Attachment ropes hood 4, total 1 meter, 4 gram
Total 22 grams

Total weight gain 55 grams

Since I just improve things and only have a limited supply of material I can choose from in the shop, I know for sure if I could imply these changes and choose other materials for these changes when the tent is fabricated it would be the same weight, or even lighter. Hood construction and material, which now only have to prevent water leakage, lighter but stronger guy lines and line locks that also absorb less water.
I took this tent out for one night in a very windy conditions. And as others might say to always put the pointy end in the wind. But winds can turn. And so it did. And there was a thing I hadn´t anticipated at all. It was quiet. Wow. No earplugs and a good night sleep.

The 55 gram weight gain are for me well worth it. The ease of setup alone makes the frustrating bit of this tent totally gone and with a good night sleep as a super bonus its even better. It makes me wonder if I shall keep the Akto, even for winter use.

woensdag 10 juni 2009

Fishing Line

Today I went to two stores to get some materials for the terra nova laser competition. The Kite store and a fishing material store. Having made kites myself I knew what to expect there. I got some nice dynema line and some webbing. They also have rolls of light weight Carrington ripstop nylon. It’s great to make stuffsacks but not for a tentfly. This because it make quite a lot of noise, due to the coating that prevents stretching of the material.
I was surprised however to see a roll of Tyvek. For 3,95 Euro per meter it’s not cheap but I bought some to do some experiments to see if the quality is good. I’ve read so much about this but could only get it in rolls of 50 meters or more. So kite stores might be a good source for Tyvek.

The next store I went to was the fishing material store. Not a fisherman myself…I’m more known for catching nothing or falling asleep and find my fishing tackle gone when I wake up … I was surprised to see how much there is for the modern fisherman. From the super active fly fisher to the on a stretcher and in a tent sleeping, with a heater nearby, waiting for a fish call by an electronic signaling thing, carp fisher. And a of course lots of bobbers like space rockets, pounds of lead, big fake fish and mini real fish.
In between all of this, I found braided dynema line. 0,15 mm thin with a breaking strength of 11,1 kilo. And there is 0,25 mm as well with an even greater breaking strength.
I bought the roll of 0,15 mm which is thin enough for the sewing machine to add the webbing onto the tent, but also to take some along my trips as an all purpose very strong sewing yarn. Because its more easy to handle than the regular nylon fishing line I bought some hooks as well to try to hopefully getting rid of my non fisherman image on a next trip.

Another thing worth mentioning is that carp fisherman shoot feeding pellets near their hook spot with a catapult. For these catapults they have spare rubbers. These are much like, the hard to come by in the Netherlands, surgical tubing of which tensioning lines can be made for tarps.
An inspiring day, with the conclusion than carp fishing is not my thing:-)

maandag 8 juni 2009

Trekking Poles corrosion fix

I own Leki trekking poles. I use my poles for skiing, and hiking are often wet inside. These aluminum poles tend to corrode when water comes is and the pole isn´t dried before storage.

Once I forgot to dry them for storage and when I wanted to use them I found out than they have corroded, making adjusting very difficult.

It´s however, easy to fix.
The biggest mistake you can make is putting a lubricant in it. Don´t!, It can be dangerous.
The use of a lubricant makes the poles adjust and slide better, but that is something that you don´t want to happen on a critical ridge keeping balanced. In all situations the poles must reliable to support your whole weight.

When lubricants are used, over tightening happens often and putting more stress than necessary on the pole, the orange plastic gripping piece and the treads within.

If you have used a lubricant before reading this, you will have to clean all the lubricant of. The right way to remove the corrosion is the use of a piece of sandpaper and some tape.
Wrapped around a stick or thinner pole. Tape it to the pole just on the lower end. The sandpaper
Put the ´sandpaper stick` in and push and pull. Don´t rotate. This will make permanent scratches wearing the plastic part unnecessary fast. Just up en down will do fine. The sandpaper grit I use is, P 150/grit Europe Fepa, which is in between 120 and 150 US Cami.
Then I use a P280 Europe which is 240 in the US, to finish it.
After that I take a piece of paper towel, toilet paper or cloth, make it damp wrap it around the thinnest part of your poles to clean the inside.
Let the poles dry, and reassemble them.

zaterdag 6 juni 2009

The Kite Knot

With the work i did today (which i will write about soon) on the Laser Competition i used this knot to attach the side guy lines.
In fact it's a combination of a Figure Eight and a Lark's head or (cow hitch).

I know this knot from making Kites, and in the world of Kiting it's very well known for attaching the steering lines to the kite lines very fast and easy. And this is quite special because when the kite lift me up or drags me around over the sandy beach the forces on the knot is very great but still it will come of very easy.

In the world of backpacking and hinking this knot is not very well known, at least that what i think when i see lightweight hikers on you-tube fiddeling around with their tarps and guy line setups. While te uses of this knot are plenty.

For Example; A tarp shouldn't have loops, but small ropes with Figure Eight on the end. A guy line with a loop at the end can attach or deatached to any of those small ropes within 5 seconds.
I have made some photo's so you can see how easy it is. Within seconds a guyline is attached or detached.

In this case i use it on the Laser Competition because the line must be detached for the hood to put it on or for it come of.