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Saturday, December 26, 2009

Tarp Doors

I really like my OES Deluxe Spinn tarp. It is really light and works extremely well to keep me dry. The only issue was that I wished I could seal it up better against the blowing rain we get here in NJ. I also wanted to seal it up a little better in the winter to help trap the warm air from escaping. I have played around with different ways to do this, but the Spinnaker fabric the tarp is made from is very light and I am too scared to sew actual doors on it and damage the integrity of the tarp.

So when a member on the hammock forums website showed his idea for an attachable vestibule, I jumped on the idea and created one immeaditely. He has since updated the design and now a cottage manufacturer is building them and can be purchased here, it is called the Grizz Beak.

My beaks are somewhat similar to the design that is being sold now, but definitely don't have the same tolerances and quality sewing. I also did not cut them to the same dimensions that Grizz had suggested. This was one of my first official sewing projects that I did all by myself. I can honestly say the beaks/vestibules work well but my sewing is pretty ugly. So I won't have any close ups on the seams. In hindsight I think this is the easiest project someone can undertake. The hardest part is cutting the nylon to the correct dimensions, after that is just requires a simple hem around all four sides and some grossgain tabs to hook the beak to the tarp.

I built two beaks and used about 7 yards of 1.1 oz DWR from Wal-mart and reused some grossgain I recycled off an old pack. This ended up running me about $10 in materials to build two off them. This is a lot cheaper than what they are going for now, however, when you factor in the time it may be worth it to buy them.

With that said here are my pictures of the first setup. I have used them on one trip so far and was really happy with how they worked and blocked the wind. They take about 10 seconds to clip onto the tarp and only require one extra stake.

I have some future modifications planned, but am still working on the design. My goal with the future changes is to reduce the amount of overlap of the beak and tarp so as to save weight.

New Under Quilt

This fall I decided I wanted to upgrade my gear a bit and build an underquilt for my hammock. I spent a few months sourcing materials and ended up building a 2/3 length under quilt using once piece of 5 oz Climashield XP.

Each of the four sides has a channel for shock cord to run through. This allows for a better fit of the under quilt against the hammock body.

Material Lists:

  • 1.1 oz DWR Ripstop from Wal-mart. ($1.50/yd. I used about 6 yards total)
  • 1 piece of 5oz Climashield XP from a member of Hammock Forums ~ 2 yards for $20.
  • Shockcord from outdoor store ($5 for about 25 ft)
  • Outdoor Polyester Thread (free, due to it being leftover from previous projects)
Total: $35-40 Dollars

To have purchase a comparable underquilt like this would have ran me over a hundered dollars, so I am really happy with how cheaply I was able to make a quality piece of gear.

It took about 4 hours of actual sewing and a few weeks of me trying to figure out how I wanted to do it. My plan was to make it multi-purpose so I could use it as a underquilt in the cold and as a top quilt for the summer months.

I have been able to test it out at about 30 Degrees Farenheit and was toasty warm.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Custom DIY Compact Wood Stove

I love backpacking wood stoves. I have built around ten of the quart paint can wood stoves in the last year but have never been happy with their weight and height. However, since a member discovered that the flashing endcaps fit perfectly into the quart can I have been able to finally create one of these stoves to my own specifications.

The endcap allows you to chop the quart can down to the height you want. I use an IMUSA four cup mug and wanted a stove that fit inside of it. So I spent about an hour and came up with this. It has a 3.75" tall base compared to the standard 5". It is my new 'go-to' stove, it burns amazingly well and is a lot lighter and more functional than the larger versions. I have had a lot of success with it this far and plan to take it on my future trips. One thing to note, is that I discovered that a stoke tube really helps kick this stove into wood-gas mode really quickly. I made it from simple refrigerator water line and a brass coupler.

Compact woodstove nested in IMUSA 4 Cup mug:

Integrated fire grate:

Comparison of full size wood stove to chopped stove:

The Stove in action:

My biggest concern with a wood stove on a backpacking trip is wet wood. I plan on taking a small alcohol stove along with it on days I don't want to light a fire. However, I was testing one day in a downpour and was very surprised with the results. It started downpouring as I was trying to get it lit. So I ended up trying to start the stove with wet dead fall in a pouring icy rain with a 5-10mph gusting wind, needless to say it was less than optimal. The stove smoked a lot and never really went into gas mode much longer than a couple minutes. After about 25minutes I got annoyed and decided to put it away for a better day, and as I lifted the lid on my pot I realized it was boiling. I don't know how long it had been boiling, but it sure didn't look like the stove was doing anything, it was just into charcoal mode. So it was a nice surprise, one that would work in crappy weather if I give it enough time. I am going to try to work on a windscreen, I am thinking about trying a windscreen that anchors into the ground with some light stakes instead of actually attaching to the stove.

Hammock Update - Warbonnet Black Bird

It has been a long time since I actually updated my blog. Mainly because I haven't been able to play outside as much this year as I would like. However, with that said, I was able to build and buy some really cool gear this year. My biggest purchase of the year was my new hammock, a Warbonnet Black Bird.

I had been oogling the Black Bird hammock for quite some time before actually buying one. After researching mutiple hammock brands and building one of my own I decided that the best hammock for me was the WBB. It has an integrated bugnet, a footbox that aids in you laying flat, and a built in shelf/pocket for storing gear. It wasn't cheap but I can say that it is the best night of sleep I have got in the woods. It is nice and roomy on the inside and may be more comfortable than my bed at home. I have been able to use it a few times this year and was even able to get my wife to sleep in it during a trip into Yellowstone. She loved it!! She had been thinking my hammock obession was really weird, yet it only took one night in it and she decided it was the only way to camp.

I got the 1.7 DL (double layer) version with the strap suspension system. If I get another one I will get a single layer 1.7 or maybe the 1.1 DL, since my weight doesn't come close to being an issue for either of those options.

It is a large hammock and does need a pretty decent tarp to adequately cover it, however my OES Spinntex Deluxe tarp works really well. So far I am really happy with it and have officially retired my other hammocks to the loaner pile.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

My Inverted Downdraft Woodgas Stove

I have seen plans floating around on how to make an Inverted Downdraft Wood Gas Stove. I liked the concept but did not like the bulk of them and how high off the ground they raised the pot. One can buy a pre-built stove like the Bush Buddy but the price tends to push most people away. Even though I believe they can be custom sized to your pot so they nest inside.

I ran into the plans to build one of these stoves on the Backpacking Light forums and realized I could make one of these stoves for under $5. I used the BPL forum instructions and also Tamrag's blog to put this together.

Build materials:
1 quart paint can from Homedepot for $3
1 20z Can from Soup/Fruit/Etc
1 piece of mesh, I used gutter mesh that was $2 for a large strip at Home Depot.

I didn't have a 1/2 inch bit, so I used a 3/8 inch bit and the results have impressed me. On a day with gusting winds I was able to bring 3.5 cups of water to a boil with a handful of wood in about 15 minutes from the time I lit the fire.

The best part is the stove fits inside my IMUSA mug but is still a little tall. I am going to make another one and shorten the entire stove by 1 inch and then it will nest perfectly. I am also going to get some of the BBQ Grill paint and coat all the pieces to help keep them from rusting.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Fancee Feest Clone

I like simple stoves, I want it to heat my water up efficiently and quickly. I don't need it to have a ton of bells and whistles, just get the job done.

I like the pop can stoves for their simplicity but they just are not that durable and I also hate having to play with them continually hoping they work every time. So in my quest for the perfect stove I stumbled upon Zelph's Stoveworks. He has done some amazing things in the world of backpacking stoves.

My favorite stove for its simplicity is the Fancee Feest stove. It is very basic and you don't need a pot stand. Just plop the pot on top and light her up. No priming, no tweaking, nada.... The key with it is the fiberglass cloth that acts like a wick to pull the fuel up to be burned. This wicking action aids in making the stove more efficient and uniform.

Picture of Fancee Feest Clone:

Video of First Burn:

I decided to attempt to make my one myself, even though hindsight shows that I could have probably come out money/time ahead if I had just bought one from him, but where is the fun in that?

So far it is working pretty well. I am still not completely happy with it and will continue to tweak it. Today it was boiling two cups of water with one ounce of fuel in about 6-7 minutes and had a total burn time of 9 minutes. The stove has a three ounce capacity so it should even be able to handle group size pots.

Having built this one, I am starting to envy his Starlyte stove and may attempt a building one in the near future. Fire is fun...

Dual Purpose Prototype Stove

I have been trying to find a wood/alcohol stove that would nest inside of my current pot. I primarily use the IMUSA four cup aluminum mug and have not found any stove combination that fits inside of it nicely.

Recently, I was looking at Jim Wood's site and came across his Fire Bucket Stove System. I really liked the concept of a dual purpose setup that could be used with an alcohol stove or burn wood. My only issue was that it still would not nest in my pot. After playing with it for a while I came up with this design. It is two strips of four inch wide flashing that can be used separately as a wind screen or nest together for burning wood. Tomorrow will be the big test to see how well it works.

Wood Setup:

Alcohol Setup:

Video of setup options:

All collapsed and nested into pot:

Friday, February 20, 2009

My Old Setup - Pre 2009

I have gone through quite a few iterations of what I would consider the optimal backpacking gear setup. Historically I have been a ground dweller that lived in and under tents and tarps, but no longer. After having so many nights of terrible sleep and waking up feeling like I was 80 years old with arthritis, I decided to look for something lighter and more comfortable. For a ground dweller those terms seem to be mutually exclusive, where comfort means more weight and less weight means less comfort.

However, after doing research I found the world of backpacking hammocks. At first they did not seem to be a realistic choice, with all the options and complexity that goes into getting one of these setups. Not to mention I was really worried about how I was going to stay warm and dry in one.

My curiosity made keep contemplating them and I finally decided to get a cheap one to test. I got a Ultra-Light Travel Hammock from EMS for around $15 when they had a sale and gave it a go. I had it strung up in the yard within minutes and gave it a test. I played with it some more and decided that it was worth pursuing.

The only hangup I had for the Travel Hammock is that it really won't cut it camping here in New Jersey as is. It does not have a bug net to keep out the swarms of insects nor does it have a tarp or any way to keep it dry in our torrential downpours. But thanks to one of the best communities on the Internet, Hammock Forums, I found a myriad of solutions to resolve any of my hang ups.

My current setup is this:

Hammock: Modified Ultra-Light Travel hammock. I added a second layer to the hammock in which to hold a closed-cell foam pad.

Suspension: The stock ropes that come with the Travel hammock just doesn't cut it as they are too short to accommodate most tree distances, nor do they provide adequate protection from scarring the trees. I replaced each rope with 12 foot seat belt straps from StrapWorks and added two aluminum SMC descending rings on each side.

Tarp: I vacillated on how to keep dry and was always scared off by the cost of buying a backpacking tarp. I looked at building one but by the time I got all of the materials acquired I could have bought a pre-made tarp for the same cost. In the end I got a Spinntex Deluxe tarp from OES, it weighs less than 10 oz and provides ample protection from the elements. The best part about it, is that it does not allow moisture through like sil-nylon when you brush against it while under it.

My main insulation is a closed-cell foam pad that slides between the two layers on the hammock. For NJ weather it seems to be adequate and also a really cheap solution. When I went camping with the scout troop over New Years I used a pad and also sleeping bag over the top of the hammock. It was way to warm, I woke up sweating in 11 F. degree weather.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Nimblewill Nomad Little Dandy Stove

I have started to get into backpacking/emergency stoves. I spend way to much time looking and thinking about these stoves. So far I have five stoves ranging from canister stoves, alcohol, and wood.

What I really dislike about the canister stoves is I can never tell when I am going to run out of fuel. So I end up carrying an extra canister which goes against the ultra-light backpacking principles.

Alcohol stoves are great and super cheap to build and use. However, they take a lot longer to boil water than the canister stoves and I hate packing alcohol.

My perfect stove would be super light and have an unlimited fuel source, and it would be efficient. In addition I want it to take up the smallest volume of my pack possible.

With those desires I used the 'Google' and found Nimblewill Nomad's Little Dandy Stove. It collapses down to about the size of a CD case and can be used for wood and alcohol.

Stove Build Instructions

My first prototype used light weight aluminum flashing and was built exactly to the specs on Nomad's directions. It was super light, but in hindsight a little too light. The fire in it got so hot that the weight of the pot with water in it folded the aluminum.

Light Aluminum First Attempt

Light Aluminum First Attempt with a Four Cup IMUSA Cup

Light Aluminum First Attempt Video - First Fire

About 10 minutes into the first burn the aluminum buckled and dumped the boiling water.


After seeing how the aluminum flashing was not going to handle the heat and weight of the pot, I decided to use some light steel for prototype 2. In addition I also decided to adjust the size of the stove so that it better fit my pots. I shortened the width by about a half inch and the length by an inch. This picture shows the comparison between the new stove and the old one.

Stove is the correct size to be used as a pot stand/windscreen for the brass Trianga alcohol stove.

First burn with the steel prototype.

I was able to get three cups of water to boil in around twelve minutes during a fairly windy day using only a handful of twigs.

Picture of stove collapsed:

I am happy with the end result and how well it works. It is heavier than I wanted, I believe it is around seven ounces. If I decide to use this as my main stove I am going to build it with titanium and it should reduce the weight by half.

I am going to build another prototype of this stove and get rid of the holes in the side plates and trade the base plate with a steel grate. It should help with the efficiency of the stove and help it block the wind better.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Ticket To the Moon Compact Hammock Review

Product Information:

Manufacturer: Ticket to the Moon (TTTM)

Item: Compact Hammock
Weight as Delivered: ~17 oz (482 g), including hook and suspension ropes.
Sleeps: 1 person who is shorter than 5'9" (175 cm)
Measured Open Size: Width: 4'10" (147 cm) - hammock still gathered
Length: 7'3" (221 cm) - hammock still gathered
Measured Packed Size: Height: 5" (12.7 cm)
Width: 3.75" (9.53 cm)
MSRP: Not released yet
Year of manufacture: 2008
Colors: Light Blue
Made In: Indonesia

Product Description:
The TTTM Compact Hammock is a HAAB (Hook and attached bag) style hammock. It appears to be a shortened variation of their ‘Single’ HAAB hammock. The hammock is made from nylon silk and comes standard with a steel hooks and ropes for suspension. The suspension ropes are around 84" (213 cm) in working length.
Initial Report:

As a lightweight backpacker and also a scout leader I was impressed by this little hammock. I have used different brands of HAAB hammocks in the past but none of them appear to have the same quality stitching and attention to detail that this TTTM has. In addition this is the first relatively inexpensive HAAB hammock that I think will hold up to the stress of young boys. I also like the fact that it is shorter than most HAAB hammocks. This is good for smaller frame people as it will be a better fit and less weight to carry. Up to this point in time I have not been able to sleep an entire night in the hammock, but have clocked around three to four hours experimenting with it. I will be taking it into the field in the next month and will be able to give a more detailed experience with it.


I did not find a single crooked or loose stitch on the entire hammock. In addition I like the silk nylon as it is more comfortable for me to lay on and also stronger than the materials being sold on some of the other HAAB hammocks brands. The hammock width feels to be about the same as a normal HAAB style hammock and feels as stable.



The hammock like other HAAB styles is very easy to setup. My only gripe about the hammock is the suspension system, which to be fair is my gripe with all HAAB hammocks no matter the brand. It is easy to use but it is heavy and would damage the trees as is. I would like to see them sold with straps so that a camper/backpacker doesn’t have to immediately go and buy more materials to create a more appropriate system. However if the user is not hanging the hammock from trees then I think the ropes would be fine granting that you find supports within the length of the ropes. With that said, even if they are sold with ropes you can always upgrade the suspension for relatively cheap.


The hammock packs down to the size of a softball and has a compression strap integrated into the bag. I love the integrated bag as far as packing it up, especially for Scouts. I would probably not use the little black bag that comes with the pack to hold the suspension system, especially since I will be replacing the ropes.


I think this hammock is very comfortable. However, due to its shortened length, I found that it was not as comfortable for me to lay in it with the normal amount of sag that I use on my longer hammock. This was mainly because I couldn’t lay as flat as I like. I did hang it much tighter and found that I could lay flat but with noticeable shoulder squeeze. My wife got into it and found it to be perfect. She is two inches shorter than I am and also has much narrower shoulders. She liked it so much she already has claimed it as hers.

With that said, I would still be able to sleep through the night in this hammock in comfort and would do so long before ever going back to the ground. I would just need to make sure I had something under my knees to relieve any pressure.

One neat thing that I like about it shorter length is that you can use a normal length sleeping bag as a ‘Peapod’ knockoff. This is especially important for my scouts as the majority of them do not have the money to get an actual down under quilt or real Speer Peapod. A normal length sleeping bag seems to be perfect as far as covering your entire body and would help to extend it into full three season use.

• Lightweight
• Good strong hammock body fabric
• Quality workmanship
• Easy to use
• Size perfect for someone with a smaller frame
• Size allows the use of a normal length sleeping bag to act as ‘peapod’

• Suspension is not ideal for someone who plans to hang the hammock on trees
• Stock suspension is heavy with the steel hooks and nautical rope

In summary I think this is a great hammock and a good addition to the TTTM line. I think this hammock could become a favorite of Scout troops as it meets the need of providing an inexpensive, quality, durable product that would fit the majority of the scouts.

- End of Initial Report –

Thanks to TTTM for giving me this opportunity, they have definitely sold me on the quality of their workmanship and also their dedication to the hammock community.