Super-ultralight backpacking: recent refinements

Posted in backpacking, Captain's Personal Log, mountaineering, Photography, Travel, ultralight techniques on May 26, 2017 by William Hooks

First, there’s my HMG square tarp setup which has evolved to modified pyramid mode as seen above. It requires a minimum of material in addition to the tarp itself- only 1 support such as a trek pole, up to 9 stakes (I use 6 titanium shepherd-crooks and 3 MSR Carbon Cores), 1-2 guylines.. the tarp fits into its original storage bag with total weight of 10 oz. If I include the second guyline it can bolster the first at the front of the shelter as seen, or be used to rig an A-frame setup for example. Here’s a shot of the setup from the side:

Modified pyramid tarp setup (1)

Next, there’s a DIY modification of the reservoir for the Sawyer Squeeze water filter to use as a gravity-fed system. I perforated the bottom with 2 x 1/4″ holes with a paper punch, attached a short black cord, and added a Tedco Tornado Tube from Hobby Lobby [don’t let it get out that I ever go there].  It connects where the sip top is seen at the upper aspect in this image. This system lets the water drain through the filter passively into whatever clean container you like which has a standard connection, such as a Propel or Smartwatter bottle.DIY Sawyer Grav-feed water_20L pad inflator

On the right, there’s a green 20L Sea to Summit silnylon sack which has been converted into an inflator for my Thermarest sleeping pads, by gluing a Thermarest AirTrap outlet at one corner; it has a piece of green tape on it in the upper left. That conduit connects directly to the open valve of the pad, fill the bag with air and compress into the mattress several times. No more blowing up pads by lung…..

I have also added a pair of Altra Lone Peak v3 running shoes and matching Darn Tough socks. The shoes weigh 25 oz per pair.

Altra Lone Peak v3 running shoes (1)Altra Lone Peak v3 running shoes (2)Altra Lone Peak v3 running shoes (4)Darn Tough socks_merino_Coolmax

The SUL pack I now use most of the time is from Gossamer Gear, the 2017 version of  the Murmur which weighs 8.5 oz and can be used with removable components- a hip belt w pockets, a rear foam sitpad which gives the pack structure, as shown –

Gossamer Gear Murmur 2017 model (1)Gossamer Gear Murmur 2017 model (2)

One of my favorite features of this pack is the addition of 2 keepers for trek poles. The limitations of this pack must be appreciated: it is not suited for loads > about 18 pounds, bush travel, off-trail desert travel or carrying dense loads such as camera gear or large water containers. If those and relatively bulky items usually associated with winter travel and longer trips with large food bags are not needed, I can get to a total pack weight of approx 11 pounds including food and water.

Asymmetric tarp setup: The Bat-wing

Posted in backpacking, Captain's Personal Log, mountaineering, Reviews, Travel, ultralight techniques on April 25, 2017 by William Hooks

I’ve settled on this setup as an alternative to the ‘storm’ mode of using an 8.5 sq ft Hyperlite Mountain Gear tarp. What I like about this mode is the ease of entering and leaving the tarp from one side of the front end, and the degree of weather protection from the batwing feature- while preserving excellent ventilation from the other side of the front of the tarp .

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Rear view showing asymmetry of the front portion of the tarp, peaking on the right and dropping on the left where the ‘bat-wing’ partly covers the entrance

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Front view with bat-wing dropping lower over the entrance on the right

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To enter or leave the tarp or insert gear, simply slide it from the near front edge ( my HMG Windrider 3400 pack was placed that way)

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To enter or leave the tarp or insert gear, simply slide it from the near front edge ( my HMG Windrider 3400 pack was placed that way)

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Full-coverage mode with 8.5 ft HMG square tarp

Posted in backpacking, Captain's Personal Log, mountaineering, Photography, Reviews, Travel, ultralight techniques on April 7, 2017 by William Hooks
  • Tetrahedral mode (1)Tetrahedral mode (2)Tetrahedral mode (3)Tetrahedral mode (4)Tetrahedral mode (5)Tetrahedral mode (6)

HMG Square tarp : How to achieve full coverage?

Posted in Captain's Personal Log on April 7, 2017 by William Hooks

I’ve opted for using the tetrahedral configuration to get complete coverage  with an 8.5 ft square tarp, set up as seen below. Therefore, for about 1 pound including stakes I can simulate most of the features expected of a tent- with much more versatility and durable, complete waterproof coverage with no fabric stretching ( as cuben fiber does not absorb water).

There are also some significant potential advantages- among them, being able to cook in the shelter under proper conditions, much more interior space than any tent of anywhere near the weight, and 360 degree viewing of the surroundings depending on the height of the pitch, and ability to hang the tarp from some exterior object, such as a tree limb, to further increase interior space and make adjustment of pitch very easy. The guylines can be placed and adjusted from inside the tarp.

Tetrahedral mode (6)

Closeup of secured flap

Tetrahedral mode (5)

So much ventilation, the Tyvek groundsheet blows away…

Tetrahedral mode (4)

Tetrahedral mode (3)

View of gear underneath the tarp

Tetrahedral mode (2)

Front view with flap extending to the left

Tetrahedral mode (1)

As usual with this 8.5 foot square tarp, there is versatility as to how much ventilation vs weatherproofing can be dialed in depending on how closely the tarp is pitched to the ground. This means that condensation can be easily minimized.

I use up to 14 stakes ,in order to maximize coverage over the ground and stability of the system. Therefore, no additional stakes needed vs the usual types of setups such as flying diamond or A-frame variants.

It’s easy to employ a biv sack inside if complete insect protection is desired. I’d use either the larger REI MInimalist or the very light, ~ 7 oz Titanium Goat Ptarmigan sack.

A compact setup for wireless audio using 3 Rode-Link sets

Posted in Audio, Captain's Personal Log, Photojournalism, Reviews, Video on February 22, 2017 by William Hooks

I’m using this system to allow dual-system audio and video recording wirelessly, finding that 2 Rode-Link Filmmaker kits and a Newsshooter Kit work very well. A third lavalier microphone was added for use with the Newsshooter transmitter, in situations where 3 lavs are needed instead of 2 lavs and an XLR microphone- a Sennheiser ME-4N cardioid. The supports consist of a round-base microphone stand, Matthews Clamp and round platform with 1/4″ screw connected to a straight Matthews rod for the audio recorder (an H5 is shown here), OnStage strut with 1/4″ screw mount  for the 3rd receiver below, dual 5/8″ mic mount with adapters to allow attachment of the other 2 receivers above. The add-on dual XLR module works because each receiver is self-powered, so there’s  no phantom power issue.

Add a 3.5 mm cable to connect the Line Out from the recorder to the GH4 camera, a remote control for the recorder, and perhaps a USB power bank/mounting bracket (see prior post) for the recorder and we’re in business. The camera receives excellent-quality audio and there’s a separately recorded copy of each file available for sync, using Plural Eyes 4.x.

The Rode Newsshooter Kit and my project: THE FIGHT AGAINST TRUMPISAN (2017)

Posted in Audio, Captain's Personal Log, Photography, Photojournalism, Reviews, Video on February 15, 2017 by William Hooks

newsshooter_sennheiser-me-4n-lav-2newsshooter_sennheiser-me-4n-lav-1

p67601081p67601221p67601242p6760105p67601252p67601253I ‘ve been actively applying the wireless Rode Newsshooter Kit to supplement the 2 Filmmaker Kits I’ve had for some time, allowing excellent ENG sound production directly into my Panasonic GH4 4K mirrorless camera covering major events in California. The latest were 2 protest events in Los Angeles and San Francisco, against the incoming Trump regime. In Los Angeles, I had assistance with handheld mic interviews from one of my still shooters, Carmen Rosales and my old friend Mark Chambers did those honors at San Francisco International Airport, during the anti-Muslim ban event. Jim Garrett was the B-roll GH4 shooter in Los Angeles, and he has collaborated with me on editing and writing.

I was very impressed by the build quality and water resistance of the transmitter unit in driving rain at Los Angeles- I was concerned that the unit would fail at any time due to being soaked for hours, but it never missed a beat and the sound was remarkable when connected to my Sennheiser MD-46 dynamic microphone inside of a plastic bag.

It’s very convenient that the Newsshooter and Filmmaker receivers are identical, so that I can switch between them any time  simply by matching the channels with the corresponding transmitter or lav mic. There ‘s up to 40 v phantom power on the transmitter, more than enough to provide great gain for a Shure SM 58 or the Sennheiser dynamic mics; I can also use my Sennheiser ME-4 N lav mic with the transmitter and actively monitor its output using the headphone jack near the USB power jack. In addition, it can be powered by standard Sony FPS batteries as well as ubiquitous AA batteries.

Because it runs on wi-fi instead of RF, I have found it to be extremely reliable in field use even when surrounded by cell phones and other devices- and no need to manually match any frequencies. I can use up to 8 units at at time on individual channels.

My opinion: if you have $500 to spend on an XLR wireless system, this is by far the best option I have ever seen. Avoiding use of cables in an ENG environment has proven to be a significant advantage from the standpoint of safety, mobility, simplicity and reliability.

We’re going to be using the Newsshooter and Filmmaker Kits extensively, for continuing to document the rise of resistance to the Trump regime over the next several months.

The small Sachtler audio bag I use for sound recording in film/video production -or “Papa’s got a brand new bag”

Posted in Audio, Captain's Personal Log, Photojournalism, Video on August 10, 2016 by William Hooks
  • boom poles_ 2 shotguns_ blimp_2 Lavs

    foreground: Electrolet shotgun mic on Rode shock mount and boompole; rear: Rode blimp containing NTG-4 shotgun mic on Rode large pole

    grip setup for DAR on boom pole_closeup

    recorder mounting grip assembly

    Sachtler audio harness

    Sachtler heavy duty audio harness with modular pockets

    Sachtler small bag with contents_1

    Interior of Sachtler small audio bag with contents

    Zoom H6 installed on boom pole

    Zoom H6 recorder/mixer mounted on K-Tek Avalon graphite 12’6″ boom pole

    Adreama 12K mAh power bankSmall audio bag and contents (7)Small audio bag and contents (2)Small audio bag and contents (4)Small audio bag and contents (5)Small audio bag and contents (6)

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