Archive for the backpacking Category

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.

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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)

What to use today: tarp or tent?

Posted in backpacking, Captain's Personal Log, mountaineering, Reviews, Travel, ultralight techniques on March 17, 2016 by William Hooks

If I want  a full floor, insect protection and very light but not lightest shelter, for me it’s a no-brainer: some sort of tarp-tent or a tent such as this Nemo Hornet 1p, which I obtained from REI using my 2015-6 dividend and -20% coupon for $135.

It uses the same Tyvek footprint that I already have for my tarp; the total weight for its pole, pole bag, canopy, fly and lines is 24 oz.

I feel that its setup is straightforward, comparable to the basic skill level needed for deploying a tarp (simpler than advanced tarping). the tent is very compact when packed, livability is much improved over my Ptarmigan or REI biv sacks. I like the 8 sq ft side vestibule, and much prefer the right side entrance to a front entrance for a 1-person shelter partly because of the relative ease of including a larger vestibule with that design.

This tent is freestanding. Headroom =40 inches, I can easily sit up inside.

Inclusion of the Light Pocket at the apex of the tent body allows a headlamp to double as a lantern- something I find very practical at no weight penalty.

Compared with my HMG Square Tarp: slightly heavier; no need for any additional components such as biv sack for insect protection; less ventilation and cannot cook inside the tent itself; simple to keep gear separate from living space because of vestibule, which is on my right while living in the tent (and I’m right-handed). Not as versatile as a tarp, but can opt to pitch just the canopy for improved ventilation and/or to save additional weight. Can combine the canopy with the tarp depending on the locale. No need for trekking poles but risk breakage of the single pole, as with any tent. Since it’s green, in forests that color simplifies stealth camping style. Needs 8 stakes for full pitch, vs up to 14 for the tarp. The guylines are reflective, another practical advantage.

I wish there was more fly coverage especially at the head end, and/or a guyout at the tip of the front of the fly. The fabric materials are notably delicate, and require more care in handling than the cuben fiber tarp.

Otherwise, I’m very pleased to use this shelter when I don’t mind a few extra ounces and seek complete enclosure at night, with no insects to deal with.

 

 

 

 

 

The Rode Video Micro ultralight/compact, remote-powered shotgun microphone

Posted in Audio, backpacking, Music, Photojournalism, Reviews, Travel, ultralight techniques, Video on December 18, 2015 by William Hooks

I just received this superlight unit from B&H, at $60 regular price.

It’s powered from the camera or other 3 v supply, and has no internal battery requiring periodic checking and replacement. I use another mic of similar size and weight of Chinese origin (see my equipment list page), which uses an internal CR2 battery; both have their advantages re powering. This microphone really is to be used by direct connection to a camera’s 3.5mm jack.

This type of mic is very useful for a number of situations: vehicle interior audio, backpacking, minimalist travel/photojournalism, creating tutorials at the computer screen by reversing the mic on the camera’s hot shoe for voiceovers… the excellent Rycote windscreen allows realistic use in moderate wind conditions.

It also has a 3/8″ base thread for use with a standard boompole.

Be sure that  NO PHANTOM POWER is applied to this unit!! If employed with a  Zoom H6, using plug-in power = 2.5 v for that particular recorder, be sure to set up for plug-in power before connecting the microphone.  Set the Tascam DR-70 D digital audio recorder to EXT POWER to enable plug-in power.

 

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My preliminary assessment of sound quality is that I would happily use it with an NTG-4 or  Audio Technica Pro70 wired lav mic. Gain is more than adequate.

 

The fact that it has no controls whatsoever contributes to a streamlined, simple form factor; when I need to control the width of pickup coverage, I ‘d go to the Shenggu SG-180 shotgun (90-120 degree settings).

Channel Islands National Park: Santa Cruz Island ultralight backpacking

Posted in backpacking, Captain's Personal Log, Photography, Reviews, Travel, ultralight techniques, Video on June 26, 2015 by William Hooks

Trail heading SW from Cavern Point toward the Visitor Center

P1020807 P1020802I spent 2 1/2 days on this excursion with Jim Garrett, a friend and co-editor of DEP. We began preproduction on a documentary about the current California drought crisis while on this trip, and enjoyed great views from trails and at the beach. We visited Potato Harbor Overlook and Cavern Point trails in particular, on the northwest side of the island.

The camping was done using tarps at the lower camp , and alcohol stoves are allowed there but we used canister stoves. The upper camps are mostly for larger groups.P1020821 P1020820 P1020789 P1020770 P1020769 P1020768 P1020784

A note  of caution to those who might use tarp camping methods there: take precautions to avoid hantavirus disease! Take a good ground sheet and avoid contact with soil. Official dogma is to use standard tents with floors.

The abundant animals such as island foxes were all over camp but we had no evening encounters- most likely because of fastidious food and trash storage. The park provides excellent, standard bear lockers.

His Windrider 3400 and my Windrider 2400 pack were great for this kind of trip- we hardly felt them on the hikes, as well as the Sony NEX-6 and my Panasonic GH4 with 15mm f/1.7 lens which were much lighter than DSLR’s. I put mine in ‘point and shoot’ mode much of the time and shot some 4K video during the visit. We plan to submit some shots with our packs to Hyperlite Mountain Gear, the manufacturer in Maine.

We had the opportunity to get to know one of the seasonal rangers, Maya Morales, who is also a Humboldt State student, and plan to do some interviews  for the upcoming film from the perspective of someone who is very involved with resource management and conservation.

First followup review of Panasonic GH4 DSLM camera

Posted in backpacking, Captain's Personal Log, Photography, Photojournalism, Reviews, Travel, ultralight techniques, Video with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 11, 2015 by William Hooks

These are my observations after using the camera for a few weeks.

First, I found that operating the nonprotruding video actuation button was not optimal and ended up adding a $10 Vello 2 ft wired remote. This also allows use of very slow shutter speeds and facilitates macro imaging, and I use it for interviews so that I can stay where I’m interacting with the subject- the same as I already do with my H6 Zoom audio recorder.

With a 64GB U3 rated card I’m getting more than 80 minutes per clip at 4K resolution. No more interruptions to reset the camera for interviews…..

Second, after renting the 18-35mm f/1.8 EF Sigma I think this lens will be excellent for general use especially on a rig with follow focus, but too large and heavy for backpacking and [currently] doesn’t support AF; so I will most likely buy the Panasonic 12-35 f/2.8 and 35-100 f/2.8 eventually, and continue to rent this optic.

Third, I’ve settled on Custom settings for the main 3 dial positions= C1 for 4K DCI/24 ‘Cinematic’, C2 for 4K UHD/30 ‘Broadcast’, and C3-1/ C3-2/C3-3 for ‘highest quality ‘ 1080/60 moderate slow motion, ‘smoothest’ 1080/96 slow motion, and 1080/12 undercranked fast motion. NOTE: this camera allows 1080p in slow-motion 96 FPS whether in 30 or 24 cinema modes.

Fourth, as a walkaround lens I ‘m using the Pana/Zeiss Summicron 15mm f/1.7 – a tiny, ultralight lens simulating 30mm perspective in full frame terms. Sharp, easy to maintain relatively great DOF (nice for rapid event action), beautifully integrated with the camera’s capability, easy to carry long distances, and wide without distortion.

Fifth, the Metabones EF to MFT Speedbooster will be a keeper for me as I have 2 Canon FF lenses and it opens the entire Cine and still collection to the camera, as well as lenses from Rokinon /Zeiss/ Olympus/Voigtlander in particular. The ‘free’ additional stop from the adapter has been very welcome in keeping the ISO settings in the optimal range. I find that linking the baseplate/rail system onto the removable Metabones tripod mount provides the clearance I need for attaching the Rokinon 14mm T3.1 and 35mm T1.5 lenses, which have large front elements.

An added bonus is that as long as the adapter is attached, the camera sensor is completely shielded from damage while changing lenses.

Sixth, I’ve evolved a minirig for ENG and light EFP use consisting of an aluminum form-fitting cage, JAG 35 top handle/tripod base plate,carbon fiber 15mm rods, and RedRock Micro spuds/attachment points.

I will be using a $12 basic Nikon F to MFT adapter for AI-S Nikkors for the immediate future, and rent the F/G to MFT Speedbooster when needed.