Archive for the mountaineering 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.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Biofuel everywhere: field cooking with a handful of small twigs using the Solo Stove

Posted in backpacking, mountaineering, Photography, Reviews, Travel, ultralight techniques with tags , , on January 7, 2015 by William Hooks

DSCN1819 DSCN1820 DSCN1822   I passed a fire ring someone set up, east of Inspiration Point and decided to cook with dead wood in the shade of pines, at 7300 ft elevation in the local mountains west of Wrightwood.

I guess you could say that I found the right wood (heh), as the fire was very easy to start and maintain after processing some limbs with the GB Mini hatchet (12 oz). I really like the Solo Stove: simple, light, hot, efficient using very little wood, easy to dispense with coals and ash. I carry no fuel with me.

Some operating tips:

-Do not overload the stove with large pieces of wood. I recommend 3-5mm diameter twigs about 10 -12 cm in length and have somewhat larger-diameter wood available to sustain the fire, in the 6-10mm range.

-This stove is very hot to handle after use. I ‘ve had great success using Petzl Cordex leather belay/rappel gloves (which do dual use for climbing) in picking up the stove to empty the coals, as well as manipulating the Snowpeak 900ml pot which is normally used for cooking.  One useful feature is that the stove base remains cool due to the design, also preventing scorching of the underlying support surface.

-My aluminum MSR stove windscreen works beautifully with the Solo and Emberlit biomass stoves, reducing heat loss and improving boil times in more adverse conditions.

– I typically use either a firesteel, lighter or match to light whatever selected tinder is available, whether natural or synthetic. My preference when speed is more important is to use Coghlan prefab tinder, finding that about 1/2 of a unit is enough for most purposes.

I like the Exotac FireRod and Swedish Light My Fire Scout v2 /Fireknife firesteels in particular; integrated rod into the handle of the knife is very useful and light, and the knife’s spine is specifially designed to be used with ferro rods. The ergonomics are excellent with the Swedish models and the larger rod diameters, especially with the Exotac, are reassuring as I’ve fractured several smaller rods. To obtain the Exotacs as well as my GB Mini-hatchet, I contacted  Oso Grande Knife & Tool Co. Sport Chalet and REI carry various Light My Fire items.

My 2 wood-burning stoves for field use

Posted in backpacking, mountaineering, Photography, Reviews, Travel, ultralight techniques with tags , , , , on December 31, 2014 by William Hooks

DSCN1804DSCN1805DSCN1806Solo stove in useDSCN1722 DSCN1794 DSCN1795 DSCN1798 DSCN1801 Solo wood stove in carry bag

These 2 wood stoves feature completely different design concepts, but share some commonalities: first, they allow more controlled  wood burning than open fires especially regarding the avoidance of stray embers and sparks; second, they’re hotter and reduce boil times in the right conditions; third, they increase burning efficiency with less fuel needed and less smoke produced. And after all: I’m a lifelong non-smoker…..and I ‘m a Californian where special attention must be paid to fire safety.

So no fuel needs to be carried; can’t run out of fuel (in the proper terrain); both store very compactly. The Emberlit is 5.4 oz and packs completely flat, the Sol is 9 oz and it fits into my cook pot needing no assembly.

Revised and updated my 3 1/2 season backpacking list today

Posted in backpacking, mountaineering, Photography, Reviews, Travel, ultralight techniques, Video with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 19, 2014 by William Hooks

I’ve added the super ultralight (SUL) Hyperlite Mountain Gear Summit pack at 12.7 oz, with correspondingly light MSR Carbon Core /titanium skewer stakes for shelters.

My current pack for an overnight trip including water, food, and an alcohol stove system weighs about 10 pounds, so I wear my Nikon camera under one shoulder strap- pull out 2 trekking poles- and go. This setup will allow me to stay out to conditions of about 25 degrees F.