Equipment and Books
GoLite Gust Pack
I bought a medium sized pack from a local outfitter. Colors available were red and red. The last green one had gone earlier that day. Cost was $99.
The pack is well constructed of coated nylon. Weight on my scale was the advertised 20 oz. Seams were not sealed. Sewing was first rate. I have carried it about 25 miles now with 10-12 pounds in it. The size seems just about right for me at 6' 0".
My recommended modifications for the pack include:
- remove the 49 gram foam back board. Standard rolling up of the ground pad is enough padding.
- remove the "belt loops" for the compression strap and the ice axe loops (if you do not use an ice axe.)
- add a full height mesh pocket on one side for umbrella and a part height pocket for a water bottle on the other side
- add a mesh pocket for drying tarp or socks as discussed by Ray Jardine in his book above the pocket on the back of the pack .
These modifications bring the pack back to it's original weight. I obtained the mesh here: MESHRAW+BLACK From Outdoor Wilderness Fabrics
I keep the belt undone and fastened behind me most of the time. When I put a kayak on top of the back of the pack, the belt helps to support the weight. It probably will make a mile long portage much more enjoyable.
OK, I did this because I love machines and tinkering. Ray's instructions for modifying an umbrella worked perfectly on a new London Fog umbrella. The weight after modification was 10 1/3 oz. I have always loved using a wide brim hat in the rain, but have to give this essential Jardine practice the testing it deserves.
Only place where I changed the directions was right at the end. Instead of sewing a cap on the umbrella, I pushed a yellow ear plug into the cut off central tube and then used some epoxy to cement it in place and to hold the little bit of fabric to the center of the umbrella. Epoxy does degrade in UV sunlight, so this epoxy needs to be coated with a little varnish or paint or the epoxy will eventually turn cloudy and then turn to powder.
I did use the umbrella for a 5 mile walk in falling snow 16 January 2003. I was wearing a home-made baclava made from fleece. The umbrella kept the snow from melting on the baclava and kept a lot of the stinging wind (15° F, 15 K wind) off my face.
Tongue-less Running Shoes
Just mentioned by Ray, but the first wild thing I did! I had already been wearing New Balance 80xx shoes for jogging for many years. It did not take many of the posts about these shoes to see I already was using some pretty cool foot covers. However, Ray mentions that one should not be afraid to modify, and he says he took the tongue out of at least one pair of shoes.
Woo-Hoo! Man, this works well for me. I can take the shoes off and put them on without tying the shoes laces all the time. That is wonderful. But it also helps to ventilate the shoes just fine! Even in a couple inches of snow, and just with regular socks, it works well. My feet stay warm because they can dry.
I even went out and bought a new pair of 805s and took the tongue out of a brand new pair... now my favorite shoes. Crazy huh!
Wind Pants and Jacket
In looking for a way to decrease pack weight, it soon became obvious that I needed to decrease the weight and bulk of the clothing I was carrying. I went to KMart and bought a pair of nylon pants for $8. Found a WalMart nylon Jacket for $9. I had to cut the lining out of the jacket to really make it just a shell. Unfortunately, it turned out that both were coated with enough urethane to essentially be waterproof to water vapor and acted as a vapor barrier, collecting my sweat inside the garment.
I could not find any cheap wind breakers that were just made of ripstop or anything similar, for less than $60, so I sat down with the sewing machine and made a jacket and pants in a couple evenings. I made a number of simplifications from the pattern I bought and made it out of plain (uncoated) ripstop from the local fabric store. I did not want it to be white (gets dirty too soon or black (attracts black flies) or red (attracts bees) so I ended up making a pickle suit... I look a lot like Larry the cucumber.
A goal is to get those simplified pattern pieces up on the web.
MSR Ti pot
I am using this little 0.85 liter pot. Cost me $45, but seems incredibly durable and the top stays on when I pour. I am stopping nearly every walk to cook a little coffee at the mid point to warm up. It's good practice.
Photon Stove (variant)
I made a couple little alcohol stoves and tested them with the pots I might use. First stove was a Pepsi can photon like stove. Differences were that I made it without the sharp lip on the upper edge. I have a single set of holes on the outside edge of the rim, as seen in several designs. Made the holes with a sewing needle held in vice grips. I put 4 layers of fiberglass cloth scraps in the bottom of the can before mating the two ends to help vaporize the alcohol. In the middle I drilled a hole about a quarter of an inch in diameter that I happend to have a little machine screw that fit. To light the stove I put it in a shortened tuna can into which I spill a cc of alcohol. This lights and heats the stove fuel so I begins to burn from the burner ports.
I use a wire stand cut from a piece of the farm fence in my back yard as a pot surface. I cut a wind screen from aluminum flashing (anyone else need the extra 9 1/2 feet of flashing??) that works tons better than foil.
The second stove I built was a cat stove... standard directions, except the bottom is covered with fiberglass cloth scraps instead of insulation.
I tested the stoves with a 1.5 quart aluminum pot... part of my antique nesting pots I have now used for 30 years. The cat stove clearly heated 2 cups of 50° F water faster. Then I tested the stoves with the MSR Ti pot. The Photon variant worked better... less heat was lost around the smaller pot.
I found three useful alcohol bottles. First was a 20 oz plastic soft drink bottle. Works great, but holds really too much fuel for a multi day trip. Second was a little 8 oz bottle sold as drinking water. My favorite bottle for an overnight is a little 2 oz listerine sample bottle with a nice sized cap for filling the stove with a Tbsp. of fuel at a time.
Sealskinz® water proof socks
The idea of keeping my feet dry is very appealing. For the last several years in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, I have done portages in Nike water shoes. After getting to camp, I have taken the watershoes off and worn my lightweight running shoes. But it does get old having wet feet all day.
Last summer, the group decided to do a cross country walk to a lake about a half mile away. There was no portage to the lake and we did it the hard way, forcing out way through blow down and walking through what turned out to be a bog. My feet got wet in the water shoes and with all the scrambling I ended up with an inch long painful blister on the arch of my foot. It hurt for 24 hours and made me grumpy around camp.
I bought a pair of Sealskinz from Bass Pro World (~$24) and have walked with them in a pouring rain with water shoes and with my trail runners in the snow. They do what they are sold to do. Keep my sweaty feet dry and warm. I have tromped through puddles up to my ankle and in slush. Wearing only a thin pair of coolmax socks under the Sealskinz, my toes have been completely dry (I really mean it) after an hour of such abuse. I do have to tie the shoes a little looser because they take up a tad more room in the shoe.
At this stage, I think they are one of the best things since the one pound pack.
Beyond Back Packing - Ray Jardine
Seldom do I run into an original thinker who challenges me as much as Ray has with his "all trails" book. I have already had a blast trying some of the iconoclastic ideas Ray found by hard work and experimentation. Many of them are listed elsewhere on these pages.
Like one of the reviewers said: "I laughed all the way through the book." I had a romping good time as Ray bashed many of the silly things I have done in the woods for these many years. It was because of the standard ways of backpacking that I abandoned the idea of walking with my camping gear through the woods more than 20 years ago. Now I have hope again.
What works best for me:
- Fresh approach to finding what works
- Application is to enjoying the wilds, not to the techniques themselves
- Stop worrying about the equipment warranty. Play with the design. You own it.
- Be willing to think through a problem and find and select the right answer. Test it with a back-up around.
What could be improved:
- Ray seems to read several gurus with much less experience than his own. Their advice ends up in the book as Ray's advice. Several health related issues come to mind, including often repeated wild stories about refined food. The book would be 20 percent better if an editor had insisted on their removal.
- Several updates seem appropriate.
-- Use of breathable waterproof socks (Sealskinz® and others) would add a lot to the value of lightweight shoes in wet or snowy conditions. At 2 1/2 oz per foot, they are a way to have dry feet without heavy boots. (And they can be turned inside out on the back of the pack to dry.)
--Use of Permethrin as a mosquito/tick repellent for clothing seems like a good idea that is not discussed.
- I understand the Ray had a number of ultralite projects listed on his web pages until this fall. With a new book coming out, they have been removed. Perhaps the new book will contain the projects. I do believe it would be useful for Ray to comment on new technologies that come out when he feels his experience would be helpful to the community of people who start their search with his book. I would certainly read his advice. (And I will buy the book when it comes out.)
Ultralite Hiking Page