Thursday, February 20, 2014

The First Pitch

Some options for the ever flexible tarp
I finally had an opportunity to get the Blue Shelter pitched and try a few different configurations.  There are a few things that need done to make the whole set up better.  I'm going to add 5 tie-out points to the interior on the tarp (2 on each panel and 1 dead center).  I also still need to seam seal the stitching to ensure water proofiness.  I also am a little unhappy with the guyline schema.  I followed the tie out plan from a great article I found on tarp camping but I think the shortness of a lot of the line lengths will limit what I can do at any given time.  I think I will need to get a good 50-100 feet more of 2mm guyline to be able to make the setup more easily flexible.  Even on my first attempts I was very happy with how fast I could get the BS set up and out of the rain.  The still be produced Bivy will reside in the tent for ultimate weather and bug protection.  I tried to set it up as a pyramid but the pole slipped so I'll need to work out those details with the tie out point.

Storm Mode


The Flying Diamond/Hammock rig

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Blue Shelter

After searching and searching for good materials here in India I finally pulled the trigger and ordered some goods from DIYGearSupply and Thru-Hiker.
Bag of goodies

My Goal is to create a 9x9 tarp, a bivy bag, a 32* sleeping bag, and an insulated vest.  The tarp seemed like the biggest and easiest so I started there.

So starting out I needed to decide on a plan.  I primarily based my design and procedures on the instructions found on DIYGearSupply.  I really wanted a catenary cut hex tarp but with the reality of camping mostly on the ground in this neck of India I decided that the square tarp was the most flexible and would work with the hammock, just not as sweet as the hex tarp.  I'm also planning a trip up into the Himalayas sometime this year so the hex tarp's usefulness is further diminished for my current situation.  See ya later sexy, here comes Mr. Utilitarian.

So first what I did was created a layout using the tiles on the ground and some masking tape.  Once I had it all measured out then I marked it with a sharpie.  A not of caution with silnylon, if you mark something, you will be able to see it forever from both sides.  I have a few marks for the tie-out reinforcements that I will be reminded of for perpetuity but as my first big project I'm okay with that.

After laying out the sil I cut out the reinforcement triangles out of the 200D nylon.  Then I got nervous and decided to make a stuff sack.  Electric blue wasn't my initial color selection but they had ran out of grey the day before I ordered and didn't have it until the week after I ordered.  Not very stealthy but as a white guy backpacking in India I'm probably not going to blend in too well anyway.

Tent stake stuff sack with some of the trimmings.
 I had read so much about how slippery the silnylon is and what a pain to sew so I wanted to test out my skilz.  It actually sewed pretty similar to the thin polyester I'm using to make my kids hammocks so it wasn't too bad.  I just had to go slow and pin a lot.  By pin a lot I mean use a lot of binder clips and bobby pins.  The bobby pins were great.  They were light, held the material securely and I didn't have to worry about punching holes in what will hypothetically be my rain cover and a frigid, tempest swept mountain side.

Not perfect but much better than I expected.
After I had marked out my tarp I cut it with my 100 rs soldering iron.  It did a great job at cutting and heat-sealing the fabric but I needed a 3rd hand to do it accurately.  I stayed pretty close to my black line so I'm happy with it.  First I made the hybrid felled/french seam to get the 2 main tarp halves together.  I was very happy with the way the center seam turned out.

Thankfully I have young kids to supply my hem edger.
 Then it was simply just putting the re-enforcement triangles where I wanted my tie outs and hem it up with a rolled hem.  I followed this article in relation to tarp set ups.  I went with 5 tie outs on each side (corner, quarter, mid, quarter, corner).  Once I had that set up I got sick and let the project sit for a week or so.  The next phase was definitely my least favorite.  Taking down the corners and putting the tie-outs down with the included D-rings.  I don't really enjoy repetitive work, which is all this was for that period of time.  Eventually, however, it was over and I had a near completed tarp.  I tied on some guy-lines and my tarp is now practically finished.  I still plan on some tie-outs on the sides and down the ridgeline to give me the most headroom/flexibility/storm worthiness.

Tomorrow on my morning run at the park I'm going to attempt to pitch BS with my trekking poles just because I want to.  I've been super happy how things turned out.  I think we're looking at about 8 hours of layout and sewing but it is hard to tell as it was done over a multitude of days.  Gear construction is a lot like machining.  3/4 of the time is spent laying out, planning, prepping.  Only about a quarter of the time is actually wielding the thread injector.  I'll post some pics if I get a chance to pitch the BS in the near future.  Off the Top Quilt!

Couldn't resist the opportunity for a campout in the living room.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Art of Adventure

A shortly upcoming blog will focus on my newly arrived bag of goodies from DIY-Gear Supply and Thru-Hiker.  I have all sorts of high-tek insulation and fabrics to construct some wonderful camping goodies.  A 9x9 tarp, bivy sack, quilt, and ultralight vest are on the bill as I prepare for the possibility for a week long trek in the Himalayas later this year.  Adventure has always been a ethereal concept for me.  I love to be outdoors in the piney woods.  I love the hidden life concealed in the chaparral of yuccas and Joshua Trees.  I love the majestic beauty of sand-dunes and the limitless expanse of the ocean at sunset.  I've never, however, been a fan of heights and going anywhere approaching high speeds.  I burned out the brake pads of my bike at least 5 times faster than my friends.  One of our common weekend rituals was to ride down the steepest hills in our neighborhood or the sharp cut terraces of the Southern California landscape being scarred into suburbia.  It is strange how as a kid those hills seemed so steep as you were frantically squeezing the brakes and feeling the panic ride up within you as you tried to look cool and confident screeching down the asphalt decline to road burn hell.  As an adult I have revisited those hills and realized not only are they scary steep and I was too easily influenced by my peers.  My friends loved flying down those hills on their bikes or sitting atop a skateboard doing poor man's street luge.  I was continually horrified and in my panic often bailed at the worst and most painful time.  Knowing the limitations of my impaired coordination and obese pre-adolescent frame adventure to me was humiliating and more often than not physically painful.

During my memorable 5 month stint with the boy scouts I was shocked at how difficult it was to backpack and canoe with the other kids.  Now I am shocked that not only did I fit so much junk in my backpack but that I was able to carry it at all.  I loved being outside, I love being remote, I just don't respond well to dangerous situations.  As I nerd I have decided that education and what I carry between my ears relieves some of those fears and mitigates the opportunity for disaster.  Nothing that I carry in my brain, however, will make jumping out of a helicopter with a set of skis on a remote mountaintop alluring to me.  You let me grow out a beard and hermit in the mountains with a few like-minded people and I am in nerdboy heaven.

I love the idea of loving dangerous adventure.  I watch lots of documentaries, play extremely exiting miniature games, and die horrible gory deaths on violent video games.  I love to vicariously experience danger and mimic that elusive co-existent virtue: courage.  I want to out danger Bear Grills in a Risk Off.  I want to be a man who faces his life, from the adventurous to the mundane, with dignity and courage.  I want to stand firm in the face of the boar of life.  As a nerd in the IT world my cubicle doesn't allow me many opportunities at dangerous adventure.  I think many of us in the professional world have allowed our safe lives to wear down our capacity for courage.  Suddenly our big risks involve office politics and meeting quotas.  Just as living in the 3rd world redefines one's use of the word "poor," particularly in a self-inflected sense, so living without adventure atrophies our sense of personal courage.

Something deep within me has decided that 2014 is the beginning of a more adventurous life.  I will put myself in a place to view nature in all of her exposed beauty.  I will allow for opportunities for catastrophic failure.  I will allow myself the opportunities for real and measurable success.  I'm totally stoked about the chance to go into the highest mountain range in the world.  But I am more exited to live a life that exposes itself to real risk with only the protective hand of God surrounding me.  To lay aside the safe way of life that threatens to not only corrode my sense of courage but to force me into a small life.

I have often thought that relationships are like a diagram of a wave.  If it stays constantly in the middle there is no opportunity for hurt below the line.  But that also forces a limit on the opportunity for love.  The last 10 years of my life I have been married to the world's most wonderful woman.  in the beginning of our relationship it was very difficult for me to transition from a chain of broken hearts in high-school to risking total and utter devastation by becoming involved with a woman that I was falling truly and irrevocably in love with.  It was the greatest risk of my life.  Taking that risk, embracing the pain and insecurity of those early days has lead me to a life of greater fulfillment than I could ever have imagined before I met her.  She has given me 3 beautiful children and raised them to be pretty close to perfect kids.  The greatest risk has lead to the greatest payoff.  Now, on the verge of my 30th year of life, I am finally ready to live life with the same kind of abandon.  To finally step forward into a life that allows for triumphs and defeats.  The same life has left me stressed and seeing my failures as daunting and my obligations overwhelming because there are no balancing victories.  There is very little that I have truly had to battle for.  Nothing that carries the inherent value of a trophy smeared with one's own blood washed clean only be sweat and tears.

Alea iacta est

Or for you nerds out there:
Dovie'andi se tovya sagain

Who is with me?