Homemade shoes

I've been wanting to make shoes for a long time. I've made gillies, but while they were cool, I never got one that was really useful as a generalized standalone shoe. I've tried a couple moccasin designs, but never quite got it to work out.

Recently I bought a pair of original run-amoc moccasins from soft-star shoes... I just looked at their website, and can't find them, so they must've canceled them. Anyway, I like those shoes enough that I just wore them on a 4 day backpacking trip. They have been my primary shoe since I bought them in the spring.

I looked at the design, and loosely based a shoe on it. It's really just a basic turnshoe, the the trick comes with the heal flap going *under* the toe-piece this allows the lace, which runs around the heal, to pull the heal forward when you cinch it, thus pushing your foot up towards the front of the shoe towards the tongue.

Here's my attempt at a shoe using this idea:


I started by tracing my feet, and adding a seam allowance. The top of the shoe I literally just pulled the material over my foot and traced around the outer edge. For the pattern we used some left-over shipping foam that came from something we'd received.


I simply saddle-stitched it together, nothing magic here. Notice that I'm stitching it with the shiny-side out. This is because although the design that inspired my shoe is a turn-shoe I decided I'd had so many failures I wanted to really keep it simple, so I did this shoe as a simple-shoe rather than a turn-shoe. Fewer things can go wrong this way.


Here's the completed moccasin with the single-layer leather bottom.


Knowing that wouldn't cut it, I glued a sole to the bottom using some barge cement. To get it to to join properly I filled a bag with beans and stuffed this in the shoe for a little weight. The seam around the edge tends to pull off the shoe, so the clothes-pins here are to hold it on.


That glue-job was sufficient for about 3 days of wear. I took them to a primitive skills gathering in South Carolina (falling leaves) and the sole started to fall off :(. Fine I said, and stitched the sole on using saddle stitch. That worked okay, but I went just *inside* the existing stitching, so the shoe shrank by a half-size. This pushed my heal back a tiny bit. This caused my heal to stretch the heal-cup backwards a little, so now if I take long-strides the seam on the back sometimes lands under my heal. It's also possible that the leather choice is just wrong. This is a chrome-tan thin chap-leather, a different leather might help, prestretching it, etc. I'll have to experiment a bit.

I almost wore them on our backpacking trip instead of the purchased shoes that gave me the inspiration, but I got nervous about the heal-seam problem and chickened out. They are totally wearable, and I would consider the project a success, but before I want to call this a solid design I'd make again, I need to solve the heal-stretch problem so I can backpack in them.

Note BTW, that the entire shoe is only the seam running around the sole of the shoe, and then a second one for the sole. That's IT. The string runs around my heal, and the leather is just folded over over it, and that seems to keep everything in place fine.

A pair takes maybe a day to make, probably less time the next time. that's pretty awesome actually! Notice that the top photo has p-cord for lacing, even though I was using leather initially. Another flaw is that the tension on that cord needs to be pretty high, to hold the heal forward. Because of that I broke on of the leather laces and decided to just switch to p-cord for now.

Not a bad experiment! Jess is still working on a pair made as a turn-shoe, using leather she made herself out of deer-hide. I can't wait to see her final shoes. In the meantime, I'll continue wearing mine looking for other flaws to look in to in my next design.

Gravity filters

I just got back from a four day backpacking trip with my parents. We were playing with a lot of new gear this trip, and had a few difficulties as you usually do.

I had a new sawyer squeeze mini, and my dad had gotten a new platypus gravityworks system, and then substituted in a rapid-pure filter. This did not work well as it turned out, but for hilarious reasons.


Let me back up a bit and talk about some of these newer filter technologies. For years there have been 2 primary filter types, carbon and ceramic. Carbon filters have short lifespans and don't remove viruses, but they are cheap and relatively robust. Ceramic filters are fragile, often require a bit more pressure, but are quite sensitive to being dropped.

More recently the technology used in dialysis machines has made it in to water filters. The first major production filter to incorporate this was the MSR hyperflow. It got great reviews initially, but was generally a disaster. Requiring back-flushing every couple of gallons it just wasn't usable. The pressures required to push the water through caused problems for the seals, and in general they screwed up on the valve designs. Everyone I knew who had one was plagued with problems.

A bit later the sawyer squeeze came out from an independent company. This filter using the same tech took the ultralight community by storm. It's simplicity of being *just* the filter unit with no pump complexity made it lightweight, and tempting for minimalists. You could put it inline in your drinking system, or squeeze through it using a bag. It mostly works, but the pressures occasionally cause the bags to bust... annoying, but not deadly. You still have to backflush all the time though. The mini is just a newer miniature version of this filter with a little bit slower filter rate. I picked one up after my polar-pure bottle (purchased in 2009, and chipped the same year) finally shattered on the kitchen floor while prepping for a recent trip. This was it's second trip actually, so I've filtered maybe 4-6 gallons with it now... and it's annoyingly slow.

My dad is a bit of a gear-head, and found out about a newer technology. Instead of being based on super-tiny tubes, it uses more of a mesh. It's still small enough to remove viruses and such, but due to the mesh shape supposedly achieves a better flow rate. Dad's idea was to use the platypus gravity-works filter system, which includes all the bags and hoses in a nice configuration he didn't have to figure out himself, and then swap in a faster filter. Sounds good in theory.


On our trip, water barely flowed through his filter. He could filter 3 liters overnight after half an hour of fiddling to remove all the air-bubbles. My sawyer squeeze was too annoying to use to filter everyones water, but the combination got us by. In retrospect we should've hooked his system through my filter, but at the time we didn't think the pressure would be enough... it didn't work with his super-high-flow rate one after all, why would it work with mine?

Well, today we decided to test it. He hooked up his system and water just didn't flow. We hooked up the sawyer and it dribbled, like okay... this is annoying and not really usable but kinda what you'd expect. It certainly implies that his is somehow faulty though. Dad had read reviews (on Backpacking Light) that were VERY detailed, so it all just didn't make sense. So, we hooked up the smallest of his 3 filters from rapid-pure, and a STREAM of water shot out! Wait... what??!!!


Next we hooked up the mid-sized one, it was even faster. We timed both, the small one is just under 1 liter a minute, the medium is more like 1.1. We didn't get the 1.2 and 1.6 they advertise, but it was fast, and we may not have hit the requisite PSI for the advertised rate. In any case, it's way faster than dad's old sweet-water pump! In fact, it's the fastest backpacking filter I've ever seen.

Finally we hooked up the original gravity-works filter, it absolutely shot out of the far end as I hooked it up, so much dad jumped out of the way. We timed it at over 2 liters a minute. We're not sure what tech this filter uses, but whatever it is it seems to be more fragile. It's possible it clogs faster or something than the newer tech, we don't know, it'd probably be interesting to try both for a while and see how they last in practice.

These filters are starting to peak my interest a bit more now. I decided on this trip that the squeeze isn't really worth it. It's too slow and annoying. The first half-cup comes out okay when I set on a 2 liter bottle, but it's just annoying to use. It doesn't take forever, but it's too slow for my liking. It's not that I'm in a rush, but I don't want to spend all my time filtering water. I like to spend it wandering, starting fires, building shelters etc. In fact, I think I drank less than I needed sometimes because getting water was annoying.

The squeeze mini though threads directly on to a standard soda bottle, which for me is a big deal since I use standard soda bottles and stainless steel bottles to the exclusion of all else these days. The day one of these faster ones comes in a form-factor that's that simple, so i can use it on top of a bottle, or as an inline filter, or as a squeeze filter, I might finally switch off iodine. Maybe I can fashion something myself. In the meantime, I recently found more polar-pure on Amazon. Jess and I purchased 5 bottles of it in fact, since we're not sure we'll ever find it again. My last bottle lasted me 5 years before I broke it, so I should be set until these filters come in the form-factor I want. BTW, If you want polar-pure, I'd get on that fast.

For those who are okay with a little bulk, complexity, and fragility of bladders though the future is now. These things are impressive. I might get something similar to store in my car and use when car-camping, where these things matter less to me.


My dad called the company he bought the filter through, and they contacted the manufacturer. The manufacturer asked for the filter back so they could understand the problem, and sent 2 replacement filters as thanks.

When they got it back they tested it and found that indeed it is faulty and appears to be a manufacturing defect, and they're looking at how to improve their processes. So far this is the only incident I'm aware of of this kind.


Butchering Rabbits (photos/thoughts/emotions)

Recently Jess and I met a friend of a friend. We were talking about long distance backpacking and primitive skills and that sort of thing. At some point the conversation turned towards animals, using them, eating them, etc. Partly as a meat-eater she was very interested in trying actually slaughtering and butchering an animal with us.

Jess had already been planning on getting an animal to put up some meat for ourselves. Partly because we like the meat better, and partly because as uncomfortable as it is, we both feel a lot more comfortable knowing exactly how the animal lived and died. We figure it's better than the unknowns.

So, one weekend our new friend came by our house. Jess had found a source of rabbits on craigslist and that that evening we drove out to their house to pick them up. We got 3 rabbits. A little younger than optimal for meat, but we decided to roll with it.

We had brought 2 rubbermaid bins that we'd carefully drilled holes in the tops of. We put the rabbits in these and went home. At home we tried to make the rabbits comfortable in our shower.

After not long they were hopping around pretty chill. We don't particularly believe in avoiding feeding animals before slaughter, it might make our jobs a tiny tiny bit easier, but I'd rather the animals are happy. We had some sprouts we grew that we'd failed to eat soon enough, so we gave these to the rabbits, they enjoyed them thoroughly


Overnight they didn't even hop out of the shower. Domestic rabbits are kindof ludicrously relaxed.

I should mention here that this was actually my first time taking part in slaughtering an animal. I've processed animals before, but they were roadkill. I've spent a lot of time thinking about hunting, and considering taking an animals life, and somehow for me hunting is notionally more comfortable. It sounds weird, but you get a chance to "ask" the animal, and in many cases it gets a chance to kindof decide to leave or not. It sounds crazy, but I know people who take game this way, and yes, they do take game in the end.

Anyway. The next day we talked for a while. We went to the rabbits and held them, petted them, got to know them, and we thanked them. Once we all felt (or at least said) we were ready, we slaughted the rabbits.

To actually slaughter them we used the "broom-stick" method. There are tons of good youtube videos of this method. Basically, you put the animal on the ground. You place the broomstick behind the animals head across the neck. Then you push down on the broomstick with 2 feet, and pull up on the rabbit's hind-legs until the rabbit dies. It takes only about a second.

We went one-by-one each doing one rabbit. I went first. I pulled to hard and popped the head off, out of fear that I might not kill fast enough. That wasn't a problem though. Afterwards I cried... it's hard to explain, I had done this with intention and knowledge, and I wasn't sad. My emotion was "crying", not sadness.

I explained to our friend that to me, it's important that it's a little hard every time you do it. If it wasn't hard, it definitely would not be okay by me. It would be creepy and weird and wrong.

Anyway, we all took a little time to deal with it, and then got to butchering. Jess had both processed enough animals that this part was just not emotional anymore. We were looking at meat... dinner. It took a minute before we realized our friend was not of the same mind and was still seeing the animal she had just killed; though she was pushing bravely on anyway.

We were so caught up in it that I failed to take any pictures. So, a while later we had this:


And this


Oh, and blood pudding which I failed to take a picture of. We ate the blood putting and the organs as lunch.

We dried the pelts for other uses. Jess is going to try to tan hers. I tried to tan a wild-rabbit pelt and ended up tearing it up quite a bit due to it being so thin. So I declined. Domestic rabbit skin is much thicker though, so Jess stands a good chance of success.

That evening we roasted one of the rabbits for dinner. It was good. It was odd to eat domestic meat that I had butchered, I'm used to the meat being very rich, wild meat. This was much richer than commercial meat, but not nearly as rich as wild.

Jess and I made a soup with the rest of the carcass that made several meals. We used the meat in probably 3 subsequent stir-frys as well. We took the other 2 rabbits and chopped them up and froze them for later use. We'll make a minimum of 2 more soups, and the meat should be most of what we need for a few months.

So, now we can meat for a while where we know where it came from, how it lived, and how it died. There are few things I've found so grounding as eating meat where that is the case.  It makes you turn and look at the rest of your world the same way. Is it comfortable? No not entirely. Does it make me feel better about myself than eating other meat? Definitely. Would not eating meat make me feel even better? No... it wouldn't, and explaining that I'll leave for another time.

Sorry this post lacks the technical bits in the middle. We'll try and get more photos the next time we need more good meat.