2017-10-29

non-synthetic water bottle + carrier

I posted about making some leather gaskets recently http://www.blog.smalladventures.net/2017/07/non-synthetic-waterbottle-gaskets.htmlThis worked well enough to be tolerable for some uses, but it still leaked making it annoying for others.

Since them I picked up a new water bottle that I thought would be a lot easier to seal using this type of gasket, a 40oz Kleen Kanteen narrow mouth (and metal cap). So I made a new gasket for it:

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I used the same technique as my last gasket, where I cut it much smaller than the actual lid. Then I soaked the gasket in water and stretched it until it fit on to the lid. That done I let it dry most of the way while on the lid.

Just using this technique, it still leaked, so I decided to try something else. I repeated the above process, but with a thicker leather, then I made up a fairly strong mixture of wax in turpentine much like I use for treating canvas http://www.blog.smalladventures.net/2017/08/howto-waxing-cotton-2.html. I soaked the gasket in this mixture for a while.

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The turpentine smell hasn't fully dissipated, but the end result is good enough I can carry the bottle in a waterproof backpack and find no water in the backpack afterwards, or leave it sitting on it's side on the truck platform next to me while I'm sleeping. I won't argue turpentine is great for you, but it should evaporate and thus not be a problem.

Alright! I finally have a GOOD waterbottle. So, the next step is to figure out how to carry this on my backpack. I've been carrying a bottle on a string slung over my shoulder, and this gets really annoying, especially on rough trails. So, here's what I came up with.

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The fabric is from a torn American WWII military tent I picked up... it's a 6 ounce cotton canvas. I sewed a strip of leather in to the top hem to give the lip some stiffness so the waterbottle would slide in easer. Then I sewed a patch of leather to this, with slits cut in it. The stitches across the top were done with a speedy-stitcher, but it was breaking the threads on the canvas, so I switched to using a hand-awl to punch holes and then stitching with a needle and thread for the rest of the patch.

I used the patch to tie the holder to my pack frame. I can push up on the bottom of the bottle, gathering the fabric in my hand to slide the bottle out.

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And with a little finagling I can slip it back in by pulling the fabric out just a bit first.

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End result: I FINALLY have a way to comfortably carry water comfortably while backpacking without soaking my leg  or using any synethetics! Woot!

Insulated Growlers: not just for beer

After about a year on the road Angie and I decided we really wanted an insulated growler. The original thought was so we could drink cold beer. We wanted something all metal (excepting gasket), and Kleen Kanteen seemed like just about the only option on the market. Finally we bit the bullet and picked this up:

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We've had a 1 pint Kleen Kanteen thermos each for some time, and we love them. We use them instead of mugs for drinking tea, and often use them hiking to carry warm drinks. I've found mine to be pretty great for water while skiing as well. We use these every morning (and many other times as well), making them among our most used utensils.

After we got the Growler we suddenly realized we could use it for storing MILK! It will keep something cold for ~48 hours. This means milk will still be tasty for ~72 hours, which is AWESOME. Yes we have tested this, and it works even in warm weather. We both adore milk. If we can find milk in a glass jug it's even better, we can walk out, pour the milk in to the growler, and then return the glass to be refilled. No waste, we get the deposit back, and we get good milk.

Next we realized we could use it for tea. In cold weather it's great to just drink tea all day, but boiling water over and over again gets annoying. Using the big thermos and our small thermoses together we can make 3 liters of tea at a go. Conveniently this is as much water as our largest pot (Angie's cast iron pot) fits anyway. As a bonus the flip-top (in contrast to a screw top) makes it easy to leave tea-bag strings hanging out while the tea is brewing. The silicone gasket still seals plenty well.

Of *course* we've also used it for beer as well :). It keeps the beer good to drink for long enough to drink it the next evening around camp and still enjoy it. Also, it feels good to walk in to a brewery and walk out with beer, and again... no waste.

Overall we feel really silly for not having bought one a year ago. Using it for beer turned out to be a bonus, with milk and tea being by far our favorite and most common uses.

For anyone on the road who loves milk or tea I HIGHLY recommend picking one of these up. In fact, I will probably keep using it instead of a tea-pot for drinking tea when we settle down someday.

2017-09-20

Gear Review: Soft-star Runamoc Moccasins

I've been wearing Softstar Runamoc Moccasins as my primary shoes for about five years now. I use them for everything, going to town, visiting friends, hiking, backpacking, trail running, approach shoes while climbing, canoe trips, etc. I'm currently wearing my 4'th or 5'th pair (I lost count).


These are truly a minimalist shoe. They come in a number of versions, but the ones I get are made of vegetable tanned leather, and have 5mm thick rubber soles. On my most recent pair I also requested they leave out the elastic they put in the back of the heal. In the most literal way you can imagine, they are a thin sole glued to a little leather.

They have NO support at all, and that's exactly why I buy them. The sole is completely flat, and as I mentioned only a few mm thick. If you want a shoe with support, of any kind, these are not for you.



A little background on why I like this type of shoe. Here are my reasons for wearing a minimal shoe:
  • I am a little prone to rolling my ankle, but I've found that being close to the ground helps more than ankle support does (I know people who find the opposite).
  • The arch on my right foot goes all of the way across, when I wore supportive shoes my foot wasn't strong enough to support itself on the outside and it hurt, now my feet don't hurt after a 20 mile day.
  • I had knee issues and switched to toe/midfoot strike and found it felt much better for my knees and back. For this style of running cushioning is bad, and zero-drop is good.
  • I find the ability to wrap my foot around a rock, plus the ability to feel the ground, overall more or equally useful than having a "grippy" sole. I slide sometimes, but I know exactly when I'm going to slide. I wore these shoes to climb Long's peak in Colorado, including the upper scramble.
  • I have good circulation, so my feet are rarely cold.
  • I have spent time running and hiking fully barefoot
  • I walk a little hard on one side of my foot. The midsole of a normal shoe collapses rather quickly, causing my shoe to tilt and stressing my knees. As a result I see "cushioning" as a huge downside.
  • I'm used to it. Over the years I've worn Merrill tough gloves, Vibram 5 fingers, the old puma trail racing shoes, and many other minimal shoes. I can't walk in most forests barefoot comfortably, but I've been doing the minimal shoe thing for a long time.
These are one of my 4 pairs of shoes. I also own a pair of huaraches, a pair of winter hiking boots for snowshoeing and the like, and a pair of pack-boots for extreme weather.
Everyone is different, and knowing yourself is a huge part of  deciding what gear is right for you. The more minimal or lightweight the gear, the more this is true. Everyone can slap on a supportive boot and walk 10 miles, making your body do the work instead means letting your body adjust, which takes time. A 25 mile day of rough trail with bad sharp rocks the whole way bruises the heck out of your feet in shoes like this. My feet are used to it, so it hurts, but not overly much. It took time to get there going barefoot and wearing similarly minimal shoes for less intense activities.


The good:
  • All leather: This is huge for me. I've found that seeds in many locations around the U.S. can be seriously problematic for mesh shoes. I gave up on mesh shoes after I bought a pair and completely destroyed them in a single 1 week trip. Leather is also at least a bit water resistant, which is nice. Note that you can get them in vegan materials as well... I just don't.
  • Tough: They seem to last about as long as any other shoe. Angie has a slightly more traditional "minimal" shoe, the New Balance Minimus. These are a typical mesh shoes with a typical sole. We bought shoes at the same time, and they wore out at about the same time. I didn't log my miles, but I expect they last me at least ~600 miles, probably ~800, which is about as long as any shoe lasts.
  • Lightweight: There is nothing in this shoe you don't need. Just enough leather and rubber to get the wear-life I noted above. There's basically nothing else to the shoe.
  • Fit: The lace runs around the heal through the shoe, this tends to slide the foot forward in the shoe. As a result I have never gotten even the slightest chafing/hotspots on my heals. The shoe is wide and gives plenty of space to spread out your toes. 
  • Repairable: Usually the toe blows out for me first, and I just sew it up. This gets me home no problem, and tells me it's time to replace my shoes. My forefoot wearing through the rubber is usually a couple hundred miles behind.
  • Looks: They actually look pretty classy when they are new. Unless someone pays attention the veg-tan leather ones look almost like a dress shoe. I have worn them to job interviews... though I am a software engineer to be fair.
The bad:
  • The hole in the side between the vamp and the quarter goes to the ground. This lets in mud if you step in a mud-hole. It also means any hope of water-resistance or warmth is kind of a joke.
  • The sole wears smooth long before the shoe wears out. This isn't a big problem, but it does mean that you have to get used to mediocre to poor traction in some circumstances. It doesn't bother me, but it could be dangerous on trail for others.
  • Price: You have to get them custom made. Occasionally I've been able to find the right size and features in the returns section of soft-star's website, but usually I have to custom order them. Not a big deal, but it means t
Overall, I love them. I started wearing minimal shoes for running, and it just kept expanding until I couldn't stand to wear anything else even for long backpacking trips. They are not for everyone, but if you've been looking for something that keeps your feet from getting cut, stabbed, and chafed and that's it... this is your shoe.

Grounding: I have a hard time not scoffing at the concept, but someone once asked me if these shoes are "grounded". No, they are not normally "grounded" shoes, but you can pay softstar extra to modify the shoes to comply with the "grounded" idea.