2012-12-24

Ultralight Gear Builders

Today I was looking for an ultralight backpack Jess and I thought was cool, and I had a heck of a time finding the site. It occurred to me that finding the really good ultralight gear manufacturers is HARD. So here's the list Jess and I have built over some time with the help of some friends:
If you're looking for gear we like, don't forget to take a look in our store which contains gear identical to or substantially similar to gear we know and love.

We use sleepingpads from gossamer gear. I had a pack from ULA that I loved (though the owner of ULA changed since then). My bivy is from MLD. Jess' fancy tarp is from zpacks. Jess' sleepingbag (and one of my old ones) is feathered friends. My current quilt is enlightened equipment. I just purchased a vest from western mountaineering based on a backpackinglight review and their general reputation.  The hammock sites mostly come from a friend of mine who's been getting interested in hammocking and has been geeking out on gear.

Look for another post coming soon with more traditional non-ultralight gear :).

2012-12-10

Netting

When I was at the Buckeye gathering a while back Norm Kidder mentioned that some of the natives had carried around large nets. They'd use these nets to gather things into, to catch game, to throw over trees to pull the trees down, etc. Recently I found myself wanting a gathering bag. So, with this in mind, I decided to give it a try.

I did't happen to have a bunch of flax or nettle around, and didn't want to wait to rhette it and start from scratch, so I cheated and started with twine. I read a few websites and fiddled around, here's a good video for the basic knot http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WW6VlflNbTU.

I didn't have their fancy little board or their fancy netting needle, but after a little poking around I realized I *did* have an old laundry card... bending this back and forth I made a netting spacer the size I wanted.

Next I needed a netting needle. Jess has a very small loom with an appropriately sized shuttle, so for my first experiments I used that. With that kit and some waxed linen twine I made this: IMG_20121031_192323.jpg IMG_20121031_192248.jpg

Instead of using a door or something I tie the far-end to my toe. Tension is critical, so I'll adjust the length of the tie-out cord occasionally to keep the net smooth. Your first net will have extra confusing loops on it... but after a couple feet of netting you'll figure out how to control the size and when you get extra loops. Growing the net is easy, shrinking was a bit less intuitive for me.

I'd used a shuttle I didn't make, so next I had to try making my own. I grabbed a buckeye stick we had lying around the house (yes, we keep sticks lying around the house). I spread a blanket in my livingroom to catch the shavings, and carved the stick down to a short flat board. Then I took the tip of my knife and drilled through the board about 1.5" from the each end, going through from one side, then from the other side until the two sides met. Once I had holes, I widened the holes out, and then cut/split notches going down to the holes.

The end result was a pretty passable shuttle. To make it really easy to use it'll need a bit of sanding (right now it catches a touch when passing it through the twine). But, it's completely functional. A bit of rock could be used to do the sanding, it's also possible to smooth something like this with just a knife, if you're more skilled than I. Anyway, here's the final kit: IMG_20121202_114526.jpg

I haven't yet made the size net I'd need to use it for all of the things Norm talked about, but that's on the agenda. Using this technique you can make flat nets of any size, bags, hammocks, etc. It's very general. By tying it to your toe it's also very portable and can be carried around like knitting. I made a 3.5 foot net while listening to a series of presentations in search and rescue training.

So... give it a try. I'd love to hear any ideas anyone has for what to use nets like this for. What size would be the most useful to carry around in an ultra-minimal kit (say, in a blanket roll on your waste), how big of holes? What would you use it for? I'm hoping to try some uses myself soon!