Monday, May 24, 2010

24: Haukåsen

Another great overnighter - this time one of my bestest friends, Kari, joined me on a trip to Haukåsen, a hill close to the lake Nøklevann. Not a long hike at all, just maybe an hour to get to where we wanted to camp, and  then the next day an hour or two back via a scenic route in glorius sunshine. The aim of this trip was purely to have a good time, not to cover lots of miles.

We started the hike under the hammock tarp in the parking lot. ? Yes, we really did. A freak downpour stopped us in our tracks and we tried to keep dry under a tree, but soon needed more protection. Of course the rain stopped as soon as I had the tarp up, but that was part of the plan. I like this alternative version of Murphy's law. It always works.

After putting the tarp back into the snakeskins (more about those later), we proceeded  along a well traveled forest road until we got to the bottom of the hill and started a short, but strenous climb. I had planned to go back to the spot I mentioned in an earlier post, but the GPS waypoint was in my old Garmin back home, and I couldn't quite locate it from pure memory, so we trodded along until we found a nice spot for Kari's tent (MSR Zoid 2 for the gear heads out there) and my hammock rig. Kari quickly got up her tent while I tried different tree combinations for the hammock.

Once I settled on a spot I found out that I had almost no soil to put the pegs into, so I ended up moving it 90 degrees so that I could use some stones and a log to attach guylines to.

Then I of course spent way too much time adjusting everything (never get into hammocking if you don't like to tinker with guylines and stuff), until Kari came over midly suggesting we got some food in us. Like last time I had brought a disposable grill, and we grilled some steaks and sausages, retreating to bags/quilts full, happy and content. Oh, and we enjoyed some of that Mintuu again - we're both starting to like it quite a bit. I blaim Hendrik for the (nice) addiction.

During the night the temperature fell to 9C/48F and we got some rain and wind, but everything worked fine. I got up to adjust the way my hammock hung a couple of times. I later found out that I had set it up with the foot end a little lower than the head end, a typical beginner mistake. The trick is to put the foot end a few inches higher than the head end to keep you from slowly sliding during the night. It became one of those nights where you don't feel that you've slept, only dosing off at times, and I feared the dreaded post-trip-headache and nausesa that I often get after a night camping, but incredibly I felt quite refreshed after all. I attribute this to the hammock. Once I get more attuned to it I am convinced I will get very high quality sleep - a definite goal of mine ;).

I got some condensation on the tarp during the night, but it quickly dried in the morning sun and breeze. Kari didn't get any condensation either, probably because she got good airflow throught the main vent of her tent which was facing the wind. Our location was good too, high above the lake. Camping down by the lake would surely have been a condensation feast.

The morning after we enjoyed breakfast in the sun, firing up the Bushbuddy to make water for tea. Lots of dry wood was available from nearby dead trees, so we quickly got the BB going. The sun was warming our backs and we were having a really good time, soaking in the sun and smells of the forest.

(Kari enjoying some morning coffee. The cup is the one I scored from the mystery box - thanks Hendrik :)

The Bushbuddy may not be the fastest stove around and blackens pots etc., but it is really fun to operate, and light in itself and in not needing to carry fuel. Kari promptly renamed it the "Bushbaby" when she saw how much I like it. I just need to find a natural pot grabber of sorts. Ended up using some heather.

Remember the "snakeskins" I mentioned earlier?. They're clever silnylon tubes that the tarp goes into. Packing up after breakfast went pretty quick needing only to slide each sleeve along the tarp until they met in the middle. It was then only matter of folding the long tube and lashing it with its own ridgeline. Nice stuff.

Another nice gadget for speeding up both setup and takedown is the Figure-9 rope tensioner. Knots of course works just as well, and for no extra weight, but still, I like the convenience of the Figure-9s.

The trip ended with a nice trek along some nice paths, carrying the trash out in a biobag. I think Hendrik would be proud of us :).

Ok, time to get geeky - so, how did the gear work out this time? I left home carrying 22-24 pounds because of 2 litres of water, grill, barbecue food, candy etc. Arriving at home it weighed about 6.5 kgs or 13 pounds, not too bad considering I carried a full hammock rig, plus what I needed to cook and sleep comfortably.

Some of the stuff I carried:

Gossamer Gear Mariposa Plus pack (750g) : very comfortable! I like this a lot. Will definitely use this on my 1-week trip with my brother this summer (carrying tent etc)

Bushbuddy wood stove (171g): great stove, easy to get going, burns very cleanly. Fits perfectly in the SP900

SP900 with Jason Klass lid (130g): my dedicated wood burning pot, especially since it is pretty blackened up by now

Petzl e+lite headlamp (45g) : does everything I need to at a killer weight. I only needed the lowest setting for the camp chores

MH Monkey Man ThermalPro fleece (567g) : very warm and comfortable. I really like to use this during breaks and in camp.

Warbonnet Blackbird hammock with suspension (936g)

OES Maccat Deluxe Spinnaker tarp with guylines, Figure-8s and snakeskins (414g)

Te-wa underquilt (379g)

Jacks R Better Sierra Sniveller top quilt (698g): 2.5 inches of loft from 800+ fill down. Love it so far.

Montane Jetstream windshirt (97g) : came in handy when it rained at the beginning of the trip

Stuff I carried, but didn't use:

Long handled titanium spork (9g)
Mora knife (51g)
Featherlite pants (118g)

That's it for now. Take care!

Monday, May 17, 2010

24: Hakadal to Skar

This was a trip of many firsts: my first tarp+bivy experience, my first real overnight trip of the season and first trip with a new friend and colleague, plus some new gear to try for the first time. Read on to learn about the trip and the experiences we had with the gear we used and the conditions we faced.

My colleague Glenn and I had been talking about a bivy+tarp trip for some time and we were both psyched to go, so when the weather forecast turned out very poor we checked and rechecked to see if it would turn out better then it looked. Well, we got some short glimpses of blue sky the first evening, but other than that we faced rain, fog and very soggy ground. Anyway, we decided to go because we were so motivated. Glenn is very cool that way, talk about positive frame of mind! Not like my mum who after being told later about the trip said "Oh, that must have been awful". No mum, it was great in a rainy, soggy but high spirited way.

The route we chose, Hakadal to Skar, is a well know trip of maybe 15-20 km, traversing some of the nicest parts of the Oslomarka area. The highest point is close to 450-500 meters and most of the trip is well marked and well maintained trail. All in all a very nice walk. We took the train to Hakadal which took about 35 minutes, got off and put the rain cover on, and then proceeded down the road to the trail head.

Like I said, the ground was very soggy because of all the precipitation, but also because snow was still melting. I was wearing Viking trail runners without a membrane and Sealskinz socks and it turned out to be a great combo. I was dry and comfortable and traversed ponds, mud and snow like a 3 year old without worrying about getting wet.

We had a late start so after maybe 2-3 hours we made camp on a small hill not far from the trail. Spruce branches we're put on the ground to flatten things out to give a nice comfortable surface to sleep on, and then the SpinnTwinn went up, followed by bivies etc.

I had some problems getting the stake for the front line to stick in the ground, so I ended up laying a big rock on the stake.

Later that night I woke up with the tarp close to my face because it somehow came lose during the night. Must have been a freak blast of wind. Securely tied to a root of a small tree it stayed up the rest of the night without a problem.

After putting up the Spinntwinn, we put up an extra 3 x 3 metres tarp to use as a place to eat. That worked out great. Doing that under the Spinntwinn would have been too cramped. Mintuu (inspired by Hendrik), barbecued steak and sausages were had and we went to sleep full and content.

The night was not undisturbed, but I managed to get some hours sleep. Like I said the tarp went down once, but I also awoke some times because of condensation dripping onto my face when the wind shook the tarp occasionally. The condensation on the tarp was massive, not surprising since the air was very saturated and only a light wind blowing. After sunrise it started blowing more and the condensation evaporated, a good thing since it rained cats and dogs too. It's kind of fascinating to be laying dry and snug under a thin piece of fabric while it is raining hard. The tarp worked great, as well as my Ptarmigan bivy which experienced zero condensation buildup, an impressive feat considering the pro-condensation circumstances. It also proteced me from the condensation splashes, well the ones that were not hitting the bug netting that is.

This was also my first time using the JRB Sierra Sniveller and that worked out great too. I really like the freedom of movement a quilt provides. The night temperature of 10C was of course no match for since it is rated to 25-30F. Glenn used a winter bag and bivy and was toasty warm and snug too. He was being bugged by the bugs though and swore to get a bug net as soon as possible.

It was still pouring down when we got up in the morning and after packing everything and taking down the SpinnTwinn we went over to the other tarp to have breakfast.

(Glenn having a good time)

(me having a good time)

Porridge and hot sweet tea was had and we then walked onwards to Skar and the bus home. The original plan was to walk the whole day, but we decided to cut the trip short because of the conditions. On the way back we stopped by a couple of DNT cabins/shelters that Glenn hadn't seen before. Reading the visitors log we saw that some french people had stayed their that night and we're the ones we passed on the trail earlier. Too bad they got to see the area under such bad conditions, and not in a few weeks time when it'll probably be sunny and nice.

The last stretch down to the bus stop was like walking in a river. The snow melting caused the trail to be filled with running water.

So how did the gear work out:


Mountain Hardwear EPIC pants and jacket - kept me nice and dry, I left the pit zips open most of the trip to get maximum venting

BPL Merino Hoody - rocks as always

Ti-Tri Caldera Cone for the MSR 0.85 Titan Kettle - continues to impress me with its performance, ease of use and fuel economy.

GG SpinnTwinn - easy to set up nice and taught. Enough space for two hikers and their gear. Only nitpick was that it actually sagged a little when wet, something I thought Spinnaker didn't do.

Fleece gloves + MLD Event mitts kept my hands warm and dry


MYOG G4 : this was a BIG fail for me. After adding 3 litres of water (had to carry because of few good water sources) and food (0,5kg?) I had a total weight of 9.5kg when I left home. During the trip I couldn't get the pack to feel comfortable:

- the padding in the shoulder straps was insufficient and they were too narrow I think (I found out I've mad them 0.5 inch to narrow, but still)

- the lack of a sternum strap was apparent. I felt the need to use the tumb loops, but I want to have my hands free to use walking sticks. One of the thumb loops tore lose too

- the shoulder straps slid out of position because of the wet weather soaking the strap, so I had to constantly re-tighten them

- the hip belt is a joke, the padded part was too far back to make a difference, and when I tightened it I was forced to use the thumb loops to make the pack hug my back

I ended up carrying the pack without the hip belt attached, so the weight was mainly on my shoulders. This wasn't as bad on day 2 as the pack was lighter then without the water and some of the food.

I think some of these issues can be solved by packing the pack better. I didn't use a rolled up pad for structure for instance, only the z-lite in the pad holder. Maybe I should consider ordering the premade shoulder straps from thru-hiker to retrofit with. We'll see. Next time I'll be using the Mariposa Plus.

This was basically the only fail for me, so all in all my gear did ok :).

Hm, this ended up being a very long and detailed report. Let me know if you think it was too long and tedious to read.

Have a great week!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Paracord bracelet

Here's a nice and easy MYOG project if you have a spare buckle and some paracord or similar cord laying around: a paracord bracelet with side release buckle. Basically a very compact way to carry around about 3 yards of cord that may be handy to do repairs, lash things together etc. Could even be a lifesaver in an emergency.

I had the day off today so I had time to make one. I used 550lb paracord which can be bought for instance on ebay. Got to love these quick and easy projects (no primal screams of frustration going on like when I've done clothing and packs).

(illustration by Damien Mason)

Essential podcast about backpacks

The podcast "Backpacks 101" (mp3) by Practical Backpacking is an essential listen for people who want to learn about different backpack designs, materials, features and maintenance. Be sure to check it out if you haven't already.

It's basically a conversation with the man behind Ultralight Adventure Equipment (ULA), Brian Frankle (he has since sold the business). I am impressed by how clearly Brian is able to explain everything.

His explanation of how to put the pack on and off is very useful. By doing it the right way you'll prolong the service life of it. He also goes into detail about how to adjust the pack, revealing his routine of loosening every strap when taking it off and tightening everything again when putting it on, as well as adjusting it on the go when something feels off. Too many people never adjust their pack.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Hammock testing and spring bliss

I'm lucky to have some nice places to hike close to where I live in the southern part of Oslo, and since the snow has finally melted,  I've been doing some day hikes to practice setting up my hammock rig, and to enjoy the early signs of spring.

Spring really coming along now, even though we got a freak snowfall last monday, the day after the pictures above were taken. Can you believe it? I hope its the last one this year, because I hope to do lots of hiking this spring, summer and fall. Never been much of a winter hiker, so I'm feeling to urge to get out there after a long and cold winter.

The spot where I took the first picture had a great view and was sufficiently sheltered from the wind, definitely a place where I will do an overnighter soon. After putting up the hammock and installing the tarp and underquilt, I took some time to read and to dose off. Even though it was only like 10-15 degrees celsius with some wind, I was toasty warm laying on the underquilt sheltered from the wind.

The pack I brought this time was a bright orange Alpkit Gourdon 20, a robust drybag type pack that carries well and has some nice pockets and elastic cord on the outside for some additonal storage options.

In the pack I had my tarp, hammock, underquilt, platypus + evernew water bottles, leather gloves (?), cook set (Jetboil) + food and snacks. Not bad for such a small pack. I think it's a nice buy costing only 18 pounds. Been pondering getting another one in black, or the 30 L black "Stealthy Gourdon" since the orange Gordon is a bit too bright colored for some situations.

The weekend before I went out to test my newly made MYOG Grizz beaks on the tarp. They're detachable silnylon doors to use one end of the tarp to block wind. I considered buying the beaks ready made from 2QZQ for about 50 dollars, but since I had some 1.1oz silnylon lying around I decided to to make my own. They didn't come out as pretty looking as 2QZQs, but good enough.

Here's a video where the designer, Grizz, a well known member of, explains how they're used.

The spot I chose to setup the hammock rig with beaks was close to "Nøklevann", a small lake where people love to do outings, but where it is easy to get away and be alone if you want too. Perfect place to hang with lots of trees ;). For me it's only a short and enjoyable 10-15 minute ride on my scooter. I love living so close to good hiking terrain.

(kind of goofy looking with softshell, beanie and BPL hoody, but warm and comfortable :)

I hope you all have a great week. I'm off to the woods for a 24 trip with a colleague next weekend where i'll be camping with bivy+tarp for the first time (GG SpinnTwinn and Ptarmigan). Looking forward to it - I've already packed everything so I am ready to go! :-D.