Thursday, May 30, 2013

May The ForceFlex Make You Glad

Going totally tubular.

Did you ever go to a music festival, and wake up in garbage?

I mean, like, surrounded by it? Like, as far as you can see?

So think about that, and then think about this too, OK? When you're out backpacking sometime, just look.

So you're there on the ground, right at eye level with it, and what is out there? Garbagy stuff, mostly.

What fell off trees, and twigs, and leaves, and random pieces of nameless whatever covering the ground, what is it?

Garbage. Tree boogers. Forest hair in the brush.

None of it won't clean itself up.

So what do you do at a music festival - you leave, right? You go home and don't mess with it. You leave the garbage for someone else, but what if that's you? Then what?

See, someone has to, so the folks at Glad (The Glad Products Company) are all smiles, because they invented disposable trashbag tents. For rock festivals and stuff. So if you're the dude (or dudette) which has to do the cleaning, and everybody's crashing in Glad ForceFlex Trash Bag Tube-Tents, then you have a field full of trash bags to chuck stuff into after the premises are evacuated.

And this will work when backpacking too, 'cause there's lots of trash out there, as was noted. You can continue leaving everything as-is and walking away, or, if you want to, with your trash bag tent, which wouldn't be that hard to make, you can do some policing of the area during said exit.


Now, what's next? I vote for an edible sleeping pad.

Most of the inflatable ones have some kind of rubbery foam inside, so why not sponge cake? And the shell could be like a fruit leather, you know - flexible but tough. And tasty. I like grape, or apple cinnamon.

This would be the ultimate in multiple use and gradual weight reduction since you eat it up as you get used to sleeping on the ground, and your pack weight drops accordingly, day by day.

And what about bug netting? Toilet paper works, it is breathable.

Hang it over the tent's open end to keep out the bugs, and there it is in your face the next morning when you need it the most. Handy, right?

Speaking of screening, you probably have an old backpacking stove that hasn't been used in years sitting in a corner of the garage, and the white gas in it is all gelled. At this point you think "Toss or not?" Sure thing on the stove, it's toast, but you can still use the fuel, which is good for two different things.

See how we're all multiple use today?

Take this old gummy gelled fuel and rub it on any exposed skin areas you may have. There's a little-known fact here, that this stuff makes great sunscreen. True. Then when you get to lunch, scrape it off again, plunk that residue in your little alcohol stove, and cook. A reasonable amount of hair or peeled skin in it won't hurt - the smoke makes skeeters back way off, though it does attract some flies, and the occasional grizzly. It's like Sterno with a fur coat. (The fuel, not the bears. Bears are like fur coats with an appetite.)

Now, upping it a notch, some people use quilts instead of sleeping bags, but this is still single use, right? And wrapping up in either one to keep warm in camp is still kinda single use, so what can you do with a sleeping bag (or quilt) that's rad?

This one is easy, so easy, for everybody that's done a lot of seam sealing, and has all these half-squeezed tubes of the stuff - just dilute it and paint it on your sleeping bag (or quilt). Make sure you have enough before you start, so as to cover it all.

So when this is now dry, glue on a valve from an old air mattress and you have a sleeping-bag (or quilt) pack raft. It still works to sleep in, and now it's also got a vapor barrier, so it's warmer too, and when you get to a lake or a river you don't have to hike around any longer. Instead, you inflate your bag (or quilt) do some paddling, and if that makes you tired, you've already got everything out, so you can go right to sleep. Repels rain too.

No ideas yet on a second use for a pack. So far it's just a hole with some dead things at the bottom, where it's all dark, but maybe an idea will come along.



Disposable Trashbag Tents Are the Cleverest Way To Keep Camping Clean

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Like A Fresh Spring Breeze

No more sleeping on bags of dog breath.

On news of the Windcatcher project on Kickstarter (which looks promising), I started wondering what other aspects of backpacking might benefit from the clever use of basic physical principles.

If you haven't heard about it yet, Windcatcher is an inflatable mattress that you don't have to get intimate with to inflate - and it works without even a pump.

You sort of blow in the general direction of a megaphone-shaped thing, and the force of your breath pulls in non-breathed air that's just hanging around waiting for something interesting to happen.

Because of the Bernoulli principle.

Because of the Bernoulli principle, a moving fluid, like air, even though it is moving with great force, has lower pressure than the same fluid that is sitting on its butt watching The Simpsons, or taking a nap or something, so the latter, suddenly finding itself surround by a lot of high pressure, gets pushed in as well.

Once the high-pressure stuff mixes with the low-pressure stuff inside a bag, then quick like a bunny you seal them in. You don't care if some of the air is upset about any of this, as long as they don't keep you awake at night with too much fighting. But on the other hand, they are in a bag, so you can sit on them if they don't behave. Which is kind of the point.

Or you can lie down and have a nap. Napping improves a lot of situations.

This whole area is a new twist on the conservation of energy thing.

The law of conservation of energy states that if you leave things alone, pretty much nothing happens (why would it?), but if you start messing around, fussing, and raising a ruckus, some other part of the universe may get irritated and come over to tangle with you to compensate and restore a sense of disorder.

If you are an inventor you can get rich poking at odd and peculiar parts of the universe.

And if you are a lucky inventor, you will be dead and forgotten before anything super-massively large, nasty, and possibly radioactive comes over to do a little annihilatin' on your behind because you woke it up.

So it is with Windcatcher. It might work.

But what about the rest of backpacking? What tricks could we use, based on simple, universal laws of nature?

I know I'd really like it if I didn't have to carry an alarm clock.

Imagine how nice it would be if the simple act of going to bed and sleeping somehow guaranteed that after a few hours the sun would rise by itself, make everything bright, and wake me up?

Sure, it is nice to have that alarm clock, and be up early when everything is still dark and quiet, but why can't the sun manage things on its own? Why do I have to get up first to stimulate everything and start the day rolling?

OK later, it's time to eat. Now get this idea. How about a basic stove fuel that could be ignited and then would burn on its own?

Sure, we have all kinds of stove fuels -- solids, liquids, and even gases these days -- but why do I have to get them started by rubbing sticks together? And then keep the flame going by continuous stick rubbing until my meal is done?

I mean, humans have been doing this stick-rubbing thing for around 200,000 years, as best as anyone can tell. And we're still at it?

Imagine a simple device, like a small, short stick of some kind, with a bit of flammable material on one end.

First you start this thing burning (by briefly rubbing sticks or whatever), and then you use this new invention thing to light your stove -- and then, once the stove is lit it keeps on burning all on its own?

Surely this would be an invention worthy of a Norman Einstein. At least.

And finally, something to use with maps.

Maps are fine things, and dandy too, but it can be a challenge to tell if you pointed your map in the right direction. Often there are prominent landmarks that give you a clue, but not always, so you need help.

Maybe there is something about the alignment of warts on a frog's back or the shape of clouds that is a clue to which direction is South. I can tell you from personal experience that dropping a handful of dried grass to see where the wind takes it does not always orient me correctly.

But I have noticed that a lot of the same stars are around every night. At least it looks that way to me.

These stars sort of move together across the sky like they are spokes in a giant wheel. Maybe there is an astrologer out there with a little free time to work on this problem.

I can envisage carrying a little pocket device which, once aligned with the stars on even a single clear night, always points in the direction of this celestial wheel's axis.

If I had one of these, then aligning my map to True South would be a no-brainer. I like no-brainers. Some of my best friends are no-brainers. Life is a whole bunch easier when you don't have to think.

Agree? No?

Well, one thing is certain. We'll see what happens next.

Unless we're unlucky and something super-massively large, nasty, and possibly radioactive comes over to do a little annihilatin' because of that Windcatcher project.

I hope not. I have some hiking to do.

As soon as I can figure out which is South.


Windcatcher: Inflates in seconds with NO power or pumping

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

It's Work

Ninety percent of bears will sleep through this. Only ten percent even like beer.

Getting a light pack is easy - getting an ultralight pack is hard.

If you put in 20% effort, you can get 80% of the results.

This will earn you a gold star you can wear on your hiking shorts, right on the butt where everyone can see it as they watch you zoom past.

But if you put in the other 90% of effort required, you get results that are only 10% better.

On the other hand, not everyone is smart enough to figure out how. So then you get to be smug too.

And to celebrate, you can carry along a few bottles of beer to make up for the useless weight you are no longer carrying.

Some will say that beer is another form of useless weight, but none of them are backpackers. And do not deserve beer.

Especially yours. So guzzle happily and smile.

You've done it.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013


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Evil Blog Comment Spammer just exposed his template through some error and the whole thing showed up in my comments.