Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Fresh Squeeze

The Setup

Hoping to make it simple again.

I had to discard my self-designed, self-made pack when I moved out of the country in November, 2012.

Since then I've used a modified North Face summit pack (base volume: 32L), and a GoLite Jam (50L), but neither one came close to the light weight and usability of my own design.

The North Face is great for what it is. I added a deep pocket on each side, and another huge pocket on the front to roughly double the volume. Still, I had to strap on a large stuff sack when setting out on an 11-day trip, and it hurt. The pack is well-designed and well-made, but the shoulder and hip padding are light, and being a top-loader, the pack is as hard to load as any other of its kind.

Last summer, after my second winter out of the country, and running short on time, I bought a GoLite Jam. Some famous superlong-distance hikers use it, and at $109 it was super cheap. The pack was well-made and carried well, but was poorly designed. Another top-loader, it suffered from having that tiny hole to put things into, and its side pockets were laughably small — useless in fact, like most pack pockets.

I sloppily and quickly sewed up a couple of big side pockets, and made do.

But Ow!

The padding was even less capable than the summit pack, and the Jam weighed at least twice as much since it was made of some kind of over-sturdy miracle fabric that can withstand nuclear war. Empty, the pack weighed around 2.5 pounds. I don't remember exactly but its heft startled me every time I picked it up.

I'm talking past tense here because I cut up the pack to get the straps and hardware off it. I also cut off the front pocket and might use that until I have time to sew up one for my new pack. It might seem like a waste of money to chop away like this, but after only two trips I got to hate this pack. As noted, it did carry well, but it was a bitch to actually live out of.

Right now I'm learning to sew again. I've been away from it for several years and I'm having to re-make all my previous mistakes. At this point I'm on my third try, but doing better. Just yesterday I stopped work on the pack yet again because I found out that REI sells hip belts and shoulder straps. I ordered two of each, from different makers.

Shoulder straps and hip belts are hard to make. They're detailed, full of little bits, fussy to sew, and critical. I've successfully made several sets in the past, but that's no reason to go through all the trouble again, so I'll just attach what someone else has made and concentrate on the pack bag, which is what is unique about my design — the only part that is really important to me.

Waiting another week for the parts to get here is really a wash anyway — it would take me at least that long to sew up my own, considering all the mid-course design tweaks I'd need, and all the sewing mistakes I would make and have to undo. I've been spending at least half my time ripping stitches that I've just sewn. Yes, I need help. This might make the difference.

Until the stuff gets here on April 1, I'll work on my hammock.

OK then, what follows is the beginning of my documentation. I'm developing non-paper-based plans this time, so I don't have to lose them next time I move. I'll update this as I go along, and will probably include the plans in my upcoming book on backpacks.

Squeezo Pack

Finished Dimensions And Volumes

Pack body dimensions:

  • Width : 11 inches
  • Depth : 10 inches
  • Height: 22 inches

Note on the design illustrations:

  • Base volume has a rectangular, nearly square pack area. This is a sort of standard or "normal" configuration.
  • Minimum volume has a triangular pack area in the design.
  • Maximum volume has a trapezoidal pack area in the design.

In practice, these areas collapse to a more circular configuration, with the pack assuming a cylindrical shape.

Pack body volume range (ignoring the side pockets).

Pack ConfigurationDimensionsEffective DiameterVolumeVolume
 (inches)(inches)(cubic inches)(liters)
Base ("normal")10*11*2213.4308851
Minimum (fully scrunched)3*5.5*229.87121028
Maximum (fully expanded)11*10*16*2215.0386763

Side pocket dimensions.

  • Width :  8 inches
  • Depth :  8 inches
  • Height: 20 inches

These are nominal dimensions. The pocket fabric folds over and is sewn to itself at the bottom end, making the pockets sort of funnel-shaped — almost flat with no volume at the very bottom end but square-ish and full-sized for roughly the top two thirds.

Side pocket volumes.

Nominal pocket volumes according to their raw measurements.

  • Each pocket : 1280 cubic inches / 21L
  • Both pockets: 2560 cubic inches / 42L

Estimated pocket volumes according to their actual shapes.

  • Each pocket : 1090 cubic inches / 18L
  • Both pockets: 2180 cubic inches / 36L

Total volume: pack body plus side pockets.

Pack ConfigurationVolumeVolume
 (cubic inches)(liters)
Base ("normal")526886
Minimum (fully scrunched)339056
Maximum (fully expanded)604799

Pocket Construction

Raw fabric dimensions: Two pieces 28 inches wide by 22 inches high. There are two pockets, so this requires two identical pieces of fabric.

Finished dimensions: Two pockets of 10 inches wide by 20 inches high.


  • Each pocket sews to the side of the pack within a space that is 10 inches deep front-to-back and 22 inches high.
  • Pockets have elastic sewn into their top hems. (Optional, depending on personal taste.)
  • Each pocket has a grommet in the top hem for additional support when carrying heavy loads, like water. Run a cord through the grommet of each pocket and across the pack's top, then pull it tight and tie it off. (Optional, depending on personal taste.)

Construction sequence:

  • Hem the raw fabric to 1 inch all around.
  • Run a cord through the tube-shaped hem at the top of each pocket before closing off its ends.
  • Use that cord to pull an appropriate length of elastic into this tube, then solidly bar tack each end of the elastic. (To have any effect the elastic must be significantly shorter than the pocket's width.)
  • Fold and pin the fabric at bottom of the pocket so it will fit into a 10-inch-wide space.
  • Sew the pockets onto the pack, flush with the pack's bottom side. Use plenty of bar tacking along the bottom and sides.
  • The finished pockets will be 2 inches shorter than the pack is tall but will take up the full width of each side.


Previous generation Squeezo (Looks goofy — I've since changed the blog formatting. And I don't remember if there was ever a "Part 2".)

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Looping The Goat

This was a loop hike in the very northernmost part of the Mt St Helens National Volcanic Monument, taking in Goat Creek, Cathedral Falls, several lakes, and views of Green River to the south. I shot the photos with my first digital camera, a long-defunct Kodak 3.1 megapixel job.

A peek over the edge.

Step One: Arrive at the trailhead.

The crew assembles.

Step Two: Fight for dominance. A-holes usually go first, motleys following, but we were all motleys this trip, so we had to puzzle it out.

Wherein we commence marching.

Step Three: Get moving. We decided to let The Runt go first.

Cathedral Falls.

Shortly thereafter, we hit the highlight of the trip.

Cathedral Falls, still falling.

I haven't been there in several years, and don't know if this approach is still open, but it's a joy. Was a joy.

Wetness, a common result of waterfalls.

Dim and cool. A nice spot any summer afternoon. Little known, seldom seen.

Just past the falls.

I imagine that in winter, the wet season, the falls gets aggressive, but can't imagine anyone going there then, though a raging torrent falling from a hundred feet over your head would be impressive.

Just past the past-the-falls point.

Altogether, pretty damn dandy, especially for a location less than a half-mile past the parking area.


Then the greenery begins.

Time to break out the camp chairs.

And since we were all of the Motley Doofus Clan, we decided early on to sit in a circle and goof the day away.

Meanwhile...more goofing.

It's amazing how much spare time there is available in life if you just give up on all that "accomplishing" business and simply plant your butt somewhere.


As with most groups, some of us were more capable than others.

A minor stream event.

Then back to the chase. First up — get across a tiny stream. Everyone OK?

Packs — everybody's got 'em.

Gigantic packs. Linda (right center) carried a four-person dome tent. For herself alone. Vera (to her left) brought a second pair of heavyweight footwear.

Single file now, and no pushing.

I forget this woman's name, but she carried a bucket swinging off the back of her pack, which was too heavy for me to lift.

Lake. I can't remember the name. Fill in the blank yourself.

Nice place though.

Vera, zonked.

Carrying a heavy pack four miles will do that to you. (If it was as much as four miles.)


This is where we camped the first night. A week earlier our scout (The Runt) had found lots of snow on this route. In early July. All gone now.

Choosing tent pitches.

Apparently, the good one got away. But it was right here a few days ago!

Summer in the Cascades.

Having arrived at our first night's destination so early on such a nice day, most of us stood mooning and yawning, accomplishing little.

Stuff in the bushes.

Meanwhile, the foliage went about its business unimpressed.

Ah — finally.

Someone made the first move. Then everyone else did too, not wanting to be stuck with the last spot on the green.

Yeah, right, right?

Park it here, Jane, or move along. We can't wait all day.

Corn lily.

I love these things. I have no idea what they thought of us.

Let the destruction begin.

The Runt, being Leader For A Day, told everyone that it was OK to camp right on the meadow. Because there's no sign saying we can't. Sot they did.

Another shot of summer.

Seemingly agreeable to all of the above, the meadow simply hummed in the background.

What the lake saw.

Those little spots over there? They call themselves humans. But not to worry — they'll be gone by fall.

Where the forest was.

Anyway — it was a nice day.

Chair transport.

Next day — time to haul the lawn furniture down the trail. I guess I can't complain. I sneaked a sit in his chair while he wasn't looking, but didn't have to carry it.

Mooning at the scenery.

Open-mouthed, yet. Large packs in view.

Columbine and bear grass.

I guess someone had to take this shot.

Bear grass.

Some years it's dense, and others — no so much. A year or two later it was so thick you wondered how the trees could compete, and the year after that — almost nothing.

Mt Adams.

There's a nice lookout on top of Vanson Peak, and it's easily reached by trail. And this was just about the perfect day for it.

St Helens.

Not much of it visible, but it's there, Ed. Just look once.

The peaky peak of Vanson Peak.

Once the group assembled, there was significant milling around. Success is like that. Always the milling.

Surrounded by bear grass.

Notice all the heavy boots and leg-off-zipping pants. These folks knew their stuff.

Yo — stuff!

Mt Adams in the background. Sunshine above.


Views like this always tempt me to take a running leap. Maybe next year.

Basalt outcrops.

Well guarded by greenery. I wonder if anyone has ever been there.

Mt Rainier.

The one and only. Big sucker. When you're hiking around it you don't understand how big it is. You have to stand back a few dozen miles and then you can take it in but only if you open both eyes.

More bear grass.

Makes the people look more meaningful somehow.

Linda, plus two.

I'm sorry I never saw too much of her. She was nice — a strong hiker, as you'd have to be when carrying the kind of weight she had in her pack. Lots prettier than she is in these photos.

Adams, with bear grass.

I especially like the bee hovering over the bear grass. I didn't notice this until a year or two later.

Day two — bog's end.

Near our second lake. I went off wandering and found a dandy bog.

Lush, innit?

I like bogs, and based on how they try to suck me down, I'd guess that the like me back.

Mt Margaret Backcountry.

In the evening we hiked up a bit to peek at the wild country.

Lots of broken ground.

This was 20 years and two months after the eruption.


Up on the ridge, it was mostly grass, plus a few leftover snags.


It all looked fine in the evening light.


I'm guessing that before St Helens went off, it was all forest up here — now it's just views.


It seems dramatic, but that was the low sun, the clear sky, and the emptiness. Which I guess is drama enough for some of us.

Anonymous lake.

Meanwhile, below us, looking back in the general direction of our camp...


All those photos, and all shot before the rest of the group made it up. Well, here they come anyway.

Another nice view.

The lake we camped by was off around the corner somewhere down there.

Sneaking a peek at Rainier.

Come to think of it, the standing snags all seem rather small. No big trees, no big stumps at all.

Across the valley.

To the south is the Green River valley. It's a nice hike. The trail we were on extends east from where we camped, descends to the river, then loops back west and connect with the spur trail to Vanson Peak, and to the trail we came in on. Over all, if I remember anything like correctly, it's roughly a 25-mile loop. (40 km)


A little better view of the dead forest and bear grass.

Coming over the top.

The only one of us who didn't camp in the meadow the first night, and the only one who didn't get soaked by dew (he put up his tent on bare ground in the forest). No idea this late what his name is.


More drama.

Back to the valley.

The long, thin slit in the landscape is Green River. Nice little stream.

Intense bear grass.

I guess this was a good year for it too.


This is a good shot. It's just how I felt this evening. I was there alone a few years later and got eaten by mosquitoes (the last time I've forgotten my headnet).

Off toward the northwest, I think.

Day three. On the tramp out.

St Helens.

Definitely a better view. Dust in the bowl. Looks almost more dramatic this way than when you can see the whole thing.

No hurry to get home.

Sometimes hiking with motleys is fun. They know how to take breaks. Maybe it's the giant packs.

Forest again.

The trees here definitely are smaller. Out in the Olympics they're gigantic. Here they just look like trees.

On the trail out.

Those places always look so inviting, but get over there, and it's all bog, I bet. Mushy ground. Goop. Muck. And intense shrubberies.

Endless trees.

That's about the definition of forest.

The Runt fords it.

As I remember, this was a different stream than the one we forded on the way in. You can loop this hike without too much duplication.

Then Vera.

Fords are always inconvenient. Especially if your footwear is heavy leather boots. Get those wet and it's years before they dry out again.


More frightening views of big packs. One funny thing is that now, 14 years after this trip, I still see most people carrying packs like this. I had a Kelty Tioga. It was over 4000 cubic inches (66L), and weighed 4 pounds, 14 ounces (2.2 kg). Looking at packs just this week I saw a bunch just as heavy or heavier. Nuts. Anything under 5 pounds is labeled "ultralight". Double nuts.

The Runt reties.

Nice place though.

Break time!

No, we didn't move all that fast. Even some of the trees got ahead of us, I think.

Chair creek.

At times like this, you can just pull out the chair, have a smoke, and decide just what exactly to do next.

Back to the falls.

Though there is some overlap on this loop hike, it includes Cathedral Falls, which is OK.

It's nice.

I think so, anyway.


I made an extra effort to hoof it down there ahead of the motleys, so I could get some photos of the falls by themselves.

For scale.

But somehow, landscape photos are almost always better with people.


So I let the motleys pass me and stood back a bit to fit then in.

Bye now.

Then we all went home.



Area map: (PDF)

WTA report, Goat Creek day hike.