Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Definitions: Insect

(1) An insect is an unwanted, odd, intrusive, spookily proportioned, often strikingly eerie hiking partner you suddenly discover has joined you while you are otherwise contentedly tromping down a trail, trying to enjoy yourself.

You discover one of these at your shoulder, or biting your neck, or crawling up your leg, or trying to burrow into your nose, in the same sort of way that you've found some other unexpected hiking partners doing, but those others you could just punch in the face and be done with it.

Insects are harder to deal with.

One reason for this is that many insects hate to leave home alone, so they approach you in squadrons (the flying ones), or in divisions (the crawly ones). If so, you find that you suddenly have dozens of the little buggers to deal with. In addition to this, many insects are armored and hard to neutralize (the crawly ones), or if they are not the crawly ones, then they form flying clouds and carry some annoyingly effective weaponry at the ready, such as pokers, stingers, or nippy-nippers.

Some of the crawly ones also have their own implements of war, and though these ground-based guys are easier to hit with a counter-strike than the often teensy-tiny flying ones, their scaly shells make them tougher to put out of commission, even at those rare times when you can manage to score a direct hit. One upside, however, is that insects can be surprisingly entertaining when introduced to a roaring fire, even in small numbers.

(2) An insect is a life-form that cannot be appeased or negotiated with, one existing below the threshold of rationality, driven only by the most basic instincts to drink your blood, to bite holes in your hide, to lay eggs in you, or to make you insane by buzzing in circles around your head for hours on end, never approaching too close until you finally let down your guard, whereupon it swoops in and makes off with a chunk of your flesh. Insects are easily identifiable because they always have way too many legs and have those weird little solid-state eyes that see in all directions at once without moving, but despite that they never ever manage to notice the other people with you, only you. Sweet, tasty you.

(3) Someone you do not like, even if they are crunchy and taste good.

(4) A person fascinated by Instagram or other modern electronic perversions. This sort always carries a cell phone, extra battery power, stereo speakers and cabling, says things like "ur" and "lol" and "rofl" and "ymmv", broadcasts music across the landscape at every opportunity, and is unaccountably attracted to you, and will find you, and will set up immediately next to you, surely and inevitably, even if you have crawled half a mile off-trail to camp under a bush so you can have the privacy and quiet you so desperately need. Easy to detect, instantly identifiable, infinitely irritating, yet devilishly hard to kill.

(5) Our food future, after all else has withered away. At such time we shall all become insectarians, and though some of us will die gagging during the cut-over, it will be a sort of revenge, will it not?

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Not Like The Olden Days

The future has arrived. (Illustration based on the work of Clifford Jago).


So when was the last time you used an elevator driven around by a human? By a human whose job it was to operate the thing. Never, maybe? Never? Do you even have trouble with the concept? I don't.

I remember when. Really.

I has been decades since the last time, and that was when I was in high school, which was a while back, but I do remember, and though that system was hardly ever used even then, it wasn't completely unusual when I was still young to walk into an elevator car and tell the operator which floor you wanted to end up on.

Yes, things have changed, and it's not letting up. (By the way, I was around 10 by the time we got dials on our telephones and could make our own calls without the help of the other kind of operator. I also remember life before television, which was indeed better in some ways.)

I started thinking about this sort of thing last night after seeing the beginnings of a discussion among van dwellers about what self-driving vehicles would be like. Some people thought they'd be nifty, some were afraid, and some doubted that there would ever be such a development. I disagree, with all of them.

We won't know what the future is like until we get there, and when we do get there we won't realize that that's where we were headed. Things will happen but until they do, no one really knows in detail what we'll end up with or how things will have changed.

What we do know is that things will change, and it's like elevators all over again.

First there was muscle power, then combustion engines, then electric motors, and then they eliminated the drivers. So think — when was the last time you took your own elevator to a multi-storey building? When was the last time you even owned an elevator?

Have you even heard of such a thing as owning an elevator? No. You go somewhere, get inside something, push a button, and go back to daydreaming. Then you arrive at your destination and that's it. It's even free.

How about cars then? Are electric cars far off in the future because there's no way to get electricity out where you're going? Nope. Electricity is available in more places than gasoline, let alone diesel, right now. Electricity is everywhere. High-voltage, high-amperage connections need to be installed in thousands of locations for electric vehicles to be practical, but there's no trick to that. It's only a matter of doing it powered by a feedback loop of demand and supply. It will happen.

Electric vehicles are simpler and cheaper to:

  • Design
  • Manufacture
  • Operate
  • Maintain
  • Repair

That part is inevitable. So is the rest.

Electric vehicles will make self-driving vehicles possible, and machine intelligence will make them happen. We'll live in a different world by then.

Two tidal waves will sneak up and sweep us away. The electric vehicle wave will be the first.

Electric vehicles are already flowing into our lives but we hardly notice because they are still expensive, and imperfect, and rare. Look up in a few years and they'll be everywhere. See the 5th Avenue link below for a view of history. No one will be able to imagine how or why anyone put up with combustion-engine vehicles, composed of hundreds of moving parts, having a constant need to be serviced, requiring toxic and explosive fuels, and emitting even more toxins as exhaust. Just as no one now can imagine how or why people once put up with whole cities full of horse manure and flies.

Combustion-engine vehicles will first become impossible to sell, and then impossible to buy, for good reason. Electric vehicles will do everything better, cheaper, and more simply.

When machine learning becomes adequate, and after machines prove they can do the job, which they will, they will steadily take over the work of driving. Because electric vehicles are already computers on wheels, the navigation and control systems will virtually drop right in. Before long, human-driven vehicles will become impossible to sell, then impossible to buy, and then illegal because it will be recognized that it is far too dangerous to let humans remain in charge. And besides, insurance won't be available. And no one will want the expense of actually owning a vehicle. And it will be too much bother, like taking your own elevator along when you go downtown and want to get to the 37th floor. What?

This makes me wonder what all those van dwellers out there will do. Can't afford/don't want to live in an apartment, won't be able to just drive around the country and park in the woods here and there any more. Then what?

And backpackers, not to mention other rural people — what about them? It'll be hard (probably) to summon a car to drive you around when you're 50 miles out, somewhere, but mostly nowhere, and you have to get elsewhere.

It's certain that:

  • Things will be radically different than they are now, and
  • Things will work, even though they'll work differently than now

It's likely that:

  • A lot of things will be easier than they are now
  • Most things will be pre-programmed
  • Life will be less spontaneous
  • Epiphanies will go extinct

When everything becomes possible, everything becomes ordinary, and that "illuminating realization or discovery, often resulting in a personal feeling of elation, awe, or wonder" will be reduced to a blinking light reminding you to either put another coin in the slot or get the hell out of the car.

Nowadays, right now, it looks like we're seeing some other things fade away. Because population continues to grow, and we are all getting relatively richer in capabilities if not in actual coinage, there are more people "getting out there" and doing things. If it's not hard to get "there", and is no longer awkward and dangerous once you are there, then "there" becomes ordinary. The backcountry becomes another city park.

Need to go somewhere? Query the internet, download an app, read some blog posts, see what your Facebook "friends" think. Need stuff? Click on those handy affiliate links, peruse eBay, order shiny things from Amazon. Get news of somebody doing something? Add it to your "bucket list" and do a "me too", or formulate a plan to be faster, louder, more outrageous, and gain more followers by going crazy on YouTube. Start your own channel. Shoot for a world record — maybe the most selfies in the most dangerous places done in the least amount of time, or something.

Not like the olden days.

No, not like the olden days.

I was in my 30s before I made my first backpacking trip. You couldn't find a tent under six pounds (2.7 kg, whatever "kg" were supposed to be). My first pack weighed four pounds, 14 ounces (2.2 kg) all by itself. Boots were big and heavy and leather. Waterproof/breathable promised salvation and was still so new that it wasn't yet considered a joke. The Svea 123R, whose roots go back over a century, was the height of liquid-fueled stove technology. Frostline Kits were still being sewn in the thousands.

Not all that many people did, but if you wanted something, needed something, and it wasn't out there, you made it. You could. You figured "Why the hell not?"

Along around 2000, some ideas began circulating and some new technologies became available. Silicone-coated nylon was one of them. It promoted huge changes. People went nuts, and internetted everything. Sudden experts appeared everywhere. You know the saying, "When the seeker is ready the guru appears." Like that. Everybody had ideas for what you could do with simple, ordinary materials, some ingenuity, and time. It seemed like you could make anything you needed, if you could imagine it, like stoves from used pop cans.

Odd little web sites popped up everywhere. Every week or so plans for some previously impossible thing, mostly things you had never even thought about at all, got published, and then right after that, someone else published their own directions for making an improved version that cost nothing and weighed less.

Gone now, most of it. Lots of ideas have been incorporated into commercial products, most of which are OK, some of which are OK+, and some of which are not anything but still cost money. The watch-phrase is "Buy it and try it", and never be happy any more, because if you set a world record for Fastest Known Time run-walking the Pacific Crest Trail, then someone else will do better next week and you'll be just another random, washed-up loser again. And if you buy the lightest, most experimental, trickiest whatchamacallit today, then tomorrow, if it hasn't fallen apart already, it will be replaced with the Super Double Plus Good Most Trickiest Thing-A-Ma-Bob Ever, and not only will you be a loser once again but you'll be out all that money and people will keep laughing because you're so lame and carry 0.75 grams more than they do.

So maybe when things were harder and slower and backpacking was something you did because it was interesting and not a competitive sport, maybe in a way it was sort of better as well, no?


Some web sites of the Ancients

Ray Garlington

Risk's UltraLight Hiking

Just Jeff's Hiking Page

Penny Wood Stove

Zen Stoves

Frostline Kits

Thru-Hiker Projects

Thru-Hiker Articles

Sgt. Rock's Hiking HQ


Homemade Outdoor Gear

Wings: The home-made stove archives

Rainmaker and Brawny


Other relevant stuff

The future of photography is code

5th Avenue, 1900 Vs. 1913


Svea 123

Ride transit to the trails with Trailhead Direct


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Wednesday, December 12, 2018

What Karen Started

What does a Frenchman find when he goes snooping the internet?


The following is an edited discussion around the work of Pierre Dumay, from The original, in French, is at L'Atelier des Bricoleurs [Vêtements] le P.A.P (Peyo Abri Poncho).

If you want an English translation of the full thread, try The Handyman Workshop [Clothes] P.A.P (Peyo Abri Poncho).

I'm posting this because

  • I like it.
  • It's old, in internet years, and could vanish completely at any moment.
  • It's clever — shows good thinking.
  • I can't get it out of my head.
  • I want to make a cloak like this and extend it to a full shelter system.
  • And, let's not forget Scary Karen. (I definitely like her spirit.)

Most of the content here belongs to others, but let's consider this an act of preservation. The quality of the images is bad enough now — guess how hard they'll be to deal with when they're gone entirely.

So let's go then, let's learn about the P.A.P., the Peyo Abri Poncho (or, in English, the Peyo Shelter Poncho / Peyo Poncho Shelter), starting with Pierre "Peyo" Dumay's first comment.

Peyo 11-01-2006 23:42:46

As you may know, I just finished sewing a tarp. Its dimensions are 160X260 and weighs 200 grs (silnylon) [Measurements: 160x260 cm = 63x102" = 5'3"x8'6". Weight: 200g = 7.1 oz. ]

A tarp is good but to gain weight should think of multiple use for the same article.

In this respect the poncho is a beautiful invention because it serves as rain gear, sursac (back) and tarp for the bivouac. [Sursac is literally an "outer bag", or maybe a "bag cover" or "splash bivy", or just "bivy sack", in this case a waterproof one.]

I have long had poncho-tarp views at In silnylon they offer everything I just mentioned.

But besides the price that hurts, these poncho-tarp have the huge disadvantage in my eyes to have a hole (well yes the hood) in their middle when they pose tarp.

It's obvious...

Certainly a hood can close effectively by twisting its cord around. The hole is no longer a problem therefore (or when setting the tension tarp anyway).

I was ready to take the plunge, grab my scissors and make a nice circular hole in my new tarp.

Yes but here ... I had to solve a preliminary technical problem: how to sew cleanly and efficiently a hood while at its base it was circular?

I started to sew (with machine) for a little less than a year and that I still do not know how to do it.

Then there was the problem of the size and the resistance of the hood.

Finally, the sewing and of course the application of a silicone coating on the seam had to be superbly done to avoid that I find myself in a big puddle during my bivouacs in the rain.

So many pitfalls that made me look for an alternative solution (and just as much, if not lighter).

I had thought of fixing the tarp on my skull with various methods, but none were effective.

I found a good track with a thread on the Forum.

And especially on this page. (Even if the lady scares me. wink)

So here I am tonight doing tests.

The tutorial of the second site did not suit me but it allowed me to follow my own way that I will deliver you in image and that I will make mine for my future hike.

Step 1:

The tarp rests on my head in its middle on its longest side (260/2 = 130 cms of each side) [51"] and as I am 173 cms [68"] the 2 back angles drag.

To avoid this I grab the two back angles at the straps.


Ready, set, um...


And I pass these straps in the chest strap of my backpack (as in hiking I do not walk so sporty with my bag is not a problem). The angles are no longer dragging.


Grab the rear corners...


2nd step:

Now it is necessary to effectively close the system and especially to form a hood that will hold well even with wind or at a good pace.

For this you have to use a simple lace and a tankka (a blocker to push as on jackets or sleeping bags).

We draw the fabric well on the head (practice in hiking because during the establishment the walker is protected!) And we put the lace with the tankka around the neck.


And attach them to the sternum strap...


We get up to adjust the cord and hood (playing on the cord and the fabric we can make a hood at his will, a small back and here is a visor) (God, I look stupid ... That's good because it's you! wink )

For those who fear a potential throttle, know that we do not need to tighten too much and that the lace fits perfectly inside the poncho (thus avoiding inadvertent snapping)


Then adjust the hood...


Here is the hood and the poncho are finished! (dressing time less than a minute)

Not a single seam so no escape.

Of course the front is not completely closed but there are two advantages: we can take out the arms if we fall and the fabric folds away against the sides ensuring good resistance to water inlets (it can even be wedged under the shoulder straps of the bag)

In any case, this PAP is made to be used with a jacket windproof and water repellent when there is heavy weather.

But we will gain significantly weight (and money) by taking a jacket that does not need a membrane / coating machine-bidule.

In this case a jacket Pertex Quantum (just water repellent) is perfect for a hike 2/3 seasons (100 grs). [3.5 oz.]


Then wrap yourself in it...


Here a profile view. What more can you ask than to have a shelter, a rain suit (covering head, bust and mid-legs) and a [protected] backpack for all in all for 200 grs!


Take a look from the side, with a pack on...


Here the Peyo quite happy with him (I know it's not good ... big_smile) but especially a nice view on the top closure with the tankka and the departure of the hood.

Besides with or without the hood this poncho is very good in the effort (test intensive gul [no idea what this word should be] with the bag on the back: nothing moves)


Looks tidy, dunnit?


That's it, I think it's squaring my circle in this matter ...

But I'm still looking (perhaps a small scratch at the front closure? Or a strap at the waist for better wind resistance).

Small detail, with a tarp as small I use a bivybag (sursac bivouac) but the Pertex 5 is in command for a sursac even lighter. To follow then.



Peyo 12-01-2006 12:19:24

I consider 4 parameters that make me prefer this method.

1 / The total cost:

the end of silnylon cost me nothing (it was a gift). a jacket loss quantum about 55 euros (at CAMP) and my sursac had cost me 30 euros (they still do at Expe).

So rain suit and bivy protection for cheap.

2 / The big time

In bad weather, I totally trust my sursac and a poncho is a real insurance when you walk (the only technique not to be wet in my opinion).

When there is a lot of wind (and if rain) I do not climb the tarp but I literally put it on me by tying it with its stakes (or stuck with stones or wooden stakes carved on the spot)

3 / The weight:

  • My PAP is 200 grams (go 210 with my kite rope guideline)
  • the jacket in lossx quantum 80 grs in M at Camp (with hood and 1/2 closure)
  • Support in silnylon 1.1 and quantum lossx (or grade 5) 6.5 oz (180 grs)

All this for 470 grs.

4 / Montage

It is clear that it is much more adaptable than a normal shelter, both at the field level (I have often been late looking for a place for my tent when there was room in some places for a sleeper), at the level of the will of the walker.


Peyo 06-05-2006 10:33:11

But honestly he could know some improvements that it would not bother (especially at the level of closure).

Now that I have Gatewood at Sixmoondesigns, it's true that I have something more comfortable.


Peyo 06-05-2006 11:25:44

Versatility, yes that's the key word.

The PAP is in silnylon so there is more resistant.

For improvement, it would be enough to make a closure with Velcro for windy days. After all is possible ...


"Original" photos (or as close as we're ever going to get).


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Saturday, December 8, 2018

All It Ever Does Is Rain

I wish I knew.

But it does look ultralight.


Maybe not now, though.


Maybe next year. Or something. Next lifetime.


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Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Avena, I Need Ya

Too bad.

If you're in the United States, you'll probably never see this stuff.

If you like artificial color, artificial flavor, sugar, and powdered oatmeal, this is your baby. Just add powdered milk and water (or liquid milk), stir, and drink.

I first had some over a year ago. Suits me. Not sure if it has any truly practical use, nutritionally speaking, but I bet if this and the other Natures Heart Terrafertil products were available, the "hiking community" would be all over them. I haven't even tried to ferret out their other products here in Cuenca. There are a few around but not the full line by any means.

People here are big on oats. I've even had oatmeal soup now and then. Still, I had to make two trips to Supermaxi to find out where they were hiding the oat drink these days. Finally got it.

Lots of things are odd here. Take canned fruit. Just try. They have it, but it's five or six different brands of peaches, and that's it. No más, just peaches. You can buy some canned vegetables, but there's nothing like canned soup, let alone beef stew or chili, or any of those other meals-in-a-can. Not worth mourning, but they come in handy every now and then. When I eat at home, I just have some combination of bread, butter, cheese, yogurt, eggs, and fresh fruit, maybe some tuna, and that's enough to get me by when I eat in.

Anyway, for right now I'm happy with my toy oats. I've been having one or two cups of strawberry with lunch, but that's gone now and I've moved to vanilla. And, as I said, though I'm getting a full dose of artificial color and flavor, the packaging alone is so great that it makes up for it.


  • Canela (cinnamon)
  • Fresa (strawberry)
  • Vainilla (vanilla)

Available only in these countries:

Nature's Heart



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