Last night I made my first attempt at building a hammock.  It was nothing spectacular, but it worked and held my 190lb body comfortablly off the ground.  I thought for a few hours about the easiest design that I could come up with, and this is what I did:
     First I cut a section of fabric 4.5 feet longer than I am (about 10.5 feet altogether).  Then I bunched the fabric at each end and tied a square knot in the end.  This knot will be the anchor point for tying the hammock to the tree.  I then wrapped cord around the hammock side of the knot and tied the other end to the tree.  This was pretty much it.  I have plans to do more work on this hammock and add some features.  I was just very pleasently surprised at how easy it was to get my base hammock done.  
     One thing that I am going to add to this hammock is bug netting.  I have an idea to make this like a large sock to just fit over the whole hammock with a drawstring closure at each end of the cylinder.  This way I will have minimum sewing to do and I will be able to keep bugs off me for the most part.  When not in use, this bug netting will just be bunched up at the foot portion of the hammock.  I also have ideas to put a stash pocket on the outside of the hammock and install loops for a ridge line on the bug netting.  My final project will be making a tarp to keep the water off of me. 
     If you have any ideas or a better way to do some of the things that I have mentioned, please let me know eithe rwith a comment here or e-mail me at willky1@gmail.com.  Keep in mind that I am persuing a very simple and easy design for this project. 

 
 

     Hey guys.  Let me first thank all the people who come to this site and read my rantings and ravings.  This post is to tell some of you about an idea that I came up with even though I'm sure I'm not the first one to do this.  I was tinkering with my soda can stoves last night and decided that I wanted to create a stove that better directed the heat to the bottom of my Heiney pot.  After a little thinking I decided to change the position of the jet holes.  Instead of putting them on the outside of the ring on the bottom of the can, I put the holes on the inside.  I put holes (about 16) evenly spaced all around the inside edge of that ring.  The result was a more concentrated flame on the concave portion of the Heiny pot bottom. 

     Now let me say that I'm sure this probably isn't a first for the MYOG or DIY communities in the backpacking world, but let me assure you that this works.  There is no life changing, revolutionary idea here, but this simple change did make my stove more efficent.  Its more efficent because the flame concentrates more heat to the bottom of the pot and looses less heat to the out side edges of cooking surface like some wider flames do.  I will try to post some pictures and an article soon, but like I have said in other posts, my camera is out of commission right now.  Sorry. 

 
 

     This is a gear list from a overnight trip that I took a few weeks ago.  I am posting this to see what I could lighten up and what I could just altogether leave at home.  Let me know what you would change, add, or leave behind. 

Cooking
   -MSR Titan .78L Pot
   -Homemade Soda Can Alcohol Stove
   -Wire Mesh Pot Stand, Primer Pan, and Penny to cover the filling hole
   -Snow Peak Ti Spork
   -Freezer bags (5)
            -one for "trail food", one for dinner, one for breakfast, one for lunch, and one extra
   -3oz of denatured alcohol (stove fuel)
   -Lighter
   -MSR Ti Pot Grabber
   -Food
            -Dinner - one package Ramen Noodles, one package of Tyson vaccum sealed chicken, enough drink mix for one quart (Nalgene full), and a peice of chocolate
            -Breakfast - two individual packages of oats already in the freezer bag, everything already added in the freezer bag.  Ready to just add hot water
            -Lunch - Peanut butter crackers and trail mix
            -"Trail Food" - Trail mix, Chex-Mix, Cheese on Cheese crackers, Peice of chocolate
Sleeping System
   -Western Mountaineering Highlight (30deg)
   -Marmot Trails (liner)
   -Hand warmers (for inside of sleeping bag)
   -Thermarest Prolite 3/4 length
   -Western Mountaineering Down Pillow
Shelter
   -Marmot Eos 1P Tent (with Footprint)
Clothes
   -Salamon Shoes (to old; have no idea what model they are)
   -Smartwool Socks (2 pair one short for walking one crew style for sleeping in)
   -The North Face Zip-Off Pants (worn)
   -Under Armor Tight L/S shirt (worn)
   -Under Armor Loose S/S shirt (worn)
   -Light Marmot Fleece 1/4 Zip (worn)
   -Baseball Cap (worn)
   -Sunglasses (worn)
   -Marmot Gensis Jacket
   -Marnot Precip Rain Jacket
   -Marmot Precip Rain Pants
   -Patagonia Fleece Beanie
Misc
   -Leatherman Wave (way to heavy...i know)
   -Petzl Headlamp
   -MSR Personal Packtowel
   -Princeton Tec Rage
   -Guide Book
   -Backpack: Osprey Atmos 50
   -Homemade Silnylon Stuff Sacks (2)
   -Katadyn Hiker Water Filter
   -Platypus 2+L Bottle
   -Nalgene (1)
   -Adventure Med Kits .5


 
 

     Something that I have been trying out for the past few trips that I have taken is freezer bag cooking.  For those of you who are unfimilar with this term, it is simply cooking your food in a ziploc freezer bag (freezer bags are used because they are a little thicker and thus more resistant to melting due to the hot water). 

     Foods that are used in freezer bag cooking are foods that have to be cooked in boiled water.  Things like noodles and dehydrated foods are great for this kind of cooking. 

     On this last trip I kept up with my trial of the freezer bag method, and continued to have great results.  I only had to cook one meal and I did it on one of my alcohol stoves (directions on how to make here).  The stove and meal worked out great even though I had less than optimal conditions.  The meal was the classic Ramen Noodles.  I added a vaccum sealed package of Tyson chicken, and cooked them together.  I put the flavor package, mashed up noodles (I think the noodles cook faster when you mash them up ahead of time in the bag you are going to cook them in), and the Tyson chicken all in the freezer bag while I was waiting for the water to boil.  Once it did, I poured the water (roughly 2 cups) in the freezer bag with the food.  Then after I stired the contents to make sure water was all over the entire meal and the flavor package contents were evenly distributed, I sealed the freezer bag and put it in a fleece beanie to help the water stay hotter longer. 

     After the food has had time to cook or rehydrate (depending on what you're cooking), open the bag up and enjoy your meal.  One tip however, make sure that your spoon is long enough to reach the bottom and corners of the bag that you are cooking in or the end of your meal will fill more like a circus than dinner time. 

      NOTE (2/14/08):   A very good point has been has been brought to my attention.  While I don't do this, putting the freezer bag into the beanie before you pour the water in would be a safer way to cook your food.  This way you don't have to handle the hot bag.  However, what I do is set the bag on the ground, hold the top of the bag and pour the water in.  After that, I seal the bag, grab the closed bag by the top and then set it in the beanie.  This, while not the safest way to cook, is the result of my thinking that if i spill the water when pouring, I would get my beanie wet.  So, take this for what it is worth, but putting the bag into the beanie pre-pour is definitely a safer way to cook in freezer bags.  Thanks for the comment samh!


 
 

     About a week and a half ago, me and some buddies went to the Little Blakely Loop area of Lake Ouchita.  It was a very good hike and a little more challenging that we had expected.  It was wet because of some rain that we had just gotten in Arkansas, but the hike was still very relaxing.  Despite some slippery spots, the rain didn't change the hike portion of our trip.  We went out on a peninsula and then came back (just made an oval shape on the peninsula).  The hike was harder then we had thought it was going to be because the come back part of the oval was on the steep side of the hill and there was a lot of up and downing.  We finally made camp near a creek in a flat semi-grassy area about 150 yds off of the trail.  (Wecamped here because we couldn't find the place that Tim Ernst had suggested to camp in his book.)  The place was an awesome place to camp.  We had plenty of wood (some was even dry) and the ground was suprisingly absent of rocks.  It was a little chilly so I set up my Marmot Eos 1P and put some hand warmers in my sleeping bag "system" (which consisted of a Western Mountaineering Highlight with a  Marmot Trails used as a liner bag).  Needless to say my night was a little to warm.  After the usual around the fire banter and the recap of the day's events, we all went to bed for the night.  When we got up next morning, we awoke to the area being complely clouded by this foggy mist.  (One of my friends was to scared to go out of his tent.)  After we marveled at the beautiful morning, we made breakfast, broke camp, and went on our way.  The second day of hiking proved to be much shorter, but still enjoyable.  We made it back to our cars and went to Oaklawn for a day of betting on horse races.