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. 

 
 

     I've been hearing from some of my backpacking friends that they just can't find a commercially made fire starter that meets their weight (very light) requirements and burns for a long time (at least three minutes).  While I don't agree with them (as there are a lot of good commercial fire starters out there), I did tell them about a few ways that they could make light fire starters. 
     The first way is just by coating cotton balls with petroleum jelly.  What I do to make this happen, is scoop a hand full of the jelly out with your four fingers and rub your hands together to get the jelly all over your finger tips (yeah its a little messy).  Work the cotton balls between your petroleum jelly soaked fingers, and when the cotton ball is saturated you're done.  They are quick and easy to make.  To use this type of fire starter, work the cotton until one part of the ball (the center is best) is thin, very thin.  After this you just shoot sparks from your flint onto this thin spot (of course you can just use a match or lighter too!). 
     The second type of fire starter is a little easier to explain how to make, but it is more involved to make.  You will need an empty egg carton, some tea lights, dryer lint.  What you do is line a pot with foil (or just use an old one you don't care about), and put the wax (without the wicks) in the pot.  Turn on low heat and wait a little while for the wax to totally melt (melt about one tea light per carton slot you plan to fill with lint).  While that is melting, fill each slot of the empty egg carton with the dryer lint.  The more lint you put in the carton, the longer it will burn.  After the carton slots are filled and the wax is melted, pour the wax over the lint.  Note: put the carton on some foil because the wax will bleed through the bottom.  After you get the wax on the carton and lint, put the carton in the fridge (still sitting on the foil) and let it cool down.  After about 15 to 30 min the wax should be hardened again and ready to use.  Break off each of the slots of the carton and each one is one fire starter.  These usually burn for about three to five minutes, but I have had them burn up to eight minutes. 
     Hope this helps and good luck making fire starters!

 
Weekend Quickie 11/24/2007
 

     A few weekends ago I got the chance to go on a backpacking trip with a few of my friends (Kyle D., Weaver, Hayden, Adam (Dump), Corey, and myself (Kyle P.) for simplicity), and let me say it was an awesome trip. 
     I was in charge of planning the trip, and this was a feat in itself.  It was the opening day of modern gun season, and as anyone who lives in Arkansas knows, this is a holiday in the South.  Through some research and a quick survey of what Kyle D. (my roommate) wanted to see on the hike, I decided to go to an area of the Ozark National Forest.  We went to an area that Mr. Tim Ernst had described in one of his books.   This place was called the Spainhour falls, although the namesake of the trail wasn’t our destination.  We were in search of a couple of falls that Mr. Ernst had found and named after his dogs. 
     We left early, and got to our destination about 11 o’clock with everyone ready to get out of the car and get on the trail.  As expected, the dog in our group spent the day sprinting ahead of us and running back to make sure we were still coming.  The hike was along a dirt road, and this kind of worried me.  I feared for us meeting an angry hunter who’s opening day had been ruined by a few knuckleheads trekking through the woods.  Thankfully we only passed a couple of old-timers heading out of the woods, and they were nice enough to even stop and chat for a second.  As we headed on we marveled at the beauty of the Ozark Forrest, and made many (maybe too many) stops at different pools and springs.   Once we had crossed the creek the allotted number of times, we took to the woods and began to bushwhack up the creek bed.  This was the toughest and most rewarding part of the hike.  We hiked about a half a mile up the creek bed and found a shelf above the creek to stop and take a much needed break.  This break we used to enjoy some hot food and a little rest.  I also go to try one of my newest alcohol stoves.  Once we hit the trail again we came to the most beautiful part of the trip.  As we turned the corner, we saw the waterfall we had been in search of.  While there was very little water flowing out of the fall, it was still the most amazing thing I have seen in a long time.  I have been backpacking for awhile, but for some reason, this sight touched something deep in my soul.  As I looked up the wet, black rock face where the water usually flowed from, I saw the deep green of the moss as the hung down almost straining to grasp the forest floor.  The contrast of the dark black rock mixed with the deep green hue of the moss made the sight something that seemed almost fake, it was so perfect.  Adding to the beauty was the streams and drips of water that trickled off the moss tips and hit the pool below.  Unable to resist, I climbed up and drank the water that had been purified by nature on its journey down from atop the mountain (I’m an Arkansasan, it was a mountain).  After the beauty had been completely taken in, we left in search of a campsite, as night was quickly approaching.  After realizing the terrain passed the waterfall went up sharply (and trying to climb it for a second) we turned around and began to look for a flat place to camp.  We ended up deciding on an area near where we had taken the break earlier in the day. 
     Once the campsite decision had been made, we began the time-honored tradition of gathering wood.  Since it was so dry where we were, this was an easy task.  When we has gathered a sizeable pile of wood someone yelled “now get five times that” (a hardy Survivorman reference).  The weather proved very conducive to getting a fire started, because no fire starter was needed, only the small flame of a lighter.  With the fire started and night coming on, we moved our focus to dinner and conversation.  For the next few hours the woods were filled with the voices of men talking about everything from women, to sports, and finally to the beauty of God’s creation that had been witnessed on the day’s hike. 
     After good food and better conversation, we all headed to bed, and the funniest part of the trip.  About 3 o’clock I awoke from my warm and cozy sleep to hear the pitter-patter of rain drops on my tent’s rain fly.  Luckily I had opted to put it on to keep in some of my body heat (even though the night wasn’t as cold as I had expected).  The funny part of this story was that Hayden and Corey had chosen not to bring a tent.  Because of this decision, they were sleeping next to the fire and were the first to realize that it was raining.  They spent the rest of the night in a constant state of daze near the fire and needless to say had a miserable night. 
     The next morning, the usual duties of breaking camp were added to the daunting task of drying clothes that were left outside either by mistake or lack of options.  After everything was dry (including Corey and Hayden) we headed back down the creek bed to follow it back to the trail.  As we walked back, the hike, as I have found to be the norm, seemed shorter.  I don’t know if it is because I’m ready to get back to civilization or if it is because I know what to expect, but it always seems shorter. 
     Once back to the cars and on the road home, we made the mandatory stop to the “mom-and-pop” café to talk about the memories of the trip and the personal likes and dislikes of the hike itself. 
     Upon looking back, this was one of the most rewarding trips I have ever taken backpacking.  Not only was the Ozark National Forest beautiful in fall, but I got to introduce some people to the world of backpacking and reacquaint some of my friends to their forgotten hobby. 

 
Welcome! 10/21/2007
 

This is my first attempt at a backpacking website, and I'm sure there will be a lot of amending that will go on.  I envisioned this as a place where people will be able to talk about DIY (do it yourself) backpacking projects.  Let me know what I can do to make it better.  Enjoy!