Oh Holy Night Indeed!

 

Oh Holy Night by John Sullivan Dwight

“O holy night, the stars are brightly shining
It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth”

As the Christmas holiday approached I found myself singing my favorite songs, especially Silent Night and Oh Come Oh Come Emmanuel. As I sat down to read the account of Jesus’ birth in Luke I was suddenly taken with “Oh Holy Night” and felt the urge to seek out it’s origins. There are others who will tell the story much better, so I will leave it to the reader to do his or her own searching. All I can say is that this wasn’t what I planned to pen here on this most holy night, and so I will yield to the promptings of the Spirit. I have included Josh Groban’s version for your listening pleasure.

Merry Christmas from Walking With The Son!

Just as an after note; when I attended church last night what was the first song the worship team sang? Oh Holy Night! God is good. ūüôā

Bitten By The DIY Bug

Acts 18:3

“Paul lived and worked with them, for they were tentmakers just as he was.”¬† NLT

Brother xl2600i thread injector

Brother xl2600i thread injector

I’m a bit of a tinkerer. In fact I made and sold thousands of alcohol stoves over the years while operating End2End Trail Supply. Wood burning sheet metal stoves, no problem. Anything metal was my forte. Even so, I always admired anyone who could create something from fabric.I never thought I would be able to sew projects like the folks at Hammock Forums and Backpackinglight. I decided to give it a go and bought myself the above pictured Brother xl2600i for my birthday a few years ago, and then it sat, probably mostly due to my lack of confidence. I visited my good friend John Donewar back in March and saw his projects and sewing space and finally decided to give it a go this past July. Now I’m bitten by the DIY bug and I’m here to say if I can do it so can you.

I started out making stuff sacks and small (pin cushion size) pillows, and there’s a good reason why folks start out with these simple projects – you get familiar with the machine and how to sew a straight stitch. In fact, 90% of the DIY projects out there just call for the ability to sew in a straight line. In my opinion learning the functions of the machine and why it might not sew properly were tougher than actually sewing (hint: most of the problems I came across were from improper top tension and improperly wound bobbins). Once I got the hang of it, sewing became quite cathartic. I become absorbed by the hum of the machine and the flow of the fabric.

I will outline some of my projects to date, and include any links I think are applicable. My first project of any real size was a bug net affectionately know as the Fronkey Bug Net, named after it’s creator Fronkey, of course!

Fronkey Bug Net

Fronkey Bug Net

I bought the no see um from DIY Gear Supply, and the design is basically a hem at the bottom for a length of shock cord, and a couple of hems up the side. Best of all, I finished it in about a half an hour! Final weight came in at 7.3 ounces, including stuff sack.

By now I had become obsessed with a camo hammock setup, and decided to knock off a camo Asym style tarp made from some 1.1 silnylon I purchased from Ripstop By The Roll. Using a pattern found at DIY Gear Supply this project was a breeze!

Asym camo sil tarp

Asym camo sil tarp

Corner reinforcement

Corner reinforcement

Self tensioning guyline

Self tensioning guyline

With stuff sack, ridgeline, and guylines with self tensioners the tarp setup weighs 6.8 ounces. Throw in a couple of MSR groundhog stakes and the kit weighs 7.8 ounces.

Well, what good is a camo tarp without a camo hammock, so I tapped Dutch over at Dutchware for some Argon 1.6 fabric. Once again, just a few straight seams and the hammock body was done. The ridgeline and whoopie sling suspension was made from 7/64″ Amsteel from Redden Marine, the toggles were cut from aluminum arrow shafts, and the camo 1″ webbing for the tree huggers came from Dutchware as well. I whipped up a bishop bag (basically a stuff sack with openings on both ends) from some Momentum 90 I had laying around and viola, she is fini. Or so I thought.

Camo Argon 1.6 hammock

Camo Argon 1.6 hammock

Yup, it's camo!

Yup, it’s camo!

Amsteel suspension

Amsteel suspension

That’s when I decided to sew up a ridgeline organizer, ala Dream Hammock.

Papa Smurf Dream Hammock style organizer

Papa Smurf Dream Hammock style organizer

I like the idea that I can slide a water bottle in the middle so I don’t have to fumble in the dark. The weight of my whole hammock rig including hammock, ridgeline, whoopies, toggles, tree straps, ridgeline organizer and bishop bag comes in at 15.7 ounces.

By now my skills were improving and I took on a project that I must admit I was quite nervous about – a down under quilt. I love my Hammock Gear under quilts, and was going to pay for a custom super ultra light summer UQ to go with my 50¬į top quilt, but I thought, “why not give it a try”. I found a very detailed description of an under quilt someone had made at hammock forums, and decided it didn’t look all that bad. Once again I tapped Dutch for some Argon 67 in Coyote Brown for the inner shell, and Argon 90 in camo for the outer.

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Hem detail

Hem detail

Inner shell color

Inner shell color

I went with 1″ baffles and 3 ounces of down, and according to Catsplat’s UQ Calculator¬†my under quilt should be good down to 51¬į. I slept in it shortly after finishing, and it got down to 52¬į, which kept me plenty warm sleeping in only sweat pants and a tee shirt. Best of all it only weighs 8.5 ounces!

Here’s the whole rig:

100% DIY camo hammock rig

100% DIY camo hammock rig

Shortly after finishing my UQ my buddy Matt asked if I would make him a full length 20¬į UQ in the same colors as mine. I challenged myself and was able to make it in one day! Whew! I made it from Argon 90 inside and out and filled it with 11.5 ounces of 850 fp down.

20¬į full length UQ

20¬į full length UQ

Inside view

Inside view

It weighed in at 20.6 ounces and should be good to 19¬į. So far Matt’s tests have given a big thumbs up! Now if I can get Paul’s UQ done I can get on to making my silnylon rain gear, heh heh.

 

Living A Resurrected Life

1 Corinthians 1:18

The teaching about the cross seems foolish to those who are lost. But to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (ESV)

 

As I ponder the most significant day in history for most Christians, my heart leaps at the thought that my God’s not dead, but instead lives on in resurrected victory. The grave could not keep Him, sin had no power over Him – He is risen! Jesus truly is “the way , the truth, and the life” (John 14:6), and by His death , burial, and resurrection Jesus created a way to the Father.

The Bible teaches that we were also crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20), died with Christ (Romans 6:8), were buried with Christ (Romans 6:4), made alive with Christ (Ephesians 2:5), and raised up with Christ (Ephesians 2:6). It is in our resurrection with Christ that we are to be a “new creation” – “Therefore, if anyone is¬†in Christ, he is¬†a new creation.¬†The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2¬†Corinthians 5:17).¬†

We were connected to Jesus at the cross because of our sin. Just as Jesus was buried, so should we bury our sin. In His resurrection Jesus rose up free from our sins, so too should we flee from our former sins. But we can’t do it alone. That’s why Jesus sent the Holy Spirit. Just as the Holy Spirit walks alongside us (para) convicting us of our sin prior to our conversion, and dwells in us at the time of our salvation (en), He also flows from us (epi) as we walk in Christ. I believe that we need to pray daily for a filling of the Holy Spirit since, to quote D.L. Moody, “I leak”. That, I believe, is the humble beginning to living a resurrected life – prayer. Pray daily for the strength, wisdom, grace, mercy, and love that our Saviour Jesus Christ lived every day in His life here on earth. Then pray for a fresh filling of the Holy Spirit, and I believe you’ll find the building blocks of living a resurrected life.

Happy Resurrection Day!

Getting Back To Whack

Psalm 119:1

“You’re blessed when you stay on course, walking steadily on the road revealed by God.”

Back in November I hosted a Critical Incident Stress Management (CSIM) class which was the first step in the new CSIM team my church is starting. During the training we were discussing how severe stress can throw a person “out of whack” in their day to day routines. The inside “joke”, if you will, was that we help people “get back to whack”. Well, I’m trying to do just that with WWTS.

It’s been my desire to post here every 2-3 weeks, and the process of putting these posts together is one of my stress management tools. I love setting out on the adventures that I post here for you, and there something cathartic about putting them into word after it’s all done. It has been difficult lately to achieve that mission, and I guess from time time that’s life. With that in mind, it seems I’m getting back to whack.

I’ll be heading off to Mississippi for an overnighter in a few weeks, and I have a long overdue review of my ULA Ohm 2.0 pack that seems to call my name every time I log on here. There are also a few half finished drafts that beg for my attention now and again.

There’s been a lack, but I’m on track, and getting back to whack (sorry, couldn’t help myself). Stay tuned.

An Attitude of Gratitude

Job 1:20-22

“Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped. ¬†And he said:

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
And naked shall I return there.
The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away;
Blessed be the name of the¬†Lord.‚ÄĚ

¬†In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong.”

In the story of Job we are told that he was a “blameless and upright man”. When he lost everything -kids, house, wealth – he mourned his loss, as we humans will do. But Job continued to bless the name of the ¬†Lord even as he grieved. Yes, he hit more bumps as time went by, but Job remembered where his true wealth lies. In the end God restored His faithful servant Job to even greater wealth than he had in the beginning.

Where does your treasure lie? On this Thanksgiving Day I pray you remember to bless the name of the Lord., the God who gives and takes away.

Happy Thanksgiving!

A Few of My Favorite Things

Luke 10:3-4

“Go your way;¬†behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and¬†greet no one on the road.”

One thing most backpackers have to concede – we’re gear junkies. We can’t imagine going on the (road) trail without a few of our favorite things. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s fun to peruse the latest and greatest gear sites and catalogs, dreaming of how much better our next trip would be IF ONLY we had that piece of gear we’ve been drooling over. With that thought in mind I thought I might suggest a few things (based on my experiences) to might make your Christmas shopping (or catalog browsing) season brighter.

Backpacks

I have carried Granite gear packs for quite few years now. The company has a wonderful reputation and makes a darn comfortable piece of kit in the AC 60.

Granite Gear AC60

Granite Gear AC60

While I still highly recommend their packs for the lightweight crowd, I have most recently become a convert to ULA Equipment. I became the proud owner of a ULA Ohm 2.0, and can honestly say that it instantly became my favorite pack.

ULA Ohm 2.0

ULA Ohm 2.0

The Ohm 2.0 weighs in at half of what my AC 60 did, and is great if you are the type who has his or her gear kit dialed in. If you are looking for a lighter alternative to your current pack I recommend giving ULA a look.

Shelter

I am a long time tarp user, and for years one of my favorites was the FlatTarp3 by Oware . Dave Olson has a reputation for making quality tarps, and it really shows in the details.

Oware FlatTarp 3

Oware FlatTarp 3

Since becoming a bonafide hammock hanger my choice has changed. I am a huge fan of the Hammock Gear Standard Cuben Tarp w/ Doors .

Hammock Gear Cuben Tarp with Doors

Hammock Gear Cuben Tarp with Doors

You’ll hear me gush whenever I mention Hammock Gear, and rightfully so. They’re quality and customer service is second to none.

Hammock

If you are in the market for a hammock, in my honest opinion there is no better brand than Warbonnet. I currently use a Warbonnet Traveler , and their Blackbird is legendary among hangers for comfort, quality, and resale value.

Relaxing in my Warbonnet Traveler

Relaxing in my Warbonnet Traveler

Sleeping Gear

There is nothing more important to me than a good nights sleep on the trail, and for years I have sung the praises of Mountain Hardwear Phantom series sleeping bags. I owned a Phantom 15 and a Phantom 45, and I considered these my most essential pieces of gear for years.

Mountain Hardwear Phantom 15

Mountain Hardwear Phantom 15

Lately I have said good bye to my old friends and converted to the Hammock Gear Burrow line of top quilts. Now I get top of the line quality in an even lighter package.

Hammock Gear Burrow 20

Hammock Gear Burrow 20

My Burrow 20  comes in at 17.1 ounces Рhalf of what my Phantom 15 weighed. Combined with my Hammock Gear Incubator 20 under quilt my whole insulation package comes in at the same weight as my old sleeping bag alone!

Cookware

I’ve owned more than my fair share of cookware – titanium, aluminum and stainless. Of all my cookware the piece that gets the most use is my Evernew Titanium 550 ml cookpot.

Boiling water for breakfast

Evernew 550 ml pot

This pot weighs in at 3 ounces even, including lid and stuffsack, and has the capacity I need for most freeze dried meals. On top of that it’s the perfect size to use as a mug.

Clothing

I never (NEVER) go on a hike without my Black Rock Gear Down Beenie .

Black Rock Gear Down Beenie

Black Rock Gear Down Beenie

There’s just no reason to leave it home! My BRG Down Beenie provides incredible warmth, whether in camp lounging or settling in for a night in the hammock, and weighs in at a scant 9/10’s of an ounce. Unfortunately the only thing it can’t do is make me look cool.

Another must have for me is my Smartwool Socks.

Smartwool socks

Smartwool socks

 

You’d think merlino wool would be a problem in the summer, but not these socks. My feet are cool in the summer, warm in the winter, and comfortable anytime I wear them. I have a few pair of Adrenelines from 8-10 years ago that are still wearing like iron. Smartwool socks are a little pricey up front, but you’ll get your money’s worth out of them.

‘Tis the season and Black Friday’s a comin’, so why not treat yourself to some of those goodies you’ve been drooling over? What’s on your wishlist?

New Goodies

Luke 11:9-10

‚ÄúSo I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”

Ok, so I now I’m taking this verse waaaay out of context, but I just wanted to post my latest new toy. I did ask ULA Equipment to build me an Ohm 2.0 in Digicam, and when I got home from vacation today I did seek out the package on my counter. And when I opened the box this is what I found:

ULA Equipment Ohm 2.0 in digicam fabric

ULA Equipment Ohm 2.0 in digicam fabric

I went for the digicam cordura because I wanted something low impact and different. One lousy little picture certainly won’t do the pack justice, but in a week and a half I’m going to give it a complete work out for four days in the Adirondacks. Judging by what I see so far, I’m sure I’ll have some great things to say.

Hang ‘Em High (Confessions of an ex ground pounder)

Genesis 3:17-19

“Cursed is the ground for your sake, In toil you shall eat of it,All the days of your life, Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, And you shall eat of the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, Till you return to the ground, For out of it you were taken, For dust you are, and to dust you shall return.”

I, like most backpackers started out sleeping on the ground. No wonder it’s cursed, between the rocks and roots, cold and damp, and stiff body joints it produces. Recently I was reflecting back on my journey from traditional backpacker to where I am today. The single biggest change for me over the years has been my progression from heavyweight ground pounder to hammock hanger. I thought I’d share a little bit of that journey with you.

My first tent I originally bought was for car camping, back in 1988. It was a Eureka Timberline 4 with vestibule, and when I started backpacking I had little money to spare so I carried that 11+ pound nylon hotel in my equally gargantuan pack. It didn’t take me long to figure out this was just a wee bit crazy. I scraped up the money and bought a Northface two man tent that weighed 6+ pounds. Boy, that was livin’ ! Then in 2003 I discovered the greatest thing since sliced bread – the Henry Shires Tarptent Squall.

Henry Shires Tarptent Squall

Henry Shires Tarptent Squall

That was a huge step in becoming a lightweight backpacker (well that and getting rid of the ¬†ax, bow saw, canned goods, etc). By then I had lightened up my pack and sleeping system, and my big three (pack, sleeping bag and shelter) was under 6 pounds – less than that Northface tent I used to lug around! The only downfall was the same problem every tent has – setup and breakdown in bad weather. I had played with nylon tarps as far back as the late 80’s with only mediocre results, Now with silnylon materials making tarps much lighter I decided to give tarp camping another try as an alternative in bad weather.

8x10 sil tarp with bivy

8×10 sil tarp with bivy

By 2005 I was a full time tarp camper. I enjoyed the fact that a tarp allowed for endless pitching options and drier setup and take down. I also enjoyed the freedom of a mostly unobstructed view. I never felt the need to be cocooned in nylon, and tarp camping allowed me to be more connected to the environment around me. With the modern materials available today, tarps can be had that weigh as little as four ounces, and bivies that are in the four to five ounce range. As with all things backpacking, the only limit is your budget.

I watched with some amusement and little interest as the hammock craze kicked into high gear. Something about all the bits and pieces needed to “make that thing swing” was so completely the opposite of the minimalist approach that had become ingrained in my gear choices. On top of that, I had a hard time with the idea of adding more weight to my by then highly refined gear kit. That all changed in 2012 when I had the chance to pick up a Hennessy Hammock fairly cheap. I thought why not? At least this way I could poo poo hammocks with authority. Here I am a year and a half later, and I have to say I’m hooked! No more stiffness, no more cold ground, no more looking for ¬†a nice level spot.

Warbonnet Traveler, Hammock Gear Incubator Underquilt

Warbonnet Traveler, Hammock Gear Incubator Underquilt

I won’t say it’s all been roses. There is a slight learning curve to figure out how to hang your hammock correctly. Selecting items like suspension and underquilt has been a bit of a learning process also. My current setup is a¬†Warbonnet Traveler 1.7 single hammock,¬†Hammock Gear Incubator Underquilt,¬†Hammock Gear Cuben Fiber tarp,¬†Whoopie Slings,¬†Dutchware Dutch Clips, and¬†1″ tree hugger straps.¬†The two greatest resources I have found are the Hammock Forums¬†( a great bunch of folks by the way), and also a book by Derek Hansen titled The Ultimate Hang¬†(also a member of Hammock Forums).

Will I ever go back to being a “ground pounder”? Maybe in a moment of weakness when challenged to a lightest pack contest – naaaa, hang ’em high I say!

Under a tarp, but never on the ground.

Under a tarp, but never on the ground.

Putting Away My Winter Toys

Ecclesiastes 3:1

“For everything there is a season, and¬†a time for every matter under heaven”

For backpackers that includes putting away the toys of winter. I spent the last few weeks tweeking my wood stove design and I am finally happy with the results:

DSC00041

The only mod I made from the above picture is adding a combination cleanout and draft door where the bottom holes are:

DSC00057

It burns about as hot as I could hope and I’ve gotten almost 5 hours from one load of wood.

DSC00058

DSC00097

Unfortunately my window for a winter snow shoeing/pulk sled trip closed last weekend. Temperatures are too warm and the snow is melting with every passing day. No worries – spring is here and in a few weeks I’ll be on the AT in Maryland for three days of hiking and hanging in my hammock. Time to break out the 3 season toys, yeah!!!