A few months ago I got a wonderful email from YAMA Mountain Gear informing me that I won a prize of stuff sacks just for being an email subscriber and they needed my information to sen them to me. If you don’t know about YAMA Mountain Gear you need to check them out. They have some really awesome things in Shelters, my favorite being their Cirriform Tarp, and they have a lot available for DIY’ers as well. The folks at YAMA have been mum on advertising this and I had no idea they did a giveaway. Well I sent my info off and a few days later I get a package in the mail with my stuff sack inside it. Imagine my surprise when I opened it up to find a full set of four cuben fiber stuff sacks!! It’s enough that I may never need to buy another stuff sack again!
The product I received is called the Cuben Fiber Stuff Sack Assortment pack and it includes: a Mini sack, sized 5″ x 6″ and weighing 2.9 grams; a Small sack, sized 6″ x 8″ and weighing 4 grams; a Medium sack, sized 8″ x 10″ and weighing 5.5 grams; and a Large sack, sized 10″ x 14″ and weighing 7.6 grams. The whole kit weighs 20 grams or .7 ounces. The sacks are taped and not sewn all around, the drawstring is the light and thin Spectra Cord which is very durable as are the tiny cord locks. Just very straightforward bags. I love that these are taped instead of sewn. I can be a little rough on stuff sacks, always trying to stuff too much in them and the taping looks to be a bit more durable than my CF sewn bags in that regards. The four sizes I got are very versatile. I am currently using the mini as a cover for my little esbit folding stove, but it could be used for many little things, like a small ditty sack. My small sack is perfect for very small cook kits much like ones UL backpackers carry. If I’ve measured correctly I think it should fit perfectly around a new 450-550 ml pot, but for now it fits all my accessories like gloves, and hats. One could also use it for a larger ditty sack. The medium sack is probably going to get a lot of use in my pack as it is perfect for my base layer that I use for clean nightwear as well as my sleeping socks. The biggest one is great for a small quilt or a winter jacket and some extras. It won’t fit my big synthetic full bag, but it is the perfect size for my summer quilt and underquilt and will probably also fit my 3 season quilts, once I replace my bag. I’ve got a few of the Zpacks stuff sacks as well and I have found that Yama’s sacks are slightly different sizes which make them useful for different things than my Zpacks sacks.
I have never gotten anything from YAMA before, so I’m really happy to see such good quality in even their smallest product. The changes I’ve seen in this little company over the last six months is really impressive and I’m really excited to see what comes out of this store in the future. For anyone who doesn’t know about them yet, I’ll give a little bit of what they offer and why bloggers like Stick and Hendrik have been talking about these guys! First thing that you notice when you get to their page is their mYAMAdventure program. They are offering help and mentor-ship for backpackers on their first big adventure in backpacking. Currently they are focusing on folks that want to hike the PCT and the money that is raised goes to fund the PCTA! This is a really fantastic program and I’m excited to see how well it works since it could become a major way to donate to your favorite trails while also helping out fellow backpackers get started in long distance hiking. As for their shelters, these guys are not skimping out. They have a line of really cool shelters that let you have as much or as little protection as you want or need, everything from just a shaped tarp to a single wall tent. Now as if all this wasn’t impressive enough you need to check out their DIY pages, which are a wealth of information, help and kits to get a beginner started making their own gear. Several other stores have pages like this and I love it because it shows a real attitude of generosity and community. To me it says, “these folks are in this for more than their own bottom line.” They are putting things up that will build and edify the whole community, not just make them a profit and it’s one of the coolest things about the UL community to me. This little store is definitely on my short list of go-to gear stores these days!
UPDATE: Something I forgot to mention before, the YAMA Mountain Gear stuff sacks are made from the CT2K.08 Cuben Fiber instead of the CT1K.08 that is normally used in most stuff sacks. I don’t think it makes a big difference in performance and very little in weight.
Despite the fact that it is finally cooling off enough here in Northern Arizona to actually hike without dying, I’m having to take a small hiatus for a few weeks maybe a month. It’s for a good reason. For the first time in almost a year, we are putting down permanent roots and the first time in four years we are living by ourselves. It’s a bit of a long story and it has to do with my grandmother having Alzheimer’s and my dad opening his own business, but Richard and I are officially renting a place in the Prescott area. We loved camp and the experiences were amazing, but we couldn’t have our dog with us and with my dad opening his business and need help, well family comes first.
Setting down some more permanent roots has helped us gain some stability that I’m hoping will allow for more backpacking and definitely will help us prepare for the move overseas that we are still looking forward to and are finally gaining ground on. It also means that I have to unpack a ton of boxes, buy furniture and set up an entire house, so it may be a few weeks before I can get to posting again!
Anyone who has been following Stick’s Blog knows that he recently was tagged by Brian’s Backpacking Blog to talk about his three favorite bushcraft items. In the maddeningly fun game of tag that is being played among us bloggers, I got “tagged it” by Stick to talk about my three favorite bushcraft Items. Well that was a month ago and I just now have gotten to writing this post! Why so long, you ask? Because you take an outdoor loving ultralight backpacker like me and tell them to talk about bushcraft and it takes a while before I stop getting distracted by the cool skills that you can learn and actually write a post. If there is one thing I love more than gear, it’s the skills that make it so I don’t have to take more gear. So I’ve finally stopped watching videos on how to make my own char cloth, traps, and shelters long enough to write this post! So without further ado, my three favorite bushcraft items.
1. Flint and Steel – I love flint and steel. It always works even if it gets wet and the only time it fails is if I don’t use it correctly. This particular one pictured is a humongous rod of Magnesium with a wooden handle and a ferro rod flint on one side. Attached with a piece of orange paracord is, of all things, a piece of hacksaw blade. The tooth side helps scrape off the magnesium and the smooth side is good for striking the flint. I have a smaller version that is in my ditty bag for backpacking as a foolproof fire starter. One of the more frustrating things about flint and steel is there is a talent to it. You have to practice to be proficient at it so one of the things I do is any time I get the chance, I practice in all different types of weather and with several types of kindling and methods. One day it may be raining and I’m using dryer lint and bark, another might be hot and I’m using char cloth and dried grasses. For those of you who don’t know, magnesium is a highly flammable substance. It is flammable when it’s in fragments but stable when in a solid form, like this rod. This makes starting a fire in all conditions much easier which is why this is one of my favorite bushcraft items ever!
2. Hatchet – The hatchet I’m using right now is an old Companion Hatchet from the 60′s-70′s era. I did a little research and they are made by Sears. This particular one is my Step Father’s and he’s been the sole owner and it’s the one I have used my whole life. I’m hoping to get one of my own soon but I’ll be sad to give up using this one. A hatchet is one of the most useful items in the woods when you’re trying to straight up survive in the woods. They are small and handy enough to carry long distances but still usable for many tasks like trap making, wood gathering, even some shelter tasks. It can also be very helpful in turning larger logs into small kindling especially in wet weather when the inside of a log may be dry even when nothing else around you isn’t. I’ve heard a lot of guys say they would take a full sized ax over a hatchet and if I were full on homesteading I’d agree, but when you are carrying everything with you, a hatchet is the way to go.
3. Kupilka Cup – And then of course there is the Kupilka cup. A list of my favorite bushcraft items just could not be complete without this amazing little cup. This was actually a prize I won a few years back from Brian’s Backpacking Blog along with the rest of the Kupilka set. All of the pieces are in my camping box but this little guy comes with me everywhere! It is exactly the right size to measure out a cup of water, have some hot chocolate, or scoop up some water out of a creek. It has the ability to warm my hands without burning my lips when filled with hot liquid which is probably my favorite thing since my hands get and stay cold in wet weather. If you don’t have the skills to make a cup like this, then nothing beats the Kupilka 21 cup!
Now that I’ve told you about my 3 favorite items, it’s time to tag someone else in our fun little game. I think I will give a shout out to two other backpacker ladies, a good friend, JERMM’s Outside Blog, and a new read I’m loving, Rambling Hemlock.
In effort to ignore the fact that I still haven’t finished my write up on my Three Favorite Bushcraft Items that Stick over at Stick’s Blog challenged me to by tagging me in his post, I’m going to talk about the newest piece of gear I have gotten. So without further ado I introduce…
My New Sewing Machine!!!!!!
Yeah I know, total surprise. The title didn’t give it away or anything . The amount of sewing I do, especially for backpacking, I was in need of a new sewing machine. Richard was sweet enough (with many promises of making lots of gear and things to sell) let me splurge on a very nice Babylock machine called Grace. For those of you who don’t know, Babylock is the same company that makes Brother sewing machines, but Babylock is their elite line and Grace is the machine that is designed for people who do a lot of sewing with many different types of fabric and styles. It’s a far more durable machine than my previous one and, with proper maintenance and care, should last me a decade, maybe more!
Now just in case you’re thinking about a new machine, I’ll warn you, Babylocks and other top of the line machines like this one are not for the beginner and is not always needed for people who aren’t planning on making more ambitious projects. Even someone who has been sewing their whole life (like me), may have to take a class to know how to really take care of, and best use such a machine. Which is exactly what I will be doing before I get into my bigger projects (can anyone say shelter? ). In fact, I recommend anyone wanting to make gear take a beginner’s sewing class. You can usually find one at a local sewing shop and if you find a shop you like, they can usually help you find a great machine that will work for the types of projects you do. If you work with some of the UL fabrics like M50, M90, 1.1 Silnylon and even Cuben Fiber, it’s not a bad idea to take some scraps in with you to help make your decision. Most people in the sewing world haven’t heard of many of the fabrics UL backpackers use and it is so much more helpful to have a sample than trying to explain what M50 is. A good shop should even let you try a machine out with your specialty fabrics. This is the same process that I used to pick out my new sewing machine and it was extremely helpful!
It will take a few weeks before I’ll be able to show off my list of gear projects I have waiting for this machine, but I’m hoping over the rest of the year to get to show many new gear items that will be one of a kinds made by yours truly! As you can see, Mom and I had a lot of fun reading the manual and learning all the fun things my sewing machine can do. We spent all afternoon trying things out and I still don’t know everything it can do. If you love sewing projects, farm life, and DIY projects, you can check out my mom’s blog at Imagine It’s Finished. If you read it and end up wondering, I’m Daughter #2.
So I don’t know how this post never got published but I did this write up about the order I got from Zpacks for my birthday all the way back in April.
Birthdays are hard on Catalina Island. There are no shops, no stores and nowhere to buy anything except food anywhere near where our camp is. So when our birthday’s rolled around I knew we didn’t have a lot of options. That’s when Richard came to me and said that he would give me a budget and let me pick out anything for backpacking that I wanted. With my budget in hand I searched and scoured every gear site I could think of, reworked my gear lists 20 times and prioritized my needs and wants lists. Finally, after everything it came down to just a few things. I could have gotten a new bivy sack, a tarp, a wood stove, or a bunch of the little things I needed. What made my decision was that in several weeks we would be coming off the island and I would have access to my sewing machine again and my step dad and his garage full of tools. The bivy, tarp and stove are all things that I could make once I got back to civilization and would probably prefer MYOG versions of anyway. So I got a bunch of the little things that I’ve been needing but waiting until I had a big enough order to make up for the shipping.
I knew the store I was going to get my grab bag birthday from had to be Zpacks. There are so many things that a girl could want and a lot of things made the first list, but when it came down to the things I couldn’t live without, four things were left. In the end I got, 2 stuff sacks, 50 ft of Z-line spectra cord and the new pillow dry bag. The two stuff sacks are things I’ve been wanting for a long time but have just never gotten around to getting and I’m really happy they made my list. I got one mini stuff sack for all those little things that rattle around in the bottom of your bag like fire starter, first aid kit, you know the little things. I also got one of the small stuff sacks for my solo cook kit. I thought about going with one of their custom cook pot stuff sacks but the small stuff sack, as you can see, fits not only my cook kit but my cozy. The 50 ft of Z-line is of course one of those things that is always useful and I didn’t have any backup line currently in my pack so I needed some more.
My favorite purchase of the birthday was the pillow dry bag. It’s something new that Zpacks put out recently and I thought I’d give it a try. I’m really glad I did! I have to say I love this pillow bag. It is, as the website advertises, big enough to fit a down quilt. It also fits my fleece pullover or my puffy jacket. Frankly, it fits my backpacking style perfectly. I’m not a huge fan of wearing my insulation layers to sleep in so having a bag that keeps my quilt dry during the day and is a pillow stuffed with my daytime clothes is pretty much perfect!
So it was pretty much the best birthday ever. I got some things I’ve been putting off for some time and one really cool new toy that really fits a huge hole that’s been in my gear!