Jumping out of planes

When I was in the Army, I spent almost 4 years in the 82nd Airborne Division where we jumped out of planes (with a parachute of course) on a regular basis. It was an experience! To get just an idea of what it was like, you can go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GZqfN_XzKg4 for an idea. This is a good video but remember most of our jumps were multiple planes jumping at the same time, mostly at night, and from only about 800 ft in elevation. In a combat situation, the altitude is lowered by several hundred feet to minimize time in the air.

So I’ve some experience jumping out a plane, but the Bride and I went skydiving this past Sunday. Of course, we did tandem jumps. We were connected to the instructor who wore the parachute and we just went along for the ride.

To make a long story short, we jumped at roughly 12,000 feet of elevation and had about 45 seconds or so of freefall. To say it was amazing was an understatement. We purchased a video/picture package for my wife – which I would highly suggest doing. We have about a 4 minute video plus over 200 pictures from the jump.

We used http://www.skydivealabama.com – from where we live, it’s only about a 40 minute drive away.

Here’s a picture of me about to go out the door:


If anyone wants to go, I would be more than happy to join you. IT IS AN AWESOME EXPERIENCE! I can’t wait to go again!

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My new cold weather hammock

As you probably know, I have a Warbonnet BlackBird hammock and I love it.  I have used it on multiple trips and it has served me well with many nights of great sleep.  I have been looking to lighten my load and this is one area where great progress can be made.

I don’t need a bug net during the colder weather and so I thought I would experiment with something new.  I had a friend of mine make me a simple gathered end hammock.  The hammock is made of 1.1 SL ripstop fabric and includes whoppie slings, tree straps, toggles, dynaglide adjustable ridgeline, and a bishop bag.  The finished length is just over 10 ft so it would still fit under my Superfly tarp.  I nicknamed it the SB 1000.

I received it a few days ago and couldn’t wait to give it a test run, so last night was the night. With everything included, it only weighs 15.5 oz, versus the WBBB 21.75 oz for a weight saving of over 6 oz.  The WBBB is over twice as large when packed.  So the SB 1000, is lighter, smaller, cheaper, but how does it compare for comfort?

We had some storms and lows in the upper 50’s in the forecast, so the Superfly was set up in storm mode:


Even with the additional length, the SB 1000 easily fit under the Superfly.  This picture was taken during tear down the next morning:


If I have not said it before, I REALLY love my BlackBird…..  The length of the gathered in makes for a VERY flat lay.  It may be even more comfortable than the WBBB.  Due to the length, the “sweet spot” was very easy to find.  It was VERY comfortable and the extra length made moving around very easy and forgiving.

So, if you can’t get comfortable in a hammock, I would highly suggest getting a longer (10 ft or 11 ft) hammock.  I can’t wait to sleep in this one again!

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My “lightweight” packing list

If you have been reading my blog, you know that one of my goals is to enjoy spending time outdoors. Once of the ways to enjoy hiking and camping is by carrying less weight (makes hiking more enjoyable) while carrying everything you need for the conditions (makes camping more enjoyable). When it comes to the right gear I have researched, saved, bought, sold, and researched some more….

While I do believe quality gear is essential, it doesn’t have to be the most expensive gear out there. For instance, some of the most recommended rain gear is the Frogg Toggs Ultralight Rain suit and it cost around $20! It’s light, effective, and is easily replaced because it’s not the most durable. NOTE: this is not what I have.

So, I thought I would share my current base weight packing list for a multiple (2-3 day) late fall/early spring trip. For longer trips, there is not much more that I would include besides more food and possibly more fuel depending on resupply. I do have additional insulation (jacket, bottom thermal, etc) that I would take in colder temperatures.

You may have your gear organized differently, but here is my list:

Pack: ULA Ohm 2.0 weight: 26 oz
Pack Liner: Trash compactor Bag: 2.45 oz
Cuben Fiber Stuff sack for spare clothes: 0.25 oz
Bandana to wipe sweat out of eyes hooked through shoulder strap: 1.0 oz
Total Pack weight: 29.7 oz

Warbonnet Blackbird 1.1 SL with adj webbing and Dutch Clips in Bishop bag: 21.75 oz
Hammock Gear 20 degree underquilt: 19.25 oz
Hammock Gear 20 degree topquilt: 17.95 oz
Cuben Fiber stuff sack for quilts: 0.30 oz
Warbonnet Superfly (skins, all lines, Dutch flyz,in bishop bag): 23.65 oz
Titanium Stakes (8), extra line, in stuff sack: 3.4 oz
Total shelter weight: 86.3 oz – lots of weight to cut here, but it’s going to take some saving!

Cookkit including Imusa mug, alcohol stove, titanium spoon, fuel,scrubbie, lighter in stuff sack: 14.4 oz

Clothes packed:
sleep shorts and shirt (synthetic):9.75 oz
Darn Tough Socks 2 pr. 1 for sleep, 1 extra: 5.9 oz
Merino Wool long sleeve, 1/4 zip top: 8.2 oz
Spare Underwear (synthetic boxer briefs): 3.15
Army Wool glove liners with fingers cut off: 1.6 oz
Frogg Toggs Poncho; 10.05 oz
Total clothing packed: 38.65 oz

Tools, misc:
GPS: 4.9 oz
Small notebook, pencil: 1.85 oz
Compass: 1.7 oz
Whistle: 0.4 oz
Fire Kit (striker, tinder): 1.9 oz
SMALL insect repellant spray: 1.15 oz
Headlamp: 2.95 oz
Map: 2.0 oz
Refletix sit pad: 3.4 oz
Total tools, misc: 20.25 oz

Water filter: 7.7 oz
Water Bottles (2 old Gatorade bottles): 2.1 oz
First Aid Kit: 3.05 oz
toothbrush, soap, dental floss, etc: 5.45 oz
“Poop kit” – wipes and hand sanitizer: 1.0 oz
Ursack Minor Food bag (no bears where I live): 5.2 oz

From my calculations, that makes my basic pack weight right around 14 lbs!

I do have other items I will take depending on mileage, conditions, or what I have planned, but never more than 20 pounds excluding food or water.

My goal is to be under 10 pounds for the above basic load and carry less than 15-16 pounds fully loaded

If you want to lighten your load, go purchase a digital scale that weighs in grams or ounces and list EVERYTHING. Use either a spreadsheet or http://www.geargrams.com to list, compare, plan different loads, etc. Did I mention Gear Grams is free??

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Aluminum lighter than Titanium – i.e. Imusa Aluminum Mug vs Snow Peak 700 Trek in Titanium?

In my seemingly never-ending quest to lighten my pack I continually look for ways to cut weight.  Excluding food and water I’m down in the low 20’s for MY winter hiking/backpacking – which is a vast improvement, but I’m aiming for sub 15 pounds.  As a note, my “winter camping” consist of lows below freezing and daytime highs above freezing.  (If the temperature is projected to not meet that criteria during the winter, I stay home.)

So far I am proud of the progress of lightening my load thus far.  I have dropped over 10 pounds in weight!!!  Some of that was done by purchasing new/lighter gear but A LOT of it was done by leaving things at home that “I might need.”  While I am no means roughing it, I do want to be comfortable and have the items I deem necessary.  I may cover my packing list in a blog in the near future.

ANYWAY, back to the subject at hand.  One of the items I have been upgrading is my cook kit (which I wrote a review about previously in this blog).  I purchased a Snow Peak 700 Trek in Titanium as my main cookware and it has served me well.  My cook kit is right around a pound – not t0o shabby….

I recently acquired an Imusa 0.7 Quart Aluminum Mug with a homemade Aluminum lid as I have heard many great things about these and have been unable to find them in my area.  Upon initial inspection, it was my  impression that the Imusa was much smaller.  After some actual liquid capacity test, I discovered the Imusa is only 0.25 cups smaller than the Snow Peak 700 Trek.  I was surprised by that.

How do they compare by weight?  I was even more surprised to discover the Imusa Aluminum Mug (with homemade Aluminum lid) weighed only 2.75 ounces while the Snow Peak weighed in at 4.5 ounces – approx. 1.75 ounces heavier!

While this is not a huge weight savings, when you are trying to get your base weight (no food or water) under 15 pounds, every single ounce matters.  Ounces make pounds…..

So how does the Imusa Aluminum Mug compare to the Snow Peak 700 Trek?

Price?  The Imusa wins.

Capacity?  Nearly even (1/4 cup will not make a difference to me)

Durability? The Snow Peak wins, but you could purchase a LOT of the Imusa Mugs for the price of one Snow Peak….

Performance?  I don’t expect to see much difference here.

So if you are trying to lighten your load, a very economical (cheap) way is to replace your cookpot with an Imusa Aluminum Mug.  They make several sizes and for the money, you can not beat the price!

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The “perfect” set up – is it possible???

After much research, I saved up quite a sum of money and purchased what I thought was the “Perfect” set up.  After receiving and trying my new items, I am surprised at the number of items I have traded/sold/purchased different items.

I sold my Warbonnet Blackbird 1.1 Double Layer and purchased the same hammock in a single layer (and did a review on this blog if you are interested).

I sold my Warbonnet Mamajamba Tarp (with door kit) and purchased a Warbonnet Superfly (and did a review on this blog if you are interested).

Instead of a canister stove (which I have enjoyed) I purchased an alcohol stove (and did a review on this blog if you are interested).

I just I traded my ULA Circuit for a ULA Ohm 2.0.

My base weight continues to drop and I’ve justified purchasing a few more additional items while my base weight (no food or water) has stayed around 16-17 pounds depending on the weather.

I’ve also explored lighter hammock set ups, tarps, still more stove and cookware options, clothes, reducing my FAK, etc.

So, do you ever find the “perfect” set up or do you just get tired of messing with it and settle and say that it’s good enough???  I’m still trying to find ways to lighten my load as I would love to hit the 15 pound mark while still not having to “rough it” too much….

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First trip to Europe, now it’s time to go camping!

I had a work trip to Germany from 06 Sept to 21 Sept and it was my first trip to Europe. I won’t bore you with the details, but I have fallen in love with that part of the world and cannot wait to return.

Among the highlights of the trip were driving on the Autobahn (yes, parts have speed limits), attending one of Germany’s oldest festivals, trying all the different foods, visiting a castle from the 1400’s, and experiencing a differnt culture.

All is good, but now that the weather is cooling down, I’m ready to pull out the hammock and backpack. I have a new pair of hiking shoes that need to get dirty! I’m also still refining my kit and will continue with the gear reviews I started last year. I have already made a few changes and added a new item or two as money allows….

Keep posted – more to come soon!

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AMAZING pictures from an AMAZING experience!!!

In an earlier post I did a quick summary of my dives from the M/V Spree the first week of August, 2014. If you have never been SCUBA diving, or SCUBA diving in the Florida Keys it is hard to relate to just how beautiful it is down there.

To me, it shows just how beautiful creation can be. The colors! The variety of life! The fun!

Here is the advantage of having a dive buddy (actually my Father-in-Law’s dive buddy) that is a professional photographer. His skill, equipment, and expertise. I was just along enjoying the sights with them. All pictures belong to him but he was gracious enough to share them with me.

So, since a picture is worth a 1000 words, here’s about 60,000 words from the trip.


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