eBay find – SCORE!!!

For those that aren’t familiar with SCUBA Equipment, there are several pieces of equipment that must be checked/serviced on a yearly basis. This includes a visual (inside) inspection of your tank, and all of your regulators (the things that attach to the tank and you use to breathe underwater) must be inspected/serviced. Since this equipment allows you to survive underwater it is kind of important….

My regulator set was a present from my father in law. The set included the first stage (attaches to the tank), pressure gauge, primary regulator (the one I breathe from), and an octopus (a backup for me or a buddy). It was an older Aqua-Lung set that he had inspected/serviced and I have used on MANY occasions, including my liveaboard trip last summer.

I recently took my regulator set in to be serviced for 2015 and one item did not pass the inspection since a small crack had developed in the plastic housing. The primary regulator is the one that developed the crack so small that I couldn’t see it, but I didn’t want to take any chances of it failing when I’m 60 to 100 ft. underwater. I don’t know if you have priced any SCUBA equipment recently, but it’s not especially cheap. After some research and shopping, I decided to purchase another older Aqua-Lung regulator since it was similar to the cracked housing with the exception of a metal body so it can’t crack!

I found one on eBay and purchased it for approx. $30.00. Even though it wasn’t new, IF it passed inspection, it will last for many, many years! I just picked it up from the local dive shop yesterday. It passed the annual service and inspection – that cost $31. So I have a “new to me” Aqua-Lung Conshelf XIV that’s ready to dive! I attached the newly inspected regulator to my existing set, attached it to a tank, and it performed great!

image

Now I’m looking for another similar model to replace my octopus regulator with a plastic housing….

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Lawson Outdoor Equipment LLC Black Glowire Review

There are several things I really like about the hammock camping community. First, everyone is very helpful and friendly. Second, the atmosphere on http://www.hammockforums.net is very kind and family friendly – they won’t beat you down if you ask a question that has been asked a bizillion times before. Lastly, everyone is very supportive of what is called “cottage industries.” Most of these companies are started (and still performed) by just one person (or maybe a few people) in addition to another full-time job and other family responsibilities and become a second job for the owners. There are a few that have grown to be so successful the owners now do the “second job” full-time.

The cottage vendors are awesome. When you email or call, you most often get the owner who will answer any (and all) questions you may have. The customer service is beyond anything I have ever experienced with mainstream retailers. But the biggest bonus (to me) is that all of the products are made right here in the U.S.A. I try to support the cottage vendors as much as I can because they make GREAT products they stand behind. So, on to my review….

DISCLAIMER: I purchased this product and was not given any compensation by Lawson Outdoor Equipment. I am conducting this review solely to pass the information to others that may be interested.

One of the companies I use is Lawson Outdoor Equipment LLC (http://www.lawsonequipment.com/). I have purchased several items from him including the Titanium Tent (TARP) Stake- UL Long, and Black Glowire. The tent (TARP) stakes are pretty simple so I’ll just say they are high quality and I have used them for around a year and they are great as they stay in the ground and don’t bend easily. I was looking for a small diameter (but strong) line for my tarp tie-outs. I wanted something reflective so I and others would see them to reduce tripping over them in the dark.

I chose the 100′ 2mm Black Glowire (http://lawsonequipment.com/Reflective-Glowire/Reflective-Glowire-2mm-3-32-p1024.html) for my purposes and it was only $25 (no shipping). Lawson Outdoor Equipment products are made one spool at a time with a professional rope braider. He is passionate about making quality products. I have been using the same pieces on my tarp(s) since the Glowire arrived. This is what I like about it: It’s strong, abrasion resistant, and does not tangle easily. It has not failed me and I do not foresee it failing anytime soon. I appreciate the black color because during the day it “disappears” as I like muted colors when I’m camping. You are able to see a real close up picture in my previous blog post about the pole mod.

Here is a picture taken during the day. It is tied to my corner tie-outs as well as attaching my tarp tie-outs to the poles over my tarp. As you can see, the line is visible, but not eye-catching. After this picture was taken, I did trim off the line hanging down from the pole mod. IF you like eye-catching, the Glowire is offered in yellow, lime, orange, lime, and blue as well as the black in the picture.

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The magic of this line happens after dark when a light is pointed directly at the line. It does not glow in the dark and the reflection is very directional. Here is a picture of the same tarp in the same location after dark from a slightly different direction. The picture was taken with a camera flash from approx. 30 ft. away. I did crop the picture to take out the flash reflection on the grass and to zoom into the tarp.

25054adfbe5ba1e9a9e2bd5e9844b9fe

As you can see, it is named Glowire for a reason! I NEVER have an issue finding my tarp after dark and I often set up off trail and try to blend in with my environment. I was so impressed with this company and their products, that I sent an email to the “contact us” link on the website including the “night” picture above and describing how much I appreciated his product. The very next day, I received an email in return. It was very enlightening, so I thought I’d share.

Here it is:

Hi Jim,

This is great to hear. Thanks so much for the kind words about the Glowire and thanks for all the word of mouth promotion. Every bit helps. Cool photo! Isn’t it amazing how reflective the 3M tracers are? One thing most people don’t know is how the tracers are made. The reflectiveness is coated on the both sides of a piece of .002″ film and then slit to 1/69″ using extremely high-tech equipment. I buy the tracer material from the supplier this way on spools that are 7200′ long. The company is the only supplier in the world that makes these tracers for 3M. What’s even more unique is how delicate the “yarn” is before braiding. It is more delicate than the finest piece of silk which makes it extremely hard to braid and such the machines have to be set up to exclusively braid the Glowire but it is extremely abrasion resistant. So much so, that over time this tracer actually cuts the guides on the carriers of my braiding machines. These guides are made with a carbide coating or hard chrome. Once braided though, the tracer is supported by the polyester jacket fibers and it becomes extremely durable so the cord should give you years upon years of good service as we take added care to make sure the jacket is as smooth as possible.

Thanks again for the business and support.

Lawson

Do you remember how I said the owners respond? This was another great example. So, I may not totally understand all of the technical talk, but I know I won’t use anything but this line for my tarp tie-outs. If you are looking for a reflective line, I highly suggest the Glowire from Lawson Outdoor Equipment. Here is the description from the website (WARNING: more technical talk):

Never trip over your guy line again when you use our highly reflective Glowire. It is specifically designed to be used as a guy line for low stretch applications such as guying out tents, tarps and shelters. The cord is constructed with a UV Resistant Polyester Jacket, Super reflective 3M Scotlite tracers, and a High Tenacity Parallel Fiber Polyester Core. This results in a finished product that is strong, low stretch, UV resistant, and very tangle resistant as its relatively stiff due the tight braid and reflective yarns. The reflective tracers work like a road sign, when you hit it with a light, they shine right back at you. Review after review says it’s the best reflective cord made. Period. This cord is manufactured in house on our braiding machines using the best quality yarns available. Diameter: 2mm (3/32″), Weight: 1.75oz per 50′, Break Strength: 225lbs, Made In USA

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My $6 DIY (Do-It-Yourself) Warbonnet Superfly Tarp (over the ridgeline) pole modification

After seeing the pole mods on the Superfly, I decided I wanted one. I decided on the pole modification that went over the ridgeline and did not require any sewing. There are several companies that produce these, but I didn’t have the money at the time to purchase one from one of the fine cottage vendors that produce them already made as they cost $45.00 and up. The ones sold are pre-made from thin aluminum poles and work great. You are also able to order the parts and assemble them yourself for quite a bit less. I was too impatient to order the parts, my camping funds were a little low, and my mind was in overdrive. I went with the “adapt, improvise, and survive” mindset.

Here is the final result: 1

I went to Academy Sports and picked up one of these: http://www.academy.com/shop/pdp/timb…59?N=882470663 for $5.99 plus tax. It comes with 4 poles 25″ in length, the shock cord, and the connectors are already attached on one end of each pole. I ran the shock cord through the poles connecting two poles at a time. I attached them to my Superfly by making a knot in my existing Lawson Glowire about 9″ from the tie out loop on each side.

4

3

I may shorten the length of the cord in the future. They go over my continuous ridgeline from DutchWare (http://www.dutchwaregear.com/continuous-ridgeline.html).
2

I then took them out to my Superfly and they seemed to work well. I used them the past weekend at the Bankhead Forest group hang and they survived all weekend and we had some pretty hard rain and strong winds on Friday night.

I have them on my tarp at the moment because I saw a few drops of water come through and I just touched up the seams with the flowable windshield sealant. Once it dries, I will weigh them, but I doubt they weight more than a few ounces.

I just thought I’d share in case anyone else wants a cheap DIY alternative.

Posted in Backpacking, DIY, Hammock Camping, Report, Testing | Leave a comment

YAY! New Purchase for warm weather!

One of the goals I have set for 2015 is to sleep outside in my hammock at least once every month. When I initially purchased my gear, I prepared for the worst weather that I thought I would encounter. That’s why I have a Warbonnet Superfly Tarp (review here: https://jnunniv.wordpress.com/2014/04/23/warbonnet-superfly-tarp-review/), a Warbonnet 1.1 Single Layer Blackbird (review here: https://jnunniv.wordpress.com/2014/05/08/warbonnet-blackbird-1-1-single-layer-review/) and a set of full length Hammock Gear 20 Degree quilts (TQ and UQ).

As you can see, the gear I have is GREAT for winter, but I don’t have any gear for summer hanging and camping. This past weekend I had the opportunity to try a 3/4 length underquilt since the lows were only in the 50’s. I was warm and comfortable down in this temperature using only a thin 3/4 length synthetic quilt and an Underquilt Protector. To lighten my load for summer, I was considering purchasing one and using my military surplus Poncho Liner as a top quilt.

They must have been reading my mind, because Arrowhead Equipment offered 15% off yesterday only for purchases over a certain amount. That was enough to cause me to pull the trigger! I now have an Arrowhead Equipment Jarbridge Underquilt (http://www.arrowhead-equipment.com/store/p312/Jarbidge_River_UnderQuilt.html) on order and headed my way soon!

I’ll do a review once it arrives. Thanks for reading and I’ll see you between the trees.

Posted in Backpacking, Hammock Camping, Hiking | Leave a comment

Trip Report for Group Hang in Bankhead Forest 24-26 April 2015

Group Hang: a gathering of people who sleep in camping hammock in one location. This normally takes place over a weekend and some people travel great distances to participate. Most often it is advertised on http://www.hammockforums.net.

The time for the Spring Group Hang in the Sipsey Wilderness/Bankhead National Forest in Alabama was finally here! I left work a bit early and drove with anticipation to the Wolfpen Hunter’s camp in the early afternoon and was greeted by those that had already arrived. I selected my new home for the next few days and quickly set up my tarp as the weather forecast was calling for heavy rains, thunderstorms, and hail.

Since I normally backpack and hike in and this was car camping, I just threw my gear box in the car and made sure I had plenty of food. Everything I need for camping is in my gear box. Except both of my down quilts – they hang uncompressed on the garage wall and I had left without them. Well crap, that wasn’t in the plans. With the forecasted low to be in the low 50’s, I knew I would need something. Instead of making an hour and a half round trip back to get them, one of the people I knew fairly well came to the rescue and offered up a loaner. He carries extra items to group hangs just in case someone like me needs something. I’m so glad he did! As I only have one set of down quilts rated to 20 degrees, this also allowed me to use a ¾ length underquilt which is what I want to purchase for summer use.

After camp was set up, I headed over to the campfire under the community tarp. More greetings were made as new people arrived and meals were prepared. I met several new people (some from Georgia and Tennessee). My hiking buddy Wayne (who we now call “skillet” or “Wayyyyyyyyyyne”) once again performed his culinary delights of bacon wrapped venison and other goodies for dinner. It was delicious as always and I was full. After eating, some of us stayed up sitting around the campfire telling different stories and listening to bad jokes. Even though heavy thunderstorms, hail, and possible tornados were in the forecast, the weather had been very mild with some light rain. After midnight there still had not been any substantial rain, but we were all tired and went to swing between the trees.

As I was laying in my hammock that night, I could hear a few Whip-poor-wills and an occasional owl lull me to sleep. The lack of rain and wind did not last all night as about 2 am the heavy rain arrived and woke me up. The storm didn’t seem to last too long and was over before sunrise. I woke up to mostly sunny skies and birds chirping.

Everyone survived the night and I believe everyone stay dry through the storm. Breakfast and coffee was made and enjoyed. We finally got around to deciding what hike we were going to do as there are so many to choose from in the Sipsey Wilderness. The decision was made for going to White Creek Falls with a side trip to the Rippey Cabin. We loaded up and drove down to the Randolph trailhead leaving others for a welcoming committee.

We headed down through the woods walking on trail 201. We continued down trail 201 until we arrived at the 209/206/201 junction, then continued straight on 206 for a few minutes. We found the old driveway to the Rippey cabin and turned right, going to the cabin first. The Rippey cabin is an old hunting cabin that is actually on private land, but is often visited. It’s a cinder block building with a tin roof. Inside there are some cots, a kitchen, and a bathroom. Of course, the kitchen and bathroom do not have any electricity or water. There is a shelter journal where one is able to leave a note, and some people have left a few items such as Ramen, cooking propane, etc. on a shelf in the wall. For the most part, people have taken care of the cabin when they visit. There is a tower that used to hold a windmill to generate power and pump the water, but the tornados a few years ago knocked it off and it now lays at the base of the tower that used to hold it. After visiting the cabin for a few minutes, we left the cabin, walked around back, and headed downhill on the backside of the cabin toward 201. We passed an old outhouse on the way back down to trail 201. When we reached trail 201, we were at a place I call “the staircase.” The rocks form “steps” and the water runs over them on its journey downhill. It is pretty and slippery, but everyone made it down without incident. We continued downhill and eventually arrived at the Sipsey River. With the rain the night before, the water level was elevated although not severely, but it was moving quickly and still a lot of water volume. I wouldn’t want to have to cross it in those conditions.

We continued west and in just few minutes we arrived at lower White Creek Falls. The volume of water with the overnight rain made this waterfall very pretty. We climbed up to upper White Creek Falls and it was also flowing well. Someone decided it would be easier to bushwhack from upper White Creek Falls due East to trail 201. Man cards were quickly gathered. With the exception of Bebop (the small dog with us), everyone thought this was a GREAT idea. The dog and company retraced our steps and return out the way we came in and we all agreed to meet on trail 201.

Sometimes what seems like a great idea really isn’t. This was one of those instances. The terrain was not easy and several of the bushwhackers were wearing shorts instead of pants. That’s NEVER a good idea in the Sipsey Wilderness if you ask me. I believe if I could read minds, the thoughts would not have been all positive and reinforcing…. To make a long story short, we all finally made it to the trail (some before the others) and headed back down the trail to the trailhead and rode back to camp.

Saturday evening/night brought more friends, laughter, and great food. One of those in attendance made a pot of chili over the fire and it was delicious! I even have a new home made meal to try on my next trip (thanks again). We even had a guest of honor as bankheadboy stopped by for a bit. He even showed us an old well within walking distance! I always enjoy talking to him as his knowledge of the area is amazing. After hiking approximately 6 miles or so, everyone went to bed much earlier on Saturday. The weather for Saturday was nearly perfect – no rain (that I can recall), but a breeze that evening would have been welcomed as it was just a bit warm trying to sleep.

Sunday morning I awoke to bright skies and birds chirping again. I slowly packed up because I hate when it is time to leave the Sipsey. Goodbyes were exchanged and people started the long journey home. Since I’m less than an hour from home, three of us decided to take a short hike down Riddle Creek before leaving.

There were waterfalls, an old moonshine still site, and the “hands up” tree. The story (as I remember it) is that Mr. Riddle was caught in the process of making moonshine. After he paid his debt to society for his infraction, he came back and carved a “hands up” figure in the tree where he surrendered to the revenuers. My GPS said it was around 3 miles round trip and none of it was on an official trail. Over the hills, through the woods, (and several times) down the creek we went.

There were three major waterfalls on Riddle Creek. The last one was the most impressive, but I took the worst picture. Now I have an “excuse” to go back again…. We finally pulled into Wolfpen camp, said our goodbyes, and the last participants headed home toward hot showers and unpacking gear.

It was a great hang with people from 4 states (Mississippi, Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama) and I enjoyed meeting new friends and reconnecting with those I haven’t seen in quite some time.

Posted in Backpacking, Hammock Camping, Hiking, Report | Leave a comment

Sticker Addict

Hello, my name is Jim and I’m addicted to stickers….

I have a large box in which I store most of my hiking/camping gear excludimg my down quilts. The gear box is fairly large and a dark green in color, but I wanted it to look better. As I made purchases upgrading my gear over the last year or so, if they were not included for free, I purchased decals when they were available. There were also a few stickers I purchased because I wanted them (for example, the “Shug” sticker).

Things were looking promising, both in gear and decorating the gear box. However, I have decided I’m pretty content with my gear and probably won’t make any major changes (maybe some summer quilts, but that’s about it). My lightweight packing list is addressed in a previous blog post if you are interested my gear list (it needs minor updating). Even after my upgrades and other decal purchases, the gear box looks still looks sad and there’s WAY too much green. So, on the advice of a hammockforum member, I took an afternoon (or two) and sent emails to various companies or used the “Contact Us” section on the webpage requesting a sticker for my gear box.

It was very successful as I will have lots of stickers now! My gear box will now be spectacularly smothered in vinyl goodness. I purchased a few decals, some were given to me by others, and a few I had to send a self address and stamped envelope in order to receive the decal.

Here’s the “before” picture:
Gear Box

I thought I’d post a list just in case there were other people that wanted to add to their sticker collection. My goal is to have at least one for every letter of the alphabet. As of 5/04/2015, this is the list of stickers I have received and are proudly displayed:

2 Trees Outdoors
Alabama Outdoors
Alite Designs
AlpineAire Foods
ALPS Mountaineering
AntiGravity Gear
Arrowhead Equipment
Backcountry Outdoor Gear and Clothing
Backpacker’s Pantry
Badgerbalm
Big Angus
Clif Bar
Columbia River Knife and Tool
Costa (sunglasses)
Daily hiker
Darn Tough Socks
Dirty Girl Gaiters
Dutch Ware Gear
Easton Products
Elemental Horizons
Eureka
Evernew
Exped
Feathered Friends
FITS sock
GoLite
Good to Go Foods
Goosefeet Gear
Gossamer Gear
Granite Gear
Gregory
GSI Outdoors
Hammock Gear
HammockForums
Hammeck Hammocks
Honey Stinger
HYOH (here is the thread for this one: http://whiteblaze.net/forum/showthread.php/79927-Free-quot-Hike-Your-Own-Hike-quot-stickers?highlight=hyoh)
Hyperlight Mountain Gear
Icebreaker Clothing
Joshua Tree
Kahtoola
Katabatic Gear
Katadyn
Keep Calm and Hike On
Komperdell
Lightheart Gear
LRI (photon micro lights)
Mag-lite
Marmot
Merrell Footware
Mountain House
Mountain Laurel Designs
Mountainsmith
Mountain Khakis
MSR
Nalgene
Nemo Equipment
Nite Ize
Our Life Outside
Osprey
Packit Gourmet
Petzl
Photon
Platypus
QiWiz Ultralight Gear
REI
Rock Creek
Seal Line
Shut (Woo Buddy)
Sierra Designs
Six Moon Designs
Smartwool
Snow Peak
Speer Hammocks
Superfeet Insoles
Suunto
Tarptent Ultralight Shelters
Terrain Outdoor Center
Therm-a-Rest
Trailspace
Trek Light Gear
Ultimate Direction
Vargo
Vasque
Warbonnet Outdoors
Will South
MISSING SOMETHING STARTING WITH THE LETTER “X”
Yukon Outfitters
Zpacks

There are other companies that haven’t sent a response and I’m still missing a few letters. I will keep this list updated as additions are made to my collection.

If you have some suggestions for the missing letters, please let me know.

Edit: here’s an updated picture of the front:
image

And the right side:
image

And the left side:
image

Posted in Backpacking, decal, Hammock Camping, Hiking, Report, stickers | Leave a comment

Sipsey Wilderness Map Information

I am often asked where I obtain my information for the Sipsey Wilderness. I’ll give away (some of) my secrets…..

My most often used map and in my opinion the best map for for backpacking use is the CartoCraft map. It’s water resistant (I think waterproof may be too strong of a word, but it can get wet), folds up nicely, and has enough detail to navigate as well as some GPS coordinates. It can be purchased at various places including Alabama Outdoors, Mountain High Outfitters, or the the Warrior Trading Post in Wren, AL. It includes the Sipsey Wilderness on one side and Bankhead Forest on the other side. My last map cost $4.95 so it’s not a huge investment.

Another great resource is http://www.sipseywilderness.org as they have maps that may be downloaded for free of the various trails. They also host hikes on a monthly basis although I have never been on one with this group. I see LOTS of people hiking with these printed out. The only disadvantage would be the weatherproofing on an overnight trip since you print these yourself. They are still very handy and the price is great since you can print at home! I have used these and often print out for day hikes since you can zoom in and crop only to the area of interest.

An older, but still very useful resource is the briartech map. It is slightly dated, but is also available to download for free. I actually was able to print out the whole map on a blotter printer full size (approx 30 inces tall). Here is the link: http://www.briartech.com/sipseyonepagea.pdf. This map has LOTS of GPS Coordinates I have not found anywhere else. I often reference this map. The detail is lacking, and some of the information is dated, but it’s worth checking out.

Another source I use are older topographical maps that I find online. Often these will show the old roads through the area which sometimes makes navigation easier or may give me ideas on interesting places to explore. I generally use a combination of these (along with information obtained from others) to plan my adventures.

While most people stay on the main trails, any of the above listed maps will be sufficient for your needs. Just remember, since the Sipsey Wilderness is an offical Wilderness Area, there are no blazes marking the trail (or bridges, or other manmade objects). The only trail signs out there are at the trail junctions. You should have at least basic knowledge of land navigation or of the area before heading out.

If you are just wanting to explore this area for the first time and are uncomfortable with “finding your way” I would suggest going with someone that is familiar with the area or participating in a hike with a group such as http://www.sipseywilderness.or or Wild South http://wildsouth.org/home/main/get-outside/.

I hope you found this beneficial.

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