Backpacking, DIY, Gear, hiking, PCT

Tent Mods

I set up the tent again today to do some other modifications that I hope will make things more convenient. I ordered some tiny rare earth magnets from eBay and plan to attach them to the tent with Dyneema tape to hold the doors open. The Dyneema tape will stick to the fabric of the tent. The tent came with just one toggle on each door and they are hard to open and close from inside the tent. The only issue with the magnets is that they seem to be quite brittle, as one broke in half when it rushed to attach itself to the other magnets. I hope when they are attached to tape they won’t be able to break.

Tiny magnets — 10mm X 1mm

They seem to be very brittle.

I also have some hooks I ordered from ZPacks when I ordered the tent. They are sewn onto pieces of Dyneema tape. The Duplex doesn’t have any loops or hooks on the ceiling from which to hang a headlamp or some other light source, and it is nice to have your headlamp hanging up instead of on your head when you are trying to do stuff in the tent at night. And, having a different light source in your tent when you’re using your headlamp to heed the call of nature in the night is helpful for finding your tent again in the dark. I have this tiny light to use for that purpose.

Tiny light source – quarter for size reference.

Plastic hooks attached to Dyneema tape to stick to ceiling of tent.

I got this nifty gadget on Etsy to help push the tent stakes into the ground. It is made especially for the MSR Groundhog stakes that I have.

Tent stake pusher

Tent stake pusher on MSR Groundhog stake

It may seem a little expensive, but it is small and lightweight and sometimes it is SO difficult to push the tent stakes into hard ground with just my hand! I stuck one of my name labels on the end of it and hopefully won’t lose it.

Okay, here is today’s tent setup. The tent stake pusher worked quite a bit better than trying to get the stakes in the ground with just my hand, although since our ground is hard and our “lawn” is just many layers of dandelion leaves, it was still difficult to get the stakes in by hand. I have decided that I need to tighten the side guylines more so the tent doesn’t sag inward.

Today’s tent setup.

I successfully attached the little hooks to the ceiling of the tent. I put one on each side so I could hang the light on the side I wouldn’t be getting out on.

Hook on ceiling of tent.

After attaching the hooks, I set about attaching the tiny magnets with Dyneema tape to the tent. I rolled up the door and marked the spot where I wanted to put the magnets. I cut pieces of tape that were an appropriate size and marked the sides of the magnets so they would stick together and not repel each other.

Supplies

Then I attached the magnets to the tent at the places I marked. I decided to put two on each door.

Magnets holding door back.

They held! But… <bumps door>. Nope. The magnets, while strong enough to stick to each other such that it’s hard to separate them, aren’t strong enough through two layers of tape to hold the door back if the door is bumped. Rats! Now I’m not going to bother with the rest of the doors. Hmph. Since time is zooming by and it will be time to leave before we know it, I don’t think I’ll try another type of magnet. Maybe I can figure something out for next year.

Just keep walking!

~Ninja

Backpacking, Gear, hiking, PCT

I Got My Box!

When we left in March to go to Campo on our thru-hike attempt of the PCT, we sent a couple of resupply boxes out to be waiting at places when we got there. I picked up my box in Warner Springs, but the one we sent to Paradise Valley Cafe near Idyllwild was languishing there since we weren’t able to stop and pick it up on the way home in Linda and Steve’s RV. A lady had posted in one of the PCT Facebook groups for people who couldn’t pick up their boxes to message her, and so I did. She said she would look for my box but then I never heard back so I figured she either couldn’t find it or couldn’t send it back. But today it came! They put a “Return to Sender” label on it at the post office there, and back it rode to my doorstep.

My Box! And my foot too.

I wouldn’t have been so sad about the pending loss if it was just food, but my Hillsound Trail Crampons were in the box and they are expensive to replace.

Hillsound Trail Crampons

I had also ordered an ice axe from REI and had it sent directly to PVC in anticipation of perhaps needing it on Mt. San Jacinto. I don’t know if they’ll be able to get that forwarded to me, although I’ve told them I would be happy to pay for it to be sent home! I don’t know if I’ll ever need an ice axe going forward so I’m not anxiously waiting to use it or anything, but it would be nice to either have it or return it to REI.

But all in all, I’m very pleased to have my trail crampons back and a bunch more food to take on our Oregon hike. Yay!

Just keep walking!

~Ninja

Backpacking, Cool Stuff, DIY, Gear, hiking, PCT

Oh, Wherrrre is my Pillow?

Since I have some Velcro left over from the tent door project I had planned to attach some to my inflatable pillow and inflatable sleeping pad, to keep my pillow attached to my sleeping pad instead of disappearing into my tent in the night.

My sleeping pad is the Thermarest NeoAir XLite Women’s pad (12.5 oz), with an R-value of 5.4. According to a chart I found in this article from SectionHiker.com, that R-value should keep me warm down to between -7 and -14 degrees Fahrenheit, so plenty warm for the Pacific Crest Trail in summer. I like the women’s model of the XLite because it is only 5’6″ long, just long enough for me. I don’t like wrassling with a 72″ long pad in the tent. They finally made the Thermarest pads with a two-way valve and provided a pump sack, although I couldn’t figure out how to get the pump sack to attach to the valve. I bought a little air pump made for the Thermarest pads, and it works great, if slowly.

My pillow is the Sea to Summit Aeros Down Pillow, size large. It is an inflatable pillow that has a down layer on top so it feels cushy, and is the shape of a regular pillow. I usually use a pillowcase I made for the Boy when he was little. It’s the perfect size for this pillow.

Right now I am waffling between just using the Velcro I already have (using two 4.5″ strips of 3/4″ wide tape) or buying some that is much wider, like 2″. I’ve seen others use the wider Velcro. Also, I don’t know whether to put the soft side of the Velcro tape on the sleeping pad, or the scratchy side. I’m concerned that the scratchy part of the Velcro might pop a hole in my sleeping pad.

<Imagine the Jeopardy waiting song while I figure this out.>

BUT WAIT!! I Googled “How to keep your pillow on your sleeping pad” and came up with this gem. How had I not heard of this sooner? Why didn’t I figure it out myself?

Andy Parrish Outdoors – Keep Your Backpacking Pillow From Sliding

You’ll have to go to the video from Andy Parrish Outdoors and see because it won’t embed itself in this post like all the other videos do, but you use a neck gaiter (or Buff), put that around the pillow, and get an elastic strap with a clip (like one that you use with a sleeping quilt) and put the elastic through the Buff. Then you put the elastic strap over your sleeping pad and voilá! The pillow is attached to the pad through the Buff with the strap and you won’t lose your pillow.

Pillow, Buff, Strap
Done!

I think I will use this hack instead of the Velcro, so I don’t have to worry about the scratchy, pointy part of the Velcro poking a hole in anything. Yay!!

Just keep walking!

~Ninja

Backpacking, Gear, hiking, PCT

Tent Update

I was going to wait until a sunny day to set up the new tent again, but my weather app changed yesterday and now it tells me it will rain tomorrow night through Wednesday and I don’t want to set the tent up on wet ground, so I’m setting it up today. I have watched some other setup and break down videos, and I will try tweaking the setup so it doesn’t sag in the middle and is taut all the way around. I watched this video:

In Bigfoot’s video, he shows a different way to pitch the Duplex than the other videos I’ve watched, so I think I’ll try his way as well.

Then I saw this video:

The man in this video attaches hook-and-loop (Velcro) squares to the doors of his Duplex tent to make the doors easier to open and close instead of using the toggle, (which is hard to open from the inside), and I am going to try the same thing. If nature calls during the night, a person would want to be able to get out of the tent quickly! The Velcro could also keep the doors closed better in inclement weather. I don’t know if I’ll try using the Velcro to attach the doors at the top when they’re rolled up, or if I’ll use magnets. I’ll attach Velcro to close both doors because you never know which way you’ll need to set up the tent (there is an overlap at the top of the doors that you face into the wind), and which side you’ll have to get out of.

<Imagine Jeopardy waiting song playing while I set up the tent.>

Okay, here is today’s setup. I had to use my mallet to get the stakes in the ground, as the ground is very hard (and full of dandelions). I did face the door overlap into the wind. You can also tell which end to face into the wind by the tags on the bottom corners. They are only on one end of the tent.

Today’s pitch. I did get the stakes on these corners a bit uneven, but overall a massive improvement.

You can see how much nicer it looks than my last try.

Last time <sad face>

Of course, the yard has been mowed since the last time as well!

In the ZPacks video and other videos I’ve seen, they instruct you to stake out all four corners of the tent and then add the trekking poles and stake those out, staking out the middle guylines last. In Bigfoot’s video above, he stakes out one side of the tent, stakes out the opposite trekking pole, stakes out the other trekking pole, and then stakes out the opposite side of the tent (if that makes sense). So it’s front two stakes, back trekking pole, front trekking pole, back two stakes. Then he stakes out the middle guylines. This is the method I tried today. I’m not sure if it worked better or not, since there were still a lot of adjustments needed. Obviously I am much happier with this pitch and am happy that I’m learning better how to get everything adjusted. This is why you should always practice setting up your tent before going out in the backcountry!

There are these little elastic cords with a toggle on them that you can adjust at each end of the tent on the inside. I’m not exactly sure what to do with them yet, but once I have me and all my things in the tent I’m sure I will figure it out. Without anything in the tent, it sits a lot differently than it would when full of hiking gear.

Inside Adjuster

Below, you can see the Velcro squares I added. I put three on each door. Now I have to let them sit for awhile for the adhesive to bond properly. I forgot to bevel the corners like the man did in the video 😒 but hopefully it will be OK.

The Velcro squares.

I used this Velcro I got at Michael’s. It is specifically for fabrics so it seemed like the best one to use, since Dyneema is a fabric, albeit an unusual one.

Sticky Back Velcro for Fabrics

What do you think? Do you have any tips for me for setting up the ZPacks Duplex tent? Please comment below!

Backpacking, Gear, hiking, PCT, Reviews

The Tent

I didn’t make a video of the “unboxing” or setting up my new ZPacks Duplex tent, but here is the finished product:

ZPacks Duplex tent with vestibules not staked out.

Tent with vestibules staked out.

End of tent.

The tent wasn’t hard to set up when I followed the instructions on the ZPacks video and some other tips and tricks videos I found, although there is a learning curve. I wasn’t sure it looked right so I contacted ZPacks to find out if I was doing something wrong, and the representative seemed to think that the top was sagging too much and said that it should be taut, although when I tugged on it it seemed taut to me. I will set it up again this week and experiment. It could be that I set my trekking poles too high.

Here’s a video that shows how to set the tent up in good weather:

How to Setup a Backpacking Tent / How To Get The Perfect Pitch EVERY TIME for Zpacks Duplex Setup

And this one for setting up a Duplex in inclement weather:

Setting Up Your Tent in the Wind – Pitching the Duplex Tent in Bad Weather (Tenting in a Storm)

Tent with doors open.

Inside of tent.

I got into the tent and sat there for awhile to see how I liked it. The Duplex is a two-person tent, which I prefer for myself because I like to keep all my gear in the tent with me. If you keep things in the vestibules critters will come around at night and nibble your backpack or your shoelaces, and nobody wants that! It feels very roomy and there will be enough room for me to have myself and all my gear organized, although I’m sure it will still look like my backpack exploded. Marnie came over and saw the tent, and she thought it looked much larger than my Big Agnes tent. I don’t know if it’s that much larger, but my Big Agnes Tiger Wall tent has a larger end and a smaller end (head and foot ends), while the Duplex is the same size at both ends, so it does make it seem larger.

Door toggle.

Above you can see that the system for holding the doors back consists of just one toggle strap on each door. It seems to hold securely, but it is hard to maneuver from the inside of the tent. I plan to attach some magnets to hold the doors open, and perhaps some on the front of the doors to hold them closed, if I can figure out how to do it. The idea is to use Dyneema tape to attach the magnets to the tent and place them so the magnets hold through the tape and not through the tent itself, to avoid damage to the tent.

That’s all I have to say about the tent right now. I will update after I set it up a second time. For more info about the tent, see my other blog post here.

Just keep walking!

~Ninja

Backpacking, Food, Gear, hiking, PCT

So. Much. Food.

Hey, remember how I was talking here about how much food I have and how I need to organize it before I go hiking? Well, looky here at the food that was in the resupply boxes in my office.

Each box contained at least 5 days of food, and various other supplies.

Here is a large pile of assorted snacks:

Probably more snacks than necessary…

Let’s just look at it from another angle, shall we?

Yeeks.

Wish me luck!

Just keep walking!

~Ninja

Backpacking, Gear, hiking, PCT

In Case of Emergency

In light of our hiking trip next month, I have set up a file in OneDrive (and on a thumb drive for the Hubs who doesn’t want to deal with OneDrive) with any information needed in case something happens to us. In this file I have included:

  • Instructions on what is in the file and how to find the information, plus instructions to use the map on the Garmin website to track us and follow along with our hike. We use Garmin InReach satellite communicators to communicate with our families if we have no phone signal and to track our hikes, and the InReach has an SOS button that alerts Search and Rescue (SAR) if we have an emergency. These instructions include Marnie’s and Linda’s phone numbers and their husbands’ phone numbers, and the address to message my InReach directly in case my family can’t get me by phone. There is also a sheet detailing the way to find us by latitude and longitude from the InReach. I keep these instructions on the bulletin board in my office so the Hubs can find them easily. I have also printed out pertinent instructions for Marnie’s and Linda’s Hubses.

  • Photos of me and the clothes I’ll be wearing.

  • Photos of Marnie and Linda who will be going with me.

  • A document with copies of my ID and the cards I will be carrying with me.

  • A copy of the emergency document I carry with me, which includes my emergency contacts, doctors’ names, and a medication list. “NOBO on the PCT” is noted on this document. I also wear a RoadID ID band on my watch, which has an ID number and PIN to enable first responders to find my pertinent medical info.

  • An information sheet with my description and descriptions of the clothes I’m wearing and my gear, with Marnie’s and Linda’s contact info. Both my big toes have weird toenails, and that is included in the description. (Edit: I just had the right big toenail removed, so one weird toenail and one naked toe.) I also include a photo of my toes!

  • Instructions to follow if we go missing (2 files). Those instructions can be found here and here. They are also printed out and attached to the initial instructions.

  • Photos of all my clothes and gear labeled in alphabetical order. The Fowler-O’Sullivan Foundation , a foundation that helps look for missing hikers, has suggested taking photos of everything down to your toothbrush in case something happens and SAR needs to look for you. The Fowler and O’Sullivan families each have missing hikers on the PCT who still haven’t been found.


A photo of me in my hiking clothes taken shortly after I bought them in Julian, CA. The sunshirt is by the Town Shirt company and it is awesome.

My ditty bag and contents.

My first aid kit.

I have tried to think of anything and everything that could possibly be helpful if something should happen to me or us. Can you think of anything else that I should include?

Just keep walking!

~Ninja

Backpacking, Books, Gear, hiking, PCT

Book Recommendation – Adventure Ready

I recently ordered the book Adventure Ready, A Hiker’s Guide to Planning, Training, and Resiliency, by Katie Gerber and Heather Anderson, and I wanted to say that it’s a big win in my opinion! I just received it a couple of days ago and haven’t had the chance to read the whole thing, but the parts I’ve read are very helpful for pointing both new and experienced hikers in the right direction. If you are interested in any kind of backpacking adventure, this book is a gold mine of information! And if you are interested in reading about awesome rockstar backpacking, I would also suggest you read Heather’s other books, Thirst, about her FKT (Fastest Known Time) hike on the Pacific Crest Trail, and Mud, Rocks, Blazes, about her FKT hike on the Appalachian Trail. Also, check out Katie’s website KatieGerber.com, where she offers online courses, coaching, and other resources.

From the Amazon description:
“In Adventure Ready, renowned hikers Katie “Salty” Gerber and Heather “Anish” Anderson take what they’ve learned both on the trail and through teaching their online classes to a new level: preparing long-distance hikers for all the challenges–physical, emotional, and mental–they may encounter while on the trail for weeks or months. This clear and comprehensive guide sets backpackers up for success with detailed information about everything from the basics of gear selection, navigation, safety, and trip planning to nutritional and physical preparation and body resiliency to how to readjust after returning home. Worksheets and checklists make it easy to stay on top of all the planning a long-distance hike requires, while thoughtful prompts to address the “Why” of your adventure help to keep you motivated.”

I highly recommend this book!

Just keep walking!

~Ninja

Backpacking, Food, Gear, hiking, PCT

Hike Prep

Since we leave for the Oregon/California border of the Pacific Crest Trail in a few short weeks, I have started to prepare for various aspects of the hike. This means ordering assorted gear and attempting to organize food for the trip. The most recent order that arrived for the hike is this “vet” tape, or self-adhesive first aid tape. It can be used to affix a piece of gauze (or a ladies’ panty liner) for a bandage in case you fall and skin your knee and most of your shin, like I did a couple of years ago. The vet tape sticks only to itself instead of pulling off all your hair and 6 layers of skin like regular paper first aid tape will. Also, it comes in all sorts of nifty colors for fun.

Vet tape

When you order it on Amazon it comes in bulk, but I got all this for just $5.99. I obviously will not be bringing all of this tape with me on our hike, probably just one roll (pink), but what a deal, right? And there is plenty to give some to my friends who might like it to put in their first aid kits as well, with enough left over to have some in the home first aid basket and have plenty for next year’s hiking.

The food organization is another thing entirely. I am not a foodie, I don’t know how to food, in fact I stopped eating dinner because I was just tired of trying to figure out how to food. I like to eat food, I just don’t really like to deal with it.

This is 90% food.

Do you see all of this? This is my bedroom corner full of food. It is all food that I bought to fill resupply boxes for me to send myself on trail when we thought we were going to hike the whole PCT. There are also five large flat rate USPS mailing boxes in my office full of food, each box filled with five days’ worth of food. This week I need to go through all of the food, and figure out what I need for meals and snacks to fill boxes to send to the places we will be stopping where there is no food. We often carry too much food, since we aren’t usually very hungry the first couple weeks of hiking. Can you tell that I find this the least fun part of organizing the trip?

I absolutely love putting together my lighterpack.com gear list (which I will share upon request) with links, photos, and weights. I enjoy making the list of things to take on the hike so I don’t forget anything. I like making lists of things I need to buy. I am tickled to death to put together cute little “calling cards” for my friends and me to carry with us, and labels for our gear. Writing up emergency instructions and filling a file full of photos of me, my friends, and all my gear in case something happens to me and they can’t find me just makes me happy as a clam. But food? Nope. Do not enjoy, do not love, don’t like, not tickled, and not happy. It is certainly high up there on the importance list, but it is a chore. Your prayers for me as I organize my food are much appreciated!

Just keep walking!

~Ninja

Backpacking, Cool Stuff, Fun, Gear, hiking, PCT, Tuffy

It’s The Little Things…

Here is the post I promised about some little things I have now for backpacking. I call them “little”, because they will probably seem tiny and unimportant to many, but it makes me happy to have them 😀

First, before we left to start the PCT in California I decided it would be nice to have a card that had my name, trail name, phone number, email address, and Garmin InReach message address to give to people I wanted to keep in touch with. Also, I figured a card like that would make a good label for things like trekking poles. Since my trail name is “Ninja”, I had bought the rights to use this ninja girl image on Etsy awhile back and decided it would make the perfect theme for my little cards. I also made some for my friends Marnie and Linda, with their info and an image especially for them. It was great fun making these!

I had seen on the Hilltop Packs website awhile back that they will make you a dry bag out of Dyneema with your own picture or photo on it! And I mean, ever since the personalized t-shirt craze of the early 80’s I have been fascinated by personalizing my gear, ha. I wasn’t happy with my little ditty bag and other stuff sacks that I had used, so I decided to see what the Hilltop Packs bags would look like. I ordered 2 medium-long bags for electronics and medication, and a medium bag to use as a ditty bag (comb, mirror, pen, toothbrush, etc.) I had the ninja girl and another ninja-themed image I got on Etsy, and I sent one for the ditty bag (to be pink) and one for the electronics bag (to be white). For the medication bag (to be black), I sent them a photo of Tuffy, my old kitty, who passed away last year. And they printed the images on both sides! Here are the bags:

Didn’t they turn out amazing?!

THEN, as I was browsing more ninja things on Etsy, I found a matching key fob, but the posting was only for a pattern and not something I could make myself. I asked the seller if she could make it for me, and she did! It came yesterday. Isn’t it perfect?

Goodness, I do love a theme! 😀

Just keep walking!

~Ninja