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

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, Cool Stuff, Fun, Gear, hiking, PCT

New Stuff

TL/DR: I’m getting new gear! <Leaps around house for joy.>

In light of our new plan to hike the PCT in Oregon, I have ordered a new, lighter and less bulky sleeping bag, and a new, lighter and less bulky tent. I expect to receive both of them today, along with a new Dyneema bag for my clothes.

When we were in California on the PCT, everyone noted how heavy and big our packs seemed to be, and while we did send a few pounds back home, our packs were still inordinately (I thought) heavy. I was using the ULA Catalyst pack, which is a 75-liter pack that can carry 40 lbs maximum. I bought this larger pack in anticipation of having to carry a bear canister on the PCT while in the Sierra. While I don’t know how many pounds I had in the pack, especially with food and water, the pack wasn’t comfortable and after about 4 miles would start to feel like it was hanging from my shoulders. I think it was more from the heaviness of the things in the pack than the pack itself, as I have carried my ULA Circuit (68L, max load 35 lbs) on more than one backpacking trip and found it to be very comfortable.

Last year before our summer backpacking I did tons of research and bought a new tent (Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2 – 2lbs 3 oz) and a new sleeping bag (Sierra Designs Women’s Cloud 20, a zipperless bag – 2lbs 4 oz). I anticipated using both on the PCT this year. While the tent is awesome (didn’t leak, only got condensation when we camped near a lake) it takes a long time to set up, weighs over 2 lbs., and is bulky. Also, the zippers are hard to open and since it is silicone-impregnated nylon (sil-nylon) it sags when it gets wet and takes awhile to dry. And while the sleeping bag kept me warm, I found that the zipperless design was inconvenient for me to wriggle in and out of, especially in the night when nature called. Plus, it kept losing feathers all over the place. Since it is 800-fill down, it doesn’t pack down as small as I’d like. (Note to those interested: 800-fill down is usually duck down, while 900-fill down is goose down, which packs smaller. Why? I don’t know.)

As many hikers/backpackers do, I like to watch videos on YouTube about other hikers’ gear lists. One of these hikers is Condor, or Tiki Bird Tracy, who is thru-hiking the PCT this year. While watching her 2022 PCT gear vid I noticed that she also has the ULA Circuit pack, but while I struggled to get all my goodies in the pack she could fit hers in with no problem. In the video, she stuffs her sleeping bag, tent, and clothes bag in the bottom of her pack and everything fits with what looks like plenty of room for the rest of her stuff. When we got home from our PCT thru attempt I started researching lighter, less bulky gear and I went back to Tracy’s video and studied her gear, especially her tent and sleeping bag.

Tracy is using a ZPacks Classic sleeping bag, which is fancy and expensive. She is also using the ZPacks Duplex tent, which is even more fancy and more expensive. After more research on tents and sleeping bags, and after watching videos of Tracy on the PCT, I decided to order from ZPacks the Duplex tent (spruce green, it’s a thicker material and more opaque than the blue – 20.5 oz) and the 10F Full Zip sleeping bag with 900 fill power goose down in green – 26.9 oz, because I surmise it will be easier for me to get in and out of. The tent and sleeping bag each come with a dedicated Dyneema dry bag.

Some Pros:
* The Duplex is fancy!
* The Duplex is made of Dyneema, which means it is strong, it doesn’t absorb water and is easy to dry off (There can be a problem with condensation in the inside, but according to my research it isn’t as much of a problem as I thought it would be when I bought the Tiger Wall instead of the Duplex last year.) When using a Dyneema tent, you also don’t have to use a separate groundcloth to protect the bottom of the tent. More weight savings there.
* The Duplex sets up with trekking poles so I won’t have to carry tent poles (now, the reason I didn’t buy it last year is because I didn’t think I wanted a trekking pole tent. What if one of my poles breaks? I have decided that if one if my poles breaks I will use one of Marnie’s poles to set up my tent, har.)
* The Duplex is quick to set up and you don’t have as much worry about getting rain in it since it is a single wall tent and all sets up at once.
* The Duplex rolls up pretty small.
* The Duplex is green instead of orange-y like the Tiger Wall.
* The Duplex has line-loc adjusters on the guylines, which make it simple to pitch.

* The sleeping bag is fancy!
* The sleeping bag is a 10-degree bag, better than the 20-degree rating of my current bag.
* The full zipper on the sleeping bag will make it easy to extricate myself from the bag and get into it, especially in the dark.
* The sleeping bag will pack down smaller than the bag I have.

Some Cons:
* The Duplex is expensive. Although, I did save $50 during the Memorial Day sale.
* The Duplex can get condensation inside, and it can drip on your head or your down sleeping bag. I will bring a “shammy” super-absorbent towel to alleviate this problem.
* The Duplex does not come with tent stakes, so you have to order theirs or supply your own. Since I would be using my MSR Groundhog stakes anyway, this is almost not a con.

* The sleeping bag is expensive.
* The sleeping bag doesn’t have a hood, so it might be hard to keep my pillow on my sleeping pad. I will look for ways to fix this. But since it is six feet long and I am only 5’6″ I should have room to pull it up over my head, so the lack of hood won’t be missed by my ears.
* There is not a sleeping pad sleeve to keep the bag on the pad, like on my Sierra Designs bag. While that is a great feature, it is really difficult to get the sleeve around the pad when you’re sitting down in the tent anyway, and I didn’t want to try wrassling with it outside of the tent and dropping it in the dirt.

In using the new tent, new sleeping bag, and (old) ULA Circuit pack, I will actually be saving about 4 lbs in weight! That may not sound like much, but when you’re carrying it on your back (and your knees, ankles, feet, etc.) it’s a good amount. My base weight (pack weight without food and water) has gone down to around 16 lbs., which, while certainly not ultralight, is acceptable. I am anxiously awaiting my new gear today (hurry up, UPS man!). Unfortunately it is going to rain here until next Tuesday so I won’t set the tent up until after the rains, I want to set it up on dry ground first just in case. I have been blessed to receive a whole lot of work in the last couple of months, which allowed me to pay for the new gear without stressing about it. God is good, all the time!

The moral of the story is, when researching and buying backpacking gear, weight and bulk should be a big part of your consideration.

I also got some fun little things to backpack with. I’ll share those in another post!

Just keep walking!

~Ninja