MYOG: a DCF double ended dry bag.

15 02 2018

With a Revelate Harness on the front of the bike, I have the choice of using an existing dry bag or random items packed in a roughly cylindrical fashion. The Sweetroll uses an integrated double ended dry bag joined to the bar mount, which I always like using. It is easy to load, adjust and get at your kit. Revelate offers a separate dry bag, called the Saltyroll which I thought about getting and Porcelain Rocket have the Nugget, which is a similar size as well.

However, I have had a hankering to make somethign from DCF (formerly cuben fiber) for some time and so I decided to bite the bullet and make a double ended dry bag. The downside is that if you screw up, the material cost per sqm is high. The upside is that it is really easy to work with. You need double sided tape, a good plan and a sharp blade, as it is surprisingly difficult to cut.

I used 34g sqm DCF, in black (more like see-through-dark) which is on the light side, compared to a Mountain Laurel Designs DCF dry bag for example, but should have enough abrasion resistance to last for a while.

The designs is a simple cylinder (rectangle with shorter seam joined by 25mm double sided tape) then the ends are folded and bonded around something that will provide some stiffness so the roll top will work. I used some 0.004″ shim stock plastic. Finally, you make strips (I used 5 layers of DCF, folded over) which were then bonded to the edges and simple plastic buckles. For these sections, I used 13mm double sided tape. I reinforced these with a ‘patch’ of DCF on a strip of wider, 25mm double sided tape.

Care should be taken so no join will be pressured in ‘peel’ – they should all be in ‘shear’. With this design, it is no great difficulty to avoid this.

Leave it to cure for 24hrs and then you’re good to go. Capacity is around 10L and it weighs quarter of a sparrows fart.

Questions? fire away!

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Banking.

27 01 2018

Ok. Every year – and I mean *every* year – I start crossing my fingers about now. Hoping that the weather is kind in spring and summer. I don’t go as far as autumn. Last year, things started ok ish, if memory serves. There was some nice weather early on, before it deteriorated into a wet, sloppy, crappy sort o’ late spring/summer.

The silver lining was that it finally prompted me to purchase an Alpacka raft from Andy at Backcountry.scot so I could join the watery element. Afterall, if you can’t beat ’em….

But again, this year, I am hoping…

As a result, with a *lot* of thought and consideration, I ordered a Prophet rucksack and Monk tarp from Mountain Laurel Designs.

This will augment my MLD FKT bivi to make a super light, cosy and roomy shelter when I am not using my MLD Cricket tarp/tent. The Monk is available in different materials and I opted for the lightest cuben in order to keep things as svelte as possible. I will pitch it as a half-pyramid, using a Z packs carbon pole. This will give me some added shelter for cooking and minimising precip, though I will need to be mindful of the midge.

The rucksack is a great shape for stowing an Alpacka. It is able to be packed quite ‘square’ with little volume protruding above the shoulder strap – which one needs to consider on the bike as a higher rucksack bashes continuously into the back of your helmet. The way different manufacturers describe pack volume is a bit of a minefield. In some ways, this pack could be considered quite voluminous, but the total includes the volume of the side pockets, full, and the top at its maximum roll-top volume. I will use it rolled over more times, in order to keep the pack low, below where it would interfere with my head. The rear and side pockets will fit the paddle, once broken down, and critically are made from robust material rather than just netting. This makes damage considerably less likely as the pole of the paddle will invariably get caught on someting while riding.

The material is Dynema X – a super abrasion and tear resistant, but lightweight, fabric. It can ‘wet’ as the PU coating is on one side only, which will add to weight, but I believe this worth the trade off given that cuben type materials are less tear proof: when you are jamming a raft into the bag, with the paddle, this is a serious consideration.

The materials used in superlight gear are well worth taking the time to learn about. I’d suggest starting with Bedrock & Paradox and follow the links to previous posts regarding materials, too. Dave Chenault builds and uses packs from many materials and offers excellent insight into the pros and cons of each design. I link to his blog from mine and I would thoroughly recommend taking a look, particularly if you do any MYOG stuff.

On that note, I finally ordered some cuben – or Dyneema Composite Fabric as it is now known. The CT2K.18 I ordered form extremtextil.de is 34g per square meter and this is certainly not the most robust weight that is made. I am going to make, with tape, a double ended dry bag to mount into my Revelate Designs Harness. Double ended dry bags are really easy to pack and I can decide on the perfect diameter of the tube I want. It will be my first time working with this material – cost and lack of abrasion resistance have stopped me in the past. I have had excellent use from my MLD and Z packs DCF stuff sacks and roll bags, for several years, so I decided to dive in.

I was also interested to see extremtextil now stock Dimension Polyant LiteSkin in two different weights. I have been seeing this showing up on various cottage makers instagram feeds for the last year or so. On paper, it has a lot of properties that should make it excellent for the type of bags I like to make. I might get some and see what it is like. In the meantime, here is an interesting video of some testing of different materials.

Anyway. Rabbit foot stroked, I’m banking on some good weather to put this kit into practice…





Bike packing bags.

17 12 2017

I have been subtly changing how I load the bike for bike packing. A little while ago, it became clear there are benefits to reducing the weight on the bars and reducing the volume under the seat – particularly if a dropper post is to be used.

As a result, a frame bag is needed to bring back the volume without loading it all into a rucksack.

So: a Porcelain Rocket Charlene (from Ride Auburn) which utilises a Wolftooth Valais dropper seat post guard (from MTBRiders) in order to give around 6l of storage that also still allows me 100mm of seat drop.

The Gas Tank and Tangle are essential and I also plan to swap in and out a full Revelate frame bag (all from Backcountry.scot).

The under downtube bag is actually a fork leg bag, from Oveja Negra – called the Bootlegger. I am mounting this to a bottle cage mount under the downtube with a Wolftooth B-Rad 4 plate I cut down to only leave 3 mounting holes. This reduces the overall unsupported length of the plate. It can also mount a King Cage Manything cage (from Justpedal.nl) if I want to use a dry bag instead.

The Revelate Harness, I have slightly modified to allow 4 point mounting to the Jones bars. This is so bomber that I am considering retiring my Revelate Sweetroll. We’ll see. The modification initially used the front ‘pocket’ straps, on which I unpicked the bar tacking I needed a way to utilise the webbing sewn to the Harness for a second set of bar mounts, with some extra foam spacers, but this was sub optimal, so I used some size 3.5mm locking oval carabiners. This also proved suboptimal on my recent overnighter – too much movement in the system. So I have changed it to use a simple wrap of double sided velcro with a Jones bar kit from Revelate and I am confident this is the way forward.

On the last overnighter, the Harness had my sleeping bag in a Mountain Laurel Designs cuben stuff sack (minimising the weight gain in using the Harness over the Sweetroll) and the Charlene had my wool longs and Mountain Laurel Designs Cricket Tarp/tent.

The Bootlegger held my Thermarest Neoair X-lite and some long wool socks and the frame bag held my tent poles (from Z-packs) Vaude ti tent pegs, MSR mini stove, a couple of large cuben stuff sacks to stow stuff overnight, an Opinel, a spare inner tube, another wool layer, a dyneema cord just in case and a wee bit of food. More food in the Gas Tank.

Everything else went in my Wingnut.

It all worked well and the bike felt lively, with plenty of stowage space.





Kit notes.

13 05 2017

The ride from Blair Atholl to Montrose was the first bikepack I have done without a ruck sack. I usually would take a wingnut of some size. This time, I rode with just a hip pack.

There were several considerations in order to achieve this: one, I had less water carrying capacity and two, I had less room for kit on my person.

It was absolutely fantastic to not have a pack on my back. Even the smallest wingnuts give you that sweaty back, encumbered feeling. My normal set up is Sweetroll, small or medium, either a Gas Tank, or some Feedbags and a saddle bag – sizes varying with how much I need to bring. Lastly, I have a wingnut.

The trade off to lose the back pack was use of my old Revelate Designs ‘Tangle’ partial frame bag. My worry here was river crossings, as I tend to grab under the seat tube end of the top tube to portage. In the end, I had no deep crossings, so it was a none issue. I brought a thin climbing sling that I planned to loop around the bottom bracket tube and act as a handle.

On disembarking the train, I tried to arrange my kit for the initial ride. I had a couple of cans of Dale’s Pale ale and I chose to just stuff these in either end of my (small) Sweetroll. The effect on the steering was immediately noticeable. Normally, I stuff my sleeping bag in the Sweetroll and perhaps my sleeping wools. The added weight of the beer was detrimental to steering. This is not a revelation – various sites advise minimising the weight and indeed width of a bar roll as much as possible. In order to do so, you need space elsewhere. My cuben Ermine seat pack is not huge, I have a Viscahca that is bigger, but I tend to use the smaller pack if I can.

In the framebag, I carried my tent poles, cooking kit, food, an inner tube and the seat pack took a puff jacket, shelter and inner tube.

The front pocket had tent pegs, the sling, my Steripen, hip flask and a dyneema guy rope. Also stuffed in there was a Voile strap and my mini Petzl headtorch. Oh and on this trip, I brought a wee lock – soon to be replaced with an Ottolock, when it arrives.

I carry large cuben stuff sacks, used to stow my lid and pack and maybe even shoes if it is inclement overnight.

I use Z packs carbon tent poles and this trip allowed me to try the new, 80cm pole for the front of the MLD cricket. Previously, I have used my handlebars, sticks or tied it to a tree. The shelter requires this to tension the ‘tarp’ outer. The inner midge net hangs from the outer and is given shape by pegs.

I had made a pole jack as I felt that the long 132cm Z packs centre pole could do with being a wee bit longer. In this case I made the pole 2.5cm longer with the jack and it was great. The question is if I now order an MLD custom pole the correct length: they can be made multi section in order to fold very short.

I also rode with a Wolftooth, reverse dish oval ring. It feels a little like you are hurrying through your pedal stroke but I liked it a lot. It did not remind me of when I used biopace rings way back in the day, interestingly enough. Overall, a keeper.

The most enlightening thing, after I had repacked in the am, was how much better the bike felt with less weight in the roll and saddle pack. Generally, over the last few years, I have avoided using a frame pack because I can get everything I need into a roll and seat bag, meaning I dont have to carry the extra weight of a third, big bag. But – the weight distribution in using the thrid bag made it entirely worth it! As a result, I have sold some old bags and invested in a newer Tangle Pika and a full Ranger frame bag to move towards this new packing method.

The Gas Tank had food, and I used various Backcountry Research straps to attach tubes and whatnot to the bike. I also use their Tülbag for tools. These things absolutely rock – if you are thinking about getting some, I would thoroughly recommend pulling the trigger. Cylorise int he Uk stocks them.

Ok, I think that covers things. Any questions, fire away.





A different tack.

20 06 2016

A little while ago, I tried to do the Highland Trail Race. Tried and failed. I still have very mixed feelings about the whole thing. This year, with stellar weather, I enjoyed following the blue dots and admit to a pang of (for want of a better word) jealousy.

Let me explain: you cant really be that jealous of folk turning themselves inside out, over tough terrain, with precious little kit and big miles to cover in each ~14 hour+ day in the saddle. It is a tough race.

Anyway, as detailed in the old post linked above, I got to thinking after failing to even start the HTR 550, that I wanted to *enjoy* what I was doing on the bike. In other words, I was keen to try a route or two that did not invite too much hardship in terms of daily miles or trail conditions. So, recently I decided to try an ‘easy’ bikepacking route.

I would jump on the train in Glasgow, head to Perth, alight and cycle off into the evening along the easy cycle route up to Dunkeld and from there, head west to Amulree and take the gravel road up Glen Quaich, popping out at Kenmore, where I planned to enjoy some food at the Kenmore hotel.

My plans after that were fluid: I would find a spot to bivi and make my way back down to Glasgow.

I had not done a lot of research and I was under the impression that Glen Quaich had a dirt road, rather than a gravel/partly sealed road. No matter. Despite being on my fat bike, it all went well and the sun shone as I spun along the idyllic pass from near the geographical centre of Scotland, past Loch Freuchie, towards the mighty Tay.

After a fine meal in the Kenmore Hotel, the evening was still young, so I pedaled off west, beside Loch Tay, and had a pint in Killin where the fine views of the Falls of Dochart were somewhat spoiled by the incessant midge.

My plan was to bivi somewhere on the route over to Glen Ogle, in the pine forest northwest of Lochearnhead. I eventually found a reasonable spot, and unrolled my Mountain Laurel Designs FKT (Fastest Known Time) bivi – a recent purchase – for it’s inaugural use. Because of the material selection, this bivi is extremely light, has an essential-for-Scotland midge net and packs very small. As a result, I had opted for the size large, to give me plenty of wriggling room, as I am a restless sleeper.

I had a great nights sleep, although waking to a cloud of midge in front of the netting was off putting and I had a fair amount of condensation inside the bag. This happens with bivi sacks. In the fading light, I had failed to notice that the ground was not just grass as I had thought, but was a mix of sphagnum moss. This holds collosal amounts of moisture and the cool, breezeless night, heavy dew and low cloud meant condensation was a given. In terms of volume and comfort, this bag and I are going to be friends! at less than half the weight of my old Rab bivi, the drop in encumbrance is welcome too.

Dancing around in the morning to avoid the worst of the breakfast club of midge, I got rolling and slowly the cloud level rose and as I left Lochearnhead, to head into Glen Ample for a bit of old school Scottish mtb action, I was able to strip off some layers.

From here, it was a quick descent to Callander, with the now obligatory 2 bacon rolls at ‘Taste of the Trossachs’ before climbing over to Aberfolye and then on to Garadbhan and the WHW back to base.

Reflections:

It was quite an easy route – somewhere in the vicinity of 50 miles each day and it was nice to have a solid destination planned for food in the evening. The fat bike was fine despite the reasonably high road percentage. It was slower than a normal mtb would have been, but that was kind of the point. I also learned that my knees and hips were fine with the wide bb over this sort of distance. Good to know.

In retrospect, I wish I had given myself a bit more to do. I was enjoying the riding in the warm sunshine and it seemed over a little too soon. I also would have liked to have been a little more remote – bikepacking is a great way to get stuck in to the best terrain in Scotland without having to do mega miles or use complicated arrangements of transport and being ‘away’ from it all is a big draw for me.

So: I have learned several things – it’s all good.





Über light shelter?

6 04 2016

In a previous post, I explored the (then) current state of play with SUL and UL shelters. Needless to say, things have moved on.

I purchased and have had great success using a Mountain Laurel Designs Cricket. The purpose of this is essentially a small, light shelter, that can be easily stowed as part of a light weight and un-encumbering, bikepacking set up. In Scotland, the midge are a concern for three seasons. To be able to sit up, behind a midge net, is a very useful thing indeed. To do this with a wafer of sil-ny that weighs less than my old Rab bivi is wonderful.

Easy to pitch (using one Z packs carbon pole, some ti pegs – varied depending on the terrain from traditional round to ‘v’ style – and a wheel or the handlebars of my bike as the second pole, or even a stick) it offers plenty of shelter from the weather and the vestibule is roomy enough to cook in. This is highly recommended.

Sometimes, however, you want to go even lighter and when you stop pedaling, you are going straight to sleep – more or less – and in this instance, a bivi sack makes much more sense.

I have used my old Rab bivi for a number of years, but the Fastest Known Time kit arriving from Mountain Laurel Designs got my brain’s gears whirling. The bivi is made from cuben for the ‘bucket’ base, with a new fabric – cuben eVent – for the top. This is lighter and as breathable as the eVent which has been very successful for the Rab I have, but the weight reduction is astonishing. If you are interested, some information is here (although this refers to a slightly older fabric mix), here and here (more up to date).

I opted for the large bivi sack, basically because I could. The weight means that the extra girth is a tiny price to pay for more wiggle room (I am a non-static sleeper!).

In addition, I decided to alter my overnight stowage. One thing you quickly learn about when picking a site to bivi is humidity management. Don’t aim for ‘cold air sumps’, and consider the breeze and ground conditions. Even though the eVent is amazing at allowing fluid to shift from inside the bivi to outside, if you also introduce wet shoes from river crossings and sweaty clothes into your bivi bag, the system is going to be overwhelmed. That being said, leaving stuff lying unprotected outside overnight is not a great option: there is nothing quite as miserable as donning cold, wet shoes and lid in the morning.

My plan is to keep any bags worn on my body, my helmet, gloves and shoes in separate cuben bags *outside* my bivi sack. They won’t stay as warm, but they won’t leave me soggy overnight.

At 250g, this bivi bag is giving me ideas. I suspect I will be able to get ALL my über light overnight kit into just a bar roll, frame pack or rucksack. This lack of bulk opens up S24O options that include the roughest and most technical terrain imaginable. It is exciting to start making plans for summer.





Bikepacking – Trossachs to Perthshire.

27 05 2015

A couple of weeks back, the rain cleared for long enough to head out the door on the bike with overnight kit packed in the bags and just roll.

The aim was to stay off the higher elevation trails as snow and hail was still a very recent memory. Indeed, less than 45 minutes from home I was treated to a flurry of hail as I navigated the ever increasing number of walkers on the West Highland Way.

From here, I took a route through Queen Elizabeth Forest Park (the Trossachs, more or less) and then followed the trail to Callendar. There is a good off road track from here north, following an old railway line in Glen Ogle, where I decided to follow the River Dochart and then Loch Tay. The weather had been threatening and I was chased by a very dense, grey cloud suggesting a down pour as it dropped off Ben Lawers. I was lucky though, making it to the Kenmore Hotel for an extremely high quality beef burger and pint of Thrappledouser.

Following quiet roads east, I turned south at Ballinluig, looking for a suitable spot to make camp and before too long I pitched the tent next to the Rock Pool, a fishing spot north of Dunkeld.

The burger kept me full and after a nibble of salami milano and a nugget of cheese washed down with a Sierra Nevada Torpedo, I turned in. It had become quite cold and I had to wear all the clothes I had, except my riding shorts (including wool longs, R1 hoody and a nano puff jacket). It proved a fitful night, with me waking up numerous times shivering and I awoke early in the morning with a lot of condensation on the inner of the tent. The pole had shifted in the night due to the sandy soil and the tent was draped in part across my bag.

There would be no relaxing in the sleeping bag on that morning, so I broke camp and got warmed up by pedaling. I took the road over to Crieff, not anticipating it being such a frosty morning. Maybe I was short of calories, but I could not stay warm at all. Shivering and cursing I climbed and climbed, before eventually dropping to a turn off near the town and heading round past Monzie and the Famous Grouse Experience, before taking the road to Comrie and then the singletrack road south of Loch Earn.

Before too long, despite the mizzle, I was climbing away from Lochearnhead and then dropping down the cycle trail and back to Callendar. Here, a fine bacon roll (ok, two) got the energy levels back up and the sun coming out was a bonus. Climbing over the old trail from Loch Venacher to Braeval, I encountered some slop, before taking the same route I took outwards bound back home to a well deserved pizza, beer and a sleep.

Day 1: 100 miles or so in 9 and a half hours.
Day 2: 90 miles or so in just under 9 hours.

Fuel: pork pies, salami milano, M&S egg and ham and beef and onion mayo sandwiches. A granola bar or two, a packet of olives and some Oddities – salt and vinegar if memory serves. A handful of Mike n’ Ikes and that delicious burger.

Next up, a more strenous but shorter Cairngorm route.