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Starting the process of MYOG'ing my whole setup.
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John Julyan-Gudgeon
(Cyanide) - F

Locale: Red Deer, Alberta, Canada
Starting the process of MYOG'ing my whole setup. on 05/17/2011 22:43:29 MDT Print View

Hello everyone;
I am new here and came to know of this site when I ran into one of your admins while hiking the Grand Canyon at the beginning of the month (May 2011).

I guess I am opening this thread to both: 1) say hello and announce my involvement here, and 2) use this as a gathering place of whatever pearls people may wish to drop for me. Keep in mind I am doing lots of research, so I am not begging people to help in the lew of any discernable effort myself. If you have links and notes and pearls, I would greatly appreciate it, but don't feel I am expecting you to do the research for me.

Keep in mind, I am tall 6'2", big and do most of my hiking in the Canadian Rockies...where the mosquitoes can carry off a horse, the winds are strong, it can rain at any moment and then the temperature can drop and ice everything over even with snow in July/August. This will weigh in on all my gear choices.

Further, I have only recently decided to implement my interest in ultra-light backpacking. Up until this last trip my typical week-long hike would have me carrying 80 lbs of gear. With the Grand Canyon trip, I tried hard and got my basepack to 28 lbs, with additional 10 lbs of food (1.5 lbs per day) and 8-10 litres (20 lbs) of water (there were warnings of intense heat and decreased water availability due to dry winter). Now, I have tweeked my gear here and there and have my base pack down to 16 lbs (assuming I can come up with a 50-60L pack coming in at one lb, and a shelter -preferably spacious 2 person -coming in at under 1.5 lb)

So here goes. I never really contemplated building my own gear, as I really am not all that good with sewing and really have no access/skill to a sewing machine. But, doing some reading around it seems this Cuben Fiber stuff both is ultra-light, strong, waterproof...and best of all...completely amenable to gluing/welding instead of having to sew it.

So, my first project is going to be to design some compression girdles. Imagine, a compression sack that cinched up around the long axis of the cylinder, instead of just compressing the tube into something shorter. I am thinking this might be a superior strategy to pack my clothes set. I will also develop a camera bag, water bag, and water bottle holder all out of this Cuben Fiber.

Then, I think I will start constructing a new shelter. I am currently mainly using Rainbow TarpTent, but also have had a OR NightHaven and before that a bombproof MEC Tarn3 (weighing in at one ton). I am gathering what features I want:
1) light weight, thus Cuben Fiber
2) sleeps two, thus I can bring my wife along, or just appreciate the extra space
3) good ventilation of course, may need vents in the upper canopy then
4) bug protection (see mosquito concerns above)
5) sturdy bathtub floor (I have been in too many floods to not have this)
6) modular, so I can replace the flood when it wears out, or leave behind the bug netting, or detach the floor to use as a light shelter while on the move
7) uses up to two trecking poles (I will have them, might as well use them to my greatest advantage)
8) makes potential use of standard size aluminum tent poles (as I will be using them as part of a removable frame/harness for a pack I will also be designing) might as well make use of these or else it will be a single use weight disadvantage putting them into my pack frame
9) did I say simple? The simpler to make, the better. The simpler to set up the more versatile and better. The simpler the design, the more configurable and customizable in the field.

And then there are the hints for the pack:
1) I plan on making this pack also modular. The suspension harness might be fully detachable from the main pack body. Then the pack body will also take the form of a girdle. I am hoping this makes for non-hassle packing of the bag. Imagine placing all your gear onto a sheet of material then folding in the top/bottom/sides, cinching it down into the tightest pack you ever could imagine (similar to the girdle pouches I mentioned above), then quickly snapping it into the harness and away you go.
2) The pack will be made of high density Cuben, it will probably implement between 5-8 sections of standard length aluminum tent pole for the frame rigidity, and it will use a thermarest short z-light pad as the backpad.

So there you have it, a very little amount about me, and alot about my project ambitions.

Some of the first things I am wondering about, regarding the shelter (as its the shelter is the first real large project and thus is the one I have to figure out before I order any supplies), is:

1) does Cuben Fiber benefit from catenary cuts? Its supposed to be relatively non-stretch so there may be decreased advantage to the cat cuts. May just decrease the depth of the cut?
2) does anyone know a good tent design repository. As I am a novice I don't think I will jump on my first design idea, so far I am contemplating just mimicking the TarpTent Rainbow, but maybe also the 6moons wild oasis/TT sublite, or maybe the Squall, or a tunnel tent like a warmlight 2x. I am even considering something similar to a 6moons refuge or a Nemo Meta 2.

But in the name of simplicity=reliability, I am thinking of just getting a cat-cut (if needed) cuben fiber tarp that can be easily set into an A-frame config, arranging for some detachable skirt of material to partially wall in the two "open" ends of an A-frame. In fact, this skirt would extend to the underside of the two wings of said A-frame, offering a 360 degree perimeter that can be used to anchor the bug netting, which in turn can directly attach with some tension to the corners and sides of the bathtub.

So, those are my ideas at this moment. Throw down any comments you have, anything that you want to say, wish you had tried or want me to know about. And of course, even so much as a "hello" will ever-so warm the cockles of my heart



John Julyan-Gudgeon
(Cyanide) - F

Locale: Red Deer, Alberta, Canada
Zipper/Velcro replacement idea on 05/18/2011 15:04:59 MDT Print View

Here is an idea I just came up with;

In order to continue to push forward with my ideas regarding making this gear without sewing and attain the lightest reasonably feature-rich gear, I have to come up with interesting solutions to some challenges. One was the attachment of mesh to underside of tarp ceiling, and then also attachment of mesh to bathtub floor. I was thinking that I might not have much success with gluing zippers to tarp nor zippers to mesh. Further, I presumed velcro would be too heavy for extensive use

But here is a lightweight solution that steps beyond zippers and velcro.

Ziplock closures. I thought, what if I could transfer these little plastic interlocking channels to cuben/mesh with some glue. I imagined that this method would be more heavy than a zipper. But, if I am correct, my searching online shows that the ziplock closures (double versions are easily removed from the large laundry/clothing storage bags that ziplock now makes and sells at Walmart etc, I have a bunch of them and so cut one off and measured its weight) weigh in at roughly half that of the smallest reasonable zippers, further, this stuff might be dividable into half-a-double-channel to make it 1/4 the weight. They can probably be readily replaced should they get ruined, and they offer ready access to any side of an enclosure without finding the zipper toggle.

Of course, I doubt their relative strength, so you couldn't use them wear high tensions are expected. But, for mesh applications, this might be a blessing, you might damage the replaceable ziplock enclosure before you damage the mesh, should something fall into the mesh.

Just an idea

David Drake
(DavidDrake) - F

Locale: North Idaho
Re: Starting the process of MYOG'ing my whole setup. on 05/19/2011 10:43:01 MDT Print View

Hi John,
Welcome to BPL. I've been a member here about two years. Best place for lightweight/ultralight information, in my opinion. There's a lot of folks here with far more experience going light than I have, but I'll weigh in with a few comments.

First, your target weights for pack and shelter are nice, leading me to wonder: why will you still have a 16# base weight with two of your big three at 2.5# combined? In fact, putting together a sub 10# base weight with either of your current shelters can be done.

You may be carrying a lot of unnecessary extras (esp. clothes), a too-heavy stove/cook kit, and a a sleep system that can go a lot lighter. Dropping weight by leaving out things you don't need will be much quicker (and cheaper) than making gear from cuben. For MYOG, you might want to use a cheap material to prototype your ideas, before cutting up a bunch of $25-30/yard material.

Get a scale and weigh everything, if you haven't already, make your gearlist into spreadsheet of all the items with weights, and post it here. You'll get plenty of feedback.

A couple other things:

Will you really need a pack with 50-60 L capacity?

The ziploc idea is interesting, but playing around a bit with a ziploc bag, I think the zipper will pull open under most conditions where velcro or coil zips stay closed. You may also have problems getting multiple lengths of zipper to line up and close easily (assuming I understand your concept correctly). Finally, on my scale, freezer bag zipper isn't any lighter than sew-on 3/4" velcro.

bj bretzke
(lilorphanbilly) - F

Locale: Montana, MT (Stealth Mode)
Starting the process........... on 05/19/2011 20:39:42 MDT Print View

As David said, this is the place to be.

I live in northern Montana so I totally get the requirements for weather. Sometimes the temps can fluctuate 60 degrees F before lunch. The biggest problem I run into is sleep systems. The temps seem to dip down into the 30's more often than not. The only solution I have found to make my kit UL was to get a good 0 F bag and go with a tarp and bivy. I have a real nice 32 F but I find that the manufacturer was mistaken. (I haven't had the courage to try a MYOG quilt yet) That said, the funnest part about it is making the gear and actually having it work. Have you played with penny stoves yet?
Have fun!

Edited by lilorphanbilly on 05/19/2011 20:44:58 MDT.

John Julyan-Gudgeon
(Cyanide) - F

Locale: Red Deer, Alberta, Canada
Its a work in progress on 05/20/2011 05:35:56 MDT Print View

Thanks for the replies.

I do have a spreadsheet going, and am using it to scrutinize everything. And for some destinations, I am carrying too much. When I went to the Grand Canyon, it was true...I was carrying too much clothes. But my experience in the unpredictable Canadian Rockies (where my description was not just being dramatic) has shown me that I will use all the clothes in my pack at some point in a trip).

Further, I am probably working out some old habits/demons from previous training/experience. While in the military, we carried alot of gear, as the philosophy was: "you can't plan where you are going, so plan on going everywhere". If the gear wasn't in your bag, don't expect to have time to find it before you have to push out on a new tasking. On top of that, being in the medical field, you can imagine my first-aid kit is rather large as I have always been the one expected to fix everyone that needs it. At this time one of my side projects is to reduce the weight of my "shower kit", "firstaid kit" and "repair kit" to half of their weights. Its pretty tough to do. So far I have gotten my shower kit down to 288grams from 476grams. I am hoping it will be easier to streamline the repair kit from 589grams to 220grams and the first aid kit to 200grams from 440grams.

And then, some things are just fun to have come along. Or, sometimes I find I am particularly fond of a piece of gear. My sleeping bag is good to -4C (24F) and weighs 770grams. I could probably get this down to 600grams (or maybe less with quilt), but I am really happy with the way it is now. So, it will probably stay.

I will post the spreadsheet tonight when I get back from work.

As for gear building, this is actually a multi-faceted decision. One of the most important aspects of it is that it gives me something to do. I may be one of the best examples of "idle hands are the playground of the devil". So, making Cuben fiber gear will keep me out of trouble.

But, that's all I can write for now. Got to get on the treadmill before my time is up and I have to switch gears for work.

Once again, thanks for the replies.



John Julyan-Gudgeon
(Cyanide) - F

Locale: Red Deer, Alberta, Canada
Penny Stoves on 05/20/2011 06:27:45 MDT Print View

I did venture into them about 2 years ago. Bought a 6 pack of heineken and started making them, even grabbed some redbull cans and developed some double wall stoves with fiberglass etc to improve fuel flow, warming and vapourization of fuel. However, the limiting factor ended up being "finding appropriate fuel". I just couldn't seem to find denatured alcohol anywhere I looked (which was only in my small city and the big city it was on the outskirts of, at the time - I have moved since). I could find rubbing alcohol, and methanol....but isopropyl was too dirty, and methanol just didn't have enough BTUs to make it efficient. So, I gave up.

However, since then I have heard that denatured alcohol is available somewhere in Canada, so I just have to start looking again. But, this time I am going to find the fuel first and then consider building the stove. Then once I have the stove, miniature pot to go with it (I figure I need a pot that can hold about 3 cups water minimum, 4 cups ideal), then I will have to figure out how to keep this stuff from getting crushed...because I do like a high-tension, fully compressed pack.



John Julyan-Gudgeon
(Cyanide) - F

Locale: Red Deer, Alberta, Canada
penny stove, white gas on 05/20/2011 19:47:11 MDT Print View

I guess an interesting penny stove would be one that could burn white gas. Now that I think of it, isn't white gas something like twice the BTUs or ethanol? A penny stove that could hold up to the heat of white gas would be the cat's meow.

John Julyan-Gudgeon
(Cyanide) - F

Locale: Red Deer, Alberta, Canada
Why do tarp/tents hiking poles set to different heights on 05/22/2011 22:14:26 MDT Print View

Imagine a standard A-frame tarp/tent propped up with two hiking poles at the two apices. Commonly, the one near the "door" where you would lay your head, is typically set higher than the pole set at the "foot" of the tent.

Does anyone have any ideas why this is so typically the case? It seems to be a significant increase in the complexity of the tarp/tent design, without any obvious benefit to me. Maybe I just don't recognize the benefit. Please inform me.

Cheers to you all


I guess I should also start finding out where people buy their Cuben Fiber sheets from. (And I guess I should also find out if anyone has definitive information on where I can find denatured alcohol in Canada, as I spent 2 hours looking for it today)

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Why do tarp/tents hiking poles set to different heights on 05/22/2011 22:24:26 MDT Print View

Foot end lower - tarp requires a little less fabric so it's lighter

Maybe a little more resistant to wind

Cubic Tech in 9 yard increments for smaller quantities

Dustin Short
(upalachango) - MLife
Re: Why do tarp/tents hiking poles set to different heights on 05/23/2011 02:42:28 MDT Print View

Having one side lower sheds wind considerably better. It basically gives you 3 sides of protection instead of 2 with a normal A-frame.

Aaron Robson

Locale: Texas, California, BC
Alcohol fuel on 05/23/2011 13:21:12 MDT Print View

I've lived and backpacked in the Canadian Rockies sporadically for the past 6 years or so, so hopefully I'll be able to help you out with some of your questions.

I don't know if you have an MEC where you live, but the one I visited in Edmonton had alcohol stove fuel - the problem with finding appropriate fuel is that it can be called a million different names. The stuff in MEC I believe was methylated spirits. Canadian Tire and other hardware stores will usually carry something you can use - sometimes under the name marine stove fuel, or methyl ether, or something similar.

As far as shelters go, tarps in the Canadian Rockies can be a bit hit or miss. If you are in the National Parks, you are restricted to using the established camps, which means you can't always use good site selection to minimize the lack of 360 degree protection a tarp offers. If you know it's going to be good weather, and there aren't any exposed sites on your route it would be a very light option for you, but it wouldn't be my go-to shelter in the Rockies.

For a go-everywhere shelter in the Rockies, I'd want full bug protection (as you alluded to), a wind-resistant design, and protection from blowing rain/snow. Maybe some sort of pyramid-style tent? Or something similar to the SMD Haven:

Hope this helps out...any more questions just fire away.

Sam Farrington
(scfhome) - M

Locale: Chocorua NH, USA
MYOG'ing my whole setup on 05/23/2011 14:50:03 MDT Print View

If you are serious about the above, you will need to learn how to sew, and you will need a machine set up that can handle tapes and webbing.
Not that taping cuben is a bad idea, there is just a lot more to it than that. Not to mention making a pack, for example.
There are a lot of good catenary tarp patterns available. Poke around on this site and visit the so-called 'cottage' manufacturers' sites.

John Julyan-Gudgeon
(Cyanide) - F

Locale: Red Deer, Alberta, Canada
penny stove, white gas on 05/28/2011 19:04:21 MDT Print View

I guess an interesting penny stove would be one that could burn white gas. Now that I think of it, isn't white gas something like twice the BTUs or ethanol? A penny stove that could hold up to the heat of white gas would be the cat's meow.

Michael Pinkus

Locale: Western Canada
Re: penny stove, white gas on 07/15/2011 16:54:22 MDT Print View

I live in Victoria on Vancouver Island. We have a fuel here for stoves, it's called Methyl Hydrate and you can buy it in any hardware or Canadian Tire. I just came off the PCT this year and was using HEET there, and this stuff at home burns much better, cleaner and hotter...


Hikin' Jim
(hikin_jim) - MLife

Locale: Orange County, CA, USA
Methyl Hydrate on 07/15/2011 19:14:10 MDT Print View

@Mike: Isn't Methyl Hydrate is just another term for methyl alcohol (methanol), or is this something else?

@John: White gasoline is pretty volatile. Using white gasoline in home made stoves might not be such a good idea.


Edited by hikin_jim on 07/15/2011 19:16:55 MDT.

Michael Pinkus

Locale: Western Canada
Re: Methyl Hydrate on 07/15/2011 19:29:30 MDT Print View

I'm not sure. Now you've got me thinking. I'm going to go outside and check my container and get back to you.


Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Methyl Hydrate on 07/15/2011 20:08:44 MDT Print View

Methyl Hydrate = methanol.
MSDS : 500MH-2
NAME OF PRODUCT : Methyl hydrate
USE OF PRODUCT : Intermediary of chemical products, gas mixture
P.N.I. : UN 1230 PRIMARY CLASS : 3 flammable liquid
% V/V
LC50 ppm
TLV ppm 8h
6200,0 to 13000,0
Colorless, clear and fluid............

Kevin Beeden
(captain_paranoia) - F

Locale: UK
re: Why do tarp/tents hiking poles set to different heights on 07/19/2011 11:52:19 MDT Print View

Think about what you generally do in a tent/under a tarp. If you need to sit up to cook, you're only likely to do that at one end. And your arms only flay about at one end, too (i.e. most camp activity takes place at the head end). So you really only need a taller, wider tarp at the head end, and a lower, narrower tarp at the head end. Essentially, it's a mummy- or coffin-shaped footprint design that allows the corpse to sit up...

Now, if you need a lot of storage, you might keep the width the same at both ends, but, again, if you don't have too much kit (going lightweight...), you're unlikely to need that much storage space.

As for alternative fuels for alcohol stives, have a look at this recent thread.

Will Webster
Stove fuel on 07/19/2011 14:15:31 MDT Print View

A lot more information here:

Right near the top you'll find:

Petroleum Fuels
Great heat to weight ratio. Caustic fuel. Generally burns hot and is unhindered by cold temperatures. See Petrol Stove Fuels for more information.
FYI - These fuels can't be safely used in an alcohol stove (it's already been tried).

Edited by WillWeb on 07/19/2011 14:16:07 MDT.

David Street
(squidz) - F
Alcohol Fuel on 10/31/2011 12:27:20 MDT Print View

I to am in Red Deer and have fought and sought long and hard for alcohol fuel. Methyl Hydrate is not denatured alcohol and I do not use Methyl Hydrate due to it's potential health damage. I carry my stove in my cookset and I don't want Meth Hydrates getting everywhere. I haven't been able to find denatured alcohol in Canada but in Alberta we do have the privilege of buying 195 proof spirits (Everclear). The cost is high due to the taxes, but I feel much better having a fuel that I can drink co-mingling with my cookset. It burns with all the power of ethanol and has other benefits of potable alcohol. For the little fuel I actually use, I don't mind buying a 40oz and stashing it in my cupboard for hiking and party use.

I'd be interested in what you find for a light weight shelter for the Rockies use. I am currently packing a 7+lb double wall for the wife and myself and I would really like to knock that down substantially. But due to the wide variety of environment we find ourselves in (sometimes in the same day) my search for an appropriate tent has left me with many questions. I'm looking forward to hearing about what you come up with.