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