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Your best gear hack/mod/invention/alternate use/improvisation?
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Steven Hollifield
Your best gear hack/mod/invention/alternate use/improvisation? on 10/15/2013 07:22:15 MDT Print View

I wanted to see what some of your best ideas have been for gear. I don't mean gear you have made from a pattern. I want to know what your best idea for gear was. It could be a modification you thought of, an alternate use you came up for in the field when another piece of gear failed, or a whole new idea you had for a need you had.

Mine was to use a plastic 50 cent bubble mailing envelope as a meal koozie/reflectix alternative. I was on my way to the store to buy materials to make my own reflectix koozie, and walked past one of these generic plastic mailers and decided to save 20 bucks and give that a try. They are not as efficient as their more expensive counter parts, but they get the job done, and I have the same 2 I bought 3 years ago. I'm guessing I was not the first to think of this, but I never read about it or saw it anywhere. I sent it in to backpacker magazine for their money saving tips issue. No credit given, but they probably had a few others send in the same idea.

So what is yours? And how/why did you come up with it?

Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

My Trail Revelation on 10/15/2013 10:18:08 MDT Print View

Nobody in my camping group of 15 ever thought of this.

You can use your mouth to suck the air out of a Ziplok bag and vaccuum seal it to make it easier to pack and to keep the contents from shifting around.

Steven Diogenes
(stevenn) - F
Re.. on 10/16/2013 00:57:56 MDT Print View

Max, to get even more air out, leave an edge open and dip it in water up until the opening. The water will push all the air out.

I use a space bag (the plastic bag w/ twist spout from boxed wine) as a 5L water container/shower/pillow.

Ryan Nakahara
(kife42) - F

Locale: Hawaii
mods on 10/16/2013 02:19:41 MDT Print View

ok i'll play... here are some of mine that i haven't seen posted yet. starting from top left:

don't need a titanium pot holder to be lightweight, a bent clothes hanger works. crush it a bit and a package of saimin fits in the can\pot.

needed a simple way to tighten a ridgeline around a tree. trucker's hitch works, but in pitch dark you can't see the loops. i put a cow hitch on the pin, around the tree, pull it taut, and continue a couple more wraps. stays tight and has a glow in the dark dot. to release, pull out the pin.

used arrow shafts to support the monarch butterfly chair. the 2 pieces join and connect to the frame. can fully lean back and allow legs to rest.

last pic is my method for carrying 11 gallons of water to the top of a mountain. (100 lbs) carabiner straps in front help counterbalance the weight in back.


Steven McAllister
(brooklynkayak) - MLife

Locale: Atlantic North East
Your best gear hack/mod/invention/alternate use/improvisation? on 10/17/2013 06:26:46 MDT Print View

In a desperate search for extra water containers in a remote location, I was forced to use the newer style one and two quart juice/milk style cartons that are now common in the US. You know the ones with the little plastic screw lid.

I was amazed at how well they worked. They are light, fold up when not in use and last reasonably long time without leaking.

They are made with plastic impregnated paper and are quite strong for their weight.

I now pack a carton or two for those times on dry sections where I have to carry extra water and/or carrying extra wash up water to camp.

John Myers
(dallas) - F - MLife

Locale: North Texas
Re: speaking of water containers on 10/17/2013 07:28:18 MDT Print View

I drained a couple of 2 1/2 gallon wine containers to use for large group water containers.

It took a while, but it was worth it. :)

just Justin Whitson
Re: Your best gear hack/mod/invention/alternate use/improvisationb on 10/17/2013 21:26:25 MDT Print View

Don't know if it was my "best", but i made an UL external frame pack by putty epoxy'ing (Loctite brand) some cut up carbon arrow shafts (into a rectangular box shape), and wrapping it with dyneema cord (and adding some cheap cut off pack straps).

Haven't used it much because on one trip, one of the corners broke apart because i didn't reinforce with enough of the expoxy (that became obvious once i examined it). But until that one corner separated, it was very comfortable and only weighed around 13 oz for a lot of space. Re: water proofing, just put my stuff in a garbage bag, like i normally would anyways. Unlike a fabric pack, it's not going to absorb much of any moisture when it does get wet.

In hindsight, besides reinforcing the corners more, i also would have used much thinner/lighter dyneema or spectra cord. I went way over kill on it, when i probably could have used fishing line.

For some reason, just have been lazy and haven't bought any more of the expoxy putty, but plan to do it soon.

I also rather like my hybrid Down--removable Apex insulation, quilt idea and mod.

As to, "And how/why did you come up with it?" I'm cheap, and i don't mind thinking outside the box but with a practical bent (usually, except for apparently my UHMWPE fiber windshirt or rain jacket idea). Quintessential Scottish heritage according to the stereo types--not that a put a lot of stock, in that kind of stock anymore...

Edited by ArcturusBear on 10/17/2013 21:27:57 MDT.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Your best gear hack/mod/invention/alternate use/improvisation? on 10/17/2013 23:31:09 MDT Print View

I try to buy the right gear for the job at hand. That way the time saved not hacking/modding can be used to actually hike.

However, I have a propensity to mod my campers :)

Jesse Anderson
(jeepin05) - F

Locale: Land of Enchantment
Re: mods on 10/18/2013 09:06:14 MDT Print View

I'm very curious about your monarch chair mod. Can you explain what you used to attach the arrow shaft to the chair "leg" I love my monarch but I can see how occasionally it would be nice to be able to lean against something.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: Re: Your best gear hack/mod/invention/alternate use/improvisationb on 10/18/2013 09:33:53 MDT Print View

Justin, I'd suggest you consider little 1/8" plywood (door skins) gussets in the corners of your arrow-shaft pack. Also, West System or System Three epoxy is cheaper per unit than Loc-title or JB Weld and very strong if you don't need a high temp rating (i.e. for packs, chairs, boats, etc).

Some of mine have been a 80-cent, 19-gram mini-saw from a band saw blade dipped in Plastic-dip (for coating handles on tools); heat exchanger fins on aluminum energy-drink bottles for better HX in a SUL (and super cheap) pot; the previously mentioned wine-in-a-box liners for water storage ( putting them in a slightly smaller nylon stuff sack takes all the strain from the plastic liner), wax-fueled cookers for Aleutian Islands with only jet service (can't transport petro-fuels, but no local supplies); and gravity-feed water filters 30 years ago before they were available commercially.

For a framed pack for heavy loads on family trips, I'm currently pondering "stitch-and-glue construction like all my sea kayaks and/or foam-core, fiberglass covered construction.

just Justin Whitson
Re: Re: Re: Your best gear hack/mod/invention/alternate use/improvisationb on 10/18/2013 11:31:37 MDT Print View

Thanks for the tip/suggestion David, i will definitely look into that. I had looked at Kite shops for ferrules, but didn't find anything suitable.

I was also thinking of wrapping the corners with some self fusing silicone tape.

Edited by ArcturusBear on 10/18/2013 11:33:37 MDT.

(smoke) - F
Wine Bladders on 10/18/2013 12:25:55 MDT Print View

For you guys that use the wine bladders without the box - how do you carry/hang or otherwise use them?

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: Wine Bladders on 10/18/2013 12:49:31 MDT Print View

>"For you guys that use the wine bladders without the box - how do you carry/hang or otherwise use them?"

Find the lightest stuff sack you can that is slightly smaller in diameter (you want the nylon to take the forces, not the plastic bladder). Cut and heat seal a hole (or use a soldering iron) for the bladder's spigot near the bottom. Now you can hang it in a tree, adapt an extra spigot to a short hose and shower head, and/or put an in-line water filter on the hose for filtered water without all the pumping (let gravity do the work).

For a non-UL trip (like car camping or white-water rafting), just repurpose a beater day pack or small crappy nylon duffle bag from a thrift store, cut a hole in the bottom, etc. Then it has carrying and hanging handles already on it and offers even more protection from plants thorns, rocks, etc. The bladders weigh so little, you could put several in one daypack / duffle in order to increase storage capacity or simply to have some redundancy. I've never had a leak in decades of using those bladders on the trail and in camp, but when everyone's water for a South Kaibab uphill in summer was in one container, it would make me a little nervous.

James Couch

Locale: Cascade Mountains
Re: Re: Wine Bladders on 10/18/2013 13:41:10 MDT Print View

Those bladders are amazingly tough. You used to be able to buy exactly what David is describing from outdoor retailers such as REI, a basic nylon bag with a handle for hanging. I personally never trusted the lid seal for packing, but used one for water in camp when cycle touring for years.

Hikin' Jim
(hikin_jim) - MLife

Locale: Orange County, CA, USA
Re: Re: Re: Wine Bladders on 10/18/2013 13:50:21 MDT Print View

David Thomas wrote: > wax-fueled cookers for Aleutian Islands with only jet service (can't transport petro-fuels, but no local supplies)
Now that sounds interesting. Got any photos? Maybe worth a separate thread? :)

Adventures In Stoving

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Re: Re: Re: Wine Bladders on 10/18/2013 15:07:43 MDT Print View

There's a BPL article about wax fueled stoves:

wax has about as good as energy per weight as other petroleum fuels like white gas or butane, better than alcohol or Esbit

you need the right amount of wick

it's rather sooty


I make firestarters with wax. Take one egg's worth of an egg carton. tear the edges down a bit because it doesn't have to be too big. Leave one corner long. Wrap the outside with aluminum foil. Shave in 1/4 ounce of wax. Put it in oven at lowest temperature like 170 F until it melts in a few minutes. Take out and let cool. Remove foil.

When you use it, tear off the long corner so there's a frayed edge, which makes it easier to light. I've used this to boil water, but I don't like the soot on the bottom of pan. This is sort of like Esbit. I think Esbit weighs a little more and the soot is toxic (maybe exhagerating about toxic).

Hikin' Jim
(hikin_jim) - MLife

Locale: Orange County, CA, USA
Wax Stoves on 10/18/2013 16:42:35 MDT Print View

Yeah, but that article as I recall pretty much concluded that they weren't very worthwhile.

Sounds like David has worked seomthing out that is worthwhile, yes?

Adventures In Stoving

And E
(LunchANDYnner) - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
care bear/iron man on 10/18/2013 16:52:47 MDT Print View

I leave my BD spot headlamp strap at home and use the strap on my hat for around camp and when hiking in the dark, I wear it on the sternum strap of my pack, like a care bear stare or Iron Man chest reactor/light.

This works much better than wearing it on my head as none of the light bleeds directly into my eyes and more of the trail directly at my feet and farther up ahead are illuminated. I can click adjust the angle as I go depending on if I'm going uphill, downhill, or want more illumination farther out.

Edited by LunchANDYnner on 10/18/2013 16:55:15 MDT.

Valerie E
(Wildtowner) - M

Locale: Grand Canyon State
What a Creative Idea for Headlamp! on 10/18/2013 17:00:34 MDT Print View

And E -- that's a great idea! I think I'm going to steal it... ;^)

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Wax burners on 10/18/2013 17:38:52 MDT Print View

Jerry and Jim:

I did take photos and recorded boil times and weights on my girl-scout-style spiraled-cardboard wax burner. My fuel efficiency wasn't as good as in that 2008 posting, (I got 16 grams fuel to boil 300 grams of water) but it was my first attempt in 45 years (since I accompanied my mother and sister on GS outings).

The 2008 article gave me good information about optimizing wick area (more than a candle, less than I had). There were dire reports of wax fumes, but I did my testing inside the garage, simply covering the burner with a can avoided excessive fumes.

To the 2008 article I would add: Don't buy wax at a candle shop, paraffin at the grocery store, or bee's wax at the hippie-dippie Organic Grain & Birkenstock Store. Good grief!!! Go to Goodwill and look for the 4-week-old, thrice-reduced items and buy a few one-pound candles for $0.25 each. Those BTUs are 1/12 to 1/40 the price of propane and butane canisters. Of course, the wax is "winter berry" scented and maroon in color, but WTF!

My first run used cut-down soup cans and tuna cans. I've got some cut-down aluminum soda cans set up for the next pour. Thick-wall steel to thin-wall aluminum makes a difference.

I also like the annular configurations discussed in that article. I have a few ideas along those lines, using vacuum-insulated coffee mugs as a source of leak-proof annular containers (micro-Bundt pans, if you will).

Yeah, I'll kick off a separate thread.

Edited by DavidinKenai on 10/18/2013 18:01:16 MDT.