MYOG No. 7 – Flat tarp 2 person ultralight

Spacious 2 person tarp on the Loowit Trail
Spacious 2 person tarp on the Loowit Trail

GEAR: Flat 2-person ultralight tarp

WEIGHT: 10 ounces including 10 titanium stakes

DIMENSIONS: 9′ x 10.5′

COST TO MAKE: $210 (shared components with solo tarp poncho)

USE: As an ultralight 2 person shelter in dry to mild conditions

WILL I USE IT?: Yep. I have and I will continue to use it

I love my solo tarp-poncho, but what about when I want to camp with my man? That’s what this amazing, insanely light 2 person tarp is for! It’s simple, easy, versatile, super ultra light weight and compact. It weighs a measley 10 oz included stakes and guy lines.

Interior shot
Interior shot

I designed and constructed the flat tarp with 0.34 oz/sqyd Cuben Fiber (tarp body), single sided cuben fiber tape and double sided cuben fiber tape (reinforcement), 1.43 oz/sqyd Cuben Fiber adhesive material (tie outs), D-rings and mittenhooks (removable tie out hardwear), zline 1.25 mm spectra cord and micro line loc guy line adjusters (guy lines), single sided cuben fiber tape and double sided cuben fiber tape (reinforcement), and titanium ultralight tent stakes. I was able to reuse the guy line components I constructed for my solo tarp poncho.

Smooth setup
Smooth setup

I cut the cuben to length and attached the two pieces together lengthwise using double sided cuben tape and stitching with polyester thread for strength, then added single sided cuben tape for waterproofing.

I designed the tie outs for maximum strength. The tie outs were cut by hand with rounded edges to minimize strain. The tarp corner is sandwiched between two offset layers of cuben on either side. Tie outs are reinforced with polyester stitching. I incorporated D-rings for guy line removability. Guy lines clip to D rings on tie outs with mitten hooks.

How does it compare to commercially available gear? Zpacks sells rectangular tarps comparable in size for $255-$275 ($50-$65 more than it cost to make this one), although the tarps available are in a thicker 0.5 oz/sqyd cuben fiber.

The tarp in all her glory
The tarp in all her glory

How does it perform? Great!

Jared and I have used the tarp on the Wonderland Trail around Mt Rainier and on the Loowit Trail around Mt St Helens. The tarp has yet to experience rain, thanks to the dry Northwest weather. But so far it’s a success! It is incredibly spacious and more than roomy enough for the two of us and our gear. It gives us shelter when we need some buffering from the elements (we’re certain an elk came into our camp one night, but thanks to the tarp it did not stomp on us) and could be used in drizzly conditions.

MYOG No. 5 – Cuben Fiber Roll Top Dry Bag

GEAR: Cuben Fiber Roll Top Dry Bag

WEIGHT: 0.7 ounces

DIMENSIONS: 10″ x 24″ pseudo envelope

COST TO MAKE: ~$15

BEST USE: Sleeping bag waterproof stuff sack

WILL I USE IT?: I use it all the time

Bottom
Bottom

Want the most ultralight gear possible? Yes please. Shave a few grams by switching out the silnylon compression sack for a waterproof roll top cuben fiber dry bag? Why not? Keep my bag extra dry with another layer of waterproofing? Sure! I made a few pieces of gear in preparation for the rainy thru-hike that is the VT Long Trail and this is one of them.

IMG_8517
Bag with roll top closure

The dry bag is made using 1.0 oz/sqyd cuben fiber, single sided cuben fiber tape (waterproofing), and one 1/2″ side release buckle. I sewed the fabric into a tube shape, sewed the middle of the bottom together, then sewed and cut the corners to create a bottom to the bag so that it has more shape than an envelope. I added reinforcement stitching so the bag can withstand the pressure of my sleeping bag trying to burst it open, and added single sided cuben tape for extra waterproofing/seam taping. The roll top closure holds shape by folding the top edge over and with an extra piece of folded over cuben fiber. The buckle is attached and sewn to the bag top.

Side reinforcement stitching
Side reinforcement stitching

Does it work? Yes! It fits my feathered friends egret 20 down bag perfectly. I’ve used it over 50 days of compression and going strong.

MYOG No.4 – Cuben Fiber eVent Rain Mitts

GEAR: Cuben Fiber eVent Rain Mitts

WEIGHT: 0.55 ounces

DIMENSIONS: perfectly sized to fit my hands

COST TO MAKE: ~$15 ($30-$50 savings)

USE: Over mitts for use in the rain to keep my hands dry and warm

WILL I USE IT?: Yes. I have used them and will continue to use them.

Getting ready to hike the Long Trail in Vermont means getting ready for rain. Vermont is often called Vermud, and you can’t have mud without water. And this means rain. I hiked the LT in June-July of 2015. It was the rainiest June on record in Vermont. I was happy to have my tarp/poncho, but also my rain mitts.

Rain mitts
Rain mitts

With extra Cuben Fiber-eVent laying around, making rain overmitts was an obvious choice.

The mitts were made using 1.62 oz/sqyd “Challenger” Waterproof Breathable Cuben Fiber-eVent material, 1mm polyester cord for the drawcords, and tiny cord locks. Comparable products on the market include: ZPacks Challenger Rain Mitts $65, MLD eVent Rain Mitts $45.

Glove top
Glove top

I made the pattern by tracing my hand and enlarging that shape. A few test mitts were taped together simply with paper and one test round was produced with a Tyvek medium. Each glove is made simply from three pieces of fabric – the top front, bottom front, and back – each with portions of the thumb. I cut each piece from the eVent material which I then sewed together with polyester thread, and seam sealed the interior seams with single sided cuben tape. Draw cords channels were sewn in and draw cord was fed through and cinched with a cord lock.

Glove bottom
Glove bottom

How do they hold up? Pretty great. I first used them on a blustery day on Mount Washington in Washington. The mitts kept my hands – as predicted – dry and warm! I was surprised to learn that with the right touch I can somehow even use the camera on my phone in the rain – through the rain mitts, my eCase, and etip gloves. Excellent for taking pictures in the rain but not having to take off the gloves and get my gloves or hands wet. I have also used them on rainy Vermont hikes. They keep my hands and liner gloves dry.  A production success.

First ultralight gear made: dry bag!

Ultralight cuben fiber dry sack!
Ultralight cuben fiber dry sack weighing in at a teeny weeny 10 grams

Gear: 8-Liter 0.33 oz/sqyd Cuben Fiber Roll-Top Dry Sack.

Weight: 10 grams.

Dimensions: 10″ x 20″

Cost to make: $10. Comparable retail cost: $20-$30. Savings: about $10-$20 (100-200%)

Use: Dry bag for quilt, clothes, or small sleeping bag.

Will I use it?: Yes, as soon as I make myself a quilt! Right now my sleeping bag is too big to fit inside…

Taped seams
Taped seams

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, this post is about gear making (Aka MYOG, or Make Your Own Gear). I confess – I haven’t been in the mountains much lately. Instead of hitting the hills, I’ve been climbing indoors at Vertical World, running (including a hilly 5k in Interlaken Park), and making gear for my next adventure! Yes, I’ve officially caught the ultralight bug.

This is my first piece of ultralight gear – a Cuben fiber roll-top dry sack with the lightest possible cuben fiber out there (at 0.33 oz/sqyd).

So what is cuben fiber? It’s an amazing super light fabric used in ultralight gear making, among other things. “Cuben Fiber is a high-performance, non-woven, rip-stop, composite laminate developed in the 1990s by a nuclear weapons physicist and an aerospace composite engineer.  Originally designed for use in world-class sailing, it is ideal for certain applications in lightweight and ultralight outdoor gear due to its unmatched strength-to-weight ratio”, according to lightweight gear makers at Hyperlight Mountain Gear. “Technically speaking, Cuben fiber is a laminated fabric made using patented technologies with unidirectional prepregnated tapes of in-line plasma treated fibers that are spread into mono-filament level films.  In more simple terms, Cuben fiber is made by sandwiching Spectra or Dyneema polyethylene fiber filaments a thousandth of an inch thick, in various arrangements between thin outer layers of polyester film.  The “sandwich” is then melded together in a high-pressure autoclave. Cuben fiber is lightweight, highly durable, and is 50-70% lighter than Kevlar, four times stronger than Kevlar, and allows flex without losing strength.  It is also less than half the weight of silnylon, has low specific gravity (floats on water), high chemical resistance, excellent UV resistance and is 100% waterproof.”

Square sewn and taped bottom construction
Square sewn and taped bottom construction

In short – ultralight, ultra strong, and waterproof. Perfect for tents, tarps, dry bags, stuff sacks, etc. It comes in weights ranging from 0.33 oz/sqyd-1.43 oz/sqyd plus as a hybrid with other materials.

This dry bag is constructed with the lightest possible cuben – 0.33 oz/sqyd. Most of the seams are taped with double sided cuben tape. I folded the bottom and sewed the corners in order to get a box like shape, then taped the outside with single sided cuben tape for waterproofing. The top edge is reinforced with more 0.33 oz/sqyd cuben rolled/folded over, then taped with single sided cuben tape on which a buckle is attached for closure.

It works well and will hold a small quilt. Because it is so likely to puncture, I consider it highly water resistant as opposed to fully waterproof. In fact, upon testing (filling with water!), there were a few teeny tiny holes through which water seeped over time. It should function well inside a pack in rainy conditions, but probably not fully submerged in a river (which I don’t intend to do).

So overall – first ultralight gear making was a success! Next on the horizon: tiny bug mesh tent, tyvek ground cloth with toe splash guard, 2 person tarp, and tarp/poncho…

Success
Success