Friday, May 27, 2016

DIY Gear ~ Gaiter Prototype

I've been working on creating dirt gaiters for out hiking trip, using fabric from my old swimming suits. I initially started with this pattern, with some modifications, like fold-over elastic and gaiter hooks. They came out waaaay too huge (maybe because the well-worn lycra is extra stretchy?), so I cut them down until they fit my shoes and ankles.

I took them for a test drive this weekend, but I didn't go far because I had an injured foot (don't worry--minor puncture wound from walking around the woods in sandals--it's getting better now), but the gaiters were already starting to ride up a bit. So I looked online, to see how Dirty Girl, the primary mini gaiter seller, handles the problem and saw that they use velcro to anchor the back of the gaiter to the shoe. I've added a couple strips to mine and will give them another test run this weekend.

Why, you may ask, don't I just buy Dirty Girl gaiters and be done with it--after all, sewing lycra without serger is a giant pain in the neck and DGs are only $20 a pair. Well, $20 x 5 people is $100, which seems like a lot for just keeping pebbles out of your shoes: I've shelled out maybe $15 altogether for the FOE, gaiter hooks, and some grosgrain ribbon. Also, I've been saving my old workout suits for years, and I was excited to find a good use to put them to. And, once I get something stuck in my craw--like the idea of whipping up my own gaiters--I just can't seem to let it go.

Hopefully they'll prove successful this weekend and I'll find time to whip out four more pairs before the end of June!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Wild Wednesday ~ Mid-May

I am a summer girl, for sure, but I'm loving watching spring unfold this year. I feel as if every year, the more I know, the more I notice--like the way new balsam fir needles spring forth like little pom-poms.

For years, each fall, I saw the bright red berries of red baneberry (Actaea rubra), but only noticed the flowers last spring.

The incredible sunny (very un-May-like) weather we've been having has brought out the painted turtles. There were at least thirteen on a log in our pond Saturday. I love watching the way one will jockey for a better position, knocking another off, who will then swim around and scrabble onto another part of the log. A pretty good life.

What's wild in your neck of the woods this week?

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

CT Gear Post #1 ~ My Clothes

My MO for getting together gear for our upcoming hiking trip is to get the weight of the stuff we're going to take down as low as possible without breaking the bank. You could easily outfit yourself with the highest-tech lightweight gear for a few thousand dollars. Multiply that by five people and we'd be saving up for this trip until we are old and gray and unable to hike anymore. That's not the way I want to go, so I've been looking for ways to lighten up and minimize on a budget. I've been thinking about gear for this trip for a long time, so I had a pretty good mental list of what I wanted to take. As I've started acquiring those items, I first look in my closet, then at discount stores (both real shops, like T.J. Max and our local staple Reny's, and online outlets like Sierra Trading Post and Campmor; I include Target and Goodwill in this category, too). From there I check outlet stores (living near Freeport makes this easy). Oh, yes, and for a few things I made them myself. Only then do I search out items at the gear retailers like REI. I've managed to put together a set of clothes I'm pleased with for not a lot of money this way.

These clothes I'll wear:

And here are the details about them. I don't have a digital scale yet, so weights are rounded to the nearest ounce:

Item Brand Ounces Source / Notes
Shirt Eddie Bauer
Closet. I bought this shirt last summer at Reny’s, so it doesn’t quite count as new. I like the long length and the soft finish of the fabric.
Socks Smart Wool
LL Bean Outlet. They have “irregular” SmartWool socks for about 1/3 the price of regular. I haven’t noticed anything wrong with them.
Skirt Purple Rain
Purple Rain Skirts. I bought this skirt last summer on a whim, and I LOVE it. So comfortable (yoga waistband!!). I tried it out on a couple of day hikes and am excited to wear it all summer.
Hat Kavu
Closet. I’ve had this hat for years. It doesn’t have vented mesh sides, but I wear it all the time and it hasn’t cooked my brains yet.
Bra Champion
Closet. Originally from Target. I’m excited to not wear a real bra all summer long!
Underwear Champion
Target. I know these look sized to fit a four-year-old, but they’re super comfy and stretchy.

And these are the clothes I'll pack:

Item Brand Ounces Source / Notes
Bug/ Sun Shirt Patagonia
Closet / Patagonia outlet. I was kind of undecided about whether this shirt would be worth the weight, and then I got sunburned on my forearms at baseball last weekend and decided that it is.
Rain Coat White Sierra
Closet / Sierra Trading Post. I got this rain coat a couple of years ago when I realized my old one no longer kept out the water. It’s pretty cheap and the sleeves aren’t quite long enough, but it’s light.
Extra Socks (2) ??
Closet / Target. I know a lot of people don’t believe in extra socks while hiking, but I like to have one pair on my feet, one drying after a wash, and one ready to go. At 1/2 ounce each, I think it’s worth it.
Extra Undies (2) Champion
Target. See above
Down Coat Patagonia
Closet / Patagonia outlet. This has been my down coat for several years. I finally upgraded to something warmer/ less stained last winter. It’s my heaviest clothing item, but when I compared it to a fleece, it only weighed one ounce more.
Beanie Hat DIY
Made a bunch of these earlier this year.
Neck Warmer Eddie Bauer
Eddie Bauer Outlet. A cheaper version of the Buff.
Gloves ??
Reny’s. These are those one-size-fits-all jobbies that cost about $1.99.
Wind Pants DIY
I used wind pants from Goodwill rather than rain pants on our first CT hike, and they worked out fine, even though it was a really rainy summer. I was planning to do the same, when I remembered that I had these home made wind pants that weighed a few ounces less than the ones I got at the thrift store. They’re a little snug through the hips (ahem), but I hope a couple of weeks on the trail will take care of that.
Silk Turtleneck LL Bean
Closet / Sierra Trading Post. I’ve had this thing since college. I at first planned to wear a polypro shirt (which might be the one I took on our first CT hike), but it weighed a whopping 6 ounces. I considered buying something new, but decided to check my drawers and found this turtleneck. 
Hankie Gap
Closet. Pretty sure I’ve owned this since high school and it came on our first CT hike. 
Microfleece Leggings Jockey
TJ Maxx. I got these for like 12 bucks this past winter and love them. I finally had to hide them in the closet so I wouldn’t wear them out before the trail. Just to compare, I also weighed a pair of regular long johns and they weighed more than the fleece!
Trekking Umbrella euroSCHRIM
Campmor. Used this last summer and loved it!

Sorry the table font is so small! Shoes are not yet on this list, because I haven't gotten them yet, and neither are dirt gaiters, which I'll talk about next week. I wrote more about the trekking umbrella, which I love, here. I haven't kept exact records, but if I include everything I've bought in the last two years, I think I've spent less than $200 on my entire clothing budget (the most expensive item being the Purple Rain Skirt, which I might not have bought if I'd waited till this summer, so I'm glad I didn't!!).

All of my carried clothing weighs just over three pounds and the worn items are less than a pound. My goal is a base weight of 10 pounds or less, so we'll see how everything else adds up!

After I got all my items sorted and weighed, I had a little fun cutting off tags and annoying and unnecessary velcro tabs. All together they didn't even vibrate the needle on the scale, but I felt pretty hard core doing it.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Birthday Week Success

We survived another Birthday Season (aka, Second Christmas).

We took E and Z out for Mexican food on Tuesday night (their actual birthday), where they got sombreros and a very gringo birthday song to go with their fried ice cream and sopapillas.

Wednesday and Thursday were just normal days (i.e. baseball games).  And then Friday, M's birthday, we had grandparents over for pizza and ice cream (M requested Ben and Jerry's and no cake. Easy peasy). After the grands left and the brothers went to bed, M and I watched The Terminator, as a kind of rite of passage. I've been so excited to watch that movie with him. Now I can't wait to see #2 and 3.

Then Saturday more baseball and Sunday E and Z's party. I told them I would bake a cake and get ice cream, but that they were in charge of the activities. They had seven friends over and there was a lot of running around outside. They wanted to have a Nerf gun battle, which I tried to divert into a squirt gun battle (i.e., outside). The squirt guns didn't get much use, but the Nerf war started close enough to the end of the party that it was over before anything broke. E wanted to have blackberry vanilla cake, and I found a recipe online that uses blackberry jam (of course I can't find it now, but I see several dozen other blackberry jam bundt cakes, and now I want to try them all). The frosting is jam + powdered sugar...brilliant and easy and delicious and I'll never try to fold berries into buttercream again. There wasn't even an iota of objection to it being purple.

I found that I took Birthday Season much more in stride than I used to. In years past, it was cause of month's-long stress and anxiety. I guess I've calmed down over the years. Or lowered my expectations. Or maybe it comes of having kids old enough to write and distribute their own invitations and organize the party activities without me having to be cruise director. I think 11 is going to be a good year (and 15, too, of course).

Friday, May 20, 2016


So, nothing much going on today, you know, other than my baby turning fif-freakin-teen. Seriously, how does this happen?

To continue with this week's theme, I've included a photo from his first camping trip--we hiked him in to Chimney Pond in Baxter State Park when he was three months old. It was his first-ever backpacking trip, and also the last one any of us took until our return to Baxter 13 years later. All of the photos from the trip are terrible because, to save weight, we bought one of those crappy disposable cameras, which is proof in itself that this child is old, old, old.

His reaction to this summer's trip is "I'm going to miss the whole summer!" and "You better never make me do anything again." He's also dismayed by the number of grooming products he'll have to leave behind. I think he'll have fun, though. He really enjoyed that trip to Baxter when he was a baby--kicking on the Thermarest, listening to moose browse outside our lean-to all night, squishing into my sleeping bag with me. He's going to have to sleep in his own sleeping bag this time around, though.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

DIY Gear ~ Sleeping Quilts

Over the weekend, I finished sleeping quilts for E and Z for this summer's Colorado Trail hike.

The idea behind the sleeping quilt is that it's lighter than a sleeping bag, allows for ventilation, so you don't sweat and then get cold during the night, and you don't lie on top of any of the insulation, smashing it down. I made one for myself last summer and tested it out on our two-week Colorado camping trip. It worked really well, mostly. The two drawbacks were that there's nothing between you and your sleeping mat, so if it's too warm to wear sleeping clothes with long sleeves and legs, you stick to the mat, which is not that pleasant. Also, I was cold when we camped at Sand Dunes, where it got down to the 30s at night.

I'm a little nervous about being cold on our trip, and even more nervous about our kids being cold. Lightweight backpacking philosophy is to have a lighter bag and wear your warm layers while you sleep. I hope that works. Ray Jardine, the godfather of lightweight backpacking and the manufacturer of these sleep quilt kits, claims to have used this same bag on a trip across Antarctica, should be warm enough. Just to be on the safe side, I added a layer of insulation that I had cut off the make the bag the right length to the torso area of E and Z's bags.

The quilts are not difficult to make, just fussy. And I don't do that well with fussy. Making them does give me a great appreciation for the workers in sweatshops who manufacture our clothes and gear. Now I just have two more to make and the countdown is on!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Wild Wednesday ~ Woodland Flowers

We didn't go hiking this weekend--E and Z requested a break from hiking on their birthday weekend--and, truthfully, though Saturday's weather was gorgeous, it was kind of nice to hang at home (until Sunday afternoon, when those same birthday boys convinced their parents to take them to the movies). We did, however, get out in our own woods. Saturday morning I had a great bird walk, with sightings of a yellow warbler, black-and-white warbler, ovenbird, black-throated green warbler, yellow-bellied sapsucker, and an immature bald eagle. The birds Sunday morning were more reserved, but later in the day I got a great, naked-eye view of a rose-breasted grossbeak.

And the woodland flowers are starting to come in bloom. I've been seeing red trillium and trout lily along the trail I walk when E and Z have baseball practice, but we don't have any of either of those flowers growing in our woods (not that I've found so far), so this weekend was really the first of the woodland flowers for us.

Not too far down our trail, I spied this Jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphullum), a flower I just love for its exotic shape. It's the first one I've seen this year.

We also have two different violets growing in the woods, which I will someday key out.

Right beside the river, I spied this little white flower growing, which I thought on first glance was a wild strawberry. But on closer inspection, I saw it was something else, which I'm pretty sure is wood anemone (Anemone quinquefolia). It's always a surprise and delight to discover new (to me) flowers growing on our little patch of earth.

Trees are starting to flower now, too. The plum in our yard is snowy with blossoms and buzzing with early bees. And along the edges of the woods, common shadbush, or serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea), one of the earliest flowering trees, are in bloom (though fading fast).

The cherries are getting close to ready to flower (I think these are black cherry, Prunus serotina, but I'll have to double-check that).

And not nearly flowering, but pretty with its deeply parallel-veined leaves is the alternate-leaved dogwood.

Finally, not a flower at all, but a different sort of natural beauty, I found the picked-clean skull and jaw of a rodent carcass I had seen here sometime during the winter (I thought I'd shared a picture of it, but I don't see it when I scroll back through my archives). Good to know that the nutrients are getting cycled back into the woods. One of these days, if I remember to, I'll take my skull identification materials with me on a hike and see if I can figure out what the unfortunate animal was (I suspect maybe chipmunk; it seemed too big for a mouse or vole).

What's wild in your neck of the woods this week?


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...