Tuesday, 31 August 2010

S.o.t.D. – Free (Deep House Mix) – Jill Scott

Guaranteed to lift your mood.

S.o.t.D. – Microscopic – Gas

Microscopic – Gas

Spacey, trippy, ambient goodness

S.o.t.D. – Cosmic Disco – Derrick Carter

The first part of a mix CD that came with MixMag back in 97. I put this up for Jedi Knight’s Big Knockers by the very multifaceted team of Mark Pritchard and Tom Middleton.
That relentless beat, the perfect tempo of it, with just the right number of bee pee ems - creamy! I wish it went on for much longer.

S.o.t.D. – Yugen – Ochre

Yugen – Ochre

S.o.t.D. – Rama Communication – State of Bengal

Rama Communication – State of Bengal

S.o.t.D. – Stoek – Yimino

Stoek – Yimino

Odd, glitchy beginning that then segues into a really atmospheric toe tapper.

S.o.t.D. – Manhattan Spiritual – Reg Owen Orchestra

An oldie, (from the late 50’s), but a goldie

S.o.t.D. – I Gave You Everything – Swarms

I only discovered this act a few days ago and I’m really digging them.

S.o.t.D. – Say It Right (Swarms Dubstep Remix) – Nelly Furtado

I can’t say I ever pay much attention to what is popular in the world of music, so I wasn’t even that familiar with this track. The original is actually pretty good, and I almost wish they had superimposed this remix over the video, cause she looks pretty good in it.

S.o.t.D. – Rare and Plentiful – Tipper

Another slice of atmospheric wondrousness from Tipper.

Monday, 30 August 2010



This is the first of several components that are meant to accompany the EscapePod™.

I’ve been using hydration bladders for a whole bunch of years. A few different brands. They all have their pros and cons. Just like water bladders in general. Personally I like that they allow me to carry a good sized supply of water. While carrying all that weight isn’t so fun, this time of year I drink a lot of water. Not to mention that sources of potable water are often quite a distance apart, even here where I live. Streams that flowed like a torrent in spring or fall, are sometimes a barely there trickle in summer. Being able to stock up is good. Having that hose right near my face, means I’ll probably drink more water over the course of a day. Also good. The strikes against them are that they can be a bit finicky. Refilling them can sometimes be a real nuisance. In winter that tube has a tendency to freeze up, but that can be overcome to a degree by blowing into the tube to push all the water back into the bladder itself. Another downside is that it’s often hard to gauge how much is left in the bladder. With a bottle that is in your hand when you’re drinking from it, it’s much easier to tell if you need to stock up on water. The Platypus bladders I had were a real pain since any sort of inadvertent pressure against the bite valve would cause water to come gushing out. If my pack toppled over and I didn’t notice it right away, a lot of water could leak out. The CamelBaks I have now have a shutoff valve that remedies that, but of course, you still have to make sure you actually engage that shutoff valve for it to work.

My big issue with them is invariably how to carry them. I’ve tried carrying them on my back, under a pack. That lasted a minute or two. Many packs have a pocket or area to put the bladder, inside the pack. That keeps all that weight near the back. That’s nice, but it take up a considerable amount of room in the pack, and having to refill that thing is always a real challenge. When you’re at home and you put the bladder in, and pack everything around it - great. Trying to wrestle a full 3 liter water bladder back into a full pack - yeah right. Having to half unpack your bag at a creekside, and prevent a bunch of stuff sacks from getting coated in muck or not roll down the embankment into the creek - uh, no. Not to mention, after having a bladder leak inside a pack, I’m still always a bit leery about it. Everything in my pack is in waterproof bags, but it’s still always in the back of my mind.

Carrying them on the back of a pack puts a lot of weight further from your center of gravity. Carrying them on the side of a pack works a bit better, but the load needs to be balanced. 3 liters of water on one side and nothing to counter balance that weight on the other side is noticeable. 

The other issue for me is that when I head off on a day trip, I then need to remove it from my main pack and find some way to integrate it onto a day pack set up. Preferably with as little futzing and fidgeting as possible.

I got an Emdom H2O Carrier. While it is a very nicely thought out and well constructed piece of gear, it’s just way too much for me. The basic idea was sound, so I decided to use it as a starting point to design something that would better suit me.
The front. I built this thing with three layers. An outer layer of 1000D Cordura, a middle layer of insulation (Radiantex. I got it for making cozies. There might be something better for hydration bladders, but it’s what I had), and an inner layer of 420D packcloth. I wanted to avoid as much as possible sewing through all three layers, so everything was sewn to the outer layer of Cordura, then the other two layers were added to form a sandwich if you will.
Inside of the back.
Outside of the back.
The elastic covering over the tube hole was sewn through the outer layer of Cordura, but the edge binding tape surrounding it was sewn through all layers.
Putting binding tape around the outside edge of something is tough enough, but around the inside edge of something is a real challenge. Brutal.
The center divider panel. I cut a hole through all three layers...
...and put a metal grommet on it. I usually button hole my drain holes, but opted to use a metal grommet for the first time. I’ve used grommet presses in sign shops before and they do a nice job of flanging the other side. All I had was a little grommet setter, a base and a die you tap with a mallet and it doesn’t do nearly as nice a job. Essentially splits it into several pieces and then very crudely bends them back. Oh well, it works and since it’s on the inside anyway....
Then I carefully sewed a piece of webbing over it, on the four corners, onto the outer layer of Cordura.
The zipper was sewn in between two pieces of 1½" webbing. 
I opted to take a piece of Cordura, double it and sew it over one of the pieces of webbing to form a protective flap over the zipper.
The two center portions attached and sewn to the back.
Double checking to see that all my measuring panned out properly. And it did. A full 3 liter CamelBak fit perfectly. The dimensions of it are 43 cm (17") high, 15 cm (6") wide, and 7½ cm (3") deep.
And that’s it completed. I opted to only put a tube hole on one side since I knew I would always carry it on the right side.

I also put two ladder locks on the bottom of the front since I was afraid that the weight of all that water might tend to pull it downwards. Or that as the water is drunk from the bladder, the connector straps which would have been tight when full, would then become quite slack, causing it to slide down. The idea was that I might put two straps on the right side of the EscapePod and run them through the ladder locks to act as a sling, should that prove to be the case. I need to get some time in with this thing to see how necessary that actually is.
And there it is attached to the EscapePod.

Mounted to the EscapePod™. You can see what I mean by the Slurp’mups sliding down a bit when the amount of water in it decreases and the tension of the straps consequently loosens.
This is it attached to the side of the Kifaru Express. Gotta remember to add a third female buckle.

Very happy with the way it turned out. 

I debated whether to add a means of wearing this separately with some backpack straps. I opted not to, but I’m still wondering whether I should have. Like the EscapePod, I will likely make more than one of these. One with lighter material, make some little tweaks here and there, etc. Maybe I’ll add that option then.

And it weighs  almost 200 grams less than the Emdom model it replaced.

Oh yeah, and I sewed the whole thing by hand. :-)

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Friendly Feline

I’ve seen this kitten around the neighbourhood a few times lately. Skinny little thing, but very friendly.
It’s cute and all, but let me just take a Bob Barker moment, and say that I hope whoever this cat belongs to take the time to get it a tag and give it all of its shots and have it fixed.

Sunday, 22 August 2010


I like the idea of a small pack on a larger pack I can just grab and head off with. Be it having to go for help because someone is hurt, be it getting out of the canoe to go and explore an area, be it hiking to a spot where I’ll set up a base camp and heading out from there to go and explore. Whatever the reasoning, if I have to be away from my main pack, I will want to have insulation, protection from the elements, some food, first aid gear, water, maybe a few other odds and ends. 

I talked here about my Kifaru E&E pack.
(I like it but....not sure that it really suits me perfectly. That typical Kifaru build quality means that it weighs about 900 grams, it’s only about three inches deep, which limits what can be put on the sides, and it’s meant to be carried on the back of a pack, which means the weight carried ends up being further out from the center of gravity.)

And here about the SOTech Go Bag.
(Wasn’t thrilled about the build quality, didn’t like how it carried, bit too big for what I had in mind for it.)

While out hiking I have time to think and dream and devise. I thought up a long, narrow pack, essentially a long box, carried under the top lid rather than attached to the back, and very simple, nothing fancy or elaborate, much lighter than the E&E.
I knew that I would want to be able to carry both water and a first aid kit as well. But I didn’t want to put those two items in the pack, but rather have them as separate components on the outside of the small pack. (You can see the two items a little further down in this post.) I took a different approach to attaching them. Rather than the usual PALS matrix, I chose to put tabs on the sides that I could use as attachment points. I call this Thomas’ Attachable Bag System, or TABS for short.
The dimensions of it are 15 cm (6") wide by 15 cm (6") deep by 40½ cm (16") high.
To make life a bit easier for myself I used some Emdom H2O Shoulder Straps I had. I wish they were a bit more contoured, but they’re nice despite that minor quibble and until I get around to  making my own straps, they will do just fine.
On the bottom I put a drain hole which was then covered by a piece of 2" webbing stitched at the corners. Lets water drain out if it should ever get in, but acts as a barrier to stem crud and critters from getting in.

I also put four tabs on the bottom with the idea that if, I should ever need to increase the volume I could attach a small Kifaru Pod to it.
I replaced the sternum strap that came with the Emdom shoulder straps with an ITW-Nexus WhistleLoc.
The shoulder straps attach at the top through tri-glides.
At the bottom of the straps the metal bar slider slips through a metal loop.

I thought of several different ways to close the top. A zipper going around the body, over the top of the body, two zippers down the sides like the SOTech Go Bag, even a roll top closure. In the end I opted for a flap and buckle closure. I have the sneaky suspicion that I will make more than one of these, simply to try out a few different approaches. 

Underneath the flap I put a drawstring closure, made of lighter 420 denier packcloth, rather than the 1000 denier Cordura of the main body.
I did a rough calculation of the volume by taking the height and width and depth and multiplying them together, and I ended up with a bit over 9 liters. Using a more sophisticated formula of circumference being width plus depth times 2, divided by π, divide that sum by 2, which equals the radius. Then take π, multiply that by radius squared times height. Which got me a volume of about 11½ liters. A far more accurate means of measuring a packs volume is to fill it with small beans or rice and measuring that in graduated measuring vessels. I’ll try and get around to that, but in the meantime that gives me a decent ball park figure of how much it holds. 
I wanted to put a small pouch down inside it, to hold small item. Water purification tablets, cord, tinder, lighter, that sort of thing. Stuff like that is easy to lose when yanking everything out of the pack, so I would rather keep it contained in something. I was going to make a small pouch, but I had this laying around. (Can’t for the life of me even remember how I got it.) Purple hemp, nice embroidery pattern, perfect size. May make something else, but...this works. I just sewed two tabs along the back, and with a Siamese Slik-Clip, it attaches to two tabs on the inside back of the pack.
Here it is side by side with the afore-mentioned E&E. They’re roughly about the same size, just different dimensions, and the Escape’mups is less than half the weight of the E&E.
Here it is worn. For reference, I’m 2 meters (6'7"), 108 kilograms (238 pounds).

Very happy with the way it turned out. Couple of very minor points that aren’t perfect, (the way the lid closes at the back, and I probably should have put a loop on either side of the bottom strap attachment point, rather than the one) but they’re not a deal breaker. Like I mentioned earlier, this is possibly the first of two or three iterations. I’d like to make this out of still lighter material, and maybe get some DriLex to put along the back, try a different closure, etc. Another aspect of it is that this is the first of what will end up being four components. How the other three interact with this component, may also dictate some changes. While the ideas are fully realized in my head and on paper, the proof is in the pudding. Ideas that seem plausible in theory, may not work out perfectly in practice, and may require some further tweaks or changes.

I’ve been wandering around with this on my back for a week, and so far it has proven to be very comfy to wear. 
Oh, and wait for it, the whole thing was sewn by hand. :-)
Hey! Where is that little brat going with my pack?!

(Originally I had called it the EscapePod. The name comes from watching Clone Wars with my nephew.
“That’s a pretty cool ship.”
“Nah, not really. It doesn’t have hyper drive, or blasters, or any escape pods.”
EscapePod. That’s it! The main pack is the MotherShip, and if I have to leave it, I take the EscapePod. Brilliant!
Star Wars. Inspiring on so many levels.)
Here is the Escape’mups with two Kifaru LongPockets, docked and locked to the side.
Here it is mounted with the Ouch’mups docked and locked to the face, and a Kifaru small Pod mounted to the bottom.
It was ultimately designed to be accompanied by several other purpose built components. The Escape’mups, Slurp’mups, and Ouch’mups all together.
The fact that the Slurp’mups is an inch longer than the other two items bothers me a little. Not that much, but somehow the aesthetics of it are off a bit. Kind of silly, since this is ultimately meant to be a functional item, so how it looks is rather irrelevant, but I think the next iteration I may make the Escape’mups and the Ouch’mups an inch longer as well.
This is it clipped to the bottom of the Kifaru Express.