This year weather was spot on (probably the best I’ve seen in Normandy), and we went from St Malo to Cherbourg. The pack done incredibly well. We covered around 300km, according to Marcel. Good food, good campsites, amazing beaches and views. Quality time together.
Sooo, I finally made probably the most advanced sewing project so far – Underquilt.
I went for quite simple design. The outer layer is slightly wider than inner and also just tiny bit longer. What that does in theory (and I think is logical) is keeping close inner layer of fabric to hammock, in the same time outer layer is kept by baffles in desired distance and as is wider that prevents squishing insulation (goose down in this case). The dimensions are based on assumption that underneath hammock the uderquilt will be “U” shaped. So below I took the picture of what I done on a paper.
Outer/inner Iayer is made of silnylon which sandwitched inside goose down. Baffles been made of untreated ripstop, which is like very fine mesh but less fiddly to work comparing with no-see-um mesh. For the edges (channels) I used grossgrain polyester ribbon 38mm. Plastic D-rings (10mm) on each corner. Suspension is made partially from bungee cord 3mm plus dyneema 2mm and two S-binners on each side.
The sewing is quite straight forward but laborious. I drawn lines on fabric (equal distance on inner fabric) sewn baffles to the inner. Then drawn lines on the other piece (spacing is not equal) and sewn baffles to outer shell. The baffles are made from ripstop as well buy untreated one (not waterproof) so the air is flowing freely. Next thing I’ve done I sew rolled hem on three edges leaving one end ready for filling.
Down filling. That’s when the fun begins (such a mess I can tell you). I found the cheapest down source as heavily reduced price down duvet (from £160 to £35). The bad side is I didn’t know filling power of the down, which is basically how many cubic inches down can fill from 1 ounce. As I didn’t know the filling power I calculated everything based on worst/best case scenario, translated it from cubic inches to metric (I’m metric person ;-)), checked, calculated again, measured and… wasn’t neither easy to weigh the down nor filling from the plastic bag which I used for weighing. So I’ve done simple thing. I watched to what level the down is filling first chamber, shook whole thing and filled rest of the chambers to the same level. I know, I know, some purists will probably moan at that point, but this way I probably saved at least an hour and a half. I probably quite overfilled the baffles, but I think that won’t be big problem, apart from overall weight and how packable it is.
Methodology of filling. Probably best option is go into (dried) bath attach the quilt by duck tape to a wall and start filling. Is easier to pickup later what fell off. I’ve done mistake doing it in living room, so you can imagine the mess ;-).
I finished the whole thing sewing grossgrain tape channels on all four edges, plus d rings in all four corners. Maybe is not lightest option but dyneema is gliding nicely inside grossgrain channels comparing with silnylon.
Suspension is very simple. Two pieces of dyneema going through two channels. The dyneema act like rails and is really easy to move whole underquilt up and down, so to lock it in place I added loops with prusik knots on each corner. Dyneema is attached to pieces of bungee cord 3mm (each side), on one side is going through cord lock, two S-binners on both sides. To tighten both ends underneath hammock I’m using 2mm bungee cord inside top/bottom channels and simply I tied knots to D-rings both sides.
Packing nicely same size as my sleeping bag, I didn’t weigh it but I guess is probably around 400g. I hung it yesterday in my garden, feel like is extremely cosy and warm.
DIY bonanza continues, and again I recreated (almost) Alpkit bags. This time I made Mk2 of the frame bag I’ve got already. The bag is proven to be probably the most useful piece of kit, mostly for storing hardware like tent poles/pegs, pump, puncture kit, battery pack etc. The only change I’ve done this time is additional hole for cable on the side. Construction is simple not to say primitive. Two side panels on the left hole for cable
(corresponding with same hole in top tube bag) on the left (always dismounting on the left side) is zipper, and there’s no point to split the bag so it’s one large compartment. Polyester webbing around and stitched in places (Alpkit idea) to create attachment points for Velcro straps.
Top bag is a similar construction: two side panels, zipper in the middle, cable hole on the right. On front and bottom is piece of webbing sewn same way as on frame bag, to provide “loops” for velcro straps.
Both bags are made of Cordura type fabric which is quite stiff and thick, and probably better choice will be some kind of reinforced polyester or something. The problem with Cordura is when you sewing thick material like that it is real pain to make all tight corners nicely, but I wanted to make it on cheap from the stuff I already got. Anyway bags came out as expected, and despite the fact I’m not happy with quality of my stitching they should do the job. Below short story in pictures.
I’ve decided to make my own “snack bag” for the bike, basically used the idea from Alpkit Stem Cell (with my own dimensions) and make my first piece of gear with liner. Didn’t go as I expected, so at the end I had to cut some corners. Normally the easiest way is to sew the liner and then sew it to the outer shell, but the position of stitching needs to be carefully thought through. I made mistake and some of the stitching are inside. Minor detail next time I’ll do it properly. All in all the bag is doing the job as you can see.
First time we went as a whole family, for a bike trip to France for 5 days. Despite keeping fingers crossed, weather was mixed, so we really had a chance to experience everything. Sat – dense fog, Sun,Mon – a bit windy but sunny mostly (we done two “stages”), Tue – bloody windy! plus heavy rain, Wed – relatively calm but low clouds with a bit of drizzle. Because of that, we tested all gear we had. Boys and my better half made absolutely brilliant, riding on Monday (fully loaded) 72km. Nice people met, 3 museums visited, couple of bottles emptied. Memories on SD cards, and more importantly, inside us.
It’s quite an old idea, not mine, you can google it or go here,here or here to see how other people doing it. Below my variation of same old trick. The biggest benefit IMHO is that the moisture is not building up inside air bed, and obviously is super quick. You can still splash £30 on Thermarest NeoAir Mini Pump if you like, but that’s couple bottles of wine or new Schwalbe Marathon (plus beer for fitting procedure), or 6 bags of coffee… all above better than another unnecessary gizmo.