I've mentioned the possibility of a trip in a couple of earlier posts. At last things seem to be converging on a concrete plan. I'll be joining three friends on a multi-day trip (five nights) through Rondane National Park in Norway. The only thing that remains undecided is the precise date as the boys continue to juggle priorities and commitments to make a big enough hole in the diaries but it will be one of two weekends in early July. I can't tell you how excited I am (well they don't let me out very often)!
For a while there it looked like my first opportunity for a big outing would be September but the July suggestion came out of the blue. July suddenly seems very close at hand. Between now and then I have a family break on Texel and a business trip to London. Along with the day-in-day-out of work and two kids finding time to make arrangements and prepare kit will be a challenge.
Kit lists and routes will follow soon. I say "kit lists"because there will certainly be more than one. Rondane is for me an unknown (advice is welcome!) and I have a lot of new, untested gear that won't get a real run out before July but which is nevertheless going to be hard to leave behind.
I found time this week to knock up a first prototype for the internal encasement. This I made using a cheap and nasty closed-cell foam sleeping mat costing €2.50 from the local D.I.Y store. The first change I made to the design was to dispense with the Duct Tape used in the first example. Duct Tape weighs around 0.15g/cm (I can hardly believe I just typed those words. Looking at it written down it sounds like one of those thoughts that should better be left unsaid!). For the construction I first put to paper this would ammount to 30g of tape to hold 30g of foam together. Seeing an opportunity to halve the weight of the inner I experimented with glue. I know from past experience (don't ask) that anaerobic Cyanoacrylate (super glue to you and I) works well with foam matting. after a little fooling around I found a way of making neat mitred corners by scoring two shallow lines with a sharp craft knife, peeling out the strip of foam between the lines, squeezing a glue line into the groove and folding to form the corner:
With three such joints and a butt-joint the construction of a rectangular cross section tube was soon realised:
Three mitred joints and one butt joint make the basic shape of the inner.
One end was then closed off by butting a rectangle against it and placing a smaller, tight fitting rectangle on the inside face of the base to create a double thickness.
The base was butted against the tube and a second layer added on the inside face.
Since I want a top-loader I had then to create some internal structure to support the camera body leaving the lens suspended in the bag. I made two, double layer verticals, beefing up the top edge by wrapping one layer around the other (the picture does the job better than this description honestly):
Supports with a "beefed-up" top edge were made as shown above. The example shown would be glued to the side wall of the tube. The other would be free standing and consequently the spacer layer was extended to the full length of the first to provide greater stiffness.
The verticals were then glued into place in the box. They act as supports and create two separate compartments:
Image showing the two vertical supports glued into place.
I then constructed a tight fitting hinged lid and the resulting encasement ended up as shown in the next image:
The completed closed-cell foam encasement.
On balance I'm pleased with the result. The integrity of the joints is good. The construction feels robust enough for its purpose (it will not carry any load, that's left to the bag and webbing), it's cheap and the whole thing weighs just 30g. Most importantly I can put one together in half an hour. That means I can make several for different gear selections and can tinker with the designs until I find what works best. This first example almost certainly won't be the final design. With my E400, 14-42mm lens, 25mm fixed focus pancake lens and a couple of filters and media cards there's a lot of space over. I'm also not convinced that the lid, in its current form, will work in combination with a roll-top dry bag. I think it may get in the way when trying to access the camera through the open top of the dry bag.
Still, the most efficient way to improve the design will be to live with this one until I've identified all the glitches. Before I can do that I need to source a suitable dry bag and devise the strapping. When I next make any progress, you'll be the first to know.
Not surprisingly I eagerly await each new issue and when it arrives, read it cover to cover, forwards and backwards, until it's dogeared and coffee-stained. The anticipation is amplified by the fact that my overseas sub is unpredictable. Occasionally I receive my copy just after they appear on the shelves in the UK. At other times the content has been the subject of forum and blog for so long that I've virtually read the issue before it hits my doormat. Its not unusual to get two issues within a week of each other.
The May issue was very late. There's not much point in blogging opinion of much of the content. Others have already done so, and better than I can: Andy Howel has already expressed my sentiments regarding the Jeffrey Archer interview and an inspirational piece by Chris Townsend on his love of backpacking. Although Eddy Meecham's piece explaining is ultralight philosophy and his intention to extend it into his everyday life has also received much attention I would still like to add something here.
In his May article, Eddy has provided me with real food for tought (a four course meal, coffee and mints!). He refers to a lively exchange on the TGO forum which centred on the rights and wrongs of going without map and compass. He expresses an opinion that the action of leaving map and compass behind is an embodiment of his ultra-light philosophy since it entails pushing the boundaries of skill and physiology. His comments land close to home. I was personally involved in the debate and expressed a strong belief that navigational aids and the ability to use them effectively are essential for any trip into wild country. They should never be left at home right? But wait a minute is that just what I was taught all those years ago? Perhaps there are circumstances under which it is acceptable to travel without navigational aids?
On balance, after long hours of self-searching, I still insist that it is not sensible to leave map and compass (or GPS/satmap) at home. My personal assessment of the risk associated with wilderness travel dictates that I will always have basic navigational aids to hand. For me it remains non-negotiable. However, the Forum debate and Eddy's article are two fine examples of what I consider to be the best of TGO. The magazine, it's writers and readers continue to challenge me, to make me re-consider opinions long since fossilised and to reassess. In some small way TGO is, perhaps, helping me to be a better person? It is at least, almost certainly, helping me to be a better backpacker.
I wish Eddy all the best in his future life as a 24/7 Ultralighter, long may he inspire thoughtful debate.