09 Jan

Gear Review: Ohyo, The Collapsabottle

ohyo_collapsible_bottle

A few weeks ago, the lovely chaps at UK-based Ohyo sent me their 500ml and 1000ml collapsible water bottles to try out. The liter version hasn’t made it across the pond yet, but the 500ml is available on Amazon.

This is my first review of gear I didn’t pay for, so I want to clarify that I’m going to be as merciless as possible with this, and with future reviews.

That said, the Ohyo “collapsabottle” is pretty cool. The smaller and larger versions scrunch down to about 1 and 2 inches tall, and only weigh a few ounces when empty. In that way, they’re sort of like reusable disposable bottles. Here’s my take after two weeks of guzzling.

The Cons

A few limitations of the aquaccordions:

  1. The straw on 500ml is tiny, and there’s no pressure release. This is great if you’re rationing water, or if you’re a rabbit. Otherwise it can prolong thirstiness. The 1000ml version with the flip top is better suited for humans, but it’s not yet for sale in the US.
  2. The scrunchy parts are prone to staying wet, and they’ll probably start growing algae if you aren’t diligent when drying. Most water bottles acquire a funky flavor with time, but these may quickly turn into collapsible fish tanks. Which is a brilliant business idea. You’re welcome.
  3. It does not produce a folky sound when squeezed, so it’s useless at a Polka dance, except for drinking from.

The Pros

Here are some scenarios where I see the Ohyo being useful:

  1. Ultralight backpacking, though it doesn’t double as a stove or pocketknife, which serious ultralighters may scoff at.
  2. Freezing conditions, for example, to stock an ice-chest or when winter camping, which is not unheard of. Experience shows that solid bottles will crack when frozen.
  3. Flying, or when you’re otherwise pressed for space.

freezing ohyo collapsible water bottle

I’ve run three simple tests on these squeeze bottles. First, I filled and froze them both outside overnight. The low was -2°F. After thawing they bounced right back to life. Next, I dishwashed them on the bottom rack, and then tasted for plasticity and soapiness. Nothing but water. Finally, I sent them to school with my kids. Keep in mind, kids backpacks are hazardous environments, where only the strongest survive. Both bottles emerged unharmed.

Conclusions

The Ohyos are sturdy and functional, plus they look cool and they’re a little less expensive than the other crushable bottles on the market.

Currently, you’ll only find them on Amazon.

02 Jan

DIY Modular Rock Climbing Bunk Bed Fort

diy modular rock climbing bunk bed fort

Bed time just got more exciting and a little dangerous for my boys. I made them a rock climbing bunk bed fort to replace the nonexistent beds they’ve been sleeping in for two years.

My plans were inspired by these from woodgears.ca and these from Ana White. The main difference in mine is the fort paneling which supports climbing holds. The typical ladder, for wimpy kids, is replaced by bouldering problems.

Below are my rough plans and a few pictures for each step. Until I receive thousands of emails requesting more details, I’ll leave it at this.

The Plans

There’s not much to it. The frame consists of

  • 2 by 4s at the posts and for some of the rail pieces and panel support
  • 2 by 6s for the four mattress side rails and the four mattress headboard rails
  • 1 by 3s for slats and 2 by 2s screwed to the side rails to support the slats
  • 1 by 6s for paneling

These are mostly connected by hex bolts, with 2 and 3 inch screws here and there.

diy modular rock climbing bunk bed fort

One side has paneling screwed to the rails, which are connected vertically by 2 by 4s. The other side consists only of the two 2 by 6 rails that support the mattresses, and an extra 2 by 4 rail for the top bed.

The head and foot are identical, except for the filler pieces that go above and below the side rails making all the posts two 2 by 4s thick. These filler pieces are on the left of one end and the right of the other.

Finally, I made a detachable paneled piece that can bolt on to either end, or just roam free as a separate bouldering section.

diy modular rock climbing bunk bed fort

The Sides

Here I’ve pocked hole jigged the frame for the side that will be paneled.

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The frame is finished and I’ve started screwing on the 1 by 6 panels from the back.

diy modular rock climbing bunk bed fort

Here’s the rock climbing side, with panels and support pieces for the slats.

diy modular rock climbing bunk bed fort

The other, non-climbing side of the bed is just the 2 by 6 rails for the bottom and top, each with slat support, and an extra 2 by 4 rail for the top to keep the mattress in.

diy modular rock climbing bunk bed fort

The Ends

The ends are 2 by 4s and 2 by 6s butted up against the 2 by 4s that make up half of the posts.

diy modular rock climbing bunk bed fort

Here are the two sides, side by side. The inside posts, with the gapped pieces, are the ones that take the non-climbing side rails. The climbing side is then bolted to the other posts. It rests on those bits of 2 by 4 at the bottom.

diy modular rock climbing bunk bed fort

Finally, the extra paneled end piece. Those are 2 by 2s attached across the back. They slide just over the rails on the side you want to attach to, and two separate 2 by 4s then bolt through the rails into this paneled piece.

diy modular rock climbing bunk bed fort

diy modular rock climbing bunk bed fort

diy modular rock climbing bunk bed fort

Assembly

The bed assembles with a few dozen hex bolts. I countersunk the bolts and the nuts and washers on the inside with a spade drill bit.

diy modular rock climbing bunk bed fort

diy modular rock climbing bunk bed fort

diy modular rock climbing bunk bed fort

Last of all are the climbing holds. I carved these out of the left over pine, and bolted them in with t-nuts. More on this later.

diy wood rock climbing hold

diy modular rock climbing bunk bed fort

22 Dec

DIY Jean and Fleece Chalk Bag for Rock Climbing

20140926_124812

This year Lincoln got its first climbing gym at the University of Nebraska outdoor rec center. It’s a short approach from my office on campus, about a carabiner’s throw away, so I sneak over two or three times a week to crux it up.

I’m still a noob when it comes to the jargon, though I’ve been rock climbing off and on for about ten years. My DIY chalk bag gives me some much needed crag cred. I’m obviously not a flat-lander or a belay slave. No way. This DIY bag surrounds me in a dusty cloud of climbing potential and legitimacy. It says, “I rock climb so much that I can’t afford a store-bought bag. Also, I have a sewing machine.”

20141010_113509

This 30-minute project only took me 4 hours! It was grueling, like a pitch full of tiny crimpers. But I’m pretty stoked by the final product. I incorporated elements from sewing plans on this blog, this instructable, and this site.

My chalk bag is about 7″ tall and 6″ diameter across the bottom. I’m making smaller ones for the kids, since they’ve been stealing mine and bathing in it before every climb like its pixie dust. Theirs are roughly 5″ tall and 4″ diameter.

In parting, here are some climbing terms to master, from climbing.com:

Bucket or Jug
The most secure of handholds; a hold so deep, incut, and big it’s like grabbing a lithic bucket lip.
Usage: Gimme buckets and gimme jugs, cuz Daddy’s so pumped he needs a hug!
Crimp
A small edge upon which you crimp your fingers, i.e. bend your digits to exert pressure on the knuckles, bringing your thumb against your index finger to close the grip.
Variant: Any small edge is a crimper, while a crimp-intensive climb is crimpy.
Crux
A route or problem’s most difficult passage or sequence. To crux doesn’t always mean to reach a route’s crux, but instead to redline anywhere on a climb.
Usage: Rachel is cruxing hard on Los Dynos del Muerte, and she isn’t even at the crux. Stand by for a takefest.
Pump
That tight, weak, swollen feeling in the forearms that comes, while climbing, from the accumulation of lactic acid combined with restricted blood flow. It’s much easier to get pumped than to de-pump. Also, as a verb, to sag to a straight-armed position and then cock to initiate a dyno or deadpoint.
Usage: I have the perma-pump; no matter how long I rest, I’m totally flamed out 15 feet up.
16 Dec

The Sounds of Duck Hunting

camping with the kids at wildwood nebraska

I wrote a few days ago about our recent overnighter at Wildwood, a small lake north of Lincoln, Nebraska, nestled between fields of corn and soybean. I mentioned there that our sleepless morning was interrupted by spurts of shotgun fire. But I forgot to describe the source of the shooting.

I didn’t actually see them until sunrise, but their commotion in the quiet morning air gave the duck hunters away.

If you’re too busy too duck hunt, you’re too busy.
Jase, Duck Dynasty

It was long before dawn when I awoke to gravel crunching in the parking lot, first under rolling truck tires, then under shuffling boots. I checked my cell phone for the time. It was 4:30 AM, about two hours before a Nebraska hunter could legally open fire.

Gray limestone gravel paves all the roads and parking lots in my camping memories. Those small chalky rocks, with random angles but uniform size, create a sort of man-made welcome mat on mother nature’s vast front step. Reflecting on all our family trips as a kid, dusty gravel was always first to greet me as I jumped out of the truck. The sound and texture of it are subtle but distinctive and unique to that point where driving ends and a campout begins.

As the waterfowlers unloaded their truck beds, oblivious to me and my eavesdropping, I heard the unnatural clatter of their most essential trapping, the flock of decoys. Dozens of hollow-bodied, featherless, plastic ducks, who would be carefully placed to create the illusion of a safe and inviting stretch of lake-shore property.

Until this point, the sounds of the setup were mostly quiet and cautious. I heard some rustling in the bushes and grasses, and soft splashing as the hunters waded out and distributed their bait in the most effective pattern they could think of. I could picture them pausing in the cloudy moonlight, to imagine how the scene would appear to their prey. Maybe the decoys would seem too eager, or too exclusive, as the ducks flew past in search of friends.

Eventually, with the stage set, the splashing stopped, and the waiting began. The hunters were clearing the air. At some point I fell back asleep.

sunrise at wildwood lake

At 5:30 AM, the decoys came to life. I’ve never heard such a lively group of ducks. Their quacking seemed forced, as if someone were squeezing it out of them against their will. It was awkward. No real duck could have the lungs to maintain such a consistent, rhythmic squawk.

And yet, apparently, the hunters found something to shoot at. The shooting was almost as relentless as their calling. Blam, blam, blam, …, blam, blam, blam, blam, blam! Then, more calling. Squawk, squawk, squawk, squawk, …, squawk, squawk, squawk, …, squawk, squawk! Over an over, back and forth.

The kids, exhausted from a late the night by the fire, slept through it all. But I was wide awake. As I stretched out in my down sleeping bag, I thought about the ducks. I wished they could be taken more elegantly, with less squawking and blasting. And I hoped the hunters were grateful for their kill.

Hunting presents a difficult contrast for me: you take an animal’s life to, hopefully, sustain your own. I first confronted this contradiction while bow hunting last fall, when I shot my first buck. My heart was pounding and my eyes were damp as I let my arrow fly, an arrow that would stop his heart from beating and his eyes from seeing. As someone with only a small and superficial connection with the earth, it was both exhilarating and terrifying to end the life of a creature that is one with the earth, a creature that spends all of his existence with it and in it. I’ve never felt so close to and so far from the natural world at the same time.

These thoughts and feelings came back to me as I listened to the duck hunt. And I realized that the sounds of a hunt can be beautiful or disgusting, depending on the attitude and reverence of the hunter.

13 Dec

Camping With the Kids at Wildwood Lake, Nebraska

camping with the kids at wildwood nebraska

Last weekend I took the kids camping at Wildwood, a small reservoir just north of Lincoln, near Branched Oak. This was my first overnighter alone with the full crew. Five kids, no mommy.

I’m not going to lie, camping with kids is stressful and exhausting. Half of the time I’m stoking a fire or prepping a meal. The other half I’m helping an unhappy camper, wiping tears, warming fingers, zipping, buttoning, or tying. But camp we must.

camping with the kids at wildwood nebraska

The earth is a part of me, and I want it to be a part of my kids. I want fresh dirt in their pores and fresh air in their lungs. I want the open spaces to inspire them, the unexplored shadows and hilltops, the depths and ledges, to challenge them.

I want them to experience what would happen if. Break a stick just to hear it crack. Splash a pond to see the ripples. Dig, build, break, throw, run, jump, climb, spin, taste, just because. See what happens.

All good things are wild and free
Henry David Thoreau

There’s no other time or place when kids can so much be kids. When they’re outdoors, unleashed and unrestrained, there are few limits they don’t create. As a result, they get to experience all of themselves. And I love to watch them grow as the discovery unfolds.

camping with the kids at wildwood nebraska

Anyway, here’s a quick summary of our night at Wildwood: eating, crying, eating, crying, storytelling, sleeping, waking to drunk people yelling and breaking things, sleeping, waking to shotgun fire, sleeping, shotgun fire, etc., eating, hiking, cleaning up after drunk people.

The shotgun fire came from some very excited duck hunters.

The crying came from our 18-month-old on her first campout without mom.

camping with the kids at wildwood nebraska

camping with the kids at wildwood nebraska

camping with the kids at wildwood nebraska