Gear Review: High Density Polyethylene Rain Cover Carry All

The rain cover carry all in action, protecting my backpack from road spray after a mildly wet rain. Base model comes with 3D integrated handles. Bluetooth optional.

Today I’m stoked off the charts to review what has become a key element in my gear arsenal, the high density polyethylene, multi-purpose, rain cover carry all.

It is lightweight, reversible, foldable, reusable, and hypoallergenic. Six gold stars and three thumbs way, way up for this revolutionary product.

Shown here in standard top-down mode, optimized for traditional, vertically descending precipitate. Note the reinforced seams and high-definition OmniShield™ finish.

Maximal Versatility

Designed with the on-the-go metro multi-tasker in mind, some verified uses include:

  • Rain protection – cover your books, bags, monocle, mustache hair, etc.
  • Carrying things – insert things and carry

And the list goes on. The things it can cover or carry are truly limitless. For the animal lover, be confident in picking up:

  • Dog poop
  • Cat poop
  • Any species of poop, really
  • The dead possum that the kids found down by the creek
Easily compresses into compact travel mode, making it perfect for people with tight pants.

The shod of feet will enjoy these added benefits:

  • Quarantine your muddy loafers when in transport
  • Wear between socks and shoes for emergency winter warmth

Dare I say that this staple resource rivals duct tape in versatility and potential for extremely satisfying feats of ingenuity.

Only 2 Cents

Single-use plastic grocery sacks cost stores around 2 cents each. For only 2 cents, they save us the immense trouble of having to either

  • carry our purchases in our hands like some kind of animal,
  • install an oil well in the backyard, refine the crude into molten plastic, and engineer a manufacturing system so as to create our own bags on demand, or
  • fashion another cargo device out of scrap wood, cardboard, mustache hair, or the bags we got last time we went shopping.

With stores willing to defray the upfront cost, and the environment willing to absorb the unseen impact of humans producing and then disposing of over 500 million bags per year, its no wonder that we as consumers prefer to take a new bag rather than inconvenience ourselves with the forethought of bringing our own.

Our Legacy of Plastic

An empty plastic bag bounces down the highway like an urban tumbleweed before snagging on a haggard oleander bush. It flaps there in the breeze for the remainder of its 180,000 days of life on earth, content in having successfully accomplished its single-use, but restless with a feeling deep inside that it is capable of so much more.

The ephemeral plastic bag will outlive us all, a lasting emblem of our obsession with convenience.

We can do better, people. Let’s consider the true cost of convenience. Let’s acknowledge that the single-use lifestyle, though efficient in the short-term, is unsustainable and irresponsible in the long-term. Plastic is not our legacy.

Let’s give our high density polyethylene a second chance at life. Let’s reuse the environmentally subsidized plastic we’ve already created. Then, let’s say no to both paper and plastic. If we forget to bring our own portable carrying technology, we take the shopping cart to the trunk of our motorized carrying technology and we transfer our mostly unneeded purchases by hand. In the time it takes to complete the task, we don’t see any plastic bags blowing across the parking lot. Our legacy will be actual tumbleweeds.

DIY Basement Rock Climbing Wall: On Belay!

diy-indoor-climbing-wall-1

Over the past two years we’ve slowly transformed our basement into a miniature American Ninja Warrior training course. The climbing wall, inspired by the rock climbing bunk bed, is the highlight. It gets the most use, as the kids can easily set their own routes and practice “lead climbing.”

With its modular board panels, this wall is lighter, more versatile, and more attractive, or less unattractive, than the traditional plywood job, but it’s not quite as strong.

The holds are DIY chunks of scrap pine, and some cement composite jugs, a sampling of Bolt on Climbing Holds courtesy of Rocky Mountain Climbing Gear.

Detailed instructions are coming soon. For now, here’s the gist.

  1. Measure out your space, and do the math. Ours is 8 feet wide, taking up most of the wall vertically, with a roughly 8 foot ceiling.
  2. Mark your studs, and hang 2 by 4s using 5/16 by 3 inch lag screws, countersunk at least one per vertical foot.
  3. Cut all your boards to length. Ours are 1 by 10 pine. After a year, they’re still intact, but with some minor splitting. Harder wood is ideal.
  4. Mark your 2 by 4 spacing on the boards, so you aren’t trying to hang holds over them.
  5. Mark and drill your t-nut holes. Ours are spaced at 16 inches, and staggered by board. So, the top board is 16 starting at inch 4, and the next is 16 starting at inch 20, etc. These shifted slightly to avoid the 2 by 4s.
  6. Plug in the t-nuts, and hang your boards with four 2 inch screws at each 2 by 4.
  7. Climb on!

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

DIY Jean and Fleece Chalk Bag for Rock Climbing

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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.”

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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.

Homemade Sleeping Bag for Kids

homemade kids sleeping bagWarm, backpack-worthy sleeping bags for young kids are hard to come by. They’re either designed for youth, much larger and heavier than necessary, or they’re designed for slumber parties, more to showcase the latest superhero or princess than to keep warm. The ideal solution would be to tailor a bag from scratch, but a simpler, cheaper option is to repurpose an adult bag.

Materials

  1. Sleeping bag – The shape and type aren’t important, as long as you can hack it open and fit the layers back under the sewing machine needle. Winter bags may be too thick. A mummy bag is fine, but a rectangular one can be rearranged into two cozy kid bags.
  2. Scissors – sharp ones, maybe kitchen shears, as you’ll be chopping through some thick insulation.
  3. Sewing essentials – A sewing machine, regular thread, and familiarity with doing a basic stitch. I’m a novice and the hardest part for me was spooling the thread. From there you’ll only need three long seams to complete the first bag.
  4. Embellishments – Drawstrings, velcro straps, and cinching straps are optional.

Instructions

  1. homemade kids sleeping bagMeasuring – I started with a double hand-me-down rectangular adult bag, measuring 72 × 32 inches, about 16 longer and 16 wider than necessary. My five-yr-old son is 42 inches tall and 12 wide at the shoulders. His new bag tapers from 23 inches at the head to 15 at the foot, with a length of 58 inches. These cuts left plenty of material for a bag for my three-yr-old daughter, who is 36 inches tall and 10 at the shoulders.
  2. Cutting – The more loft the more difficult it will be to cut. Ours had only an inch and a half of loft per side, so the cutting went quickly. Once the shapes are cut, you may need to remove half an inch from the edges of the insulation all around so there’s enough fabric to sew the layers back together. If you’re only making a single bag it makes sense to reuse the original zipper and opening at the head, making your cut from the foot, zipper side, across and then up to the head.
  3. homemade kids sleeping bag    homemade kids sleeping bag

  4. Sewing – First, I sewed each layer back together, starting at the foot. Next, I sewed the two layers together, inside out.
  5. Zipping – The first recycled bag is much easier than the second, since you get to reuse the original zipper. The only snag is creating a new zipper-stop, which will keep the slider from flying off at the bottom, and keep the zipped portion from unzipping itself. A few options are to get a zipper kit, reattach the original zipper-stop, or sew the zipper together at the bottom.
  6. homemade kids sleeping bag    homemade kids sleeping bag

Wrap-up

Making your own bag becomes less practical as kids get older. Synthetic 20° sleeping bags range in price from $70 to $100 (e.g., North Face – Tigger, Mountain Hardwear – Mountain Goat, ALPS – Desert Pine) and they typically fit up to 60 inches while still being as light or lighter than a homemade version. Plus, they have new, lofty fill, as opposed to matted, second-hand insulation. They’ll be warmer, they’ll last longer, and you won’t have to do any sewing.

homemade sleeping bag packedBut, for kids under, say, 45 inches, maybe 2 to 5 years old, a tailored sleeping bag is ideal. My son’s weighs 2.4 lbs, down from 5.5, and packs to 11 × 5 inches. My daughter’s weighs 1.5 lbs and packs to 9 × 5 inches. They’re small and light enough for the kids to carry themselves, and the snug size also means there’s less empty space taking away body heat on cool nights.