Indoor Homemade Baby Swing

I’ve written a few times about the kid difficulty function and how having more kids is like scaling up a business. We make fewer mistakes as parents, hopefully, in theory, as the number of kids increases.

Another result of scaling up is that the oldest becomes the experimental child, potentially with more psychological issues than the youngest, but also more resilience. By number four I’ve finally perfected the baby swing. This contraption has progressed from a chest harness hung from a door knob, with our first kid, to a three-dimensional spring-loaded recliner, with our fourth.

More kids demands more parenting ingenuity.

homemade baby swing          Homemade baby swing

Sleeping Bag Liners: Layering at Night

homemade sleeping bag linerTurns out layering works with sleeping gear just as it does with t-shirts and jackets – the perfect warmth factor, maximum outdoor comfort, can be achieved by using different gradations of materials and thicknesses. The problem is, one good sleeping bag is hard enough and expensive enough to come by, let alone a variety of different lofts and temperature ratings. The solution – sleeping bag liners.

Liners quickly extend the season range of a sleeping bag, transforming summer bags into spring/fall bags, California 3-season bags into Minnesota ones. Add 2 liners to a 20° bag for warm cold-winter sleeping.

Sleeping bag liners range in price from about $20 to $80, in weight from 7 oz to 2 lbs, and some claim to add as much as 10° of warmth, depending on the material and thickness. Here are a few popular options:

Make/Model Material Weight Pack Size Avg Price
Cocoon coolmax Coolmax 11 oz 3.5” × 7” $40
Kelty 100 Fleece 1 lb 9 oz 7” × 14” $35
Sea to Summit Silk 7 oz 3” × 5.5” $65
Slumberjack Micro fleece 1 lb 1 oz 5” × 11” $65

Without insulation, i.e., with only a single layer of fabric, warmth depends mostly on weight – the heavier the fabric the warmer you’ll be. Higher prices come with the more comfortable or moisture-wicking fabrics.

The final option is to make your own liner, which is as easy as sewing two pieces of fabric together, since that’s all a liner is. The fleece liner above took 15 minutes, cost nothing (I reused an old blanket), fits well, and weighs 12 oz. I tested it out this weekend in the Sand Dunes State Forest.

A homemade liner is ideal for the youngsters, since cold-weather bags for kids are rare and kid-sized liners nonexistent.

Mess Kit for Kids

kids mess kitWith a big year of camping ahead of us we’re trying to gather up some of the essential personal gear for our kids. The mess kit has a simple purpose, to get food from point A (the cookware) to point B (the mouth). We’re keeping it simple and affordable: two pieces, no moving parts, under 2$.

When I say mess kit, I’m referring only to the personal pieces, not the skillet, kettle, or espresso machine. In the minimalist, recyclist motif, ours consists of old plastic-ware and the skeleton of an infant/toddler fork.

mess kit for kidsA sierra mug is my plate/cup/bowl of choice, followed closely by the iconic blue enameled mug, aka hobo cup. Both cost around 5$ and are nearly indestructible, but the metal will get too hot for kids to handle. Instead, durable plastic is best, e.g., old tupperware or plates with monkey faces on them.

The only downside to the fork is it’s not a spork, otherwise it includes multiple clipping/lashing points, it rivals the ultralight utensils in weight (0.7 oz), and it destroys them in price (plastic utensils cost around 3$, titanium 9$). The steps are simple. If you want a full metal handle, find a fork or spoon with two pieces of plastic on the handle, like in the picture above. Then, hack the plastic off with a sharp knife. For utensils with a single molded piece of plastic, as in the pic below, you can drill a hole in the end for cords and carabiners.

kids mess kit        kids mess kit