Monday, 18 October 2010

Make your own Down Balaclava

This little article should help along on your way to making yourself a down balaclava to keep your head warm, especially if you’re using a quilt or hoodless sleeping bag.

To start with you will need a pattern. There are several available across the net but the one I chose to use was this one provided by Jan Rezac at ( Thanks Jan for putting that in the public domain!!!
I enlarged the pattern to 66.7% and printed out the different sections, glued them together, and then cut out the pattern. The centre strip is 5 inches wide. I then glued another piece of paper to the bottom of the pattern and measured down 3 inches to make the point for the front and back. I then arched from the points to the base of the original pattern for a snug fit over the shoulders. The back could have been maybe ½ to 1 inch shorter with the front ½ inch longer for a better fit. Notice also how the point for the back is measured from the middle of the centre strip.

So once you’ve got your pattern sorted cut out the material. Be sure that you flip the pattern over when marking the second to give you opposites. Mark the baffle spacing from the pattern at the same time, my preference is to use tailors chalk.

Sew one side to the centre strip so that the raw edge will be inside the hood. Basically place the visible side of one piece against the visible side of the other.
Repeat for the other side.

I use a flat felled seam to add strength but it is probably not necessary. To sew the seam fold the raw edges over and sew them down.
Repeat the whole process for the other side of the hood.

You should now have two hoods ready for the baffles. Cut your baffles to the desired height for the loft you are aiming for, allowing for seam allowances. My baffles were 2 inches, this would give me baffles of 1.5 inches once ½ inch was used in seam allowance. I was aiming for a slightly puffy look. I used some mesh I had that is not extremely delicate. If using lightweight mesh then I advise folding it over itself before sewing on.

Place the edge of the mesh against the bottom baffle line on the hood. Sew using the line as a ¼ inch seam mark. Repeat for the remaining baffles.

Now repeat the same process to attach the two hoods together. As you progress up the hood, sewing on the baffles, it will come together.

Now turn the raw edges of the hood into itself a ¼ inch or slightly more and pin the pieces together as you go. This should ‘seal’ the hood. Leave areas undone on one side at the end of each baffle to allow for stuffing.

At this point you should also pin in a flap to one side of the hood neck to be used for closure. Alternatively you can extend the pattern at the neck area by 3 inches on one side (this will need to be done on both inner and outer pieces) or 1½ inches on all pieces. I will probably do the latter on the next one I make.
Stuff the hood and pin shut.

Sew around the whole of the hood using a ¼ inch seam allowance. Now repeat splitting the difference between the stitching and the edge of the material.
You should now have a sealed hood!

Adding the drawstring sleeve:
Cut a piece of material to the required length (add ½ inch) by 2 inches wide.
Fold over the top and bottom edges ¼ inch and sew to give two finished edges.
On the inside of the hood align the edge of the material with the edge of the face part of the hood and pin on.
Sew together with ¼ inch seam.
Fold the unsewn edge over ¼ inch and then pin to the other side of the hood. This should hide the raw edge inside the tube. Sew together.
Run a cord through the tube and add cord locks!

I leave the closure type to you, buttons, Velcro, whatever takes your fancy. I used three pieces of Velcro sewn on length ways to allow some adjustability in tightness.
You can also add in a loop of thin webbing or material at each of the bottom points during the pinning together face. You can use these to run cord through to go under your arms to keep the hood from shifting in the night.
Enjoy your hood and leave a pic here or somewhere I lurk as a thank you if can. Ask questions whenever you get stuck and I’ll try to answer them.
Rob (Still sleeping cold in 2 foot of down in the middle of the sun)

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Gelert Solo

This little tent has been reviewed one or two other places but I wanted to add my thoughts on it as I’ve picked up on one or two things others didn’t. Also I’m 6’2” so most people would say that I’m too large for the Solo, but am I? Well read on.

First off I wouldn’t call this a tent in the traditional sense; it’s definitely a bivvy tent. The lack of headroom, storage space and overall size definitely keep it out the tent category for me. However, that doesn’t mean I hate the Solo. Actually I think it’s a cracking little gem for the price. I paid £20 incl shipping from Amazon. So a real bargain!

This review is based on the tent being up in the garden for 6 days and 5 nights. There was quite a lot of rain over the last three of those days. I slept in the Solo for the final night it was up. That night there was a shower and the low was around 3 to 5C. I’m going to be using it for 3 day/2 night trip in late May so I’ll add a bit more after then.

What’s in the bag

Well you get an inner, outer, fibeglass poles, steel pegs, and a repair kit. The specs state the tent is 1.5 kgs, well not mine. The weight of the whole kit with all bags included was 1.720kgs. Individually with no bags they were: inner 553 grams, outer 440 grams, 16 pegs 330 grams, poles 298 grams, repair kit 35 grams. So my inner, outer, pegs, and poles come to 1.621 kgs. I weighed it post pitching so maybe I picked up some dirt or a lot of bugs.

The Inner and Sleeping

The inner is pitched first and the poles are inserted through a sleeve on the top and then clipped on the sides. It’s widely known that the poles are subject to breaking and I think it’s a twofold design problem. The poles are rather thin fibreglass but also the measurements are probably slightly on the tight side for the pole length. When pitching the foot end I felt I had to really push on the pole to get it to bend enough to fit in the footing strap. If the sleeve was slightly higher/wider it possible would make it easier without sagging the inner. If I keep the tent I most likely will buy an aluminium pole set.

The inner is a combination of no see um mesh and black mesh. I think this was a good idea or else it would have felt very enclosed with the outer on if it would have been all no see um mesh. There is a pocket on the side but no loop at the top for a light. The two pictures should give you an idea of the space with the roll mat out. It’s 180cms long.

Well at 6’2” I would say that I am definitely on the large size for the Solo. The top and bottom of the inner both angle down and this could leave you feeling very cramped if you were any taller. When lying on my side (how I sleep the most) or on my stomach there’s no problem. It’s when I’m on my back that my feet press against the inner. As you can see in the photo the inner comes down and then slopes sharply away. It means that when my feet are sticking up they press some against the upper part of the inner. At the top the sloping inner just misses my head unless I push right up.

When sleeping in it I didn’t feel especially cramped. It’s basically like sleeping in an airy bivvy bag I guess. You can sit up slightly but no chance of getting upright. The most annoying aspect of the tightness is when you need something near the bottom end. That’s one of the times when you really notice the small size.

The inner is where you most noticed it was an inexpensive tent in terms of quality. There are some threads that haven’t been trimmed and some of the stitching needed a little more care. As the picture left shows the seam is starting to move due to being to stressed. Moving the peg points didn’t seem to remove the pressure so I’ll have another look next time it’s up. I suspect it is pressure from the poles.

The Outer, Storage and Cooking

The Solo is inner pitching first and then the outer is placed over and pegged and guyed down. It attaches to the poles simply by tying on the straps shown in the picture above. There are vent holes at both ends that are covered by flaps with guy lines attached. Someone said they had water blow in through them but I had no problems.

The outer is rated at 1500mm and I had no water come through whilst it was up and there was some good, sustained rain during that time. I seam sealed it the day it went up so I’m not sure about the seam sealing as sold. When I woke up after the night in it there was some condensation. It was the standard haze that I would expect on any tent. The sort that if you run your finger across it will turn into a bead. There is good separation between the inner and outer so it shouldn’t be a problem.

I did get some water leak in through the groundsheet, also 1500mm. It was only a small spot and the ground was rather sodden under the tent. I've had a further look at it and the water entered through the seam in the groundsheet. It would appear that they removed a line of stitching as it was in the wrong place. I've seam sealed it and will tape it as well but again it shows the lack of quality control.

The door rolls up and makes getting in and out easy. Well as easy as can be. You have to sort of lie back and slide or roll in. There’s not much gear space and the rucksack in the picture is a 35L. The best place for it would be on the non door side as shown.

It’s roughly 15 inches from the inner to the bottom of the zip of the door on the outer. The boots hopefully give some idea of space.

You would have to be a brave, or insane, person to cook with the door closed. So my solution was a spare tent pole and guy line to prop the door up. A walking pole would serve the same purpose. Some rain still blew in whilst cooking through the gap. If out camping properly I would use a rain cape over the gap to give some more shelter. As you would have guessed any cooking is done lying down.

Overall Thoughts

The longer camping trip will make my mind up whether I keep the tent or not. From my one night in it I’m sure I wouldn’t want to use it on an extended trip, especially if it rained a lot. I like to sit up in the morning and stretch. You just can’t do that in the Solo.

It’s a great tent for the price but you get what you don’t pay for. Some quality control is lacking and space is limited. In short if you can cope with small spaces and you don’t have much cash then buy it. Just be prepared to either make some upgrades and changes eventually or start saving for the replacement. Which might be a Hike-Lite, if you can still find one.