Category Archives: DIY

Quick, Cheap and Easy, otherwise known as, How I Like my Gear Repair!

100% Silicon

100% pure clear silicon

Odorless Mineral Spirits

1 Gallon Odorless Mineral Spirits

A couple of years ago I salvaged a bunch of nylon tents and tarps that were going in a dumpster because they were not selling at the scout shop garage sale.  Some of this stuff was 20 to 30 years old and had been in storage at the scout shop for decades and they were clearing space.  I showed up an hour before they closed up on the last day of the “Garage Sale”, and I picked out 2 tarps and 1 tent.  But the fellow running the sale knew me and told me, grab as much of the nylon stuff as you want because it’s all going in the dumpster.   So I sorted through and found another half dozen old green dining fly’s, 5 or 6 old tends and two what I thought were rainfly’s but turned out to be Kelty Noah’s tarp diamond flys.   I was excited.  Until I started using it and most of it was so old it was not even roughly water resistant.  (About as waterproof as a coffee filter).   A couple of the tents turned out to be in decent shape, but the 6 tarps and the 2 Kelty’s were only good for sunshades.

 

I’ve meant to try out the re-silicone-waterproofing process on these but just never got around to it.  Well, I finally decided to try it.   Picked up a gallon of odorless mineral spirits $12.49, a 5-gallon pail $2.89 and a 12 oz tube of clear silicon caulk $3.99.

Mixed

Notice the mixture is perfectly clear, not white or opaque.

I’ve read of this technique with people using a 10 to 1 mixture of spirits and silicon up to a 15 to 1 mixture.   The 15 to 1 is the “Weakest” lowest mixture recommended to get full coverage.   10 to 1 is the maximum.  (too much and you get lots of silicon excess on the tarp which doesn’t hurt it, but can be a little streaky and may make the tarp stick to itself if it gets hot in a car trunk or something.  As it turns out the gallon is a 126 oz of mineral spirits, and the 12 oz tube so I decided to not bother measuring it. This ends up about a 10.5 to 1 ratio.  So a little on the heavy side as you can tell by the small amount of streaking I got on the dining fly.

Hung to dry

The two Kelty’s Noah’s Tarps and the rain-fly hung to dry.

I observed a fellow use a paint stirring bit in a drill to mix the silicone into the spirits, making the spirits opaque, almost white before he used it.  This left lots of streaks and excess silicone on his tarp.    I don’t recommend that, as you need the silicon to dissolve, not just mix.  So, I poured half the spirits in the bucked, then squeeze out the entire tube of silicone, then added the other half of the spirits.  I just slowly mixed this with a piece of PVC pile for about 6 or 7 minutes by hand until all of the silicone was dissolved.  The mixture was still perfectly clear, no white haze or silicone visible.  That’s when I knew it was ready.

Noahs Tarp No visible streaking

No visible streaking on the Kelty’s

I estimated I’d be able to do 2 of the dining fly’s and the 2 Kelty Noah’s tarps.   I managed to get the two Noah’s and 1 of the dining fly’s.  This takes some preparation because you don’t want to drag the nice wet tarps across the dirty ground.  So, setup your hanging area first so it’s all ready. Then pull your tarp down and start putting it into the bucket, in the reverse (starting at the bottom furthest from your hanging points).  Squeeze the tarp and mix it into the solution until it’s thoroughly saturated on the entire tarp.  My tarps are big, the dining fly’s are 10 x 12 and the Noah’s are 12 foot diamonds.   It took some effort to get the entire tarp in the bucket and mash it around like your washing laundry.  As I pulled it out, I noticed a couple dry spots where it was folded against itself.  So I pulled it apart and smashed it down in the mixture again.  The Noah’s were like sieves, allowing the liquid to saturate ever inch of them in a minute or two of kneading.  I pulled them out of the bucket slowly and squeezed as much of the liquid out as I could.  Hung it up and staked two corners to keep it taught.

Some streaking from the excess moisture on the Dining Fly

Light Streaking

This light streaking is only visible. There is no touch to it. It can’t be felt.

I proceeded to do the same thing with the dining fly.  It turned out to be a bit more difficult because it was still slightly waterproof. Each time I tried pulling it out I found more dry spots.  Took me abut 6 or7 minutes of dunking kneading and pulling it out and putting it back in to get it fully saturated. Got it hung up.  Because it was more waterproof, it also pulled more puddles of the mixture out of the bucket with it.  So, when I hung it up it was much more wet and took longer to dry.  I then did the second Kelty, and barely had enough liquid to finish it.  (In fact, the bucket was nearly dry by the time I pulled it out.  So, all 3 are now hung up.  I had read that it’s best not to dry super-fast on hot sunny days as the silicone “Bunches” up in spots.  Slow drying should give it a more even coat as the silicone attaches to the fibers.   My day turned out to be perfect.  Overcast, cool in the mid 60’s with a slight breeze.  Took about 2 ½ to 3 hours and the tarps were mostly dry (two corners on the last Kelty were still damp).  An hour later they were all completely dry.

The Kelty’s are a very light gray, almost an off white so no silicon was visible anywhere on them.  The dining fly is green and there was a little bit of silicone white streaking in a few areas.  It’s strictly cosmetic so it doesn’t bother me a bit

 

I then setup the rainfly and one of the Kelty’s in the yard and had my 11-year-old stand under them while I soaked them with a heavy spray from the garden hose for a full 5 minutes without a single leak!!   Not any drop, even at the seams which I sprayed extra hard did not leak a bit.   This is a short-term test, so It’s going to have to wait for me to be camping through a nice long overnight storm to get a feel for the longevity.

Perfect Beading and no leaks

Perfect Beading and no leaks

As an added bonus, this afternoon we got some rain.  So I sat outside in the cool weather typing this article up under my now 100% waterproof Kelty Noah’s tarp which the last time I used just poured water though almost every square inch.

puddle

After nearly an hour this puddle was still holding and no drips under it!

I HIGHLY recommend this method of waterproofing.  The cost ended up being roughly $6 per tarp.  It was an easy job, not as messy as I thought it would be.  Soap and water took the spirits and silicone right off my hands and forearms no problem.  (My bandage fell off and the small cut on my finger didn’t even burn in the spirits which surprised me).  I really wish I had not waited so long, I could have been using these tarps a long time ago.

Typing under a rainy tarp

Typing this article while sitting under my newly fully waterproof tarp in the rain. Spectacular.

I have 3 or 4 more of the dining fly’s to waterproof and then I may even hit up one of the older tents and try that.

Good luck and enjoy breathing new life into your tarps and tents and other nylon items.


DIY – Leatherman ALX Sheath

2016-09-30-06-59-58I’ve been wanting to do this project for a while.  After my last factory sheath died a horrible death on my belt.  I decided I wanted to build one myself.  I didn’t like the sheaths that were available in other materials besides leather.  But the leather sheaths I found were either custom, and far too expensive for me (Even though I would LOVE to have some of them) but also, the factory sheath didn’t have the features I wanted.  So I set about and designed one of my own.

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This is what I came up with.  Unfortunately I didn’t document the process, I was just in a hurry to knock it out and get it back on my belt.  I had missed it for quite a few months.

The leather is not as heavy as I would like.  This is about 3oz leather.  A heavier 5 oz would be better.  But this is scrap I had laying around (Did I mention I’m a cheapskate LOL).

2016-09-30-07-00-20

The most important thing I wanted was to be able to carry the bit kit with it.  In my first Leatherman sheath the bit kit rode in the sheath in a similar manner, but was always getting stuck and difficult to pull out.  After that sheath broke, the canvas sheath had a stretch fabric to hold the bit kit and the corners of the bit kit tore it up really fast.

This is hand punched and hand stitched.  The snap was from a kit.  This is just the prototype and it has a tiny bit more play than I intended.  So the next will be a tad bit tighter.  I did wet-form it around the weatherman wrapped in a Ziploc bag to get some definition to the sheath, but it could stand to be a tad bit tighter.

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I didn’t have the bottom cut out as I intended to have it sealed, but once I started stitching I discovered that that would not work.  So I cut a half moon on the bottom and that corrected it.  Due to this modification, the Leatherman can be carried opened up in the pliers configuration.

The stitching is done with a waxed natural hemp cord.  This stuff is very strong for it’s size and has the more natural look than modern threading.  I died the leather with a Sedona Red stain.  Helps protect it and the deep redish color makes it fit in well with bot jeans and my dress clothes for work.

2016-09-30-07-00-43

I also extended the belt loop up  a bit. Both of the old sheaths rode high on the belt and would occasionally poke into my side sitting in chairs or in the car.  This longer loop allows it to dangle down a tad bit more and has a little more flexibility.  Much more comfortable to wear.

I did stamp my initials on it, but did not do it very deep.

I’m going to duplicate this sheath with some heavier leather.  This was just the practice and concept version.

It’s obviously nothing fancy.  None of the refinement you’ll see in leather goods produced by true craftsman.  But it gets the job done and as in life, everything is a learning process. You don’t have to be an expert.  You just have to make the effort.

This is also proof that anyone can do this.  A leather punch, some thread, a sharp knife (I use the Tibo from the previous review for all my leather work) a big needle and some cheap scrap leather and anyone can do it.  I learned a few things building this, and when I do the next one, it will be better, and each time I do something after that, it will be better.  So keep working on your projects, they will improve.  I have no talent when it  comes to crafts like this.  If I can do it, anyone can do it.  Pick up some scrap leather and start playing with it.  Make a small bag, or a phone cover or something simply just to get started.  Before you know it, you’ll be making really useful stuff that will last a lifetime.

Hope this inspires you to get out there and build something.

Doc

 

 

 

 

 


DIY Tarp Camping

I’ve spent a lot of time camping over the years, starting out tenting it with my parents as kids, with my friends when we were younger, then 8 years starting when I was 17 (Yeah, had to get parents’ permission to join LOL) 4 active Army, 4 National Guard) in mostly canvas, with 6 to 9 month of the year in the field.  I did a little hammock setup with a cover about a half dozen times back in 93 to 95 or so, but me and hammocks just don’t get along, I’m a belly sleeper, never could sleep a whole night in one.

Basic Configuration.  4 poles 6 stakes  (Can add two more guys to the front poles if really windy).

Basic Configuration. 4 poles 6 stakes (Can add two more guys to the front poles if really windy).

My first tarp camping experience was a week in Italy at Camp Darby.  I didn’t want to spend 7 bucks a day renting a tent when I could rent a tarp for $1 a day.  So my buddy and I grabbed this huge 12 x 18 tarp and made a makeshift tent out of it.  We got lucky it never rained or stormed as the setup was really flimsy, but it worked perfectly.  See the pic.  The front and back were both open to allow the air through.  But the makeshift poles (Stick with a shirt on top so it wouldn’t poke a hole in the tarp) kept falling down.

My first ever Tarp setup.  Circa 1991 or so.  Not pretty but the money I saved on a tent bought me lots of beer.

My first ever Tarp setup. Circa 1991 or so. Not pretty but the money I saved on a tent bought me lots of beer.

After getting out of the Army I had mostly tent camped (Heck even had my first son out camping when he was only 4 months old LOL).  I have tossed out on the ground many times over the years next to a fire and watched the stars, then crawled into a tent if it rained, but about 6 years ago I decide to do some tarp camping and try to come up with something that worked better for me.    I wanted to be able to enjoy the night without a cover, but have it available if I needed to get under cover for the weather but keep it as simple as possible.

The first couple tarp setups I used I didn’t care for.  Just too claustrophobic and were too much like tents, took too much effort to get back into and out of it if it rained.

For hot weather to increase air flow front to back, I add a small post to the rear.

For hot weather to increase air flow front to back, I add a small post to the rear.

So I settled on the classic lean-to style.  Then it was just a roll in, roll out.  Best of both worlds.  Over the years I tweaked the lean-to.  I salvaged 4 aluminum poles form an old tent set that are just about the right high. (I’d like them about 6 inches taller but they work well).   If I need to save weight, I can just cut sticks in the field.

I used 2 trekking poles for this configuration.  This is my typical lightweight version.

I used 2 trekking poles for this configuration. This is my typical lightweight version.

I use a 4 pole lean too, to give myself a little more “Working” room.  The long slope in the back is perfect for storing gear and this 10 x 10 tarp gives plenty of room.   My 8 year old has been sleeping under this thing with me since he was 2 also, he’ll cry and get upset if you try to make him sleep in a tent most of the time.  (He does have his own tent, but only used it twice.)

Left side down to give better wind rain protection.

Left side down to give better wind rain protection.

Both sides down to give a more cave/tent like protection. (Note, you could hang another tarp off the two front poles and seal the whole thing up pretty well.)

Both sides down to give a more cave/tent like protection. (Note, you could hang another tarp off the two front poles and seal the whole thing up pretty well.)

One of the tweaks I like about this tarp setup is, if the weather does get really heavy or the wind switches directions, it can push rain right in under the tarp.  (This has happened 4 or 5 times in the last 6 years).  If it’s heavy enough, I can just pull the 2 side poles from one end and move one of them to the middle, then push the corner steak into the ground and presto, a full wall from one side.  I can also do the same on the other side and have a nearly enclosed lean-to.  I do have to admit I’m lazy and have only folded the side down once.  Mostly because I’ve worked out a ground cover “Burrito Roll” that works so well I don’t have to reconfigure the tarp, even in some spectacularly nasty weather.

On the ground cover, fold the corner of the base in.  This allows overlap of the upper cover to prevent funneling water into your gear.

On the ground cover, fold the corner of the base in. This allows overlap of the upper cover to prevent funneling water into your gear.

There are a couple of little tricks to this setup.  First.  You need to fold the inside corners of the ground cover tarp in (Up or under, doesn’t really matter).  What this does is prevent under-lap of the burrito role tarp.  If you pull the tarp over you during the rain, if there is under-lap, it will funnel water into the burrito.   I don’t normally stake the far corner down unless the wind is blowing in from the foot area.  If it is, then I just sit up and put a stake in the far corner.  (I’ve never had to do it, but if it blows hard enough directly at the foot, I have a couple extra grommets I can put extra stakes in to really seal the foot down.  By the time a cyclone force winds are pushing rain up that, it’s time to seek out a cave anyway LOL.

I accordion fold the leading edge, this keeps it dry and when the rain starts blowin, it is easy to pull over me.

I accordion fold the leading edge, this keeps it dry and when the rain starts blowin, it is easy to pull over me.

I also have a “Boat Bag” I picked up brand spankin new at Goodwill for $3.88 a couple years ago. (One of the best buys of my life).    It’s my favorite camping bag, even more so than my backpacks.  I mostly use it when car camping, but even for short hikes under full gear, I can sling it and carry it if I need to.  But this bag acts like a barrier at the head of the burrito roll.  Then I can throw the top of the burrito roll over the bag and tuck it under to create a perfect water tight seal from the top.  Thus leaving the entire side facing the back of the lean-to open to breath.  I’ve been through 1 particularly nasty windy storm (not including the one I dropped the side for) but it lasted no more than an hour) and I stayed perfectly dry.

Yes poly is a bit noisier than other materials.  (I still love canvas. My absolute favorite sound in the world is the rain on canvas) Polly is 100% water proof and can be used for things like a water basin to hold water, it can even be used to make

When I'm not at the camp site, I can cover all my gear and stake the burrito down.  I know it will all be dry when I return later.

When I’m not at the camp site, I can cover all my gear and stake the burrito down. I know it will all be dry when I return later.

a boat so it has some really great side functions.   For me, the poly works wonders.  Properly tensioned it can take quite a bit of abuse.  I’ve taken good care of my cover tarp and its lasted 6 years, through a roughly estimated 200 days of camping including 4 or 5 good storms.  It is wearing out though, I’ve lost 3 grommet holes and it’s faded to a color of nearly robin egg blue from the original dark blue, but it’s still going.   I am going to retire it and replace it for this year’s Scout Summer camp in 2 months.   Not bad for an $8 tarp.

I've lost 3 grommets in 6 years so I'll be retiring it soon.

I’ve lost 3 grommets in 6 years so I’ll be retiring it soon.

My two older boys have been tarp camping about as long as I have now, and they still like the simplicity of the single pole design, but my oldest boy just tosses out on the ground his military sleep system most of the time.  Gortex cover keeps him dry.

It's getting a little thin from use and UV damage.

It’s getting a little thin from use and UV damage.

If you want an inexpensive way to test the waters of tarp camping, you can’t go wrong with a poly tarp.  $8 per tarp, $3 for a set of stakes, and a $3 roll of cordage and you’re in.  Hope you enjoy your experimenting as much as I have.  But above all else, get out there and camp and have fun.

Here are a bunch of pics from other styles we’ve used and the styles my boys still use over the years.

The quick and easy single pole.  This works very well in heavy weather.  Both boys have slept through storms in this configuration

The quick and easy single pole. This works very well in heavy weather. Both boys have slept through storms in this configuration

My oldest boy and one of his setups.  This was great util it stormed,  the rain shifted and came straight under the opening.

My oldest boy and one of his setups. This was great util it stormed, the rain shifted and came straight under the opening.

This was at -19.  I hung a sweater over the top end to help seal it up.  Got a good night sleep.

This was at -19. I hung a sweater over the top end to help seal it up. Got a good night sleep.

Scout camp a couple years ago.  The tent was just to store gear and change clothes.  All the scouts slept under tarps.

Scout camp a couple years ago. The tent was just to store gear and change clothes. All the scouts slept under tarps.

Middle boy used this pole-less configuration.  Worked great.  The ground cloth was pulled under when he was done setting up.

Middle boy used this pole-less configuration. Worked great. The ground cloth was pulled under when he was done setting up.

This is why I like this configuration.  My youngest boy and I can watch the starts, and if it rains.  I just climb under the lean-too and pull the whole kit under, kid and all. LOL

This is why I like this configuration. My youngest boy and I can watch the stars, and if it rains. I just climb under the lean-to and pull the whole kit under, kid and all. LOL

You can see the burrito roll.  When I'm not at camp this keeps the gear dry.  (There was no rain so I didn't pin the ends down.  Middle boy did a tie off to a tree again.

You can see the burrito roll. When I’m not at camp this keeps the gear dry. (There was no rain so I didn’t pin the ends down. Middle boy did a tie off to a tree again.