– my personal views on all walks of outdoor life

Category Archives: MYOG

The search for a perfect mug

Inspired by Hendrik’s post about the quest for the one rucksack to rule them all, I thought I might share my quest for perfect gear.

It seems that I’m obsessed about the idea of finding the perfect piece of equipment of each job. It is not an easy job as there are at least three factors that should be taken into account: weight, durability and function. The latter likely including also the aesthetics and style. Unfortunately, or luckily, I have only limited financial resources to accomplish this quest so I mainly settle with desk top research and get to extensive comparative field studies only with cheap stuff, like mugs!

Some of the findings along the quest for the perfect mug.

I have used and tried likely over dozen of different mugs and cups in the search for the ultimate drinking vessel. I use my mug mainly for drinking hot drinks but also for occasional cold drink, as a bowl for eating breakfast or desserts, as a bowl for mixing some special things (like the filling for my birthday cake in Svalbard) and as a vessel if i pick berries en route. So, a good mug should shine in many things in addition of being light and durable.

My requirements for the perfect mug would be about the following:
– durable enough (for not needing to worry about it)
– big enough for occasional morning oat meal (i.e over 400ml)
– shaped like a mug (i.e. taller than it’s diameter)

As I said, I’ve tried a bunch of mugs and found few of them good and many of them lacking in some of the requirements. For example in winter a thermos bottle cap would be good in durability, in weight (I carry it any way) and it’s also slightly insulated but it’s way too small even for a proper hot drink. The cap from a food thermos is better size-wise but the shape isn’t optimal (drinks cool too quickly) and I don’t usually carry a food thermos any more. Many of the cups I’ve tried are otherwise good but too small. For example I’ve had a traditional Finnish wooden kuksa but I lost it some 7 or 8 years ago and haven’t bothered getting a new one. I’ve also tried the much buzzed Kupilka which has its advatages over wooden cup but it’s still too small. Then some of the lightest cups, like an empty yoghurt cup, are too fragile in addition to being too small. An empty 500g coffee bag makes an interesting and easily packable mug but it’s very flimsy to use. The green army surplus cup was close to perfection but shape was wrong. To give you a good idea I made a comparison chart of the mugs in the picture above. In addition the chart includes my old MYOG mug.

Assortment of mugs, bowls and pots doing what they are made for: helping to make kayakers happy after a long day of paddling.

The best cups I’ve tried this far are my old MYOG mug and its a close commercial counterpart the Sea to Summit Delta Insulmug. The first one was a light MYOG mug made of cheese cube cup. The plastic cup itself was a bit too flimsy when filled with hot water so I added an insulating sheath made of CCF pad with help of some tape. The cup had also a lid and the entire thing was waterproof as I didn’t make a sipping hole in the lid. The volume was 410ml and weight about 40 grams. It was also durable enough but for some reason the plastic seemed to absorb all the tastes and smells it encountered, resulting in very interesting experiences when using it! After the taste and smell got bad enough I ditched it…

The near perfect MYOG mug absorbing Jäger tea aromas...

… and bought a Sea to Summit Delta Insulmug as a replacement. It’s quite similar to my MYOG mug. It consists of three-part: 68 gram cup with volume of 480ml, insulating sleeve weighting about 31 gram and lid with sipping hole weighting about 18 gram. 116 gram all together so it is a bit on the heavy side but otherwise it’s perfect. It has also internal volume markings (something that would have been easy to do also in the MYOG mug). On warm summer trips I usually leave the lid ans insulating sleeve home and take only the cup. So in addition to full filling about all my requirements it’s also modular. The only problem is that the insulation sleeve seems to shrink in use.

But as I told before, I’m plagued with eternal quest for even better gear and the cup is already waiting for field tests. That one is GSI Cascadian mug. It will be mainly for summer use as the handle would interfere with an insulating sleeve.

I’d also like to test a proper titanium mug, maybe a monstrous size like 750ml version as it could double as a cooking pot on solo trips and would be about as light as my Sea to Summit mug with all the parts. Or maybe I should change my attitude and settle with the stuff that works and spend the time and energy into doing something useful instead?

So, what is your mug of choise?


Crazy ideas: A propane burner with white gas?

It’s been a bit quiet in the blog as I’m using most of my spare time doing expedition preparations. Last weekend was spent weighting, mixing and packing food for three-week expedition. I’ll write more about my diet before leaving but here is a teaser pick:

Most of the food for two people for a three-week expedition. Missing from the picture: more butter, more hard rye bread and load of bacon.

Today I had some time to test stoves as earlier this winter I was able to get my hands on couple of old classic Optimus Hiker 111Ts. These are nice stoves with good power control and very quiet compared to modern roarer-style liquid fuel stoves. And they are very hard to find so I’m happy that I got two of them. I’ll later modify other burner to fit Trangia and use external fuel bottle and it’ll serve as my winter camping stove if takin only one stove as a cooker box for one stove is overkill and heavy. The Trangia-modification is called Ultima Naltio and is explained here.

Optimus Hiker 111T on test run. A classic piece of beauty.

previously I have modified a Primus Omnifuel multifuel stove to fit in Trangia and used it while winter camping. Today I got crazy idea about trying to use Trangia butane/propane gas burner with white gas! The burner is made by Primus. It has a vaporizer tube required to vaporize liquid fuel and it comes with 0,37mm Primus nozzle that is also used in Omnifuel to burn white-gas and it fits to Primus Ergopump that comes with the Omnifuel stove. The burner also looks quite a bit similar to MSR Simmerlite stove, so why not give it a try?

Testing Trangia gas burner with white gas. Original Trangia burner doing the priming under the base.

I filled a fuel bottle with little bit of white gas, twisted it to the burner and opened the valve. White gas showered out from the nozzle as it is supposed to. I shut the valve and used the original Trangia burner to prime the stove as the propane burner doesn’t have any cup for priming fuel, though it would be easy to attach one to it. After thoroughful priming I opened the main valve and the burner lit!

The problems started soon after igniting the stove. The burner seemed to work but there was minor leakage where the flexible fuel line is attached to the burner and the leaking white gas ignited so I decided to stop the experiment. I will test later if the joint leaks also when pressurized with cold water or used with propane but until then using a propane burner with white gas seems like a viable idea. The stove just needs to have proper sized nozzle, vaporizer tube, suitable burner head and no rubber or plastic parts near the burner head. I think that for example MSR Windpro or Edelrid Opilio might work very well. They would make reasonably prized and light multifuel stoves that could be used with butane/propane in summer and with white-gas in winter.

Have you tried to use butane/propane stove with white gas? Do you see some reasons why it might not work? Is there even any idea in trying?

Disclaimer: All testing and using of gear against manufacturer instructions are done at your own risk!

Endurance sports, frustration and MYOG

As a warning, this post is mostly therapeutical writing but maybe you get something out if.

It seems that endurance sports are not for me. I like relaxed endurance sports and I’ve participated in some longish skiing events and military reserves marches. These kind of low intensity endurance sports are great way to test your trail fitness and for me serve also as a motivation for training. But it is now almost a year since my last event. That one was a 42 kilometer marching competition with 10 kilo extra load (my total was around 15 kilo). Me and friends did it in a bit over eight hours placing third. It was great fun but my feet were totally blistered and sore…

Marching in Jukajärven jotos 2010 military reserves competition.

Last summer I was going to participate in 24 hours Retki rogaining competition but I got into a car accident just before the competition and couldn’t participate. My team maters did great and finished 17th out of 49 teams, and they were participating first time ever! About a month later I busted my knee (dislocated knee cap) while orienteering and this prevented me from participating to my almost traditional annual military reserves skill and marching competition where we have usually succeed well. In October I was going to participate in Mammuttimarssi (Mammoth march) in a marathon series, meaning about 60-70 kilometers of orienteering thru a cold and dark night. I was excited but the tendons in my good knee became inflamed because of rigor training to get the busted knee working again. I had to cancel my participation once again. And by the way, Mammuttimarssi is an interesting “under ground concept” and grants also points required to participate the legendary UTMB (though I’m not planning to take part in that). In year 2010 the most hard-core participants in Mammuttimarssi run 160 kilometers in a bit over 20 hours. Mostly in dark, self supported and partly cross-country. Very, very though guys!

A busted knee somewhat ruined the end of last summer

This weekend is the Kaukopartiohiihto weekend. Kaukopartiohiihto is a skiing event to honor the memory of the Finnish long-range recon patrol men of the Second World War. The competition has four series: 75km, 150km, 225km and 300km. Time limits are 12, 24 or 48 hours depending on few variables. This means that the most hard-core skiers ski 300 kilometers in less than 48 hours using the not-so-good army skiing equipment… Last year I participated in the 75 kilometers distance and we finished it in 13 hours and 20 minutes. We were aiming for 12 hours but ankle problems of one of the team members slowed us down a bit. This year I was going to get finished with the 12 hour goal but I had to cancel my participation. This time the reason is inflamed tendon in my right foot that also bugged me last summer.

Self portrait after skiing 75 kilometers in a bit over 13 hours.

So… I think it is needless to say, but I am frustrated! But I should be able to pull myself physically together before leaving to Svalbard. I just need some ibuprofen, rest and ice for my foot. Mentally everything is ok.

Hopefully the rest of the year will be better and I can give a shot again in the events I missed last year. Despite my bad luck, I highly recommend everyone who likes long distance hiking or skiing, to participate in this kind of events! Naturally they differ from regular hiking or skiing trips but they are nice little motivators and fitness tests. In addition to those that I mentioned some other interesting events include: the Off-track skiing wold championships (and there is also snowshoeing option), the Finnish championships in wilderness hiking, the 100 kilometers walk “Sysimusta satku“, “Marathon of Dangers” a marathon and ultra distance trail running in the fells of Koli. Just to mention few. There are also biking and paddling events, so go find your own!

So where was the MYOG then? I though to use the unexpected free weekend with MYOG projects. I have still some sewing to do for Svalbard. The plans for the weekend include boot covers, adding storm flaps (or snow valances or what ever you call them) to my Hilleberg Keron 3 GT and simple sled bags.

Half-way ready bag for water bottles and snacks.

For boot covers I have some Keprotec,  Goretex Pro Shell and pile. I have sketched a simple model with partial base and zipper in the front. The model is adapted from T-tossu boot covers. These are really necessary as only few boots (and even fewer that fit NNN BC system) are warm enough to work in arctic temperatures without extra insulation.

The storm flaps are compulsory feature for all (ant)arctic tents. They help to seal the tent from spin drift, make the tent warmer and less drafty. I have already cut mine from hefty silnylon (probably the same stuff that Hilleberg calls Kerlon 1800) and now I just need to sew them on: tens of meters of straight stitch…

The easiest way to pack gear in sleds or pulkas are simple duffel bags. Most of the duffel bags commercially available are way over engineered, heavy or at least expensive. I am going to make simple bags out of lightweight waterproof cordura, the measurements will be about 40 x 40 x 65 centimeters meaning some 100 liters capacity. The sled should easily fit two bags. The bags will have one big compartment with one zipper, an inner pocket, compression straps and that’s about it.

More about these projects and the complete gear list soon…