Sunday night I gave a talk on last summer’s Bristol Bay/Pebble Mine trip at the Loussac Library here in Anchorage, which was really fun. When our journey brings us through here next December, I’m planning to give a talk on the journey so far. And I hope to get a huge flotilla of packrafters here to paddle Knik Arm with us on our way out.

The thermometer here has been down near zero the past few mornings, and hasn’t yet crept above freezing during the day. I’m sure the Anchorage residents are just about ready for spring, but we’re gleeful to have caught the winter. All the better to test gear in the cold, and have good snow for a ski trip.

Hig and Sheri in the shop

We’re making gear with Sheri (of Alpacka Raft) – she’s making us drysuits, and letting us use her shop and pick her brains for some of our other projects.

designing with plastic

Cuben Fiber!

cat investigating the cuben fiber tent

cuben fiber A-frame

Winter Shelter

Our idea right now is to make a tent (held up by kayak paddles) that nicely holds two partially-inflated rafts. These will keep us off the snow and add a bit of warmth. If we’re lucky, they’ll add enough warmth that we can keep on using our light summer sleeping pads into winter. If not, we’ll know soon enough…

We started trash-bag style – taping together a plastic tent from painters’ drop cloths, and fooling around with the design.

Then we graduated to a more high-tech trash bag.
We got some Cuben Fiber (about half an ounce per square yard) from Quest Outfitters. Cuben Fiber is made primarily for racing sails. It is the approximate weight and texture of plastic wrap (6 yards came in a small priority mail envelope) but has fibers within it that make it suprisingly strong. I am especially pleased that such an expensive high-tech fabric makes our tent look like a crinkly plastic bag. And is see-through.

We bought some tape with our Cuben Fiber, and were really happy to find how easy it was to stick stuff together with tape! Then we took the shelter out in 10 degree weather, and the tape came instantly unglued. Back to sewing.

Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough Cuben Fiber to make the floor, so we had to finish it off with Tyvek. If we like having a floor, we’ll replace it later.

The next 6 days will tell if it’s really going to work. Wiser folks than us might have tested this before a multi-day ski trip – but we’ll figure it out somehow.

Hobo stove I, in action

Hobo Stove
We don’t own a stove because neither of us have ever really liked them. Fires are pleasant and warm. When I’ve been on trips with other people’s stoves they seem far too finicky. And I definitely don’t like the idea of carrying fuel.

But in the winter, we thought we might need something to melt all that snow. And I figured a wood stove might eliminate the problem of needing to carry ridiculous amounts of fuel. So I looked around at some little wood stoves online. And determined that a: they cost money, and b: we weren’t going to be able to get one in time for this shakedown.

But hey, why buy a stove when you have a can of hominy? We drilled some holes in the can, set up a coat hanger pot stand, and started melting some water. After a little tinkering (a large can is better than the standard size, and you need more air holes than you think), we got it working pretty well – melting snow into half a liter of water with a can full of wood.

Hobo stove II, all the pieces

Of course, the stove melting down into the snow can be a problem. The paddle blade seems a decent platform, though cardboard isn’t quite enough to protect it from the heat. We’re bringing a chunk of wood.

Sheri’s finishing up our new hiking/packrafting drysuits as I type here. I’m super excited to see how they work. I’ve never had raingear I liked, and never had a drysuit of any kind. These ones are made out of something called "Dermizax", which sounds like an anti-acne medicine, but is actually a stretchy waterproof breathable fabric.

Food for a 6 day ski

Shakedown Time!

Tomorrow morning, ice permitting, we’ll paddle across Turnagain and start skiing down the Kenai Peninsula. I’m really looking forward to finally getting outside.