Thursday, November 27, 2014


Every year, I try to challenge myself to try something new.  This year might have been my favorite new challenge thus far.  Cruising through one night, I accidentally happened to stumble upon a video from a funny redhead guy from Minnesota who calls himself, 'Shug'.  Most of his entertaining, yet informative videos concentrate on hammock camping.  I had never even heard of actually sleeping in a hammock while camping but was immediately intrigued.  

There are a few main components to hammock camping.  There are alternate set ups but the typical set up is usually the hammock with its suspension, an under quilt, a top quilt, and a tarp.  In future posts, I will further discuss and post each component in detail as well as the world of hammock camping as a whole. 

First, let's start with the top quilt.  Jack, from the cottage gear making company, Jacks R Better in Yorktown, Virginia, was very generous in allowing me to try a loaner top quilt and share my thoughts.

What is a top quilt?  Just that.  A quilt that goes on top (and around) you, but not so much underneath.  The under quilt is for your backside but I will talk about that in a future post.  The quilt is much like a sleeping bag but slightly modified.  Unlike a traditional backpack type sleeping bag, a top quilt doesn't have a zipper, it is often slightly shorter, and does not have a hood for your head.

So what are the benefits?  The top quilt is generally quite a bit lighter than your standard backpacking type bag because it does not have as much material or hardware attached.  It is very lightweight but it still keeps you very warm.  It can be compressed down to an impressively small size.  It can be used for the ground sleepers as well as the hammock hangers.

This is the Jacks 'R' Better regular length, 2.5" loft, Sierra Sniveller.  It is made of a soft, quality 1.1 oz rip-stop nylon with DWR or "Durable Water Repellent".  DWR is not an additive but rather a level of protection achieved in the weaving and production process of the material.  The filling is 800 fill power goose down that is treated with Activ-Dri; a new treatment for down that acts as a moisture repellent.  It is 52" wide from the shoulders to the hips, tapers down to 42" wide at the foot end, and is 78" long.   Its temperature rating is 25-30 degrees.

View from the hammock.  
There is not much more I love than to be snugged in on a hammock on a chilly day while being lightly rocked and listening to the sound of the wind through the trees or the rain tapping on the tarp.  I used it in temperatures ranging from 60 degrees (Fahrenheit) down to the lower to mid 20's.  I know that I was pushing the limits on the lower end, but I am confident that I would have been very comfortable even with temperatures in the mid to upper teens.
(Just a side note:  I am a very warm sleeper so if you are considering buying this type of sleeping gear, please consider your sleeping temperature type.)

The bottom of the quilt has cinch cords with cord locks to form the "foot box".  The foot box is the only part on the quilt that is fully enclosed like a regular sleeping bag.  Making this adjustable allows for temperature to be easily regulated in various types conditions or can be opened up entirely to act as a normal blanket type quilt.

Foot box cinch cords opened all the way.

Made in the U.S.A.

In addition to the cinch cord closure on the end of the foot box, there is also a Velcro closure with a snap.  The total length of the  generous sized foot box reaches from your feet to the upper ends of your calves.  (I am 5' 7.5" tall.  For those are over six feet tall, you should probably consider the 'long' model).

On the head end of the quilt, it also has a cinch cord along with a snap that can be fastened behind your neck to keep it in place while sleeping and to keep the drafts out.
A unique feature on this quilt is that it has a Velcro closure in the middle that can be opened and slipped over your head.


The quilt then acts like a Mexican sarape which is really warm and comfortable.  
I'm sure with the right shoes, it will complete the look!  
(Picture courtesy of Jacks R Better)

The quilt also comes with its own stuff sack

On the bottom of the stuff sack has a creatively crafted grab handle.

The top of the stuff sack closes with Velcro

The top is then rolled down while pressing out excess air.  
The compression strap is tightened around the end to compress it to about the size of a honeydew melon.

My husband and our spaniel thought they needed to try out the hammock set up too.  Less than ten minutes after I took this picture...they were sound asleep.

Be sure to check out Jacks R Better's website to see all of their great products.  This company was founded by two retired military gentlemen.  

As far as cost goes, yes initially, this might seem a little on the higher end, but, because these come out of a small shop and not mass produced, extra care goes into each one.  Not only are they made with high end materials, but the workmanship is very impressive.

Since I discovered hammock camping, I can honestly say that I have never slept better in my life.  I have grown to love it so much, I actually put one in my "woman cave" the house!  Working nights, this is where I sleep during the day.  For comfort sake, I would actually rather sleep in my $19 hammock than our expensive bed!

#hammockcamping   #topquilt   #jacksrbetter


 From T.R.E.A.D. Outdoors...have a very safe and happy Thanksgiving!

(Click on image to enlarge)

Tuesday, November 11, 2014


It's no secret that I love outdoor gear.  I get excited about all of it.  New fabrics, new materials, new ideas.  I almost love packing the gear for the adventure just about as much as the adventure itself.  The downside to packing that gear, is at some point, I am most likely going to be using a bungee cord.  I love them, but I don't love them.  The biggest hang up I have with bungee cords are the open hooks.  Necessary yes, but at times, a royal pain in the you know what when more than two of them get together.

So when Jeff, owner and inventor of the LoopRope sent me a 5' LoopRope with two 3.5" LoopClip carabiners to try out, I was immediately impressed!  This is one of the most unique ideas I've seen in awhile.  I took a few months and really put this thing to the test in various environments and situations and I didn't even come close to using it to its full potential.  The best part of it is, I couldn't find a thing wrong with it, nor would I change anything about it.

Made from quality, durable materials, the LoopRope comes in several lengths in various colors.  Two LoopClip carabiners are also included with each cord. 

The five foot LoopRope with two 3.5" LoopClip carabiners.  
The cord itself is 1/4".

The 'anchor knot' is usually the basis 
for one end of the LoopRope.

These are one liter fuel bottles.  
They both stayed and road like this on 40 miles of ATV trails.

I just happened to throw this onto my pack for an outing to try it out and it was very convenient to attach things as needed.

Because of its integrated loops, it is really easy to securely
 attach just about anything of almost any shape.

It worked perfectly for holding down the parcels on the way to the post office on the shelf I built for the FJ Cruiser.  

To see how I made the storage shelf, here's the link to the post:  

The two stainless steel carabiners that come 
with the cord are very sturdy.

I understand that the 'ultralight' and 'light' crowd would cringe at the thought of taking this piece of equipment.  I however, am one that opts to bring gear that brings many uses at only 7.5 ounces.

Easy to hang the pack along with whatever else gear that 
can hang from the loops around the tree.

"The glove box"
The LoopRope even worked as a make shift leash.

The front of our utility trailer has a tie down rail.  
The LoopRope was easily attached to fasten down the seven gallon water jug.

Use it for attaching gear to your car roof rack, secure your gear in your pulk, bundle firewood and kindling and use a loop as a handle, a tool hanger, hang wet gear, hauling decoys, rod holder in a vehicle, or suspend it between two points and place your rods vertically in the loops without them falling over.  Great for your RV, snowmobile, and boat.

The uses for this thing are only limited by the imagination.  I would highly recommend this product not only for your outdoor adventures, but for your everyday needs as well. 

"I think it's very important to have a feedback loop, where you're constantly thinking about what you've done and how you could be doing it better."  --Elon Musk