Multi use gear is the best! Before I switched to a Big Agnes manual inflate sleeping pad, I did something very similar using a 3/4 length thermarest self-inflate sleeping pad and a CCF "sit pad" under my feet.
You are correct in your understanding that UQs are not sized to a specific model, but some models are better suited than others. "Full length" can be deceiving since single size hammocks are made in lengths from 8' to 12' by the various manufacturers out there right now. They vary even more in width Most do average in the 9'-10' length range, but a 3/4 underquilt purchased for a 12' hammock could be rather disastrous.
I think the 3/4 UQ will be the way I go when I do drop the money for one. Besides wanting to ensure hammocking is for me, I want to wait for a few more products to hit the market. Right now almost all the UQs available are cottage industry produced with premium down. I've always been reluctant to buy down bags. I suspect by the time I am ready to commit to an underquilt there will be some good lightweight synthetic options. I'm too hard on my equipment to worry about the special requirements of down. I know a lot of people extoll the virtues of keeping a well cared for $400 WM bag or $250 JRB underquilt for 10 years and saving money in the long run.. I'm just not that guy. For instance, I have owned 4 different tents in the last 8 years (and now I am trying out hammocks!). I currently own 3 nice synthetic sleeping bags in different temperature ratings and through smart shopping haven't paid more than $80 for any one of them.
Synthetic is fine and dandy, but I just son't think you can "get" the value of down until you sleep in it's luxury. I am pretty hard on gear myself, but the one think I would be completely unwilling to give up is my Western Mountaineering 20 degree bag.
The loft the bag provides under you is one of the best parts of a down bag and the luxury factor. In the hammock context however, an underquilt, as the name sort of implies goes under the hammock, and that luxury is all but lost. The thick loft below the hammock still does wonders to block out both convective heat loss and drafts, but you don't get to sleep "on" the down. Splash up is also an issue with underquilts - you hang not far above the ground with the tarp covering you, but frequently splash from the raindrops that hit ground still make it up to the bottom of the UQ. As a down bag user you certainly know the issues with getting the down wet, particularly frequently. So underquilt users now often carry waterproof breathable covers to protect the underquilt - but this then negates a big chunk of the weight savings provided by the down vs synthetic.
So today I started researching ways to maximize the charging potential of that USB plug on the Biolite. I found a really cool little charger that weighs a few ounces and will recharge my 16340 (CR123A) and 18650 flashlight batteries from that port.
All good points Matt. I do sleep in a Hammock, but do not yet use an underquilt; instead I just use a cell-foam pad in the hammock. I am sure I will change my tune one day when I have the misfortune of getting the bag wet, but so far so good.
The Gossamer closed cell foam pad was just soo much easier and inexpensive for me for bottom insulation. Joe, I'm sure you won't have too much problem keeping that nice WM bag dry inside the hammock, especially since you have the foam under you. Is your hammock single or double layer? The pervasive complaints on HF.net about pads are sliding off of them because they were too narrow or they fell out between the bag and hammock. My plan in getting the double layer hammock was to not have to worry about securing the pad or rolling off of it. When I saw the 39" wide GG pad - problem solved! The only prevalent complaint about the GG pads was that they were "sticky" if you slept directly on them; not an issue with the DL hammock. :-)Originally Posted by RFork
Perhaps if I become one of those crazy folks like Shug who hammock sleeps in sub zero weather I will look at an underquilt - but the 11 ounce GG pad does the trick at 1/4 to 1/5 the cost of the UQ.
I am reminded of this quote as I replied on a couple of blogs today that criticized the Biolite -- I am certain that UQ folks experience the same feelings, so hopefully I haven't offended anyone.
Originally Posted by Horace Kephart
I have a much smaller and lighter camp stove that actually fits into my palm and folds out into a great piece of cooking equipment. My go to cooking is still done on the the Coleman and the below canisters which are close to $ 5.00 ea.
Picked up the small connector at Cabelas and have filled up 10 of the smaller Coleman containers using my back up grill propane tank as the donor. As soon as you connect the green tank to the connector you will hear it fill and neutralize (now full), unscrew the green Coleman and refill another for pennies!!. My donor propane tank is still very full.
Just an idea, that I believe will save much especially if camping out of the car and use the tanks for cooking and lanterns.
Any other ideas would greatly be appreciated if shared.
For the curious, I tried out the Biolite on the patio last night. I had a bunch of dry twigs to thumb size pieces of wood, and broke them up into 3" - 4" pieces. I light one kitchen match, allowed it to burn upwards a second and then dropped into the stove. The match fell clear to the bottom but caught the tinder right away. I had been concerned about lighting it to be honest. I know the wood won't be that dry in the Smokies, but it was amazingly simple and I didn't need to use the "crutches" of UCO matches or fire starters.
Once I had some small twigs on fire, I turned on the fan (running on internal battery), waited 30 seconds and pushed the button again to switch the fan into to the high speed (powered by the TEC unit). About 2 minutes later the LED above the USB port turned green - its internal battery was recharged and could now recharge other devices. I could hear the fire "whoosh" and saw the wood gas catching fire right at the air openings on the sides - the fire was burning hot and fast. Next time I will test boil times, but for last night's test I wanted to figure out how much juice was provided by the USB port. One thing the testing also revealed was that the stove also will be a good way to create/obtain hot embers to assist in building a larger campfire when dealing with the typical rainforest wood of the area - it was amazingly simple to light.
The "bonus feature" of charging ability was admittedly of concern to me - the documentation states 2 watts at 5 volts continuous and 4 watts peak. Someone else figured out for me that it should be about 400 MA if it indeed is putting out 2 Watts. While test burning last night, I cut apart a spare USB cable and used my DMM on the leads to verify it was indeed putting out 400 MA - and continuously. I didn't see it vary much above that and it got nowhere near the peak, however it didn't drop below that 400 mah at all. Unless I used my DMM wrong, which is possible, it stayed very stable at the rated 2 Watts continuous.
That 400 MA is slower than most "wall wart" home chargers, but faster than typical "car chargers" - it will get er done. It would take ~ 3-4 hours to fully charge a smartphone if you completely depleted your battery - however you don't need a full charge to make an emergency call or use the phone as a GPS. If you just "top off" your various electronics each time you boil water (3 cookfires a day), they should stay usable for when you need them.
I wanted to get a relatively exact MAH rating because I am also ordering a charging device that some thru-hikers attach to solar panels in order to recharge (rechargeable) Lithium cells. My SteriPen uses 16340 cells, and my flashlight uses 18650 cells. At one point and time I also used a 16340 flashlight, but I just like the 18650s better. The charging device is called a "cottonpicker", and it is very tiny and light. The guy who makes these cottonpickers will custom set the charge rate for you on a single mode, but he also offers fancier multimode models with attached VMs. Since I know the stove will rarely put out more than 400 MA, I now know to request the single mode 480 MAH cottonpicker. This charge rate is not too fast to be safe for the smaller cells (16340) but can still charge the larger 18650 cells for a typical evening's flashlight usage pretty quickly.
The more I think about this stove the more I love it. The 2 pounds seemed egregious at first - however now I know I will be carrying fewer spare batteries, and more importantly no costly and heavy fuel canisters. The canisters that contain 4 ounces of fuel weigh 8 ounces. For most trips I would carry up two partials and one virgin canister - an $18 investment and somewhere between 16 and 24 ounces of fuel and canister weight. The 33 ounce biolite doesn't seem so heavy anymore.
If there are any more specifics those of you who wanted a review want to ask, let me know..