Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Mt Feathertop, Victoria - Bungalow Spur return - April 2013 (2-day hike)

I have set a new PB here with what is close to a two year delay in getting out a trip report!  But the delay in finishing this post is symtomatic of the last couple of years for me. After this walk blogging went came crashing to a halt and I didn't do another overnight trip for 10 months - until early Spring 2015, in fact. The reason for the gap was that I'd been struggling for a while with some osteo arthritis in my hips and after this walk I decided to park further activity until I'd had surgery, planned for later in 2013, followed by a few month's of recovery.

Anyways, my second daughter, Harli - probably feeling sorry for her usually solo-walking father - asked to join me on an overnight hike.  Realising this was quite possibly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to share a walk in the wilderness with my usually, creature comforts-loving teenager, I readily agreed.

Route selection was critical.  Remembering the less-than-favourable reviews I'd received from family members who'd joined me on a previous hike that got a little - er - challenging, I looked for a route that was short (2 days) and on well-maintained tracks, but still involved a decent workout in the high country.   A return walk to Mt Feathertop from Harrietville, via Bungalow Spur, fitted the bill perfectly.

This would be my second visit to Mt Feathertop, having done a fabulous snow shoe trek there in winter 2012.  This time, rather than the white and greys of Winter. the walk would be done during Autumn -  red. brown and green the predominant colours, but also black also present everywhere, due to bush fires two month's earlier.

Um, yes we did.   Let's just call it
convenient carb-loading

We broke up the long drive to Harrietville with debates over who's music to listen to and with stops at a well-known 'Scottish' restaurant and at the town of Bright.

Harli in downtown Bright

Bright is a pretty little town.  A generally rustic feel is boosted in the Autumn, when a wide variety of deciduous trees throughout the town add an amazing amount of colour.

After a brief comfort stop in Harrietville, we were on the trail just after 1pm.   As we made our way up the track signs of the recent bush fires were everywhere, often surrounding the track - this would have been no place to be during the fires.  The severity of the fires made for a stark, dramatic landscape over much of the path.
Harli with the smile of blissful ignorance, before the walk up Bungalow Spur

Deep in thought (about food, probably)
Autumn and bush fire makes for a stark beauty

Burnt trees on Bungalow Spur

Some kind of grasshopper
(Sir David Attenborough I'm not)

South from Bungalow Spur

The weather was perfect and we made good time. We arrived at Federation Hut a little after 4pm, 3 hours after starting.   I was quietly impressed at my teenage companion, who handled the stiff climb without complaint.

The camping area around the hut was busy, with 5-6 largish groups.  We pitched the Minaret and headed up to Mt Feathertop.

Harli and the Macpac Minaret outside Federation Hut

Toilet block at Fed Hut

Camp site at Fed Hut

The route to Feathertop is steep in places, but with a well defined and maintained path, including steps in places.  The views as we climbed, were fantastic and at the summit, in the twilight, the views got even better.

Walk to Mt Feathertop

Approaching Feathertop's summit

View from Mt Feathertop

Harli on Mt Feathertop

Looking towards the summit of Mt Feathertop

Harli & me, loving the windy conditions on Mt Feathertop

Failed superman pose - came out a bit fascist.

The wind gusts were strong

Mt Feathertop is right...there

We returned to the hut as night fell.

View from above Fed Hut, towards across the Cross Cut Saw

We headed off early the next morning, enjoying a final few hours of shared wilderness.

Near Federation Hut

Trail near Fed Hut

Harli on trail near Fed Hut

Burnt our trail down Bungalow Spur

Bush fire autumn on Bungalow Spur

Whooping it up

Final team selfie

If you've read a few of my posts here, you already know how much I enjoy "a walk in the woods". But I find just as much - no - more enjoyment in being able to share such places with my children.   I know I'm not alone of this - I regularly encounter parents and their kids on the trails and I love that this happens.  The more I get out into the wilderness, the more I appreciate its value to people - offering a connection with something bigger and deeper than ourselves.  And it is only fair and sensible that kids should get to experience that same connection early, awakening in them the recognition of the need to have nature as a part of their lives.

(Message to Harli!  Do come out again some time.  ML, Daddio.)

Monday, November 23, 2015

Gear review: CapHat

I've tried out a few hats on the trail over the years - floppy hats, a canvas, drover-style Barmah, a Buff (think: Survivor) - even a straw beach hat.   Over time I've settled on baseball style caps.  They're light and the brim is handy for keeping sun & water out of your eyes as well as forming a rigid peak for the hood of rain shells. I also happen to like the way a cap looks.

The one glaring drawback of a baseball cap is the fact that the brim, being only at the front, doesn't provide a whole lot of protection from the sun.  There are workarounds, of course - like wearing the cap at different angles to ward of the sun.  You can also use sunblock cream.  Neither of these is perfect and walking in hot sun can be a bit of a bastard for cap wearers.

There's been some good news for hikers who attached to their baseball caps.  For the past few years an Adelaide-based company has been making and perfecting a extender hat for baseball caps, appropriately named  the"CapHat".

I've been using a CapHat over the past couple of months.  At only 60 grams it's no big deal to carry it (I am no gram weeny).  It squashes up very small so I stowed it in the top pocket of my pack, getting out when the days got hot.

The CapHat sits on top of your baseball cap.  A toggle at the back lets you tighten it around your head.   The hat wraps around your head, with an open section at the front, Legionnaire style.

Velcro at the front lets you close up the front,  stopping the CapHat from flapping about when it gets windy.

It's easy to put it on or remove it, to suit the weather conditions change  - a big plus point if, like me, you live near the ever-changeable Melbourne.

I've so far been pretty impressed with the CapHap and I'm recommending for anyone who walks in a baseball cap.

If you want to get your hands on one of these, check out the CapHat website.   They're also on facebook.  Price is $20.

Note: CapHat provided me with a CapHat for this review.  I don't think they want it back, so I will probably just keep it - it will be handy over the coming Australian summer.  (If they do want payment, well, hey - it's only 20 bucks and this is a pretty handy garment!)

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

MYOG: Down quilt for winter hiking

Have you ever wondered how long it takes to make a down quilt? (Of course you have!)  Well, I don't know how long other people have taken, but it took me 15 months from go to whoa! That's long.  So long that I started the project before the winter of 2013 and just finished it in time for the winter of 2014!

In actual fact though, there were few technical or logistical issues that delayed the project.  All the significant delays came about from "life" getting in the way, including work commitments, a hip replacement procedure (and extended recovery), then the hunt for the motivation to continue!

One consequence of having projects in a holding pattern is the tendency to leave the project stuff lying around in a not-really-packed-away-properly state.  So I can't really blame my daughter and her friends for frightening the cat ... that jumped onto the big bag of down feathers ... and ripped a mighty hole in the bag ... after which mishap feathery mayhem ensued in the lounge room.  Cleaning up after the feather storm was a project in itself.  You would not believe the places feathers can reach when allowed to run amok.

Anyway, earlier this year I picked up the threads of the project (did you see what I did there?) and "knocked the bastard off" (as I'm sure Sir Edmund Hillary would have said should he have taken on a interminable MYOG sewing project).


The reason for this project was that the synthetic quilt I made in an earlier project was not proving to be adequately warm in Winter, particularly in snow conditions.  I considered buying a down quilt, such as the excellent products available from Enlightened Equipment, but I figured I could make one more cheaply and it seemed like an interesting project.

Quilt dimensions (click for larger view)
I spent quite a bit of time planning the design of the quilt. I wanted to ensure the quilt would be have good length (able to stretch my toes out when clipped around my neck) and sufficient width to tuck in under me, when the mercury drops well below zero. Then there was the time spent figuring out the total amount of down I'd need as well as how it would be allocated across the baffles.  To assist with the planning I drew a diagram of the quilt, with dimensions and used Excel for various calculations.

I ordered most of the materials from the ever-reliable team at Thru-Hiker.    I wanted to use Momentum fabric, due to it being extremely light. as well as having a good blend of breathability, water resistance and wind resistance (I remember well a trip where I found my  sleeping bag of the time was not very wind resistant.)

The down I was able source locally in Melbourne, from Danish Eiderdowns.    When I later found that I needed more down I simply recycled down from an old quilt ("doona" for the Aussies, "duvet" for the Kiwis) we had lying around the house.

Marking up

Ready to cut out the baffle wall strips

Cutting up the noseeum for the baffle walls

Pinning in the baffle separators (noseeum mesh)

Sewing in the baffle walls

Baffle walls sewn into one side

How to get the feathers in the bag?

Based upon blogs I'd read my original plan for stuffing the down into the baffles was to utilise a vacuum cleaner. This method involves taping some mesh across the the lower, permanently-connected section of the vacuum, then attaching the pipe/tube sections.   When the vacuum is turned on and the tubes inserted into the down, the down is sucked into the pipe, stopping at the gauze. Then, by holding the end of the pipe over the intended destination for the down and turning off the vacuum, the down will fall into place.

In practice, I found this quite tricky and instead resorted to simply moving the down with my hands. I used a 2 step process:

  1.  First, I moved sufficient down for a single baffle into a box, which I weighed (allowing for the box's weight, of course!) to ensure it matched the amount I'd calculated for that baffle.
  2.  Second, I moved the down into the baffle, pushing fistfuls of the stuff deep into the baffle.

This approach worked fine, with only a minute quantity of down going AWOL.

Down for a single baffle, weighed on my antique scales and ready to be inserted into a baffle.

Taking a handful of down from the box to the baffle.

The quilt bag, hung in my bathroom (easiest room for me to clean!), mid stuffing.

Mid the baffles stuffing process.

Stuff in almost complete (inner)

Stuffing almost complete (outer)

Snaps and velcro

In my previous quilt project I sewed in a permanent footbox. While this is good for maximising warmth, it removes the option of having the quilt fully flat, draping over the body and legs, much as you do with a regular (non-hiking) quilt.  With this quilt I therefore elected to attach velcro ("hook and loop") and snaps, to wrap and seal the lower leg area, as required.

Snaps were also added at the top corners, so that I could clip the top of the quilt around my neck.  I inserted cord to the top and bottom of the quilt, to enable it to be pulled tight around my neck and feet, as required.

Attaching a velcro strip

Velcro along the bottom edges allows the quilt to form a foot box.

Attaching ribbon for the top snaps

Attaching a snap

Testing the new top snaps

Close up of the foot loop

Foot section, loop partially tightened

Foot section, with loop fully tightened.  Snap is also visible

Finishing touches

Finally, I attached a length of ribbon and a snap clip near the waist point, so that I can secure the quilt closely around me on the colder nights.

The finished quilt

I used the quilt on several nights during the past southern Winter and I am pleased to say that it performed well and, as part of a sleeping system that includes base top and bottom thermals, beanie, socks and synthetic gloves,  kept me toasty in temperatures down to -5C.

The finished quilt


I got the fabrics from Thru hiker:
  • 3 yds of Momentum 50 Steel Gray
  • 3 yds of Momentum 50 Jet Black
  • 1 yd of Nanoseeum Netting - 60" width 
Most of the down I got from a Melbourne supplier:
  • 400g (14oz) of 800 fill power
For the overstuffing, I used the down from an old bed quilt.

The other bits and bobs I either already had or sourced them from local outdoor stores or sewing/craft stores, ie.
  • Vecro strips
  • Grosgrain ribbon
  • Shock cord
  • Snap clips
[Update: Aussies can also get their materials locally from Simon at]

Planning documents:

How much does it weigh?

I KNEW you were going to ask that!  It weighs 732gms (26oz).  That doesn't include a stuff sack, which I don't use - I just stuff the quilt into the bottom my pack, then push the other items into it.

Questions or comments

I love to hear from you! If you have a question about this project, or a useful insight, make sure you take a moment to leave your feedback.