Sunday, November 06, 2005

Poly-Tube Down Air Mattress - DAM - Part 1 to 12

Part 1-
Well I had a lot of fun making a Balloon Bed and it worked OK. Weight was 5oz.

Then I found a poly 2 Mil material that can be cut to any length, heat sealed completly on one end and sealed about 80% on the other end. This lets you blow it up easy by mouth and then tie a knot to hold the air in. You can take the knot out when you want to pack up and use it again next time. This material is 3" in diameter and I had it cut to 78" long. The place that has this stuff gave me enough for my bag/sleeve to test/play with. This stuff can be used over and Duct Tape will stick to it. The duct tape should seal any small holes and maybe a small tear. One of these tubes weighs 26grams vs 4grams for a (one time only) balloon.

Using the first bag/sleeve and 5 poly tubes the total Air Mattress weight is just under 10oz. The size of this Air Mattress is 78" long, 24'' wide and 3" thick.

I have a ton of ideas for this stuff from a Down Air Mattress to a Bivy with a sleeve floor for the air tubes to a Poncho/Air Mattress to a Sleeping bag liner/Air Mattress. I use a hammock and can see an idea for a winter hammock with a bottom/Down Air Mattress.
There was a lot of activity about a using a Kilt awhile back. What about a Great Kilt with sleeves sewn in to use as an Air Mattress at night.

Here are a few pictures of my Balloon Bed.
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This is a picture of my first Poly Tube Air Mattress in my Hammock

Part 2-
You are correct about not using the lighest material. For the first of anything I use material that is left-over from something else. I have been doing some "What If" for very light silk using the poly mesh tubes and the 3x65 balloons.

With light silk and 5 of the 65" balloons the Math says I can make an Air-Mattress that will weigh as little as 2.4oz. The over all size would be about 60" by 24" by 3".

With the same light silk and 5 of the poly tubes the Math says I can make an Air Mattress that will weigh as little as 7.7oz. The over all size would be 78" by 24" by 3".

The silk fabric I would use is .64oz per square yard.

I got the poly tube stuff from a guy that does "Balloon Parties" he uses it for something. He gave me all that I am testing with. He gets it on 3,000 foot rolls. He said he could sell me for a roll for $75.00. He also said that he would cut the poly stuff for me and heat seal 5 tubes for $4.00 or so. He has a heat sealer so even if I wanted to buy some from him or some other place I would still need a heat seal thing. For now I will just get what ever I want to experiment with from him. I don't think this stuff would be hard to find and I expect I will look for it. I am not sure I would ever need enough to think about buying a roll of it but you can never tell.

The tubes he made for me are heat sealed completly on one end and only about 80% on the other end. You can blow air into the part open end. After I blow them up I twist some of the tubing and knot it like you would a balloon. Then I un-knot it when I want to let the air out. The stuff is a lot stronger than a balloon and should last awhile. The ones I blew up yesterday are still full of air.

Part 3-
Down in an Air Mattress:
I have a Stephenson Down Air Mattress (DAM). They sell them with a bag type thing to blow them up with. If you blow by mouth directly into the DAM you will get the Down damp from the moisture in your breath. That is bad for the Down.

I will try and make something with down in the poly tubes. My thought is that if the Down is inside long narrow mesh bags I could pull them out of the poly tubes to air out/dry out if necessary. Being able to do this should let me blow the tubes up by mouth and not have a problem.

Using a pool air mattress and trying to open it then seal it back may require some type of heat sealer. I would look for some of this poly tube stuff, it would be a lot easier to work with. A 78" piece of this stuff only weighs .9oz.

Since the tubes or balloons slide into a fabric sleeve there is no noise like you might expect from an Air Mattress.

The surgical tubing might be fun to play with and see what is possible to do with it. Next time I am near a Lowes I am going to take a look at it.

My first rule is to keep things simple and get it made. Then look for the lightest material I can find for the item and make another one. I am always looking for lighter material.

Part 4-
One of the members of the Make Gear group found a web site that lists what they call "Flat Poly Tubing". They sell a 3,000ft roll of the stuff like I am using. It comes in 5 different weight from 1.5Mil to 6Mil and lots of different "flat width" sizes. If you bought it in a 3,000' roll the cost comes to a little less than $.02 a foot. I would like to find a way to get a small amount of the other width tubing to play with.

This poly tubing is reusable, the balloons are much lighter but are a "one shot' deal. The poly tubing can be cut to any length needed. The balloons seem to come 2x60", 3x50" and 3x65". Doing a 4 or 5 day resupply and using 5 or 6 balloons every night (32 balloons with spares) the weight for the balloon supply on day one would be 3.7oz plus the pump at 2.7oz or about 11oz. total. The balloon weight will not go down each day as I know you would want to "Pack out" the used balloons. The poly tube version is just under 9oz. and is 78" long vs 60" or so for the balloon mattress. My money is on the poly tubes.

Making the fabric part is very easy but you or someone does need a sewing machine. I sewed my sleeves 6" apart and both the inflated balloons and the inflated poly tubing slide into the fabric sleeves very easy with just a little room to spare. I think the fabric part helps keep everything in place and I don't think I would give it up. When packing the air mattress up I would roll each of the poly tubes up and fold them inside the fabric. One rolled up piece of the poly stuff is about 5" wide and about as around as a Dime. The fabric I used for this one folds up to 5.5" x 4" x 2" with 6 poly tubes (5 and a spare) and weighs a little less than 9oz.. Very small, very light for a full size air mattress.

If you don't have a sewing machine I think you could find someone with one to sew the fabric for you. The sewing is about as simple as it gets and anyone that can sew in a straight line could do it easy.

I am going to order some Down from Thru-Hiker and make a Down Air Mattress (DAM). I will make a DAM that is 78" x 24" x 3" that should weigh at or about 16oz. That would be a weight reduction of over 22oz from my current DAM. Somewhere along the way I will make a new hammock that I can slide the Down filled tubes into a sleeve made into the bottom of the hammock. The built-in DAM should let me sleep in my hammock down to a very low Temp. maybe as low as something between 0 and 20 degrees.

You might think about using the poly tubes with Down in them then put the poly tubes into the old air mattress you cut the end off.

On the drawing board and using a very light silk fabric and 78" long using 6 poly tubes is an Air Mattress that should have a total weight of 7.8oz. Then for the die hard Ultra-Lighter a 60" Air Mattress using 5 balloons and with a total weight of 2.4oz. The Fabric part for both of these will be made to turn into a simple hiking KILT during the day.

Part 5-
My whole idea is to make something simple and very light.

The heat seal on the poly tubing works well on one end and the knot works well for the other end. I left the air in 3 tubes 3 days ago. There still have enought air in them to sleep on. I have a 4 month old kitten that thinks eveything in the house is a toy to jump and chew on. It put a hole in one of my poly tubes and a small piece of duct tape sealed the hole. I also have water tested the ends of all the tubes and found no leaks.

I have been using hammocks to camp/hike with for about 40 years. I have 4 hammocks that are that old and I still use them some. My newest hammock is a very light Ed Speer custom made Silk Hammock using silk also for the bug net. Even with about 17' of 2-sided velcro for the bug net and Ed's standard straps the hammock complete is about 14oz. I have been using one or two sleeping pads in the silk hammock to stay warm down to 29 degrees (as cold as it was in S.Texas last year). I have used the hammock in colder temp's than that but didn't record the temp. The poly/DAM would be much lighter than the sleeping pads and all the clever under-junk- over-junk ideas folks are playing with to stay warm in a hammock. I add on "R" value to keep my botton warm and the DAM has an "R" value of 9+. This way I can stay very warm using less stuff and doing it lighter. I like to hike in the snow and my focus right now is on making very warm/very very light stuff for cold weather. I expect to make a Down sleeping bag/quilt using the poly tubes that should be a lot lighter than my current -5 Down bag. It will end up being something like a bivy with everything working as one neat very light package.

I am planning to climb Mt Katahdin in January or Feb. 2005 and then try to hike the 100 Mile Wilderness. All this light winter gear is being made for that. If the snow isn't to deep and I can find the trail I would like to continue on the AT South maybe as far as Mt Washington. I have done the Mt Washington area twice in snow and carrying a heavy load of winter gear. I want to reduce the weight of all that gear by replacing it with as good or better lighter stuff. 60% less weight or more per major item is my goal. I will be making most of it. I would like to continue South and do the complete AT in the winter but I don't think I can be gone that long.

Part 6-
Yes, I also want to make a sleeping bag using the Poly Tubes. I have ordered my Down from Thru-Hiker and expect to get it in a couple of days. The Down will go into silk mesh bags and those bags will go into the Poly Tubes. That is my plan anyway. This is all new ground and after I have some time to play with this idea I will decide if it will also work for a Down Sleeping Bag. Since the Poly Tube will keep the down dry I can use much lighter fabric than is now possible with Down. This is all a big "MAY BE" but I see no reason why it will not work.

If you look at the Big Agus?? I think, They have what is like a three sided Sleeping Bag with a Sleeping Pad as the floor. A two componet set. This is how I want to combine the Down Poly Tube Air Mattress with the Sleeping Bag. Then if I am slick enough I will combine those two items with a (floating bivy) hammock/bivy.

Remember this is for cold weather hiking so I can remove or use another set of Down in the Poly Tubes for say early Spring or Fall when the low temp may be a lot higher than in the winter. If all this works the low weight possible for my (shelter, sleeping bag, sleeping pad) setup should shock most people. A total of about 20oz or less seems to be a good goal. So Then all that is left is my pack. I already have made a pack that weights about 5oz.

YES, I changed the name of the Air Mattress. I have a new word for this weight catagory. It is Hyper-Light. Some of you may have seen this word used by one of our gear makers. I don't agree with the pack he calls Hyper-Light as that size pack can be made under 6oz without to much trouble. He is a really nice person so I will not quibble about one ounce for now.

PS. I almost forgot. I checked with ASPEN about the product AEROGELS. I was told the insulation for gear type things is used by two companies. They have a very low production output for this (called Spaceloft) and none is available. A company called Burton used it last year only for a Jacket and a pair of Mitten's. The Jacket was called the Burton Ronin Katana and cost about $550. The Mitten's were called the Burton Pinnacle Plus Over Mitt 04 and cost $110. The other company is Shock Doc and they make Insoles. I didn't look for them.

Part 7-
With the blanket though isn't that going to cause vapor problems since you will in effect be sleeping under a plastic blanket?

Plastic blanket?? your word not mine. The Poly Tubes will be in a fabric sleeve, more than likely made of light silk. I am talking winter and I always use a VBL in my Down Sleeping Bags. My VBL's are also made by me and use a silk bag inside a ripstop bag for comfort and weigh about 7oz.

Part 8-
I called the person I got the Poly Tubing from yesterday to ask about selling small amounts of Poly Tubing. This is his reply:

"10 pieces of Poly Tubing. It will inflate to 3" diameter. Flat size is 5" wide and each piece will be 80" long. Heat sealed completly on one end. Heat sealed 80% on the other end with an air hole left for inflation and can be completly sealed by folding and a clamp or twisted and a knot. Price is $8.00 Plus Shipping and Handling. Shipping in US is $5.00 Priority Mail no tracking / $9.00 FedEx Ground w/tracking".

Note: I think he meant "up to" 80 inches and I think he would cut the 10 tubes any size you want. Also someone may want one end left open to try and put Down in it. I am still looking for a clip of some kind to close the open ends with. For now I am just twisting the end and using a knot to seal the open end. This works OK but I might use a small clip if I can find something that is very light. Lowes has something that might work and I am going to go later today and look at it.

If anyone is interested in buying Poly Tubing send me and email and I will forward the complete message with the rest of the ordering information back to you.

I am not connected to this business in anyway except as a customer.

Part 9-
I received the Down I had ordered from Thru-Hiker. Even compressed for shipping 15oz of the "800+ good stuff" made a decent size box full. The guy that sells the Poly Tubing also has it 3" wide. I got some 3" wide today to play with. It is about 2.5" blown up. It was cut 84" long and each piece weighed 20 grams vs the 5" wide stuff that at 78" weighed 26 grams. The 3" seems to come out about 25% lighter than the 5". I don't think this makes much difference but the 3" might be more comfortable to sleep on. I will try seven of the 3" Poly Tubes and see how they feel.

I am not using 15oz of Down in my Air Mattress. I bought that much as I want to make several things out of Down.

I am going to buy some "Dry Ice" and see if I can use it to simulate the cold ground. I will spread the dry ice out on top of something, check the temperature using my IR Thermometer, see how cold it reads. Then I will put the DAM on it and lay on the DAM/dry ice. I will see if the DAM keeps me warm. Best way I can think of to test it till next winter.

Part 10-
Have you ever seen or used Dry Ice. It is a chemical ice??? that lasts much longer and evaporates as it goes away leaving no mess. No water as in melted ice. The Super Markets here sell it.

If you put it in a container of water it will bubble and put of a vapor like smoke. It is used a lot at Halloween. Neat stuff. Safe enough to pack things in that need to stay cold so they can be mailed.

Part 11-
I have changed this thread "Title" to Hyper-Light. This Thread started as an Air-Mattress made with long balloons "Balloon Bed". This was an easy to make very light Air Mattress but more or less a throw-away item. This idea quickly evolved with the use of Poly Tubes that could be inflated (used) and de-flated. The Poly Tube Air Mattress could be packed away and used again. The Poly Tube Air Mattress is also very light.

I want to help establish a Hyper-Light catagory of gear weight. I think that a full size
Air-Mattress of 3oz to 9oz and a Down Air Mattress of 9oz to 14oz should qualify. I have made a full size Poly Tube Air Mattress that is light enough to be called Hyper-Light and now I am working on a full size Down Air Mattress.

The gear I am making does not get its light weight by being so small in size as to be about useless. No tiny half-size sleeping pad or little Tarp or other gear that really doesn't work except when the weather is nice. No pack that is little more than a Potato Sack laying on my back making me hot and causing me to sweat and with Shoulder Straps and Hip Belt that don't work when the pack is full. I am going to use this gear and I want it to work for something like a long AT Hike with heavy Spring Rains or short periods of late Winter cold weather. I might even want to try a SOBO January AT start with some of this gear.

Last for now, I also want the design of this gear to be simple enough so almost anyone could copy it and make their own. This is ALL about "Make Your Own Gear".

Part 12-
Dry Ice has been around for a long time and now with over-night shipping it is used a lot.

I don't know much about "Adventure Racing" but my idea for Hyper-Light gear is [not to give up durability or safety]. That with clever use of materials and designs gear can be created that can just replace "like" items but do it with much lighter things. I replaced a set of Trekking poles that weighed about 9oz each with poles that I made that weigh 2.6oz each. The lighter poles are strong and should work as well as the heavier poles. If you need a pad of some sort to sleep on and a Poly Tube Air Mattress would work for me why not use it. And by the way you also just saved another pound or more. I use a hammock and if I can make one that weighs 10oz or less and works well why not use it. More weight saved. This goes on and on. I made my first LED light from instruction in "The Infantry" magazine (March-April 1992). I have made many since but still have and use that first one. I would say that for 1992 that was Hyper-light and I had more fun with it.

As for carrying a Lap Top computer. I have looked at many. I want a PDA with a built-in cell phone/internet connection and a built-in digital camera (640x480). The PDA I like is a SamSung i700 about 6oz and has a user replacable battery. You can get a roll-up key board for it. I don't own a cell phone and have never talked on one. I don't want a cell phone I want what I need to connect to the internet from the trail when possible. Up-date my Journal and maybe order a pizza delivery for the next road crossing (that is a joke but why not). I would call the PDA Ultra-Light as compaired to the weight of a regular Lap Top.

This is not about "but after you proved it could be done what would be the point" it is as you say "take your 4 pound pack and add some extras." The extras for me might be the PDA or a better camera, better food or maybe just a few extra miles each day.

You are 100% correct about being able to survive(your word) on your own equiptment. If I made it and it breaks I will sure know how to fix it. Better and cheaper is good. I can take as much time as I need to finesse the gear. Round the sharp edges as you say etc.

I am happy when I see companies bring out lighter gear and I understand the risk involved. Many years ago I went from an external frame pack that was about 8 pounds empty to an internal frame pack of about 4 pounds empty. The internal frame pack was hot and not as comfortable to carry as the external frame one. I went back to the external frame to see how I could make it lighter. I had to make my own.


Blogger butuki said...

Bill, in reading through your various ideas I was reminded of a very interesting pneumatic sleeping bag/ shelter that I ran into about five years ago, the Pneumogear Cocoon 4. The company is now out of business and you can't buy it, but the design seems to touch on some of your own ideas. Take a look at the archives of the original homepage:

Pneumogear Archive Site

By using Cuben and your polytube DAM ideas I'm wondering if a very lightweight version of the Cocoon might be possible.

I've a lot more reading to do in your site. Lots of good information.

Oh, and I wanted to comment on your trip to Japan, but not on the BPL forum. Yes, I agree with you, hiking here can really be a joy. The people when they are in the cities can be awfully cold and indifferent, but for some reason they turn into the most friendly companions up in the mountains. The best of the Japanese comes out when you meet them among the crags, which is one reason why I love spending time up in the mountains here. I've done a lot of walking and bicycling throughout the country and if ever you need information that you can't get in the English hiking books just ask. I have some favorite walks that I'd be delighted to share information about, including a new five day trail that was designed to follow the tradition of the Appalachian Trail, including working with Appalachian Trail designers to get the trail grading, shelters, and community involvement right. One day I hope to do a walk from the northern tip of Hokkaido and follow the ridges all the way down to Kyushu, hopefully to see if there is any of the old Japan still left.

I'll be making a DAM floating bivy soon and use a Gossamer Gear SpinnShelter as the tarp. I need a system that can work in the harsh environment above treeline, where most of the best walks in Japan are, using the hammock among trees or rocks where it can be hung and converting it to a ground bivy where there are no trees. Your ideas are boosting a lot of confidence. So here goes!


Saturday, November 12, 2005 2:31:00 AM  

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